Monday, July 03, 2006

A Little Manual Labor Is Good For The Soul. . .

Or in this case, a lot of manual labor!

I took the concept of ‘Labor Day’ and decided to embark on another labor intense weekend project.

About half of our lot is ‘overgrown’… I’m sorry, it’s a “Natural Area”.. in current landscape speak.

One of the reasons I believe it was being kept as a natural area, instead of as lawn, is that much of it is so steeply sloped as to make it difficult to mow. One of the reasons I’ve let it stay ‘Natural’ is that I liked the fact that from the street, it’s very difficult to even see our house.

Why, well from the house, it’s also very difficult to see the street, or most of the neighboring homes, so, despite living ‘in the city’ it can feel like we’re ‘in the country’.

Unfortunately, as anyone who lives in or around wooded areas can attest, these areas also are a breeding ground for all sorts of summer insects, and I decided that this year I was going to attempt to reclaim some of that land. While I want to keep it ‘natural’, I also want to be able to walk around on it and not have to fight my way through brush, mosquitoes and all other sorts of annoying insects.

Also, in the center of this area is a drainage conduit (otherwise known as a “ditch”) that needs some attention. There are some washed out areas and one ‘hole that needs to be filled in. Last year when I’d rented the tractor I tried to get back in there with it, but the undergrowth was so thick, and there were so many deadfalls that it was close to impossible to find a direct route in.

So, as phase 1 of my reclamation project I decided to see what I could accomplish with a day and a half and a walk behind brush cutter. I’m sure you’ve seen them advertised, the most common is the DR field and Brush Mower, and there are other, similar ones as well. The one I rented was made by Murray, who makes most of the Lawn and Garden equipment you see with a ‘store’ brand on it.

It was 15HP, had 4 forward speeds, and one reverse speed. Al I ever used was 1st, and reverse… and often I was wishing 1st was even slower than it was. This area was very, very overgrown, and while the going was slow, this little machine did (what I think) is an amazing job.

I had to enlist the chainsaw, and a pair of heavy duty loppers to help get though some of the thickest stuff, but over a day and a half I managed to really make some headway.

I’ve posted some before and after pics here and as you can see I knocked down a lot of brush.

One of the things I liked best was that the machine essentially mulched everything up into fairly small pieces, leaving the area looking like I’d actually mulched it (I didn’t).

It was tough work though, and with the temps here in the 90’s and the humidity fairly high as well, it was hard on this old body of mine. It’s much tougher work than it looks on TV, when working through the heavy stuff. On the other hand in the couple of small areas where I had mostly tall grass and ivy, it was about the same work as mowing the lawn.

It cost about $80 to rent the machine for Saturday afternoon and Sunday, considering one of the machines costs about $2,000 to buy, it was a bargain in my book. I would only use one once, maybe twice a year, so owning one doesn’t make much sense to me.

Oh, if you plan on renting one, a tilt bed, or ramped trailer is the way to go… it’s far to heavy to lift in and out of a pickup bed!!

I’m off today and tomorrow as well, but I think I’m going to find something less, labor intensive to do!!

Enjoy the 4th!!!

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Firehawk said...


I was out hammering away at the yard in hot weather yesterday, as well. Not as ambitious as you, but sweating all the same.

I imagine that going through "pucky brush" as we called it in Maine would be fairly tough. They always show these machines under optimal conditions. Like--those little Troy-Built tractors. They're always in soft, loamy soil, tilling along with one hand on the machine, looking fresh as a daisy. Try that in rocky, sandy desert soil, and it's a whole different ball game.

Anyway, I think you should take it easy now that you've "tamed the earth". Happy fourth!

Dizzy Ms. Lizzy said...

Next week Dear Hubby Steve and I are on "vacation" - - actually, we will be scooping and leveling out rock in our driveway! *sigh*

The weather is still supposed to be pretty warm, though not as HOT as it is this week (90's and high humidity).

I could think of many better ways to spend a vacation, but it will be good to get that chore done and marked of the "To Do" list! :-)

Lorna said...

It can be satisfying to drive yourself to exhaustion, and outrage every muscle you've got

Bhuwan said...

I play tennis/cricket/TT to take my share of sweat out. That's labor in itself too. Ain't it?

Bill said...

Folks I didn't do much of anything else outside this weekend... Maryan and I laid up in the living room in the A/C and just relaxed...

Firehawk - I took your advice... and... one of the reasons I wrote it up was that while it did work well... it was pretty tough work.. I may just do some more hacking.. and bring it back.

Liz - thanks... we must vacation in the same place!! I have as much fun on those vacations sometimes!

Lorna There's little else in life (although there are a couple things) more satisfying to me than working to physical exhaustion... I actualy love the muscle ache that follows...

bhuwan Of course it counts! I like going to the gym too... it's somehow different though, working out in the A/C ... than it is being outdoors and working with my hands... I'd suspect you feel the same about the sports... they just wouldn't be the same played indoors with A/C