June, 2010

 

June was a “landmark” month for us.  We really started to make headway in clearing the land.  Beforehand, we had been concentrating on the runway.  As Mr. Taylor (the previous owner) made headway in clearing his property from the land, we were able to start seeing more progress.  We knew that it would be a long and slow process, but we were building some good momentum.  I was able to start seeing potential in more and more of the property and the ideas of what would go where were in a constant state of flux.

June 3rd

I had purchased a shed for our tools and supplies and a vehicle awning to cover my tractors in May.  The shed had been delivered in mid-May.  The awning was finally delivered on June 3rd.  If you look on the periphery of the photos, you can see how rough the land was all around my small cleared area.  There were still tall trees where I wanted to build and a lot of junk vehicles sitting around.

 

This was a great step forward for us.  I needed a place to start storing all of the tools that we’d bought to help restore the land.  Hauling it back and forth in the back of my truck was getting old.  We also needed a place to keep all of the fuel containers that were needed to keep the tractors running.  The shed was crucial in helping to make working around the place easier.  It would also provide a cool shelter during the hot summer that awaited us.

June 11th thru 13th

This would be our first full weekend on the property.  I hooked up my travel trailer and we stayed there for the first time.  It was nice to have a place to stay with restroom facilities and, more importantly, AIR CONDITIONING!!!

 

June brought with it some fairly hot weather.  Consequently, as the humidity dropped and the air dried up there was very little rain.  I had gone to the local Co-Op and purchased a hopper load of fertilizer and Bermuda grass.  We got a good spread over the runway area, but there was no rain to “set” the grass seed germinating.  Like the electricity, our water source ( a well on the property) was over 1000 ft. away. 

 

After scratching our heads a bit, Walt L. came up with a resourceful solution.  Using PVC pipe, a 350 gallon water container and my cart and trailer, we built a watering system that actually worked fairly well.  It didn’t put a lot of water on the ground in one spot and each load would only cover a lane 16 ft. wide about 2/3 of the way down the runway, so we waited until sunset before we started watering.  It took almost 45 minutes to refill the container, so we’d work until 1am most nights that we were there.  We’d make a pass and then do other things while we waited for the tank to fill back up.  We concentrated on the center of the runway since it was impossible to cover the whole surface unless we stayed up all night.  Rachael and I spent many a late night watching the stars as we slowly creeped down the runway with our watering contraption.  Although it didn’t do much, our efforts were ultimately worth it.  The grass that I sowed started to take root from the center and gradually move outward.  We didn’t think that we’d have any coverage the first year.  However, we now have almost 95% coverage over the runway from our late nights spent trying to keep the ground moist.

On Saturday, we got our third visitors to our new home (the second visitor was Allen G. in a Cessna 170.  We weren’t there when he came by, though)..  A couple members of the DFWPilots.com forums (an aviation forum that we frequent) came by for a visit.  Joe and Jay flew in with their 172.  We showed them around and got a few pics before watching them leave and heading back to work.  They actually showed up while I was driving back from Sulphur Springs.  I had gone up there to buy a 45 ft. storage container.  It will be used to store more of our possessions when we build a house and finally move onto the property.

One of the last things that I did that weekend was hang a new windsock.  I hadn’t wanted to do that until I was satisfied that the runway was in good condition - and it finally looked safe enough to open the runway to the public again.

 

As we were packing up to leave on Sunday night, we heard another airplane announce that they were inbound for Taylor.  Rachael’s friend and CFI, Anise, and her student dropped in right around sunset for a late visit.  They were our fourth visitors to the airport.

 

June 15th

One of the things that we had realized, early on, was that we couldn’t do the job with just the tractors.  MoFo (the Massey) was down with a broken crankshaft pulley at that time, but I knew that we’d need something with a lot more power to clear the trees and build our roads.  After getting some rather startling quotes for renting a dozer, I realized that it was waaaay more cost effective to buy a small dozer to use in clearing the land.  After another hard search over the internet and a lot of looking, I found a Komatsu D31 dozer that we hoped would work.  It has proven to be one of our best purchases.

 

After it was offloaded from the trailer out on the road, we immediately started grading the entrance - it came through the entrance working.  Godzilla (our pet name for it) would be used every day that we were there for a long time.

June 18th thru 20th

We got a lot of work done this weekend in spite of the oppressive heat.  We started off on Saturday morning by pulling off the radiator to find that the hinge pin that holds the front axle on the tractor had broken free of its position and had slid back onto the crankshaft pulley - breaking it off.  It looked like a little more than we wanted to tackle, so I decided to leave it alone and hire a tractor mechanic to come out and fix it.

 

After deciding to give up on the tractor, we moved our attentions to the tree line nearest the runway.  We started clearing the trees from the runway side so that we could get better clearance from the runway.  Godzilla did a GREAT job of pushing up most of the trees.  The land already looks markedly different from the pics that I took on Friday.

 

As we worked on Saturday morning, a beautiful Skywagon came in for a landing.  Wayne brought some much appreciated donuts and got a tour around the place.

 

We got a lot of work done.  Most of the “islands” of junk were consolidated and we piled up many of the pulled-up trees.  Rachael got a chance to work Godzilla and actually pushed over quite a few trees (even though she dug a few pits in the process).

June 25th thru 27th

We got a lot done - almost none of what was planned.  It turned out to be a lot tougher to get the crankshaft pulley off of MoFo.  The whole front end of the tractor had to be unbolted and moved in order to get to the broken part.  Using an engine hoist and a couple of floor jacks, we were able to do a decent job of bracing the front axle assembly but with NO amount of prying were we able to remove the crankshaft pulley bolt.  We sprayed on a liberal amount of Seafoam and left it to soak while we went on to another engine.

 

Mr. Taylor had a small track hoe that hadn’t run in at least 2 years.  It sat out in the sun, covered only by a pile of weeds that had grown up around it.  I’d cut the weeds back a week earlier, so Jeff, Walt L. and I started playing around with it to see if it ran.  After about 3 hours of tinkering, we were able to get the little diesel engine started.  We drained the old diesel and hydraulic fluids out, replaced them and got the engine running fairly well.

 

Ecstatic,  I hopped aboard and put it into gear.  The little track hoe groaned and sloooowly moved, with the tracks protesting mightily at every revolution.  I slowly moved it over to the dirt pile that encircled the burn pit that Walt L. had dug the day before.  I dug a couple buckets of dirt - just playing - before handing it over to Jeff and Walt L. to let them try their hand.

 

Walt was playing with it when I looked back and saw that there was a trail of hydraulic fluid that followed the little hoe from where we started it to its current position.  It was streaming its life fluid all over the ground.  After shouting at Walt to quickly park it, he started driving it back to an out-of-the-way area.  The hoe never made it.  It got slower with each turn of the tracks.  Finally, the right track locked up and it would move no further.  Unfortunately, it stopped in the worst possible place!  Using the arm, Walt got it to drag itself far enough forward to be out of the way.

 

After giving up on the track hoe, we went to work pushing the large piles of rotted wood into the big pit.  We spent the rest of the weekend cleaning up the area and cutting down the hawthorne trees that grew abundantly in the pile.

 

On Sunday, I took Mr. Taylor up for a ride in my Starduster.  I don’t believe that he’d flown in a few years.  His first flight in an open-air biplane was a nice experience (or so he says).

 

The last pic I took before heading for home at the end of the weekend shows how we’re making progress clearing up the land.