Garden: Forestry Management, Stuck Trucks, and Bee Stings

Note: Hey All, Future Kelin, here! I typed-out most of this post and then our internet went down for a few days. We’re back up and running again, but now we’re behind on posts. As a result, there will be no weekly meal plan (because the week is over). I’ve kept the post as I typed it, and then we’ll pick back up with new posts tomorrow.

Happy Wednesday morning, everyone! The sun is shining (for now) and in just a few moments we’ll be heading to a local farm to pick strawberries for the annual strawberry jam canning marathon. It’s one of my favorite times of year doing one of my favorite things, and I’m looking forward to some family time in the outdoors and in the kitchen. Plus, we get lots and lots of jam at the end, which is delicious (Spoiler: I’ll also have some to sell for local pick-up!).

Meanwhile, the Homestead is really starting to shine. The gardens are both starting to produce, the fence is coming along on the main garden, the plants are all getting growing so much in this heat that we’re putting supports in. It’s a magical time of year for a gardener, when that tiny seed you put in the ground sprouts and gets big seemingly right before your eyes. If I leave an emerging seed after a morning watering, by the time I circle back to check before bed, it will have visibly grown. Nature is amazing.

The Forest, more specifically the part just behind the Homestead, which was a huge bonus when we moved in but has been an impassable wall of honeysuckle the past few years, creeping ever closer to our back fence, is also shining now, in more ways than one.

Standing in the first half of the forest looking at the Homestead after we’d finished

It looks beautiful and we (and the wildlife) can walk into it and around in it, enjoying the heavy forest feel while being in sight of the garden. We purchased the kids a Tree Pod Lounger, which is sort-of a hammock-style fort, and are looking for the perfect spot to hang it so they can have their own tucked-away spot.

Getting this area to this point, however, took some doing. I’m suppressing a chuckle at that sentence. My word, it was hard work. If you want to see some of it, we are starting to vlog on our YouTube Channel. The vlog isn’t uploaded at the time of this writing, but it will be soon.

Believe it or not, this is after we started clearing. I’m standing at the fence looking at the same area as the photo above

The idea was straightforward, even if we knew ahead of time it would be a full weekend of work: 1) rent the chipper 2) back Brian’s truck up to the fence, 3) unload chipper, then 4) use chipper over the course of a 24 hour period to get as much done as possible because it’s somewhere around $250 a day. To best describe this process to you, I think it’s easiest if I provide a list in problem-solution (if there was one) order, then some commentary in between. Yes. Let’s do that.

Problem 1) The only local rental place with a working chipper is 30 minutes away. This is not convenient, especially since our strategy was to get the chipper late in the day on one day and return it the following afternoon, making it supposedly easier for us to manage our time (no one wants to hear a chipper going at 8am in the morning and we like our neighbors and want them to like us back). We’ll now have to start earlier in the day on the second day than we would have liked, and finish far sooner than planned to leave enough time to return it.

Problem 2) It has rained so very much lately, and the Homestead sits on the bottom of a slope–most of the water around comes through our yard. This is excellent when one wants to grow healthy plants, less so when one is hoping to back a truck into our yard all the way to the back fence to unload a monstrously heavy chipper.
Solution: Nothing to do but pull the truck to the gate of the back fence and physically push and maneuver this thing all the way to the back fence. Brian picked the chipper up in front from the hitch while the kids and I (re: mostly me) pushed with all our strength, me alternating sides because my pushing would turn it this way and that. Brian is steering, using the hitch like a rudder, but the tilt he needs to make in manageable for him means pushing requires the right element of force applied to the right location to make this work, otherwise all the pushing just pushes it straight back into the ground and forces Brian to carry more weight. This means that I have to push very low to the ground, to account for the tilt. Awesome. At times I’m practically perpendicular, using my full body weight to provide enough force. It gets stuck a bit near the greenhouse, and with some colorful words and much grunting, we managed to push and pull the however many pound thing through.

This, understandably, wore us all out. However, we’re also stubborn determined and mule-headed excited, so we worked until close to 7:30pm, clearing the piles we’d already created over the past two weeks first and then forming an assembly line where Brian would chainsaw and I would clear the large trees out while the kids cleared smaller pieces. We then chipped that second round before calling it an evening. We retreated to the house for margaritas, which taste absolutely amazing after being a sweaty lumberjack in the sticky 100% humidity after pushing and pulling a however many pound piece of machinery a third of an acre. Our progress was exciting to see, but we were behind due to the nearly hour-and-a-half we thought we’d need on the back-end to re-hook-up the chipper to the truck and drive it back to its rental location on time. Which leads me to Problem 3.

Problem 3) The question of how to get the chipper back up to the truck was something we opted to puzzle through later, after some rest; however, we knew it would take some time… like maybe an hour. And there’s a 30 minute drive after. The chipper had to be returned to by 1pm.
Solution: Which means after we wait like polite neighbors until 9am (though 10am would have been even kinder), we don’t have enough time to clear as much as we wanted.

We’ll just have to do the best we can. We make an absolutely massive pile in front of the chipper that is taller than our house, and then make two more piles the same size. And then do that once more, for a grand total of 4 chippings. The mulch pile is now taller than our house.

We clear around half of the forest (just the part behind our house, not the full forest–that would take weeks). But yay! Reclaimed space! Sunlight is streaming through the trees and hitting our garden earlier, we can see into the forest and even walk around. We targeted the biggest honeysuckle towards the end, so we know we’ll still have the ability to clear smaller trees even without the wood chipper.

Problem 4) Only, by the time we chip the last of the piles it’s 12:15 and we still don’t have a solid plan for getting the chipper back up the yard that doesn’t involve us pushing it uphill through dubiously wet ground–ground that is still fairly new because it’s the ground we filled using the dirt from the raised bed construction (it previously was a hole where an above-ground pool sat prior to us purchasing our home).
Solution: Our only option is the truck. We move the trampoline and Brian backs the truck up almost to the fence. All we have to do is push and turn the chipper so we can use the truck to pull it out from the fence, then maneuver it into position to engage the hitch and be towed securely back from whence it came.

This takes some doing, but we manage it. We’re amazing! And I am impressing Brian with my muscles. Go me! All we have to do is inch the truck forward to get the ball of the hitch to secure and then hook up the electrical doodads and ropes and things, and we’ll be off.

Problem 5) Predictably, the truck gets stuck.
Solution: Ok. Fine. We have a bunch of tree limbs lying around and all that new mulch just sitting in a pile. If I can get the tires some traction on the front and back, we should still be able to manage this.

I go for our shovel, carry it to Mount Mulch, and grip it to dig it into the pile when… ouch!!! What the heck just happened!!!!? It feels like I just got a whopper of a splinter or something, except the handle on our shovel is smooth like silk after years and years of hands gripping it. Nope, no splinter. I look between my now throbbing hand and the shovel, and that’s when I notice it: a carpenter bee has bored a hole into our shovel and has just stung the living daylights out of my hand. Really, universe? right now? And it had to be this shovel. Not any of the other shovels we have lined up. Just the exact one I grab, on the exact spot I grip it.

I holler apologies at Brian, who is still sitting in the truck waiting for me to return and give him an all clear to try the gas peddle. I run in the house and make–with one hand– a hasty paste of water, baking soda, and lavender oil in a portable container so I can soak my hand for a few minutes while still being outside. I at least provide supportive words to Brian while he continues to try to get traction to the tires.

By now it’s 12:50. Not only is the chipper due back to the rental place at 1pm, but that’s when they close for the day on Sundays. There’s no way we can get this chipper back and that’s even if we left right now, which we can’t because the truck is still stuck. My hand is now fine after my baking soda soak for a few minutes (works every time). I decide to call the rental place to see what I can do, rather than simply us no-showing with their very expensive chipper. Brian, meanwhile, decides to ask for help from our neighbor, who just happens to have a really nice, big truck and has been politely pretending not to notice what’s going on in our back yard while he’s in his installing his new pool.

I make the call and, using my kindest, sweetest “I’m trying to be responsible here and appreciate how expensive this piece of machinery is, but sometimes events happen that are outside our control,” voice. I explain the situation and am relieved and elated and super impressed with this local business when they extend our time at no extra charge. Bonus points to you, Manager Tim at Runyon Equipment Rental.

I get off the phone and fist pump the air because, honestly, I’m just so friggin’ relieved. We did not have another $250 to spend to rent this thing another day, even if we had more trees and had the physical energy and stamina to keep working. Nope. We’re done. We fought the good fight, the chipper is hooked successfully back onto the truck, we are NOT taking it off again for any reason.

Our neighbor arrives and hooks his truck up to Brian’s truck. So now there’s a truck, towing a truck, towing a chipper in our back yard, like some odd train. In no time at all, the truck-train has worked and Brian triumphantly pulls his truck and the chipper to the front yard.

Mission accomplished, we collapse into a heap on our sofa. It’s always an adventure at Hull Family Homestead!

Published by kelinmchull

Wife, mother, teacher, dreamer/doer, adventurer, wannabe farmer, writer, and all around curious gal.

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