Monday, November 8, 2010

How This All Started, Part 8

When we last left the story, things had frozen up for the year around the first week in December, 2002.  I then had to hightail it into the house and get ready for Christmas which was upon me before I knew it.  Carl was thinking that since we couldn't work on rock anymore, he would work on something to make rock placement easier.   His idea was to build a wrecker, like the kind used to pull cars out of the ditch.  We knew of a guy who owned a metal scrapyard and we paid him a visit.  Carl hoped to find some pipe at the scrap yard to build his own wrecker, but found something else even better sitting in some brush in the guy's woods.

He found a Manley Wrecking Crane, seen below.

This crane was originally built to lift 3000 pounds maximum, though we have pushed it well over the load limit many times.  There was no trailer under the crane, so Carl had to build one for it, using axles off on an old hay baler and the tires (one snow tire, and one regular tire) off of Carl's 1967 Buick LeSabre.  Not the prettiest machine at first sight, but it certainly worked like a charm (and still does--we just got done using it on the Thing Garden a few weeks ago, hoisting more rocks).  

Manley Wrecking Crane with Dave perched on top 2003

The wrecker cost us $75, the best $75 we have ever spent!  It made picking up and placing big rocks much easier, even though we had to crank the rocks up by hand.  What an awesome piece of equipment, we couldn't wait to try it out.

We were so glad to see Spring 2003 roll around so we could get going again.  But we were also getting a bit nervous; when we had finally moved all 100 tons of stone down here from Mom's old cow yard, we realized we were almost out of the big rocks already and we weren't even a quarter of the way around the project yet.  Carl began substituting with stone from the pallets here and there, using two or three smaller ones in place of one big one, but this was not the look he was going for. 

We were running out of rock.

I called the rock hauler guy again, but he wasn't as happy to hear from me as the last time....(remember the hole in his dump truck?  He did.)  Though not thrilled, he said he could probably be able to bring us some more rock in about three weeks.  Three weeks in Contractor Speak can mean anywhere from three weeks to three months...we were starting to get really nervous.  And what if he thought about it some more and decided it wasn't worth the bother?  

Late March, 2003, still some ice on the pond/puddle

As luck would have it, just as the rock supply was getting critical, C the Excavator stopped in with his family on a Sunday afternoon in early April to see how things were going.  Our quarry project interested C, who had a new, gorgeous home and was also working on landscaping to match.  He is the consummate Do-It-Yourselfer, although he has the specialized big equipment that we lack.  When he watched us moving stones with the crowbars and wooden blocks, he just chuckled, we are an endless source of amusement to him.  Not in a mean-spirited way, though---we knew how crazy it was to take this job on with a lone farm tractor and a pair of sturdy crowbars, too.

C asked, "Carl, why are you using such small rocks?  I thought you wanted to build this thing out of big stuff?"

Carl assured him we certainly did want the 'big stuff', but told him about the near impossibility of acquiring any stone at all without getting the assorted rubble of gravel and small stones when the guy loading the trucks at the quarry just scoops up a bucket full and loads them on a truck.  At the time, we were paying $3.50 a ton for the 100 tons we had gotten the previous November plus delivery, and yes, alot of the tonnage was in the unusable broken chunks and gravel.  But still, we thought we were lucky.

"Well, I've been thinking about this project of yours all winter.  I'm going to be needing some big rock, too, for my own yard," C said.  (He was building a fantastic hillside rock garden in terraces, it is drop-dead gorgeous!)   "How about I go to the quarry and load you up some rocks one at a time?  I'll just pick through the piles and load up whatever size you figure you can handle.  I have a guy who owns his own dump trucks and works with me.  I'll load one for you and one for me."

C lives a half-mile from the quarry our stone was coming from and had done work there, removing  topsoil to piles for them so the rock would be exposed, so they knew him very well.

He continued, "If you want, you can come down to the quarry and kinda point at what size of rock you want, I guess, but you have to stay in your car.  There's rules about people being in there.  And, I can use some more trees, how about you pay for the stone and the hauler and the trees will be my pay for loading?"

Oh, what a deal!!  We were ecstatic.  I called our former hauler and told him we wouldn't be needing him to bring any more stone.  He was relieved, I could tell.  A week later, the first truck pulled in at Mom's loaded with absolutely wonderful, big, rocks.  No more gravel to dig around in, this was clean and gorgeous.

There was a complication, though.  The dump truck driver/owner was not happy.  This was hard on his equipment, very hard.  We were allowed into the quarry to watch C load up the first two loads, so I brought the boys along after school one day to watch.  C would pick up a two ton rock with his big excavator and just as gently as possible set the rock in the bed of the dump truck.  But despite his careful handling, there's an incredible impact from even six inches in the air when the stone leaves the excavator bucket and hits the truck bottom.  The trucks were a bit older and the boxes had a lot of wear and tear on them already, and this wasn't helping matters any.  The truck was shaken roughly every time a big rock was put on it.  C would load the truck until the rock was level with the sides of the box, about 20 tons worth.  It doesn't look like many rocks, really, but boy, they quickly add up in weight. 

C was picking out much bigger pieces for his own garden project since he had the equipment to handle them.  But for our purposes, he had to stay in the 3000-5000 pound range since we are so limited by our ability to handle anything much bigger, though we did get a few really big ones, which were Carl's favorites.  I was erring on the side of caution and looking for stone a bit more our size while Carl was pushing for the bigger the better, once again, pessimist/optimist styles in action.

The boys and I (Carl was still at work)  followed the dump truck home from the quarry and we were there to see the rock unloaded.  It is an incredible sight to witness; when stone that size comes out of the back of a raised dump truck, the noise and vibration of the ground is unbelievable.  The boys were thrilled, and so was I!

The truck driver wasn't though.  He climbed stiffly out of the cab before the dust even settled.  "How many loads of this crap do you want?"

"Six," I said.

"SIX?!" he sputtered, "I already have a sore neck from the truck hopping around when he drops them in...!  What in the world are you doing with this stuff, anyway?  This is way too hard on my trucks.  I'm gonna have a talk with C," and he climbed back into his truck and headed back to the quarry.

While he was gone, the boys and I clambered all over the rock, admiring this one and that one, oh, what fun the job was going to be now.  But my heart had sunk when I heard this might be the last load we'd be getting.  But, apparently, C talked the truck driver into keeping the stone coming, because we did get our six loads, 120 more tons, that day.  As soon as the sixth load was off the truck, I hopped up on the driver's running boards and paid him right on the spot.  He seemed a little happier then, but not much.

When Carl came home from work, we just walked around and around the piles, Carl was just as thrilled as we were when he saw it, though he said maybe we should have asked for even bigger stuff.  I told him we had way more than we could handle with some of the bigger ones already, and he grudgingly agreed.  There was a bit of breakage; when rocks that size clunk together out of a raised dump truck, they break on impact, but this was the nicest stone we had ever seen.
Carl & the new rocks, 2003
Like before, we had to sort this stone out by size again, more pallets, more pulling apart the piles with the tractor.

The next area we started working on was the waterfall.  We really weren't sure how this was going to look as we had nothing down on paper, so like everything else, we winged it.  Using the wrecker made life a lot easier, here I am, backing a rock into place over the cliff for the waterfall,  April 2003:
Don't want to back up too far and lose the rock over the edge!
The first rocks ended up being placed right in the water of the pond for a base.  Joel donned some waders and climbed into the cold, muddy water:
Talk about dedication to a job, we never could have built this garden without Joel!  He is 16 years old here. Notice the rigging of chains on the rock; this is something Carl is especially good at and I'm not.  To hook up a big rock and have it stay in the chains is quite the skill.  But we have had a few slip and fall once in awhile, that's why you never stand under or too close to a rock in the air.  (No one suffered any broken bones or crushed appendages in the making of the quarry garden.) 

The waterfall was a pain to build.  And we've already been giving some thought to remodeling it in the future, but here was the process as it went on and on:

Look like fun??

As the weather warmed up a bit, the boys did take some time out to goof around in the puddle a bit--all I can say is yuck--not exactly pristine pond water.
The next step would be building the back wall of the quarry, but once again, we'd not planned it out very well.  Because we did not want to cut down the Scotch pines behind the pond, we had to figure out how to get rocks in place to form the wall without being able to drive a tractor or the wrecker in the area.  Carl had to rig the rocks much more carefully, and have another cable hooked on to a come-along to pull the rocks sideways so we could work around the trees.  The sad part is, we worked so hard to place the rock this way and the trees ended up being pulled down in a year anyway because we added the North Hill. 

Now the rocks for the base are in place, starting by placing the top layers:

The next big rocks for the waterfall were much harder to place.  This stone is over 5000 pounds and Carl wanted it to project a little bit out over the edge.  I know it might be hard to see, but the tractor is all the way across the pond on the south side of the quarry with a long series of chains spanning the distance.  Carl and Joel were using high-lift jacks to raise the stone and I would pull with the tractor across the pond to ease this big stone forward without pulling it all the way into the quarry.  We were lucky and never lost one in the water.
Hot weather was now upon us, and in this picture, Joel is showing signs of fatigue.  The waterfall is giving us nothing but trouble.

More rocks on the waterfall platform...I don't remember how many weeks it took just to build this part, but I know it was a long time.

Joel bringing in more stone for the waterfall.

 In May of 2003, while we were building the waterfall, we realized we were going to need the sand we had so foolishly had C haul all the way up to the woods on our Back Eight acres.  Why didn't we just have the sand piled up behind the hole when we had the quarry dug?  Because hindsight is always 20/20.  We did not have a tractor with a loader on it, so every load of sand we had to bring back was pitched on by hand, and I did lose a lot of weight that spring!  We realized we were going to eventually need probably all 30 dump truck loads back to the quarry site again, so the thought of pitching hundreds of tons of sand by hand was not appealing.

One day, on our way home from a shopping excursion, I spotted an old tractor by the side of the road for sale.  We stopped in and it was love at first sight for me.  The tractor was a 1954 Super H Farmall and it had a loader attachment on it!  At one time, my father had three Farmall H tractors on this farm, but had sold all of them--I still am looking for his original tractor yet, but haven't had luck finding it.  I grew up driving H's and
for $1400, I had my very own Super H (The Super H was a tad bit heavier with a little more horsepower).  We went back the next day and I drove it the thirteen miles home.  I didn't find out until after I bought it though, that the brakes weren't the greatest and in need of adjustment...thank goodness dropping the front bucket on the tractor stopped me so I didn't go sailing through the traffic lights at the busy intersection just down the road from the seller.

So now we had our own tractor with a loader, no more loading sand by hand.....

In the above picture, Carl is driving the Super H, pushing Joel on the 574 up the sand hill to place a waterfall rock.
No it's not a tractor accident, just more rock placing.

I nagged Carl into letting me put a hose on top of the waterfall rock to see what it would be like. 

The chain in the above picture is hooked to the Super H on the other side of the quarry, here I'm pulling with my unseen tractor while Carl and Joel are placing the rock.

The waterfall and back wall are nearly complete here, Dave is standing on top of the waterfall rock and Joel is below.
Summer is starting to wane here, again, heading into fall of 2003.  Almost a year into the project, and running short on rocks again. 

There's still more to come on this; I hope I'm not boring everyone to tears!  Part 9, up next.


Toni - Signature Gardens said...

Once again, this is absolutely fascinating to see the progression of this project. Keep 'em coming! I'm hooked now :-)

Darla said...

A lot of HARD work here. Dedication to see a project through!

Granny Lyn's Garden said...

This is so interesting ,I love the H ,we had on the dairy farm where I grew up. You are my hero!!! Such a big job !

Sall's Country Life said...

Such a massive project! The fact that C showed up, and you finding a loader, and no accidents...Is it luck or is it destiny? And your Carl is a genius to make your own rock mover the way he did. It's all so fascinating, keep it coming!!

xoxoxo said...

I look forward every morning for each part while I drink my coffee!

Dan said...

I'm loving this series of how you built it. Once in a while my thoughts yell,"are they crazy?"... I'm sure you have never heard that before. ha Thanks for the inspiration!

Alison said...

What hard work this was. Kudos to all of you, especially for not giving up, and for pursuing your vision. So glad you managed to find a way to get the kind of rocks you wanted.

FlowerLady said...

I can feel your excitement in getting your tractor with the front loader. What a great tool!

This is not boring in the least, it is exciting and fascinating.


Shirley said...

Great progress! You are so diligent! Aren't you glad now though?

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Karen, you are so focused. Not many would have stayed with such an enormous beautiful project.