Saturday, November 6, 2010

How This All Started, Part 7

Back in 2002, when we started the Quarry project, there wasn't much call for big rocks in landscaping jobs around our area yet.  We were sort of on the cutting edge for once in our lives.  The trend didn't start in a big way until a few years later when some very expensive housing developments sprang up closer to the bigger cities. One entrepreneurial landscaper put a huge stone waterfall display (it is gorgeous, by the way, one of the best I've ever seen, with thousands of tons of limestone and mature trees) right out on the freeway where thousands of people saw it every day.  Then requests for big stones became common.  

But let's back up.  When last we left poor me, I was sitting by the phone in the kitchen, staring into space.  Oh-oh.  This might be harder than we thought.

Carl came in the house just then and asked, "Well, what did you find out?"

"I found out they don't bring big rocks to your door."

We kicked this unfortunate fact around the ballpark for awhile after I explained to him how the conversation with Tim the Quarry Man went.  But, gee whiz, were we going to get all discouraged over just one call?  Alrighty, then, the quarry I just talked to won't bring me big rocks, so let's try the next one in the phone book. 

And I did.  The next quarry and the next, same story.  I did refine my asking style a little bit so I didn't sound so pathetic, I mean really--'Hi, we want to build a quarry in our back yard'?  I decided not to explain what we were going to do with the big rocks, but had no better luck..

I called C the excavator back again to ask for his thoughts, this is now the second time in the few short hours since he dug the hole for us.

"Well, no luck, huh?   I don't know what to tell you, either.  You'll have to see if you can find somebody willing to haul that for you, but I warn you ahead of time, not just anybody will do it.  It's really hard on equipment."  But C did give me some names of contractors who owned dump trucks to call.

Rocks the size we wanted, ranging in size from 1000 to 5000 pounds, are, as C said, incredibly hard on equipment from the loader picking up the rock to the dump truck for hauling it.  There are dump trucks with special 'rock boxes' which are designed to withstand the tremendous load shock when a big rock is dumped into the back of the truck, but not many people owned those trucks around here.

A few agonizing weeks went by and lots of phone calls before I finally found a contractor who said he'd be willing to go the quarry for us, even though his trucks didn't have rock boxes.  I told him what we were trying to build and what kind of stone we needed, the bigger the better please.

He said, "Well, I ain't gonna hand pick this rock out for you.  I'm gonna send my driver to the quarry and tell him to tell them he wants blast rock.  The quarry is probably going to use their big front end loader and whatever they scoop up from the blast pile is what you're going to get." 

Ok, beggars can't be choosers.  We were finally going to get some rocks. 

The first seven dump truck loads, around 100 tons total, arrived early in November.  On the very first load, the dumptruck box had a hole punched through it from the impact of the rocks being loaded.  We couldn't have the stone unloaded here in our yard, because we had no place to dump them.  At the time, we had only one driveway into our property, so I talked to Mom and she agreed to let the stone be delivered to the old cement cowyard where the barn used to stand.

I was there as each load was dumped, and it was quite the experience.  The earth literally moved when those stones hit the ground.  There were a lot of big stones on the loads, but there was also a whole lot of rubble too, because the quarry loader guy did just what they said he would, scooped up a bucket full of stone and what ever we got, we got.  Since we were paying by the ton, we paid for stone we really couldn't use, which was a waste, but at least we had some stone to work with.

The first seven loads
In the picture above, Joel is checking out the stone.  Now we could get started.  But first we had to sort through the rubble to find the big stuff.  And the next job was to haul the stone the 1/4 mile to our construction site.  At this time, the only tractor we owned was my late father's 52 horsepower tractor, the 574, which Carl fitted with forklift teeth.  The tractor is capable of lifting 3000 pounds, but it is hard on it.  If the tractor could lift a rock, I would get it on the tractor and head down our farm lane to our site.  One rock at a time, and hundreds of trips later, we brought the stone in.  If the tractor couldn't completely lift a stone, I would back under the rock with the forklift teeth and Carl or Joel would hook a chain to the back of the rock and I'd basically drag the rock home down the lane.

While Carl and Joel were at school and work, I spent my days pitching the really small stones that we couldn't use on our old dumping trailer, usually a ton a day, and hauled them to the low spots on the farm lane, in attempt to fill the holes.  Carl brought home some wooden pallets, and the rock I could lift or roll end over end was put on the pallets.  When I had a full pallet, I would back under it with the forklift teeth and drive the pallet home.

The first pallets of rock and the Barn in it's new home.
I was trying to get the rock home so when Carl and Joel were home at night we could get some stone placed.  As I worked at Mom's during the day, it was just like Christmas when I'd pitch off a whole bunch of small rocks and gravel and hit something big in the pile with my crowbar.  Hooking up the chain to the exposed end, I'd pull ahead slowly with the tractor and wait to see the size of the rock I was dealing with.  When the tractor couldn't pull it, I knew we had a big one.  Carl would call home on his lunch hour and ask anxiously how many rocks I found in the pile that day. 

Every night when Carl got home from work and the boys got home from school, we'd go out and place rocks in the quarry-to-be.  We really didn't know where to start, so we just randomly picked a spot and got going.  It takes a long time to place stones, at least the way we do it.  We'd drag the rock as close as we could to where we were working and then unhook it.  Then, we'd use crowbars and wooden blocks to 'walk' the stone over by hand into the finished position.  We were lucky to get two placed a night.
Joel bringing rock down the ramp with tractor.

In the picture above, you can see the pond had filled in fairly well.  It was hard to decide where to start and stop the stone placement, since we had no idea what the eventual water level would be.  We had left a ramp when C dug the hole so we could get the tractor down there.  The ladder was used to get out of the hole on the west side before we placed the other staircase.  Not very pretty, is it?

Below, is a picture of the same area about two years later:

The days were so short in November and getting very cold.  While driving the tractor down the lane with rocks, my hands would be freezing, so I'd stand up and grab the muffler with my gloved hands, holding them there long enough for the heat to permeate the gloves.  Carl didn't get home til almost 4PM, and we had less than an hour of daylight left by then, so we buried an old tree trunk in the quarry sand with a light bulb and worked in the dim light until we couldn't feel our feet or fingers anymore.

The main staircase going out toward the house.
The work crew--cold and getting dark out.
The west staircase

 Can you find Screech Kitty in the picture above?  He was finding the construction to be very interesting.

Teddy Dog found it to be great fun, too, and was constantly covered in sand.

You can see ice on the pond in this December picture and the trees that I just had to plant in the area before the work was done.  Yes, I jumped the gun on the planting, but I was so anxious to see how it would look with trees. 

East side with new trees

West side construction

December 8, 2002   As far as we would get that year.

Finally, the weather forced us to quit for the season.  We had a mild winter for Wisconsin that year and the ground didn't really freeze solid until around the first week in December. The rocks were frozen down and the sand was impossible to shovel.  It sure was hard to quit, though, this was a dream coming true.  I couldn't believe it was only a few weeks until Christmas.  We had never gardened this long before.

What a difference eight years makes in a garden.

Stay tuned (if you're interested) for Spring 2003.



Ellada said...

Amazing job.

Toni - Signature Gardens said...

This is an absolutely mind-boggling amount of work you have accomplished! AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!! Next time I go visit my family in Wisconsin, can I come visit your garden?? Seriously! We live in Central WI, but the Green Bay area is just a couple hours away. I am just blow away by the end result, and your vision and perseverance to get there. And the fact that you had your family involved in the process. said...

That's a lot of rock!!!!!

Teddy dog looks so small framed by the huge tractor tire tracks. Bet he needed a bath.

FlowerLady said...

Oh my gosh Lady Karen. You are some hard worker, rocks weigh, I know. I've not moved the monsters that you have but have moved my share of rocks.

I am really loving this series of the quarry's beginning.

Thank you so much for taking the time to put this all together.

Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

Granny Lyn's Garden said...

Amazing, such a big job. I am sooooo impressed!!

Shirley said...

What a worker you are! Tackling what you did on your own and then you and Carl working into the dark and in the cold. Definitely a labour of love. It is beautiful; all you dreamed of and more, I'm sure.

Meadowsweet Cottage said...

I'm having so much fun reading about your quarry. I love your can-do attitude--taking chances has resulted in a garden you can brag about. Looking forward to the next chapter.

Glad I found you after you found me from Hocking Hill Gardener, tee-hee!

Darla said...

This is AMAZING like everyone else has commented. I do enjoy the 'real' stories behind a garden though. I too would love to visit your gardens in person....

Karen said...

Ellada, thank you.

Toni,anytime you would like to visit, we look forward to seeing you, and thank you so much!

Donna, yes, Teddy was always in need of a bath (and still is).

FlowerLady, I'm glad you're enjoying the story so far; I know you have done a lot of rock work over the years in your beautiful garden, too!

Granny Lyn, your pond and waterfall is beautiful, too and I would love to see it in person...we have to arrange a tour.

Shirley, thank you, building this garden was a challenge and now we see things we'd do differently, but it was fun. Carl and Joel deserve the most credit.

Meadowsweet Cottage (love that name, by the way) Thank you, and I'm glad I found you, too!

Darla, thank you. You know you would be welcome any time. I'm trying to let 'it all hang out' in showing the non-glamorous side of gardening...more on that to come. ;')

jennifer said...

Those are some incredible stones!!

Meredehuit ♥ said...

Such hard work, Karen. How nice to see the fruit of your labors.

Zoey said...

Hi Karen,
I am glad I am reading this at night because all that work makes me tired!

You all have so much to be proud of. What an accomplishment!

fer said...

Love this story, It shows that with determination you can get your dream come true
It is a very beautiful landscape

Karen said...

Hello Jennifer & Meredhuit, thank you, glad you're enjoying the story.

Zoey & fer, thank you both, too, it was quite the adventure, if nothing else. Now I need to get it all ready for winter.

Sall's Country Life said...

Well, now I'm convinced you're all totally nuts!! OMG, Karen, what a back hurts just reading about it. The fact that your whole family is so determined and willing to see the quarry dream to reality is a testament to you! Definitely, a labor of love and a family that loves to work!
I'm anxiously awaiting the next chapter.