Let It Snow

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Cabin and Car During Jan 25 Storm

I don’t ski, and my last two experiences with ice skating went horribly wrong, but for some reason, I really like snow. We’ve had some concentrated winter experience during the last week, more than fulfilling my appetite for the white stuff.

Township Road before the plow

Last Saturday, another visit from the polar regions transformed our little valley into a snow globe.  4.5 inches (11cm) of new snow  just before noon when I took camera, coat, and my aptly named Snowy River out for a blustery walk (see location above during July flooding).

Looking across the swamp

A single pair of tracks outlined the center of our township road, which hadn’t been cleared.  A heavy wind was blowing the snow across our swamp (see creek above during July flooding).

Before the Snow Plow

Our driveway seemed to be Subaruable, but it gave the entrance to the Hollow a much more remote feeling than its had since we started building the cabin.

Pine tree during Jan 25 storm before the wind

We don’t get as much wind in the Hollow, so our trees were frosted with snow for most of the weekend.  The roads were covered, but we didn’t see a lot of plows.  Later Saturday afternoon Elizabeth took a walk out to the township road and met one of the neighbors plowing it with his Polaris.

Neighbor plowing township road

. After another inch or two of snow over Saturday night, we gingerly drove down a lightly plowed driveway Sunday morning, starting what turned out to be a surprisingly long drive to church.  With greasy unplowed roads, we never got out of 3rd gear.

The Mighty Killbuck

Our return home was easier, not because any of the roads had been cleared, but because we weren’t driving through heavy snow fall.  We stopped along the state highway to watch the ice floating in the Killbuck.  In July, the spot above was impassable because of floodwaters (see the couple on the ATV).

Plowing the Driveway

I’d taken a quick swipe down the driveway on Saturday, but on the theory that you can never spend too much quality time with your tractor (and anticipating 20 below zero temperature), I cranked up the reluctant Diesel after work on Monday and thoroughly plowed the driveway from the cabin to the township road.

Well-Plowed Driveway

It takes a gentle touch, driving slowly, with a hand on the hitch height control, and a foot on the brake, to avoid making a big mess out of the limestone.

Base of our Driveway After Plowing

After cleaning up a quarter mile of private driveway, I decided to clean up about 3/4 mile of the township road, which is a lot easier to plow, because there’s no gravel.  That left a bunch of snow in front of our drive, a satisfying opportunity for some front end loader work.

Amish Minivan

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

Amish Minivan

The Amish find lots of imaginative ways to stretch the boundaries of the Ordnung. On weekends, we sometimes encounter ‘Amish minivans’, a tractor pulling a wagon with lawn chairs, a cooler, and loaded up with the entire family.

Our builder, Sam, has a nice new Kubota tractor that dwarfs our little 3-cylinder diesel, but his bishop won’t let him put air in the tires.  Like many Central Ohio Amish, he has phenolic inserts that awkwardly attach the original rubber tires to the wheels.  He’d be better off with the old fashioned pre-war metal tractor tires, but because they chew up the asphalt, they have long been forbidden on public roads.  As the bishop intended, Sam doesn’t go very far afield with his tractor. He either takes his horse and buggy, which is primarily for church and family visits, or if it’s a trip to a job site, his non-Amish nephew drives the pickup truck..

Amish in different Ordnungs, like the Yodeling Yoders we’ve used for tree fellers, are fully pneumatic, and are happy to drive a tractor all the way across the county for business purposes.  The Massey Ferguson above, captured at the Holmes County Home charity auction last Fall, would make for a relatively comfortable afternoon drive, which is why some of the bishops have tried to crack down on the use of tractors for transportation by reducing the practicality of the rear wheels.

Exterior Work

Friday, December 16th, 2011

One of the disadvantages of having the final grading work done so late in the year is that grass is unlikely to root before Spring. During her previous visit, Elizabeth cleaned Moore’s out of their remaining 2011 grass seed, spreading 150 pounds worth around our sprawling cabin site.

To maximize the survival and sprouting likelihood, and to reduce the potential for winter erosion, Elizabeth spread 20 bales of straw around the cabin site and along the side of the driveway.  On some of the steeper mud slopes, we unrolled excelsior mats, which Elizabeth attached to the ground with biodegradable pins.

The driveway gravel has never been extended beyond the nearest corner of the cabin, so we stopped in at Holmes Redimix and scheduled Dianne to bring us yet another truck load of 1&2 crushed limestone to spread across the back of the cabin, and what little turning area could be excavated into the hillside.  Dianne ended up spreading about half the load at the top of the drive, leaving several tons in a pile for me to spread with the Kubota tractor.

Ranging from baseball to softball size, the 1&2 limestone is nearly impossible to move with a shovel, and a huge challenge with such a small tractor.  I spent a couple hours last Thursday and Friday nibbling away at the last of a pile that was left in the meadow in July, spreading it over some of the subsiding areas in the drive where a new culvert was installed last month.  The new pile was easier to spread because it hadn’t packed down yet.

On the theory that ground would be frozen during the next 3 months, I took the opportunity to polish up some of the earth moving.  The back fill around both the cabin and barn has already started to visibly subside, so I used the blade to scrape up more clay and pile it around the foundations.

 The driveway drainage seemed on track towards creating a new stream through the side door of the barn, so Sheldon put in another culvert, with a drainage basin and grate located in front of the side door of the barn above. After 4 weeks of continued wet whether and pickup truck traffic, a ridge of clay appeared between the drive and the drain.  I used the tractor to scrape off the top of the clay, filling in a deepening puddle between the driveway and what I hope will soon be the cement floor of the barn.  I also dressed up a couple other drainage problems along the drive, and hope that it will last until spring.  Dianne should have arrived some time this week with a load of smaller limestone, either #4 or #57, to spread across the length of our gravel sinkhole.


[If you want to see all the entries for the cabin building project, they start here. The next Building the Cabin entry is Christmas Cabin.]

Harvest at the Hollow

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010


The valley in front of Heiser Hollow has always been farmed, but in our time, the family across the valley has always planted corn or soybeans. Whatever the relative economic merits of the different crops, from an aesthetic point of view, a scraggly looking field of hairy little soy plants can’t compare with a golden field of ripe golden wheat.


The field, which hasn’t been planted with wheat since the 60s, was harvested over a period of several days, mostly with a late model Deere combine. It trundled up and down the field, raising huge clouds of dust, leaving behind neat rows of golden straw, more than filling up a semi-trailer.


The Moore family has farmed this valley for generations, and they’ve still got some of their original farming equipment. Sporting a new coat of orange paint and Allis-Chalmers decals, this pre-war AC tractor took a nostalgia tour across the wheat field, pulling an equally old, and equally authentic AC combine.


Hollow Maintenance

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009


Kirk, my parents, and I, arrived at the Hollow on July 3–Elizabeth couldn’t make it this year.

We spent some time the first couple days doing some maintenance. Before setting up the tent on top of the dam, we used the tractor to yank the willow bushes from the front of the dam.

Between the chain saw, the tractor, a lot of sweat, and a bit of poison ivy, we managed to open up some of the trails that were blocked by fallen trees during last summer’s mini-nado and the big ice storm a few years earlier. The one we call the Ridge Trail, along the eastern edge of our property, had been blocked by a number of large birch branches for at least 4 years.

We cleared several downed maples between The Valley and the Ridge Trail (shown at left) and then tackled the big birch. After all those years, the branches had shrunk a bit, and were somewhat rotted, making it a lot easier to trim them and then push the logs out of the way with the tractor.

The trail on the western edge of The Hollow, leading up to the Upper Meadow, has been blocked for a number of years by a large tree, and its half-uprooted stump, that blocked the trail just before a very sharp hairpin. In the past, I’d been able to drive the tractor around that spot, but it was too wet last year, and I wasn’t able to mow the grass in the upper meadow, the highest spot in The Hollow.

It took about an hour to saw the end off this big log, and to attack the tree stump with a shovel, cleaning off much of the clay that was still stuck to the roots. Figuring we’d have to saw the trunk off right next to the stump, I dug a hole under it saw that we could saw it without dulling the blade. As it turned out, we were able to pop it right out of the ground with the tractor’s front end loader.

July09-213-2.jpgThe biggest project involved the felling of a 28-year old, 40 foot high pine tree. After the Northeast Blackout of 2003, the power companies have been a lot more aggressive in preventing trees from interfering with power lines. They finally reached The Hollow last year, spraying some sort of herbicide on everything within site of the incoming electric wires. Whether or not this pine tree would ever recover, it would always be horribly scarred by the loss of most of its branches, and it would always represent a threat to the power line, so we decided to take it out.

Felling a tree uphill is a bit of a trick, especially when it is bigger than a telephone pole. If we failed, the falling tree would take the power lines down with it, so I climbed up the side of the tree with a ladder, attached a chain to it, and attached the chain to a come along winch tied to the base of another tree. Taking a big notch out of the uphill side of the tree, Dad tightened up the winch, and the tree started to lean uphill. I finished sawing the other side of the trunk, while Dad continued to winch, and we managed to drop it exactly where we’d planned, without loss of human limb, or power.

Mechanical Orgy: The Great Dorset Steam Fair

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

Several traction engines haul their load up a hillThe English revere their industrial heritage and glory in their eccentricity, two traits that indulged to the nth degree at what is reputedly the largest event of its kind, The Great Dorset Steam Fair. I’ve been to steam fairs before, but nothing on this grand scale. where else can you go to see a couple dozen steam rollers, all merrily driving around a couple miles of pasture land? A veritable orgy of steam and rivets, the air thick with the acrid coal smoke of hundreds of fireboxes, the air rent with the shrill sound of steam whistles, the rattling of chains and gears, and the cloying sound of colliopes, the overall effect of the thing is beyond words. 200,000 people were expected to visit this year’s 40th anniversary event. [see my full photo gallery]


Central stage at GDSF is the Heavy Haulage Area. All day long, steam engines of various sorts, along with the occaisional Diesel interloper, circle around about a 2 mile loop, the far end of which is relatively steep. Although there are some steam rollers (see the two at the far left), the real stars are the transport engines, the road locomotives that hauled heavy wagons, or short trains of lighter wagons, on public roads. Loads being pulled in the Heavy Haulage Area included a large generator, a huge tree, and big bulldozer on a trailer. Shown coming up the steepest part of the hill in the picture at the top, a train of 3 traction engines, 2 in the front and 1 in the back, chuffed out huge clouds of dense black smoke hauling this load.


Other traction engines, although they could haul themselves and their attachments to the job site, were used primarily as stationary power, running threshers, balers, and saw mills. Steam rollers were demonstrated not only smoothing down a road being constructed at the site, but were also used to pull grader blades and tar wagons, and were demonstrated powering a rock crusher. The most powerful steam engines working at the fair were the plough engines. Even as late as the 1950s, traction machines were used to plow large fields in the UK. A matched set of engines, right handed and left handed, with huge winches located under the boiler, alternated pulling a multi-gang plow.


Most of the engines, and their owners, were eager to get their hands dirty, but one class of engines are in a class apart. A showman’s tractor has an electrical generator and is traditionally used to power the rides and calliopes at fairs, carnivals and other events. Decked out in gleaming paint, with ornate twisted brass brackets, they were also used as tractors to haul fairground equipment between events. Many of these were in evidence at Dorset, powering calliopes big and small, and fair ground rides.