Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Pole cutting

Over the weekend my family and I set out to get a load of poles from the forest to build a corral. We bought our pole cutting permit from the Forest Service for an allotted amount of trees we could cut down. The best trees are the Lodgepole Pine, Pinus contorta; the stipulation to cutting down the trees: they had to be dead. With the pine beetle destroying Lodgepole Pine forests in the Rocky Mountain region, finding dead trees is not a problem. In fact, there are so many dead trees the forest service has been paying for the removal of the trees in certain areas. Dead trees are a tremendous wildfire threat, and once they dry out completely, their roots can no longer hold them up and they eventually fall down.

Besides following the Forest Service guidelines, we had our own: finding trees that were not too big in circumference. We did not want to be out aimlessly cutting down trees to meet our required length. The goal: finding trees narrow enough for corral poles and long enough to get about two poles out of one tree. This requires a little searching and knowing were the “pole stands” are. Thankfully we have friends, a couple who lives close to us, who know where a good stand could be found.

We went up to New Fork Lake to find our friends down a Forest Service road already at work. They needed 12’ poles for a buck and rail fence they were going to build. We needed 14’ poles. The day was very warm for the area, but the nature of the work meant being fully clothed, including long sleeved shirts and leather gloves. The guys would cut down the trees, clean them up, measure the right size and cut the pole appropriately. My friend and I then drug the trees down and out of the forest to separate the poles into appropriate piles based on size. A blazing hot sun, heavy poles to drag over a thick forest floor, and soon we were all sweating, some of us in streams.
The kids played in the shade, pretending and acting out all sorts of stories. My son enjoyed immetating the sound of the saw.

I thought of the people who came to the area long ago as loggers and made their living by clearing the forests by hand. Then the tie hacks came to mind; the men who would go into the woods and cut down trees to shape, by hand, into railroad ties. These men would swing their heavy axes over and over to make one tie, getting paid per tie and probably not very much for the amount of physical labor they were exerting.

One day of being a woman in the woods and I was exhausted. But we have a permit for one more trip, a corral yet to build, and soon we will begin getting ready for the winter by making a few firewood runs. Although we were working hard we will end up saving a lot of money, and perhaps we were doing our part by taking what dead trees we could so they could be put to some use.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Two pairs

We added two new members to our family this summer.

My husband and I knew we would like to find some horses for our kids to begin riding on, and after looking around in all of the local papers and online sites, we found some reasonably priced horses suitable for kids- Boots and Cowboy.

As far as horses go, they are nothing extravagant; but they are calm, easy to catch, tolerant around kids, and very friendly. Both are sorrels in color, although Boots is darker. Cowboy has a white blaze on his face and white socks on his front legs. Boots has white socks on his back legs and is a little smaller than Cowboy.

Like their names, Boots and Cowboy are a pair. The man we bought them from originally found them for his kids at ranch where they give trial rides in the summer. Boots and Cowboy have never been separated. The man’s kids outgrew the pair, so when we talked to him about purchasing them, he said we could as long as we took both.

Now, looking out in our pasture, the two graze together and walk around the property as the companions they have always been. My two kids are a pair as well, and Boots and Cowboy are already the topic of our conversations and our focus in the evenings as we bring them in to brush them, give them grain, and let the kids ride for a while.

“Quite the pair,” some would say, and I would have to agree: Two kids and two horses with plenty of memories to develop and adventures to be found.