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The Lilac
Notes on Maintaining A Lady’s Yard: 1/12/2023
© 2023 James LaFond
AUG/11/23
Cedar River Watershed, Washington State
The Colonel’s Wife wanted a lilac moved. Talking to Bob, he recommended a back hoe. She did not have a back hoe. She did, however have a hoe, that doesn’t have any back, but runs on spam. That would be, The Hoodrat, the wanderer, That Captain of the Nigerian Cribbage Team that lives through the woods and not far away.
The lilac had three trunks and stood about 7 feet. It was planted on the bank behind the concrete retaining wall. The roots were pushing open the angle in the wall. She wanted it cut out for replanting.
It occurred to me then, as I had just done the firewood for The Captain, that I was experiencing what Lynn, my Dear Editor, describes on the dust cover to our books as “hermetic living.” For three winters now I have been the winter grounds keeper for two families. For a city hick, being able to go out into an unfenced expanse of green, haul wood, split wood, cut wood and feed wood stoves is a pure pleasure.
I began at 9:30, by raking the era about the lilac and taking the cedar boughs over to the burn pile. The lilac grows in the shade of two massive red cedars, where it reaches forward towards the wall for the sun.
I used a long spade to scoop the dirt. Going in 4 inches at a time, lesser roots popped and larger roots caught the shovel. I then turn the blade side ways and chopped away the many roots, which were mostly a quarter inch thick. This done, I could clear that shallow space and begin building a dirt pile. I dug one foot away from the one foot diameter of the three base trunks, each as thick as my arm, about as thick as my shoulder at the base.
The ground was very rocky and the right hand started getting numb from chopping down into rocks. I began probing for rocks and then prying them loose with the shovel and pulling them out by hand, building a stone pile. The rocks ranged from 8 ounces to 20 pounds, most about two pounds, half black Cascadian volcanic rock and the other half old rounded, sand stone railroad base rocks.
I cut a moat a foot wide at the bottom and 18 inches wide at the top, down two feet. Numerous half inch to inch thick roots required The Colonel’s short splitting ax, a one handed hatched for him, a camp ax for me. I then noted that the base of the root bulb was bound up with rocks and knocked these loose with the back of the ax.
Two large tap roots at exactly 2 feet down, went out laterally, not down like an evergreen tree. [These were cedar roots] I cut these out with the ax while the dogs sat next to the hole in the rain and watched over the scene. The rain was coming down good by 11:30.
I grabbed the base of a trunk and reached under the bulb to pull out more rocks with the leather work glove. The bulb began to rock and I noted two more half inch tap roots and cut them. I saw a black root and halted.
It was a quarter inch black cable tangled in the secondary front roots that were pushing out the wall. I carefully cut around the cable and found where it passed under the other side of the root bulb. Sliding the shovel under the cable on both sides the small rocks and dirt fell into the spade and allowed me to clear the rest of the rocks from the base.
The bulb rocked some and I thought about rolling it around by the trunks but was afraid I’d snap one. I estimate the whole weighed 80 pounds, to much for me to move.
The rain picked up and a gust of wind blew, tipping the bulb over, no more roots descending of any strength, with the heavy tap roots having been lateral.
I took pictures for the lady and texted her that I’d dig a hole where she wanted to transplant it, but that The Colonel and the young neighbor man would have to move it.
It was 12:38.
With The Colonel and Wife gone for the day I loaded the firewood, loaded the kindling, stoked the fire, and locked up, as a fancy white car pulled up, at the end of this private road, and than pulled back out upon seeing me. Wondering about this, I hung out drinking water for 20 minutes, before putting the dogs in their pen—lest they come lounge outside the pump room door where I stay down the way. The dogs in their pen, a bold chicken flies the coup and begins rooting among some cedar greens in the front yard.
Amos, retired to his open faced den and Izzy to her traditional dog house. Cleaning the ax and hanging the tools, I headed down to The Captain’s compound, littered with 7 disabled vehicles wrecked by his sons and two roadworthy machines, ATVs, an American Flag flapping in the sodden wind, cases of light beer stacked on the stairs to the back porch…
Already wet, and able to see the low points in the gravel driveway due to the pooling, I decided to spend another hour patching the drive way. An older lady, a nice girl named Ginger, came to visit, a former neighbor who is now homeless and dispersing her belongings in the wake of surgery and becoming single. How lucky I am to still be a marginally fit man, and able to take working residential opportunities. To be a homeless old lady must be among the worst of fates.
That was yesterday. Today is a soaking rain and my next to last change of clean pants got drenched walking the dogs. So today I do clothes and write, and tomorrow dig the transplant hole.
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