And the mundane

I managed to clean half of the gutters during the kiddo’s nap on Saturday!

It was the easier half of the house, in that they are only a few rungs up on the ladder – the ones around the kitchen and garage are still left (too high for me, maybe Kevin will attempt them), plus the front of the house (skipped because I didn’t want to wake the toddler with ladder clatter). It’s been a windy, stormy fall so far, so this won’t be the last gutter cleaning of the year, but I still felt virtuous. Even more so for going out despite the rain, though that turned out to have a major upside – with the rain filling the gutters with water, there were almost no creepy-crawlies to contend with. I also pulled the little lines of moss off the bottom several rows of tiles, so big improvements all around.


BIG woodpile:

Little woodpiles:

And nary a chipper in sight! The first picture is from my parents’ visit (Mom thought I needed a picture with me for scale, since it really was an impressively huge thing). Two yard waste collections later, the difference is rather magical. (Really. Cut the sticks and branches small enough, and it defies logic how much you can fit in those bins. It all starts feeling very Higitus Figitus — reminds me of the Merlin packing away his books in “The Sword in the Stone”.) And I spent this afternoon with the handsaw, making sure that all of the remaining sticks and logs are small enough to fit in the bits without further trimming! I’m feeling very accomplished.

All gone!

On Friday, I got in to work early for a meeting, and to keep things even, I left work at 4:15. It was still light enough to get yard work done when I got home!! (*Huge* progress – it’s not dark at 3:45 anymore! The light always comes back so much faster in January than it goes in November.) I filled one of the yard waste bins to the hilt, and finished clearing the left side of the brush pile.

The weather cooperated on Sunday – blue and clear, and not even that cold – and so I was able to finish the second bin. I was very proud that all of it fit.

Now on to that monster pile in the back – I’m guessing at least three double-bins for the brush, and then another double bin or two of just limbs. Plus a bin for the Christmas tree. Since they only collect every other week in the winter, that puts us at a min of two months? Not terrible.

Two afternoons of work well done

I’ve been wanting to post this for the last two weeks, and the weather keeps being crummy, and I can’t take pictures (either it pours, or there is NO light – those held hostage under the deep, dark Seattle clouds will understand). So pretend this was posted back on 12/27.

When we bought the house, I also bought a pruning book, read it, tried out a few things, and then gave up and decided to wait for better instruction. Kevin’s dad is an arborist, and both of his parents are gardeners, and so we and our yard have been waiting with high hopes for their visit. We weren’t disappointed. Our three fruit trees were massively pruned (and did they ever need it!), five pine trees and the half-rotten enormous leaf-producing monster tree outside the kitchen window were de-limbed, and our shrubs have been taken from unwieldy monsters into much more manageable creatures.

Kevin’s dad was impressed (to put it mildly) by all of our moss, but once he adjusted to see past it, it was a treat to watch him work. As gifts, his parents brought out a handsaw, many yards worth of screw-together poles, a saw attachment, and a neat little pulley-operated clipper attachment. In two full afternoons, we learned a lot about what to cut and how to go about it, but the best part was watching Kevin Sr. confront the branches on a tree.

The tree on the side of the house, for example, stands in the 3 yards between our neighbor’s fence and our house, looming over the plate glass window and the kitchen garden window. (photo from early November)

Working from a ladder and then from the room, he gradually took down about 2/3 of the tree, dropping all of the limbs down onto the same 2’ stretch of walkway. (after-photo from the opposite vantage point):

Same with the fruit trees – 20’ branches consistently avoided the two fences, the neighbours’ yards, and the squashable surrounding shrubs.

Kevin got to “raise the skirts” on the back five pine trees, though with slightly less grace. 🙂

I spent more time on the fruit trees and the shrubs, and cutting up enormous falling limbs with the handsaw. We amassed QUITE the brush piles. The main one is on the back patio

and the auxiliary one is by the six-foot-tall side fence.

The plan is to try to get rid of the side pile via our semiweekly yard waste collection, and then possible rent a chipper for the enormous guy out back. Good luck, us.

The two biggest successes were the tree out front by the driveway, and the fruit tree right out back. Before, the pine by the driveway hid the house almost completely from the street.

Whereas now, you can see the roofline! Kevin’s dad took the branches up the trunk about 8 feet (and it seems like more from the ground, since the limbs drooped so much). The front yard is so much lighter!

For comic relief feel free to ponder the mass of the branches removed vs the two 96-gallon, black yard waste bins to the right of the garage. Ha, ha…

You can see all of the cuts on one side of the trunk from this photo:

The backyard tree is another joy to me. The poor thing was hacked within an inch of its life and then abandoned, and the suckers had almost entirely taken over. (Picture, with snow for contrast, from a few weeks ago.)

Now, there’s a defined center-top, very few suckers (the two that were left have some of the only branches that are growing at the back of the tree, so they stayed), no more hacked-off knobs, and much sparser, healthier-looking branches. We’re delighted.

It’s still probably in its twilight years, but it looks so much less abused and dreadful.
Next step: convincing them all that we want them to visit for more than tree work. 🙂

That helps a bit

We decided to live it up and buy a second yard waste bin. Another 96-gallon bin costs $7 a month, and we have been rapidly realizing that unless we get seriously into vermiculture (something that has been researched, considered, and rejected), our single bin just will not cut it.

I’m so impressed by the yard waste and composting services provided for curbside pickup. ANY food product, plus pizza boxes, counts as compost and can be put in the yard waste bin (including meat, fish and dairy, which you generally can’t compost at home due to pests and odor). I’m slowly gaining the knack for stuffing yard waste bins to the hilt: start with leaves and pine needles, add tree limbs to the corners and then stuff and stamp down all of the random branches and clippings.

Our clipping piles are basically never going to disappear. I’ve started researching rental chippers, but they’re seeming like more trouble than they’re worth at this point. The ones that actually could fit in my car are called shredders, but they’re harder to find for rental and they only handle things up to 2”, and they are apparently crummy at dealing with pine needles (we have a million). 90% of our branches could be handled by a small chipper (up to three inches), but the units need to be towed home with a trailer hitch (can you picture adding that to the mustang??), and they’re too big to get through the gate, so we’d have to haul the entire huge piles out to the driveway, and then haul (presumably via a new wheelbarrow?) all of the wood chips/mulch back to the backyard.

So, the default plan for now is to just max out our two yard waste bins until it’s gone. The pile on the side of the house is my top priority, since I can’t even imagine what kind of creepy crawlies are finding homes between our limbs and the dirt they’re sitting on. Yard waste is collected every other week during the winter, so it may be a long haul. To get a sense of how much a yard waste bin holds, here’s the before

and after (that’s a six-foot fence):