September, 2010

 

Things REALLY got moving in September.  We are gradually moving from “clearing and cleaning” mode to “building and improving” mode.  It’s been a long, hot summer.  But we’re ecstatic with the changes that we’ve been seeing.

 

The month started off with my 50th birthday on September 1st.  I celebrated my 40th birthday by buying the wonderful home where I currently live.  It’s a beautiful horse property where I thought that I’d live out the rest of my days.  In the 10 years since then, however, my plans changed completely and irrevocably when I took my first flying lesson.  After that, I had started looking at the idea of living at an airpark community or owning a piece of property on which I could build my own runway.  It became such a deep desire that the thought of living out my life at my current abode, no matter how nice, just wasn’t that appealing anymore.  I am truly blessed to be able to live out my dreams - and even more blessed to have a wife who shares them too.

 

September 3rd thru 7th - Labor Day Weekend

 

 

We started our Labor Day holiday as we did almost every weekend this summer - we hauled our travel trailer out and parked out on the property.  This time, we didn’t get there til Saturday morning because of responsibilities back home, but, we planned on having a nice extended weekend out at the airport.

 

When we started work back in April, we’d park our travel trailer out where we planned on building our home.  The front of the trailer faced the runway.  That’s where we set up for the whole summer - out in the sun.

 

After we created our glade in the trees, however, we started pulling the trailer up next to the treeline.  It gave excellent cover from the sun until after noon and made it convenient for us to move to the table without going out n the sun.

We got started early on Saturday morning.  Walt L. and I drove into Greenville and rented a small backhoe from Home Depot.  He got to work on it as soon as we got back and started digging a trench along the back side of the property.  We’d previously cleared out the heavy tree growth which was a good thing.  Every time I walked down in there I’d end up having to pick off a tick or two.  They were everywhere and I can’t stand them.  I spent the whole summer checking myself carefully after each venture under the trees.

 

Once it was cleaned out, however, I could see that we needed to rethink the route where we were going to build our service road.  After we cleared away the junky jungle, we had a nice boulevard in the making.  It just took a little vision to see it through all of the brush.

 

The ground proved to be a bit tougher than we supposed and it was slow going through much of it.  Heath, a friend from an online pilots forums, dropped by for a visit in a 172.  It was his first grass strip landing and I think that he was surprised to see that it was really not a big issue.  He took a tour around and then I let him use our pistols to plink away on our pistol range.

 

I’ve always preferred decent grass strips over paved runways any day.  It’s easier to land on grass.  It’s more forgiving if you come in a little hard and makes a crappy landing look decent.  It makes a good landing look great.  And it’s easier on the landing gear of your plane.

 

It ended up taking well into the afternoon before we got the trench dug for the power line.  While Walt wired in a new main breaker panel back at the pole, I started wiring the tool shed.  It had some rudimentary wiring when I bought it, but that was insufficient.  I pulled most of it out and started from scratch.  On the outside, I wired in a 30 amp RV connector in one side of the shed and a 20 amp GFCI on the other.  On the inside, I wired receptacles on all sides and replaced the light switch that had originally been there.  I put in a 100 amp panel on the wall with breakers for each circuit.  It came out pretty decent and we were quite pleased when we threw the power on for the first time and were able to have electricity out at the shed without having to start a generator to run the air compressor or a power tool.  MAJOR accomplishment!!!

While I was wiring the shed, Walt started digging the trench for the water pump electric line.  Mr. Taylor made his living as an electrician, but he apparently succumbed to the same problem as most professionals - he didn’t fix his stuff up as well as he did his clients.

 

The electrical line for the water well pump, along with every other electric line that was run on the property, was simply run across the ground and then left there.  Nothing was ever put into PVC pipe underground or covered.  If a line broke, he would simply splice in another piece and continue onwards.  Since he kept his trailers close around the main panel, there were electrical lines scattered all over the place.  Most of them had been covered with grass and brush over the years.  All of them were in a very sad state of disrepair.

 

It all looked very much like the photos at right…  ——->

 

Once we ran the PVC, we remounted the pump controller box and beefed up the connections.  We ran the whole thing back into the main panel and waterproofed everything.

The system looked a lot better (and was a WHOLE lot better protected) after we’d finished.

 

The next thing to do was to run water up to the shed area.  The only water faucet was over by the pump.  We started digging another trench up to where the water tank would be located.

We continued making progress on Sunday morning.  While we were working away on the water line trench, Rachael’s CFI and friend Anise flew into the pattern with her student, Yanni.  They landed and visited for a while.  Rachael’s sister had drove up with her daughter to spend the Labor Day weekend with us.  They set up quite a spread of food and we had a very nice lunch.

 

While Anise and Yanni were still there, we heard another airplane call on the CTAF.  Allen G. and his friend, James had come to visit in James’ nice looking 170.  They made a very nice crosswind landing and joined our impromptu party.

 

That pretty much ended the work for the day.  We broke out the pistols and Walt pulled out his pigeon thrower and we spent the rest of the afternoon shooting through boxes of shells and bullets.  It was well after dark before Allen and James departed.  The lights that we’d put up were becoming VERY useful.

After clearing out the northeast side of the property, I was surprised to see how nice it looked!  We had cleared away all of the underbrush and cedar trees that had grown around the electrical meter pole.  What had looked REALLY bad now looked very clean.  Mr. Taylor had parked his motor home and a trailer along the property line in that area since it was close to electricity.  The motor home had sat there for well over 20 years.  I believe that the trailer had been there a similar amount of time.  Just across the road were two more trailers and another motor home.   It was all heavily covered with debris and trash.  He and his help had cleaned up most of the debris, but there was still a considerable amount of work needed to finish up.

 

I had used MoFo to pull one of his trailers out of that area.  It had sat there for so long that the wheels were sunk into the ground almost to the axles.  The motor home was another story.  It had also sat there waay too long - the front wheel had welded itself to the brake drum and would not turn.  MoFo couldn’t pull it out and we had to hook up the chain to Godzilla.  Where the tractor was a bit lacking, the little dozer never even slowed down.  It dragged the motorhome out with the front wheel digging a trench as it went.  We’d parked them out close to the exit, but out of our way.  This made it easier for us to dig our trenches and continue our cleanup.

 

 

After having a nice and relaxing evening on Sunday, we started work with a vengeance on Monday - Labor Day.  “Labor” was the word of the day - we continued to dig the trench for the water line.

 

We were working away when the radio came alive with an inbound airplane.  Paul (Airman from the DfwPilots.Com forums) was coming to visit us with a friend.  We welcomed some new first-time visitors and gave them a tour of the place.

 

It wasn’t long after they left when we heard another plane in the pattern.  Allen G. and Heath had come back to volunteer their services and help do whatever they could.  I put them on MoFo, showed them how to use the loader and then left them to move as many dead trees as they could into a pile for burning.

 

They did a great job and helped us out a lot (we’ll always take volunteer labor offers) while we continued running the water line.  After a few hours of tree piling, I heard them out at the firing range.  Thanks for the help, gentlemen!  It was MUCH appreciated.

We finished running the water line out to where the tank will be located, covered it all back up and then compacted and flattened the soil back over the open trench.  The finished effort actually looked pretty good.  We accomplished a two-fold deed - we ran a water line across the property and, in the process, cleared out some more land.

We also spent some time cleaning up the southeast corner of the land after we covered the trench for the electric line.  In retrospect, one of the things that I regret was not taking photos of the land when it was very rough.  I guess that I was a bit embarrassed.  It took quite a bit of imagination to be able to see what the land could be.  One of my fallback statements has always been “Mother Nature was working on reclaiming the land”.  We have been doing a decent job of reclaiming it from Mother Nature.  I am just sorry that I didn’t take the photos of the whole “Before” condition of our airport.  The contrasts would have been very pronounced.

 

Here’s what the area looked like after we’d graded everything over.  It looked so much better than even I had imagined it would be.  This is the entrance to the property and where the access road to our home will be built.  A couple days earlier, the area in the second photo was completely rutted and covered in cedar trees, tall grass and thistle.

I actually took Monday off and stayed overnight again so we could continue work on Tuesday.  I’d rented the small backhoe for the week and wanted to get as much use out of is as we could.  We planned on clearing some of the dirt piles out of the way and do more cleanup.

 

Unfortunately, Mother Nature decided to intervene in a massive way.  Tropical Storm Hermine had made landfall on the Texas coast on Monday night and pushed inward overnight.  The center of the weakening storm passed just to the west of us, over the DFW area.  That meant that the heaviest part of the storm, the east side of it, passed DIRECTLY over the top of Taylor Airport.  A deluge of biblical proportions dropped out of the skies on top of us.

 

We worked right through it - in the middle of the pouring rain.  Walt and I never stopped until we’d finished what we set out to do.  It made for a VERY wet and muddy day.  I closed and locked up in the waterworks and made my way home in a heavy downpour that afternoon.  But we finished with all of the work that we’d set out to do with the backhoe.

 

 

September 10th thru 12th

The First T14 Gathering

 

I had left our travel trailer on the property for the first time over the week.  We’d never left it there because of the lack of available electricity.  All through the summer, we’d made sure that our generator was filled with gasoline at night before we went to bed.  The quiet hum of our Honda generator was a constant companion to us over the summer.  Although it wasn’t very loud, it was DEFINITELY a nice change to be able to live in comfort without the background sound of a running generator.

 

On Saturday morning, things looked quite rough.  Hermine had dropped a massive amount of rain.  The mud had dried and crusted all over the areas that we’d just worked hard to level.  Every place where we’d driven a vehicle had left deep ruts that hardened up in the hot late summer sun.

 

I decided to start the weekend off by burning the piles of trees in the clearing where we planned on building our home.  They had laid there for the better part of 2-3 months and were very dry.  So, early on Saturday morning, I walked over to them with a lighter and lit them off.

 

They went off as if I’d poured gasoline on them.  The heavy rain of earlier in the week had only served to soak the surrounding earth and eliminate the danger of the fire spreading out of control.

 

Walt showed up after I had the first two piles lit.  We watched them burn to ashes.  It was nice to see the land again after spending the summer looking at those large piles of dead trees.

 

We worked very hard to get the place into a presentable shape.  We’d invited friends over for our first unofficial gathering - just a group of friends meeting to enjoy each other’s company.  Most of our friends were from the Dfwpilots.com forums and we’d invited them over for an afternoon cookout.

 

I raided my hangars at Rockwall and brought out all of the folding chairs that I had there, a long extension cord and the small fridge that I kept in my Comanche hangar.  It will now reside in my shed and will be kept full of cold beverages.

 

About 3:30pm, Allen G. and Dale (who was on his pre-checkride flight) showd up in a Warrior.  Dale made a very good landing on our strip.  After grabbing a cold soft drink from the fridge, they proceeded to pull a small arsenal out of the back of the Warrior and retired to the firing range.

 

I went inside the trailer to take a shower and heard, over the radio, another airplane coming in.  By the time that I came out, Mike P. and his buddy, Jerrett, had made themselves at home.  Everyone spent time either plinking away at the pistol range or shooting clay pigeons on the other side of the treeline where we’d set up the thrower.

Some of my other friends drove in and Rachael made a nice dinner of burgers and bratwursts.  I pulled out my small karaoke setup (which is stored in the container) and Allen G. (aka “the Karaoke King”) got up and sang a few songs.  Allen and Dale left before sunset, but Mike and Jarrett hung around until sunset before hopping in their CAP 182 and flying off into the evening.

 

We sat and enjoyed the evening until, sometime after darkness had set in, we saw the lights of a plane circling overhead.  James, Allen’s friend who’d accompanied him in a 170 a couple days earlier, had come out our way to find us still hanging around.  He was our first night visitor and landed by the lights of our runway with no problems.  We rewarded him for his efforts with some burgers before head headed back for home at an airstrip north of Denton.

 

It was a nice way to spend a Saturday.  We got a little bit of cleanup done, but this weekend was mostly spent enjoying the property.

Sunday was another busy day.  I got up just before sunrise and mowed the south end of the property - at the end of the runway.  I plan on building a parking area for people to use during our planned fly-ins.

 

When Walt L. arrived, we drove down the runway and started burning some of the tree piles that were lying on that part of the property.  Walt brought out Godzilla to watch the burning pile while I went back to the shed area to continue working there.  I was inside the travel trailer when I heard a plane make a low pass and then come around for landing.

 

It was Robert J. in his beautiful Cessna T210.  Robert had come by once before, but he hadn’t landed when he buzzed us in his T-28 a few weeks earlier.  We gave him a quick tour of the place before he headed out for Greenville and their cheap Avgas.

 

Brett, another friend of mine, came over to help us out.  He told me of someone he knew who had a truckload of used construction rock for sale.  One of our most worrisome problems was the access road.  It became a quagmire of mud whenever we had any amount of rain.  The sandy loam almost instantly turned into a slush when it got wet.  I’d had loads of crushed asphalt and lime-stabilized dirt brought in, but we could use something that would stabilize it even more.  Brett and I drove up to Caddo Mills, met the guy and made a deal.  He brought me two 20 yard loads in his truck later that afternoon and Brett got on Godzilla and started leveling the driveway.

 

While he and Walt were working outside, I wired a halogen motion light onto the shed and then set up some shelving in the storage container to make things more organized.

 

By the time that we left around 9pm that night, we’d had a VERY full weekend.  We’d managed to clean up the property a lot more and had put down a nice layer of rock over the entrance.