It's been almost one full year since we donned our greasy, beat-up cowhide gloves, grabbed the chainsaw, and cleared the land. Oh, how I've missed pulling spiny, adult cedar trees out from under tangles of devil's vine, stinging nettles, and poison ivy - the way miscellanious thorns scrape gently across my skin, the wasps that come flying out of nests disturbed, the fire ants that crawl down into the boots. 12 long months have passed since I last pulled a cedar needle from out of the corner of my eye or inhaled so many wood chips I choked. Finally! Finally. We clear again! And, as luck would have it, we're doing it again in near 100* temperatures in the midst of soupy, 90% humidity.
Our penchant for manual labor during the hottest months of the year probably has more to do with incredibly poor planning than anything else. Since the beginning, this place has been a work in progress. Few weekends passed without felling trees here and there, pulling mesquite into piles, watching snakes slide out from their hiding spots. Those were weekends we stylishly coined as "casual clearing" - no real urgency but it needed to be done eventually. If this sounds like an entertaining way to pass the time, aim for late fall/early winter. Bring beer.
The type of clearing we've begun now falls into an entirely different category. This sort is done in earnest, in any weather, regardless of the health hazards it may pose. Regardless of whether the clearers really want to do it. Right now we have a small group of growing animals in need of their own pasture. I'm suddenly keenly aware of all the folks back in March who said, "You're getting goats now? Are you ready for them?" Luckily, they have plenty of space in their pen to live comfortably at night or during times when I'm not home. While I'm here, the goats roam freely in the woods with the puppies, or they lounge on the porch and nibble on hay, or they run in circles around the house screaming wildly for food, or they follow me to the garden and back walking in between my legs, stepping on my shoes, and tripping me. It's very charming, truly. But it's time they had a pasture of their very own. This weekend we started the process of clearing a fence line to cordon off the 5 wooded acres just behind our house. The perimeter is already fence and, aside from some patch jobs, should do fine for them during the day with the pyrenees guardian dogs in with them to roam and bark at suspicious invaders. At night, they will be penned into a much smaller area close to the barn. And that is the plan.
As I pulled on my gloves and the leather boots I haven't worn since digging water lines last summer, memories of past clearing adventures came flooding back in nauseating waves. In fact, I despise dragging trees so much that I had to walk out onto the septic field which was, at one time, part of the dense woods, and remember that there is actually a light at the end of every tunnel. This too shall pass - the field serving as proof that clearing eventually serves a purpose. Then I walked back into the path Jeremy had cleared, sighed deeply, and grabbed a cedar tree, dragging it back towards a waiting pile. This movement immediately freed another limb that popped straight into my thigh, drawing blood. At just that moment, Jolene walked up to me and stuck one skinny leg out, delicately resting her hoof on my knee. Looked up at me and cocked her head, letting out a soft, "baaaaahhh." A necessary reminder that they are, in fact, worth all the trouble. Although I suddenly, and desperately, miss tiling.