A Year in the Round: From the Ground Up (Pt. 2)

Reader Contribution by Natalie Morris
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I live in beautiful, rural Appalachia. Though I spent all of my first 23 years in central Illinois, I feel like where I am right now is where I was supposed to have been my whole life. Why? Well, among other reasons, topography! As much as I love the bumps in the Earth, it can make tipi placement a little more challenging. 

The ground that I am currently residing upon has not one flat spot within sight. Maybe somewhere in the creek bed, with the fishes. Certainly not where my little cone-house is located, up the hill and into the wilds. But, upon meeting my site, it was love at first…uhh, sight? But really it was the fourth or five site I had sighted. I digress. But it possesses all the attributes I had been hoping for (except the 20 minute drive to work); a view on both sides, enough privacy to take a shower outside, but not so much that if I broke my leg I would have to cut it off with my pocket knife (unless James Franco was gonna do it for me), some shade in the afternoon, and cell phone service (big win!). The slight grade wouldn’t be an issue to deal with, right? Well.? 

I recall thinking to myself “I’ll just dig in and level it out, duh.” But really, that’s a lot of work. More work than I like doing. Luckily, it proved almost impossible anyway. Remember, this property is pretty much on the side of a mountain. Rocks. All over subterrainia. Now what? Build up, I guess. 

A friend and I set out to build a sort of dirt corral. I decided against taking real strict measurements because no one likes doing that anyway. The little wall is about one foot tall, 20 feet long, and goes ten feet back before it disappears into the hillside. That’ll do, pig. That’ll do. 

Next order of business is to fill it up. Shouldn’t be a problem, since fill dirt is usually free and I can just fit it all in a long bed truck, right? 


That’s one truckload of dirt. Damn. By the way, it cost me $20 and six months of my later life due to the stress of hauling it in a truck that wasn’t mine with a load much heavier than it’s intended use. Plan B…? Do I have one of those?
When all else fails, call someone with a Mack truck. But they will sense the hesitation in your voice when you ask how well the truck does off road and going up hills. They will insist on visiting the property to ensure their big red rig can endure the short-but-mightly climb up the hill to the tipi site. Mo’money.

A few hours later and $100 more from my pocket, I had a whole pile o’dirt waiting for me to sweat a gallon to make the foundation of my home. By the way, I got to ride in the dump truck up the hill. It was a lot for my excited girl brain to handle. Lots of beeping and bouncing. Twig and Woodford nominated the dirt pile “Best dog toy ever, besides garbage.”

After a few short hours of shoveling, and convincing my nosey neigh-bors (ha, get it?!) they should come back when I am more moved in, I had a semi-level base.

Now, minions, commence the digging of my princess moat! Well, not really. Trying to convince someone that I’m a princess would be a pretty tough sell. At this point, I wouldn’t mind sleeping on a mattress with a boulder-size pea under it. The “moat” is my water diverter, in a very primitive state. I’m attempting to convince Mama Nature to possibly not wash me away just yet. When money starts pouring in from out of nowhere, I’ll fill it with some gravel so it can look more decent and function that way, too.

Until then, I’ll sleep in my hammock in the castle of spiders, fire and dirt.

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