Given that I'm in Florida right now, I've decided to yet again raid the archives for material. Yes, I'm lazy, however I should remind you that all of this is free, so if you don't like it, feel free to move along. Wait! Please don't go. I didn't mean it! I love you! Pleaaaase!!
This missive comes from when Linda and I lived in Virginia. It's a hoot.
A Tree Grows in Ashburn
There will come a time, dear reader, when you are sitting at home engaging in home-type activities. Perhaps you are reading the paper, perhaps you are playing a computer game, perhaps you are down in your workshop tinkering or lathe-ing or doing whatever it is that people in workshops do. Your significant other will enter the room and after spending some time staring out at the backyard, a look of impending work on their face, will turn to you and utter the four words of your impending doom: The yard needs trees. At this point drop whatever it is you're doing and run out of the home as fast as your legs can carry. Do not grab your wallet, a new identity will be provided for you. Do not stop to pack clothing, you'll buy what you need as you need it. Do not kiss the children goodbye, do not wave to the neighbors. You must forget all of these people if you hope to survive. The other choice is to nod grimly and steel yourself for the upcoming task. Mrs. Joe and I recently completed a weekend of tree planting, or as we in No. VA like to call it, "rock smashing and swearing". Anyone who has ever attempted to plant anything in Virginia can tell you that it's like trying to spread butter on a cat. OK, maybe that isn't a good analogy as I don't know what the hell it means but boy is it tough. The planting not the buttering, although I imagine that's difficult too. The main problems stem from the fact that Virginia doesn't have soil per se, it has rock with occasional pockets of softer more breakable rock and some clay. On the plus side we don't have a problem with gophers as they can't burrow through our rock-strewn landscape. They have instead erected a shanty-town in my backyard and regularly shake down my dogs for cigarettes. Mrs. Joe and I have planted a fair number of things in this god-forsaken soil. Surprisingly we've managed to keep most things alive. What we have not managed to do is remember what a horrible, horrible time it is to dig in our yard. For this time around we decided to plant 6 trees that were purchased at Home Depot and to move a rather large and heavy dogwood that was planted by our builders. We have a huge rectangular backyard nearly devoid of plant life so our builder decided that the two trees would look best planted one on top of the other. I am constantly amazed that these people manage to build houses that are suitable for occupation. Whenever I walk through the houses they are currently building I keep expecting to see a sign that reads "Floor, then roof!" But I digress. It was a fine Sunday morning. The trees had been purchased and placed at their approximate planting locations. The bags of mulch and soil were stacked in the backyard. The wheelbarrow and yard cart were waiting to be used. The pickaxe, shovel, jackhammer, backhoe, dynamite, blasting caps, C-4 and portable thermonuclear device were all anxious to start tearing into the virgin soil. Mrs. Joe and I planned our assault. With any large scale task one must plan ahead. The planting plans went something like this: Step One: Pick a spot for your leafy friend. Step Two: Start digging. Step Three: 2 inches later, hit rock. Step Four: Curse the God that would give you such harsh, unyielding soil. Step Five: Move five feet in any direction. Repeat steps 1-4. Eventually you'll have a whole bunch of little holes in your yard. Rent these out to the gophers. Keep the trees in their pots. If needed you can always pile mulch around the pots to hide them from your neighbors. To maximize the joy of the tree planting experience we decided to allow our dogs to run free during the planting. This proved to be a bad move as every few seconds we had to tell the one dog to stop eating the mulch and the other dog to stop eating the rocks. For variety they switched diets midway through the day. I kid you not when I say that the next day when I went to clean up the dog's messes I had a bag filled with sh*t shaped paving stones. Our one dog, Henry, or Pain In the Ass #1 has the endearing habit of lying on whatever it is that has my attention at the moment. If I'm reading the paper he'll lie on it. If he could I'm sure he'd climb up the computer workstation and lie on the keyboard. I swear he does it to irritate me. In this case as I was trying to rip up the sod with my shovel he came and lay down on the sod circle I had just cut out. Each time I worked the shovel under the sod to tear the roots, the sod and him moved. Each time he'd look at me as if to say "Did you feel that?" Eight holes and eight hours later we were finished. Why were there eight holes if we planted seven trees? Good question. We tackled the moving of the dogwood first. I dug a beautiful hole about 3.5 feet in diameter and at least 6 inches down when I hit bedrock. This was not the soft, yielding rock that I would be busting through a la John Henry for the rest of the day. This was rock forged in the pits of hell and sent to break men's spirits. The sad thing was that the hole was exactly as deep as it needed to be. Unfortunately trees have a problem boring through solid rock with their roots so after much cursing, wailing and gnashing of teeth we filled the hole back in and started anew. All in all, the backyard does look very nice. Once the trees are in full bloom the yard will be alive with color. We purchased flowering pear, flowering cherry and magnolia trees so we should have a nice mix of foliage and flowers. It took a full four days for me to obtain enough feeling in my hands to be able to button my shirts properly and I still have bits of rock embedded in my front teeth but it was worth it. Mrs. Joe now wants to put in a brick path from the driveway to the deck. I'm leaving tomorrow morning. I'll contact all of you from the underground.