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high desert. small house.

Days 146-150: Mining & Fence Posts Continue

Monday, 12/7
Brian’s hair was starting to look a little like Cousin It, so he had to schedule a hair appointment.  The timing of it unfortunately caused our work window to start later than usual.  Nonetheless, we were able to get started with t-posts on the northeast side.

Tuesday, 12/8
The mining is actually really fun.  It works under-used muscles in your hands, which I’m sure helps build grip strength.  It’s slow going, but every few buckets of dirt/rocks, you can really see your progress.  It’s satisfying.

The fence is the same.  The soil in the cholla garden is lovely and oh so easy.  The t-posts go right in and we’re able to pound in several before needing to take a breather.  We recently found out there was a small error in our land survey and we gained several feet at our east corner.  That was a tricky corner to put in to begin with so we aren’t certain how simple it will be to relocate the corner posts.  It’s veryyyyyyy ledgey up there.  Depending on how fast we work today, we may or may not have to find a solution tonight.

A friend came over and helped Brian stretch a 60 foot run of barbed wire.  Brian also installed another 30-40 fence posts up the east side.

[Why the sudden desire to work on the fence?  One – It’s a helpful break from the mining challenge.  Two – Our neighbor to the northwest of our north corner (you can see the house in the top left corner of the picture below) seems to have ‘rescued’ a dog that she doesn’t allow in the house with her other dog.  The poor thing looks pretty neglected but does not act all that pathetic.  In fact, he charges onto our land, barking with hackles raised.  He’s appears to be a Shar Pei-pitbull cross.  Since he is larger and more aggressive than our dogs, we really do not want to encourage a play date.  Hence, the fence.]

Completed t-posts in south corner (this is our cholla garden)

Completed t-posts in north corner (this is our cholla garden).  The 60′ run of wire has been stretched on these posts, near the ground.

T-posts up the northeast side

T-posts up the northeast side (you can just make out the white tops).

Wednesday, 12/10
What a beautiful week we’ve had!  The high yesterday was 63 degrees and sunshine.  High today was 66 degrees and sunshine.  They’re predicting snow for Saturday, but we shall see.

A few more posts and a few more inches of dirt removal.  We seem to be encountering a tougher patch – the 3 tines on the pick axe / tiller tool are repeatedly getting bent and the method required to make progress has shifted from striking to aggressive body-weight-bearing-down-scraping.

Thursday, 12/11
A very productive day.  More mining and more fence posts.  Brian successfully removed the east corner t-posts from the solid rock and reinstalled them.  We have almost completed the fence posts for the entire northeast run.

We have noticed several odd piles of cholla parts, garbage and plant parts on the property. We previously thought they were old burn piles. However, we recently discovered a den under one of them. So it seems an animal is gathering formidable objects and piling them around his/her den opening. Neato

We have noticed several odd piles of cholla parts, garbage and plant parts on the property. We previously thought they were old burn piles left over from someone who hated cactus bits butd never got around to starting a fire. However, we recently discovered a clear den structure to one of them. After a little research, we identified the culprit – it’s called a woodrat but is sometimes referred to as a Pack Rat or Trade Rat.  They’re common throughout the North American desert regions, and range in length from 8-20 inches, including their 3-9 inch tail.  Don’t get grossed out, though – they’re actually super cute…like a gerbil!

Close up of the woodrat den entrance

Close up of the woodrat den entrance lined with menacing cholla chunks.

Just a petite amigo that Brian saved from death. It had gotten itself trapped in one of our garbage bags. Brian rescued him.

Just a petite amigo that Brian saved from death. It had gotten itself trapped in one of our garbage bags. Brian rescued him.

Friday, 12/11
More fence posts and mining.  The ground under the house has changed composition and is now insanely difficult to remove.  It makes the beginning of the trench seem like a piece of cake.  So the going is slower now but we’re almost finished!  Just 2.5-3 feet to go.  We are also nearly up to the far east corner post with t-post installation.  No wire run on this side yet but nearly done with the super difficult work.

You can read more about our woodrat friends here.  Some fun facts from another page:

  • The bushy-tailed wood rat is a large, handsome rodent. It grows to about eight inches long, with another six inches of “bushy” tail.
  • The wood rat  is found almost exclusively in rocky areas.
  • Wood rats may also live in abandoned buildings located near rocky habitat. In such locations, wood rats will build large stick houses that may incorporate just about any object in the vicinity that they can carry – such things as bones, conifer cones, bits of rope, leather, hide, paper, shingles, wire, bottle caps, feathers and shotgun shell cases. Ironically, mouse traps have also been discovered in these collections.
  • From this collecting instinct, the bushytailed wood rat earned the pack rat nickname. It is also called “trade rat,” referring to its habit of picking up a new object before the one they were carrying is stashed.

Woodrat – courtesy of

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