My biggest yard project to date has been digging up the old root ball for the Mock Orange Shrub in the Northwest corner of Bedford Manor. It was a lovely shrub when I moved in, but just not my style.
It was overgrown, and fast growing. We had this cut down to a dead stump before moving in, along with the line of Juniper bushes. Of course, because the last two winters have been wetter than typical for the desert, the moisture helped the Mock Orange to reflourish. Even without manual watering or feeding, it fought its way back. Unfortunately, because it wasn’t well-cared for, the regrowth had been a bit staggered and unkempt.
I have an idea of how I want this corner of the yard to be finished, and Mock Orange just doesn’t fit those plans. So I worked to get rid of it. Knowing that just cutting it back wouldn’t do the trick, I faced the reality of some hard work and set my mind to digging up the entire root ball.
This is where I explain to you the toughness of desert sand. It’s not soft and easy to manipulate like beach sand. My sand is compacted, heavy, solid. Nearly like clay. And the farther I dug, the more that reality sank in (pun not intended, but there it is). Combine that with the several roots several inches in diameter. No amount of hacking or sawing was going to make this go any faster. And believe me, I tried.
It dawned on me that the easiest way to dig deeper would be to soften the sand and so after I dug a shallow trench around the stump, I filled the trench with water and let it soak in. I had to wait for the soil to recognize that water isn’t the enemy: every bit of water I added took quite a while to be absorbed.
Since it was later in the day, I called it quits and packed up my tools. The only “work” for the rest of the night was turning the hose faucet left and, after five minutes, right. Repeat once an hour for three hours.
Yesterday I found myself sitting, digging, cutting, and sawing. It took a few more hours of hard work, but I finally broke through. I dug the mud out from under the stump and had a better look at just the roots. My Happy Moment came when I leaned my back against the fence post for leverage, and pushed the stump with my feet. It wobbled. It shifted. In other words, it moved!
Re-energized, I sawed like my life depended on it. In a matter of moments, all attachments were broken and this incredible beast of a ball was removed from the ground! It’s at least 25 pounds.
What a feeling of accomplishment! Mind you, I’m a writer, not a farmer or construction worker. Manual labor is not something I come by easily. To be able to say I did this, and I did it alone, is so utterly satisfying. Both my daughter and mother offered to help near the end and I roared at them like a Momma Bear protecting her cubs: This is my project!
After sifting through the sand for rocks and stems and other debris, I refilled the hole. I still need to level it out a little more with a heavy-duty yard rake, but I’m so happy with the nearly-finished results: a clean, debris-free corner. And now it’s ready to be redesigned.
With the added bonus of getting rid of the Tree Stump Garden, this part of Bedford Manor’s front yard is looking quite well-kept indeed!
I can’t wait for Spring!
And Frankly, My Dear… that’s all she wrote!