Repaired 36m of barbed wire fence (1 segment)
Constructed/finished 1,550m of barbed wire fence (7 segments)
Set 23m of metal fence posts
Pruned/removed 4,500 lbs of saltbush
Removed 500m2 of mustard seed
Planted 12 plants
Assembled 2 triangular kiosks
…but not until the last day! And there is much to tell before we get to that. We spent this hitch up in Carrizo Plain National Monument, about five and a half hours from our home in Yucca Valley. It was such a new and beautiful landscape, and our crew agrees that we can’t wait to revisit it over a break sometime in the spring when the flowers are in bloom.
At breakfast each day this hitch, a different poem by Wendell Berry was read. My goal in doing so, though not explicitly stated, was to reconnect us to the landscape and life around us each day. I think at least some of our crew, if not all, found it difficult to live in a house for hitch. We’re not used to being so removed from our surroundings, our workplace and outdoor playplace in one. It was very different to wake up on a mattress, with thick walls and a roof between us and the stars, rather than just a sleeping bag, or tarp, or the occasional canvas tent between us and Cassiopeia (my new personal favorite). It was strange to feel heated air from a vent blowing on our face at night, instead of the chilly night air. Not that it wasn’t much appreciated to some extent, living in the Washburn Ranch house, just different. Personally, Berry’s poetry helped me make that transition each morning. I’m not sure if it had that effect on all the crew, but they seemed to enjoy it in any case.
Since poetry was such a presence this hitch, I feel it only appropriate to continue in this fashion. Not as eloquent as Berry, but here goes…
First day was training in GPS
Craig taught us water monitoring and we met with success
In finding two sites at Joshua Tree
Trimbles and Garmins and note taking were key.
The night before pre-hitch it’s tradition to bake
We love our bread product and thus began to make
Wheat loaves and pitas, focaccia, bread bowls,
The tortillas were flat, and the bagels had holes.
The next day we awoke to a shortened pre-hitch
We would take no camping gear, check out this “sitch:”
We will live in a house! And so toilets and beds,
Walls and a roof, ran through our heads.
Not even our trailer would accompany us,
No tools required, now that is a plus.
What will we do in a house on the plains?
Perhaps a jigsaw puzzle and some pool table games.
So the next day we drove for too many an hour,
But when we arrived, we knew our power
Would be renewed by the beautiful sight
Across the San Andreas Fault, we turned not right,
But left, into the National Monument.
To work on fences, this is where we had been sent.
Day One of work was barbed wire all day.
H-braces, and stress panels would make it all stay.
The come-along we call Alligator Jaws,
Attacked a few but we soon learned the laws
Of physics that pertained to tension and wires
Which makes us all pros. We are not liars.
Day Two we finished the fence from last year,
Clipping the wires, as the day’s end drew near.
We stopped at the Soda Lake overlook view
And took a WC photo of the whole crew.
360 degree sunset on the way home,
Can you imagine what it’s like to roam,
These plains at night, like the coyote does?
Or the kit fox, kangaroo mouse, or the mourning doves?
Day Three was more work on fences with barbs,
At dinner we filled up on delicious carbs
In a new Sun Gado - Sun Gado, made with sunflower butter
So delicious it was, makes my heart all a-flutter.
Happy Chanuka to all! Latkes and applesauce.
We loaded the truck and in it we would toss,
8 metal poles and several bags of concrete,
At our hilltop destination is where we would meet,
Mary W. Morris. Her grave has a wonderful view.
We dug holes, set the poles and poured concrete, too.
Unlike the ghosts of the crashed cars from last hitch,
Mary is nice, and not stuck in a ditch.
She wouldn’t possess Sara asleep in the night,
Nor choke her, or laugh at her, ‘til she turned on the light.
Thank goodness that’s passed and will not return.
Back to work, at the Education Center to learn
About the Plains at Carrizo and all its wildlife.
Commence the saltbush massacre and all of the strife
It brought us to find that within each burrow
Underfoot, laid a critter just waiting to know
Its fate, as we took apart the bush above,
Reminding ourselves this job is tough love:
Trimming and pruning to allow for growth renewed,
And planting new plants. Did I mention Doug’s such a cool dude?
The next day supposedly would have been
A personal favorite: concrete demolition.
But, alas, there was no roll-off to be found,
So we went with Ryan and walked all around
Painted Rock! A religious birthplace and ceremonial spot.
About Native Americans, we learned a lot.
The pictographs were painted in red, black, and white,
A relic, a culture, three owls in flight.
For the rest of the day, more saltbush was lopped.
Mustard seed plants removed: too aggressive, it sopped
Up all the water from the rest of the plants.
Completely dirty from the week, we looked at our pants,
And realized the next day we would be driving home,
But time in the morning for Sam and Emily to roam
And gather GPS data for some of our fence line
While Sara, Andrew, and I put in a little more time
With Ryan. We built two huge metal structures,
Kiosks, they’re called. Try not to get any punctures,
From hammering exploding pegs, a hoogie of sorts,
A convenient term, used here for the kiosk’s supports.
As we drove out of the monument on this strange cloudy morning,
The rain recently fading, and just barely forming,
This last hitch’s experiences into recent memory,
As softly and hushed as the rare birds flee.