Last week, we celebrated the end of year one in our new home here in South Carolina. What a year it’s been—filled with laughter, love, tears, joy, and heartache, along with a whole lotta hard work, sweat, fire ant bites, minor injuries, and awesome befores and afters (check out the photos below!).
Ever since we moved, Husband has graciously let me stay home. I used to work as a Veterinary Technician, and although I miss that job and the wonderful people I used to work with, I am also thankful for this new stage of life.
Though I don’t have a “real job”, I find myself extremely busy every day. There’re always tasks to be done. I guess that’s what happens when you buy 16+ acres of raw, ravaged, neglected land.
The previous owners had the land “thinned” in the spring of 2019, selling the harvestable pines. The loggers that came to do the work left mountains of downed trees and branches everywhere. It seems as though anything that was in the way of the pines just got trampled and left in a heap. How heartbreaking. But, what’s done is done. On the upside, purchasing recently harvested land did make it more affordable for us.
While Husband is hard at work at his job, I spend a lot of my time cleaning up the aftermath of the loggers. Sound overwhelming? Trust me, it is! Here are a couple pictures of what most of the land looked like when we bought it:
There have been many moments of discouragement. When I spend weeks cleaning up an area and then turn around and realize just how much more I have to do, my heart just sinks. Every. Time.
A big concern of ours in our current situation is erosion. A lot of our land is on a slope, and with the massive amount of deforestation last year combined with frequent torrential downpours, the soil has been washing away faster than I could have imagined.
We’ve also struggled with weeds this summer. In the wake of the “thinning”, so much soil was exposed to sunlight and rain that the weeds have popped up everywhere!!!! And they’re not small weeds, my friends! Some of them are 8-10 feet high! Husband and I have struggled, not knowing what we should do about them. With erosion issues, we haven’t really wanted to pull them all up, but we also want to make sure that all the new pine seedlings and saplings are getting the light and moisture that they need. It’s a hard balance that we’re still working through.
Though we’ve experienced some discouragement in this whole process, we’ve also seen a lot of progress! Here are a few fun before and after shots of some of the areas we’ve worked on over the last year:
Another surprising and super encouraging factor is all the new growth! We have thousands of naturally-sprouted pine trees growing faster than I ever thought possible! (check out the 3 pictures with the dates taken below to see how fast these babies are growing!). When we first bought the land, we thought it would take 30+ years before we would see a nice forest again. Seeing this progress in 1 short year makes us think we’ll have our forest back much sooner than 30 years!! Hooray!
It’s been fun to stretch our imaginations and be creative with some of the downed wood. Here I’ve made a nice little ground blind for hunting! We’ll be making good use of it this fall, we hope!
We’ve also had some fires here and there to help take care of smaller sticks and debris that’s too little for the chipper. We’ve made use of those fires by cooking hot dog dinners over the coals and even baking amazing sourdough breads in our dutch oven! Making the most of every situation!
Things we’ve Learned:
One thing that we learned early on was the realization that we needed better and more reliable equipment to get the job done. My dad is a professional arborist, and he was able to help us acquire a couple good chainsaws and an awesome wood chipper that can take up to 12-inch logs! Boy have these tools sped up our clearing times!
We also purchased a used tractor that has been a HUGE help to me! She does all the heavy lifting, allowing me to work longer days and get more done each day. Don’t underestimate the power of the Deere! ?
One thing that I underestimated when we moved here was how little work I’d be able to get done from May until August. I grew up with humidity and heat, but none of the places that I’ve lived have been as bad as here (at least not to my recollection). Despite the fact that this year hasn’t been as hot as last year when we moved, it’s still been unbearable to work outside this summer, bringing the land cleanup to a screeching halt. ☹
The biggest reason it’s been unbearable is that when I work, I wear jeans, a long-sleeved shirt, and heavy-duty boots. With fire ants, snakes, heavy machinery, and loads of downed trees, it’s just not safe to traipse around in shorts and a tank top. This attire, combined with the heat and humidity made it next to impossible for me to work even for a couple of hours at a time. Hopefully my body will continue to adjust to the climate here and maybe next year, I’ll be able to get more done in the heat of the summer.
Despite not “working” this summer, I definitely kept myself busy with other fun projects. Here are just a few that I worked on (Husband helped with a couple of them when he had time off of work too!):
We built a rustic wood shed out of pallets.
I finally had the time to refinish some outdoor furniture that we bought at a garage sale a couple years ago.
I’ve been loving experimenting with pallet wood projects lately! Here is a pallet septic tank cover that I made for our front yard.
We sanded, treated, and stained our front porch.
I made these fun cornhole boards—Sweden vs. USA ?.
Ultimately, we are so incredibly thankful for all that God has given us! He has blessed us in ways we never could have dreamed of. This land, mess and all, is one of His many blessings. We pray that we will continue to be good stewards of what He’s given us and to honor Him in our work. One day, with a lot of work, sweat, time, and patience, it’ll be beautiful again.