At Least We Smell Like We Went Camping

I type tonight with dirty fingernails, weary muscles, and sunburned skin.  It is Memorial Day weekend, and for that I am grateful.  Especially grateful to the men – my grandfathers included – and women who fought to make this a country where we can all make our own choices about most anything one can choose to make a choice about.  Thank you.

This weekend we made the choice not to go rafting or camping or backpacking.  Instead, we chose to stay home and work on our summer landscaping project.  Our lot has great potential, but it is currently an uneven terrain riddled with alders, weeds, and massive boulders.

Pulling alders by hand… not fun, not easy…
Pulling alders with an ATV… still not fun, still not easy…
Alder slaughter: Before
Alder slaughter: After

Clearing that hill was hazardous to our marriage, and it’s only the little patch out front.  I admit that Clark did the hard part – hauling the 50 lb. chain up and down the hill, clamping the gripper tool to the branches, taking a brief respite while I drove the ATV a few feet forward to uproot the limbs, and then he was back on duty detaching the gripper and launching the limbs…it wasn’t easy.  I simply sat on the ATV, trying my best to follow his cryptic hand signals and figure out if he was saying “BACK THE HELL UP!” or “GO FORWARD, WTF ARE YOU WAITING FOR?”

But despite appearances, that hill is steep.  He expected me to straddle the ATV and traverse the hill in reverse, in which case I found my vertical self looking directly downward at the handlebars and trying to control my jiggling legs.  He kept reassuring me that his amazing machine could handle it, but he didn’t realize his amazing wife could not.  At more than one point I found myself clenching the brake along with my teary eyes and praying I didn’t flip.  An adrenaline seeker, I am not.  Oh, and did I mention we started this project on Mother’s Day with intermittent snowflakes?  Humor me less.

Today was different.  We started out back, where the alders looked so innocent and innocuous.  I grinned at the sunny skies and flat terrain before cockily mounting the ATV.  Oh, what a little experience can do to a girl!  I was now comfortable enough to rev it up in reverse, and actually whistled while I waited for Clark to hook the chain so I could uproot the rogue bush.  The chain went taut and my back tires started spinning.  Hmmmm.  Reverse again for a new angle, forward a little faster, tires still spinning.  Forward more, spin more.  Rev more, spew dirt back upon to my swearing husband as the spinning tires dig a trench.  Damn!  These backyard beasts are rooted deep!  My confidence was shattered.

Fast forward a few back breaking hours.  We had cleared a swath barely wide enough for a Tonka truck, and decided an excavator is in order.  Marriage saved.  Warning to those alders:  we are now united, and you will meet your match next weekend.

At this point it was only mid-afternoon, and we didn’t want the gorgeous day to go to waste.  We decided to haul all the branches from the front yard out to the fire pit in the back:

Load one…

Three loads and four hours later… and we had burned one measly pile.  If there wasn’t a burn ban in effect we could have just torched the entire lot, but as it sits we had to cut every limb into nice neat 18 inch sections to burn within the confines of our fire pits.  (Yes, we had two burning simultaneously.)  The still-green wood was throwing a hissing fit (literally) so we had to alternately load it with old, dry, dead timbers we had been saving for a relaxing evening fire.  So much for that!  Still, this chore was far more enjoyable than pulling the alders.  At least we walked away with that smoky, “Cool, you’ve been camping!” smell.

Back yard progress???

It’s hard to believe this wild mess will be an enjoyable, mowable, playable paradise in a few short months.  Stay tuned and wish us luck.

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