Country Living: January on Goose Creek 2012

Winter Clouds, Timeless Barn: Floyd County VA

It has been such a mercifully mild winter thus far–so much more benign than years in the recent past when, after the first week of December, there’s been little that could be done working on the next year’s wood for the ice and snow, and just getting to the paved roads was a daily challenge. (On the other hand, we are expected a terrible year of TICKS, and I hate to put that poison on the puppy to keep them off. There were 25 cases of Lyme Disease at our vet’s, four of them fatal last year.)

I have a project I might actually complete. I’m replacing the supports under the stacked wood–some of which have been in place since we first moved in. After we burned up a half-cord stacked up against the bank, I pulled a rotten “landscaping timber” out of the wet ground. It came from the rudimentary bridge across the branch, the way we found it in March of 1999, the year we bought the place.

I’m replacing the old rails with locust or oak, and even poplar will do since I’m elevating them on cinderblocks to keep the bottom row of wood drier than I’m finding it stacked just off the wet ground.

The other day, I found myself working hard enough to shed all but a sweatshirt. I realized that, one year ago, I could not work long enough to work up a sweat because of my hand pain. The April surgery was an agony, not because I had any appreciable post-op pain or complications, but because it took me out of the woods, so to speak, and the garden, for about six weeks.

Now, with the exception of the occasional sharp pain in the un-operated thumb, I can work until I get ready to stop–which, admittedly, is too near the very beginning of a task I would once have completed in one pass. Now, it takes several. We roll with the punches.

We have March mud on our road, with temps 15-20 degrees warmer than normal for this typically frigid time of year. The ground (including the gravel road) is frozen down deep, but the top couple of inches is a semi-solid more treacherous to drive in than snow. Thank goodness, once again, for Subaru.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Freddie,
    I’d get a whole new flock of chicks to help keep down the ticks this spring…the chickens simply wear out bugs of all kinds, and that could be just be one very effective facet of your battle with bugs, for the sake of Gandy!

    Also, as you know…just ask Aunt Betty, the old timers used to use chestnut timber for all sorts of things (better than locust, oak or poplar) as it is very resistant to the elements and insects.

    Unfortunately, however, the Asian blight took out the American Chestnut for us…almost. Check out the American Chestnut Foundation at:

    We’ve been working since the early 80’s to produce a blight resistant strain of the American Chestnut. This spring (2012), seeds will be available to long time members (for a small cost) to re-establish a blight resistant American Chestnut to the Appalachians (WV is smack in the middle of the natural range). Let me know if you might interested in this project. Being a long time member and located in Tennessee, I have already ordered some of the (B3F3 or beyond) nuts.


  2. That is great news that your hands are so much more functional than last year. Even though chores need to be done in stages, they eventually get done, if us old folks start in on them early enough!