Friday, July 10, 2009

Torrey's Big Apple Day Parade and Pie Eating Contest

Every summer on the Saturday nearest Independence Day, people from across the state and nation arrive in Torrey to celebrate Big Apple Days. The festivities begin with the Boy Scout Breakfast at 7:00 AM and conclude with a dance that night at the Big Apple pavilion. Throughout the day visitors, neighbors, families and friends gather to watch the parade, go to the swap meet, participate in the Little Miss Apple Day Pageant and cheer at the pie eating contest.

Since I hadn't seen any large apple orchards, I asked our neighbor why it was called Big Apple Days. She said she'd heard that, in the early days of settlement, many towns in the west held boxing matches in local arenas. While watching a match in Torrey, one of the local men said, "This is more fun than the Big Apple." The boxing arena (now the dance pavilion) was called the Big Apple ever after. And now, instead of boxing, we celebrate Big Apple Days.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Prior to each trip we make to Torrey, Scott and I make a list of things we hope to accomplish while we’re in town. We also attempt to coordinate our trip with what is scheduled for the hired crews to do. This last trip, over the 4th of July, we completed everything on our list!

For the yurt, I had purchased and refinished a fabulous, sturdy, round oak table to be used in place of our shaky camp table. That needed to be set in place. Check.

We planned to complete the entire electric fence system so Pat could put her horses in the pasture and we could bring our llamas down. Check.

We had to hang the two new 12-foot gates. Check.

At night, from the east window of the yurt, we can see the lights of Malfunction Junction, the only commercial development in town. We arrived with four cottonwoods to plant. In only a few years, they will grow to block those lights. Check.

The soil on the property is full of clay. Perfect for making plaster walls. Not so perfect for other things. The frost-free hydrant next to the yurt is squarely situated in this challenging soil. When it gets wet, we get a sticky mess. On the list? Build a four-foot square “box” full of gravel at the hydrant’s base which will disperse the excess water and keep the mud in check. Check.

As a gift when we were married, Scott and I received two “sling” chairs. Sky Chairs is the commercial name. Hang them from a tree, sit back, take a deep breath, close your eyes and relax all your cares away. In the middle of a building project such as ours, who wouldn’t need a sling chair? We have cares. We have perfect trees. They were on the list. Check.

Our list was completed. The only thing that didn’t get done was the walls and roof of the garage. The shipment of trusses was short by one. Double T did all they could and promised to return the following week.

Utilities Arrive

Monday, July 6, 2009

What A Difference a Day Makes

A little more than a week later we returned to Torrey to orchestrate the installation of utilities. Once we arrived, it was clear to us that these men needed no conductor. They had obviously worked together before. Phil Winter and his crew had already run the water line to the garage. As we drove up, Trent Hunt was in the process of digging the trench for the electricity and phone line. There was also another open trench bringing water to our yurt.

It was the next day, however, that brought out the full cast. By noon, there were more pickups and large pieces of equipment on the site than I could have imagined. All at once we were surrounded by Double T’s crew; electricians Trent Hunt and Nate Hallows; Terry Hunt and Dave Torgerson from South Central Communications; Courtney Cropper and Scott Grundy of Garkane Power; Scott Chestnut from Torrey Town and Wes Jensen who will design and install our septic system. They way they worked together was quite a thing to see.

At one point, with trenches going every which way, irrigation water began flowing from the canal down the phone line trench. Everyone grabbed a shovel to block the water, but Trent deftly saved the day with one well-placed scoop from the backhoe. By three that afternoon we had water, electricity (along with a new transformer), phone and internet.

Many of the books we read suggested it could be challenging to coordinate the installation of all of these services in a rural area. But I must speak to the friendly, helpful and professional service all of these men provided. In fact, late in the day, with an umbrella held over his head to keep the rain off of his laptop, Terry Hunt performed the last few keystrokes to confirm the successful operation of our DSL. Amazing!

I think there may never again be that many people working at one time on our house...that is until we have a straw bale wall raising or a plastering party.

Young Muscles

Prior to construction, our Torrey property was taxed as green belt. That meant the land was used to produce agricultural products. Our agricultural product is hay for horses. Pat, our neighbor, owns and operates Hondoo River and Trails, a guiding outfit that provides multi-day horseback riding trips. In the past, Pat has seen to it that our pasture is watered. She cuts and bales the hay and then puts her horses on the pasture. In exchange, we retain green belt status.

Now that we are building a house, we are required to remove one acre from the green belt property, and that will be taxed as residential property. The rest will remain in green belt. We needed to fence out the building site so Pat could put her horses out to graze.

When we first purchased our ten acres, Scott's parents bought the adjacent ten. We immediately spent many arduous days digging fence post holes, pounding t-posts, and stringing field and barbed wire around over 1/2 mile of perimeter. All of these years later, we find ourselves fencing again. But we've learned to give the toughest part of the job (digging holes for railroad ties) to someone much younger. Enter Tim....

Tim works for Pat, and she suggested Tim might be willing to dig. Sure
enough. When we asked, he was happy to dig eight 3-foot holes for railroad ties. We were equally happy to pay him to toil away while we worked on other, less labor-intensive tasks.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Garage - Step One

The first week of June felt like another beginning. That’s because Tyler Torgerson (Double T Construction) and his crew of three (Darren, Jed and Mel) arrived with backhoe in tow ready to start building our garage.

Even though I had spent much of my childhood playing around the many job sites my dad supervised, I never really observed the actual construction going on. I have to admit it was a little disconcerting to see even a small corner of our smooth, green pasture disappear under a construction zone. Here are the steps to this transformation.

1) With a backhoe, clear the topsoil from the site.
2) Using a laser level, position batter boards to create a perfect rectangle for garage's footprint.
3) Dig trenches for footings.
4) Place forms and rebar in trenches.
5) Cement truck arrives.
6) Pour cement into forms.
7) Screed concrete to create a flat surface for stem wall.
8) Wait for concrete to set.
9) Remove forms from footings.
10) Erect forms for stem wall.
11) Insert and tie together rebar to reinforce stem wall.
12) Have inspector approve foundation prep.

Since this was a short trip, this is all we saw of the foundation work.

While Double T did their job, Scott and I worked on other projects. We finished laying carpet and vinyl in the yurt. To create a kitchen, we assembled a buffet / cabinet with a counter large enough to hold a camping stove and cutting board. The “kitchen” also contains a trash pail, large cooler (refrigerator) and picnic basket (pantry). Next we stalled propane for the stove and a light, brought in our futon and set our camp table and chairs in place. This really made a wonderfully comfortable living arrangement. The first night in the now basically furnished yurt, we realized this was the best “hut” either of us had ever made. If fact, almost simultaneously, Scott and I wondered why we needed a house. However after a few cold nights and hot days, we knew there was something to be said for solid, insulated walls to keep the cold away and the heat at bay.