Welcome to Antler Valley Farm

Carter Crazy

Once we knocked down all those pesky Virginia pines we had brush piles everywhere.  And I do mean EVERYWHERE!  Sorry-I tried to give you a little bit of a break before I started talking about trees again!

  Brush piles everywhere!!!

All those brush piles left us with one question that we kept asking each other.  Where do we start????  We had a tentative time schedule and plan as to what progress we wanted to make on the farm within 1 year and 2 years.  Well, that plan had to be revamped a few times due to budget cuts, weather, work, sickness-basically life in general.  Our plans don’t always work out…that probably doesn’t surprise you at this point does it????

Originally, we had hoped to burn a good bit of the brush piles in fall of 2016 and replant some grass seed so it could be really getting established by spring of 2017.  As usual, plans changed.  We couldn’t burn in the fall of 2016 due to the drought.  Even before the wildfires at Lake Lure and South Mountain started we had become afraid to burn anything because it was just too dry out there.  So we waited for the rain that never came.  We took a chance and planted some small areas in grass but without rain it was nearly hopeless.  We were grateful that the grass we had planted along the driveway and the house site was still alive after such a long drought.  That grass was not very well established and I was completely surprised it didn’t all die on us!

By January 2017, we had finally received some rain.  We were actually expecting more rain and it was even somewhat muddy out at the property.  So we decided we should try burning some of the smaller brush piles.  All the piles were out in the middle of the fields with huge swaths of dirt all around them.  Honestly, I was still a little scared to burn anything but we really needed to get it done.  So, we started burning one of the brush piles on a drizzly Friday morning thinking it would burn quickly and we would be able to head home by supper when the rain was supposed to come in.  Once again, plans change.  I have come to think that should be our motto: Plans Change!  Hmmm,…..maybe we should have named the farm Plans Change Farm.  Not quite the name we were going for but it definitely would have been appropriate!!

We had to burn these brush piles before we could plant grass.  Our animals can’t very well eat brush piles now can they?

Well, we had a plan.  Don’t we always?  Seriously, we always have a plan.  We just haven’t figured out how to get the plans to work!!!   Anyway, we couldn’t get the brush pile to start burning!  It was really hilarious now that I look back.  I kept walking around starting the fire in different places trying to get it to burn.  Then Jim walked around showing me how to do it the right way.  Ummm…. I think the right way would be to get the fire to start burning, right honey????  Oh, I love that man!

Apparently the pile was too wet from the recent rain.  Darn, we would have to wait.  Then suddenly something sparked, the smoke started and the fire took off burning out of nowhere.  It wasn’t yet lunchtime so we had plenty of time for the fire to burn itself out before dark.  The problem was that it just kept burning, a slow, steady burn….all afternoon…and into the evening….and all night long.  The rain started just after supper but it wasn’t heavy enough to put the fire out.  Although, it was enough to make the ground so muddy I was basically sliding around the pile.

The kids were tired and hungry and just generally ready to go home and go to bed.  Jim wasn’t feeling the greatest either so we decided he would take the kids home and I would stay and watch the fire until it died down enough to safely leave it.  He even left me the dozer keys!!!  Whoo-hoo!   Oh yeah, it was already dark by the time he did that.  Not fair.

That silly fire just kept burning and burning and burning-all night!  It kept raining harder and harder, but that fire was more stubborn than I am apparently and refused to be put out.  The ground around the burn pile had puddles of water and slippery mud everywhere but with the flames still over a foot tall, I felt I had to stay.  Everytime I walked around to check the fire I slipped and slid.  More than once I fell and ended up completely caked with mud.  Oh, the fun times of being out in a cold rain..in January…at midnight…and then repeatedly falling in the mud.  Great memories… or NOT!

At around 3:30 am Jim called me.  I couldn’t believe he wasn’t sound asleep with the sound of the rain.  Nope.  Our son Camden had the stomach bug and had already thrown up three times.  Jim wasn’t feeling the greatest either.  Just my luck!  The Lord doesn’t give you more than you can handle though and apparently the Lord knew I couldn’t handle any more at that moment because the rain started coming down in full force.  Our truck was parked about 20 feet from the fire and when I hung up the phone, the rain really picked up and I couldn’t see the fire anymore.  No flames!  I could barely see the hood of the truck, much less the fire.  I waited about 10 minutes for the rain to let up but it never did, so I got out and walked around one last time in the pouring rain.  By the time I walked around the fire I was so soaked that all the mud was gone off my clothes but Man, oh Man, was I freezing!  I saw no signs of fire, just lots of smoke billowing from the ashes.  I checked the local radar on my phone and it looked like the rain was going to last for several hours so I felt comfortable leaving.  I slowly made my way home in the rain.  It was awesome to see that kind of rain!

By the time I got home Jim was sick and Cam was pitiful, so I was up what was left of the night.  I knew that we had to go back and check on the fire as soon as possible but I couldn’t leave my sick guys.  I couldn’t imagine that the fire wasn’t completely out after several hours of heavy rain but once I get a thought in my head I can’t get it out.  Just another one of my many issues…..

At around 7:30 am a friend of Jim’s called and wanted to go out to the property and look for rocks after the heavy rain.  Thank you LORD!  He was actually already headed that way and happily called us a few minutes later to tell us the fire was flooded basically and almost completely OUT!  He only saw one little trail of smoke, puddles, more puddles and mud everywhere.  Whew, I was finally able to relax and take care of my sick guys.

This was Jim’s method of pushing the burn piles together while they were still smoking so they would keep burning.  It’s a wonder I didn’t die of a heart attack watching him do this!

Needless to say the next time we talked about burning brush piles I was not exactly ecstatic.  But we did burn 2 large brush piles in February just before a good rain came in.  The piles were all pine trees that had set since last summer and they burned down completely within just a few hours.  Unfortunately, that morning our daughter, Maylin, had started running a fever.  She got really sick that afternoon and continued to get worse over the next few days.  The doctors were worried about her catching pneumonia again so she had to sleep upright for over a week.  Her fevers were so high and she was so pitiful for days.  She barely left the couch for almost a week.  If you know Maylin at all, then you know that she never sits still for more than 2 seconds.  So, for her to be lethargic on the couch for a week was really hard on my nerves and my heart.  We had to call the doctor twice a day with updates on her.  It was an incredibly long week for all of us.

I have to admit that the next time we talked about burning more brush piles, I actually groaned in despair.  But it had to be done.  I did however question whether the Lord was for us and our endeavors on the farm at that point?!?!

In late March and early April we had gotten some more rain and were expecting several fronts to come through and bring several inches of rain.  It seemed the perfect time to burn some of the bigger piles and finally plant some grass seed.  Thursday morning came and I felt sick.  Actually, I hadn’t felt good all week, but Thursday I felt pretty miserable.  No kidding!  Believe me, I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried!!  As a parent you don’t really get sick days though.  You suck it up and deal with it basically.  With the crazy weather we had experienced the last few years we knew we needed to jump on burning the piles and get the grass seed planted while the weather was cooperating.  So suck it up I did.

Thankfully, the burning started easily and burned down quickly because I was getting worse by the minute.  We had plans to move the burn piles over once they burned out and then plant grass seed where they had been.   The rain came in quicker than predicted though and I was walking around planting grass in drizzle and light rain all afternoon.  I kept reminding myself that this would be grass fields by fall and I kept going.  We worked hard, but by mid-afternoon I had a high fever and could barely swallow.  However, the fires were almost out and we had planted quite a bit of grass seed!  It was a great day, but I was quite certain I had strep throat.  My kids weren’t sick though, so life went on and so did I.

Jim and I juggled their schedules that night but by Friday morning I headed to the doctor and tested positive for strep throat.  Oh joy!  Our oldest daughter was in a play that Friday and Saturday and I couldn’t go because the medicines weren’t working and I still felt horrible.  At least Jim was off work and was juggling some of their schedules, but by Sunday morning I could no longer swallow.  It was a little scary actually.  I’ve never had strep throat get that bad.  I went to the urgent care thinking they would switch my medicines.  Nope.  They took one look at my throat and said “Do not pass go.  Do not collect $200.  Go directly to the ER.”  Yeah, penicillin resistant strep throat and peritonsillar abscesses are sooo much fun.  No, actually they really are NO fun what so ever.  They are the complete polar opposite of fun.  And they are expensive.  And time consuming.  And generally exhausting.  Ok, it’s just a giant pain in the rear all the way around!!!

So, yeah, I was beginning to think we would never get the brush piles burned and the grass planted without one of us ending up in the hospital or some other major disaster.  It was already the beginning of April 2017 and I was starting to obsess over when the rest of the grass was going to get planted.  The spring rain was what the grass seed needed to really get established before the heat of the summer.  But that pesky peritonsillar abscess would not go away.  The doctors couldn’t drain it (I’ll spare you the long story behind that) and all the medicines were driving me nuts.  Ok, more nuts than usual….I mean, can you imagine me on steroids and high powered antibiotics for 12 straight days?  Hmmm, steroids + very little sleep = Cranky Me.   I’m telling you my husband is Saint Jim people!  My kids were rockstars and picked up the slack right along with Jim.  I LOVE my family, have I mentioned that?  My family and Jim’s family helped out as well, and we made it through somehow.  A BIG Thank You to everyone who didn’t kill me during that time.  I do appreciate that!

After over a week, I finally felt well enough to leave the house.  We had burned a few of the piles over at the cell tower and we were ready to plant the grass seed that would become our hay fields one day.  We were finally planting the rest of the grass seed!  It really didn’t take that long, but it was such a relief to have it done!  It was going to be so beautiful in the fall!

When we were done we drove the trucks back up to the house site to load up and go home and something caught my eye.  There was a guy in a red hooded sweatshirt running through the field where we had just planted grass.  It was crazy!  The guy was running toward the road but we had no idea where he had come from and how we hadn’t seen him.  We had to have driven right by him but we hadn’t seen him.  He had come from the the back of our property but there is nothing back there – absolutely nothing but woods and creeks!

We were over by the cell tower planting grass seed..

 and had driven back up to the house site where I was standing when I took this picture.  I can’t imagine how we didn’t see the guy when we drove back up here!

Our property backs up to a 700 acre parcel that is leased for hunting but it wasn’t hunting season.  We still have no idea who that guy was, where he came from or where he was going.  It’s just one of the many crazy things that happen to us.  We call it Carter Crazy and it just seems to happen to us.  All the time!

I fully expect the next time we go to burn brush piles (we only have 15, or 30, or more piles to burn!!) or plant more grass seed we will have more stories added to our Carter Crazy file.  That’s just how we roll, I guess.  Carter Crazy.

Some photos of some of the burn piles we managed to burn without craziness!!!  

It’s amazing how different this whole farm looks now without burn piles everywhere!!!


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