Monday, December 28, 2009

Making plans for the gully.

This morning, I spent a couple hours cutting more wood from the dead oak tree in the gully. I was finally able to remove all the pieces of wood from the neighbor's property. There are still a lot of branches and small limbs from other trees that it took out when it fell this summer. Because this is such back breaking work, I can only give it a couple hours at most before I am just completely tuckered out. I made some nice progress though. Still a lot of wood to cut/split and burn this winter.

I've known for some time now that I need to address a situation that this dead tree has created. There's now a very walkable path from my garage door to the neighbor's property. As the wood is split and removed, it's getting easier to imagine all sorts of vagrants slinking through my backyard late at night. They'd have to be nuts, but I know the type.

Standing on the neighbor's furthest corner, Brown Ave, full of rentals and undesirable elements, is just a quick skip through a very thin border of privet.

Crossing over the privet hedge, one can see my house and the backyard. The privacy I've spent the past couple of years creating vanished in a single afternoon in July.

Where the cut wood currently sits, there used to be a creek. Years ago, I'm told the city blocked off the creek and installed drains on 7th street to funnel rain water into this gully. Prior to that, this entire area was used as a neighborhood garden. The woman that owned the house next door collaborated with the former owner of my house to keep the garden open for everyone to use. Twenty years later, the trees have taken over again. Ivy and periwinkle has covered nearly every inch of soil. Privet has sprouted and blooms, reseeds, and sprouts again every year. When it rains, as it's done a lot lately, the gully collects water. It absorbs slowly in our heavy stone and clay soil. Even in the middle of summer, it's not uncommon to find water in the lowest spots of the gully. Today, there's a bit of running water under the wood I cut into manageable logs.

It's already been suggested that I create a rain garden in this area. I've certainly got plenty of seeds for swamp mallow, lobelia cardinalis, and other bog loving perennials. As I remove the wood over the next few weeks, the size and layout of the rain garden should become more apparent. I don't plan to dig anything. I don't plan to move any earth aside from what is necessary to plant. I want to leave everything pretty much as it is, just adding some blooming interests and food sources for the native wildlife. I need to do some research on NC plants suited for wet locations.

The final plan for the gully includes a Magnolia grandiflora that I planted two years ago in the backyard. It's currently in the shrub island. I found it in the woods one fall day. A branch had fallen from another tree and pinned it to the ground. The stem had grown some large white roots under the leaves from the previous fall. I snipped it free from the mother and moved it a couple weeks later to its current location. I knew when I built that bed I would need to move the Magnolia. I had hoped to give it away, but the fallen oak tree gave me reason to rethink that idea. I'll be moving the magnolia in a couple of months. The hole it is planted in was once an anchor post for an old clothesline. I've cleared out a lot since this photo was taken in June 2007. The dog wasn't happy about my being there, let me tell you.

Standing in the same spot, you can see the magnolia exactly where the clothesline post was. The old crape myrtle is to the right and has regrown many new branches. I cut it down in the summer of 2008. I committed crape murder.

I'm sure the magnolia has a massive root system already. I hope to move it in early March if the weather cooperates. I'll plant it directly in the path that has been created by hauling wood from the neighbor's property. Other wintersown shrubs and cuttings will be used to create a physical barrier along the property line. The surveyor's tape is still visible along the rear of the wild. I'll be well within the bounds of my property so no one should complain.

It's now 45 degrees. Inside the hoophouse, it's 81. I placed the other half of a wireless thermometer in there this morning. I'll use it to keep track of the temperatures over the next couple of weeks. Too hot, and I'll need to think about venting. Too cold at night, and I'll look at other ways of capturing the sun's heat. The larger hoophouse will need some tweaking over what I learned last year with the smaller one.


Unknown said...

Looks like it's going to be a great project! I can't wait till I own a piece of earth to make my own.

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

You're doing a great job Tom. At least you got a lot of free fire wood out of the fallen tree. I would certainly put up some kind of privacy barrier. We did put up privacy fencing all around our property, and have gates that lock. Our neighborhood has really changed through the years, and we have had undesirables in our property. Having the gates locked at night keeps them out.

I look forward to seeing what your place looks like this spring/summer.

81 in your hoop house, that's great!.

Enjoy this last week of 2009 and have a great new year.


Alison said...

Tom, Your energy leaves me breathless sometimes! I don't know how you accomplish so much (actually yes I do, you're young!)

If you're really worried about trespassers, I'd like to suggest planting things with big thorns, maybe wild roses or bayberry bushes. I'd be afraid of that magnolia and the other winter sown shrubs getting trampled.

Jimmy said...

the previous owners should be in jail for chaining a dog! It is outlawed in the county I live in.

Tom - 7th Street Cottage said...

Thanks Michelle. Some days, I'm really glad the first piece of property I tried to buy here fell through. It was heavily wooded and full of deer.

FlowerLady/Alison, I've got a lot of branches in the current pile of wood that I intend to use this year for a physical barrier. I don't like fences, especially since I'm trying to create a more natural space back there. I think for a couple years, the branches will work just fine until my shrubs and magnolia regain their footing and start to fill in. It seems to happen when I'm not looking.

Jim, you have no idea. The last neighbors to occupy the rental house on the corner kept two dogs chained in the backyard with no house, no bed, nothing to protect them from the weather. The city officials told me there's nothing they can do unless there was actual mistreatment. I was like, WHAT? Apparently, leaving animals chained when it's 8 degrees with no shelter isn't considered mistreatment here. The dogs were eventually removed, and so were the neighbors.