03-06th thru 07th - March and almost a year of work completed!

 

It was mid-April of last year when we started working on our new home.  March represents a milestone for us - a year of work behind us and a lot of progress made towards making a first-rate airport on a somewhat limited budget.

 

This would be the first time this year that we stayed overnight and got in a full weekend of work.  I drove up on Friday afternoon to find that Spring was already making his appearance known.  The Hawthorne trees were all covered in white flowers and in full bloom.  In fact, there were so many Hawthornes growing on the adjacent land and across the road that it literally looked like everything was covered in snow again.  It was, quite simply, beautiful!

 

I walked out to the runway to take some pictures of the flowering trees and saw that our seeding efforts on the runway was really paying off.  A spotty blanket of green rye grass was healthily growing.  There wasn’t a full coverage, but it was still a beautiful sight to see.

One of the things that I noticed this weekend was that our new road in front of the sheds and workshop did an outstanding job of acting as a dam.  :-(  Water on the high south side (which just happened to be underneath the tractor shed) had pooled up into a small lake under our tractors and trailers.  The area had been such a problem spot in the past that we had used some extra concrete from our pad pour to fill in the area.  Now we had a big cement pond.  I could see that we were going to have to rent the back hoe, dig a trench across the road and build a culvert across the road to release the flow of water.  We had saved some old 6” PVC water pipe from the refuse pile.  The pipe was pretty much useless, but I hadn’t wanted to throw it away.  Now, it’s going to be used as culvert material if we can get the back hoe rented next weekend.

We started off by finishing off our “rough out” of the continued road.  Once we’ve run over the crushed asphalt enough to pack it down, we’ll start crowning it to make it drain better.

After we finished the road, Walt L. started Mini-Me and started to disc up the parking ramp again.  I had gone to the local Co-Op a few days earlier and purchased 1000 lbs. of lime.  I wanted to redo our parking ramp by first discing it up again, spread lime on the ground, go back over it again with the disc to mix the lime into the ground and then blading and rolling it again.  Hopefully, this will make the soil harden up and make a more firm airplane parking area (at least, that’s the theory).

 

While Walt worked on tearing up our previous week’s work, I started on another project that was near and dear to my heart.  My poor little Starduster had spent the winter parked on the ramp area underneath a tarp.  Back in October, I’d been shooting landings when I had a VERY hard landing and cracked both longerons where the landing gear attached.  The airplane was not flyable and it will have to sit there until I can find the extra time to take it apart and re-weld the longerons again.  I had hit so hard that I blew out a tire.  I wanted to move the plane out of the parking area and back onto the property in the trees where it would be more safely protected from the wind.  Another one of my “high priority” projects is to build some t-hangars as soon as we can.  Until then, it’ll be more safe tucked back in the trees in the back of the property.  While Walt worked on the land, I pulled off the wheel, put in a new tube and then put it all back together.

 

It had been early January since I last started it, but it kicked off on the second blade and I slowly taxied my damaged bird back to a more secure area back in the woods, holding my breath over each little bump fearfully and hoping that the next bounce wouldn’t complete the break, dropping my spinning prop into the ground and ruining a lot more than was already damaged.

 

 

After we secured my biplane underneath a new tarp, I pulled out the golf cart and hooked a seed spreader to it.  My intentions were to use the spreader, pulled by the cart, to spread the lime over the ground.  Alas, that was not to be.  The spreader opening was simply not large enough to let the finely packed lime through in enough quantity to do anything more than create an irritating mist.

 

After scratching our heads and trying to think of alternatives, we sadly realized that there was only one way that we were going to be able to spread out the lime - manual labor!  To protect my eye(s), I put on some safety glasses, we grabbed a couple of shovels and started throwing the lime out by hand.  It took us almost two hours to throw out all 1,000 lbs. of lime, but we finally got it done.  I hope that this experiment doesn’t turn out to be an exercise in futility, because it was sure a lot of work to spread it out!

While Walt used the disc to mix the lime into the soil, I went back and picked up the two 50 lb. bags of rye grass that we had left,  mixed it in with another bag of Bermuda, added some fertilizer and headed back out to the ramp area.  After he’d finished turning up the ground, I went back over it with the spreader, this time being used for what it IS good at, and sowed a good cover of grass seed.  We then box bladed and rolled the whole thing again to get it nice and flat.

 

After we finished the “main” 700 ft. of parking area, we then went out and worked on another 800 ft. past the windsock - discing up the soil and then blading and rolling it flat.  We have over 1500 ft. of parking area now.  When we were finished, it looked a LOT better than the previous week’s results.  If we have a large turnout, we should have plenty of parking area.  Over half of the east side of the runway is now available for airplane parking.

After we finished the parking area, we hooked a trailer up to the cart, went back out to the runway and picked up all the tires that had been the previous runway markers.  When we set out the cones last year, we didn’t have time to remove the tires - and they’d been a pretty low priority.  This time, however, we removed them from the runway and moved them over to mark the back of the parking ramp.  Now, the main aircraft parking area is well marked.

 

It was getting late in the day on Sunday when we finally called it a day.  Walt left about 3:30pm and I stayed to start a pet project of my own.  I wanted to get started putting in my floor between the containers.  I started off by laying out the old tarp that had covered the Starduster.  On top of that, I laid down a floor of plywood and then put the computer flooring on top of the plywood.  I think that it’s going to work out great!  Once I lay everything out, I’ll take a nail gun and shoot some nails through the front line of flooring, push it all tight and then shoot the last line.  That should provide a nice floor for us to use to keep our tables and chairs out of the weather.

 

Now, all I have to do is get that darn roof fixed!!!

03-12th and 13th - Time to make an Entrance!

 

The week started off great for me.  We knew that my daughter was going into the hospital on Wednesday morning to have my sixth granddaughter (not all by her).  Rachael drove down there on Tuesday afternoon to take care of the two granddaughters while Sheena and Zach were in the delivery room at the hospital.  I hopped in her Cutlass around 9:30am on Wednesday morning and flew down towards Crockett, TX.  Ava Meziere James was born at exactly 10:00am.  She made her “entrance” into the world while I was flying somewhere between Terrell and Athens, TX.  Rachael picked me up at the Houston County Airport and we drove over to the hospital so that Paw-Paw could see his new granddaughter for the first time.  I can tell already that she’s another “paw-paw” girl.  :-)

 

I stayed overnight to spoil my other two legacies for a while before flying back to get ready for the weekend’s work.  I took the long way back, stopping at every airport along the way to put up flyers for our April Foolin’ Fly-In.  My last stop was at T14, where I made the first airplane taxi onto the new parking ramp.  I was VERY pleased with the results.  It will be a welcome change of experiences for all returning pilots from previous outings.

 

This weekend, I wanted to make a big entrance of my own.  Nothing near what my new granddaughter did (besides, I couldn’t figure out how to top that one), but an entrance of a different sort - we were going to enlarge the entrance to the airport.

 

Although we had a 16 foot wide entrance to the airport, it wasn’t enough.  Turning in from the north is difficult enough with our trucks and it’s completely impossible for a motor home.  We watched a couple of attendees from our last soirees’ follow the directions on their GPS (and completely ignoring my directions on this website), have to go on past and turn around somewhere down the road before coming in from the south.  Even then, it’s a difficult entry for anyone who hasn’t done it very often.  I was determined to be easily accessible to ANYONE who might want to come in ANY size RV.

 

The two gate posts were spaced a little under 17 feet apart.  The two 8 foot gates were old and in sad shape.  We drove into Greenville and picked up two new 12 foot gates.  We then went over to Home Depot to rent their little back hoe.  The plan was to dig up the ditch and put in an extra culvert to widen the entrance.

 

Plans almost never seem to go as we’d like them, however…

 

The back hoe was out of commission, with the parts needed to fix it on the way.  Oh, well! We’d do whatever we could.

 

We drove back to the airport, dropped the blade and the roller off of MoFo and went over to hook up the auger.  This auger was one that we’d dug out of the bushes and had come with the property.  We’d never used it before and I was wondering if it was even worth the trouble.  The first problem we had cropped up when we tried to hook up the driveshaft.  It didn’t fit.  While Walt drove back to Greenville to purchase the proper driveshaft, I started cleaning up around the gateposts.  The fencing around the gates was only held on with wire wrapped to the posts, so I cut them free and moved them out of the way.  Next, I took the gates off of the gate posts and moved them out of the way to the scrap bin.  They were in ugly shape and I didn’t plan on reusing them again.

 

 

After Walt got back from Tractor Supply with a new driveshaft, we hooked it up and filled it with oil.  I don’t think that it had been used in over 10 years and I was depending on it to get this job done.  Walt took it out into the field, successfully drilled a test hole and we were in business!

 

First, we drilled a hole right next to the post that we wanted to move.  Next, we dug a new hole where we wanted to move the gate.   Then, we hooked a chain to the post and attempted to pull it over and out of the ground with Mo-Fo.  Unfortunately, the gate post had been set in concrete and it was more than Mo-Fo could handle.  So we called up Godzilla who pulled it out of the ground without even breaking a sweat.  Sweat - that was what came next.  The concrete-encased gate post was much to heavy for us to maneuver into the new hole that we’d dug for it.  I took a sledge hammer and busted all of the concrete off of the post.  After that, the post was actually light enough (relatively speaking) for Walt and I to pick it up and set it in the hole.

 

The plan was to simply fill in the hole around the post with dirt.  But we could see that was not going to be an optimal solution.  So, once again, Walt drove back to the Greenville Home Depot to pick up a bag of ready-mix cement.  We then pulled out the electric-powered cement mixer that I’d bought last year (and had never used) and put it to use for the first time.

 

The cement mixer did a great job!  It mixed up the bag quickly and we were able to pour the concrete in around the bottom of the pole.  While we waited for the cement to set so we could cover up the rest of the hole, we started cleaning the mixer.

 

I pulled out the garden hose from where it lay coiled around the faucet by the pump.  It got hung up and I tugged on it to get it free.  Wrong solution - it had wrapped itself around the pvc connection.  When I tugged on the hose, the faucet broke off at the connector and water started spraying everywhere.  We had to turn the water supply off and take a few minutes to repair the water line.  I am now determined to replace all of the pvc pipe with cast iron in the near future!

 

After cleaning the cement mixer and putting it away, we continued on our gate project.  Walt got on Godzilla and started pushing away the underbrush and leveling the newly enlarged entrance way.  I continued cleaning up the underbrush around the gate area.

 

After we’d cleaned up the area, we called it a day and decided to finish up in the morning.  Walt went home.  Rachael, me, the dogs and a skunk that had declared squatter’s rights under one of the containers called it a night. (I plan on evicting that interloping skunk VERY soon!)

 

 

The next morning, Walt arrived with an acetylene torch that we’d borrowed from another friend and we started burning the holes for the gate attachment bolts.  The cement had set enough for me to finish covering the hole.  I completed that while Walt burned the new holes.

 

The gates went up pretty fast after that.  We had a little bit of a stumble when the gate eyes wouldn’t fit on the hinges.  Apparently, the gate bolts that we chose were more heavy duty than the gates were.  A quick snip of the weld that kept the eyes too small with a cutter and we were back in business.  The gates went up quickly after that.  Once they were balanced, we then started putting the rest of the fence back together.  This time, instead of just wiring the fence panels together, we took a welder and made sure that they could not be easily removed.

 

Once we got the gates finished, I decided to open up the entrance a bit more.  There was a LOT of thistle and brush around the entrance area.  A small cedar tree growing right at the road did a good job of hiding the entrance until you were right upon it.  I took my chainsaw and cut up a few of the trees growing from the inside while Walt pulled up the cedar with Mo-Fo.  After re-digging the drainage ditch again, we ended up with a MUCH nicer looking entrance to the property.  Major task *almost* completed!  The entrance is done.  Anyone should be able to get onto the property from the south in ANY size vehicle.  Once we’re able to get a back hoe and install an additional culvert on the north side, it’ll be a cinch to pull into the property from any direction!

After eating a quick lunch that Rachael had prepared for us, we headed off to the next project.  A couple months back, Walt had started moving dirt around in the area where we had planned on putting the stage that we’d purchased.  Like many of our other carefully laid plans, this one had fallen apart (again) thanks to Mother Nature.  He had started pushing the top off of a terraced piece of land.  Just as things were getting “dirty”, a heavy rain came and put a complete stop to that project.  It was much too muddy to get back in there and do any further dirt work.  The land was so saturated from the winter snow and constant rain that it was very slow drying out.  This weekend was the first time that it had dried out enough for us to actually be able to work on that area again.

 

I was curious to see if the cart could pull our rake well enough to do the job.  So, instead of hooking it up to Mini-Me and putting ruts in the still soft land, I attached it to the cart and found that I could VERY easily pull the rake along.  I spent the next hour turning circles over the patch of dirt and breaking it up enough for Walt to come behind me with a blade and scrape it flat.  We then took the last 30 lbs. of grass seed that we had left and spread it out.  By summer, we should have a good cover of grass and will have a first rate area for people to sit or stand and watch entertainment on the stage.

 

 

The final thing that we did this weekend was to put up the frame for one of the party tents that I’d purchased.  I remembered how hot it got during the summer, so I bought two 26x20 ft. party tents (like you’d find being used in outdoor weddings).  Walt and I decided that we’d like to see how easy (or difficult) they were to put together, so we pulled out the three boxes that constituted one of them out of the storage container and set to work.

 

Thank goodness that Rachael and her sister were here at the property with us.  This is definitely NOT a two person job.  It took all four of us, but we managed to get the frame set up and secured to the ground in the exact place that it will be used for the next fly-in.    We didn’t attempt to put on the covering yet, as it’s still a couple weeks before April and winds can easily top 30mph during this time of year.  No amount of bracing or tying down could withstand that kind of pummeling for any length of time.  We’ll attach the cover and build the second one the week before the April 1st.

 

That was it for this weekend!  We’re plum tuckered out after this “workend”, but we’ve still got a long way to go in a short time to plan for the first gathering of the year at T14.  It’s going to be a lot of fun!