Chill

Today the nearly month long dalliance with Summer-in-Winter that we’ve been enjoying got frosty. The Pacific high pressure zone parked overhead got nudged aside a bit, as an arctic blast swung down from Alaska to dust the Sierras with snow and the Western Slope with cold air.
At the Army-Navy surplus store I got a Carhartt furry-lined vest to stay warm while working outside — not that I am very inclined to work outside much when it is bitter cold, but sometimes these things can’t be avoided so it’s best to accommodate them in some degree of comfort.

Yesterday the weather was fine and digging went well, and as a means of avoiding the black mud sticking to the dumper-wagon I put down a layer of pine-needles in the bottom.



It worked! The loads slid out of the wagon easily, and I made four runs until I got the John Deere’s tires all loaded-up with muck and stuck under the pine tree. After a bit of digging out I got free and decided to call it a day and go hose the machine off. My back was also not too stressed and only required one ibuprofen.

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Drain the Swamp!

Turns out it was a buried irrigation line, not electric. So I started pulling it up in one direction, then the other. It’s empty and just gurgles. Don’t know where it could possibly have been feeding-from, but I got about twenty-feet pulled-up before I decided not to risk my back further and turned my attention to the swamp and began to cut watery turf. Just me and my shovel.
After about an hour and a couple bottles of water, I had nearly doubled the size of the mud-pit and banked-up turf in various low-spots, as well as filling-in about half of the rocky brown-patch.
There’s a couple dumper-wagon loads of mud to take up and fill-in the old burn-pile ditch, but with this fine weather it’s hard not to just keep at it making hay while the sun shines.
It’s fun to see progress being made, bit by bit, but now I’d better throw a couple mosquito “dunks” into that mess where there’s standing water…

Digging Out Step-1

On Thursday amid the sustained good weather under this umbrella of a high-pressure zone, with bright skies and temps in the low 709’s, I went and fetched the shovel to do a little more digging. From one angle looking towards the fence, and then across the ditch to the other side towards the fence, with lens and Photoshop distortion. It was a good two-hour workout, and still more to do.


From one view you can see what might become an island, as the water percolating down out of the field runs around it. Instead of a really large “pond” area (dry in the summer, of course), that might be where I place the center of the bridge span, so the mower can get across.
Afterwards my Wranglers and t-shirt needed a little washing-up.

Also I discovered a black pipe running along the direction of the fence-line, about where the water drains into my neighbor’s cow-watering hole. I have no idea what-for, but it’s soft like irrigation drip-line, and that size. At some point it’s coming up and then we’ll find out what it is, and whether it might be/contain wiring for an electric fence? There’s nothing out there to water anyhow.

De-rock-ifying

Started-in on the main rocky patch off crap-dirt where not much grows. In the summer when the rest of the grass is a foot high, this ten-foot square area is just a bumpy, scrubby, dust-bowl and the mower kicks-up rocks and dulls the blade. Kicking up rocks around here can also spark a fire, so leveling it out is another safety precaution.
There’s another similar-sized patch off to the left, but this one is close to the drainage cut I’m making, and anyhow there’s always more work to be done if you look for it! I wish there was a contraption I could pull behind the mower that would gather up rocks and gravel while leaving the nice soil behind, but I’m not aware of such a thing – even for a big tractor. If there was it might justify buying a tractor to do this job, but since there is not it’s just me and the shovel. When I finished with the shovel I spread a lawn-patch mixture of seed and fertilizer on it, in case I don’t get around to filling it with turf cut out of the drainage channel.
Up in the corner of the property, underneath the old pine tree and by the fence, is a kind of junk ditch that may have been the old burn pile. Anyhow that’s where the rocky crap-soil is destined. The small mower couldn’t make it up the hill because of the clearance, the slippery pine needles, and the scrub oaks, so the big John Deere (with locking differential) was called out. I made about six runs with the dumper wagon half-full (because of the weight), and there’s always more to do but at least it’s a start.
You can’t really see the wide ditch from the picture because of the combination of angles, hillside, and lighting, but it’s about as wide as the fresh dirt and rocks. Six half-loads was a pretty good job, but it’s all soft and there is room for more.
Rain possible today at 3:30, so maybe a bit more work is in order while I have the cool pleasure of an overcast day.
UPDATE: Got outside where the temperature has already peaked at 51 and dropping as the storm comes in bearing Sierra snow. I bent over to move some rocks by the fence and my back called-up to remind me of my current age and decrepitude. Between shoveling and bouncing around on the John Deere yesterday I probably should have worm my motocross kidney belt, but it doesn’t match the yellow and green color scheme. Anyhow there will be more time for more stuff after the rain blows through.

Prairie to Pasture to Parkland

Well not quite parkland, probably never, but I had a hankering to get some tanbark down around the trees and see how much floats-off during the winter. With an initial load of twelve bags for two trees (6-each) and results that appealed, I got up early this morning and went to Home Depot for another sixteen bags for the larger (and smallest) trees. I spread the bark with an eighteen inch gap around at the trunk (conveniently the width of my steel rake), and stomped-around in a circle to make a four-inch deep apron. Or thereabouts.
The big oak I’m leaving alone because it get’s the most wet under there.




Fieldwork: the drain

Since it’s vastly cooler now and still very dry, I decided to take a look at the shambles on the fence-line where my neighbor’s pond-overflow meets my field. Somebody at sometime – over ten years ago – had created some kind of catch-basin, and it had fallen into disrepair. A semi-circle of terrace block is stacked-up around a pile of river-rocks, with a pathetic layer of dirty old landscape fabric stretched across in an attempt to keep out debris. The corners and edges of a blue tarp peek-out from beneath the terrace block, evidence of some kind of “pool liner” to contain the water in the basin. I called it “the Hydraulic Impediment,” because it didn’t seem as useful as it portended, while jutting into the path of the mower.
During last year’s exceptional rain the overflow was pumping madly and water was going everywhere, so its utility was in question, and now that it was dry as a bone I was curious as to what the hell was going on under that pile of rocks and dirt and crap. Also I figured there woulds be no watery muck to contend with, or critters – and I need the exercise.
So I moved the terrace-blocks aside and laid out a tarp, and we set to tossing the big rocks into a pile on the tarp while loading a bucket with the small rocks and creating another pile. I want to put the small rocks back on top of the big ones to help act as a natural filter instead of using yard-cloth as a screen.
All the dirt and debris on the ground-cloth got rolled up and piled off to another side, and it wasn’t long before we uncovered the big old 8-inch drain-end that was blocked by the tarp and some large rocks. Hmmm…this must lead to the big steel pipe that runs beneath the whole field and drains out into the creek where the cattle water. The big tarp covering the face of the drain must not have worked so well and the little Y-cleanout would not be enough as a top-flow drain.
There is a fresh tarp to replace the torn and tatty one as a pool-liner – this time brown. Also I decided I wanted an extension into the catch-basin that would better collect water and yet (hopefully) prevent debris once the water percolates down through the large stones. Home Depot doesn’t have anything pipe-wise that is this big (but they did have a little 4-inch slotted cover for the cleanout), so I went looking with the big-boy suppliers.
Ferguson had nothing less than 20-feet and the Fruit-growers Association didn’t have anything this big in diameter, but at another place (where they only had 20-foot sections) I got lucky because an older gent was returning some grates and covers from a job, and I took a look at the square cover and it measured out OK. I figured I could re-purpose the square plastic lid ($40) using safety wire of something.
So back to to my local irrigation and landscape materials company for a 10-foot (minimum-length) section of 8-inch drain-pipe – corrugated on the outside but smooth on the inside ($27). I got out the Sawzall and made a 5-foot section, spray-painted gold on one side so I would know which side went up and besides, this IS “Gold Country” after all! To perforate the bottom I drilled five rows of 3/8″ holes down the length in each “rib” – 300 in all, and then in between the ribs four more rows of 1/4″ holes so another 240 holes…and only once had to change the drill battery.
I may need to anchor-down the extension so it won’t float! Might tie some wire around a couple of the big river-rocks to act as weights on either side of the tube. Still have a bunch of digging-out to make a channel for this extension thing… Exercise!

Rocks on the embankment, un-bedbugs downtown…

To mal-a-phrase a Rolling Stones song. I got crawling under the deck weeding, and spread a bunch of salt hoping to provide a desultory environment for mosquitoes that were hiding in the damp, and also prevent further weed growth. Meanwhile a new load of rock arrived yesterday, procured by yours truly from the Low Granite Outcropping – which has a surfeit of stones – and I got my exercise carrying them up and embedding two complimentary rows across the other side of The Embankment. They are substantial rocks of a good size to impress, and hopefully act as good soldiers in the war of erosion-control. And my back feels it, but so do my empowered muscles.
Meanwhile a couple thousand .22LR are on order before the end-of-December window closes in California, and I have received 500-each of Starline .44-40 brass, laser-cast Oregon Trail .427 bullets, and 5lbs of Trail Boss powder for reloading – and a shellplate for the big Hornady progressive press. If that doesn’t work I’ll go back to the single-stage.

Rockin’ the Embankment

The heat has broken and cooler weather has arrived – this week anyhow. The morning dawned cloudy and in the 50’s, low and chilly compared to last month’s overnight average of mid 70’s or more. And in advance of the next Monsoon we have been laying-up stones on the embankment. Some of the bigger ones weigh a good 80-lbs or more.
Perhaps this can ease the runoff and sluicing mud that ran down the embankment last year off my neighbor’s driveway in the Great Seasonal Deluge of Global Warming. Since we have one home with a surfeit of rocks, that is from-where we have been able to contribute. Meanwhile the “Wayne’s Silver” California fuchsia has thrived over the summer and the hummingbirds love it. Towards the middle is the remaining stump from the 14-foot high now dead butterfly bush, and about where the cascade emerges.

Click for Pan-O-Rama-Vision

Heat

We have been enjoying temperatures in excess of 100°+ Fahrenheit for the last few days/weeks (107° yesterday), and I have come to learn that has something to do with tomato production:

When days hit 85°F to 90°F and nights hover above 75°F, tomato flowers often fail to pollinate, then drop — which in turn puts new fruit production on hold. The longer the heat lasts, the longer those tomato flowers will continue to hit the pause button. In short, hot weather can delay your tomato crop.

…and I have also learned something about “Determinate” and “Indeterminate” tomatoes. Indeterminate tomatoes grow out of control unless you prune them, and I have Indeterminate ones, so the giant tomato cage I made from a 4×8 section of screen fencing, cut and bent into a square, is a good thing except that I didn’t prune anything. And now the San Marinzano’s have grown up and out of it, and being that are kind of a one-shot tomato – they fruit-up and the plant dies – and with the heat the plant is now brown and crispy. Buh-bye! Anyhow we got a couple colanders of fruit off them and made some sauce, and that is what they are for.
Meanwhile the indeterminate cherry tomato plant has spread out to cover most of the planter-bed, and the small cage that “housed” it is invisible underneath the tangled and twisted vines – and it’s still producing so it’s a hot-climate pant. Maybe next year I’ll try a Determinate plant and get a second-season of growth and fruit (after a second planting), instead of having this wild and wooly, raggedy tangle of vine hanging about all summer long.
Meanwhile this morning dawned with a pink cast to the sky as the sun rose, still a warm 80° at 6:00AM with night time temps barely breaking into the upper 70’s, but the promise of cooler days ahead. Happy Labor Day and God Bless and keep-safe the people of the Hurricane, in Texas and the Gulf Coast.

Git ‘er Done

So…a yard of 1-1/2″ “natural” is just $42.90 with tax and everything.

Cool, and across the street the guys are getting a palette of “tan cinder natural” terrace-block, of which 40 will be mine at a buck-eight a piece, two courses to make a 5-foot diameter circle.

Still, the first half-yard load of rock sunk the shocks on the truck, and the second half-yard bucket dropped it onto the rails practically and the tires were bulging.

And an incredible amount of dust accompanies the rock.

So I drove real slowly, and good thing it was only about a mile. Rock AND ROLL!

Nice day, only about 100 today, nice bit of workout. Who needs a goddamn gym when you have rocks and nature?

Hole is full. Now to make a “wishing well” with a tin roof, just to keep the leaves and dirt out.