Stonington Wa

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Our place in Stonington has rocks.  Lots and lots of rocks.  More rocks, in fact, than the mortal mind can imagine in its wildest, rock-filled dreams.

So what do you do with so many rocks?  I’ve decided to get in touch with my inner wa and am trying to develop an ersatz Japanese rock garden along the edge of the creek, in the weedy waste area between the big boulders and the water’s edge.  There’s lots of different shapes and colors of rocks and stones, large and small, some smooth and some rugged, in the down yard.  I dig up and pick up the stones and then place them cheek by jowl, trying to fit them snugly together like a granite jigsaw puzzle.

No doubt expert rock garden developers would chuckle at this weak effort, but it’s been a fun way of addressing the rock issue that allows for some creativity, too.

Ditch Niche

Our place in Stonington features a small stream that runs along the border between our property and our neighbor’s place to the north.  Actually, “stream” is probably not an accurate description.  I think of it as a creek, but some people might view it as more of a rivulet, or even a glorified drainage ditch.  The water tumbles down the hillside to the harbor, rushing by in the winter and wet spring months and when it rains, but otherwise moving sluggishly — if at all — after a few dry days at the end of summer.

Humble thought it may be, it’s still the only watercourse I’ve ever had on a property, and I think it is pretty cool.  The neighbor’s side of the creek is littered with big, picturesque boulders, but our side was definitely lacking in the stone category.  As a result, the second part of my stone-digging project has involved rolling, flipping, or carrying the stones I’ve excavated over to the creekside, to better frame the stream.  I’ve also been working at clearing out the accumulated branches and other debris that has clogged the creek and interfered with the flow of the water.  It’s pretty clear that nobody has paid much attention to it for years.

The goal is to make the creek look more like a waterway and less like a damp spot in the yard.  It’s still a work in progress.

Dig It

My project this week is focused on digging.  Our “down yard” — the part of the yard that spills down a steep slope in the direction of Stonington’s harbor — is choked with granite rocks.  Some are enormous looming crags, big enough that you can lean your shovel against them, some are man-sized boulders, and some are just barely peeking out of the ground.

The problem with all of the rocks is that they make the down yard impossible to mow.  As a result, it has become choked with weeds.  Our yard guy told me that if we can mow the area down low enough, it will kill the broad-leaf weeds, which he says aren’t hardy enough to withstand two or three successive very short clippings.  Grass, on the other hand, is more robust, he says; it will survive the repeated chopping and will quickly move into the void left by the killed-off weeds.  The result will be a nice grassy area among the jutting boulders.

I have no idea whether this is true or not, but his comment produced this project.  The goal is to dig out the smaller, movable rocks so that a lawnmower can navigate between the remaining big boys and do its weed-killing job.

Digging out stones is happily mindless work.  You don your work gloves to avoid blisters, take your shovel, and start chopping away at the soil around the exposed rock, trying to find an edge.  When you do, you use the shovel like a lever, to see if the rock is even movable.  Some are obviously too huge to move.  But if the rock looks to be reasonably movable, you keep at it, digging away and working the rock loose, until you can wedge it out of its resting place and roll or carry it away, clearing a path for next year’s mowing.  Sometimes you need to use additional ersatz tools, like two-by-fours, to brace up a big rock until you can lever it out of the hole — so the work also appeals to the keen tool-making interests of homo sapiens.

So far, I’ve dug and moved out dozens of rocks, large and small, causing Kish to question my sanity and rocky obsessiveness.  What am I doing with them, you ask?  I’ll address that in a future post.

 

Building A Wall

Yesterday I took a break from the never-ending battle against the onslaught of dandelions and built two walls in the down yard.  One is intended to screen off an area where we’ll be composting yard waste, dead and dried weed carcasses, and other assorted debris,  The other one, pictured above, will mark the edge of what will be a little flower bed in a narrow crevice between two huge granite outcroppings.

I used stones for the walls, because we’ve got a virtually inexhaustible supply of them, and thought about Robert Frost the whole time.  I learned that trying to craft a stone wall can be a very enjoyable project.  It’s messy and muddy, and you get to see what kind of crawly creatures cling to the undersides of big rocks, which adds to the overall experience.  You get to lug stones around, too, so it’s pretty good exercise.

From an engineering standpoint, the key seems to be a create a level base for the wall, then find the right stones to fit into the right gaps, using the weight of the stones above to hold them all in place.  After some trial and error and experimentation with different stones in different places, I ended up with two walls that seem to be sturdy and level — at least until the next big rainstorm.  In the meantime, it was satisfying to actually do some manual labor with my hands, and see the immediate fruits of my effort.  For white-collar workers, that’s not something that happens every day.

Needy And Weedy

Weeds are needy things, when you think about it.  They pretty much demand your attention, and if they don’t get it they grow even more.

Turn your back on them for a few weeks, and suddenly they’re so enormous and intrusive and ugly that you just can’t reasonably ignore them any more and you have to do something about it.

But therein lies the real problem for those needy weeds.  Because they can’t help but but call attention to themselves with their ever-growing, obvious, sprawling unsightliness, eventually they’ll provoke the lazy but self-respecting homeowner into significant action.  And that action is not good for the weeds, long-term.

I’m going to attend to the monstrous, needy weeds shown above today.  They want attention?  They got it!  And they’re not going to like it.  But in deference to these attention-craving weeds, I might just give them a polite round of applause after I dig them out, roots and all.

Why Opposable Thumbs Exist

Why do opposable thumbs exist in humans and other primates?  Scientists generally agree that the appearance of the opposable thumb was a key evolutionary point in the development of our species.  It is what allowed primates to grip and climb and move into the trees, away from the realm of large predators looking for a meal.  Opposable thumbs also proved to be pretty handy from a toolmaking and tool using perspective, whether the tool was a stick to be manipulated or a rudimentary axe.

All of this is true,  Curiously, however, scientists haven’t fully explored whether the opposable thumb was developed in anticipation that modern humans who are too cheap to buy a nozzle for their garden hose might need the thumb to water their yard and plants on a beastly hot summer day.  Sure, the opposable thumb might not have been evolved specifically for watering and hose wielding, but it sure works well for that purpose — whether you want to generate a gentle sprinkle or a high velocity jet to reach the side of the yard beyond the length of the hose.

How do we know for sure that our distant ancestors weren’t big on watering?

White Birch And Birds

There is a white birch tree growing from the rocks at one corner of our side yard. It’s a beautiful tree — who doesn’t have a soft spot for trees with white bark? — but it’s unfortunately lacking any avian occupants.

Stonington is home to lots of birds; in the morning you hear their many different calls. In hopes that one of the birds might call the birch tree home, I put up a nifty birdhouse that a good friend got us as a Maine housewarming gift on the birch tree. it’s freshly painted, has a solid roof, and is in a safe neighborhood. Now we’ll just keep our fingers crossed that a discerning bird will decide it’s their dream house.