This time, we had a bit better idea of what to expect when planning a work party. I mean, we’d done it once before, right? We had volunteers. We had a whiteboard. We had coffee and pie and designated task masters for each prioritized task. We had chainsaws, weed whackers, hedge trimmers and machetes. We even had a tractor. We were all set.
Well, except for the tractor, it turned out. The replacement rims for the tractor were still enroute from North Carolina – the wrong rims, anyway, as it turned out, but our beloved little Kioti, was down for the count until we replaced a wheel that was in hilariously bad shape.
Which meant that we were going to have to disassemble the 15′ high pile of wood debris by hand. The pile materialized in the wake of April’s power and water installation, and it was an intimidating bit of carnage. Never mind – we had chainsaws, an equally intimidating rented device we called “Mr. Chips,” and the misplaced optimism borne from competence in irrelevant areas.
Upside of this digression is that no one managed to actually hurt themselves; downside was that the wood pile was only imperceptibly diminished by almost a full day’s worth of sweat, scrapes and bruises. But the upside is a larger one than you might naively assume. Mr. Chips was a terrifying device, and each time it sank those spinning metal teeth into a (tree) limb and sucked it down its ravenous metallic gullet, it was hard to banish thoughts of Fargo.
The main priority of the work party was more successful. Once again, Logan came up from Eugene to lead a dream team of local farmers – Peter Lundeen, Brendan Hohman and guest star Simon Walter-Hanson – along with Swanson grandson and all-around handyman Josh Taylor, in fencing all 100 chestnut trees that we’d planted at that first work party. Grad school friends Lauren and Stephen came up from Seattle to pinch hit all over the place, hauling wood and clearing fence lines. Devon, as always, kept everything running, making sure everyone had snacks, food, pie, ear plugs and work gloves, sunscreen, more pie, ice and beer. And still managed to put in a few hours hauling wood.
Jeremy spent the afternoon gathering rocks and clearing grass for a fire pit behind the barn, and when the sun finally went down around 9:15 (the latest sunset of the year, by the way), we gathered around the fire he built and watched the evening clouds roll pink, red and purple swirls across the western sky. We marveled at the beauty of the place and dreamt aloud our hopes for what it might become. Bendan’s fiddle and Logan’s banjo came out for old time music. Mark joined in with his uke and harmonica.
I often write about how I remember and project my life as a series of snapshots that I aspire to. Sitting there that evening, gathered around the fire against a still-luminous sky, I took another snapshot – an actual, real (okay, digital) one. I wanted to capture that moment, or at least a visual reminder of that ephemeral, magic, uncapturable moment when it all really felt like it came together.