Over the last few days I have been putting hours into “getting ready” to work on the future garden under Allen’s wall. The area is scattered with rocks of two different sizes: small (from egg to melon size) which threaten the mower and must be removed, and large (18 inches and up) which I am collecting to make a garden retaining wall.
The small rocks number in the hundreds, which would mean dozens of trips to the pond area with the I-Haul. Instead I hitched up my wagon. There is something about using an old wooden wagon that makes me quietly happy.
Damon had brought me a jack for this wagon four years ago. However, given my lack of spatial sense, I could not figure out how to install the random pieces without instructions or a diagram. I’d put it aside “for later.” The bolts and flanges floated around my truck for a few years and when the truck was hauled away for scrap, they landed in various boxes in the garage. Now I was determined to conquer the problem. On Tuesday I rummaged through cartons and after four hours managed to install the jack. Once I figured out how the pieces fit together, it was embarrassingly simple and took five minutes. Yay! Wagon done!
Next I had to think about moving the big rocks. My friend Larry from school had built a small stone boat last winter for skidding items over snow. He said I was welcome to use it. I moved a couple of rocks with the help of my lawnmower [top photo] but I felt uneasy. The base to the little stone boat is 1/2″ plywood — fine for skidding light loads over snow or grass, but I was sure it would rip to pieces bringing big stones up the rocky driveway.
I retrieved the steel head of my old stone boat from the pond, removed the shreds of rotten wood, and with difficulty unfastened the rusty bolts. The stone boat had made by the Amish and I was interested to see from the different size bolt holes that this would not be the first time its boards had been replaced.
I knew I should invest in 2.5″-thick hickory boards, like the originals, but I didn’t have the cash to spare. Besides, as Allen would be the first to remind me, “We ain’t buildin’ a church.” I didn’t need the Rolls Royce of stone boats. I just need to move some rocks this summer.
Three years ago the school had ripped out a deck and a half dozen treated boards had been up for grabs. They were 20 years old and not in perfect shape, but I’d removed the screws, stacked them in the bunkhouse, and figured they would come in handy someday. Now I cut them down to the length of the shortest board, for a new stone boat.
After screwing the cross-boards together, I followed up with nails for strength. My bad elbow protested loudly. (Oh dear, I can barely drive 8-penny nails! How will it feel driving 16-pennies in a couple of weeks? Oh well, I’ll worry about it later.) Then I drilled holes and refastened all the rusty bolts with their square, rusty nuts. I wondered idly if the Amish had Vise-Grips and crescent wrenches.
The new stone boat was done.
I realized after I bolted it together that I should have run the wood further up the steel head plate, so the bolts weren’t so close to the ends of the boards. I comfort myself that I’ll fix that detail the next time I have to replace the wood. This iteration of the stone boat cost me nothing but a couple of hours and two dozen nails. My fingers are crossed that it will last the summer.
Next I had to move twenty rotting bags of autumn leaves. Yes, for the last two Novembers in a row I have picked up bags of leaves from a woman in her 80s in the village who had no way to get rid of them. I had figured I would use her leaves as mulch in my garden. (Yes, yes, I know I had no garden yet! But she called me, she needed them gone, I had a truck and… stockpiling!) So yesterday I carefully moved the bags to a safe spot out of the way.
Then I pulled off three of the twenty-foot long stretches of black plastic. I was pleased. The black plastic plan had worked almost perfectly to keep those sections clean, except for one small piece that had a ghostly white super-weed growing in seven months of complete darkness.
Unfortunately the last section of black plastic had rotted in the sun and disintegrated. I don’t know why this one was different (the other three rolls could be used again) but this one broke down into tiny curls of black plastic that blew all over the farm. I’ve picked them up everywhere. And of course, in its absence the weeds had come back.
I spent three hours picking rocks. I got most of the small ones from alongside the garden.
However, by the end of the day I was limping badly. I didn’t have steam left to start the other side near the (unpainted) house.
Every inch here needs picking.
I know I’ll get to it eventually. It’s the garden I want to work on now. This is the year it will happen.
But today it is raining and I’m working on inside chores.