Friday, April 27, 2012

Where Have I Been?

Oh my, it has been a long time since I've written.  We're almost to the end of April already and as I said in my earlier post this month, before I know it May will be upon us.  April always did fly by like quicksilver for me.  With the ongoing exercise routine stuck in my day for at least an hour and a half in the morning and gardening and the greenhouse and a bunch of other obligations plus trying to reform myself from a Night Owl Extraordinaire to a Person Who Keeps Regular Hours, I've plumb run out of time to blog as much as I'd like. This is truly a problem for me, and how I miss reading all the other lovely blogs out there, too.  I have to reschedule some time somewhere, somehow.

But anyway...........

We've been very busy throwing rocks around and (gasp) sawing down trees and limbing others up and other general madness and mayhem.  There has been progress in the Formal Garden with the new wall  but it is slow-going.  Since Carl and I don't see eye to eye on that particular project, when he's home, he's working on the wall pretty much alone while I'm off doing my usual GADS thing--heading off on one task only to be sidetracked by another.  (I'm sure most of you can relate, that is, if you're afflicted with Gardening Attention Deficit Syndrome like me.)

And to make matters worse, I put another project on Carl's list of Things To Do this past weekend.  Something he wasn't very happy about, but he obliged me anyway, albeit grudgingly.  Remember the tree grates we bought as our Christmas present to each other from an antique 'junque' dealer last fall? 

Well, I came across them sitting out in the Back Eight when I was moving pallets of stone around for Carl's wall building project and I got to thinking it was high time we did something with them.  My idea from the first time I saw the grates was to put them in the entrance to our driveway somehow.  
I'm so out of practice with blogging lately that I forgot to take a 'before' picture of the way the end of the driveway used to look so here is one from last spring; do you see the split rail fence right in front of the bus and the three cedar trees all glommed together there?  I've been unhappy with this view for quite some time and kept grumbling to Carl that it needed something but I didn't know what the something was.  Until I saw the grates, that is.
And looking at this picture reminds me that our first garden event this year is the first week in June which is when the group in the photo toured a year ago.  June isn't the prettiest time in the garden; I wish I could stall them off until July or August, but they're coming to see hostas and not my annual flowers.  Carl started to panic when I pointed out we have less than forty days to get stuff done before the garden walk we agreed to host for our garden club.....but I didn't remind him of that fact until AFTER the grate project was done.  (I am not very nice, am I?)

So, anyway, back to the driveway and the tree grates saga.  We were thinking of putting one half of the tree grate pair on either side of the driveway, but after standing them up, they were a bit too short.  That's when Carl got the idea of putting the two halves together instead.  Neither of us were sure if it would look right or not, but we figured we'd give it a shot.

The first thing we had to do was take out the split rail fence which wasn't too hard since most of the posts were very rotten.  I had found the entire fence in a landfill almost twenty years ago, so they were second-hand cedar posts then already.  (We didn't dispose of them; I have ideas for another area of the garden they might look good in.)   Here's a picture of the area after the fence was removed:

The three cedars have really grown in the last few years...the green ones are 'Smaragd' and the yellow one is thuja occidentalis 'George Peabody' or 'Aurea' as it is known now.  The 'Aurea' was planted at least eight years after the green 'Smaragd' pair and it was rapidly overtaking the area.  We needed to find a new home for it.
We decided to plant the yellow cedar down by the Pachyberm in front of the house.  Here Carl is digging the hole with our homemade tree spade.

Nothing wanted to work right last Saturday.  First, Joel's tractor, the 184, had a dead battery.   We got a chain and I pulled Carl on the 184 with the 574 to get it running.  Once it started, Carl backed up to the tree spade only to find the tree spade battery was dead, too. Then it was off to search for jumper cables which we found in Carl's car.  We had to leave Joel's tractor running to charge the battery, so we thought we'd jump-start the tree spade from the 184, but there wasn't enough power there.  We had to drive the 184 out of the way and then I drove the 574 in close enough to the shed to reach with the jumper cables and after another half hour of attempts, Carl checked the spark plug, which was fouled.  After cleaning the spark plug up, we finally had the spade running.  But then we had to pull the 184 again because Carl had shut it off while we were messing around with the tree spade.  We finally were able to get the show on the road and a tree moved after an hour and a half.  Gads, indeed!
Fence is gone but there's too many trees here.

View from the driveway side.....before the move.         
Carl digging tree out
Lifted out of the ground and ready to roll.
Down the road they go.
Carl went all the way around our property and came back in from the other side with the tree.  We like to use Joel's tractor because it is lighter and has turf tires which don't make so many ruts.
Back it up.
Lowering the tree into the ground and raising the shovels.

Instant tree.'s crooked  No worries, we watered it in heavily and staked it.  
Would you like a quick hole dug? 
We moved three trees on Saturday.  The last one was after dark which really made the job more difficult.  But at least we had them in new homes.  The tree spade has saved us countless hours of digging by hand.  Carl built it from scratch over 20 years ago and it's had a lot of modifications to it from having to pound the six shovels in by hand (oh, talk about work!)  to his wonderful addition of hydraulics for each shovel and power shift side to side and front to back.

On Sunday afternoon we were right back to work again.  Remember I said Carl's heart really wasn't in this project?   I was starting to get worried, too. 

"This is just one more thing I don't really need to be doing," he said for the tenth time. 

"Yes, I know, but c'mon, it will be great when it's done!" I encouraged.  Deep down I was wondering, but we were too far into the project to quit now.  Remember, this is how the fiasco of Castle Aaargh was started; I had a dumb idea.
On the east side of the driveway we had only two cedars, one 'Aurea' and one 'Smaragd'.  We moved the Aurea out to the back yard.  Joel and Allison were here both days and worked so hard for us.  Joel sawed down a spruce tree that was ailing and we put the little yellow cedar in it's place.

Finally, it was time to try to put the tree grates in place.  Joel drove the H to lift them up in the air.  Carl had bolted the two halves together the way they'd been in their former life as tree grates in sidewalks.  These things are fairly heavy, I'm guessing around 400 pounds. 

That's when we noticed we had a flat tire on the front of the H which makes for very hard steering, good thing Joel is strong.
Carl guiding grates down.  He has installed a tall channel iron which is buried deep in the ground to fit the grates into.
Ok, the grate is in place.  Now all we have to do is level it and drive the channel  iron supports flush with the top of the grates. 

Carl hollering, Joel lifting with the tractor and Allison supervising. 
Joel using the sledgehammer, Carl holding on.
One up, one to go.  Installing the east side of the driveway. 
The leveling process took a long time, over an hour for both sides apiece. 
Joel drilling a hole so we can bolt the grates to the channel irons on the east side.

East side in place by six pm....but now we're missing a tree on the this side.  Hmmmmmm.......looks so unbalanced.  Wait, we have a spare tree almost the same size out in the Back Eight.  Yup, back to the tree spade which had been put away the night before at 10 PM and back through the rigamarole of jump starting it.  I know, I know, Carl was right, this is work that we didn't need to do right now.  (But we did it anyway.)
It just looked goofy without a tree on the left side.   And of course, I had to haul up some more rocks in the meantime, too. 
First we had to dig a hole for the Joel and Allison run the spade.
We ran out to the Back Eight and dug the tree and here Carl is lowering it into the ground next to the tree grate.

And of course, I had to supervise.  It's what I do best, just ask Carl.

Was it a waste of time? Well, I guess it's a matter of personal preference.  I like them and finally even Carl said they look ok.  (A few cars have slowed down to stare a little, is that a good thing?)

East side from the house
The left cedar is the one we just moved in, I hope it survives.  It's not as green yet, but the size is about the same.

The west side after I had some of the rocks in place.  Both sides will hopefully look better after some flowers are planted.  Flowers always help!  I'm going to plant some Karl Foerster grass on either side of the grating for vertical interest and to soften the metal.

I promised Carl this is the last silly job I will ask of him until after the first garden walk.  (Great, now he has it in writing.  Ooops.)   Was it a waste of time?  We'll see, I kinda like it and even Carl said it looked better than he thought it would.  What do you think? 

So, that's what went on last weekend.  This weekend Carl will hopefully be building more walls and I'll be weeding and GAD-ing like always.

I sure miss you all!


Junebug said...

NOT A WASTE AT ALL!! I love those grates, great job!! I must admit I've been missing you and was very excited to see your post. If I'm ever remotely close to your area I am coming for my garden tour! Love it, love it!!!!

Sall's Country Life said...

Awesome Idea, Karen! They look great! Glad to see you're up to your normal busy hard-working self! Save those rainy days for wasting on the computer!! Take Care!

FlowerLady said...

I love it and will have to show this to DH when I get home. Great idea and you all did a fantastic job.


Beth said...

Karen, I have missed you! Figured you were busy, busy, busy babying those 2000 seedlings - but ah, even more has been going on - and it looks GOOD! I like the grates. Now that is what you call "yard art." Have a good wknd, get some rest if at all possible, Karen!
Hugs, Beth

Carol said...

I t looks fantastic!!!! I'm with you on finding blogging time...I told my husband I needed to quit my job because it took up too much of my time....he didn't agree :0(

Missy said...

I was wondering as well, and hoping it was the case that you were just too busy to post. The grate looks good and once the flowers are in as well I think it will look fantastic.

El Gaucho said...

I think the grates look fantastic, very cool framed by the two trees and the pair of grates really frame the driveway entrance. Sure the whole thing will look even better with a bunch of flowers around it, but it looks dang cool as it is. Well done.

Rebecca said...

Definitely worth it!

Indie said...

I've been wondering what you've been up to, but with the spring gardening season here I think everyone's gotten a little busier!

I love love love the grate. It looks like a sun to me - in fact I would probably even paint it a burnt orange if it was in my yard (which would probably make cars stop in horror - Mr. Red House is always teasing me about how I have to spray paint everything in the garden.) It looks great with the trees on either side. And that is one fantastic tree digging machine!

Alison said...

I've missed you so much! The grates look great! I really like your idea of putting some OGs beside them to soften the metal, and flowers will help a lot. Pots or urns near them might help too. Maybe Urnie (Ernie?) the urn?

Darla said...

I love how this looks. Do let us know once you have added the grasses and flowers.

Lona said...

I was starting to worry about you girl. I am glad everything is alright and that you have just been busy. I love your idea for the grates. I think they look so great there. People are probably slowing down to figure out what they are so they can copy your idea. LOL!I think those beds there look so wonderful now and it does look better without so many trees there. Great idea!

Toni - Signature Gardens said...

Very cool! Y'all are so resourceful!
I am amazed at the size of trees that you can move! What a great tree digger!!! Every gardener needs one of those :-)

I can so relate to GADS. I think I went in five different directions today before I realized I never finished the first thing I started to do.

The tour at my garden is now ONE week away!!!! I have the final list of to-dos to tear into this week, so hopefully I can stay focused long enough to get them done, or the tour visitors will be saying EGADS!!! Ha!!

I admire your resolve to get to bed earlier. My mantra lately is ...."after the tour" I will...fill in the blank. So maybe after the tour I will try to get more sleep. After the tour I will get more organized. After the tour, I will enjoy my garden instead of working in it. After the tour, I will cook a decent meal again. After the tour, I will have more time to blog. Life begins guessed it...after the tour :-)

Glad to hear you are okay and are up to good things :-)

Rosemary said...

Looks good to me! Love the new entrance!
Your blogging makes me smile hubby would so be swearing if I came up with a hairbrained scheme.......Carl is a saint....... Hope all the transplants make it,

Zoey said...

Love the grates, Karen. What a wonderul idea you had.

africanaussie said...

I missed you - glad you are back with more enormous projects that require heavy machinery! It makes me tired just reading your posts. I just love those circles - what a statement at the entrance.

xoxoxo said...

Maybe the waste of time is just what you both needed to get back on track :) Just a little diversion!
I love them, but had my doubts til the end!

Larry said...

Great grate job! L

Dragonfly Treasure said...

I love it!! Great idea!
I figured you were out in the garden...boy have you been busy. I, too, suffer from GAD...very frustrating disorder.
Your tree digger is AMAZING!!!! What an invention! I am sure it sure has saved you a lot of back breaking digging. My Dad built the tools he needed also. It's great that your hubby can do that too. Men ARE good for some things ;)
Thinking of you and wishing you many productive hours in the gardens. *hugs*Deb

Peonies & Magnolias said...

Love your idea and it looks great. So glad to see you back. Hope you have a great week.


Debbie@Debbie-Dabble and A Debbie-Dabble Christmas said...

Looks absolutely spectacular! Love those grates!!


Ginny said...

I absolutely LOVE it! All that hard work paid off for sure.
I've had a hard time finding time for blogging, too - since before Christmas. And I haven't had much time to read blogs, either. I really miss both. Work and family have taken all of my time.

Jen ( said...

I think it looks awesome. If it was in my yard, I'd to to find some sort of metal dangly bit I could hang in each hole for decoration. A cut out with personal meaning to me. (In my yard, it'd be suns.)

Carol said...

I like it. The Tree spade is a pretty cool thing too. Never seen one. Love the blog. Carol

myomyohi said...

I love the grates and they look amazing installed. Once you get a few flowers planted it will look so fabulous. Great eye and great job.