Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tufa on the move


You may or not remember I promised to talk about the stone wall we moved a few weeks ago. First, here's some history on how we came to find this stone:
Close ups of this fascinating stone
Around 1993, a friend of ours worked for a company which had recently purchased a former convent and were remodeling the buildings and grounds for their new business.  Situated on the grounds was a huge pile of odd-looking rocks, many of which had concrete adhered to them.  Our friend knew we have an addiction to rocks, and his employer was far from thrilled with this pile of stone they had to mow the grass around, so he asked us if we would be interested in taking them off their hands.  If we didn't want them, they were going to haul them somewhere for landfill.


Carl and I took a look at them one Friday afternoon and thought they were the strangest stones we'd ever seen.  At first glance, they looked like a pile of broken concrete sitting in the weeds, but when we looked closer, we saw all the odd formations in them.  The stones ranged in size from a medium potato to the size of a laundry basket; and they were all different; some with moss growing on them and many of them with bits of concrete attached.  The stone was extremely porous, very abrasive to the touch and lighter than any other stone of its size.  I was smitten with it immediately, but surprisingly, Carl was not.

"It's ugly," he said.


Well, that amazed me!  Normally Carl was thrilled with any stone, especially if it was free.  I gently suggested we could take a few of them home and see if we could use it for something.  (Ok, I nagged.)  We filled up the Mighty Buick's trunk and back seat (Carl's 1991 Buick Century---may she rest in peace, such a wonderful vehicle--was useful right up until 2008 and almost 200,000 miles) until the car hung down alarmingly and headed for home.

After looking at the stone at home, we weren't sure where we would put it or what we could use it for.  It wasn't until Carl tried dry-stacking a few of the stones and discovered how well they stuck together that he was excited about it, we could make some garden walls!  He told our friend we would take the entire pile.  So, every night after work for sixty days, Carl brought home a ton of the stone on our trusty homemade trailer pulled behind the Mighty Buick.

That is how we came to be the owners of over sixty tons of weird rocks which, after a bit of research, turned out to be tufa.  I wish I had a picture to share here, but it turns out our tufa was once a beautiful stone grotto for a Catholic church.   The grotto stood for decades near the site of the pile it ended up on.  I'm not sure why or how or when it was dismantled, but the picture I saw of it was truly amazing; it had been a huge structure. 

The first thing we built with the tufa was a wall in front of the house and up and over the culvert for our driveway.  I wish I had the time to fish out all of the old photos, because things looked SO different then, but here's what it looks like now:
The first wall we built in 1993.
The stone stacks very well and has held up all these years.  Oh, occasionally, one or two will fall, but it's not a big deal to just restack them.  Carl made an arch out of metal over the culvert and stacked the tufa on the  arch so it looks a little fancier.  We planted 'Albomarginata' hostas in front of the wall and have never had to edge or weed the area since.

The other side of the driveway culvert
We built many walls of tufa all over the yard, and have removed many of them and relocated them as the garden changes.  One nice thing about the stone is it's rather light weight (though a laundry basket sized one will be way over 100 pounds)  and the fact you don't need mortar to hold it together, so it's fairly portable.  We had to move a large wall last year when we put in the geothermal and found a home for it right away, on the east side of the yard, bordering the hosta bed:
Wall moved from one side of our yard to the other: September 2009

Since the geothermal construction a year ago and the removal of the entire hosta bed on the west side and the addition of the new Pachyberm, there was still a lonely, 50' long  tufa wall being slowly consumed by the annual growth of the blue spruce trees:
West side of yard, new lawn where geothermal was put in, poor tufa wall, being eaten!
So, a few weeks ago, I got a bee in my bonnet and 'suggested' (ok, I nagged again!) that we move the tufa wall out of the area pictured above and put it near the other ones in the hosta beds.  Once again, I was met with resistance, Carl didn't want to CAC (Create A Crisis) with me.  What??  Our marriage is based on these wild goose chases, we've almost got 32 years in, how can he back out on a good, dysfunctional landscaping chore now?   I don't always win these arguments, trust me, but this time I did.  I also have to admit that I only moved two trailers of the stone by myself; Ann was here to help Carl with the rest of it while I was out weeding the garden, which was SO very nice of her!

Not Too Thrilled Carl, loading up the first trailer
This is where I wanted to rebuild the wall
We had moved dozens and dozens of hostas when we put the geothermal in and the bed above was the recipient.  I thought it would look nice to edge it in tufa:
Getting a good start
Leaving the old area and headed to the new area

More wall in place
Getting farther along ......
View from opposite direction
Heading south and making the corner
Around the corner--looking back north
Joining up with the wall we moved last fall
Slowly leaving the former site
On left:  Old wall in place 1993.  On right: New Wall relocated from west side of the yard.
Seen from road (wish I had dead-headed the 'Surprise Lilies'--the stems look like reinforcing, but they're just lily stems!

I wish I could take a picture of the entire wall, but with all of the tufa walls taken into account around here, there's about 350 feet total.  You'll just have to come and see for yourselves some day.  This last 50 foot section took about three days to complete, but the days were broken up by the heavy rains we have been experiencing, so the actual time frame was more like two and a half weeks.  My thanks to Ann for her help reconstructing this and, of course, to Carl, for putting up with my nagging!

Poor Carl has handled this rock so many, many times, and he's not getting any younger.  In 1993, when we first brought the tufa home,  he was 35 years old and I agree with him, gravity is getting heavier every year, not to mention rocks!  Now, at 52, I am asking him to move this stuff again, and though he puts up a token grumpy front, he still obliges because he says he likes the way it looks, too.  If Ann hadn't been available to help him out, I would have been, I didn't expect him to have to move all this alone.  (I'm not that much of a nag....well, not quite...!)

And this leads me up to our present CAC-------(what, you didn't think I was done with my nagging yet, did you?)  what to put in place of the tufa we just took out on the west side.  Look how bare it looks!
West side of house where the tufa was located--hmmmmm...........I think we need some big limestone in and around this area to match the Pachyberm..
Once again, Carl was not happy about my next idea...I want to add some big rocks to this area  Last fall, when we had the 250 tons of limestone delivered it was dumped on our north and east lot lines and there are still hundreds of them lurking in the weeds, waiting for placement.  We need to mow the lawn where they've been sitting and I figure why not place them in their new homes right away?  Carl wanted to make a big pile of them out in the Back Eight, but my thoughts are this:  if we are handling them once anyway to make a pile of them, we might as well put them where they can be seen and useful, right?

So, tonight we began the next step, putting more big limestone in on the west side of the thouse.  It should be fun!  (Trying to cheer Carl up, ha ha)      Here's the first BIG rock to arrive Tuesday night:
What a beauty, and very, very heavy, the old Manley Wrecker is doing it's best, but it's a lot to ask
Tires are pretty squishy!
Ok, now it's way later than I wanted it to be again....we didn't get in from outside tonight until nearly 9:00PM and I just had to post this silly update.  Tonight we worked on thinning out some of the shrubs and trees on the back of the Quarry hill.  What a disaster, and we have a long way to go with that area before it's worthy of the upcoming wedding photography.

When the mosquitoes got too bad behind the quarry, we decided to move some stones to the Pachyberm site.  We really don't know what we're going to do yet, though we did limb up one of the blue spruces in the area, only to find it looked hideous, so we pulled the entire tree down instead, cut it up and ended the night with a campfire and hotdogs for supper.  Ann joined us after a grueling 14 hours of work at her job, I don't know how she does it. 

We're in for more rain later this week, but tomorrow I will spend the day hauling stone from the piles to the area if the rain holds off.  If I can get it all over there, then we can pick and choose and decide just what look we're striving for.

I'll end this long post with a coupla shots of the Pachyberm now that my annuals finally are starting to show some color.  
Plants and rocks go together so well (and I can sit on the rocks while I weed!)

Good night!

Karen

6 comments:

FlowerLady said...

My gosh, I just don't see how you and Carl and Ann do all this, and after working all day at jobs. Getting older does have a way of letting you know you're not as young as you once were, especially when it comes to lifting things.

I love all of your rocks and flowers, and what an amazing haul the tufa was, and what a great history too. The walls are wonderful!

Don't work too hard, take time to enjoy all that beauty that you work so hard to create. It is beautiful and peaceful.

FlowerLady

Gatsbys Gardens said...

You guys are fantastic! I love the look of that rock, and it's hard to believe it is so light. I have a place in Wisconsin where they found huge rocks as they excavated so they used them to build walls like yours on the property. It really looks neat.

Eileen

Alice Joyce said...

Incredibly impressive landscaping. A wonderful eye for structure and design.

Delighted to follow your blog on Blotanical, but I'll sign on here too, to get it in my reader.
Cheers!
Alice
aka Alice's Garden Travel Buzz / Bay Area Tendrils

Granny Lyn's Garden said...

Hi Karen,
Thanks much for your comments on my blog, Gardening in the UP. You are my first "follower" and I'm thrilled. Now ...... about your gardens, I just can't find the words to tell you how much I love them. I love ROCKS , my family thinks I'm crazy cause I'm always scrounging for rocks. Your story about hauling the tufa is so familiar to me,only in much, much less quanity. I hauled rock from my dads in the trunk and back seat of my car also. :) I would also find them in our woods , when I couldn't lift them , I rolled the rocks onto a make shift skid and dragged them. A few years ago we had a large white pine blow over in our woods and I was so excited cause it unearthed some nice size flat rock. Most of my rock tho, looks like pea gravel compared to yours. lol Your borders take my breath away. I can't quit looking at your pictures.
I also love Hostas but I don't have much shade. I do have a few and have trimmed up my blue spruce to make more space.
So you see, you have my dream landscaping lots of rock and Hostas. Thanks to this blogging world I just found, I can visit your garden everyday.

God Bless,Lynda

Karen said...

Hi FlowerLady, I don't work outside the home, so I have no excuse not to have the garden work done (and the housework either!) but I still get behind. (I think I blog too much.) Thank you!

Eileen, thank you, too. Rocks are our favorite garden accessories, I'd love to see pictures of yours!

Alice, thank you and glad to meet you!

Lynda, how wonderful to meet you and can't wait to explore your gorgeous gardens, too! I am so honored to be your first follower!!

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