Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Parking Lot

Do you remember where we started with our front hill?  Yeah, neither do I. 

I had to go back and look at photos.  There were trees and weeds and weeds and trees, swamp, poison ivy, bamboo, LOTS and LOTS of bamboo. I don't think I have a photo of it at its worst.

Every year for the past 5 years we have chopped and weeded a little more. 

Here it is currently with all of the bricks from 3 chimneys:

Here are (some of) the problems:

Every brick we find or get we add to the hill.  We've even had several people stop and say "Hey you need more bricks?"  No thanks.  I had no idea it was so hard to get rid of bricks!

But the weeds continue to grow in between the bricks and the entire hill side is run off for rain water and gray water.  Pretty? No. Necessary? Yes.

Our solution, smother the weeds with fabric and bricks and stone.  This has a two-fold purpose. The water will be able to filter down through AND it will help prevent the weeds from returning.

First had to dig out and move the flowers I wanted to keep.  The majority of them were relocated to the top of the hill behind the house by the shed. There is lots of room for them to grow and spread.

Now we can start laying down the fabric and adding the bricks. Yes, we could have just tossed the bricks on the fabric to save time, but we wanted a little more control.

Then we added the stone on top.

More fabric. More bricks. More stones. More fabric. More bricks. More stones.

No we aren't making a parking lot like the Mayor likes to joke.  He'll see when it's complete.

This is our second pile of stone. (It looks like Walt Kowalski is doing a dance in this photo.)

A third truckload of stones was delivered.

It looks so bright at night.  During the last full moon, the light reflecting off of the new stones was enough to light our path up the driveway.  No flashlight needed.

And more stones have been delivered!

In the rain.  The pouring rain.


We started laying the fabric up the hill and even got some grasses moved from the big garden down to the from hill.  It's starting to look like more than a parking lot now. 

Our next truckload of stones will be LARGE stones, 8inches minimum.  Then it will really start to look like more than a parking lot.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Birds of a Feather 2

There was one other bird that visited our neighborhood the other day. 

My opossum didn't make it across the road.  (Poor Mr. Opossum) But in the circle of life, this meant dinner (and lunch and breakfast) for the turkey vultures. 

One circled and circled all morning.  He flew so close to the front window, that while watching, we even ducked thinking he was going to hit us inside! 

One would land on the road next to the opossum, but the traffic wouldn't allow me to get a photo before another car would come and the bird would fly again.

Luckily, he perched on the phone pole at the bottom of the driveway.


Not a pretty bird.  (you can even see the rain drops in the photo!)

The crows were not happy.  When the turkey vulture would fly, he would take wide circles around the neighborhood.  This was WAY too close to the family of crows living down by the Farmer's house.  The whole family (the murder) would start pursuit. 

What's a bird got to do to get a decent dead meal around here?

Thursday, May 19, 2016


I started this post the week after we took the trees down in March.  Then I got delayed and more delayed and more delayed.  Then the weather got nice and I went outside to play. Stupid work. Stupid bills. 

We live on a hill that is on a hill.  Which great when it rains; we watch the creek rise and the waters rush past us, but bad when the water washes the stone down the driveway. Great for sled riding, but bad for sliding down the hill in the car in the snow. 

So it is a toss up. 

Trimming the trees has been a challenge.  The trees are older and overgrown.  Walt Kowalski is worried every time the wind blows.  He doesn't want a tree IN the house.  He doesn't want a tree IN the neighbor's house.  We also want a to build a garage (someday) which requires removing more trees.

We have used the bucket truck to its limits. It's just does not have a long enough reach to get to the branches that need cut.  So we had to go bigger.  Longer.  Renting a lift was the next option.  Walt Kowalski got prices on a lift that is towed behind the truck.  He had a reservation time and a plan. 

This was also timed for the season, too, and we were pushing the limits of flowers.  See, the plan was to drop the tree on the garden BEFORE the flowers came up in the spring.  The flowers are just starting to come up. We couldn't wait any longer.  (Yes, we should have done it in the fall, but the fall just got away from us and suddenly it was winter.)

We had Friday off of work.  He picked up the lift Thursday night and we spent the evening positioning and leveling the lift (thanks for the help from Chain Saw Johnny and Mr. Neighbor.) We would be ready bright and early Saturday morning. 

What we didn't plan on was rain.  Lots of rain.

Everything was muddy.  Majorily muddy.  Everytime we put a leveler down, it slid.  The lift has an internal sensor that knows when it is at a "safe level." With the wet yard, we struggled to get it level.  Patio stones, 2x8 boards, and wall stone helped. 

We finally got it level!

Up Walt Kowalski went in the basket.

Walt Kowalski stretched and extended his pole saw and his body as far as he machinery and he could go.  He cut one branch and as it fell it narrowly missed the neighbor's fence.

The pictures are deceiving.  As is the hill.  It looks like this piece of equipment should be able to move and turn and cut those branches with no problems at all. And it can, but it just wasn't long or big enough.

This is the struggle.  The next size lift would have been too big to level in the yard so it would have had to stay parked on the driveway, but because the driveway is so narrow, the levelers wouldn't have leveled properly.  AND the lift would be farther away from the tress, so we don't know if it would have worked either.  *sigh*

Then the day got worse, when tried to move the lift to another position in the yard and got it stuck in the mud. We spent several hours getting it unstuck and repositioned.  THEN Walt Kowalski was in the basket and high in the air with his saw, the controls IN the basket stopped working.  He couldn't reposition himself closer to the tree.  Luckily, there were controls on ground level that I could use to bring him back down to Earth, but I couldn't safely position him close enough to the tree to do more cutting. THEN the battery was out of power and we had to wait while it charged.

THEN we had a cut off time when we knew we had to have the equipment back to the rental facility, otherwise we would be charged for another day of use, which would be a weekend of use!

ARGH.  Nothing was going right. I was frustrated.  Walt Kowalski was frustrated.  We were frustrated separately AND together. We got the lift unstuck from the mud, hosed off and returned on time.  Bright spot:  I expressed my frustrations with the manager. He checked the usage on the lift and saw we hadn't used the machine very much and only charged us for 1/2 a day of use.  That helped.

Time to call in the Calvary:

Chain Saw Johnny and the guys. They looked and planned and looked and planned and looked and planned and drank a beer for courage. Learning from our past mistakes, we cabled the tree to the truck to guide and had an emergency cable.  We didn't pull too tight or too quickyl (mistake last time) and just encouraged the tree in a particular direction.

The goal was to drop the tree onto the garden, miss the 2 small tress on the left, and don't let it fall incorrectly onto the neighbor's house.


It went just as planned.  *sigh*

First tree down, second tree prepped.






HUGE sigh of relief.  Now I need that drink.  It went just as planned.  I was very thankful and thankful for the help from all the guys.  One of these trees was an Ash and it was dead from the Emerald Ash borer bug.  The other tree was a cherry and it was being eaten from the inside out by black carpenter ants.  Taking down these tress was necessary sooner rather than later. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Birds of a feather

This last week we have been treated to a show at our bird feeder.

The small red-headed woodpecker visits regularly.  There is a larger one that visits, but is VERY camera shy. 

Then we had a new visitor.  Beautiful colors.  Walt Kowalski and I weren't familiar with this breed, and a quick internet search told us it is rose-breasted grosbeak.

This is the male.

But Mrs. Grosbeak wasn't far behind.

Along with the yellow finches that visit and Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal that visit every evening at dusk, we saw a bright blue flash in the shrubbery.

This is an Indigo Bunting. The internet tells us that they are all common around here, but they are all new to us!  What a day at the bird feeder!

Monday, May 2, 2016

What is for Lunch?

My "lunch bag" for work is a catch all bag.  Bills, an extra pair of socks (it was winter, I hate the chance of wet feet), more bills, bottle of water or three, a random spoon or fork in the bottom that didn't make it to the dishwasher, a cat.

A cat? I don't always take a cat to work, but when I do the day is much BETTER.

I left my lunch bag open on the chair.  Never leave anything unattended if you don't want a cat to nap in it. 

I'm back!  After a short break, I'm back to my blog.  Nothing bad happened, just life.  A busy life.  Work. Play. More work.  Yard work.  House work.  Laundry.  LOTS of laundry. (Are we exceptionally clean people or exceptionally dirty people?) Dishes.  Everyday, the dishes!  (Could someone please invent and automatic dishwasher emptier?)

I have stories to tell and photos to share!