Warm November Days

November 9th, 2009

I’ve been engrossed in digging, pouring, setting and arranging blocks for a retaining wall the past week.  Looks like it will take most of this week too, and thankfully the weather has been amazing for working outside. We have a little rain in the forecast, but nothing that will hold back progress!  Along the way there’s still time for other chores and a little fun. And keeping your eye out for the little changes the season brings.

Took me a while to build the forms and hand mix 1600 pounds of concrete the other day.  Doesn’t look like much, but the footer at the back is nearly two feet wide and half as tall.   I’m trying to decide if that’s enough, or if I need to lengthen the footer on the sides or not.  The ends of the retaining wall towards the front will only be two blocks high, so I may be able to simply set them on a firm base.    The footer has rebar throughout, and more will be in the wall.   Because of the slope and water runoff, I’m also embedding small pipes in the wall for drainage.

Kind of hard to pour concrete with a basset hound in the way…



I did a double take when I saw this woodpecker the other day- it’s a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker!  A funny name for a bird, and we don’t see them very often here.  One of the key identification features is that large vertical white stripe.  Lucky that I had my camera with me- I thought it interesting that the bird went to the only tree that has green leaves on it still- a very old flowering pear tree- it’s the last to lose it’s leaves in fall. This woodpecker has a beautiful red crest also, but the picture doesn’t show it.


I’ve only seen this species once or twice briefly before, but they migrate through around this time of year, sometimes hanging around a bit into winter. There are lots of telltale signs of the sapsucker on certain trees- many horizontal rows of small holes that were used to gather sap. It’s fun to see something you don’t have around very often.

A couple of days ago I wandered into the bedroom and all of a sudden a big bird went “crash!!!” into a large window. I ran over thinking it must have killed itself and wondered what it was. I stared in disbelief but it was a Cooper’s Hawk sitting on concrete below the window- it looked up and saw me and leapt off the ground flying off through the trees. We have them around the forest nearby, but they’re normally fairly secretive. It must have been engrossed in chasing another bird for dinner.

The young boy and I rose with the dawn and ventured out on the pond yesterday morning for a little fishing. It was beautiful and warm, and we paddled around while the sun rose above the horizon. He had a great time, and we caught and released a lot of fish. Speaking of things we don’t see very often, we caught one of the largest bass we’ve ever caught before in our pond.


You can definitely see why they’re called Largemouth Bass!  It’s not a big fish by bass standards, but at about two pounds it tells me the bass are growing better this year.  I’m trying to manage the population and size balance between bass and bluegill. We have a lot of large bluegill, and generally smaller bass.  But each year I take out a certain number of smaller bass to allow others to grow larger.  Not an exact science by any means, but they’re growing!

11 Responses to “Warm November Days”

  1. Ed

    I’ve seen house footers only 18 inches wide and six inches deep so if you have 24 by 12, you should be able to put up a skyscraper of a storage building.

    I helped a friend poor a footer for a 20 x 35 foot building this past spring and it was only 16″ by about 5″. He ended up with five or six rows of cinder blocks and then built a straw bale shed on top of that. I helped him put up rafters and perlins a few weeks ago but he ran out of time to finish the stucco work on the outside due to delivery times and temperatures.

    Nice week to do that kind of thing.

  2. How many yards of concrete is that? It sounds like a lot of hard work by hand.

    If you like flickers and sapsuckers, get a peanut feeder. We get a bunch of such birds to our kitchen window during the winter when we keep the feeder stocked.

    Nice looking bass, but I’d prefer to eat a nice sized bluegill.

  3. I agree with Ed; you should be able to build a 3 story building on that footing! But that’s okay, better to have too much than not enough, i always say.

  4. My wife called those “loudmouth bass” once, and that’s the name I hear in my head whenever I see one.

  5. Ed- Well that’s good to hear; I’m surprised those footers weren’t bigger. I’m trying to build a wall/set up that will last, even if the shed falls apart. The weather has been great- too bad your friend couldn’t finish. How well does a straw bale shed last anyway?
    Sage- Believe it or not it was less than a yard- I ended up mixing over 2000 pounds, which was a lot for a wheelbarrow! If I had to do any more I’d rent a mixer or something.
    Annie- Coming from a pro that really makes me feel better! One reason I built it bigger/stronger is that I’m placing the concrete blocks on the edge of the footer rather than the middle, to have a flush facing. I tend to go overboard a little when building things to last :)
    Pablo- That’s pretty funny… I have a feeling that name is going to stick with me when I’m fishing!

  6. Ed

    The key to a good foundation is to pour it below frost line on virgin ground. If you get those two things right, the quality of the footer doesn’t mean as much.

    This is my first experience with straw bale construction at least in a non-arid climate like the desert southwest. I’ll keep you updated from time to time.

    From my involvement with it so far, I was very impressed with how solid the walls were even without the coating on the outside and inside. I’m still a bit leery about how well they can seal it from air/moisture that would eventually cause it to decay. We put the roof on a few weeks ago during a very windy and cold day but the sun was out and it felt oh so nice and warm inside!

    As you may know, I live in a town with a rather large cult following the late Maharishi Yogi and they are big fans of all things organic and natural. Thus, there are several straw bale houses in the area and they have held up for the past couple years at least from my roadside perspective. The jury is still out though to see if they will still be here 33 years from now as my house is.

  7. Wow, that is a great looking fish. I can’t wait to see what the denizens of your pond look like in another year or two.


  8. 1600 pounds by hand…like with a hoe and tub? I did 800 pounds a month or two ago and it was significant work. I suspect you ate a good dinner and had a good sleep that night!

  9. The Basset in the concrete is just too funny! Good luck getting him to move…

  10. Vincent

    Are you going to whack the hardcore and then skim a crust of concrete for the floor or have you decided on wood. Either way, I would insulate it, for there is nothing worse than the cold and damp creeping up the soles of your feet.
    On the fishing, I’m delighted someone cast a line on water this year, somewhere. On these islands with the amount of runoff in the rivers no one could cast a thing never mind a dry fly for most of the Summer.

  11. Randall- Me too… they grow slowly, but I try to feed fathead minnows once a year or so at $10 to the pound, or about 700+ minnows.
    Warren- Ended up a bit more, and you’re right- next time I think I’ll rent a mixer!
    Kim- He’s a good ‘ole dog, half deaf and blind, but good company :)
    Vincent- I’m planning to support it off the gravel bed- I hadn’t thought about insulation, but that’s a neat idea. It will mostly be a little storage shed, but maybe I’ll build the floor stronger? I would love to get over your way for some fishing if the weather was right. I’ve heard the fly fishing is amazing :)

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