Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Brought To You By Cagey and The Number 13

Alternately titled, "Cagey Asked For It, So Blame This Post On Her". I try to duck responsibility for things whenever possible.

So. When last we left our Hero (Charles) and the cause for 13 saplings on the front porch (me), it was Friday, lunchtime, and we were contemplating the actual work at hand. That being the planting of the 13.

"After lunch" was the unanimous consensus by Those Who Matter (the grown-ups). We'll feed the kids and ourselves and then everybody outside, including the dog. Not including the cat.

Food bolted, shovels grabbed (Sara with a red plastic sandbox shovel), I stand with hands on hips, eyes narrowed in classic 'survey the yard for proper plant placement'. Nope. Too much. Let's start small. The forsythia. That one I want in the corner of the front yard, by the road, visible from the study. I trot over and dig the hole, plant the bush, all done in about 10 minutes. Presto! Down to 12.

Hmmmmm. Marvelous Charles makes his willing presence known, having dealt with dog and children, shovel in hand. After more squinting on my part and eyebrow waggling, it is decided that the magnolia should go closer to the front of the house in a 'showoff' place. He starts to dig. I start a second hole for the maple, closer to the road. Ultimate hole placement being decided by where the closest patch of thistles are, figuring that a hole could serve more than one purpose, right? Efficiency, baby. Efficiency.

We had blocked one thing. See, in addition to the thistles, the damned plot of land that is our yard has an over abundance of rock. Basically, it's a large rock garden covered with 4-6" of soil. Trees can't grow in rock. To plant a tree, you must remove the rocks. A few hours later of solid digging and swearing, we had 4 more trees planted between the 2 of us. We'd dug several more holes, which had to be abandoned because under the hand sized rocks, there were boulders. Ain't going to be digging up no boulders. Nosiree.

Feeling dispirited and sore and having run out of swear words, we retreated indoors, occasionally glaring out the window.

Sunday morning, we decided to change our strategy as it became clear that a tree-strewn front yard was only going to happen with a backhoe and multiple dumptrucks full of topsoil. I'm not ruling it out, mind you, it's just not going to happen this year. Or next. We eyed the side pasture area, down by the path Charles keeps cut through the prairie grass around the perimeter. It's cloudy and a bit drizzly but not supposed to really rain for about 3-4 hours. The weather report said so. Lying bastards that they are.

The good news? We found non-rock infested places to plant. The bad news? It began to absolutely pour as soon as we had begun our respective holes. We got 3 planted before conceding defeat to the fractious gods of spring and dragging our sorry, muddy, drenched-to-the-skin-despite-3-layers-and-a-raincoat selves inside. Something about fools not having sense to come in out of the rain. We again spend the day glaring out the window, this time at the heavens rather than the ground. Still and all, though, there are 8 more trees in the yard than there were, and only 5 are left on the porch.

I've had 2 days to wonder what the next assault will bring. Locusts, I'm betting. Or maybe a freak blizzard. Toads from the sky? Nah. Toads wouldn't stop us. We could just nudge them out of the way with the shovels. Oh! Fire! Fire from an out of control field burn. That would do it, plus it would negate the previous days' work AND the financial outlay, turning the really good deal into a bust.

So. Fire it is.

Should I try to buy some used firefighter gear in the meantime? Do they make it kid-sized? It's no fun if your offspring isn't taking part in the joy of gardening with you. The whining in stereo of "I'm bored. Can I go iiiiiiiinnnnn? I'm cold and tiiiiiired. It's all daaaaaaark and I can't see where the holes are so I just fell in one and now my arm bends funny," lends a rhythm that makes the digging go faster.



Blogger Jamie said...

Oh dear. I know your pain--in about half of our yard, the soil is mixed 50/50 with two- to four-inch quartzite cobbles. (The other part of the yard is clay. ;-)) Exhausting. Ridiculous.

Have you tried a pickaxe instead of a shovel? Seriously.

9:32 AM  
Anonymous Leigh-Ann said...

Yes, what Jamie said. We use a tool called a "mattock", which is like a pickaxe but with a pointed tip on one side, and then the other side is flat and wide, like a hoe. You can easily break up the earth with the point, and the flat part can be used to pry out rocks. Once you've loosened everything, use the shovel to remove the loose stuff. I used to fuss with a shovel in our Vegas soil of rocks and clay, and find the mattock makes everything so much easier. And it's at Home Depot, so that means you'd get to make another trip!

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen on the mattock. We have 2 incase you are in the neighborhood and wish to borrow same. No? Live too far away? Bummer. I could drop by and lend a hand, but same as the above. I guess dads have some worth after all.

Recommend placing a large deciduous tree on the westside for summer cooling. Too bad you don't have firs as they would help cut the wind and cold in the winter. (Also would provide fuel for fires. We have plenty to spare, if in the neighborhood.)

Re: Rocks. We have plenty here. Recommend a wheelbarrow and just drop them in. Pick a rock place in the "Lower 40" and hope they disolve into the ground. Ain't farming wonderful???

The arthritic Ole RFer

1:11 PM  
Blogger Rozanne said...

I was feeling quite inadequate when you mentioned that you managed to plant the forsythia in 10 minutes. That would have taken me an hour and a half.

But the rest of the post sounded a lot more like what I'd expect.

I don't know what tools to use to make it any easier. Maybe a pile driver or an oil drill?

1:38 PM  
Blogger Diana said...

Jamie, Leigh-Ann, and Dad- Oh! A mattock! We have one of those. (Didn't know what it was called.) I'll drag it out. It just didn't occur.

Dad- We have a line of small evergreens along the west side of the house. In 20 years, when they are no longer little, they should block the wind nicely. As far as having a tall tree closer to the side of the house, I think we'll pass, given the propensity for wind storms and falling trees and such. None of the windows faces west, though, so we stay pretty cool as it is.

Rozanne- Didn't I sound studly? For a short time. I'm thinking a couple of strapping teenage kids would make the job go better, too.

2:09 PM  
Anonymous christie said...

You kill me..."and now my arm bends funny" do we need to call CPS???? Poor unloved bored to death children.

The flowerbeds, such as they are, are all mine. This year, however, I am biting the bullet and allowing 2 semi-pro lawnmowingteenageboys the honor of beating back my back yard. Last year I refused to hire anyone and it damn near killed me. This year, I give, oh I give, and damn I'm happy about it! (I'll be sitting inside my nicely air conditioned house playing with the little man while watching them outside in 100 superhumid midsummer Arkansas, oh yes, I'm happy about it).

And don't forget about tornados, I know you aren't in a frequent tornado area but with the freaky weather and all....Just don't forget your ruby slippers, could be fun.

2:16 PM  
Blogger Cagey said...

LOVELY post - I knew you wouldn't disappoint although you had me so excited with the mention of backhoes and dumptrucks, you big tease!

I know now why I like reading your blog - it reminds me of my childhood. I grew up with a pile of boulders as high as the house (from the excavation for the foundation - my parents were too lazy to haul them away). My dad would mow out into the pasture and call that our "yard". I spent many hours whining to my parents about being bored and tired while they were planting or gardening. Our house was even threatened once by an out-of-control field burn but thankfully the wind turned.

2:19 PM  
Blogger K said...

Colin's going to be the only kid in his Grade 4 class with shovel blisters. I can't help but be proud.

3:37 PM  
Anonymous Kate W. said...

Teeheehee- I shouldn't laugh but who buys 13 TREES??!! I also shouldn't laugh because I am jealous AND since I have never touched a shovel to our yard, I do not know if we have rocks too... What about bulbs? Why don't you just plant bulbs? Maybe I should take a quick drive North and relieve you of some of your trees...or better yet, YOU drive South and show me how a shovel works! :)

10:14 PM  
Blogger Teri said...

I have the strangest feeling I shouldn't be laughing at you, m'dear, but I am, because damn but you are funny.
No, no, I am laughing with you, because I would never laugh at you.

10:44 PM  
Blogger listmaker said...

Ah, I love sitting here and gardening vicariously through you: no blisters, no back ache, endlessly amused....What are we planting next?

5:56 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

Christie- Oh, yes, poor kids. Just think of all this painful character building. Charles mows and mows and eyes the length of Colin's legs to see when they will reach the pedals (riding mower, many acres) and he can sit in air-conditioned comfort while the boy keeps the grass at bay. We do get a few tornados here, a town about 20 miles to the NE was hit hard last year. Yikes.

Cagey- For you, anything. The boulders sound so very cool. We had a couple about 3-4' high in our front yard as a kid, but yours sound positively cliff-like. Ours will stay forever submerged. Yikes! on the near miss from the field burn.

Kai- That's what I keep telling him, although all the farm kids must have even buffer blisters.

Kate- Ah bulbs. I love bulbs. Sadly, most bulbs are planted in the fall, when you are sick and tired of planting and gardening and just want to sit and look at the leaves blowing around, yet you drag your ass out and plant the damn things. Daffodils and such need the winter cold to make them bloom. In the spring, when you are champing at the bit and it keeps raining on you, is when you plant the other stuff. See? Now, get out that shovel and start practicing! Hup! Hup! Hup! (Or maybe you can borrow one of those teens Christie found?)

Teri- Laugh away. That way I won't be laughing alone. Charles? He's the one in the corner, muttering.

Listie- You don't fool me. I know you're dying to get all muddy and blistery, too. I think next, after the rest of the trees are in, we are (grrr) re-building the raised veggie bed which toppled a bit after the ground heaved this spring. Then! Time for the veggies and more perennials! As it will then be mid May. Oh. Wait. I forgot about needing to move the damn viburnum that was planted by the previous owners under a low window and will soon block it. That'll be some fun.

Planning, people! Plants grow.

8:31 AM  
Blogger Cagey said...

Our boulders were about 3' - 4' long and pretty flat. The pile itself was freakin' high. As a kid, it was fun to climb on and to examine the rocks for fossils. As an adult, I can see how whiskey and tango our yard looked! :-) The field burn WAS creepy - we lived next to a good 20 acres worth of blackened field for what seemed like FOREVER.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Karen said...

Just don't plant them too close to the septic tank! We've learned this past year what an incredible pain trees can be if planted too close to the septic tank.

Tree roots can grow into the lines and cost ya about $2K a crack to have fixed. Lots of digging and rotoring out of said lines can also destroy the yard surface.

Sorry for the bummer... trees are otherwise good and pretty and make fruit or shade (hmmm... shade, consider your garden when you plant) as required.


1:04 PM  
Blogger moegirl said...

You are strictly for the hardcore! I picture you now as kind of an elite special forces gardener- like the Navy SEALS, or better yet the green berets.

2:33 PM  
Blogger brooksba said...

Best of luck finding homes in the ground for the rest of the trees. It is a hard job. I just know your yard is going to be beautiful!

3:06 PM  
Blogger CarpeDM said...

I love you. You make me giggle. Lots.

Was Mad jealous as she watched you all frolic outside (okay, not exactly frolic but gosh, I love that word (especially when I pronounce it as freulich. It is more fun))?

11:44 PM  
Blogger Diana said...

Karen- Funny you should mention that. I was stopped from doing something that stupid by Charles. Never garden alone, is what I say.

Stacy- Oh, no. Not hardcore, just a dabbler. The guy in the navy that types the reports in the office. Jamie and others are the SEALS.

Beth- Thanks. I think what I need is some sort of sounding devece to be able to plot the rocks before we put shovel to earth.

Dana- At first, she hung out by the window, but gave it up for a bad job when our freuliching turned to sog. I'm sure she's still congratulating herself on her good sense.

7:10 AM  

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