Tuesday, August 12, 2008


I drove up to Avalon Farm today in order to spot Mel while she continues to work on a steep and narrow portion of the access road with the tall, top-heavy tractor. She is concerned that the tractor will tip into the ravine while she is working on the high crown of the road, smoothing it down so the road bed is flat. So I am her 911 call, ready to sound the alarm if her fears are realized.

This is my second day on Avalon doing this job. It is such a delight to be able to help just a tiny bit with taming wild Avalon without breaking her spirit or ruining her untouched, organic wholeness. Mel got 40 feet out of the 100 feet in this section of steep road leveled last week, and today she made another 40 feet of progress. Now she has only 20 feet to go, and one more of my trips up there will see the job safely done. She has a good deal more work to do on the road to level it throughout its half-mile of descent into the valley of Avalon, but the grade for the rest of the road is not so steep and the road is wider. So she can work on her own.

We do have a protocol whenever she is working with big tools. She calls before she starts the job, letting us know what tools she is using and where. Then at the end of her working day she calls in to report that all is well. That way we have a fail-safe in place. If we don’t hear from her, we drive up and investigate. So far, this protocol has worked perfectly.

It has turned much dryer since last week. The roadside flowers look dusty and some of the grasses are brown. The crops are further along by far, the apple trees bearing, the tobacco past its bloom and starting to fire up, the corn in tassel and the soybeans coming along well.

I love the look of the tobacco at all its stages of growth. It has a lovely leaf and habit and the blossoms are beautiful. It is too bad that the plant, when used for smoking, is so toxic. The Native Americans think of it as a sacred plant and use it in rituals. Certainly in that usage it is not so toxic, and it feels magical to me as a plant. It carries a lot of power. I never have smoked, so this is not a justification! I just like the plant.

When we were shopping for my bathroom rugs last week, Mel found the perfect welcome mat for inside the front door of Sugar Shack and when I stopped in to meet the new kitty, Mr. J, I could see that it was absolutely perfect! Under Mel’s constant loving attention, the inside of the cabin is beginning to look like a regular home. Her carpentry has created new doors for front and back which close well and lock, and she has painted them red. The inside walls are light yellow. She has begun two storage closets so that she has room to hang her good clothes and to store her things, and they are going to look super when she gets them done. We need some things: a tough bedspread for her bed, a table and chairs that fit in her space, a proper desk and filing cabinet and a better tool shed. She also wants to get new porch furniture, a recliner and a few rockers or porch chairs. But she is content to find these pieces as they come to her for the right price.

This cabin has always been a shack, and no amount of fixing it up will suffice to repair it. But Mel has made it livable and safe for the next five years or so while she builds her own homestead further down the meadow. Then her plan is to deconstruct Sugar Shack after carefully measuring everything and drawing up plans, and then rebuilding it just as it was before on the same site. That way, even if Mick and I cannot afford to build our dream house on Avalon, we will have a little cabin to retire to someday.

I did not see the chicks today because they were inside the coop instead of pecking around outside. Mel asked me not to go to the coop because the chiggers are so bad in that part of the meadow. But she says that they are doing well, rapidly growing to adulthood. The hens are not laying well, though. Perhaps it is the season.

The new cat, Mr. J, is a delightful little being. Unlike Mel’s previous cat, Raffles, who disappeared some months ago, the Jay Man is a domesticated cat who loves laps and sleeps at the bottom of Mel’s bed at night rather than catting around outdoors. He is a pretty animal, a smoke-gray American short-haired domestic cat with yellow eyes. And he’s chatty. He will be good company for Melissa. She is presently pondering what the J stands for! I suggested Jesse and Junie, after an old farmer Mick knew when he lived on his land on Joner Creek, but Mel is thinking Jaguar! Mr. Jaguar has a nice ring to it!

A visit to the outhouse revealed that Mel has spread wood chips all along the path from Sugar Shack to it. It’s such a pleasure to walk along the leveled, cleared, clean path! When I think of what she had to do to achieve that, I stand in amazement. The ground was all chopped up from when the crew built the utility shed some years ago. It was studded with stones and the ground was clay and hard as a rock. She had to use a pick-ax to bust the sod and she got so many rocks out of the area that she was able to build a cunning little flower bed using them. In so many ways, Avalon is sweetening and becoming more user-friendly thanks to Melissa's tender loving care.

After Mel finished her tractor work, I closed my book and we visited the outhouse and Mr. Jay. Then we treated ourselves to a burger at Shipley’s, across the Ohio River in Madison, Indiana, about seven miles upriver from Avalon. It is a lovely drive down into the town and Madison itself is quite charming, the main streets spruced up for tourists. Madison is a tourist destination all year round, but especially during the Madison Regatta. It has many Victorian homes that have been preserved and the architecture of the town is classic river-town brick, also well preserved in many cases.

We used the time as a planning meeting, both for Avalon issues and for the upcoming Homecoming. Shipley’s is a funky, dark, atmospheric old place, narrow and long, with an old-fashioned wooden bar stretching halfway back into the space and antique copper tiling for the ceiling. I had a great time there!

I realized after I dropped Mel off at Avalon and was heading back to Camelot that I had forgotten to sing to Avalon. Gads! How could I have forgotten? I will remember next time for sure.

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