Monday, April 19, 2010

No Pain, No Gain?

I'm going to break with tradition here and write a bit this morning. The reason for this will become clear by the time I reach the end of this story, so here goes:

Nanking Cherry in full bloom

On Sunday, we didn't get back out to the gardens until 1PM, but even with the late start, we were able to accomplish quite a bit. Joel took off early in the morning for kayaking with his friends and Dave left around noon, so we old folks were home alone. I was feeling rather poorly all day yesterday, with a headache that just didn't want to quit, but fresh air is a good cure for anything that ails me. The trouble is, the air wasn't all that fresh. We don't know when, why or how, but at some point Saturday night or early Sunday a skunk must have strolled through the back yard and left his calling card. Phewwwwww. Talk about strong perfume!

The stench was so strong right by the barn door, for a moment I thought we may have locked the varmint in the barn the night before by accident. But the barn is where the tools are I opened the door a crack, and then backed up and used a stick to open it fully. No skunk came out, but all day long the odor was intense. Kinda creeps you out; you think for sure there has to be a skunk right behind you. They are adorable little animals, with their small heads and long, bushy tail and once I saw a TV show where a family had one in the house. They said skunks make great pets, (though I imagine the house skunk/pet variety comes in an 'unscented' form?) Personally, I would like it if skunks came in more palatable odors, say, 'Mountain Fresh Pine' or 'Lilting Lemon', even 'Crushed Marigold Foliage' would be fine with me.

Some of our species tulips

Skunk or no skunk, we went to work. I walked both dogs up to Mom's and Carl met me with the Oldsmobile. I brought Joel's 184 with the tree spade and Carl brought the H back home. Then I walked the 1/4 mile back to Mom's to get the 574 because we had to move a large rock out of the way of the tree spade. The first thing we did was move the 'Donald Wyman' apple tree with the tree spade. I want to turn the area just north of the Elephant Burial Mound into lawn, and the tree was starting to outgrow the space. I don't want shade in a dwarf conifer garden, either. The tree used to stand where the patch of daffodils is in the photo below.

We decided to move the flowering crab out to our 'Adrian Walk' (the name is inspired by Adrian Bloom---I'm sure he would be appalled to see our attempt at recreating his gardening style. My apologies to Mr. Bloom) near the windmill on the north side of the yard.

We are trying to add a variety of woody plant material to the area to complement the spruce and white pines already there. Ok, it's another 'work in progress'.

We planted the tree:

Then Carl asked me if we were done moving trees and of course, my answer was no. We store our homemade 36" tree spade in my mother's farm machinery shed and it is difficult to get out of there, so whenever we do have it out in the yard, we like to put it to good use. The story of how the tree spade came to be would be another long one; the condensed version is this: Carl built it from scratch almost 15 years ago. The first few years we used a pile driver to slam each of the six shovels into the ground to move a tree--now that was WORK! Each shovel took over 15 minutes to hammer down into the ground and if you hit a root or a rock, well, then it took much longer. So, then Carl modified the spade and we bought hydraulic cylinders for each shovel allowing the operator to push a lever to operate the shovels up and down. How easy! Then, a year later, Carl decided he could put a power shift hydraulic attachment on the spade too, which allows the tree spade to be moved forward and backward and side to side by as much as 18" without having to get back on the towing tractor to adjust position. Now that is a real improvement. Our only regret is the machine is really not suited to move trees much above 3" caliper (or 3" around the trunk at six inches from ground level). But it works for us very well, especially since we can't seem to leave trees in one place for very long.

The next trees I wanted moved were three Thuja occidentalis 'George Peabody' cedars. We had planted 14 of them in a circle surrounding the area of the stone house construction when they were about 6" tall. We bought them from a grocery store in Green Bay, Cub Foods, probably ten years or so ago. I have read many gardening books which do not recommend using yellow trees in the landscape, or at least not too much yellow, but I didn't read those books until after the trees were planted, lol. Actually, in this situation with the dark green conifers behind them, they don't look too bad, albeit a bit formal.

If we EVER get the little garden cottage done (and no, it won't be this year, either) I thought the cedars set off the building rather nicely and was going to try my hand at 'cottage gardening'. Just a side note here, I was reading Adrian Bloom's newest book, 'Bloom's Best Perennials and Grasses: Expert Plant Choices and Dramatic Combinations for Year-round Gardens' and laughed out loud when I read his comment on cottage gardening, loosely quoted, "The first step in cottage gardening is to acquire a cottage." Well, we are trying to build a cottage, so does that count?

The three trees I wanted to move were in the right place before the garden changed around them, as is so often the case around here. Following are some pictures of the trees before the move and where we wanted to move them to:

We have been trying to cut down on the upkeep of the gardens as we grow older, but yesterday's move may well be another up-keeping nightmare. The stone wall behind the cedars was just put in last summer. The area used to be a hosta bed until we decided it was better to have the barn closer to the house and moved it last July (another post for another day, lol) so we removed hundreds of hostas and decided to turn it into a mini vegetable garden (and I mean mini).

Anyway, by putting the three cedars close to the stone wall, we have a mowing issue. So, I decided to strip all the sod and will plant some H. albomarginata (the green and white hosta) up against the wall and around the cedars, removing the need to mow or weed whack the area. At least, that's the plan...Carl was all for removing the stone wall! but I know how long it took to build it (actually we built half of it twice last summer, yeah, I know another story).

Carl's comment on this sod removal was, "I thought we were trying to make the gardens smaller," which was also Dale's take on it when he stopped in at around 3PM, "Every time you guys say 'this will cut down on work' you make MORE work for yourselves." Ok, they're both right, but this will work, just wait and see. I hope....

We worked until dusk and then repeated the process with the tractors: Carl took the 184 and tree spade back to Mom's shed and I followed with the 574. While Carl was putting the spade away, I walked back home the 1/4 mile to get the H.

And here's where the part about no pain, no gain and me writing in the morning comes in: as I walked across our lawn, the dew had already fallen and I had wet, muddy shoes. I don't have a picture here, but the H is a very tall, 1953 model tractor. When you are seated on it, you are close to five feet off the ground (which gives you a wonderful view, by the way). We have a grader blade mounted on the back of the tractor and there's a metal mount which sits at an odd angle to the tractor itself. In order to get on the tractor, you have to climb up on top of the grader blade and step from the blade to the seat platform.

Somehow, and I'm still not clear how, but my right foot slipped off the grader blade just as I stepped up to the platform with my left foot, causing my right shin to smash into the steel drawbar. I had been gripping the fender with my left hand but couldn't hang on, effectively pulling all the muscles in my left arm and shoulder when I fell.

Oh, I wasn't done yet (and I wish this would have been on video, because it must have been quite the sight, lol) I went reeling backward only to crash into the grader blade which was right behind me which then knocked me off of my feet, causing some very painful bruises to the calves of my legs.  I flipped over the grader blade backwards in a very non-graceful fashion, landing on my left shoulder.  At least the lawn was soft.

It all happened so fast, one minute I'm trying to clamber up on the tractor, the next minute I'm lying on the lawn in agony. My right leg was in extreme pain, and I wasn't sure what the damages were yet. There's only one way to find out, and I did what I always do in these situations, I stood up to see if I could 'walk it off'. After hobbling around in circles for a few minutes moaning to myself, I determined I had no major breakages anywhere, and this time, CAREFULLY climbed back up on the tractor and drove it home.

When I got to Mom's shed, Carl wanted to know what took me so long, and then when I told him he was kinda upset. "You should have waited for me!"

I said, "Yeah, too bad I didn't, you could have gotten some action pictures for the blog."

This morning, when I crawled (literally) out of bed, I now know which muscles were insulted yesterday! I have a lump on my right leg the size of a baseball and my left arm feels like I was doing one-handed pullups all day, there are some bruises I don't even know how to account for, but, hey, I'm still hobbling. And they say gardening is good for you?

It only hurts when I move. Ouch.

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