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A Weekend Outdoors

Every so often it’s good to do things by hand. It makes you really appreciate mechanization…

Most of this past weekend was spent outside, which is surprising for me. I love the *concept* of “outside,” but I HATE bugs – especially the ones that bite, or cling. Given that we’re back in the woods, we have a lot of biting, clinging insects. Nonetheless, I figured that since we had a huge downpour on Friday, the ground would be perfect for pulling out the extraneous lilies, and indeed it was. I noticed almost immediately that they’re much, much easier to dig up when you’re planning to toss them on the compost pile and aren’t worried about how you’re handling them. The upside to pulling stuff up by hand like that instead of just grubbing it all under is that you have to notice what you’re pulling up – I found two lady’s mantles growing in all that mess. I wouldn’t have recognized them as something to save if jofglastingburi  hadn’t given me one to plant a few weeks back. I also dug out some pretty purple things – I have no idea what they are, but they looked intentional so I moved them rather than tossing them into the wheelbarrow. I’ll try to get a pic in case someone here can tell me what the heck they are.

I can’t remember which one of us suggested that since we were digging anyhow, that we try to find the septic structures. I grabbed the maps, he grabbed the long tape, and we dug in – literally. We found the cover for the septic tank right where it was supposed to be, and noted where it was. We found the first dry well – in the middle of the lily bed, right under the new walkway I put in. Sigh. Yet another reason not to make it too permanent. I’ve altered the brick pattern at that spot to mark where it is. I’m going to lose a bunch of lilies when we have to dig that up, but I think I have them to spare. We found the second dry well over by the tree line, and I moved a stone to be on top of it that will hopefully look intentional once we have lawn.

The third dry well… When we bought the house, obviously we had a septic inspection. Our inspector commented that he had only been able to find two of the dry wells, but those two and the septic tank were in such good shape that it didn’t worry him that he hadn’t seen the third. As it is, our system is oversized for the house. I’m gonna guess that the one that he couldn’t find – is the one we couldn’t find either. We measured from one set of two points. We measured from a different set of two points. We dug at least four different holes. Either a) our map is wrong and we’re digging in the wrong spot; b) that one is WAY deeper than the others; or c) they never put the third one in for some reason. I could determine c if I cared to – “all” I would have to do would be to dig down to the junction box and see if there are two pipes coming off of it or three. Of course, that box is going to be *deep* - it’s going to be below the frost line. I’ve dug out the water supply pipe at the well head, and I never want to dig a hole that deep again if I can possibly help it. Perhaps when we have more of the back tilled up we’ll re-re-measure and try it again with multiple tape measures instead of a tape measure and a calibrated garden hose. But at least now I know where three of the four structures are, and we know roughly where number four ought to be. This will prevent me from planting anything on top of them accidentally.

The lily uprooting went so well that I decided that if the mountain wasn’t coming to Mohammad, Mohammad would start walking towards the mountain – I started tilling up the back yard by hand. I did some both days, and Bob estimates that I probably stripped and turned about an 8’ by 10’ area. This is why mechanization was invented – good grief that’s a lot of work! “Back-breaking” is an excellent description. It was a ton of work, and yet when I look at it in the context with how much is left to go… that’s depressing. On the other hand I think that a lot of what I pulled out probably would have caused no end of trouble with a rototiller or at least made life more difficult. I have to admit that on some levels I would like to be able to turn that all over by hand – good exercise, save money on the rental, etc, except that I want to have grass this year, not multiple years from now. At the rate I’m going, I would have the whole thing tilled up sometime in August. Not what I had in mind. I’m going to see if Dad can bring the trailer when they come on Memorial Day weekend, and then we could rent the rototiller for the following Saturday and return the trailer on Sunday. It’s not much of a plan, but it’s a start.

Sunday started with a trip to the hardware store. I tried to work on screen replacement on Saturday, but the spline I had was way too small. I also discovered that we need gypsy moth killer (found a nest in the apple tree,) and figured we’d get the lime and the spreader for the someday lawn while we were there. After that, we made a stop I hadn’t planned on at Agway and bought a bird bath. Once home with our treasures, I had to make a place for said birdbath. I had originally intended to put it out in the lily garden, but have since decided it should be out front by the feeders in the new garden patch I’m slowly creating. I moved some hostas so that Bob wouldn’t step on them, dug out a spot for it and got it leveled and filled. I think it looks good – hopefully the birds will also. After that was in place, Bob minded Charlotte while I finally got my plants from the previous weekend into the ground. It’s not much – some moss roses, one native shade loving iris (to try), a fancy hosta, a barrenwort (test plant for the side of the driveway), and some sweet woodruff. I haven’t planted the sweet woodruff yet because it was an impulse buy and I haven’t decided where I want it.

In the course of planting the iris, I discovered that bugleweed is not my friend. There are a few huge patches of it along the front of the house, and I had left it because the flowers are pretty, and it’s been a fairly good ground cover in a problem area. Apparently, it’s not a plant you can leave unattended. I ripped an entire wheelbarrow full of it out of the front garden beds and away from my irises. I also discovered in the process that I have strawberries growing over there. I don’t expect anything from them, but they get to stay.

In addition to all of this other industry, Bob got the gutters cleaned, a stump pulled out of yet another garden patch, and the handrail removed from the deck that we’ve been meaning to remove for a couple of years. I need to remember to thank dad again for giving us a hammer drill for Christmas. Very helpful. Now the chimney folks will be able to access the Bilco door without having to scootch around the handrail – and there’s still one on the other side, so we’re all set.

What I didn’t manage to do was get Charlotte’s sandbox set into place.

So while I didn’t get anything further done on purging the stuff, I got quite a bit done on this year’s goal of getting the outside under control. The lily garden is in good shape (and I’m even keeping it weeded); the front gardens are weeded and pruned; one back garden has been destumped (I’m dreaming of a rosebush next year); and I can’t clean up the back corner garden until I identify what’s in there. Then I can start ripping out weeds and put down slates. I’d love to turn it into a hosta garden, but we need to get the ladder in there to clean the gutters a few times a year. It’s best to just define a landing area for the feet and the ladder at the beginning, I think. 

I feel like I accomplished something this weekend. But oh – I’m sore! Hamstrings, biceps, triceps, some things that I don’t know what they are…

Oh – and when I tried again with the screens – the damn spline is *still* the wrong size. I’ve purchased the next size up and I’ll try yet again…


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Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
golden_meliades
May. 18th, 2010 08:16 pm (UTC)
Ah ha, ajuga. Yes, I have it sprawling out of my garden and running through the lawn, right now. It's called bugleWEED for a reason...it's pretty vigorous. I ripped out a bit yesterday.

I wouldn't bother, if it was always in flower...but it's a bit dull looking when the flowering season is over.

Rototillers exist in smaller, easier-to-handle sizes that you might be able to find. We just got one today, actually...the blade portion is only about 8 inches wide and could be handled by the smaller and less powerful, without risk of injury. (Sometimes even really strong people fear dislocated shoulders from the bigger rototillers when going through rough ground.)
kls_eloise
May. 19th, 2010 02:07 pm (UTC)
"Vigorous." What a good word. :-)

I've been fairly content to have it along the front. The trees come up to about ten or fifteen feet of the house in front, and there is a little strip between the front garden bed and the house that is the logical place to walk across the front and around the west end. It cries out for a nice slate path, but for the moment I have ajuga. That's fine, because it's low, dense, and when it's not blooming you don't feel bad about walking on it. But I left it alone for four years and it went on a campaign of invasion and conquest! I didn't realize it until I was actually IN that garden bed on my knees and practically nose to nose with it. So I got it ripped out of the garden, but I left it in the walking space. It's nice there - serves a purpose.

I suspect the local equipment rental place has a decent selection of machinery. Right now I need to get my trailer hitch de-rusted enough that the receiver bar will actually fit, and I need to ask my father if he can bring the trailer for us to borrow in two weeks. I'm pretty excited about this, actually. A little patch of grass is going to make me feel much more like we're actually trying to maintain the place - right now it's embarrassing.
galingale
May. 19th, 2010 07:13 pm (UTC)
We actually planted ajuga on purpose to see if we could defeat the axis of evil -- creeping charlie and bishop's weed. Bishop's weed I know you know... but Rob thought our creeping charlie was ajuga for quite some time... I'm quite likely to resort to herbicides and that's harsh for me.

http://www.extension.umn.edu/yardandgarden/ygbriefs/h510creepingcharlie.html

(Oddly enough, in looking for a picture of the dasterdly villain, I learned that it used to be a brewing herb. Go figure. http://landscaping.about.com/cs/weedsdiseases/a/ground_ivy_2.htm)

About marking the well covers... one of our former neighbors accidentally discovered that concrete mixed in a plastic bucket pops out pretty easily if it is forgotten about and dries in there. He made the first one accidentally, and the next several on purpose as a stepping-stone walkway. I want to try it and put in little mosaic bits on top... Also try it with something shaped underneath. I have this silly idea of a compass rose...
kamau_d_lyon
May. 19th, 2010 01:45 am (UTC)
Busy, busy, busy! You got a lot done and good things accomplished by the sounds. Making out the spots for the septic was a wise move. It's a lot easier to do now then when it has to be pumped or otherwise maintained. Dry wells usually last quite a while so unless the system is really old I wouldn't worry too much about those.

I hope you recover quickly from all the weekend work.
kls_eloise
May. 19th, 2010 01:59 pm (UTC)
Yup - it was an extremely productive weekend. Now that Charlotte can wander the yard/deck and amuse herself while we work, it's much easier to work outside.

I've been fretting about "losing" the septic tank for a couple of years. Naturally, the inspector marked everything for us, and naturally, by the time I got around to thinking to memorialize them - the markings had faded away. I plan to have the tank pumped and inspected next year, so now we're all set. The system is 30 years old, so the dry wells should be just fine. I worry a little about tree roots, but the inspector was extremely happy with them four years ago, so it's not something I lose sleep over.

I actually managed not to overdo it this time - OR get a sunburn. I was being careful for once.
anarra
May. 20th, 2010 11:40 pm (UTC)
Remember to sacrifice all your old milk products to the Septic Tank Gods and Do Not Anger Them with bleach.

When we pumped our septic tank after 3 years of living in our house in Virginia, there was almost nothing in it. They guy was shocked.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )