Thursday, Apr. 20, 2006
Dear Diary:

In a normal year, I wouldn't expect Hostapalooza to bust out until somewhere between the first and second week of May.

But this is the year I'm sick and I've been told to take it easy, so, of course, Hostapalooza has busted out now, weeks earlier than normal. For the last week we've had temperatures a good ten degrees above normal.

The universe is a cold, uncaring place with a dark, twisted sense of humour.

With the little tiny hosta sprouts sproinging out everywhere, and the window for transplanting them only about seven to ten days, the spousal unit and I have been out every night until dark doing the prep work for Hostapalooza.

This began with removing the protective covering of leaves from my hosta beds. My enormous, unending hosta beds. By the end of it I felt a bit like Edward Scissorhands, only with a rake at the end of my arms instead of scissors. So much for my for my illusion that over the last few years I have really, really pared back the maintenance needed for my gardens.

With that done, we had to move and set a bed of rocks two to three feet high and three feet across at the base of the steepest part of the hill where Hostapalooza will begin.

This bank o' rock serves two purposes. The earth bank I'll be planting is extremely steep and we're worried about a possible dirt avalanche. We're hoping the rock will help keep the earth stable.

When Hostapalooza is done, I'll start building a dry laid stone retaining wall in front of the hill. For every foot you raise a dry laid stone wall you need a bed of rubble that's a reaches back a foot and is a foot high. So if you're aiming for a stone wall three feet high, as I am, you need stone rubble three feet high that reaches back three feet behind the wall.

Why? For drainage and for stability. In my climate, frost is the big enemy of dry laid stone walls. Soil retains water and expands and contracts as it freezes and thaws. I have seen frozen ground here rise a foot above insulated ground right beside it. That's a lot of motion for a stone wall to absorb. A rubble backing helps keep as much water as possible away from the stone retaining wall and to keep the forces of frost as even as possible.

I never build a wall in a straight line and always make sure it curves. This disperses the force of the ground behind it which tries to push the wall forward.

No need to thank me for these fascinating nuggets. I know you have all been dying to understand the technical aspects of building a dry laid stone retaining wall.

The spousal unit took a day off work yesterday so we could move rock. And more rock. And more rock. His brother has lent us the small tractor he uses in his landscaping business, a tractor which has a dumping bucket. Without that tractor, this job would have been impossible. With it, it was merely stupidly hard.

It goes without saying that the spousal unit and I are all about the stupidly hard.

When we were done moving the last of the rock last night and sipping a companionable cup o' tea, the spousal unit confessed that when he dumped the first tiny bucket worth of rock at the base of the hill his first thought was, "We will not be able to do this."

I started to laugh because I believed the same thing when I looked at the pitiable mound of rock and compared it to what we had to move. Neither of us wanted to discourage the other, so we each kept our thoughts to ourselves and plugged away. We were both very surprised when we managed to get it done.

Normally these are things I would do pretty much by myself. It would take me far longer to do it without the spousal unit, but do it I could. It is humbling to have to rely on others for this stuff , but I have to back down and work at a slower pace.

I can't get through the day without an afternoon nap and snack. Just think of me as the oldest kindergartener you know.

The daughter has cashed in some vacation days and arrives tonight. Tomorrow morning we'll start digging, dividing and climbing up and down ladders to plant ridiculous numbers of hostas.

Tonight before the daughter comes, the spousal unit is going to start scaling the bank in front of our house with a pry bar, probing the earth for yet more rock, rock we'll have to dig out and roll down without starting an avalanche. I'm really, really looking forward to that.


The spousal unit will join us on Saturday and with three of us leaning into it, I'm confident that we can get the steepest bits of the bank planted before the predicted rains come in on Saturday night.

At least, that's the plan.

I'm taking pictures as we go along and promise to bore you to tears with endless snapshots of rocks, dirt, the daughter and tiny bits o' hosta.

I know. I get all quivery thinking about it, too.


Mileage on the Marnometer: 327.97 miles. 10 per cent rubber duck10 per cent rubber duck
Oh, man, don't be looking for this to budge for about a week. Ouch.

Goal for 2005: 1,250 miles - 2000 kilometers

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