Sunday, April 28, 2013

Clearing the Jungle

I have a nice little hand saw for cutting limbs and small trees. It can rip through a baseball bat size tree limb in about 30 seconds. Early this morning I took it to the side yard to see how much jungle I could remove. The area has be left to nature for at least 15 years, maybe much longer, overgrown with cherry laurel trees growing at an angle to reach some light, and infested with vines that grown well up into the two big oak trees.

One type of vine is very thick, and maybe it is a tree of some kind because it has branches and is very tough, but it grows in all directions, and I never noticed before today that these things have grown up 30 or 40 feet into the oaks, and they refuse to be pulled out. What the heck are those things?

After a few hours of hand sawing, I decided it was time for the neighbors to wake up, and I brought out my big chain saw and now I have a pile of brush about 4 feet deep, 80 feet wide and 80 feet long. The two citrus trees that finally died are also gone now. I've left all the stumps up to about 5 or 6 feet because, as I recently discovered, this makes them easier to remove.

Then a break for lunch, and then I spent 3 hours of moving brush to the curb, until the heat would not allow me to walk another step, and I only got a small part of the yard cleared out. I have enough limbs and brush remaining to line the entire street in front of the house. But not today.

Now we can see one neighbor's garage and the other's guest house. Oh well.

Next: Removing stumps

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Humid Celebration

Summer has arrived early here, its thick blanket of steam wrapping around me while I work on even the simplest chores outside, whispering into my ear that I should just quit and go inside, that the fence can wait. But no, I persisted and finally got it done. This picture shows what comes next--I'll need to get out my chain saw to clear out this area that has been a thick jungle since we moved in.

Projects are never really done, though. I still need to make the post caps and install them.

The sweet viburnum bush now is out of sight on the other side of the fence. I just couldn't bear to dig it up, though now I miss it--just brush against it and it responds with a wonderful aroma of lemon and spice. Maybe it will send shoots under the fence and come back to see me soon.

Of course, the project manager and her young protege were on hand for the final ceremonies, trying not to pant while pictures were taken. Cheryl is in Baltimore, escaping the heat. After a few pictures everyone was glad to get back inside. Oh well, I should have finished it months ago, when the weather was nice...

Next: making the post caps

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Fencing a Straight Line

The fence is now working its way up the side yard. Our property is on a gentle downward slope from east to west, with the northeast corner at probably the highest point. Or who knows? As I learned when doing the patio, it s not possible for me to judge slope with my eyes. I can just barely remember east and west, left and right, up and down.

Instead of keeping each section of the fence on a level, I'm using a string to map out a straight line for the entire length, and this has a calming effect on me. You just pull the string tight and it easily uncovers a truth that would otherwise be nearly impossible (for me) to determine. Even as I followed the line and marked off the level marks, I had trouble believing that the top of the fence would actually be straight. "You're kidding," I would ask the string at times.

One dilemma had to be faced along the way. A couple years ago I planted some sweet viburnum along the edge of the property, thinking that it would grow and thicken and become the new fence (instead of this wooden one). But almost all of it died--all except this stubborn survivor that is mostly on the neighbors side of the fence line.

I had two options: dig it up and move it into our yard (probably killing it in the process) or let it live in peace never to be seen again by me.

Next: Verdict for the viburnum.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Zen of Hammering

In my mind the neighborhood has big ears. It knows when I open the doors and let the dogs out early every morning. It hears me playing the piano during the day and keeps an inventory of my bad notes. It hears me leave for lunch and return. And it listens to my work on the fence.

Yes, in my mind there is a jury of retired master carpenters close by, sitting there with pencil and paper making notes about each buzz of my circular saw and each frrrt of my cordless drill fastening the fence brackets to their posts. But in particular these judges analyze each hammer stroke. They know, just from the sound, when my hammer stroke is not dead on, when it is too weak, and so on.

Of course even the untrained listener had concluded from the very first that I was the most pathetic girly-man hammer person imaginable, with these weak little tap, tap, tap strokes, like I was using daddy's hammer and it was just too big for my little girly hands. What they didn't know was that I was installing the fence less than a foot away from my neighbor's fence, so there was no room to give a proper hammer stroke. Oh, the indignity of it all. I could have just announced the problem out loud periodically ("There's not enough room to hammer, OK. I'm doing the best I can.") But that would have been weird. That's when I bought the special screwdriver.

Finally I've reached that portion of the fence that has no barriers behind. From this point on I can stand upright like a man and swing my hammer like I'm swinging a baseball bat. BAM, BAM, BAM, BAM, so that there is no doubt in the neighborhood about my manliness, and so that the jury of neighborhood carpenters can take note and adjust their opinion of me.

About 2,000 nails to go.

It got so hot yesterday that I put up an umbrella at my wood-cutting station. That's the nice thing about a privacy fence--no one can see what a wuss I am.

To come: Making a long straight line.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A Great Plan

Back home again, rested, renewed, invigorated and with a new attitude about the fence now that I've successfully negotiated my way around the leaning oak tree.

Each morning while on vacation, early in the morning while Cheryl was still snoring away (cute snoring), laying there in our cute room at the St. Francis Hotel in Santa Fe, I worked through one strategy after another for making the fence become one with the oak, with various braces and counterweights, all so that I would not have to surrender a few square feet of property by simply going around the tree. No, I was determined to run the fence right into the tree. Somehow.

I settled on a final plan but not without a great inner struggle, and at breakfast in the Tabla De Los Santos restaurant I attempt to explain the details to Cheryl using the salt and pepper shakers and some knives and some ingenious hand gestures. Her mind was elsewhere, though, and I could not blame her. The plan was pretty silly. Looking back on it I wonder how I am able to get anything done when I have time to think instead of just do.

Still, having invested in this plan, I was determined to see it through. Back at home I put on my tool belt, my hat, my gloves, and I walked out to the site to take measurements. It could not have been more than 2 minutes before I realized what a stupid plan it was. So I ditched the whole idea, and instead I dug two more post holes and just built a box around the tree.

Yes, I lost a few square feet of property, but now we have a nice, strong fence and we don't have to worry when the next hurricane comes along.

Next: the Zen of hammering.