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Cheryl Hughes: Ground Truthing

“Ground truth is simply observations or measurements made at or near the surface of the earth in support of the air or space-based remote sensing survey.” (

“Remote sensing is the science and art of obtaining information about an object, area or phenomenon through the analysis of data acquired by a device that is not in contact with the object, area or phenomenon under investigation.” (

In short, ground truthing is about this: No matter what a satellite or drone or heat sensing device tells you is under or on top of the ground at a certain spot, you will have to go to that spot yourself and investigate the area to see what is actually there.  My daughter and I proved that scientific principal when we cleaned out the shed on the side of our barn last week.

Natalie had the day off from work on Wednesday, so she volunteered to help me with the shed project, and I was really happy to have help.  I’ve mentioned before that I am a pack rat and Garey is a hoarder, so I knew, and Natalie knew cleaning out the shed would be no easy task.  The shed has a dirt floor, and even though we had no satellite images of the area, we expected many objects to be concealed beneath the surface.

The first thing we did was move the 6’X12’ dog pen out of the left side of the shed.  Yes, I said 6’x12’ dog pen.  It took a lot of pushing and pulling and dragging to remove it, but our 25% Irish DNA wouldn’t let us quit, so we finally got it out of the shed and positioned on a spot in the yard that would be shaded enough for Natalie’s dogs when they come for weekend visits.  (Her dogs stay in the house with me unless I have to go to the store, then they stay in the dog pen until I return.)

The main reason for my wanting to clean out the shed is that my lawn mower lives on the right side, and every time I drive it either in or out of there, something falls on me or across it, and I had grown both weary and fearful of the whole process.  My goal was to move the falling things from the right side to the now-empty left side of the shed.

The first thing we moved was a truck hood and fender—extra parts for the red and white farm truck.  Next, came some plywood, a pallet and a large flat piece of metal.  We had now reached the miscellaneous area, requiring a golf cart and a trash can.

“How many empty oil bottles do you guys really need? Natalie asked, tossing number seven into the trash can.

I picked up two more.  “Evidently, nine,” I said, as I tossed the last two into the trash.

Next, we started loading small, unidentifiable pieces of metal into the bed of the golf cart, so they could be taken to the recycle pile down the hill by Garey’s shop.

“You know, I’m not sure what some of this stuff is or if it goes to something that is important to Garey,” I said.

“Look, Mom,” Natalie said, “just put it in the recycle pile and tell Dad to go through it before you take it off, and if he wants anything, he can get it out of there.”  Sounded good to me, so we did just that.

I stubbed my toe on something beneath the dirt, so I told Natalie to grab the hoe from the storage building, so I could do some digging.  I dug around for a bit and retrieved a chain with a lock attached to a metal bumper.  I dug a little deeper.

“Oh. My. Gosh!” I said.

“What is it?” Natalie asked, “Some sort of security system?”

“No,” I answered, “Ground hog traps!”

“That would have been my second guess,” she said.

I laughed.

“Why are there ground hog…?”  she didn’t get to finish her question.  When I stood up my right foot found its way into a hole that buried my leg half-way up my shin bone.

“Be careful where you step,” I said.  “When ground hogs burrow into a place, they make several tunnels and escape routes, so there will be more holes.”

There were five more, to be exact.  We dug and raked dirt until they were filled in.

When we finished, I drove the lawn mower back into the shed.  Nothing fell on me or the mower.  Mission accomplished.

You know, there are probably still things down under the dirt in the shed, but Natalie and I did all the ground truthing we could manage in five hours.  The next generation of homeowners will have to deal with the rest.




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