A bridge reborn
One down, one to go

old bridge

The washed out bridge

One project that I really wanted to get done this year was to build a new bridge over the creek. When Dave and Ellen lived here they had a culvert pipe bridge near the garage. It would get filled up with debris over time, so they would usually clean it out every spring. The renters did not clean it out, so the creek ended up washing over and around the road. It has changed its course quite a bit in the last 10 years. Ultimately, I would like to put in a new culvert pipe bridge, so that we could potentially drive up to the pond area, or at least get the riding lawn mower over there. But that project will have to wait until next year.

Rob by old bridge

Rob by the washed out bridge

By far the best renter at Twin Springs was Laurie Fender, daughter of Louis and Angie Fender, who live just down Rocky Hill Road, and are good friends of Ellen and Dave. Not only did she put up really cool craft paper on the stairway wall, but she also built a wooden bridge over the creek. When Clare and I came to visit a year or two ago it was still there, but it seems to have gotten washed away at some point. This spring Dave mentioned that he had seen it, but by the time we moved in June, everything was so overgrown by the creek that we could no longer see it.

new bridge

View of the new bridge looking out onto the field and the dam

So the first step in building a new bridge was to figure out where to build it. This step involved wading through all the weeds around the creek, and clearing some of them out. It turns out quite a few of the weeds got pushed over in one section by the flood earlier this summer, so it didn’t require much clearing. I cleared this area out sometime in June or July, and found a place where I could do a hop, skip, and a jump over the creek. This provided a temporary way to get up to the pond, and to get to the spring where I dug the ditch. Originally I planned to build the bridge over this spot, but after clearing out the other side of the creek near the ditch, I decided that that would be the best place to build the bridge. It is very likely that this was the original location of the bridge anyways, seeing as how the old bridge was washed up there.

bridge low view

perspective view of the bridge

I decided to try to salvage the old bridge if possible, and after clearing out enough weeds by the creek, I was able to determine that the wood on the old bridge was not rotten. I tried to lift out together, but it was a bit too heavy, so I took it apart first. Then I started thinking about how to rebuild it. The original construction simply had two long boards on each side, hammered together to extend them, with cross pieces about 4 feet long. I recalled walking on it earlier, and thinking it was not super sturdy, so I decided to put a supporting beam in the middle as well. I found a long 2×9 (yes, it seemed to be about 9″) above the garage, which seemed like it would do the trick.

bridge close up 1

The bridge has a mixture of random boards as the floor

I noticed that a few of the cross pieces on the old bridge were attached with nails, but mostly with screws. I decided that screws would be a better choice. They hold better, and I am also not that great at hammering. Fortunately we have a really nice cordless drill that John and Jean Wolfe got us at the wedding shower they threw for us. This allowed me to construct the bridge right by the creek, instead of having to drill the holes where I had access to an electrical outlet. The drill also has a neat feature which makes it very quick and easy to switch from a drill bit to a screw bit. This way I was able to pre-drill a couple holes on one cross piece, then screw it in. I used 2 ” drywall screws that we had leftover from the drywall project by the refrigerator.

bridge with ditch

The new bridge is right next to the ditch I dug

I managed to find about half a dozen boards about the right thickness and length above the garage, which I interspersed between the old cross pieces. I started off by laying out the cross pieces on top of the long boards approximately where I wanted them. Then I attached several cross pieces on one side to the two long boards. Once I had several cross pieces attached, then I added in the middle long beam for more support. I continued adding cross pieces one at a time, occasionally checking the distance between the long boards to make sure I was making the bridge fairly straight.

bridge close up 2

I ran out of old boards, and had to buy a few new ones to finish the bridge

Once I had the bridge constructed, it was time to move it into place. For this I required some help, and Clare was more than willing to assist me. I got down in the creek and pulled on the bridge while she pushed, then we both pulled from the other side. We tried it out, and it did not fall down, though it was a bit unstable, and I had run out of cross pieces before finishing. I decided that it was enough for one day though. Last Saturday I went into town and bought some new 1″ x 6″ boards at Hanlon brothers to use as the remaining cross pieces. I was pleased to discover that I could fit them in my little Focus hatchback, by putting the seats down, and letting them stick out the passenger window a few inches.

ruts for the bridge

I dug out some ruts for the boards to sit in, which helped stabilize the bridge

After putting on the last few cross pieces, the final step was to dig some ruts for the long boards to sit in, which would help level the bridge out, and make it a bit more secure. The ruts seemed to do the job quite well.

bridge looking back towards house

View of the bridge looking back towards the house

Now when I am mowing the lawn I can see out onto the bridge and the field on the other side of the creek. The bridge will come in handy for getting the push mower and the wheel barrow over the creek. I will need the wheel barrow to help me collect the firewood I have been cutting down from the fallen oak tree in the forest. The only downside of the whole project is that it seems that Clare and I got poison ivy from putting the bridge into place. We have been taking lots of benadryl, and just suffering through it. Maybe next spring we will try making a soup of poison ivy and morels, as the doctor at the IU health center recommended.

Fighting The Land

weed growing from house

Figure 1. Clover growing from the corner of the house

I can no longer recall whether I learned this directly from Dave or through Clare, but some time ago I learned the phrase “fighting the land”, and that much time was devoted to this endeavor at the Dibble homestead. At the time, I didn’t really understand what this was all about. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it seemed wrong to me. We should love and hug trees, not fight them. But now that I have been living here for a couple months, I have a better understanding of what this means, and much of my time has been spent fighting the land. Of course I still like nature, but now that I am living much closer to it (as opposed to just visiting nature as in camping), I want to keep a little distance between nature and civilization.

deck area

Figure 2. Area around the deck after clearing some of the brush

I think that a few feet is a good minimum distance, which is not the case everywhere around the house (see Figure 1). The area around the deck was very overgrown when we got here, and that was one of my first outdoor projects here. Unfortunately I did not remember to take any before shots of that area, but an after shot is shown in Figure 2.

burn pile

Figure 3. Burn pile

It is a fairly simple process. I take out my “cuttin’ tools”, which at first consisted of a pair of hedge shears, a pair of clippers, and a hatchet, but more recent additions include an axe and a “weed cutter”, and cut stuff away. I don’t agree with our current president on many issues, but I do agree with him that clearing brush is fun and relaxing. It is fairly easy to make visible progress quite rapidly, and it is physically tiring, which is good for people like me who spend most of their workday sitting around. So the next step in the “fighting the land” procedure involves piling up what I have cut (see Figure 3), waiting a week or two until it is dry, and then burning it (Figure 4).

Clare by fire

Figure 4. Ceremonial burning

I can’t recall why Clare was looking at this, but a month or two ago she was looking up some rules and regulations on the Indiana state website, and came across rules on open burning. Open burning seems to be pretty common here, but apparently it is highly regulated. There are certain restrictions on the time of day that things can be burned, on containers for burning things, and so on. It seems that the only truly legal way for us to burn brush is for “ceremonial purposes”. So every time we need to burn something, we have a little ceremony. Frequently this simply involves a toast with some PBR, or, like last weekend, we had some friends over and had a puffed sugary gelatin roasting ceremony.


Figure 5. Spring to Creek ditch

My latest project for fighting the land has been to dig a ditch. The area on the other side of the creek, which used to be a road, but is no longer very road like, is very wet all year round, because of the spring in the hillside. The spring flows all the time, and generally fills up the road with water. Dave suggested digging a ditch from the spring down to the creek, to force the water to go where I want it to, i.e. to fight the land. This seemed like a good idea, and when I mentioned this to William Harriman, who actually drives on that road with his tractor to mow the back field, he mentioned that he already dug one, but that it had gotten messed up from driving over it with the tractor. On Monday I finally got around to digging a new ditch. I was able to find some of William’s ditch and use that, which was quite helpful. I will still probably need to dig out the ditch a bit more, but the ditch (Figure 5) seems to be functioning fairly well so far. The next step will be to rebuild a bridge (or two) over the creek.