Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Spring Break Breakdown

After heading down to Salem for some early morning grub, I borrowed ma's chainsaw and invited over a couple of pals, Trevor and Adam (who delight in going by T & A), who knew I needed some help cutting down the trees in the backyard. They're the types who are always eager to wield a chainsaw, as you can see from the picture below. Using rope to guide the trees in ways in which we wanted them to fall, we were able to maintain control while we felled the trees. The only casualties were the ornamental flowers and shrubs below that we should've transplanted before the tree cutting portion of the operation.

StumpTown USA

It was truly with a tear that we cut down the plum tree (center), the jasmine tree next to the house, and the nameless tree next to the fence. We reasoned to ourselves that the plum was diseased, its bark having turned black in places. Besides, it hadn't bore fruit the year before, so it was on its way out, right? Later, I found out that plums only bear fruit every two years, so 2009 probably would have seen a whole lotta plums. But I don't feel that bad, because after we chopped it down I was able to dig out rotten chunks of the trunk with my finger, and that can't be good. Right???

I spent the next day digging up the bricks that had once decoratively served as edges to the garden and paths. Much to my dismay, whoever had put them there put them two layers deep! I also removed a large pile of river rocks that had been around the base of the plum tree, and I transplanted a large spread of pea gravel into a pile by the house. Don't know the best way to use that yet. A friend said pea gravel is great for chicken runs, cuz the poo runs down through the rocks, absorbed into the earth.

With the stumps gone and the wood piled and waiting to go to its owners (Trevor and Adam had also agreed to assist the wood cutting endeavor in exchange for the wood), I had to dispose of the rest of the smaller debris -- the branches! I hadn't counted on this. I imagined chopping down the trees and being left with just a neat woodsy stack of logs. I didn't realize that there would be an even bigger stack of sticks, twigs, branches, and every other word synonymous with tree segmented pain the ass. Needing to get rid of the pile sooner than later (it was taking up the right hand side of the yard), I bailed on my plan to take it down to ma's burn pile in the back of her truck (I had it for the week) and instead thought to rent a chipper. I had the option of renting it for two hours or five. I thought I would only need it for two. Half hour of driving back and forth and maybe 45 minutes of chipping -- after all, there wasn't that much to chip. Then again, all I knew of chipping was derived from that infamous scene in Fargo. My buddy Chris D. volunteered to come over and help chip. Besides he had a small pile, too. Marie advised me to pay the extra bucks and rent it for five hours. Just to be on the safe side.

Four hours after we began we just got through with my meager pile. It turns out that chipping doesn't go as smoothly as I had imagined. Apparently a lot of things weren't like I imagined. Nervously, I pulled the rental receipt for the chipper out of my back pocket. How would I tell Chris that I had to return the chipper when he had spent the past four hours helping me? And I still had to load it, gas it up, and drive twenty minutes to return it? Luckily the guy had listed the return time two hours later than my time limit, instead listing the store's closing time. We got Chris pile chipped also, and the unit returned just in time. But at least we now had chips to lay down in the garden paths! It was time to move on to the next phase.

Smiling amid chaos

With the stones, bricks, and pebbles removed, and the trees cut, we began to transplant the many wonderful plants that the previous owner had carefully arranged. You would not believe how many bulbs there were. At first, we found just the right spot for bulbs in other parts of the yard. We decided to make the walkway to the garden next to the house a garden path, with shrubbery and flowers on either side of a brick walkway. The later bulbs ended up being buried in mass graves next to the house. Others still lie in buckets strewn around the yard, miraculously sprouting and blooming in containers full of their naked roots.

Not burned out yet, and with some time on his hands, Chris volunteered his services yet again, this time to help me build the garden beds. I was perfectly capable of doing it myself, of course, but four hands makes less work than two! Plus, we had a good time building them together, drinking beer, and listening to KGON! At one point, while Dutch rock band Focus belted out their one hit wonder, "Hocus Pocus," yodeling filling the yard faster than the raindrops, Marie suggested out loud, "WHAT are we listening to? Can't we listen to something else?" "Like what?," I asked. "I don't know. NPR?" she wondered, eyebrows raised. "Come on, babe! This is outdoor work. We can't listen to talk radio. We need Classic Rock! KGON, baby!" I said, squeezing the trigger of the skill saw. Rock and roll!

Led Zeppelin album cover?

While Chris and I assembled the garden beds, Marie refused to stand idly by. As she had been doing all week, with baby strapped to her back, she toiled away, transplanting shrubs and pulling out weeds. Alani was just along for the ride. And making Marie's job 20 pounds more difficult! (nightly massages were in order, I think she got two?)


Chris and I made short work of the garden beds, and we opted to use tan deck screws rather than lag bolts. Structurally, the beds are just as sound, and I think it turned out better aesthetically.

Two cracks are better than one!

With the beds assembled, we positioned them where we roughly imagined them being. But before we could decide for sure, we needed to get rid of that stump ...

There's a stump in the way!

Removing that seemingly small plum stumpt took about five or six hours of digging combined with the using an axe, maul, sledge, mattock, and two chainsaws. As the adage goes, stumps are like icebergs. Only 20% of them is above ground. Much thanks to my other friend Christopher for coming through with the tools, know how, and helping out with the labor, too! While Marie bounced two babies at once on her knee (his little one is only a week younger than Alani), we were able to synchronize our chops, getting into a rhythm, taking turns wielding the axes and mauls inches from each other's face. Maybe next we will develop a swim routine! But by the end of the day, the stump was out! We placed a couple of 2x4s in the hole and rolled the 300lb stump up and out on them. It all felt very medieval, using leverage against mother nature. We rolled the stump out to the front yard and later, into the back of mom's truck, a nice present for her when I returned the truck! (I rolled it out and into her burn pile)

I then measured out the garden beds so that they were equidistant from each other, and most important (and difficult) of all, so that they were level. I used a posthole digger to secure the 4x4 corner posts while keeping the beds level and in place.

The next day, we received six cubic yards of potting mix from a local fuel company. The dump truck deposited a mountain in the street, where I had placed some tarps to receive it. Chris D. came out once again, and with his help, we were able to get it transfered to the garden beds that first day. I ended up doing it well into the evening, using only the streetlights and stars to illuminate my work. But finally, I was done.

Alani enjoys her inside/outside space

At long last! The beds are filled with dirt, the sun is shining, and we're ready to move on to Phase Two! Planting, fence construction, and chicken coop erection. No, wait! I didn't mean that to sound so fowl. Whoops!

My beautiful babies

Looking forward to a greener future!

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