Saturday, August 2, 2008


I drove up to Avalon today amidst a wealth of lovely wildflowers along the fields and roadsides: the mustard yellow of goldenrod, the delicate white of Queen Ann’s Lace and the rich indigo of chicory. The summer is in full spate, with a sauna-like heat and an ever-changing array of fluffy, drifting swathes of clouds. A recent rain had made the ground just right for working with our big tractor, a tall 1975 Massey-Ferguson beast we call M.F.

Mel is not overly concerned that she will make an error on the machine. She is now well used to it and handles it as well as Mick, if not better. However she wanted to work on the steepest part of the access road today, smoothing the crown of the road down to the level of the ruts and then driving over the flat road with the big wheels to settle the roadbed. She wanted to have me on hand on the off—chance that the top-heavy machine, perched on the crown of the road, might tilt over into the abyss. I was her “911” call on the hoof.

I brought up some reading from my Great Office Clean-Up, Papa’s journals for the last six months, which I have barely cracked. However I also brought up a fascinating novel by Catherine Coulter, one of her FBI novels, and was lost to the world, tracking down a psychopath in a business suit and well guarded with power and influence. Nya-ha-ha! The villain was well and truly caught at last!

In the midst of her work, Mel stopped for lunch and brought us both back a box of chicken and fixings from the little convenience store that lives with the Marathon gas station at the top of our hill. The food was delicious and we planned as we ate, chewing through the final decision to buy 4 of the size 16 rims and 4 size 16 tires for Moonshine, our new Dodge Ram, thanks to a generous contribution by Bob R. Mel had found an amazing bargain – 4 rims for $35 each and 4 wheels for $25 each, both used but quite serviceable. Mel called me later in the day to let me know that the truck handles much, much better now that it has the right paws! I was so glad to hear that!

Melissa has outdone herself in industry and improvement of the site since I was last here. Now the floor of Sugar Shack is varnished all one color, a deep mahogany, while the walls are the pale yellow of the first narcissus of the spring. The place is far brighter! And the ceilings, which used to be an odd combination of silver and bare wood, are now white. This has cleaned the cabin up tremendously and lightened and brightened the feel of the place.

Mind you, there is still a roof to replace, if we want the cabin to be dry. There are still shelves to custom-build into the snug spaces with which Melissa has to work, in order to bring order to her storage. But she has carried to the Trimble county dump and discarded the disintegrating furniture from which she kept getting splinters or stabbing herself with joining brads. She had repaired the pieces again and again, but they were on Avalon in the first place because we had discarded them. So now all the junk is gone!

We need a recliner and a table and chairs badly, and Mel could really use some office furniture – a desk, a desk chair and file storage – but she is a thrifty woman and would rather live with less furniture for a while than go buy things retail which she feels she will run into naturally as she visits yard sales in the area.

The drive up and back book-ended a perfectly lovely day on Avalon. Her sweet spirit soughed gently through the full-green trees. I sang her a song or two, and enjoyed the enlivening energy I always feel there. I have been told that Avalon is a psychic scoop, being a long valley completely surrounded by knobs, so that whatever you bring to Avalon is intensified. I must bring a happy soul to her, because I always feel tremendous joy and relaxation there.

Mel talked some about how she is moving so slowly, and feels that she is not getting all the things done she wanted to do this summer. However I know that like most service-to-others-oriented people, she just sets her expectations too high to match. In point of fact, she has done an amazing amount of work there, and it shows!

This was the first time I was here since we lost Russell Crow, our rooster, and two of the Golden Comet hens. The chicks Mel picked up in Cincinnati on her way back from Bob R’s place in Toledo with the Ram are now about half-grown and were happily pecking away at their food in their coop on the porch. They will soon be old enough to introduce to Dusty Rose and Goldie, our remaining two hens, in the big coop.

I did not wander far on Avalon because Mel said that the fields were swarming with chiggers, very nasty little biting insects to which I am allergic. However on a trip to the outhouse over Mel’s nicely mulched path, I could see that the bottom land by the creek was all mown, and Avalon was in good order. All of that reflects a tremendous output of work. And Mel is keeping up with it despite a recent rash of equipment failures. Our DR brush mower, the tractor, the small mower and the truck have all needed repairs in the last month. Go Mel!

She is now looking forward to welcoming Gary and his guests tomorrow. His sister and her boyfriend, his friend Jessica and her boyfriend and Valerie will join him there for an afternoon at the farm. I hope Melissa puts them to use! The guests were in town for the Dave Matthews band concert which occurred this evening.

And then she will ready Avalon for those who wish to visit on Labor Day, after our Homecoming 2008 closes the previous evening.

We need water on Avalon pretty badly, and so Mel’s next priority will be to arrange for a well to be drilled. Her mushroom logs are very dry and she currently has no way except rain dances to get water to them. She fears that she may lose the whole crop because of the aridity. Fortunately our friend, Shane, of the Law of One Community, will be able to help her with fresh starts, once we do have the well.

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