The Hippie and the Engineer

View from the south end of the property. This is what I want to see when I wake up in the morning.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

FH was bored, so I invited him to come out and spend the day at River Song. I had found the perfect spot to build a “shed” the previous weekend, and I wanted to get back out there again and clear out more deadfall. This was his first visit.

We made a quick stop at the state surplus store to pick up more TSA-confiscated knives. One can never have too many knives. I found a perfect hot pink knife, something I could find easily if I dropped it. No, when I dropped it. Because yes, I will definitely drop it. Hot pink is easier to see in nature’s debris than black, brown, or even silver knives. I also picked up a few for gifts.

During the hour-long drive, we talked about my plans for the property. FH, a civil engineer, started talking permits and utilities and drain fields and so forth.

My beautiful cedar tree“No,” I corrected him. “You’re thinking too big. Think smaller. I’m not putting in a house; I’m putting in a small shed. It may or may not have a bunk in it, for sleeping, maybe in case it rains. And it will be a place where I can store my camping stuff. But it is not for living. It’s for storing stuff. And no utilities.”

“Well, yeah,” he agreed. “If you’re just thinking a shed, then you probably won’t need a permit. You don’t need a permit for anything under 200 square feet.”

“Perfect!” I said. “I’m definitely thinking less than 200 square feet. Maybe 100 square feet. Or a little bigger. But definitely less than 200 square feet.”

I excitedly showed him around River Song and the spot I planned to put my cabin. Err…shed. He wasn’t impressed.

“The first thing you need to do,” he said, pointing to my magnificent cedar on the edge of the bluff, “is cut down this tree.”My beautiful cedar tree

“No!” I was horrified at the thought. “The branches! Just the dead branches! The tree stays.”

“That would work, I guess,” he said, reluctantly. “But you really need to get a bulldozer in here to knock down these other trees and level the property.”

Bulldozer? Knock down trees? My mind went back to my parents’ place when I was a teenager. They hired a bulldozer to come in and clear a pad and driveways for their new home in a beautiful forested area. The land never recovered; it was just dirt from then out, until decades later when someone else bulldozed the place and put in a McMansion, complete with unnatural landscaping.

No, I don’t want my beautiful, green River Song to be scarred and turned into barren dirt. I don’t want to do anything to the land that would harm it. This land was at one time Native American land; I want to honor it and protect it, as they did for thousands of years.

“I don’t need a bulldozer,” I replied. “I’ll just do it by hand.”

FH scowled. “You’ll never get anything put in here if you do it by hand. It would take a guy with a bulldozer a couple of hours, and it would be done. He could get rid of all the deadfall and other crap so you don’t have to deal with it.” He could not understand why I didn’t want to just bring in a bulldozer and get the job over with.

Cedar, ferns, and ivyI love my trees. I love my ferns. And my ivy. It may take me a long time, but I can do it. I’m in no hurry. And the land won’t have to heal from work that I do.

It was interesting, though, hearing how we had such different views. While I looked for for ways to modify my plans to fit the land, FH looked for ways to modify the land to fit my plans. Instead of bringing in a bulldozer to level everything, I would rather work with the contour of the land and change it as little as possible. The only way I know to do this is to do it myself, slowly, and let the land reveal itself to me in its own time. I want to listen to it and ensure its needs are met, as well as mine. I want to be a partner and protector, not a conqueror. And I can only do this if I spend time communing with it, working with my hands.

“I don’t mind it taking a long time,” I said. “I like doing it.”

FH shook his head and started attacking the ferns with his machete. It was OK. As he said, ferns grow back fast.

But, he had a point: Some of those trees lean too much, especially where I was planning to park my truck. I wouldn’t want one to fall on my truck. I love my truck, too!

Time to call a tree trimmer. But the cedar stays.