Playing Pickup Sticks (Big Ones)

Using our new "grapple rake" while the setting sun entertains us

Happy New Year everyone! Let’s hope 2018 is more constructive (or less destructive at least) than 2017 was.

After an enjoyable holiday break with family, we returned home from our travels with one of our two adult sons.  Although he had seen many photos of the fire and what it left behind, still he was very interested in seeing it first hand.  So last week we all went up for a quick visit, our first of 2018.

While the eastern side of the U.S. has been battling snow and ice and record low temperatures, out here on the western side of the country it has been unseasonably warm and dry.  Really warm.  As in pushing close to 70 degrees in January!  This is not normal.

Of course this is bad news for a state still struggling with extended drought conditions and massive, record-breaking wildfires.  But at least for us, a warm snowless January means that we can get more work done on the property.

And there is a lot of work to do! But our son still liked the prospect of work, because this work involved the Bobcat.  And let’s face it, Bobcats can be fun.

Image of a large pile of brush and wood on the otherwise empty space where the Logger's Retreat garage used to be
One of the two wood and brush piles that we wanted to move. This is where the old garage used to be, and where its replacement will go

Back in September when I ordered attachments for the Bobcat,  my order included a “Grapple Rake.”  It is a simple device that pretty much does what it says on the tin.  It’s good for raking up sticks and stones, and also carrying them from here to there.

But given that it attaches to a skidsteer, it can handle pretty hefty sticks and stones — i.e. logs and boulders.  We’ve got a lot of those around here.  So back in September this seemed to me to be a worthwhile attachment to have.  This visit was our first chance to find out whether or not that was true.

Image of a Bobcat skidsteer carrying several large logs with a grapple rake.
If this is work, then why is this man smiling?

This was also a chance to use our newly-graded “back entrance” to the Logger’s Retreat.

Image of the Bobcat driving up a steep road and a pile of logs in the foreground
The new “back entrance” driveway had a section that was almost too steep for the Bobcat to handle, but the added weight of the grapple rake and its contents helped keep the Bobcat’s front wheels on the ground

We added the larger logs to the pile we had already created when we took down the two Ponderosa Pines.  And we created a new, separate pile for all the smaller, brushy pieces.  We’ll try to cut the larger pieces into useful lumber.  The smaller stuff will probably become firewood.

Image of the Bobcat placing 3 large logs onto the top of a pile of large logs
Our son grappling 3 logs into position on the top of the pile he’s created

It took us two afternoons to finish the job.  The weather was sunny and mild and as a reward for our labors we were treated to a most beautiful sunset on the surrounding hills.

Image of the Bobcat carrying a load of logs, with the sunset lighting up the hills behind it
This is where the new road meets the old fire road, near where the storage container used to be

The sunset progressed quickly and relit the patchwork of burned forest on the mountainside across the Lewis Creek valley from us; this time much more pleasantly than last time. (Don’t worry; those are clouds, not smoke!)

Closeup image of a forested ridge bathed in the warm glow of sunset
A closer view of the ridge across the valley, now with some low clouds drifting past the sunlit trees.  Yes it really was that color!
Image of bright orange clouds behind the black silhouettes of tall trees
And finally the trees became silhouettes as the clouds themselves lit up

But enough with the visual distractions; back to work!  Yes we did finish moving the wood piles.

Image of the cleared building site, now without woodpiles
And the wood piles are all gone! This is where  we will build the new garage.  In the background of this image is where the house itself will go, where you see the orange breezeway support posts

Now that the lot is clear and clean, it is almost too open.  I feel like it needs some structure.  Yes, in fact it needs Structures.  I want the building to begin!