Sunday, November 7, 2010

Aspens, Two Out of Three

There's not a great view out the kitchen side window. Our neighbor's house is only about 25 feet away, and presents a fairly featureless expanse of gray siding. This would also be the view we get from the hot tub.

Trees would be nice, we figured. The east side of our property has a bunch of aspens, and they are quite lovely. Maples are prettier, but don't grow as quickly, and we need height as the kitchen is on the second floor.

When I was at Moonfire and Sun Garden Center on 27th picking up bulb food last weekend I saw they had 7-1/2 gallon aspens for $25. I inquired about planting the things.

"You need a hole about 2-1/2 feet in diameter, and 10 inches deep," the garden center lady said. "Then fill around the root ball with a 50-50 mixture of compost and native soil."

I figured I could do that, but before purchasing any trees, I wanted to see if holes of that size could be dug where we wanted to plant the trees. Judging from the number of boulders protruding from the ground, my guess was that what we have over there was a mess of rock with a thin skin of dirt.

And that's what I found. Each of the three holes presented an unusual challenge. One had to be moved half a foot to clear a large stone roughly the size of a 130hp Evinrude outboard engine. The second hole had a boulder right in the middle of it, but it was budgeable with the shovel. I feared that I would break the shovel's handle, so I set that obstacle aside until I had something more substantial to address it with. The third hole also had a boulder in the middle but it wasn't quite so tall, and since aspens don't have taproots, I figured the tree would be able to work out an agreeable relationship with its stony neighbor.

Encouraged, I proposed to Mrs Elliott that we go ahead and buy three aspens and she agreed.

We swung by Harbor Freight where I purchased a damn big ol' iron pry bar to use on the budgeable boulder. Across the steet was JoAnne's, and I got a spool of black thread so I could continue on yesterday's the sewing project. Over at Moonfire, we loaded three aspens into the van along with some compost.

The pry bar made short work of the boulder in the second hole.  Feeling the power conferred by leverage, I decided to see what could be done about the boulder in the bottom of the third hole. The shovel never moved it, but the pry bar shifted it easily. And mainly horizontally. Got one end lifted up, but pulling the stone up out of the hole is another story. That boulder turned out to be the size of two sacks of potatoes, and considerably heavier. It's far too heavy for me to haul up and out.

So there it sits, protruding out of the hole, sullenly mocking me

"C'mon," it seems to be saying. "Do your best. It's my passive weight against your back. What have you got to lose?"

Not much. A disc, maybe.

In the olden days when farmers cleared fields by hand, I reckon they had equipment for this. Lash a strap around it and have the mule pull it out. Or erect a tripod of sturdy timbers over the hole and raise it with a block and tackle.

I own neither block and tackle nor a mule, and it does it not seem economical to purchase either.

My plan, then, is to find a strapping young man or two to clear that hole.

So this is where things stand: I have two of the aspens in the ground, and the third is waiting for clearance to land. My back is a little tired and the hot tub is casting seductive glances my way. Come hither, it says, I will soothe your aches.

I believe I will avail myself to its tender ministrations.


  1. You dig holes in Central Oregon, you're gonna hit rocks. Ain't no way around it.

    Dynamite is one option you didn't mention.

  2. You mean, as in reach into the hole, pack a charge under the rock, and hope it's a. large enough to lift the rock out of the hole, but b. not so large as to loft that stone right up through the kitchen window and into the china cabinet?

    I'll have to give that idea some thought. Okay, I've thought about it. Nope, ain't gonna do it.


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