Monday, August 29, 2011

Downsizing? Ok, maybe not.

The weekend is over.  I was just looking online for news reports of Hurricane Irene and hope everyone affected by the storm came through unharmed.  Living here in the Rust Belt, we have never experienced a hurricane and I don't feel slighted in the least.  The occasional tornado is enough madness and mayhem for us. 

So, the weekend in review, let's see.  Well, Carl and I worked on the Rock Grove (Toni over at Signature Gardens had a better name for this project 'Spruced Up Garden') and if it turns out to be a place of beauty, I think we'll have a new name for the area.  Thank you, Toni! The jury is out on whether it was an improvement over what we had before, but we needed to find a place to put all the field stone. We both liked the idea of mimicking the stone walls found along pastures up near Waupaca where you can almost walk across an acre of land and never touch the ground for all the rocks.

So to achieve this look,  we had to get the rocks out of the Formal Garden.  There were over 300 down there, but we were down to the last 203 medium-sized ones.  Joel's tractor worked great for most of them, but a few were much too heavy for it.  For the bigger ones, we had to use the 574.  What fun it was maneuvering the bigger tractor down in the tight area.  Come along and take a look:
I've just backed down the ramp and am starting to back around the circle.  Thank goodness all the plants have been taken out on the left side so I have a place to put that big wheel.
The target? That black rock.  Though it doesn't look all that big, it's a heavy beast.
Ok, all forked up and ready to go.  I've been driving this particular tractor since I was 14 years old and it's like driving a car to me.  I never had to drive a forklift before we started building the Quarry, but I think I could get a job as a forklift operator now.  I've had TONS of practice, lol.
Going forward now, headed back to the ramp.
Here's the tricky part, keep the rock on the forklift teeth, the tractor out of the shrubbery and for heaven's sakes, don't knock down the stone wall on the left (you can't see it, but I can) and make the very sharp turn at the top of the ramp all the while remembering there's only 10' between the Formal Garden and Quarry. 
With round rocks on the forklift, I normally backed out of the garden or we were forever retrieving rocks that rolled down the ramp after they fell off the tractor.  This was a flat one, so I opted to drive the tractor out.   Carl was taking these pictures and I'm surprised he didn't fling the camera and make sure I wasn't taking out hours and hours of the work he did on that wall last weekend.  He trusts me.  Silly man. 
Ok, out of the Formal Garden and dead ahead is the drop off for the Quarry pond.  Turn too short and take out the big rock and Dwarf Alberta Spruce, not to mention the sedums.  Hmmmmm....this is a head-scratcher. Calls for some backing up and going ahead to get re-situated.
Ok, here we go...poor lawn isn't liking this very much, is it?
Watch the tree on the left and the hosta on the right.  Figures, that hosta is 'Liberty' and the prettiest one we own, and look at it now....half the plant it used to be after all these trips through here with the equipment.
Approaching the next bend.  The bad part of being up a little higher on a tractor seat is you can see more work that needs doing.  Phooey.
There, success at last, almost out of the woods and then headed all the way down the lane and around the corner to the other side of the yard.
Ok, now we're on the Pachyberm side and I'm backing this ol' rock back into the trees.
Care to join me?  It's great fun, the branches are nice and picky and the needles fall off and go down my shirt into areas really not suitable for polite discussion.
Uh, Carl??  He needed to put the camera down to come and hold up some of the limbs with a shovel so the tractor's muffler didn't get ripped off.  So, that, in a nutshell is how we moved the rocks out of the Formal Garden to the Rock Grove.  Just repeat the above steps 203 times.
We worked until dark forced us to quit and then had another bonfire with the day's branches.  As we sat around the campfire until nearly midnight we got to rethinking this job.  Was it necessary?  No.  But Reason #1, we wanted to move the rocks to downsize the Formal Garden. 

And Reason #2 for this fiasco:  a bunch of dead limbs in the spruce trees weren't pretty to look at.  Of course, we could have solved the problem by just not walking through that part of the yard, but I kinda messed that up when I insisted on the Something Else bed last fall and made it part of the Tour.  And a very uninspiring part it was/is.  Carl wasn't as reluctant to work on this project as he was the Something Else bed the year before, though.  I could tell by his lack of growling. 

I wish I'd taken a picture of all the branches we cut down this past weekend, it looked as if good ol' Irene took a detour to our backyard for the loads and loads of dead branches we hauled out and burned.  I keep a trusty Felco pruners in a holster on my hip at all times and it was in constant use in my down time while I was waiting for Carl to perfect the placement of each stone.  But then there were branches that my Felco and I weren't capable of hacking through, so I went and got the big loppers out of the barn.  Ok, now we'll get somewhere.  And I did, with many of them.  But the spruce branches have been dead for so long and yet are so unbelievably tough; I'm huffing and puffing and yes, swearing at times ( I know, shame, shame) but really, when you're an ample-bosomed 53- year old woman and the loppers you're trying so hard to close around a branch five feet overhead suddenly DO close with a resounding whack and you find your ample bosomage stuck between the handles, well, let's say it's not a Hallmark Moment. 
Weapon of Branch Destruction:  Warning--Keep all Body Parts Clear

Carl was constantly scolding me not to try so hard, "You're going to hurt yourself."

"No, I think I already done did," I said through clenched teeth as I tried to stop my eyes from watering.

With a masculine sigh he took over and tried to hurt himself, too, so then I'd scold him.  (Don't we sound like fun to work with?)   Two middle-aged idiots wrestling with rocks and spruce branches creating another mess we'll have to deal with.     Randy from Randy and Meg's Garden Paradise questioned in my comment section last Friday with just one word, "Downsizing??"  Heh, heh, yes, Randy, you're right, see it's the menfolk out there who have the Voice of Reason.  They know work when they see it.  You can't pull the wool over their eyes. 

Even the young men aren't fooled by my declarations of "This area won't need maintenance once we're done, see it's just too shady in here for the weeds to grow."  Joel was home for awhile on Saturday afternoon and strolled over to where we were working and was alarmed when he saw his Maternal Unit dangling from a tree branch by a loppers after my foot slipped off the rickety ladder I was perched on.

"What are you doing?" he chided.  "OH, for cryin' out loud," he said as he pried my terrified hands off the handles of the loppers and saw me back to safety on solid ground again.  He took pity on his elders and went to the garage and fired up the Stihl.  The chainsaw made quick work of many of the branches, but he was reluctant to take too many off, especially if there was still needles on the outermost limbs.  After all, you can take a branch off any time, but they are beastly hard to put back on the tree.  So we took the Go Slow Approach.  Even at that, we had another three trailer-loads of branches to haul out and burn on Saturday night.  This is such a big change for the area and totally blows the cover of the Formal Garden, too.  And if we take too many limbs off I imagine the menfolk are right, There Will Be Weeds.

And you know what else?  There Will Be Visitors.  We had lots of visitors on Saturday, three carloads worth, and a few drive-bys that sat on the road and took pictures.  (I like to think they were enjoying the view of my flowers, but it could have been they were trying to catch a glimpse of the two Idiotic Gardeners.

We could see the cars on the road perfectly from our cover in the Spruced Up Garden.  But they couldn't see us.  See, there's the road and wait............what's this??

Hey, this car decided the gardens are too far away from the road!

The NERVE of some people!! 

Ok, I'll let you in on it.......our last visitors had just left and I was retrieving yet another rock from the Formal Garden when Joel came to take the tractor from me, "Dad says Mrs. M is here with her granddaughter and she's waiting in her car for you."

"Mrs. M" is a wonderful lady who is nearly 90 years old and who has been coming out to see the gardens several times a year for as long as I can remember.  She gave me a gorgeous white bleeding heart that I have growing in several different places in the gardens and every time I see that plant, I think of her fondly.  Mrs. M is very much like my other devoted garden visitor, Geraldine, who passed away last year.  Sadly, Mrs. M has had a bad patch of health, this spring she suffered a stroke which left her paralyzed on her right side.  She's doing much better than the last time I saw her and hopes to get out of the nursing home and into assisted living, and when she gets someone to drive her car, she usually shows them the way to our garden.  I met her granddaughter who was in Carl's clutches in mid-tour on my way to the driveway to see Mrs. M.

I greeted her warmly and asked about her health.  She was looking almost radiant, and I told her so.  Then I asked her if she'd like to see the garden, and she sighed, "Oh, I would, but I have to use a wheelchair, and well, that's such a bother, and really, it's fine, I've seen your gardens before.  I remember how they look.......," she trailed off, looking sadly out the window at my gravel.

"Do you mind if I drive your car?" I asked.  "We can take an Auto Tour, c'mon, it will be fun!"

"Oh, my goodness, no, that's not necessary!" she said, and then she peered at me closely to see if I'd lost my mind.  "Well......are you sure it's ok?"

"You betcha!" and off we went, down the lane, around the corner and over to the Quarry.  (I don't have pictures of that part of the Auto Tour since Joel had to run and get the camera and he was on my tractor at the time.)

I drove Mrs. M all over the yard and we talked about the flowers for a long time.  I think her granddaughter was a little startled to see her grandmother's car running around on the lawn, but Carl assured her Mrs. M would be fine.  After we toured the garden, I drove her down the lane to the Back Eight and we saw the sights out there in the White Pines.  Mrs. M said she enjoyed the little ride.  She is such a wonderful friend and I hope to see her soon.

Sunday was a repeat of Saturday except I had a baby shower to attend in the afternoon.  When I got home, it was time to get out of the good clothes and into the rags again and back to work.  This was the last rock we tried to move late Sunday night, but it got so dark out, we had to quit.  It was time to haul the branches we'd cut down yet again for burning.  Carl asked me to go get the trailer to load them up, and then we both remembered, there is no trailer here, Joel had gone kayaking on Sunday and had it with him.  So, we had to carry all the branches over the bridge and to the fire.
Oooops, Messy Bridge, isn't it?  Hey, it was dark last night.  That's my defense.
Here's what the Formal Garden looks like now after all the rocks are out.  Now 'all' Carl has to do is finish putting in the new walls. 
Well, Ok, I lied.  There is still ONE more rock down there.  I don't know how we overlooked this big boy.

There's the nice, new wall on the left and the next area waiting to be finished.  Carl is halfway around the big circle now, but we've decided to put the rebuilding of  the flat stone walls off for now.  We're going to have to get started working on the Stone House because our warm weather days are now growing shorter and shorter for mortaring
.  This silly building needs a roof of some sort.
How nice it would be to see a finished 'Something' through the gate, instead of a 'Ruin'. But anyway that's a post for another day, back to the Spruced Up Garden-----------
Looks pretty good from the Front Side, but the Back Side, welllllllllllll............
Needs some work.  See all the spots where limbs once were on the spruce trees?  Oh, my aching boo....I mean arms, lol.
 Thank goodness most of our visitors understand that the place isn't always up to par, we do have to work on it sometimes.  Carl always tries to recruit helpers from our tour groups, but no one wants to take us up on it.  I have another group coming sometime on Labor Day Weekend (wait, that's next weekend, isn't it? Yikes!) and they wanted to know if it was OK to bring a bottle of wine along so they could have a little cocktail hour in the garden before they go out to eat.  Sure, why not?  (Maybe they'll pour us a glass or two!)

The wine might give us the incentive to finish up all the projects or maybe after a few more glasses, we won't care any more about rock moving or limb whacking or Gardening At All!

Bring on the Wine-Bearing Tour Group---my ash is starting to drag.

Til next time,


Sue said...

You were sweet to drive your elderly friend around to see the gardens. Who wouldn't love to see it?!? And yes---you are one very busy couple. It's looking wonderful!

Pam's English Garden said...

Dear Karen, I don't know how you two do it! I don't believe you are downsizing at all. I am exhausted after the tour, and hope when I visit, you'll drive me around. P. x
PS Looks wonderful!

HolleyGarden said...

Goodness - do you ever just stop and sit? :O I can not believe how much work you get done! You make me feel guilty! I am very impressed with your tractor skills. And that was so sweet to drive your visitor around. I'm certain she appreciated it. Instead of lopers, I have a (very) small chainsaw that I use. It's small enough that I'm not afraid of it, but just the right size to not have to use those blasted lopers!

El Gaucho said...

All of the photos of the tractor shenanigans makes me really want a tractor of my own. I know they're for work and all, but they look kinda fun to drive. Now I'll start strategizing ways to convince the missus to let me get one. I really enjoy the stories of rock hauling...we wouldn't be true gardeners unless we had an endless "to do" list and never-ending supply of "good ideas". :)

myomyohi said...

I have no idea how you keep up with all this. Everything is so beautiful, and a lot of work. Bless you for taking her to view the gardens from the car.

Granny Lyn's Garden said...

Karen, even tho I don't comment on all your posts, I can't tell you how much I enjoy them. I so envy you, all the wonderful rocks, I sure wish I lived closer so I could help you . I bet if I did, you might share some with me. :) I love what you are doing under the spruce trees. I think it will make a great quiet place;A few benches and it will be a cool place to rest on hot summer days. God Bless, Lynda

Beth said...

Karen, That was so kind of you to give Mrs. M. the auto tour. What a sweetheart you are! Karen, I am amazed at how hard you work!!! My garden is much smaller than yours, and I typically (spring/summer) spend anywhere from 1-6 hrs per day working there. How on earth do you keep up with your garden's regular weeding, etc., let alone the big change 'em up projects??!!! Truly I am stunned by how hard you work in the garden..and you drive a mean tractor too. Anyway, your work pays off with tremendous beauty. Karen, you and Carl have a lot to be proud of! I am so glad you blog so that the world can see how hard you work (and more importantly how gorgeous/stunning/awesome your gardens are). And so creatively named too. Karen, I'm in awe.
Someday I want to see your garden in person.
xo, Beth

Carol said...

I'm totally wore out just reading about all of that work....but the beauty of your gardens show the amount of loving work you put into them. I always enjoy your and words :)

Anonymous said...

I am like all the other comment leaving people, You have me tired out reading of all your work Karen. All the time I spend on the farm, I have never driven one of the tractors, and never will. One time I had to drive a dump truck and almost had a coronary. Me and big machinery do not mix. Speaking of coronaries, my nurseryman friend would have a coronary seeing those boulders piled at the base of the trees. If I ever suggested that he would shoot me!

Toni - Signature Gardens said...

Ha!!! Karen, I'm so glad you like the "Spruced Up Garden" name. Oh, and I'm so glad to see that you are starting work on the rock house again. My goodness, we would not want y'all to be idle for a nanosecond, now would we! For the life of me, I cannot figure out how you two maintain the pace and workload that you do. Labor of love for sure -- for your gardens and each other. I hope "the girls" are okay -- yeeouch! I must admit you had me on the car driving onto your lawn. I was sitting here thinking..."Are you kidding me? Who would do such a thing???!!" Why, you...who else? Very, very sweet of you. If I hadn't met you myself, I would truly wonder if this is all for real. But folks, I saw it with my own eyes. Note to readers: If you EVER get a chance to go to WI to see Karen & Carl's garden, you just have to do it. Karen, y'all wouldn't mind a few more visitors, would you? Blogger party at Karen & Carl's! Woo hoo!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Karen, It is sheer pleasure to sit and read you blog. When do you find time to write in amongst all the gardening? You have a kind hart to take Mrs M on an Auto Tour of your garden.

You had me gripped with the tractor and rock antics and oh, how I know that lopper squeeze oh so well being of similar age and ampleness and pine needle rash is horrible.
Looking forward to being here again soon
Have a great week
Sue B

Lona said...

Good grief woman it makes my back ache just to see all of that stone and moving. LOL! Coming off those ladders are always harder. LOL!I can almost see him shaking his head.I hope you did not take off too many limbs so the weeds start growing. That would really mess up that idea of a maintenance free bed.
That was so sweet to give Mrs. M a guided tour.

Sall's Country Life said...

Good Grief My Ash would be draggin' too, if I worked as hard as you! Bless your heart for taking Mrs. M on the tour, I bet it made her day!

Darla said...

I'll take a beer and pop a couple of aleve in you and Carl's honor!! That was a strange mammogram!! lol Hope the girls are okay.

Rosemary said...

I am exhausted just reading.

Cally said...

What a phenomenal amount of work, and great potential in the results. I've been hounding my Mum for rocks like those from the fields around her house. I've tried for years to find any locally but they are always too small or too big, yours are just perfect. I clearly need to befriend someone with a digger and a tractor.

My garden haven said...

I an so glad for you that the rock-moving job is over. This calls for a celebration. Take a break, have some wine. You and Carl deserve it.