Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Even Among These Rocks

The east side of our house is in the rain shadow of the roof and also gets almost a full day of summer sun. The only thing that grows consistently besides weeds is a hardy dwarf lilac. I am happy to tolerate the weeds, which the relative dryness and the thinness of the soil render dwarfed. Except for this year. This summer, when it rained every day, almost, the weeds flourished, reaching an abnormal height and girth. They came under the notice of my husband who is not a gardener but who loves with equal passion his lawn and tidiness. 'The weeds have to go', he decreed.

And so he formulated a plan, based on the presence in piles around the garage of clean and rounded rocks we winnowed out from the gravel when we built the garage pad. Large, heavy round rocks, glacial inclusions in the pit run gravel. We would lay down chicken wire, he planned, to deter the chipmunks from digging winter dens*. On top of the wire we would lay gardener's blackcloth, thus choking off the weeds. On top of the blackcloth we would place the clean and beautiful rounded rocks in their various colours and then we would scatter screened gravel among the rocks and the result would be neat and tidy. Right.

JG pulled the weeds over several days and between rainstorms, muttering to himself. Luckily I was busy and could not help. He also trimmed back the lilac to a mere wisp of its former self. I was recruited to help with the chicken wire, the laying of which is a two person job unless you wish to drive yourself crazy. It comes in rolls. It needs to be cut to length, straightened and set firmly in place. On a slope. Where the ends stick up and catch the next strip as you try to get it straight. After you lay the blackcloth on top of the chicken wire, the result is a slippery surface where the rocks need to be carfully positioned so that they will not roll.

We have a Kabota utility ATV. We filled the back of it with the rocks from the piles around the garage site. Several times. Lug rocks from pile. Place in Kabota. When the holdall bed is filled, drive the Kabota to the side of the house, unload and place the rocks. Repeat. We soon ran out of rocks. Undaunted, JG ferried us off into the bush and we raided the rock piles that the pioneer ancestors had made when they tried to farm the place. Climb rock pile. Throw down rocks. Pick up and heave rocks into Kabota bed. Drive rocks to the barn apron and unload them onto plastic sheets. Pressure wash rocks. Since you ask, this step removes moss and dirt and makes them as clean and colourful as the ones from the gravel. Reload rocks into Kabota. Drive to the side of the house. Unload rocks and place them artistically. Change some around to increase artistic effect. Repeat.

After several days of this, we had covered the blackcloth with rocks. JG decided that screening the gravel we had (crushed stone) would not look right. So he foraged off to town with the big trailer and got a load of pea gravel. The bulk of this was shovelled onto the rocks and worked in with the hose, a final finish being given to the whole by using a trowel and pail full of pea gravel to fill in any missed cracks. This is the result. I must admit it looks splendid, but Oh, My Aching Back.

*In fact, they have done so in other years and have been live trapped and disposed of. Do not tell Little Stuff this; when she is here on a visit, she and Grandpa drive the dispossesed chipmunks far off into the bush and let them go. Judging by the numbers we have of the little pests, they get back before LS and Grandpa do.