Sorry Kid -- Better Luck Next Time!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Return of the V for Venus Planter Bed
Welcome friends -- to another outdoor adventure in the Bird Back 40! I'm jazzed! It's raining outside! The Back 40 is one big pile of mud! Why am I so happy? Mud means water! And it's finally beginning to fall in sheets here in Northern California. The parched ground has finally soaked in enough moisture where small puddles are starting to form. And small puddles mean big lakes if we can get enough rain.
Of course, this puts the official kibosh on outdoor projects for the weekend -- which is fine by me. Because, let's face it people: Bill Bird needs the rest. For this post could also be entitled: "How to Build a Pear Orchard in 49 Easy Steps." I don't just plant fruit trees during bare root season. Oh no, people. Bill Bird puts on a production!
Bare Root Pear Trees
Of course, I've also learned through trial and MULTIPLE errors that these things have to be done right, otherwise that project that was supposedly "finished," suddenly ropes you back in. This particular project two weekends ago? Install a pear orchard for three bare root pear trees. Not just any pear trees people -- but the most delicious of selections from our fine friends at Dave Wilson Nursery. These people don't produce fruit trees. They produce heaven on a branch.
But before those pear selections could find a permanent home in the Bird Back 40 -- several steps had to be undertaken. Pear trees require good soil for one. This is something sadly lacking in the Bird Back 40. The dirt consists of clay that turns into a muddy mess in the winter and concrete in the summer. It's great for growing Roundup-resistant weeds that contain root systems made of iron, but little else. If I want a plant or tree to grow and thrive in the Bird Back 40, I've got to give it good soil.
The Great PVC Project
Ah -- but that's just part of the rub. Fruit trees demand more than just great soils. They also appreciate a drink of water every now and then. And the spot I had selected from them was a good country mile from the nearest, buried, PVC line. Know what that means people? It means digging in the dirt to find that buried PVC line, hacking into it, and then trenching a country mile with my handy dandy trenching shovel.
Oh -- my aching back!
Fortunately, I had a pretty good idea of where the nearest buried PVC line was. Another raised bed used for growing summer produce like heirloom tomatoes and melons wasn't all that far off. While I knew where the line came up inside the bed, I'd forgotten which course I took six years ago to extend that line into this particular bed.
Trenching a new PVC Irrigation Line
My hope was that I'd extended that line outside the bed, and then made a sharp right turn into the bed itself. It still meant that I would have to dig, but I knew I wouldn't be forced to dig very far -- maybe six inches. But if that line ran under the raised gardening bed itself? I would be forced to dig through a foot or more of composted soil, before I could reach the clay below.
That's one big hole to dig, people. And one mighty sore back to boot. Plus -- if accessing and hacking into a PVC line that is buried six inches deep is difficult, imagine the pain of trying to access and work with a line that's buried under two feet of composted soil and clay.
Digging Out a Raised Gardening Bed
As I began to dig and poke around outside that raised bed on that particular Saturday, my buoyant hopes ever so slowly started to deflate. Two or three test holes told me there was no buried PVC line outside the bed. Would I begin to realize my worst fears that the buried line was inside the planter bed? Do I make mistakes, people?
And so, after coming up snake eyes on that third test hole, I knew what had to be done. I at least knew where the PVC line was located inside that 8X8 raised bed. I would be forced to remove half of the soil from that bed so I could access that PVC line coming straight out of the ground, and then dig into the clay below.
PVC Lines at CRAZY Angles
Because the Bird Back 40 resembles a pie-shaped lot -- there are no straight lines to follow. The fencing separating my yard from others runs at crazy 90 degree angles. This makes the installation of PVC irrigation lines quite difficult. While 3/4 inch, Schedule 40 PVC lines are flexible, they also don't bend at 90 degree angles. This meant when I was installing the main lines all those years ago, many of them were extended at crazy angles instead of a straight line.
It was the only way to get the PVC line where it needed to go -- so crazy angles it was all those years ago. I would come to discover that the PVC line I'd extended into this particular raised bed was at a rather crazy angle alright. It ran directly underneath the bed and connected to a main irrigation line I had installed next to the fence. Thank God I wasn't required to trench all the way to that fence, as I would have been required to tunnel underneath a concrete walkway that I'd installed two years earlier.
Hello Down There!
There's a rather special kind of back pain that develops when you're reaching into and dealing with a PVC line that is buried two feet beneath the soil line. It sort of screams at you. It's even tougher to cut into and glue a PVC T into place. But if I wanted pears? It had to be done. And I wasn't about to return my prized pear trees.
It wasn't long before my hands were stained purple from PVC primer and sticking together from spilled PVC glue -- but that PVC T was finally glued into place. With the hard part finally accomplished? The rest was child's play. A little glue on this 90 degree connector -- a little more glue on this PVC line -- and lots more glue on my hands. I find it rather amazing that I didn't glue myself into that trench line -- but skin tears easily. And, hopefully it will grow back. Someday.
This Won't Hurt -- Promise!
Where does this special PVC line lead? That -- people -- comes in Part II of the compelling story of how to plant a pear orchard in 49 easy steps! But first -- the joys of back surgery!
I'm kidding peeps. The back is fine. Sorta.

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