Friday, May 31, 2013

Getting the Stump Out

 Just three days ago, Bruce Cunningham and crew were here to take down a dying blue spruce (click here to read that post). This morning, very early (7:30 am), I heard a truck pull into our driveway and machinery rattle as it was driven into place. Bruce was back with his stump grinder.

 On Tuesday, when the three-man crew left, all that was left was a stump with a red-X on it.

 Bruce said he'd call to have the utilities checked to make sure he wouldn't be disrupting any service while taking the stump out. On Wednesday, when Mom and I returned home from a chore, we found this painted on our lawn.

 It says: TWC Phone OK. While we don't have cable TV (TWC stands for Time Warner Cable), we do have DirecTV but I know where that line goes since I helped bury it myself. I wasn't worried about the phone line either as the junction box is directly across the street. Surely the line takes the shortest path and goes across our front lawn.
 The power, however, was of concern to me. The power pole that supplies our service is at the end of Sam's lane. You might draw a line between our power box and that pole and find it passes almost directly under this pine. Cunningham said Dayton Power & Light lines are buried about two feet down but it's nothing he'd want to mess with. Whoever checked for our buried lines checked all three utilities at once. All clear.

 Cunningham set up three plywood sheets (the grinder is standing on one in the driveway) to prevent the wood chips from flying all over the place. It saved a lot of clean-up. Here he's beginning to grind the stump with a hand-held wireless remote control. It allows him to stand back a safe distance. "This is my toy," he smiled.

 Here's a close-up shot of that remote control. It certainly looks heavy duty. In fact, as the grinder worked away, it reminded me of the Curiosity lander on Mars.

 This project is almost finished. Cunningham has only to drive the stump grinder back onto this flatbed.

 ... and I have only to shovel three wheelbarrow loads of excess topsoil and wood chips to the garden. I've left it mounded a bit thinking it will settle with tonight's rain. Later I'll scratch it up again, add grass seed and place straw atop the area and keep it well-watered this summer.
 Cunningham left me with a tip for speeding up the germination of grass seed. "Place the bag of seed in your freezer at least overnight. It'll sprout in three days if you do that."

Saturday, June 1 : Yesterday I took four wheelbarrow loads of wood chips and dirt to the garden, making the area where the tree stood only a little mounded. I figure it will settle quite a bit with rain. Today I cleaned up more wood chips (it rained yesterday exposing yet more), hauled them to the garden (where I now have two nice paths) and I began preparing the soil for grass seed. Now, late in the day, the seed is planted and straw spread across the spot.

June 1

Tuesday, June 11: It's just been eleven days since the stump was removed. We've had ample rainfall with warm, sunny days interspersed and the grass seed has grown vigorously. In many places, rather than thread its way through the straw, it lifted it. I redistributed the straw as necessary. From Sam's driveway, here's how the spot looks now.

June 11

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Timber !

 Pinehaven was meant to convey some of the look and feel of northern Michigan. That's why, as soon as we moved in over 26 years ago, I began buying pines and planting them about the property. Lately, though, they've been dying, following the pattern I see throughout the Miami Valley.
 It's a disease, for sure, but I also think the trees are weakened by our changing climate. It's either hot and dry or cold and wet. There seems to be few average days. Everything is extremes. And that doesn't make for happy pines.
 About a month ago I called Bruce Cunningham with Affordable Tree Stump Removal, LLC (937-839-4654) and asked him to stop by and give me an estimate on a blue spruce - once a beautiful tree and a focal point of our south yard. He called yesterday and said he'd be by in the morning to take it down.

 Here's how the tree looked at 8 am this morning. You can see why it needed to be removed. The entire top was dead and bare. In fact many of the limbs on the north side (facing the house) had also lost their needles. It was quite an ugly sight. The blue spruce to its right is also dying, though I think I'll be able to wait a year or so before having to have it removed.

 At 9 am, on the minute, Cunningham and a crew of two arrived to take the tree down. His chipper-shredder is out of service so he brought two trucks to haul away the limbs and debris.

 Cunningham began with a saw on a long (expandable) pole and began cutting all the lower limbs.

 Slowly the tree seems to stand on a single bare leg.

 It was one sad-looking tree before they began; it was even sadder half an hour later.

 Now workers have tied a rope high in the branches and another readies a chain saw for the final fall. They'll drop it precisely to the right of the truck shown in this frame.

 A cut is made on the north side of the tree and a wedge cut here. After the wedge is removed, the worker will walk around to the north side of the tree, ask "Ready?", and make the final cut.

 This is the moment of a sharp crack and the tree begins to topple. See the rope tied near the top? Two other workers are pulling and the tension drops the tree precisely where they want it.

 And there it is ... down. The poor old tree has probably stood 30 or more years (I must remember and try to count the rings in the stump before it's removed). But of late it's looked haggard and it's good to see it gone.

 Now the job is cutting the tree into manageable logs. The stump will be cut closer to the ground, an orange X placed on it for the utility companies who will flag the area and then Cunningham will be back to grind the stump out.

 The pine looks even worse from below.

 From our south living room window, a new view opens. We can easily see Clayton Road and even have a nice view of Sam's mailbox. Both have been hidden for all these years.

 A few more cuts and workers will sweep the ground and rake the debris from the driveway. Great clean-up! And they're done before 10:30 am, only an hour and a half after beginning.
 We laugh but there's some truth to the fear that we'll have to change the name of our place from Pinehaven to Maplehaven. With the emerald ash borer killing our beautiful ashes, eventually the only thing left with be our oaks and maples.


 I've pulled an old video that I made on July 4, 1987 and captured a frame of the two blue spruce. The tree cut today is on the left. The tree has grown quite a bit in 26 years and I imagine the tree was already a decade old when this picture was taken.

July 4, 1987

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The "Histeria" of our Wisteria

 Talk about perseverance. Our wisteria knows the meaning of the word well. We're not even sure where we got it. My aunt in Miamisburg thinks it's a start from their plant; Mom thinks she bought it.

 "We had the start from Mae's wisteria in the yard in Moraine," Mom said. We lived there only from 1980 through 1986. To see a picture of Mae's wisteria in 2008, click here.

 After moving to Pinehaven, we somehow acquired another. Trouble is, after planting it we invariably found we did not like it in the chosen spot and moved it. There's nothing more disruptive to a flowering vine than being moved, especially multiple times.

 Then, two years ago, the plant was finally putting out blossoms. On the night Dad died we had a terrific storm blow through and it toppled the pole that the plant was growing on. To see that disaster, click here.

 I removed the broken pole, trimmed the wisteria back to a few substantial sprouts and left it to grow in the same spot (I'm sure I heard a word of thanks from the plant). Last year we had lots of greenery. This year we have six buds.

May 7

May 18

 The buds, in this early stage, remind me of hops used in beer production. You can see the individual flowers, each held tightly encased in their own sheath.
 Wisteria, by the way, is a member of the pea family (figure that one out) and is named in memory of Dr. Caspar Wistar (1761-1818) or perhaps Charles Jones Wister, Sr. (both of Philadelphia). The plant is often spelled Wistaria.

May 20

 As shown above, just a few days ago, the buds began to open. The purple flowers can be seen emerging on the bottom and the entire bud stretching and preparing for its traditional dangling, grape-like structure.

May 22

 Yesterday the blossom first took on the traditional appearance of wisteria. If this is the same as my aunts, the color will deepen to more of a purple as time passes and the flower matures.


 May 24

May 25

Monday, May 20, 2013

Sam's 80th Birthday

 Our nearest neighbor was also the first we met 26 years ago. Since then, Sam and Millie Cornett, have been dear friends. A few weeks ago Millie called and left a message on our phone. "We're having a surprise 80th birthday party for Sam."

 It was held at Pam Erisman's (their daughter), our next nearest neighbor. The Erisman's set up tables in their garage. We arrived at 2 pm and waited for Sam to arrive. Millie feigned a stomach upset to delay Sam seeing what was going on.

 I asked Sam when his actual birthday was. "About a week ago," was all he would say. That's Pam on the far left.

 Mom and I took seats as far inside the garage as possible to avoid the May heat. It peaked at 82° and the humidity was oppressive. An open walk-through door provided a pleasant breeze. This shot shows everyone waiting for the guest of honor to arrive.

 Directly across the table from us sat Jim and Cleo Erisman, Jeff's (Pam's husband) parents. They are also the parents of Sherry Wallace, who does Mom's hair, and Jim Erisman, my barber. There aren't more pleasant people to be around.

 Before 2:30 pm Sam was secreted in and he had a big smile on his face. Did he know something was going on? Perhaps, but he seemed to enjoy the surprise just the same.

 Millie explains how hard it was for her to keep the secret. "Every time I was phoning people with the invitations, Sam would walk in the door and I'd have to get off the phone!", she said.

 Sam begins working his way through the crowd. I remember when Dad died (05/25/11) Sam told me, "I'm just ten years younger than your Dad," He was 78 at the time. Sam's doing well, though. He mows weekly and seems to stay active.

 Millie, too. works her way through the crowd. Pam's garage is a great place for gatherings of this sort. The last time we were there was in July 2008 for Rick Cornett's retirement from General Motors. Rick is Pam's brother.

 Nearing 88, I doubt Mom will be able to attend another of these events. We drove down the road, parked on Ersiman's lawn and I walked her carefully to their garage. Even then the uneven ground is hard for Mom to walk on. I hold one hand; she uses a cane in the other. So, memories are made ... the whole way round.

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Springtime Fog

 We've been getting rain nearly every day - and still we're 20% below normal for May - and that has conspired to give us particularly damp mornings, where dew remains on the grass until noon and my wet, soaked canvas shoes are the early-day norm.

 Today, though, the moisture was even greater and at 6:45 am, when I expect the sun and myself to rise at about the same time, I walked down the steps in near-darkness. By 8 am, when I took my morning walk, cars still had their headlights on and the atmosphere, while cool, was thick, heavy and sodden.

 As I walked back out Sam's lane, our own property came slowly into view. Only the line of trees at the western edge of Pinehaven were visible. The sun, mostly hidden by the fog, shown through briefly, betraying its position by a soft spot of increased light. Now, hours later, there has still been no sunshine.

 Closer to Sam's, a lone tree stands near the lane, coming into view as I near, thrust through the fog only as I approach. It has an almost sinister look to it, as though it's intent is wholly evil. All is quiet. Even the usual barn lot dogs I so often hear are muffled by the moisture, unheard by me, too far removed.

 Near to our house, the pussy willow holds a thin cobweb, itself tacked lightly to the bare branches, held there by a drop of spider's glue, dripping with beads of moisture. No half-aware insect would fall for this trap so exposed.

 Beyond the barn an Austrian Pine holds a more elaborate web, also betrayed by the dampness. Late yesterday afternoon we had a brief shower pass through and it was that moisture, cooled by the night's air, that made it visible, made it rise again from the earth.

 A closer view shows the copious moisture that hangs by mere threads. Is it any wonder, then, that clouds rise on such as this, send it back down when the weight becomes too great, the colder air unable to hold it? Spider webs and clouds hold much in common. Scientists may call it nucleation but it is the same, here on ground level, or high in the clouds.

 Another web, held beneath a pine branch at the rear of our property, is as thin as an exhalation, a breath made visible, and yet it gathers on its thin torn shroud, droplets of water, and gives itself away. Surely this is a hungry time for spiders, their traps sprung by nothing more than hints of water vapor.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Pond

 I am drawn to the pond at the Farmersville-Jackson Township Park as though it were a magnet. Most days Mom and I walk for a time there, watching the slow change of scenery with the seasons, counting the walkers who are on the track, noting the fisherman sitting on the bank, listening for the peals of laughter from children on the playground equipment.

May 14, 2013 panorama of the pond

 Yesterday, as Mom continued walking, I stopped at the south edge of the pond and took four photos. I then stitched them together into this panorama. It was a perfect spring day, summer-like actually, with a stiff breeze, brilliant sunshine and a high temperature near 80°.
 When we moved to Pinehaven, the pond did not exist. I don't remember what year we saw excavation begin. A wide, sweeping cut was made with grading equipment and the pond slowly dug into Winter Zero Swartsel's former property (search this blog on his name for more details). The park is his legacy but the pond should be his namesake.

 Here's a single shot of the beautiful sky we enjoyed yesterday. Wispy cirrus and alto cumulus gave the sky a true three-dimensional effect. It was not a boring flat blue but deep, reaching into space. The clouds drifted quickly on the winds and the scene changed constantly.

 The Farmersville Fire Department had just filled the swimming pool and had their hoses laid out on the walking path to town. The job took all night and till mid-afternoon yesterday to fill the two pools. They'll open in about two weeks, enough time for the water to warm a bit.

 On May 7 I took this close-up of aquatic grasses along the edge of the pond. The lighting gave the water the look of liquid silver. Each blade of grass poked through the water's surface, dimpling the water, the surface tension causing a small  depression around each blade.

 Go back yet another week, to May 1, and the crab apples were in luxurious bloom. Their sweet scent gave our walk an added pleasure.

 That same day, the puffy cumulus reflected in the water's surface and produced a dizzying effect as I stood there. They moved ever so slowly and seemed to pull me along with them.

 These shots cover a mere two weeks. Now the flowering trees have replaced their showy displays with leaves.