Working on Dos Arbolitos, our off-grid property in Big Bend, has its challenges — not the least of which is long gaps between visits. However, after two and a half years of work divided up into segments of a few days to a week at a time we have made lots of progress.
Our cabin is a few miles shy of 600 miles from our home in the suburbs. However, we have become accustomed to the nine-hour drive. In some strange way, it just doesn’t feel as long as it did a couple of years ago. We make three stops for gas at our designated exits and a final grocery run in Alpine before heading south on Highway 118 to the cabin.
Cheryl and I spent the better part of a week at the cabin in October after the survey of our new tract was completed. Our goal was to find the survey monuments on the new tract, mark the corners with cedar posts, and then map out our new fence line. We were able to do that plus set the posts that will break the span on the West side of the tract.
This month my friend Philip Brashier joined me at the cabin. Our goal was to add and tension rough-cut cedar posts with cross braces on the corners and the spans. This is important because these tensioned braces will take a lot of pressure off the field fence once we install and stretch it.
We ran fluorescent mason’s line from corner to corner. This is really great stuff because it has lots of give. This enabled us to pull it taught to get a good line of sight. Once the line was stretched and taught, we were able to measure and mark the location of where to dig each hole.
This work is not necessarily hard but it is time consuming and it has to be done right. Having an auger made it easier to dig the three-foot deep holes — although we had to clean each hole with a post-hole digger. We then set the posts in the holes and made sure they were plumb. No need to set these posts in concrete. We used a 21-pound tamper to pack dirt in each hole.
Once we installed the posts in each corner and the midway spans, we added cross braces. We secured these in place using 3/8 inch rebar. These foot-long rebar nails held the cross members in place while we added barbless wire and then tensioned this wire with 2-foot long pieces of rebar.
With only a few hours remaining before having to return home, we installed the cedar posts along the West side of the tract. Later I will add t-posts between these cedar posts. This will give us a solid frame for adding 40-inch field fence topped with a strand of barbed wire.
I always enjoy fellowship with good friends like Philip while working on projects at the cabin. The best part of it all is how this time off the grid allows me to relieve stress and to reset my soul for the demands of my day to day work. This is a way for me to sharpen my axe in order to remain effective in my work. In the words of the writer of Ecclesiastes (10:10): “If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed.”