Grant deadlines have kept E busy ’til now, and lucky for us, the weather up North has been cold and the spring has been slow. We saddled up the truck and jumped out of town in a hurry, as soon as E could break away. After a cool and blustery drive up, I unloaded the truck in a twilight rain squall.
The morning’s high grass needed to dry out from last evening’s rain before mowing, so I set about fixing the water heater, frizted during last fall’s hunting party, replacing both elements and the bottom thermostat. The elements were really stuck in there, and took some ranch-ineering to create smooth enough application of leverage to break loose without breaking. Got it all figured with a thick old bent nail and a section of pipe.
-from E’s letter home: Last fall, Dan had put down a used rubber pond liner to deter weeds there at the edge of the iris bed where the foot bridge ends over to the corral gate. He pulled back the liner and discovered where all the garter snakes were living and a larger snake that looked like a rattle snake without a rattle. Eghads what a greenhorn mistake! Nine or ten garter snakes (each 24 inches in length) slithered away, but the other snake stood its ground. We had both been walking all over the rubber surface and stepping on the snakes, so that added to the weirdness of the discovery. Dan was pretty freaked out and decided to off the larger snake to be on the safe side. Internet searches when we got home confirmed that we killed a bull snake. They are difficult to distinguish from rattle snakes and flatten their heads to resemble rattle snakes when threatened, which is just what the snake did. So, we feel pretty bad ….. but with treatment cost of rattle snake bites coming in at $100,000 – $120,000, we thought better safe than sorry.
Just after dark a funky short semi truck drove past, and a bit later E saw bright lights up the coulee. It was our bee keeper, dropping off hives while the bees are all home for the night. He headed down and placed hives at the neighbor’s as well.
As a kid I would visit my dad on his dry acreage in Shepherd outside of Billings, Montana. The most regular summer chore was setting the siphon tubes from the county irrigation ditch into the crop furrows. This involved dunking short bended tubes into the ditch, and getting the gravity-fed siphon to pull water from the ditch into the furrow: my dad referred to it in many iterations of “irritating”.
Here in Xeriscape Utah, everything in the garden must be “irritated” or turn to powder under the high altitude desert sun. A friendly timer-robot with four valves attaches at each of three spigots on the house. Two of the robots run to the old buried sprinkler system- one in front and one in back, and another in the back is set with 1/2 inch black tubing delivering water to all corners of the back 40. This spring’s irritation project was to finish out my xeriscape water plan and to bolster our new trees and garden spaces.
10 years ago, when we bought the house, the prior home owner had set all the sprinkler systems for the lawn and hedge, and had run a line to water the parking strip and never brought it under the sidewalk. He showed me the line’s start set with the other underground lines at the driveway spigot in the back yard, and gestured vaguely at the front of the house saying the other end was out in the hedge by the sidewalk. Years back I pulled the lawn from the area he gestured toward, and set in Xeriscape and replaced the sprinkler heads with multi-head ports delivering water to each plant in the landscaping: I never came across his gestural tubing. So I dug around for it. First out by the hedge, along his other buried water lines (nothing); then at the start of all the lines into the side yard (found it); then where all the lines (but that one) lined up before going under the driveway; then I dug along the line through the side yard and it bent out toward the driveway hedge- I poked around in there for a bit and found it! I had bought a gizmo to water-bore under the sidewalk last summer (I’ve been not getting around to this for awhile now) when the city put in a new sapling on our parking strip- instead I hand watered it all summer. A bit of swearing and banging around and making a mud pit, and draining the mud pit, and banging around in my spare parts bin and soon enough there was a water line out to the parking strip. The next bit took the longest, so I’ll make it the shortest: pull all rocks by section; lay in new ground-cover cloth; lay in new waterline and set water to each plant; replace rocks.
The three Miss Kim lilacs we put in a few weeks back spoke with the rose bushes, and they all decided it was time to pull the 6 pop-up sprinkler heads and replace them with multi-head ports for 1/4 inch water line, moved back 2 feet from the driveway toward the fence. So I hopped to it. The underground PVC water line at the last pop-up head had a cracked T-connection, and the interwebs showed me that there is a part just for that particular fix. I went and got it in the wrong size, and went and got it in the right size, and put it in place. Then ran 1/4″ line to every plant, each with its own watering solution. The next bit was the longest, so I’ll keep it short: then I did that last bit for all the new plantings, split plantings, and replaced and repaired many of the old irritations as well: 200-ish? I don’t want to know. It may have wrapped up today.
Anywhere and everywhere in the West: Fires. 5 minutes out from Salt Lake City. Try not to breathe. No rain since May, with 9 inches so far this year out of an average of 16.
Meanwhile, in Ohio: days of rain with more than 5 inches fallen and it is unremarkable. This is a potted hibiscus on Joanie’s front steps, with hard southern exposure. It is nice to see something that can’t exist where you come from.
60 mph wind gust, with air laden with the despair of a 90k acre forest fire just to the south (pm2.5 at 220), dropped her.
E uses interpretive stance to coax the tree upright again. no go
The heavy rope tied from the tree, high into the pergola supporting the trumpet vine to the left of frame, ensured that the tree fell away from the fence and into a clear section of yard.
Exploratory surgery sometimes reveals the patient’s true prognosis.
This area had an anchor root below, and the big root heading off to the R, but you can see how much infestation I had stopped short of removing, as that would have just cut her down.
The plank kept her from collapse, but not from being taken down in a strong wind. I considered welding up a tripod to keep her upright in any weather, but she didn’t want to become a limb-dropping killer zombie and had signed a do-not-resuscitate form.
Her branches were spindly and dry, sunburn had peeled away bark from her upper limbs, and grubs had made their way far up her trunk.
Forgoing the chainsaw, as the sawzall with a pruning blade is all she needs.
The upper root comes off easy. Next I’ll dig out her taproot and all the remaining living and dead root system. Then I backfill the hole with dirt from my yarding dirt pile and mix it with compost and gypsum and water it thoroughly.
All excavated and refilled, ready for a new tree next spring.
I’ve put in a few new flower beds, and improved about 10,000#s of soil with 1,200#s of my mix of compost and gypsum.
This is a great hybrid from J&J nursery.
One of many new flowers in the back yard.
Out front I enriched this last section of what used to be lawn, and put in 5 Echinacea of various colors, and some ground cover with matching blooms.
I moved this flowering bush a year after I put in the purple iris, and it has finally taken off.
With this section of lawn turned over to xeriscape, and finally filled in, it was time to cross the walkway.
Even re-sodding couldn’t keep the Utah sun from destroying this corner, so I converted it to a Xeriscape flower bed to match the other side of the walk.
The plants all have to be short here at the corner, as there is a sprinkler head in the bushes that waters the grass (and now this bed as well).
Ready for next summer, even though it is still 90 degrees and more.
Two little retaining walls of treated lumber keep the long horizontal portion of tree tidy and clear of overthrusting garden. The area around the tree was cleared of grass and old mulch, the soil was turned with compost and gypsum, the vines were cut back to the fence line, and a new curve of rubberized berm wall was set.
This morning I went back to removing the bore-holed wood mass-infested with grubs (wasps arrived to eat them again!); the adz is the recurved tool, along with large scoop & mallet. Over the weekend I also treated the tree with five medicine dispensers left over from the ranch treatment of the yard’s pine trees. The root at the bottom R drank two doses. I’ll give it awhile before I remove any more, as I’ve taken away a huge portion.
A lot of rigid dead weight has come free of the living tree, and she got a bit woozy. The big hydraulic jack lifted her back up, the same jack that lifted the side of the ranch house this summer- then she just needed some support.
The 4×6 support beam has a bevel cut to match the tree, and is pinned in place with 3.5″ deck screws. The beam rests on a pair of concrete bricks and is toed in with three green steel fence posts and a long run of smooth rebar. A concrete landscape brick supports her down low.
With help from the jack, I slid this fat landscaping block under her hips.
This footing should remain stable, but this evening when the bees go to sleep I’ll run a rope from her shoulders and sling it through the air to the trumpet vine’s pergola, and tie it off at the ground to the largest vine root (thick as my ankle). This way if she comes down in a windstorm, she’ll yaw into the yard rather than taking out the fence and the neighbor’s garage.
Xander has been watching me work with the Plum tree from his vantage in the sunroom, and creates a sculptural interpretation with Elizabeth.