When natural surroundings that can be suddenly altered by Mother Nature are coupled with an abode that requires ongoing attention, and they meet up with a fixed income, then a pair of former desk jockeys learn to do-it-yourself.
Our Central Texas retirement nest is perched atop two dozen 11-foot-tall concrete and steel posts on the high bank side of a river. At the time we purchased it (in the winter), the river could be seen, but spring brought thousands of leaves forming an almost impenetrable green curtain for seven to eight months. So, if we were going to be able to enjoy the river where the evening sunset reflects on the water providing a spectacular double view, we had to “raise the canopy” as a knowledgeable friend (KF) explained.
SO, IN THE first full spring and summer here, we acquired “tools of mass destruction,” and set about the task of “raising the canopy.”
We trimmed limbs on most trees far enough up the tree trunk to be able to see the clear aqua stream flowing past without hunkering down and squinting through leaves and limbs. We eliminated “junk trees” and a lot of brush. And, by Labor Day of that year, in raising the canopy and providing a clearer view, we created another problem.
There were 14 (count ‘em) huge stacks of trees, limbs and bushes. There was a drought and a subsequent burn ban, so what to do with all of that wood. We had enough for the off-campus Aggie bonfire, but logistics ruled that out.
Again, KF had the answer. “Rent a wood chipper and we’ll turn ‘em into mulch.”
SO, WE DID. The next question was, “What do we do with five heaping piles of mulch?”
That answer came from my life partner (LP). “I want two big flower beds in the front yard and one slightly smaller in the side yard,” decreed LP.
Two mulch piles were consumed in creating the flower beds. That left three heaps of mulch.
Major Project #2 took care of two more mulch piles just coincidentally.
MP2 involves building a retaining wall along the river bank to help stop an erosion problem that was moving the bank edge perilously close to the house.
Ol’ KF came to the rescue again. He designed a retaining wall that would stop the undercutting of our upper bank and would recapture about a quarter acre of land lost to the river over the years.
The retaining wall requires railroad cross ties, rebar, a number of sacks of concrete mix, metal tie-plates, nails, French-drain-type piping, river rock, tons of fill dirt (plus the aforementioned two mulch piles) and a huge investment of sweat equity.
KF also designed for us a rope and pulley system that enables him, LP and me to use our riding lawn mower to lift and lower the cross ties to the lower river bank area from whence the retaining wall is springing.
EACH ROW of ties on the 60-foot-long first phase is tied to two rows below and two rows above by rebar. Then, in a horizontal mode, the tie-plates are nailed so as to connect the ends of two cross ties.
Needless to say, LP and I have become well-acquainted with the business end of shovels, pick-axes, harvest rakes, hammers, saws, sledges and other “tools of mass destruction.”
Phase 1 of MP2 is about 60 percent (13 rows of ties) completed and it withstood a major test the weekend after Labor Day. Heavy rains pushed the river to near the top of the bank (and over the uncompleted wall) but the wall held and deterred any undercutting of the bank. It was a great feeling.
And, we’re no longer “sot in our ways” about do-it-yourself. Plus, we’re trying to encourage KF to write a book to teach desk jockeys to repair or build things.
Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.