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Three piles of gravel spread, one to go

The gravel is moist inside the pile and is a darker color. It becomes light gray when exposed to the air.

Cold winter days (it was 38 degrees outside today) are perfect for hard labor outdoors. I got three of the four piles of gravel spread out for the parking and turn-around area at the end of the driveway. I used only a shovel, a wheelbarrow, and a rake. I paid off the biscuits and gravy I had for breakfast, I guess.

I’m inspired by the hard work of the first European settlers who came to this area over the old wagon road from Philadelphia. I’m reading a book on this, “The Great Wagon Road,” by Parke Rouse Jr., published in 1973. According to Rouse, the German settlers, particularly the Moravians, were more industrious than, say, the Scotch-Irish. It was Oct. 8, 1753, when the Pennsylvania Moravians sent 15 men down the wagon road to Bethabara to start the settlement there. Bethabara, by the way, is about 15 miles from me. Upon arriving in mid-November at the site chosen for Bethabara, Rouse says:

“In ten days they cleared three acres of densely forested land and cultivated it with a plow built by Brother Henrich Feldhausen. Within five months they were growing wheat, corn, potatoes, flax, cotton, tobacco, barley, rye, oats, millet, buckwheat, turnips, and pumpkins. In a fenced garden, to keep out rabbits and squirrels, they cultivated “salat” greens.

“Winter was confining, but in spring the Brothers visited neighbors to buy apple and peach trees, livestock, and poultry…. Except for a few items — glass, nails, salt, and coffee among them — they supplied all their own wants.”

Before long, Rouse says, settlers were traveling sixty miles to trade with the Moravians at Bethabara.

Hand tools aren’t as inefficient as we modern folk sometimes think they are. Consider the Blue Ridge Parkway. The fact that so much of the work was done with manual human labor prevented over-engineering and preserved an organic effect, with everything on a human scale.

I had imagined that I could build here without resorting to bulldozers, but I was wrong. A bulldozer removed the pine stumps, graded for the driveway, and did the final grading around the house. The man who did this work, though, was very sympathetic to my requests that he not disturb the ground any more than necessary. He’s an artist with a bulldozer.

So far I have two engines — the Jeep, and a weed eater than I haven’t used since I cleared a path through the woods in 2006. I probably will have to get a tiller, and a mower, but other than that I’m hoping hand tools will do.

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