Saturday, June 18, 2011

DIG, DIG, DIGGING

A small milkweed beetle investigates a crown vetch bloom…neither of which have anything whatsoever to do with the post below. 

Well, I know what I'll be doing for the next few days…digging holes! Forty-some holes in a yard where even a gallon-sized excavation can often take well over an hour. This comes thanks to the rocks and limestone fill which were used over the decades to build up, by several vertical feet, what was once a low island. After which a thin covering of soil was sprinkled overtop. This stone underlay is therefore barely beneath the surface, typically flush with the grass roots. You never know when your shovel goes ker-thunk whether you're dealing with a thumb-sized pebble or a boulder bigger than a Volkswagen.

So it's going to be WAY MORE work than simply shoveling out a bunch of modest holes. Alas, how I wish I had someone else to blame! I always think enforced labor goes easier if you can assign the responsibility to someone else. Unfortunately, I got myself into this mess—a sweaty, back-breaking, hard-work dilemma I've repeatedly self-inflicted every year since moving to this streamside cottage, though this time around I've set a new standard of necessary toiling drudgery.

This whole predicament is caused by three things—my love of plants, an Irishman's penchant for thrift, and the fact that the sprawling complex of greenhouses and nursery acres of one of the larger national garden and landscaping catalog retailers is located a short drive up the road. Every year, at spring's end, they put their leftover stock on sale—serious, deeply-discounted, practically-a-steal  sale! Roses and dozens more good-sized plants in gallon containers, $1.99; perennials, 99¢; and everything else a huge percentage off. Hundreds of things, thousands and thousands of plants. Everything from succulents to ornamental grasses to ground-covers to mints and herbs to blooming things too numerous to imagine—practically whatever you can name is available for a pittance. 

When the three-day event kicks off on opening morning, several hundred eager shoppers are waiting. More stream in by the minute. Only the amateurs and planting-space challenged select a push-cart for their prizes; the rest of us grab one of the flatbed wagons which are roughly the dimensions of a dinning-room table and capable of hauling, oh, forty-something plants with ease. Some poor souls, apparently having even less than my own modicum of restraint, pile on a couple hundred gotta-have plants. A few purchase more than one wagon load. 

At any rate, while you're enjoying your weekend—all those picnics and outdoor rambles, fishing trips, and lazing-about-in-the-sun snoozes—I'll be dig, dig, digging. That is, if I don't make a second run up the road for a few more delightfully cheap plants.
———————

30 comments:

ellen abbott said...

I generally like to dig but not through rock.

Scott said...

Because of the limestone fill, is your soil strongly alkaline? If so, do you have to amend it, and keep doing so every year?

Man, I am so lucky; I was saying to Kali earlier this week after a weeding foray in our garden that we have absolutely perfect soil here--a rich, deep, stone-free loamy soil that I just love to run through my fingers.

And, though the image at the head of the post has nothing to do with the post, it is lovely. I haven't noticed milkweed beetles here yet, but when the milkweed blooms, I'll be inundated.

Kelly said...

...I know what you're talking about. When I dig in my yard, I usually have to use a pick to get around the rocks (and you never know if they are gargantuan) and sparks actually fly from the metal striking the rock. I gave up digging about five years ago and just started having mounds of dirt dumped...then I plant in them! In the future an archeologist will think some sort of crazed mound builder lived in my yard...

Arija said...

I have absolute fellow feeling for you on both counts. The total lack of restraint when plants are going begging and unfortunately too often striking extensive bedrock and desperately tapping with a crowbar searching for the least crack.

May you and your tools survive the massive onslaught on the land!

Richard said...

It kind of sounds like you are looking for a little sympathy but you're not going to get it from me. You got yourself into this mess, so guess you are going to have to "dig" your way out. Besides, I've done that myself on many occasions...:-)

The Weaver of Grass said...

There will be no lazing in the sun here Grizz - it is raining heavily and very cold - typical UK June weather I'm afraid and likely to continue as it is Wimbledon next week.

Grizz………… said...

Ellen…

I don't like digging through rocks (more like mining, actually) either. But that's what I have to do the plant stuff.

Grizz………… said...

Scott…

I maybe should, but don't. I mostly operate on what the country folks call the "root hog or die!" system—i.e., dig a hole, add some better soil, water, occasionally feed…and leave surviving up to the plant. BTW, not every stone under my veneer of soil is limestone, I also have granite, slate, and marble from old building projects, courtesy of the multi-generations of stonemasons who formerly owned this site and dumped their rubble to build up the land.

You are indeed lucky to have such soil.

There were some white whorled milkweeds in bloom in that patch of prairie the other day, but I actually shot this near the house where the lavender-pink common milkweeds are blooming.

Grizz………… said...

Kelly…

Yup, a pick and crowbar are at least a necessary as a shovel for digging hereabouts.

Too, I think we've both taken the same easier way out when it come to planting sites, as I often just skin off the grass and top the bare patch with a mound of soil. I do this more on the sloping areas, though, and build sort of little terraces with long blocks of chipped limestone, backfilled with topsoil.

Unfortunately, where I want to put most of my new plants, I'll probably have to dig in order to tie them into the other beds. I may, however, come to my senses and save my back by "mound planting," just giving them a bit of extra height over their neighbors.

Grizz………… said...

Arija…

Trust me…this land can whip me every time. So no worries there. But it's not going to be all that much fun, either. However, one has to pay the piper to dance…

Grizz………… said...

Richard…

Mostly a pre-labor whine as I think a good whine is usually more satisfying than sympathy. Not that either helps much.

There are times when I think gardening is a form of self-abuse…especially with several dozen holes to dig!

Grizz………… said...

Weaver…

It's raining here, too, which is why I'm answering comments rather than out digging holes. But not cold, though it was quite cool earlier in the week. And yes, typical June weather for here, too.

Gail said...

HI GRIZZ- well, you have your work (digging) cut out for you!! I hope you get a moment to celebrate Father's Day - you sure deserve it!
Our remodeling is done - every room, ceiling to floor 'cept the kitchen. Which, looks fine for now. I will be posting pics as soon as my antique vanity comes back form the 'Furniture Doctor" :-) On Father's day it is tradition here to have lamb chops on the grill that have been martinated in a garlic/feta dressing - a nice cool vodka tonic and any "guy movie" Skipp wants to watch, like those terminator ones or Rocky or Lethal Weapon type movies or war movies or super hero-whatever he likes - I will read during the movie. I bought bagels and smoked salmon and cream cheese for breakfast which I will 'serve" on our deck. So tomorrow is a day of good food, resting, movies and summer drinks and celebrating Skipp for the wonderful dad he is and remembering our Dad's that have passed.
Love to you my friend
Gail
peace....
where's that shovel?? :-)

Grizz………… said...

Gail…

The day you have planned tomorrow sounds like a fine one to me—especially one starting out with bagels, cream cheese, and smoked salmon. Now, add in a pitcher of fresh orange juice and a pot of strong coffee and I just don't know how you could make it any better.

It has been years since I've fixed lamb chops on the grill—or any way, for that matter. I usually prepare a big lamb roast for Easter, but that's about the only lamb dish throughout the year. I used to do mutton when I could find it—which I now can't. I like lamb, though, and your recipe sounds tasty.

My daughter is taking us to an Indian restaurant for lunch tomorrow. Don't know what, if anything, else is on the agenda.

I await the remodel shots.

Take care. Wish Skipp a happy Father Day.

Bonnie said...

We have a flower bed that someone built over an old farm road - it is full of large rocks and gravel. It also has remnants of cement blocks in it. I rarely here my husband swear -except - if he's digging a hole in THAT particular flower bed for a new transplant. Plus he is a perfectionist and it must be a huge hole so that he can amend the soil with good loam, peat moss and and sheep manure.

All I could do while reading your post is wince for your back Grizz. Those good deals at the garden center can really cloud our judgment! And I mean 'our'. :)

Enjoy your new treasures - and take care of that back!

KGMom said...

We were just at our local handy hardware store (love that place). They rent backhoes and such, including ones that can attach various size augers. That's what you need. Save your back.
Really--save it!

John Gray said...

lovely blog you have here

Robin said...

I thought of you today. I was standing in the clearance area with a cartful of 'soon to be cheap plants' when I heard a woman say "You're a wonderful person...". I looked up and she was talking to me and added..."for putting all these plants on sale instead of throwing them away".

Made my day.

Kay said...

Our sandy south Texas soil has absolutely no rocks--but why plant here when we have no rainfall either! The drought has me worrying about whether I can keep even the native plants alive. So--I think you are lucky to have new cheap plants to dig holes for! And think of how lovely it will be when your work is through, and satisfying too.
Have fun watching your new plants grow. Don't forget to post pictures of the plantings.
Kay

AfromTo said...

You say you have some marble rock under your soil-well you could knock up a little sculpture for the garden in no time.Thereby killing 2 birds with one stone.

Grizz………… said...

Bonnie…

So far, so god re. the back—but then I don't have all that much done yet, only the start of a new, large planting bed plus a few things out. We mostly had rain Friday afternoon and evening, a bit of rain yesterday, as well, plus Myladylove's new firm held their company picnic yesterday, at a park nearly an hour's drive from from here, which took of most of the latter half of the day. Today being Sunday and Father's Day, it will probably be late afternoon before we get back home and can get down to serious planting business.

Hey, I understand your husband's motivation. I don't swear, but I whine—providing I have anybody to whine to. Otherwise I just suck it up and dig and take frequent breaks because there's no one around to point out my semi-responsible work ethic. Still, the job gets done, but, of course, takes at least three times as long if you're a perfectionist, which I also understand because I'm one, and the hole has to be big enough and deep enough to do the best possible job.

Yup, been there, done, that…and still haven't learned better.

Grizz………… said...

KGMom…

Such power devices might appear to be the answer here—but unfortunately, there's a breakpoint where rock defeats auguring steel. Hole drilling has, in fact, been tried here, in several equipment sizes, by those who aren't directly responsible for the repair costs of broken and abused equipment—including big units used to drill and set telephone poles—and they work successfully about half the time. The rest of the time there's a loud, abrupt WHAP and the machine stops. Sometimes sparks fly. It is tried again. Another WHAP! Much creative cursing ensues. And typically at this point the poor minimum-wage soul with the handpick and shovel hops down from the truck and begins digging.

But don't think for a moment I'm opposed to such technological salvation…I just don't want to be held financially accountable. Anyone who wants to bring their gear and give it a whirl will be welcomed with open arms. I'll point out where I want the holes. I'll furnish moral support and regular cheering. I'll fetch water, iced tea, whatever…fire up the gill, prepare a feast, even point out the best fishing spots in the river and let them borrow my tackle should they wish to catch a smallmouth bass or two before going back to hole drilling.

But I ain't signing my name on the dotted line…

Grizz………… said...

John Gray…

Thank you…and than you for visiting Riverdaze. I'm glad you liked what you found. You have a pretty interesting blog yourself with all your chickens and critters and such. I got a real kick reading about your waiting on the badgers.

Anyway, know you're always welcome here. I hope you vist often.

Grizz………… said...

Robin…

I know exactly how that lady felt, and I'm glad she told you so. There's just something wrong with taking a perfectly good living plant and tossing it in the dumpster simply because you want to hold out for maximum dollar, and won't let someone who wants it have it cheaper when they can't afford full retail. That's worse than cutting off your nose to spite your face.

I'm really, really glad you work for a Lowes that allows you such an option.

You are a wonderful person! (Course, I knew that already. ;-D)

Grizz………… said...

Kay…

You're right, of course, it is a blessing to live where the landscape is lush and green, the ground has dirt instead of sand, and water is abundant. Not to mention being able to buy so many new things so inexpensively.

I really wasn't whining about that…just about digging the many holes. And I've knocked around the West enough to know you have some lovely country out your way, too—hot, dry, sandy, or not. Different, but nonetheless lovely, especially some of those natives.

Grizz………… said...

AfromTO…

I don't know about a sculpture—maybe something abstract and free-form—but I do have the marble, in white, green, and black. But, alas, usually only in slabs about an inch or two thick. Suitable for a gravestone or plaque, perhaps, or maybe a cutting board or the base of a lamp. I do have a pile I've been saving to pave a small patio one of the days.

George said...

By the time you read this comment, Grizz, you will probably be in bed with a heating pad under your lower back. Perhaps you should have summoned the Corps of Engineers.

As you recover from you digging adventures, just remember that man makes no greater contribution to the world that to leave his place, however humble, more beautiful and wondrous than when he found it. And, by the way, the photo is gorgeous — wonderful color!

Grizz………… said...

George…

Actually—and unfortunately—most of my planting/digging is yet to be done as we had a rather full schedule, plus a fair amount of rain, over the weekend. Plus more rain already this morning. The river is up a foot or two and muddy. However, the plants are waiting patiently, in good shape, so unless it continues to rain, I ought to get the job accomplished today and tomorrow. WEDNESDAY is more likely to be the day I take to my bed with the heating pad. :-∫

I think the best thing about the image is the beetle's striking color. To me, it makes the shot.

Teri and the cats of Curlz and Swirlz said...

My back hurts just thinking of those holes! I, too, got a lot of plants and bushes last year at the end of the season, but wow...those are some deals you got!

Grizz………… said...

Teri…

Well, I did it even "worse" yesterday for a bargain price. (See my comment to George re. BUSY AS A BEE.) Only a rare moment of self-preservation and common sense kept me from buying many more.