Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Crazy Culvert Lady Woes Part 2

Work has been progressing here on our replacement driveway culvert project, but, like everything else around here, one thing always leads to another.  And another.  

And, yes, another.  

First, the way it was, before the tree grates were taken down:

 Here is the west side of the driveway before we started dismantling the tufa stonework:

 And here it is after:
East side before:

East side after:

We've been working on this project for over a month now and it is getting late in the season.   We have no idea when the new culvert and the excavator will arrive.  Construction projects are booming around the area, so our piddly culvert job is low priority for busy contractors.  I always walk a fine line with knowing when to bug them and when to wait; I was told the contractor was out at least two to three weeks on August 21, so, hopefully any time now?  

We put all the stone on pallets and I hauled it out back.

 In the picture below, the steel edging that held up the arch comes into view.  Carl cut the arch out of a huge tank.

The next job was to remove the two galvanized metal retaining walls which held up the flower beds.

The old Super H and Carl, pulling the galvanized sheets out:

 I know all contractors are busy, and I also know we'll probably not get a lot of warning before they actually do arrive, so we've been scurrying around, trying to get as much done beforehand.

One thing we are trying out is a new configuration for the tufa wall.  We miss the stone look very much, so we came up with the idea of continuing what was left of the existing wall into a curve for the entrance of the driveway. 

Tufa stacks so well and binds together with no mortar; in the twenty-plus years this wall has been here, we've only had a few stones fall now and then. 
 As we removed the stone from the culvert itself, we used the cart to haul the rock to the other side of the driveway and build a wall:

 The weather was not cooperating; high humidity and heat was making us both miserable.  The days were already getting shorter and so is our work time.
The progress after a day's work, August 31, 2018:

The next day, September 1; Carl and progress on the new wall:

 We decided to make a stone pillar on the edge of the driveway to end the wall.  Carl wasn't too thrilled with the progress at this point, he's tired and wondering if we were wasting our time.   We plopped a big stone on top to finish, but eh, we weren't sure we liked it.
  I jokingly put a steel ball we had lying around here on top of the wall for a finial of sorts, and just like that, one thing leads to another for Carl.
  Now he'll have to fabricate a way to fasten the ball to the top.  (But he already has a plan in the works.)

The next step was to make a decision on the fate of the fifteen-foot tall thuja occidentalis 'Emerald' cedar trees.  'Emerald' has a very narrow footprint and rootball, so we knew from experience we could transplant them quite easily.  It seemed a shame to simply pull the trees out and discard them, so they need a new home.
Where, oh where should the cedar trees on the right go?

This is where one thing leads to another.  Just like the children's book, 'If You Give a Mouse a Cookie' where the mouse wants a cookie and then a glass of milk and a mirror and a scissors to cut his hair and a broom to sweep it up, etc... eventually coming full circle to asking for another cookie, well, that's the way things seem to happen around here all the time.  

We often send Joel cryptic text messages, "Dad and I are walking around in the garden, looking up...." and he immediately knows that means a chainsaw will soon be sharpened.  (Joel said that he, Abby and Audrey should write a book entitled, 'When You Give a Grandma a Chainsaw'.) 

We have one area in dire need of a remodel.  The Quarry Bypass  bed was planted in blue spruce trees which have started to decline.  I don't know how long Colorado spruce trees look attractive in their native home range, but around here, our high humidity often leads to needle casting diseases.  We planted all of the trees on our 2.5 acres from tiny seedlings, and for the first thirty years or so, the trees were gorgeous.  In the last decade, though, they have all started to lose their needles. 
Quarry Bypass Path with ailing spruce trees

Absolutely nothing pretty about those poor trees.
Since we had the four large cedars to transplant and sixteen more young thuja occidentalis 'North Pole' trees in pots we had purchased earlier this spring, we decided to remove some of the sickest-looking spruce trees to make room for the twenty cedars.

On Labor Day, we started the melancholy process of sawing down what we'd planted over thirty years earlier.

 I am driving the tractor, as usual, and we have a chain attached to the tree so I can pull it in the direction we need to have the least damage. 
 Carl and I were dripping with sweat on Labor Day, the dewpoint  was in the 70's and it was an all around awful day to work this hard.  One by one, we took six trees down.

 After the trees were sawed down, I towed them over to the side so Carl could limb them up and we could burn the brush.

 In a way, it's a good thing it gets dark earlier now; we both had enough after a ten-hour day of these shenanigans.  The project then slowed down again as Carl had to go back to work the rest of the week.

Then the next thing happened; I'd been noticing the clutch on the 574 was having issues; making odd grinding noises and not engaging correctly.  This was my father's pride and joy, and mine too, bought brand-new in 1972.  After my father passed away in 2001, we had the tractor in for a complete engine overhaul, but apparently, a clutch rebuild had not been part of the repair.

Now what?  During the year, I drive the tractor more than I do my car; the tractors are like a part of the family.  When one of them is ailing, well, something has to be done.  Luckily for us, we have a wonderful family friend who is a talented tractor mechanic and, if I didn't need the tractor back immediately, he would kindly take the time to put in a new clutch (and fix some other things) for us.  Thank goodness for Adam, I felt so relieved when he said he would do the work.  

I rarely take selfies, but the picture below was taken last week Tuesday, September 4, just before Adam arrived to take the tractor in for repairs.
 Come to think of it, ninety percent of my selfies are with this tractor.  Ok, I may have a problem.  After the tractor was loaded, I followed the trailer on my bicycle down the road and watched until the muffler went out of sight behind the cornfield.  Ok, I DO have a problem.  Sniff, sniff.

With the 574 in the tractor hospital, the 1945 Super H has had to do double-duty, loading dirt, hauling trees, loading logs, pulling brush. 

And speaking of double-duty, Joel came home to lend us a hand on September 7.

 Though the tree above doesn't look bad at all from this angle, the only good side was the front.  The back and sides were completely bald of needles.
 We left two picea abies aka 'Norway Spruce' stand.  We did limb them up though, because the bottom branches were completely devoid of needles due to being shaded by the Colorado spruces.
 Though he is hard to see, Joel is up in the Norway spruce taking out some of the dead branches for us.  The trees looked a lot better when he was done. 

 We're so lucky that Joel is willing to help us.  I wouldn't do very well climbing up that high in a tree.  (Knowing my lack of graceful agility, someone besides the tractor would be back in the hospital with my luck.)

And now we have a new garden helper!  Two year-old Audrey came to help us feed the fish:

 And once the fish were full, Audrey helped us haul branches to the pile, too.

 The branches are long for a little girl, and prickly, but Audrey was undaunted by the task.

C'mon, Grandpa!  Keep up!
When Joel was two years old, he helped us plant these same trees and carefully watered each one.  

He loved being outdoors and tended the trees as they grew, hoeing around them until we had a lawn established.  In the picture below, Joel is four years old and the same trees we just removed are behind him.
Joel, age 4, 1990
It is sad to see the trees go, but how amazing it is to have Joel's little Audrey participate in the next stage of the garden.  

Time goes too fast.

On Saturday, September 8, Carl and I were back at work on the trees again, loading logs and eventually sawing down two more spruce.
The last of the spruce being sawed up and the new cedars waiting in the wings

Half of the wagon loaded

The logs are going to our neighbors who will put them to good use.

 Carl brought up some dirt so we could level off the area.  The boys used to have their 'sand box' in amongst the trees here when they were all little, trees and boys alike.  We never filled in the holes they dug as it was a poignant reminder of Joel and Dave's childhoods, but now that it is sunny, grass will grow, so mowing will be a necessity.

There's quite a contrast between the before and after:

Ten trees total were removed.

So, what's next?  Well, now we have room to bring in the four big cedars from the driveway, and room to plant the sixteen little cedars, too.

 We laid out the new cedar hedge temporarily to get a feel for the way it would look.  But first, Carl went and dug one cedar tree in the driveway with the tractor bucket, digging all the way around and then loading it, holding it in place with a strap.  Yes, it's a crude way to move a tree, but this has worked for us in the past.

 After much maneuvering, the tree is in the bucket and Carl is on his way to the backyard.

 We managed to plant two of the driveway trees where the spruce trees were, but then we realized that the stumps were going to be a problem for the remaining trees and also, how would I ever mow around ten big stumps?  So, yes, add another thing to the list of 'one thing leads to another'..........I put a call into my friendly neighborhood stump grinder person who will be here on Thursday morning. 

Just one more thing to the list.  Right?

(Update: talked to our excavator contractor today, rain delays have pushed his schedule back even further.  Anticipated time frame for his arrival?  Hopefully before the snow flies.)

My famous last words:  'It's just a culvert replacement.  It won't take us that long."  

Ha ha.

Stay tuned.