Sometimes it feels like Deb and I are marching in place, moving rocks and dreaming and checking our bank balance but not making much progress on The Mountain. A lot of what I said would happen “soon” didn’t happen at all. But then I look at photos we’ve taken along the way, going back to various points in this bumpy journey of ours, and any disappointment vanishes.
The first panorama (below) captures the way the homesite appeared when we left for Ohio last March. The second image is how it looks now.
No, the humble homestead of our dreams doesn’t yet include a house. We’re still RVing, running a generator and hauling water in a plastic drum. Our “front-porch view,” though delightful, isn’t what we’d imagined.
But those two photos reveal that in 15 months we’ve advanced from a very rough sketch to a Home on The Mountain. It’ll be comfortable and functional.
The rest will come in time.
We’d just arrived on the road up The Mountain today when we saw an orange tractor working halfway up the grade — it was Deb’s cousin, spending part of his Sunday morning “grooming” the surface with his back blade. Heavy rain last night had washed out (mildly) a couple of sections, and he enjoys keeping our track in shape.
After stopping for a brief conversation, we continued up to the homesite with almost no agenda, no plans, no truckload of stuff to transfer from bus to fifth-wheel. There’s always something to do, though. I decided to tackle a job that I’ve been looking forward to, and yet I’ve put it off since mid-December.
I drove up to our shed, grabbed one of the steel 55-gallon drums we’d bought locally last year and hauled it back to our place. Using a 3/4-inch step bit, I began drilling holes in it — first putting 20 or so in the bottom, then laying the drum on its side and methodically (if not necessarily precisely) drilling staggered rings of holes at four levels. I put a ring of smaller holes, closer together, near the top (the open end). Finally, with a reciprocating saw I cut a rectangular opening, roughly six inches by four inches, near the base.
That, ladies and gentlemen, turned an ordinary steel drum into a burn barrel. But would it work?
For the uninitiated, a burn barrel isn’t a casual thing. It’s not a campfire or a bonfire. Done right and properly ventilated, it’s a baby blast furnace. My intent with this one was to give the contents enough air to let minimal initial combustion create its own thermodynamic vortex. The idea of the ring of small holes near the top — and without going through the hassle of building a double-wall burn barrel — was to get a little secondary combustion going.
We had plenty of cardboard (some of it soaking wet) and paper trash for a first run. I set the barrel on a couple of concrete blocks on the excavation site, far from trees, trailer, truck and other combustibles. I packed it loosely with trash, lit it (at the base) with a propane torch, put a grate on top (to prevent flying embers from causing trouble) and stepped back.
It was magical. My design worked to fiery perfection, essentially vaporizing whatever I threw at it, wet or dry. I got the secondary combustion I was looking for, too.
I want you to notice (in the first two photos above) the intensity of the flames and how quickly they can shift. A burn barrel has to be managed from a prudent distance, carefully and without undue haste. Failing to accord this mini-inferno the proper respect can carry painful consequences.
Like I said, it ain’t casual.
Within fifteen minutes, all of my trash had been reduced to an inch of fine ash in the bottom of the drum. I could almost hear Jeff Foxworthy — “If you have a water barrel and a burn barrel….”
Deb and I called it a day early, picking up our Sunday meal at Carolyn’s Razorback Ribs and planning to enjoy it at The Mark on Crooked Creek — but we’d left our cooler back in the fifth-wheel’s galley, so we returned to The Mountain and ate at our picnic table.
“Slop Bucket” for me. Ribs for Deb.
The winds have shifted. Wildfire smoke has drifted north. Recent rains scrubbed the air clean, and those dramatic Ozarkansas skies are back. We marveled at them all the way to Harrison.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.