* Between The Sea (the Med) and The Alps -- {Pronounce: ontruh la mair eh lay zalp}

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A springtime restoration

2016 Spring Camp 01

For a number of years now, we have participated in the upkeep of a camp facility.  As there is nobody local to maintain the camp, there are generally two work weeks scheduled during the year -- one in spring and one in the fall. 

As we have no full-time obligations elsewhere, Doc Leo and I usually volunteer for the whole time period.  Sometimes, we're the only ones, sometimes there's a really nice crowd.

Having been neglected since the growing season began this year, nature gave us quite a bit of exterior work to do in preparing for the summer camp season.  Here's a little of what we faced last week and how we tamed it!

2016  Spring Camp 02
An overfilled fire pit
There are two main fields in front of the lodge.  Before we started doing regular maintenance, the fields were in pretty bad shape.  But after a few years of diligent care, they have really filled in with wild grass and look great when mowed.  The upper one is used as a sports field, so it's been important to make it as nice and even as possible.  At one end is the camp fire pit.  Like everything else, it had gotten quite out of hand over the

2016  Spring Camp 03
Now it's ready and waiting for fire fun
years.  Several years ago, I made it my job to whip it back into shape.  Thus, it's one of my priorities to maintain each time we go up.

Right after I really cleaned it up, I found it loaded with a bunch of garbage again.  But

2016  Spring Camp 04
Pierre didn't take long trying it out

this time, it was quite proper looking, and I just had to weed around it.  As I knew we needed to do a lot of burning, and the ash content has really built up, I totally dug it out again and used the ashes to fill in various pits in the fields!

It's good I dug it down so far, as Pierre did his best to load it up again all at one sitting.  He happens to be our resident pyromaniac, so this was a perfect job for him.

2016  Spring Camp 05
A beautiful but terribly overgrown dandelion field

I wasn't planning on doing a photo shoot on the grass, as it's just the same thing we have to tackle every time.  So I've already mowed the upper sports field.

But this time was different in the lower field.

2016  Spring Camp 06
Doc Leo trying to master it
We went up earlier this year, so I think the undergrowth was a bit more lush than usual, we've  never seen it full of dandelions, and the lawnmower just couldn't handle it.  We had to weed whack it first!  The Doc made that his job, then he finished off the mowing.

2016  Spring Camp 07
It appears he succeeded

Didn't he make it look nice?  This lower field is a real mower blade eater with all the rocks poking up, like iceberg tips, and I've been slowly working on digging out the worst offenders, often needing masculine muscles to cart them away.

2016  Spring Camp 08
Mitch digging out a huge sucker system

During a winter storm, a beautiful shade tree blew over.  A crew, including the Doc, went up to clean it all up before a spring break camp (which is why there was a lot of burning to do), but the main trunk was too heavy to move and the trunk was harder wood than anybody's chain saw could handle, so it just got left there.  In the middle of the field we've tried to make look nice. 

Oh, well, might as well make the best of it.

2016  Spring Camp 09
He also succeeded
Mitch made it his job to dig out some really deep-rooted suckers in front of the stump, making that neater, and then I cajoled the guys into doing whatever it took to at least line up the fallen trunk between the two stumps that were left so it looked like a deliberate bench arrangement.

I wish I could come up with a summer plant that didn't need any maintenance to make it all a little bit prettier.

2016  Spring Camp 10
Overgrown boulders with too many offspring

There is a row of boulders separating a drive area from the sports field to keep the cars off.  Even after mowing around them, then trimming, I always thought they still looked messy.  But cleaning them up better had never been a priority. 

However, as I'm still recovering from months of shoulder tendinitis, I'm a bit limited in how physical I can be.  As I can use hand tools and keep in certain positions, I decided now was the time to clean these rocks.  I also saw no reason for the smaller ones buried in between.

2016  Spring Camp 11
A baby rock ready for a new home
2016  Spring Camp 12
Building up muscles

I used the hand pick to dig all around every one of them, cutting back the grass root system and digging out hard weed clumps. 

I was actually quite pleased that my shoulder allowed so much muscle toning as I listened to a library audio book!

2016  Spring Camp 13
More baby rocks being liberated from the family

I normally don't have access to a water source when I'm doing a project, but this time the hose was out for the fire pit.  I took advantage and watered down the dirt to compact it and clean the rocks off.

You can see some of the smaller rocks I dug out of the ground and just some of the piles of weeds I pulled out.

2016  Spring Camp 14
The promise of a neater, cleaner future
So didn't they come out pretty?  Hopefully the area will look nicer when the grass fills in again.  It's all a lot neater without the minor rocks crowding out the empty space pedestrians can now walk through.

This photo also shows the sports field.  One year we discovered that wild boar had made a mess of the field.  Then they came back before the next time and made even more of a mess in a different area.

So now I've made an even bigger temporary mess, because I managed to level some of the lumps that didn't flatten out, and I used the ash dirt to fill everything back in.  At least now kids running around won't risk twisting an ankle running into an unsuspected pit.

2016  Spring Camp 15
The refined field, fire pit, and boulder barrier -- so inviting

For a little perspective, here is a panorama of the property from the lodge.  To the left, there is the sports field with the fire pit at the close end, separated by the row of boulders.

Next, there is an overall view of both fields, now all nicely completely mowed and cleaned up around the tree trunks. 

Then there is a view of the lower field and the driveway, including the newly created outdoor salon area.

2016  Spring Camp 16
What a great playground!
2016  Spring Camp 17
A peaceful spot for reposing

2016  Spring Camp 18
So much high grass for such a little mower

And last but not least, here is another area I'm rather proud of.  It was the object of my first project way back in our first visit. 

Delivery trucks had made a huge rutted mess of the area in front of the fuel tank, making it hard to walk and mow.  I spent a fair amount of time trying to level it all out despite not having access to a lot of useful tools. 

2016  Spring Camp 19
But not more than Doc Leo could handle

Over the years, the grass has filled in nicely, and the trucks haven't torn it up again.  The hedge that was originally planted to hide it, I think, had deteriorated to almost nothing.  I've also been able to bring back the remaining bushes, although new ones I planted didn't like the neglect. 

The whole area was overgrown and ugly, and there was a huge dip under the clothesline.  When I did the original fire pit work, I had the guys transport a lot of excess dirt to fill it in as much as possible.  So I'm always pleased to bring this area back each time.  Well, this time it was Doc Leo who beautified it for me.

2016  Spring Camp 20
Team A taking a lunch break and a birthday party
While we were available to stay the whole week, otherwise we ended up with two non-overlapping teams.  It just so happens that while I was on one side of the globe receiving my hard won high school diploma, one of the women in the first group was being born on this side of the Pond.  And we celebrated her birthday while I brought back some fun memories!  From way too many years ago!

2016  Spring Camp 21
Team B having lunch in the great outdoors
During the first group's stay, the weather turned really cold, and the local maintenance guy had let the fuel tank run empty, so we had no heat, no hot water, no cook stove.  And he was tiling the dishwasher room floor and hadn't finished, so the kitchen didn't even have cold water to work with.  It was hard to laugh about it.

But by the time the second group came up, the weather suddenly turned nice, new fuel got delivered, the dishwasher got put back together, and the conditions all became normal again (including hot showers!).  So we were able to eat lunch out in the pretty exterior and enjoy all our hard work.

2016  Spring Camp 22
Bienvenue / Au Revoir

And now I will leave you with either a welcoming view or a departing view, however you'd like to see it.  We were departing, someday you might be arriving. 

For the Doc and me, it was a hard intensive labor four days, I didn't even have time to document much of what others did, but it is so satisfying to see the difference between the opening photo and this one.  I'm sure the summer campers will have a great time.


  1. What a contribution!! You are very generous hard working folks!

  2. I know how you love this place and you make it so beautiful. Hoping you didn't make that shoulder unhappy. Really good changes you have made there.


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