Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Work in Progress

Sorry so long between posts but we’ve been busy. You know those Israelites didn’t keep up with email and blog posts very well while they were building all those Pyramids in Egypt and though we were not conscripted we’ve been working on our own little ‘home improvement project.’ All summer I have been putting off a few projects. Though it has not yet started raining, it’s not really summer any more. So since early September, Mrs. C and I have been working on rebuilding the pond. It used to look like this;

Then after the flood:

As you can see, we’ve also built a dry creek bed that sort of leaves from the pond, or where the new, improved pond will be located.

A little advice here, rocks are heavy! If you are contemplating your own landscraping project but don’t want to work up a sweat may I suggest landscaping with styro-peanuts, or perhaps egg cartons.

Actually there are some pluses to working with rocks: First, it’s a great place to put rocks if you happen to have an ‘abundant’ supply. You know those idyllic posters of Ireland where all the fields are outlined with rock walls? Those Irishmen are my brothers in spirit. ( I have a better appreciation for the Irish taste for strong drink!)

Working with rocks can provide moments of hilarity: We got looks from the neighbors when we asked if they had any rocks they could spare for our project. After that first moment of raised eyebrow silence they were all very gracious in their willingness to contribute to the project. Arla court is pretty much a straight, flat run so whenever someone is doing something along the lane it’s pretty much public news. A few neighbors have wandered down to take a look. Mostly, I like that about our little neighborhood.

And, in the event that we experience another flood, even though we're likely to loose our K-Mart Koi, we have a decent chance of some wayward salmon or steelhead coming on the rocky creek bed and swimming up stream right into the garage!

This part probably needs a little selling: There actually is technique involved in creating a dry creek bed or rock garden. I started out with just wanting to dump the rocks by the trailer load, but Mrs. C thought they would benefit from some degree of ‘arranging’. I kept my piece and just brought the rocks by the trailer load and left the ‘arranging’ to her. About the third load she said “OK, now it’s your turn to arrange and my turn to go "harvest”. I figured as soon as she was out of sight I’d just get them into the rock bed en mass. But then I took a moment to look at what she had done and I could see a pattern emerging. I had steelheading flash backs to all those creek bottoms, river banks, sand bars, and rock drifts I’ve stumbled out onto in my quest for the steelhead/salmon/trout I used to chase in my younger days. Many times there is a sense of order in those gravel bars and rock drifts.

And just like that I found myself sorting through the piles of rocks to find the right one for the next little hole. It’s a huge three dimensional jig saw puzzle: All the pieces look the same and none of them fit together. Until you really look at them, turn them over, switch them end for end, or sides ways, or lay them in diagonally, or vertically. Oh, and there is no picture on the box to guide you. The Zen of rock placement.

As I was 'arranging' I had time to think about the history of masonry. When I think of masonry, the great cathedrals of Europe come to mind. But messing with these rocks it occurred to me that masonry had been around much earlier. The original masons probably just had rocks and nothing more. Then came daub and wattle, then hewn stone, bricks, mortar and so it went. It now occurs to me why the masons are such an ancient order, perhaps the world’s second oldest profession.

So for Labor day, (and every weekend since) we had a really cheap vacation. Simple as I am I actually enjoyed the work though I’m thinking that I owe the Missus a trip to the ocean or something. We both feel good about making progress on the place, and though it is a big job I feel reasonably confident that we’ll get it done in the allotted time (before the rains). Sort of like tackling a long brevet. Confident but not cocky.

I started out digging the pond by hand.

This river bottom, glacial till or whatever it is is only slightly easier digging than the concrete slab next to it. In order to get a shovel full you first have to use the pick. I'm not averse to hard work, but I don't feel compelled to always do things the hard way. I could see that if I followed this course I'd get a real work out, but I would likely not get the pond dug for 6 weeks or more. Not a very promising prospect.

So I broke down and called my buds at Easy Rent, and just like that I had a big boy toy in the yard.

(Thats my 'truck' and dump trailer in the background, three scoops and the trailer was full then I had to run to the back 40 and unload it by hand, ugh!)

Oh yeah, where do we dig next?

Like my brother says, big enough to get in trouble. But what fun to run and in six hours of run time I had the pond dug, and the spoil hauled and spread out in the back 40 (this thing has a blade too).

Forget Koi, we're going for Sturgeon!

I was planning to write something bikish. I try to live my life somewhat purposefully. That means rather than just live day to day and deal with what presents, I try to have a grand plan from which supplots develop. I want to ride PBP again, so I know that certain things need to take place between now and August 2011. And in support of that there are things to be done in the summer, the winter, and the fall.

But my puposefulness has been buffeted by the whims of nature. I could buckle down and become a slave to the plan, but there is enough cushion in the schedule to allow for these little suprises. I can handle it, the work on the place is rewarding but there is this nagging sense in the back of my mind that time is ticking (again with the brevet metaphore). Especially when I wake up on these cool early days of autmn, knowing that this will develop into a nearly perfect day for an outing on the bike. An opportunity to mix a bit of pure pleasure into the grand plan.

That bikish post is just around the coner. Mrs C and I took a jaunt down to Centralia on the bikes last weekend. I tested out my new Jack Brown 'greens'. New tires are so great, like new underwear. I like the ride and I'll give a more detailed report later. Hope you are enjoying these sunny fall days as much as we are.

(Project Supervisor ... 'dozing' in the sun)

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