This steel truss bridge was built in the 1920's and moved to this location in 1940 after a tremendous flood washed the old bridge out. It is the only access to the property. You can imagine the size cars and trucks in the 20's versus what we have today. Can you say, tiny? After more than 70 years of service this bridge is now rated at 7 tons capacity, which means most heavy construction equipment, well trucks, cranes, etc. cannot get across.
We LOVE this bridge. It says something about a different time, about moving from one world to another as you pass over it, so it is entirely in keeping with slowing things down and moving inward as you cross into Butterfly Farm.
Still, its limited weight capacity is something we are going to have to work around as we build structures on the land. This will increase the cost of all that we do, so we will have to be mindful and clever about how we get concrete, building materials, etc across.
Felling the Hemlocks
Some years ago, the wooly adelgid came from Japan on a lone tree to Richmond, VA. Its appetite for the hemlock tree spread until it today, it has devasted the eastern forests, particularly the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Everywhere you look in the mountains, there are great, tall skeletons of these beautiful trees (when healthy). In the moonlight they look like silver ghosts in tall spires.
Butterfly Farm did not escape the devastation. When we purchased it there were more than 100 dead trees from 12 to 24 inches in diameter and standing more than 60 feet tall. We immediately rescued as many as we could through treatment recommended by Will Blozan of Appalachian Arborists and we are very happy to say that we have some healthy stands now of younger hemlock that will hopefully be around for many years.
In designing the Farmhouse, we purposely decided to build it using the wood from the hemlocks that had died. We cut more than 50 trees and are now in the process of beginning to mill them for the exterior board and batten siding as well as some interior use like window trim and baseboard. Some will be used as upright logs.
The three days we cut them down was painful. Formerly great beauties, once filled with delicious ever greens, shading the creek and the critters who lived in the forest, now came crashing down shaking the earth. The rotten parts shattered into millions of pieces until the ground beneath us was no longer evident and the drive turned a deep brownish red from all of the bark that had fallen away.
Now there is a different quiet in the forest. There is much more light and new possibilities will find all sorts of growth occurring. We feel it honors the trees that died to carry their legacy forward in the farmhouse and we hope for many years to come, their presence will help call people into the natural world around them.
One day our friend Lee Barnes, an amazing divinist (finds water using divining rods) decided to take a walk up our drive because he believed he could find a spring or two (Heretofore we had hoped to have a well, but the bridge could not hold the weight of a drilling rig). We told him we had not been able to find any springs, nor had the previous owner. In thirty minutes, he came back and had marked three springs!
The spring with the most potential turned out to be a small hole in the ground with water coming out of it, right at the top of the property. Charlie's son, Elliot, came out and asked to dig it out. For more than an hour he dug down until after digging through 3 feet of debris he struck what he thought was bedrock. As he dug it out however, it turned out to be concrete! Many years before someone had made this a spring and it had been totally forgotten!!
It is sacred water, with a sweet taste, cold as the mountain can make it and about as pure as it gets. It now supplies all of the water to the property after we installed a 2,500 gallon reservoir and ran the piping to different areas of the land. All of the water runs on gravity and we have great pressure! Thanks to Lee, Elliot and our friend Kevin who worked with us to build the necessary protections to keep it pure. And thanks to the spring for giving us such a wonderful gift.
The First Milling
Yesterday, Eric Bell, our most excellent mill person, came to our rental house and cut the first boards that will become red oak flooring in the great room of the Farmhouse. A large red oak had died during the Fall and we decided to cut it into boards and take it to Butterfly Farm.
We love the idea of the gatherings that will be held there being supported by this oak and one other that will come from the property. Lives lived and then continuing on giving others a place to rest and listen, sing, dance, learn and gather together for many years to come.
Our goal is to mill the oak into 7 to 9 inch wide tongue and groove boards, so the floors will be wide boarded and the grain of the oak will have a full chance to show itself.
We are deeply appreciative of the gift of this great tree.