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Suddenly summer projects

Recent summers have been heavy with house projects, from tearing down walls to building up rotten foundations, from installing new doors to laying patio blocks.

Not so much this summer. After a spate of small indoor spring projects … nada. The last nine days, though. Whoof! On Monday the 5th the big rock garden began to form. It was finished on Sunday, then the very next day the tree guys turned up to begin taking out rotted and dangerously leaning trees.

Here are pix of it all.

This (above) is the house as of Friday. Rocks in place, but not yet turned into a rock garden. The big circle is the “emergency tree” caught in the branches of a cedar. It’s been leaning probably for decades, but only last month did it detach from all reality and become an obvious threat.

You can see we ran out of rock before being able to go around the corner to wall the driveway. A second load of rock was supposed to take care of that (and more), but the need to remove that tree put that plan on hold. Maybe next year …

And here’s how it stands this morning, with the rock wall finished (for now) and the last of the tree being removed. Not an adequate photo, sorry. Because I took this shot in the morning, the area still looks gloomy and shaded. By afternoon, though, the former site of the tree will be ablaze with sunlight for the first time ever. It’s a remarkable change that I haven’t been able to capture in pixels.

Closeup of the rock garden. On the left, I’ve planted seedum. To the right, flat rocks form a stair (which anyone could climb, but only the brave would ever want to descend). Come fall, I’ll transplant moss and Irish moss around the steps to set them apart from the more garden-y part.

Taking out that leaning tree. Being a logger is precarious work. When he eventually sawed off the leaning portion of trunk that he’s standing on in the photo, it rebounded and smashed into his truck. Looking at the vehicle, I’d say it wasn’t the first time something like that has happened. He later told me a much larger tree had once bounced over his head. “I almost quit logging that day,” he said.

The loggers take a well-deserved break. The main guy (on the right) is lean, agile, cheerful, and 60. His helper is stocky, swarthy, closer to 70, and looks like a pirate — right down to his missing leg. Amazing how those new high-tech prosthetics resemble piratic peg legs. (Work a lot better, though, I’m sure.)


Most of this work has required either tremendous physical oomph, professional expertise, or both. So for once I mostly got to be spectator, cheerleader, and client rather than manual laborer. Saturday, though, I spent the day shoveling topsoil over the rock garden (eventually joined by The Wandering Monk, who did it faster than I did). Then Sunday I planted seedum and Alyssium in the new soil between the boulders. Did enough honest work last weekend to end up footsore, backsore, sweaty, and dirty as a pig.

Have I mentioned I loathe gardening? Still, it’s been two whole days and nothing’s died yet, so that’s an achievement. It’s late in the season to be putting plants into the ground, so I’ll be applying Miracle-Gro and hoping those little guys put down strong roots before the rains erode our work.

So far so good, though.


  1. Pat
    Pat August 13, 2019 12:35 pm

    Those rocks are going to make a big difference.

    That woodsy “hole” is a nice place to put a Tiny House for a guest, if it’s big enough. Will the loggers pull the entire stump, or leave it? What will you be doing with that spot?

  2. Fred M.
    Fred M. August 13, 2019 2:01 pm

    I like your phrase “the former site of the tree will be ablaze with sunlight for the first time ever”. If nothing else, you allowed some light to fall on the subject area. You are right, it’s amazing to see tree monkey’s at work. They are so agile climbing and moving from limb to limb while carrying their chain saws. Hopefully they were able to cut up some firewood for your use. Your garden is beautiful right now and will be gorgeous once it fills in with growing and blooming things. All the hard work you, and the “Monk” have put into your home is paying off in spades. Your neighbors must love you! Please keep us in your story-line as time progresses and nature evolves.

  3. Comrade X
    Comrade X August 13, 2019 3:05 pm

    Loggers are some of the craziest people I have ever known (outside of truck drivers of course), loggers in many cases are truly fearless, I would compare their attitude to that of the pioneers who went into our wilderness not knowing what laid ahead but prepared to take on what ever faith threw at them.

    Nice rock garden btw.

  4. Claire
    Claire August 13, 2019 3:07 pm

    Pat — Astonishingly, that woodsy hole (or rather, the natural bench containing it) covers about 2,250-2,500 square feet and would hold a village of tiny houses. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it, though your idea is one possibility. I’ve always thought of that space as a shady place to plan a water garden. But taking that tree out opens a world of possibilities.

    The bench has now become the sunniest spot on my entire property and therefore a natural for a veggie garden. But that seems too mundane a use for what is really a spectacular space. Veggies in pots and small raised beds could be part of the plan.

    And they’re not going to take out the entire stump, but what they left me is the perfect shape to turn into a woodland “throne.” I’ve already sat up there and surveyed my realm. 🙂

    Fred — Yes, it really is starting to pay off now, and yes, the neighbors do enjoy the change (especially when you consider that the property was previously nothing but a neglected shack occupied by crazy people). Thank you for caring.

    The firewood is going home with the cutters, though. I don’t currently have a wood stove (though I do have the chimney for it) and I gather that part of the agreement between the two men is that the “pirate” takes his pay at least in part in the form of firewood. So it’s a nice arrangement.

  5. Claire
    Claire August 13, 2019 3:11 pm

    Comrade X — I think you’re right on that! I got to talking with the two of them this afternoon and it turned out that “tree monkey” has broken multiple bones on the job — including a neck break that’s still so fragile that one wrong jolt could kill him. Egads. But he told me all this with the biggest, happiest grin on his face and said he’s never — never — going to quit because he loves doing this so much.

    And thanks on the rock garden. It better be nice after all the labor that went into it, but I agree with you; it’s very nice and will only get better.

  6. FishOrMan
    FishOrMan August 13, 2019 7:47 pm

    Amazing transformation and something to be proud to be a part of. And on such a “budget,” even more so! Lol

    I can really understand the desire to take as few pictures as possible early on. Projects are done because of aspects we don’t particularly like. Also, they are messy throughout the undertaking. Only near the end does the camera come out more frequently. It’s good to see you comfortable enough to step back and take the big picture shots. And then it also gets to be fun to look at the before shots, (the few there are).

    Love it. Good work. Now to use that Amazon link. 😉

  7. ellendra
    ellendra August 13, 2019 11:06 pm

    Does Corsican Mint grow in your area? Because it would be an excellent rock garden plant. Its low and creeping, but smells like mint concentrate.

    I have an uncle who’s a tree trimmer/logger. “Fearless” is exactly the way to describe him. He’s the guy who messed up his arm in a chainsaw accident, then kept getting up to make the nurses coffee all night.

  8. Joel
    Joel August 14, 2019 6:49 am

    Sheesh – I’m not comfortable being the village safety nazi, but I’d think under the circumstances at least a helmet and some Kevlar chaps…

  9. Claire
    Claire August 14, 2019 12:05 pm

    “Does Corsican Mint grow in your area?”

    I don’t know. I believe some types of mint do, but I’m not familiar with Corsican in particular. Thanks, ellendra; I’ll check on it.

    Meanwhile, on Day 3, neither the seedum nor the Alyissium have started to die yet and I imagine I’m actually seeing signs of grown in the seedum. Hey, maybe I’ll be a gardener after all!

  10. larryarnold
    larryarnold August 14, 2019 8:40 pm

    Amazing that your leaning tree kept enough connection to stay green. Maybe that’s the way things grow in the northwet.
    When our mesquite tree split off it was brown in a couple of days.

    Great looking wall.

    Back when we were getting regular job transfers we bought a brand-new house in a brand-new subdivision. The ground was moderately flat, but full of big rocks. (Big like more than a cubic yard.) No trees had been left. I told the contractor to leave one of the rocks.
    Neighbors kept coming by to tell us the contractor forgot one of the rocks, and I’d explain we were making it the center of a planting area.
    Pretty soon several neighbors bought rocks for their yards.

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