Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sodder But Wiser, She Says

My Kathy can be a goofy girl, and she is also sometimes a mime.  The expressive faces are a reflection of her good-natured father, Al, who I wish I had known.  I suspect she gets her superb knack for taking pictures from him, too.  Oh, Al, I think I got the best of the Haas girls!

Kathy took these pictures the last couple of days to document the continuing saga of sod here at the Duckworthy Estate at Hidden Lake.  I've never laid sod before, so before two weeks ago I'd never made a sod pun.  Today the pun is Kathy's.  She named the picture folder "sodder but wiser."  Har har har!

Here's the work site behind our house.  Steve Brandt had graded it to assure good drainage away from the house.  In fact, he was still doing tractor work when the big rains of June came our way and spoiled the back yard by washing the loose dirt off the slope.  Today's the one month anniversary of the worst rain in living memory and it was to have been the completion date of sodding in the right side of the graded area.

This is the view of two ruined planting beds taken from "Boone's Dock" on the lake.  The piles of dirt came from my digging of the swale.  The big chunks of Highway 94 came from the swale, too.  The whole lower back yard is an asphalt and concrete mine from a time, years ago, when the previous owner requested the highway crew to drop truckloads of "fill" in his back yard to improve the slope.  He forgot to say "Clean fill," of course, and the rest is History.

I'll wheelbarrow the chunks up to the driveway and have Steve haul them away with the debris from the deck when he tears it down in two weeks.

Here's a better view of the graded area waiting for sod.

Carl Brandt told me I could lay sod up to the chimney and not be in the way of the builders when they construct a new deck. (Carl is Steve's dad, the founder of Branco Construction, and he is somewhat retired, though still active in the business.)   In the foreground of this picture is the recently-laid sod covering the new swale and its sides.

First thing to do in an area like this is establish a straight line and rake the area smooth.  Don't want any rocks or bumps.  Then lay a first course and stagger the ends of the pieces in subsequent courses.  You try to make the edges meet tightly and invisibly, but my reasonable amounts of effort, pictured above, did not make the seams invisible, though the pieces are snug.

It is a wet and dirty business no matter what the temperature. The sod is anywhere from damp to sopping wet, due to devoted watering at the nursery.  When I pick up a wet load of 12 pieces, there is water in the spare tire well of my trunk that has to be removed promptly lest the car stink.  I use my garden cart to bring four pieces at a time down to the back yard.  Any more than that and I'd risk the wheels and axle.  A sopping wet piece weighs about 40 pounds, I'd say, maybe a bit less, and I hold each piece close to me so as not to put a strain on my lower back.

I got this much done yesterday morning -- 36 pieces -- and when I took the last load, Daniel, my nurseryman, told me to feel free to come as early as 6:30 am, before they open to customers, and take what I need, paying later.  So this morning I was there at seven, and it made all the difference.  I laid 36 pieces yesterday before the heat drained me.  This morning I laid 46 pieces and heat was not what made me quit.  Tiredness was.

When Kathy took this picture at 10 am, I had a few more pieces in the car and I was ready to call it a morning.  Tomorrow I'll finish this section with about 10 more pieces cut to fit in snugly.

Upstairs at the sliding door to the deck, Lola the Poodle was wishing she could watch me better.  She feels anxiety when I leave the house, or when we both leave the house.  Where's Daddy???  Kathy takes her out onto the deck to confirm that I'm there, but then it's indoors for a black, heat-absorbing dog.

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