Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Yard carnage

The grass in the front yard is dead.  I didn't like it much in the first place, and just stopped watering it during the drought-induced water restrictions with a vague notion that I'd eventually get around to replacing it with some combination of drought-tolerant and native plants. 

With the wet fall planting season now upon us, and some house-project momentum, I decided it was time to attack this project. Take the shovel out to the front yard, dig up the grass, and loosen everything up so it is easy to put new plants in.  It's only about 400 square feet.  How hard could it be?

Oh, the woe of magnolia roots....  I suspected there might be a few, but the situation is ridiculous.  Basically, under the top centimeter of dirty is a layer of densely matted, tangled, snakey roots throughout the entire former lawn.  Not just small roots either.  I swear some of them are braided, and others tied in knots.  Recall that the city contractor who replaced the sidewalk in front of our house a couple of years ago referred to these roots as "anacondas".  Don't even get me started on what they do in the vicinity of the broken sprinkler head.  Clearing them is not an easy task.

After unsuccessfully clearing the first strip despite great effort, I stumbled back into the house and told Chad that I needed an army of Vikings to come hack the yard into small pieces.  He responded, "Do I need to get you a Pulaski?"

A Pulaski, for the uninitiated, is a firefighting tool that has a head that combines an axe and a mattock.  He used one back when he worked for the Forest Service.  Very good for creating firebreaks, or for digging out nasty horrible root-infested former lawns.  I had no direct experience with this tool, but after looking it up, decided it looked even better than the mattock that the contractor who had done a similar job on the neighbors' yard before they put it up for sale had used.

I suppose I *could* have hired someone to take care of it like a normal person, but it's more fun to get a new tool.  More satisfying to do it yourself, also.  Plus, you just have to love a spouse who says "Do I need to get you a Pulaski?"

Through the miracles of Amazon, the implement showed up on the front doorstep as I was leaving for a bike ride on Saturday.  It even matches my bike jersey!  Muahahahaha!

On Sunday,   I headed outside to try it out.  And boy, the Pulaski is a beautiful thing.  You can chop, dig, pry, and hack those horrible roots out.  It's still hard work, but is so much easier and completion of the task has moved into the realm of actual possibility.  I got a few weird looks, but there was one passer-by who made a point of stopping and chatting about the project.  She had done something similar a couple of years ago, and fully appreciated the evil of the magnolia roots.

You can see how dense the roots are along the edge of the cleared section.  This is what the whole plot is like.

Half the yard done.  Yard waste bin full.  Hands tired.  Time to stop.

I headed back out today to work on it some more after my bike ride, figuring that I was already all sweaty so a little more dirt wouldn't hurt.  I had just started happily hacking with the chorus from the witch scene from Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas" stuck in my head  ("Harm's my delight, and mischief all my skill!"; it's been stuck in my head since rehearsing it among other things last night for some upcoming Halloween concerts) when a car pulls up in the driveway of the house next door that is up for sale.  It turns out that the driver is one of the people who just bought it.  She came over and introduced herself and seemed pretty nice, though I am now imagining her relating to her spouse that she met the crazed axe-wielding neighbor today...

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