Monday, August 22, 2011

I've got some 'splainin' to do

The weekend was a busy one, and if I could have a month's worth of weekends like this past one, wow, the stuff we'd get done!   The weather was so nice and cool; just perfect for working.  And work we did.  Remember I said the remodeling job in the Formal Garden is coming along slowly?  I don't think 'slowly' is the correct adjective, I guess more like 'snail-y' would fit our progress better.

In case you've forgotten (and I wish I could) what we are doing is removing around 300 big rocks from the Formal Garden walls and replacing the boulders with flat limestone instead.  We started this project in May.  Yes, May.  And we're still not done.  We had high hopes we'd be done by June when the first bus trip arrived here for a tour, oh, my, how optimistic, chortle, chortle.  Why, this won't take much time at all, we'll simply yank out the rocks and the perennials and then we'll put the flat limestone walls in, reseed the lawn and Voila! all done for the tour group. Ha ha.

Maybe if we'd had a normal spring this year we could have gotten it all done if started in April, but this spring not much happened before May in the garden because it was so cold and wet.  I don't think the last snow melted until July, in fact, if I look around, I might still find a snowbank somewhere, that's right, it was a Short Summer.

This was how we started in May......hauling out the big rocks to make way for the flat walls.  There's Joel on the wrecker, hand-cranking a rock out.  One down, 399 to go.
Carl working on another one, we were lucky to get two or three of these big ones moved after he got home from work every night.  And then it rained and rained and yes, rained some more, so we were done working on this project for at least a month which was then planting season for all my annuals and then weeding season (does that ever end?) and then garden walks-a-rama so nope, we didn't get this done. 

But, we're making progress, here's the way this section looked before the new wall:

Here's what it looked like after the big stones were removed:

And here's what it looks like now:
Yes, there's still a long way to go yet, but Carl and Ann (who was able to help on Saturday!) got this section done while Joel and I were busy yanking more stones out in the rest of the garden.  You read that last sentence right, we had Ann and Joel here to help us.  We are so blessed and WAY more work gets done with help. 
Carl uses a board to make sure the wall is as flat as possible.
We're about halfway done around this enormous circle.......I think everyone has taken all the plants they want out of there, so now I can just chuck the rest.  Doesn't it look lovely?  Just think, every tour group saw this bountiful beauty when they came to visit.  Yuck.  But gardens have to change, and this one was long past-due for an overhaul.  We need to cut back and this is one bed I'm happy to be rid of because it can be very wet and difficult to grow things in, with the exception of weeds.........this border grew the most fantastic quack grass I've ever seen, if I missed some it would actually tower over me, and I'm kinda tall.  Very impressive weeds thrived in this bed, that I will say for it.

So, anyway, back to my story of the weekend.  Joel was free on Saturday and he kindly agreed to help his Maternal Unit (me) with hauling some rocks out of the Formal Garden.  We had all the really big boulders out of there by the end of May, but now there's a double row of good sized rocks still in place on the west side of the Formal Garden that we were working on.

 Here Joel is backing up to the first of the smaller boulders we have to load up.  I counted 200 of these. And then I recounted and came up with 203.  And then I nearly cried.
Joel's 184 Loboy International is small and fits down in the Formal Garden very nicely.  Some of these rocks were a lot heavier than I remembered and being so far back on the tractor,  Joel was having balance issues...
He would get halfway up the ramp and then one of two things would happen, the front end of the tractor would come off the ground:

Whoa........!! and then the rock would roll out of the bucket.  Then we'd have to get the rock back on the tractor.  Some of the rocks had to be loaded two or three times.  But we'd finally get them out of there in one piece.  (The rocks and Joel...he worries me sometimes.)

I didn't want to just load the stones up and dump them on a pile somewhere, I figure since we have them up in the air on the tractor we might as well put them someplace where we'll use them.  So some of the bigger ones went where the earlier boulders did, to the Woodland Bed.
 So as Joel and I loaded them up on his tractor, we hauled them to the other side of the property and dumped them in amongst the hostas. 
They're going to need burying a bit and tweaking on placement, but at least they're close to where I want 'em.
Soon it was becoming evident we were running out of places to put them in the hosta beds. what?  Then I had an idea.  Yes, another one.

Do you see this dark and dingy place? 
This is the middle of three rows of spruce trees and what happens when they are planted too close together.  Yup, that's right, the needles fall off.  Isn't it just beautiful??  Yuck, again.

I'm trying to give you some perspective on where this is; do you remember the Something Else Bed?
Here we are approaching the trail leading between the Something Else Bed.  Those spruce trees on the left are part of the three rows I just showed you in the picture above.  And beyond those spruce trees is the Formal Garden.  When we planted the Formal Garden, we planned on having the spruce trees surround the bed so it would be private and sheltered, sorta like a secret garden, if you will.   Well,  that worked for the first 25 years or so, but now the trees have grown and though they look ok from the front, they sure don't look ok from the middle.  And this Something Else Bed was something I'd dreamed up last fall and it leads over the bridge:
Pudding posing on the bridge for me this morning.  Isn't she helpful?
Once you get over the bridge, there's the view going back the other way, but I'm getting ahead of myself: Before you get over the bridge the view is pretty dismal, all you saw was dead spruce tree branches up about 10' feet.  Well, that's changed.  Joel and I ran out of places to put the smaller rocks, so I got another Bright Idea about where to put the rocks.  Let's limb up those dead branches, Joel!  I don't have any pictures of the limbing up process, but we had four car trailers FULL of dead limbs when we got done.  Joel fired up the chainsaw and we worked together for about two hours on Saturday night.

So what did we accomplish (besides making a huge pile of brush?) in this area?  Is it now more beautiful?
Definitely not beautiful.  But less ugly.  Kind of.  Sort of. We may have to go higher and we still have a few more trees to limb up yet but we had to give up on account of darkness.  And this is where I am intending to put the rest of the 180+ rocks next.  Will it be a wall or a pile or a 'folly'?  (What's a folly? I always wondered, lol)  One thing I know for sure is, it will be work. But do you see that opening on the right side of the picture, where the sun is shining?  That's the Formal Garden and it is no longer hidden or secret.  Hmmmm yet again.  This is posing another problem.  Gardening, it's all about the problems.
Looking back toward the bridge.  Ok, maybe we made a mistake, ok, maybe I made a mistake (I'll take all the blame since we can't put the branches back on, but they were dead anyway.)  Carl was watching the trees limbs disappear from the Formal Garden while he was working on the wall and he said he was wondering when we were going to quit sawing. 
Carl's view from where he was can kind of see the Something Else bed from the Formal Garden now.  Oooops.

But, I hastened to tell Carl, 'Doesn't your wall look NICE down there?'  (I was trying to buy myself some time to think how I was going to fix this mess.)

"But you can see the road through the trees now," Carl said.

'Um, yes, I noticed that," I said. "But I have a plan."

Carl is not one to groan, but I could see it there, barely suppressed, just waiting to escape from his throat.  I started walking to the newly trimmed up area and kept on talking.  Fast.  That's right, I'm a fast-talker.  But not a smooth talker, apparently....
"See, Joel just hauled some of the rocks up there and I think if we pile them up into a nice low wall or something, we could have a very pleasant walkway through there, don't you?  Or we could extend the Something Else Bed into a little higher wall and that would block the view from both directions.  What do you think about using the granite boulders with the flat limestone that's already there?  We could pile them up, I don't think it would look all that stupid, do you?  It would be like a Secret Garden Stone Wall!  Wouldn't that be cool? But if that doesn't work, I guess we'll have to get more flat rock to make that idea fly.  So what do you think?" 

I turned around and found myself alone.  Carl wasn't following along.  Oh, boy.  He did answer me from the Formal Garden which is only about 20' away; he could hear me, he just didn't follow along on my little flight of fancy because he's already working on trying to finish the first flight o' fancy we started this spring.

"I think it's a great idea, but I don't want to mix limestone and granite.  However, a low stone wall might not look too bad.  We'll see how it looks when you get all the stones up there," he said.  (I bet he did groan, I just wasn't there to see it.)  I appreciate Carl more than he knows, we're in this garden mess together, for better or worse.  And many of my ideas are worse.

There's Carl's transit legs, perched in the dome where he uses it for leveling the walls he's working on.  Many people have asked us if we had someone draw up landscaping plans for us, or if we put it all down on paper before we proceed and the shameful answer is, No.  We rarely plan much of anything and all the garden areas have simply evolved out of necessity or some Bright Idea one or the other of us has had over the years.  The chainsaw is in constant use around here and sometimes we saw down one too many limbs or trees and regret it, but that's gardening, it's like life.

It changes.

So Joel and I limbed up a few too many branches?  What can you do?  Start a campfire and have a weenie roast.
Did I mention Joel sawed down a lot of branches?

And speaking of bonfires....Guess who had a birthday on Sunday? 

The Elusive Lucille, that's who.  Yesterday was her 91st birthday and her silly daughter (me) made her another lame sheet cake and THEN forgot to buy 91 candles, so she ended up holding a big candle instead.

  Notice how her expression changes from
Happy here........until she realizes Carl has a camera and she is the Center of Attention!

Duck, Carl!  I think she might be flinging a chocolate cake in your general direction!  Oh, how Mom hates being photographed.

But she refrained from flinging her cake and blew out her candle instead.

Sunday was really wild around here, and I had even more explaining to do.  We all went out to eat for Mom's birthday and then had to hustle home because we had some people coming for a garden walk at around 4PM.  A lady had called me on Friday to find out if it was ok to bring a few people out on Sunday to see the garden.  I wasn't thinking when I said, 'Sure' and had forgot all about Sunday being Mom's birthday, but everything worked out fine.

Even when a tractor parade was thrown in the mix in the morning:
and then out to eat with Mom at noon, home by 2PM, run around and pick up as much as we could before the folks came for the tour at 3PM (which was early, but good, since it started to rain awhile at 4PM)  I wasn't expecting as many people for the tour though.  Five cars pulled in and people kept piling out, it turns out they were having a family reunion and decided to stop here as the end of their reunion.  I didn't know any of them at all, but they were pleasant and fun to be around.  We enjoyed their visit very much. 

After they left at 4PM, we got a Sheepshead game going with Mom, Ann, Joel, Carl and I and played for several hours.  Later on, Cody, Briana and baby Clara stopped in for a visit, too.  When I took Mom home at eleven pm, she said, "I had a wonderful day."

I hope so, Mom, I really do.
I know what I wished for when you blew out your candle.

I wish I could explain what she means to me, but I think she knows.  Words aren't adequate.

I love you, Mom.


Majid Ali said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Toni - Signature Gardens said...

Wow, you did have a BUSY day! Well, you couldn't leave all those dead spruce branches, so I say gone would look better than dead. And I have every confidence that you and Carl and Joel will turn that place into something unbelievably beautiful when it's all said and done (and now you have a goal, a purpose, so maybe the revamp of the formal garden will go faster??) -- if you can ever get a break from all of the visitors! How DO you get anything done with all of your visitors. How fun, though, to share your spectacular garden with so many people!! I look at the teeny-tiny little areas I have to redo in my garden this fall and they just pale in comparison to what y'all are undertaking. You have amazed me, once again! This gives me a great excuse to visit your garden again next time I'm up that way because you'll have a new area for me to see :-) Oh, no, more visitors!

Peonies & Magnolias said...

Happy Birthday to your Mom. I love your stories and how your garden evolves. It does make me feel much better when I have my oops moments while trimming limbs so know others have the same experiences/problems. Love the pics of your garden. Have a great week.


Zoey said...

First, Happy Birthday, Lucille!

I hate dead pine tree branches (I have had my share of them in my yard). I think it looks much better limbed up. I also like to see a tiny glimpse of the gardens beyond. It makes people want to continue their journey to get a closer view.

What a pretty lampshade above Mom's birthday cake!

Sue said...

A very happy Birthday to your mom. And wow--you have some nice equipment for moving around rocks. I just use a shovel and a rod. I think that's why it's taking me so long.......I need you for a neighbor!
It'll all come together, I'm sure. And we get to see the pretty results!!

Sandy said...

First let me say Happy B/day to your mom.. 91, bless her heart. Mr. N and I will be going to Champaign to help his mom celebrate her 100th in November..
I just can not believe how much work you all do in your yard.. it's beautiful and I'm in awe of all you do!
It's almost September, Fall is coming. Hopefully you will have it finished before the first cold winds blow... take care.

xoxoxo said...

What a lovely day! Glad you can give your mother a great 91st bday!
I think gardening mistakes are part of the fun! It would be boring if you planted a garden forever ago and just let it be!

Randy Emmitt said...


Happy B day to Lucille! 91 she is going strong no doubt. Karen I think you got into trouble there. The limbs did open up to see the road. Guess the new path will be pretty cool. Downsizing????

Beth said...

Karen, Your stone wall is really beautiful. Everything will be ok, just lots of work but seeing what you've done, I know that in the end, it's all good at Karen and Carl's gardens! Touching story re your mother's birthday. Glad she is still healthy and vital! That is a real blessing.

Gatsbys Gardens said...


You guys are the hardest working people I know. Your mom must have been a great role model. My mom lived past 90 also and she was baking and cooking.


Rosemary said...

Happy Birthday Lucille!
Your Mom looks amazing..I would be happy to be photographed if I looked that good at 91, heck I wOuld like to look that good now!
Oh my, another post that has me chuckling. My back is aching just reading about the rock moving. Wondeful wall Carl!
Isn't it so true how one brillant idea leads to even more work..... I do agree that the dead branches had to go .. like the peek thru to see gardens farther on....... I am sure whatever scheme you hatch the outcome will be gorgeous. A lot of work but gorgeous.
Agree this summer has been short very wet spring , hoping for some lovely long fall days.... so you can finish this gigantic job.. said...

Happy B day to your mom. The walls look good and the work to them is exhausting. Our guys just finished two walls lining each side of a driveway that is one-half mile long. I was there the other day taking photos and asked them how long it took them and they said two weeks. I asked my friend the landscaper, and the one who pays them, and he said it took them three and a half weeks. Funny how it was so different. All I remember way everytime I was on site they just kept making the walls longer.

Jennifer@threedogsinagarden said...

Karen, Happy birthday to your Mom! 91! The new wall is a great improvement and well worth the effort involved in moving the boulders.

Autumn Belle said...

Your garden is really huge. Looks like you had accomplished a lot and it is hard work indeed. My belated Happy Birthday Wishes to the 91-year young gal and 'Many Happy Returns of the Day!'

My garden haven said...

No matter what you post about, even if it is about hauling boulders, I just cannot stop reading until the very end.So much hard work goes into a garden...and I thought yours materialised with the wave of a wand.
Bet your mum loved the candle and cake. Happy B'day, Lucille.

Rosie said...

Your stone wall is very pretty. I sure am tired hearing about all that work! Good thing you have some great helpers. Happy Birthday to your mama. (My lirope is under a Japanese Maple.)

joey said...

Wow! Huge project + brawny men = awesome! You must be delighted not only with the result but the celebration of your mother's 91st ... all major gifts in life!