Thursday, January 19, 2023

It is finished

 The wind was blowing against us and the sun was rapidly descending. Madigan, Declan, Kelton and I looked at each other, tears in each of our eyes as I held the rock - the last rock. I placed it into the wall - the last wall - and we all shouted. 

After the two wildfires that almost took it all from us this past spring, we knew the flooding would be intense. We didn't know how intense. Wildfires pave the way for waters to descend and destroy. We prepared thoroughly, placing sandbags in all the vulnerable places around the property. 

One week later, following a heavy monsoon, I stood on our street and watched our property all but disappear underneath catastrophic mud and water. I could hear the fences popping as they toppled over, bending the metal posts like plastic straws. The sound of the boulders rumbling across the earth shook even the paved road I was standing on. Miraculously the houses were not compromised, as everything else was destroyed. 14 inches of sludge, boulders, debris and even whole trees covered every inch of our 5 acres. I drove away, completely silent, in absolute shock. The tears came later, as we returned to try to walk the property and assess the extent of the damage. 

Sixteen more massive floods hit our property in the following weeks. We lost a dozen trees, gained three grand canyons running from the west end of our property to the east end, lost both of our driveways, lost all or our landscaping and gained a healthy respect and fear of all that nature can throw in it's fury. 

I determined fairly early into the flooding that we would never again be surprised by fire or water. We would utilize every rock on our property and then start begging our neighbors for all of their rocks, so that we could build gabion walls to fortify against any and all future waters that might rush upon us from the mountains above.  These walls would be permanent - wire cages locked together and filled with boulders that we have been so abundantly gifted (by both God and our neighbors :-). That way, if the mountain decides to burn again when we're 84 years old and rocking on our back porch, we won't have to run our aged bodies down to grab sandbags. And, even better, we won't have to look at sandbags for the next umpteen years. 

We built the first six walls around the A-frame since it had continued to take the biggest hit from the floodwaters with 2.5 foot rapids rushing past it time and again. We rebuilt the driveway and built barrier walls (not technically gabion, but stout, nevertheless) along the entire southern and western ends of the property, where the water had entered the property each time. Then, after we had rebuilt the driveway, ripped out the buried fences, cleaned out a ton of dried mud, leveled the property again, we started building walls along the southern border of the Octagon. We quickly moved to the northern side of the property and began those walls, around Thanksgiving. We finished the final two walls this past week, before the massive snow storm covered all our rocks. :-) 

I have built a total of 35 walls. I had assistance on all but seven of them, from gathering the rocks, creating the panini press to fold the wire cages, filling the walls with rock, removing mud and leveling the property so the walls could be placed, filling in the canyons where the walls were to go, and even wiring together the walls from start to finish. That assistance is the ONLY thing that made the whole project possible. Thank you to each and every one of you; I love you beyond measure. Also, I think my boys may be the hardest working, strongest young men I have ever known. It was clear that they have processed much of their trauma, grief and fear through this project. They are personally invested in the future defense of this place that they love and call home. 

Each of the walls are 16x2x2', probably weighing between 2000-3000 lbs once completed. We usually filled my flatbed trailer high with rocks two times per wall. We prayed each time we left to start gathering rocks, that we would come back without smashed fingers or hands. We all had minor injuries, but nothing to write home about, which is nigh to miraculous. 

We have so much more to do to restore this property, including rebuilding all the fences. But, this project was the priority and by far the hardest portion of the restoration process. May the struggles and challenges we've faced today develop in us the strength we may need for tomorrow.  

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