Monday, December 3, 2018

Catching Up, Again


Well, I've been away for quite some time, that's for sure.  I use this blog as a diary of sorts to keep track of what we have (and have not) accomplished.  Keeping track of our activities has helped us to settle arguments and our idle curiosity, "When did we plant those trees?  When did we build the gazebo?  When did I get so fat?  Wow, really? I didn't think it was that long ago!"  Yup, see, it helps.  Sometimes, but the weight thing?  Not so much....

 Anyway, I had to look back at my last post in late September to see where I left off after the culvert was replaced.  (Wow, once again, was it really that long ago?)

Back in October, we had a lot of rainy days, which, although harvest time was bad for the farmers, made up for the lack of moisture we'd had all summer long.  

I was hoping for at least a taste of October's bright blue weather, and for three or four glorious days I finally did get my wish.  Our Korean maple,  'Acer pseudosieboldianum' put on a stunning display for two days before it began to rain again.

Consulting the blog, I see we bought this tree in 2006.  The Korean maple is as close to a Japanese maple as we can get here in our Zone 4-5 climate.  This summer, I spotted little seedlings scattered all over the garden, and they also colored up beautifully this fall, so I'll be transplanting them next spring and we'll see what they turn out to be.

  We do have two other specialty maples in the garden,
Acer pseudosieboldianum × palmatum 'Hasselkus' also known as 'Northern Glow', seen below.  They are also dependably brilliant in the fall and very graceful in form.  It will be interesting to see what the seedlings grow up to be. 

We decided to reinstall the tree grates on the driveway entrance in October.  Carl had built frames for the grates in the spring, and they were lying out back by the windmill for a few months.
 Carl hooked up a chain and hauled them back to the driveway.
 After a few days of digging holes and leveling the frames, we were ready to get the grates up from out back, too.
Carl was working a lot of overtime this fall, so it was always nearing dark before we got much done after work.

Cold weather arrived earlier than usual; 2018 was a crazy weather year.  Record blizzard in mid-April, in less than two weeks, we were sweltering in the nineties and all summer long, it was hot, dry and did I mention, mosquitoes when it finally did begin to rain?  Swarms of them!  We were glad to see it freeze.

 The Quarry pond finally did reach a nice water level for the winter which was a relief.
Tamarack turning color for fall

Whenever Carl was home before dark (and it wasn't raining) we worked on the tree grate project.

We replanted all the hostas on the ditch slopes and some tiny shrubs to make it look a little less bleak.  We also rebuilt the tufa pillar.

 Before we knew it, Halloween was upon us. The prettiest little butterfly visited us for Halloween and also Great Grandpa and Grandma at the assisted living facility.

Carl, Audrey, Joel and Grandpa Don

Granddaughter Audrey  2 1/2 years old

Audrey and Grandpa Carl and Great Grandma Rosemary

 Speaking of time passing, our little Audrey is growing up so very fast.  Is it possible we're growing older at the same rate?  !

Suddenly, we were in November and there was still so much to be done.  We made a half-hearted attempt to dismantle Thing One and place it elsewhere, but ran out of good weather and time again.  

So now we have a bunch more half-done stuff facing us next spring, and of course, early (too early!) in June is the American Hosta Society Convention.  Oh boy.

In our defense, there's always appointments and dealing with his parent's affairs to tend to, plus overtime and most of all, the weather and short, short days.  (And yes, we are idiots who bit off more than we can chew.)

'Acer Triflorum'  Three-flowered maple

The rest of November was a blur, we had some fairly nice days during deer hunting, but being outside during hunting season is a bit risky with all the woods around, plus it rained on and off then, too. 

Larch in November

On November 3, while we were moving some rocks, a pair of dragonflies suddenly zoomed in and warmed themselves on the rock faces as it was a very cold day.

That was the last day of rock moving, coincidentally.  We just ran out of time.  It was certainly strange to see dragonflies so late in the season.

November 9 was our first snowfall, though this one didn't last too long.

While Carl was at work, I scurried around cutting back grasses, hauling out hosta leaves, wrapping trees for winter, putting statuary away.  And no, I didn't get everything done, either.

In the meantime, Abby and Joel's new house has been under construction which is exciting, too.  

Joel up in the rafters in October

They are hoping to be moved in before Christmas and it's all hands on deck with the construction crews.   

Thanksgiving came and went with a small meal here on the Friday after.  David accepted a new job and is currently in Italy as of mid-November for training.  He is expected home before Christmas, and we'll be happy to see him.

More snow fell this past weekend; I went out and did some very minimal Christmas decorating in the sloppy rain/snow that was falling and have decided it's good enough.  I'll thank myself later when I don't have to take it all back down again in January, right?

There's a bunch of other stuff going on, but since this post is already far too long, it will have to wait.  

Oh, there was one unusual thing that happened; one night in late October, around 10:45PM, a truck drove in and a man and a woman got out and knocked on the door.  Carl was fast asleep at the kitchen table.  We'd been working outside until quite late that night, and he's so worn out that he often dozes off right after we eat which is unfortunate, since I can't get him up to go to bed, but anyway...

Carl, being startled, woke up immediately, and flung open the door.  This in turn, startled the visitors a bit, who probably weren't expecting a wild-eyed man to appear so suddenly.  

I hastily put on my shoes and went outside on the back porch with Carl and saw that the lady was holding a chicken wrapped in her coat.  It was very cold out and she was shivering a bit as they explained that they'd found the little red hen sitting in the middle of the road about a mile away.  They had gone to all the houses in the neighborhood and no one would claim her, so that's when they thought of us, because they'd seen our chickens free-ranging around here for years.  Was this our hen?  

I told them I knew it wasn't ours, because I'd locked all three of them up hours before.  So, there we stood in the driveway at nearly 11PM,  four adults and one chicken, contemplating what we should do.  The poor lady shivered a bit more as she stood there, coatless, holding the hen.  They were kind enough to rescue her, but what were they going to do with a chicken? 

I piped up and said, "Well, we can take her, there's room in the coop for one more!  Here, put your coat back on, you're freezing."  

They thanked us and we thanked them, and that's how 'Roadelia' came to live here at Quarry Gardens with Spot, Ashley and Hawkie.  

Oh, yeah, and us, too.

There's never a dull moment around here.



Monday, October 8, 2018

Crazy Culvert Lady Woes Part 3

Monday morning dawned and upon looking out my upstairs window to check on the weather, I could see there would be no outdoor work done today.  Or for the next few days, if the weather forecast is to be believed; rain, rain and more rain to come.

I am still hopeful that we will be treated to some of October's Bright Blue Weather before the end of the month, though.  There is nothing like a crisp, sunny fall day and the smell of the freshly fallen leaves in the woods.  The hay fields are emerald carpets, greener than they ever were in June, all too soon to be blanketed in white.

But, since these glorious days are not upon us at the moment, it gives me time to talk about the shenanigans that have been going on around here for the last month.

We would normally be working on Castle Aaargh this time of year, but having to replace the culvert has taken up far more time than we anticipated.  Cutting the failing spruce trees down (final toll on that score was twenty) and transplanting the cedars from the driveway to the Quarry Bypass was done by September 8.  

For our 40th wedding anniversary, Carl bought me a used chainsaw from a friend at work and, in keeping with the theme of 'If You Give a Grandma a Chainsaw', I did some pruning of my own on the remaining trees.  

Just a little proof that I do something around here once in awhile.

I put a call into my always prompt stump grinder professional who was coming on Friday, September 14 to grind stumps for us.  The night before, Carl and I decided to cut down a few more trees that were way past their prime.

 We decided to call our neighbors to pick up the wagon before we cut down any more, though.  We've both had enough of cutting down trees for this year.  With the wagon gone, so is the temptation to take down 'just one more'.

Bright and early the next day, the stump grinder arrived.

 Though Carl and I have always been do-it-yourselfers if at all possible, getting rid of stumps is a job best suited to the machine invented for the task.  Over the years we tried to dig stumps out (VERY labor intensive) or had just worked around them (hard on lawn mowers if you forget where they are) while they decayed, which takes decades in some cases.   Some people drill holes in them and add a chemical (never did try that) or burn them out (never tried that, either).   

In the last few years, we've decided to hire the task done and call in a stump grinder service.  In less than an hour, all of the stumps were history. 
From a bunch of stumps you have to work around for years before they decay to:
Nice fluffy ground to replant anything you want for under $200.  Carl always said we should buy a stump grinder, but even he had to admit, having some work done for us once in awhile is worth the price.  Very worth it.

At this point, we'd still had no word on when the culvert work would be done, so we decided to work on planting the Proven Winners 'North Pole' arborvitae in the Quarry Bypass instead. 

That job proved to be dreadful, though, because after a very dry summer bordering on a drought, we finally had some rain; enough rain to cause a hatching of mosquitoes that was truly biblical in proportion.   

Mosquitoes are nothing new for Wisconsin, but this was something else again, there were literal swarms of them and they were very aggressive.  I lost track of how many I inhaled.  Bug spray was flying off the store shelves faster than they could stock it.  We have two of those electrified tennis rackets used as handheld bug zappers and we took turns swatting mosquitoes for each other while the other one worked.  Even with bug spray and being armed with zappers, we were an itchy mess.
 Nevertheless, work continued on the Quarry Bypass, slowly and itchy, but surely.  We have all sixteen 'North Pole' cedars planted in two curving rows.

Before we had the new trees planted though, we dug out the three remaining big 'Emerald' arborvitae from the driveway.
The blue barrel was in the driveway to stop people from falling into the hole caused by the failing culvert.

They are now all back by the Quarry Bypass where they will hopefully survive.
Replanting the cedars
  And finally, we had all the new and old cedars in the ground.  We still have a lot of raking to do to level everything off.  

I was transplanting hostas from Thing Two to the Quarry Bypass when I received a phone call from our excavator; he would be there two days later, on Friday, September 28.  We dropped everything on the Quarry Bypass project and prepared for the culvert replacement.  (See, this is why things don't get done around here, there's always something else happening.)

Carl has been working overtime at work, but asked off for the day, thank goodness.  My 'big' tractor, the 574, was still being repaired, so we had to rely on the H and the 184 to handle the hauling and loading.  As fate would have it, the 184 had a dead battery, so we ran to the big box store to buy a new one on Thursday night.  On Friday morning, the H's battery also went kaput, so we had to make a mad dash to the store again.  Luckily, Carl had everything running by the time the excavator showed up at 11AM.

I spy an excavator on that semi.
 Charlie, our excavator, set right to work, wasting no time.
Removing top of driveway

Pulling out first of three pieces of culvert

Loading it onto our car trailer to haul out back

The old culvert has served its purpose.

The tag inside is stamped 1938
Removing the last section

Clearing out the ditch for the new culverts

Carl was running back and forth, trying to help where he could.  (I stayed out of the way.)
By 1PM, the new culverts arrived.
When I first saw them on the trailer, I was amazed at how long they looked.  The driveway is now 56 feet wide.

Putting the band that holds the two culverts in place together

Shoveling fill under the culvert
After the new culvert was installed, two loads of gravel were delivered and added to the top.

 Charlie shoved the gravel around a little for us and was done by 3:30PM. 
Carl and I set to work leveling off the rest of the driveway until dark. I hate to admit it, but does it look like our driveway is worth $5,000?  Who knew culverts were so expensive.......

 The last week has been spent trying to get some sort of landscaping back in place.  We decided the tufa 'tower' we built earlier was too close to the driveway, so we had to take it all down again.  I had dozens of hostas out of the ground along with ornamental grasses, too.  

Progress has been slow; Carl's job and the overtime interferes with getting things done and on the weekends we've had rain. 

 With Ann's help a week ago, we leveled off the driveway some more by hand and Carl and I replanted clumps of hostas and all the sod we could reclaim on the downslope of the ditch.  I took the original tufa tower down while Carl did some more raking in the ditch and then finally, we were ready to start rebuilding it a few feet over from the original position.

Rebuilding the 'tower'.

One week later, and we're still at it.  

Happily, on Thursday of last week, my 574 came home to me with a brand-new clutch installed; Adam did a fantastic job.  Words can't express how happy I am to have my tractor back. 
 Carl and I spent all weekend working on the ends of the driveway.  The mosquitoes have slacked off, but the weather is cold and clammy with highs in the upper 40's yesterday with on and off drizzle.  

Last night we received 1.5" of rain, and most of the hostas I planted stayed put, but we have to get this job done and soon.  Carl had finished the tower on Sunday afternoon, but today I see we have problems....

This morning when I went out to see how the side slopes stood up to all the rain, I noticed that the tower had partially collapsed.

Oh, great.  More work.

Funny, it looks fine from the other three sides:
We'll have to take the tufa down to the height of the break and start over.  The really fun part will be getting all of the gravel out of the hostas. Oh, well.  Never a dull moment around here.

We're keeping our fingers crossed that we don't get a lot more rain, but I doubt we'll be lucky.  The forecast is for storms and rain until at least Wednesday.  Though we were very dry here, the ground is saturated now.
This is our lawn on Monday morning; luckily the road culvert is handling most of the water at the moment.
Let's hope it stays that way or we'll have more work and woes.

That's all from the Crazy Culvert Lady today.  I really appreciate the encouraging comments from all of you.  If I had any sense at all, I would only show the finished projects instead of the not-so-good, bad and downright ugly, but I know almost all of you can relate.  

Gardening ain't for sissies.