Yellow Iron at Flyrock

Skid steer, haul truck, road grader and track hoe at Flyrock. Let the fun begin!

Skid steer, haul truck, road grader and track hoe at Flyrock. Let the fun begin!

Monday, January 11, 2016 — I’d started the huge task of painting my kitchen cabinets two days earlier. The kitchen and dining room were torn apart and the rest of the house wasn’t looking much better. That’s just the way it goes when you’re busy with a big project like that; there’s no time for making beds, dusting, vacuuming and cleaning bathrooms. I mean, I consider myself Wonder Woman just to be able to keep up with the dishes and laundry at such times. So, it was no surprise that day went by without me remembering that it was our third anniversary of buying Flyrock. 

Cabinets -- before Cabinets -- after

That evening, I sat watching “The Gilmore Girls” on my laptop (How did I miss that show when it was on?) while my husband vegged out on something more manly (but not nearly as good) on TV. Neither of us were thinking of Flyrock. We were settled in for the winter. Hibernating. Our camper is winterized, and so are we. We’ll get back to Flyrock in a month or two. After all, we have kitchen cabinets to keep us busy. Or so we thought.

The phone rings. My husband: “Hey, what’s up?”

Caller: “We’ve got a little break in the weather. We’re going to move some yellow iron out to Flyrock tomorrow.”

My husband: “What?’

Caller: “Most of our big equipment is Catepillar. We call it ‘yellow iron’.”

We’d been waiting quite awhile for our excavation company to get back to the property. I’m wondering if somehow they found out I was in the midst of a big project at home and thought it would be funny to hit us with a huge project at Flyrock at the same time. Or maybe it really was because of the gorgeous Spring-like weather we were having in mid January. Whatever the reason we were suddenly jerked back into Flyrock mode.

The plan was for a road on the high side, a quarter mile long, so while a big trackhoe ripped the turf off the top, we started setting culvert pipe and building the turn-off from the county road. Cutting the old fence seemed significant because suddenly there’s new access that vehicles could drive in.

Trackhoe digging new road. Flags marking the south edge of road.The road will connect with the quarry road. A base of bigger rock before the gravel.


We set gate posts and hung a new ugly gate (that I promise you will be replaced with a pretty gate someday). We set the gate in far enough in to be able to pull in with a trailer behind the truck. Then we wanted to build dry stack rock walls from the gate out to the fence that borders the county road. For us, it’s a huge job: two walls 35 ft. long, 30 in. wide, 4 ft. tall. Everyone that stops to watch us as we get the first few rocks in place, stands with jaws dropped muttering something that lets us know they think we have rocks for brains. We’ll see how it goes. At one point I remember we discussed how cool it would be to have a rock wall fence all along the county road. Yeah, that’s not going to happen, not in my lifetime anyway! There’s not enough of it left for a rock wall that big!

Setting gate posts with our neighbor's help. Hauling one of many loads of rock for the entrance walls.Pulling a big rock for the walls

Rock Wall Zen.Rock wall number one underway


Still a long way to go but making progress.








As we haul rock from different areas of the property, the yellow iron churns away, rumbling back and forth across the property, working on our new road. They have a grader shaping ditches and crowning the road, getting it ready for the first loads of gravel to be laid down.

Of course, there are always surprises. We had noticed a spot on the high side that stays wet. One of the excavation guys told us we have a “wet spring.” My husband keeps saying “Well ain’t this place a geological oddity?” He thinks it’s funny cause it sounds like Everett on “Oh Brother Where Art Thou”. As I hear him say it again for about the third time, I think to myself, he’s got dirt on his face like Everett had, but that’s about as close as it gets to having George Clooney standing here talking to me. We got all excited thinking, “A spring? Can we get water from it?” Excavation guy explains, “No, it’s not enough to use, just enough to make a big muddy spot.” 

Trackhoe clearing our house site View of the lake from house site. House site from another angle.Imagine a house sitting up on that cliff!

For the past three years, we’ve found ourselves caught in cycles of circular thinking. I guess it’s because we try to keep our options open, as long as we can. Overthinking every choice. In reality, it just keeps things from happening. But when you have big equipment running and three operators on the time clock, decisions have to be made immediately. We’ve discovered that being forced to make decisions is a good thing: suddenly, we were forced to decide where we wanted the road to go; where our house site is going be; where we’re going to set a cabin (before we build our house). All of this is good. We’re moving forward.

Happy anniversary, Flyrock!

View of the house site from the peninsula.

Middle-Aged Woman Interrupted


A stunningly beautiful evening at Flyrock.

A stunningly beautiful evening at Flyrock.

October, 2015

Going into Spring of 2015 we had big plans for Flyrock. We were going to build a dock, get electricity, figure out what we’re going to do for freshwater, build an outhouse for camping, improve the road we pioneered around the quarry and build it on across the upper fourteen. All that was leading up to building a small cabin, something we could weekend in to cut down on some of the incessant driving back and forth. Then, we were going get our home ready to sell by end of summer. All the time we’re wading through that list, we would need to keep up with mowing the peninsula, in between all the rain, and get the upper fourteen brush-hogged for the year. Whew, I’m tired just writing that!

Ha! What really happened was my mom’s health worsened and started taking more of my time. She fell and broke her hip. Days at the hospital took over my life and overflowed into my husband’s, as he tried to keep his head above water at home and work. As the hospital releases mom I’m scrambling to find a rehab facility for her to go into, knowing that it will only be for a short while. She passed away a few days later. I’m left with the task of selling all of her things; shutting down the business of 92 years of life; insurance papers, bank accounts, boxes of photos, clothes and furniture. Family wanting this and not being able to sell that. Everyone goes through it, I guess. The Red Door Barn was a perfect place for the Celebration of Life service for Mom.Everyone knows that it’s physically and emotionally exhausting. I didn’t have a funeral immediately, which at the time seemed like a good idea. I still think it was, but also made it all last longer. Instead of a funeral, we had a celebration of life service. It was perfect. Family came in from all over the country, we shared stories about mom, we laughed, we cried, we told her goodbye.

And all the time we kept saying, we’ll get back to Flyrock as soon as this is over. Just a few more weeks; then a few more days; then it was time; our first trip back out there. Waist high weeds had taken over the one area we worked the hardest to maintain, our peninsula. The pasture area was out of control. Weeds were devouring our road.

Losing our peninsula I was feeling pretty bummed right about then.Getting to work. Those weeds aren't going to pull themselves. Losing our road. Another shot of the road.









So we got to work. We started building a dock at home, then we carried it out to Flyrock on a trailer. And after one long weekend we had the peninsula mowed and looking good and the dock was in the water . . .not finished, but in the water. We’d be back out the next weekend to finish it. Or so we thought.

Building the dock in our garage.

Moved it to Flyrock on the trailer.

Stand it up . . .



. . . in order to . . .


 . . . flip it over.Moving it to the water.

Almost there.We did it! Still not finished. Needs a ladder, a walkway and steps down to it.









That Sunday, after a long day working, dirty and tired, we headed home after dark. My husband was exhausted, I was driving. My daughter had helped us both days and was in the back seat. And in the pitch black night, doing 60 miles per hour, we hit another car head on. It was one of those surreal moments when you wish you could take back the last few seconds; somehow go back and do one thing different, leave a little earlier, go a different way, so what just happened would never happen.

Our car. It's a wonder we're alive.

But there was no avoiding this one. Two cars had already collided, head-on at highway speeds. They were a mass of crumpled metal. Not a single light or reflector left to warn me. So, when I came over a hill in the dark, I never even touched the brakes. We just plowed into them and we didn’t even know what we had hit. We came to in dust and smoke of cars spinning and metal crunching and dragging across pavement. Waking from a bad dream trying to figure out what the hell just happened.

And then we start in again with doctors and hospitals taking over our lives. MRIs, CT scans and X-rays, meet with this surgeon and that physical therapist and on and on and on. But hey, we’re all alive. We’re recovering. I’m working on being able to drive at night without being terrified and seeing that mass of metal suddenly in front of me.

Finally . . . fourteen weeks later, we’re back to Flyrock. After a long interruption we finally finished the dock. We weren’t completely happy with it as a floating dock, so we spent another weekend setting posts and framing it as a solid pier. We’re back to mowing the peninsula every couple of weeks. We’ve brush-hogged half of the upper fourteen.

Dock turned pier.

We had gone back-and-forth about not buying a camper because that same money could go into a cabin that would feel a little more solid, like a bigger accomplishment and add more to the property. After the summer from Hell, we gave up on that; we bought a camper. Now, we’ve spent several weekends at Flyrock camping in it. I love our camper! There’s nothing fancy about it and it isn’t real big, but it’s perfect for us. It’s been great, getting to work later into the evening and earlier in the morning. Getting to shower. A real toilet (kind of). And driving back and forth less isn’t a bad thing either!

We looked at so many campers. I knew this was the one when I first saw it.Being on the property to see the sunset is the way to fall in love with it again. Getting some work done is the way to feel like the big plans, the big goals, the dreams of a house at Flyrock might still be possible. Falling asleep, listening to the owls and the frogs and the crickets, after a long day’s work, is the way to stop dreaming about that God awful wreck.

Plans for 2016? Well, you know the John Lennon quote: “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans,”? Now I get it.

Moon rising on the pier.

Happy Second Anniversary


Happy second anniversary Flyrock.

January, 2015

The 11th day of this month marked our two year anniversary of owning Flyrock. I’ve noticed that my last blog was in August, so I’d say the new has worn off!  Other than the addition of “Kevin K-Line”,  it doesn’t feel like we made much progress in 2014.

We’ve reached a point where the maintenance of our accomplishments keep us from accomplishing anything else. We’re trying not to worry about it. Hopefully, year three will include a cabin and a dock. Electricity would be good, too . . . and a picnic table. Most definitely a picnic table.

We did have some fun times at Flyrock this past year. So, in honor of our second anniversary, I thought I’d just share some of the highlights.

All ready for a night of camping on Dog Rock shelf. Sunset and supper.After what seemed like a long, cold winter we were happy to see warm weather again. We spent several weekends in late Spring 2014 camping out on Dog Rock Shelf.

Early morning kayaking

We made it through the upper fourteen acreas with the brush-hog as well as digging up brush-hog-blade-killer-rocks. Now we have still have rocks to pick up and holes to fill before we can mow this next spring. Seems like whatever we do we end up making more work for ourselves!
Mowing the upper fourteen acres. It's a big brush-hog-blade-killer. It's another big brush-hog-blade-killer.

It’s always fun for us to share Flyrock with friends and family.  In June 2014, my brother, niece and nephew came for a visit. We took them out for the afternoon. Hot dogs, my brother’s signature Bloody Mary’s and swimming made for a good afternoon.

My family enjoying the view. Fun times with my niece. My brother, niece, nephew and mom visiting Flyrock.

Summer brought Kevin (see Kevin K-Line), our biggest and most costly addition for the year, to Flyrock. Kevin is an 8 X 40 high cube storage container.  It’s been nice having a place to store tools, kayaks and the tractor. My husband even built a composting toilet,  a five gallon bucket in a box with a toilet seat on it, that we keep inside the storage container. Not a perfect set-up, but better than nothing. Personally, I would like to build a stone outhouse for the toilet. Add that to my list of things to do this year.

Making a spot for Kevin K-Line. Almost ready. Kevin is home.



Of course, the best part of the year was the week our granddaughter spent with us in July. We went to Flryrock for an overnight camping trip. Then, a few days later she begged to go back to Flyrock again, which made her Papa so happy. Since she has us wrapped around her little finger, we took her back for an afternoon of swimming. I believe her head was under the water as much as it was above.

She loves the water.

Helping Papa. Bedtime reading. Sleeping Beauty in her hammock.



 We managed to clear under a couple more trees on the peninsula. We fought the weeds, hung a new gate, painted our posts purple, hung new “no trespassing signs” and pulled more tires and junk out of the water.

Painting posts purple. Say that fast three times. Never a shortage of weeds to be trimmed. Free help.

Our Texas kids came to visit in October. The first weekend in November our son had a bunch of his friends out to camp.

At Black Stripe Rock watching something in the water. Aunt and niece talking it over. Springfield bunch camping on peninsula. Kate, keeping it healthy. Does it get any better than this? Friends enjoying the day.

Does it get any better than this? All ready for a chilly night and a campfire. Autumn at Dog Rock shelf.We’re planning on forging ahead and making some progress this next year. Hopefully,  I’ll have some stories to share with you. For now, though, l’ll be happy to just make it through the winter!
Family portrait Flyrock style. -- Fall of 2014

Family portrait — Flyrock style — Fall of 2014

Kevin “K”Line

Kevin arrives at Flyrock

We name stuff; it’s what we do. I don’t know why; we just always have. Remember Barney, the purple truck? (See A Truck Named Barney) And Flyrock — well, I think we spent more time naming it than we did our three children. (See Naming Flyrock Lake) So it came as no surprise that, when the truck hauling our shipping container made the first curve into Flyrock, my thirty-something-year old son said:

“We could name it Calvin.”

“What?” I wasn’t tracking with him yet.

“Or Kevin”, he added.

Kevin K Line

Then I saw the “K”Line on the side of the container and I caught on.  I joined in with, “How about Re, De or In?”

I think Kevin works best, for obvious reasons. And if it isn’t obvious, well then, it doesn’t matter.

Yep, we finally decided and bought a shipping container. It’s an 8′ x 40′ high cube. That means it’s nine feet tall instead of eight, which is good for driving the tractor into it without having to take the roll bar down first.

After over-thinking where to locate it, we spent several weekends clearing the area and building a pad for the container. We had to buy a couple of loads of gravel. I think that’s a little ironic: we own an old rock quarry and yet we have to buy gravel. And it isn’t cheap. I mean it really isn’t cheap! I can definitely think of more fun and interesting things to spend money on than a truckload of gravel that we dump in the dirt.

The delivery guy took it as a challenge to get through the trees we so judiciously left and set Kevin just where my husband wanted it — or at least where my husband thought he wanted it. It took backing up, pulling up, backing up again several times but he managed to maneuver the big load between all the trees and on to the pad. With a proud grin and an “I love it when a plan comes together”, which told his age and love for a TV show to still be making references to the A-team 30 years later, he took the check I had written him, crawled back into the cab of the semi and drove off. It was then we realized that we were going to have trouble backing the tractor out of the container without hitting a tree. We had a choice of either moving the 8,875 pound container or getting rid of the tree. We hated to cut the tree down, because it provides a lot of shade to help keep Kevin cool inside. So, a few days later, working by himself, my husband used his trusty winch  (see My Husband Says He Needs a Wench) and moved Kevin a foot or more, but doing it a half-inch at a time. It took several hours of jacking it up, then pulling it over, then jacking it up, then pulling it over, until he got it exactly where he wanted it — for the second time.

Maneuvering Kevin.

Now we can lock up the tractor, tools, kayaks, rafts and camping gear. No more hauling stuff back and forth between home and Flyrock. Well that’s an exaggeration, not as much hauling stuff back and forth would be more accurate. Our plans are to put a walk door in the back end. Maybe build a small room for a composting toilet, also a beer deck and an outdoor shower off that same end. We thought we might paint the exterior a nice light color, maybe a nice tan, but I’ve decided I kind of like Kevin the way he is. I think he looks cool. Because everyone is used to seeing these “K”Line shipping containers stacked on trains in the area, the color and half-worn graphics on the corragated red metal sort of gives it a railroad feel, which definitely ties in with our property. The railroad is right there, in your face and in your ears and it was intrigal to the limestone quarry from the day it was born back in the late 1800s. So maybe we’ll just cover the rusty parts with some red paint and call it good.

It feels good to have Kevin at Flyrock; a reminder that we’re making some progress, no matter how slow it seems at times. Maybe it’s because this is something we see when we drive in that feels a little more tangible than just cutting down weeds, that will grow back again, or trimming trees, that will have to be trimmed again, or moving junk and trash and rocks. Look something big and red and rusty with locks on it — we’re making progress.

Easy as one . . . two . . . three. Almost there. Driving the tractor in the first time. It fits!

Do Unto Others

The upper fourteen acres, finally all bush hogged.

It’s really tough to break a bush hog blade, but somehow, we managed. A reminder why we named this place Flyrock. We found out that it’s even tougher to change a bush hog blade. Finally, the high side is bush hogged. It’s cut too high, we’ve dug up rocks, left piles of them and holes where we dug them from.

Digging up rocks,

There’s still plenty of work to do on the upper fourteen, but we made it through the whole thing once, which is more than we accomplished up there last summer. I’m told it will get easier each time we mow (this from the guy who told me there was “Zero Percent Chance” of me getting wet). Well, we’ll see, but I’m not counting on it.

My husband and daughter spent a day, a couple of weekends ago, working on the shelf while I escaped to Chicago. We’ve decided the shelf may be the best spot for getting in the water to swim, so they started cleaning it up by trimming trees and clearing brush. That evening they each caught a fish, my daughter made fish tacos, they camped out overnight and got rained on. I shopped, ate in good restaurants and slept in a very nice (and dry) hotel.

Clearing brush on the shelf Pulling trees on the shelf. Hammock camping

Two gates, too many.The old pipe gate on the quarry side is too heavy and hard to deal with — kinda sounds like me. So, we hung a livestock gate that’s lighter and easy to deal with. The sad thing is that we’re now shutting and locking both gates. Crazy, right?

Here in our little corner of the midwest, I think 99% of the people are basically good, fair and honest. Yet, it seems that everyone has a line that they draw where they can justify doing something that others would think was wrong. But, they’re justified because; “These people are outsiders and they don’t deserve this and I’ve been fishing here my whole life, so they’re not going to keep me off of this property. I’m a good ol’ boy, but this SOB puts signs up saying I can’t hunt or fish or swim here. Well, I’ll show him, I’ll just tear those signs down.” Or, “No one lives here, so let’s just throw our old TV in the ditch, and then we can target practice and shoot the smithereens out of it.” Or, “Oh, look, they’ve built steps down to the water. I’m not supposed to be in here, but since they’ve made it so nice and easy, I’ll just use these steps and fish and leave my box of bait for them to clean up.”

Painting posts purple, again.Hanging signs, again.TV that was dumped, then shot at.

Sad to say, but internet forums are filled with property owners discussing how to keep people from trespassing and vandalizing property. Chains, locks, trail cams, tire spikes, and of course guns and signs threatening to shoot trespassers. It seems if you leave it too easy, trespassers enter without thinking twice. Make it too hard, they feel challenged and will bring bolt cutters and torches and whatever else they need to open any chain or gate. It’s disgusting. Maybe if they would work that hard at a real job, they could afford their own property and then they could worry about keeping vandals out. I don’t understand and I can’t imagine what is going through somebody’s mind when they trash and vandalize someone else’s property. I’ll bet you anything the vandal would be spouting off like the tough guy he thinks he is, about wanting to shoot someone if they did the same thing to his property — dumped a TV in his yard, tore down signs, left gutted fish or deer in front of his yard. But they don’t understand the golden rule and empathy and ownership laws and liabilities. So, until we’re living at Flyrock, we’ll continue to keep both gates closed and locked. And we’ll continue to take our stuff back and forth to the neighbors until we have a secure way to keep it there.

Which brings me to the news that we’ve decided to get a shipping container. Seems like it’s the best choice for locking things up. Besides hanging “no trespassing” signs and painting posts purple, working on a site for the container is what we’ve been doing most recently. My husband has been overthinking it (because that’s what he does); where’s the site for it going to be, how is it going to set on the site, what size should we get, do we want electricity run to it.  And me? Well, I’m just concerned with what color we’re going to paint it.

This is the site we chose for the shipping container. Mowed a path with the bush hog. Checking to see how level the ground is. Trimming trees and clearing dead ones. Spreading gravel for the shipping container.Working on gravel pad.