Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Gardening Archaeology - The B-ball Court

from upper-deck day 1
 The "basketball court" is really just a 12'X12' concrete slab with an old basketball goal at the side of the house.

the "arbor"
The opposite side of the court is a large arbor-type structure with benches, electrical outlets and a tiny, run-down shed.

looking down-court

My mission: Clean it up so hubby, daughter and guests can shoot hoops without being smacked in the face by wild raspberries and stabbed in the eye by sword fern.

Get the wisteria and ivy removed (from the arbor and cedar tree).
Expose the rock retaining wall.

Day 1:

Time: 4 hours
Weather: absolutely beautiful 70-75 degrees F. Sunny, light breeze.

The "arbor" from the goal
Progress: I started by approaching the job from a top-down method. Cut and pulled the ivy from the top of the arbor and discovered that one of the main supports was rotted at ground and dangling from the rafter.

the discovered stairs
Discovered beer cans, foam pipe insulation, wire, rusted cans. I also discovered concrete steps, a stone path, 3 extra feet of court space and that the area in front and under the arbor are also paved and were hiding under 2 inches of soil, debris and moss.
composted forest litter accumulated on concrete
un-composted people litter

I understand now how civilizations can become buried. This place has only been neglected for a year, three at most.

I am exhausted! I have not worked like this in a long time!

Lessons: wear a dust mask (I used a hankie)
save up for a wheelbarrow, huge lopper, truck, get some rose gloves.

Day 2:

Time: 4 hours
Weather : 60-65 degrees F. Cloudy with rare "peekaboo sun". Variable breeze. Scattered, drizzles.

Progress: Tacked the fern and juniper corner. started pruning the juniper, became angry and tore it out.
Tacked the fern with raspberry growing through. got frustrated and bundled it up to pull it out another day.
Removed about 3 cubic feet of soil and compost from the corner. Left the rest for another day.
Lunch break.
decided to try removing the ivy and wisteria from the cedar tree.Difficult, yet satisfying to see it start to clear up.
Then, I couldn't reach the bases of the vines on top of the hill. So, I forged a trail through the (now, 3 foot tall) grasses in the pump-house field to make my way up and behind the tree and arbor. Up there, I discovered what looks to be a cold frame made from the old windows of the house. And I found that there was about a 4'x10' section of pave stones layed out around the frame. I have not fully uncovered this yet. I hacked away at the vines and there seems to be no end in sight.
Lessons: save up for a chainsaw

Day 3:    
from upper deck

Time: 1 hour
Weather: 73 degrees, mostly sunny

the arbor

looking down court start of day 3
Progress: Enlisted hubby to use electric saw to cut trucks and remove 2 fluorescent light fixtures from arbor. figured out which breaker controlled power to arbor and shut it down so I wouldn't get electrocuted. Hubby planned on pulling arbor down with vehicle. I discovered that the basic structure was well-built and I wanted to try and save it sans-ivy.
Lessons: goggles would be nice too.

looking down court at end of day 3

down but not out
 Day 4 and on...  

from the upper deck
the arbor -Gone
Time: daylight hours
Weather: the usual 70's with peek-a-boo sun and occasional sprinkles

looking down court - notice HUGE pile behind pumphouse
Progress: Demolition is the word here. It took about 3 days to totally remove the stuff from the arbor. After removal we found the structure was only as strong as the plants holding it up. Hubby took a day and moved the debris off the side of the court and went crazy-man on the ivy roots and stumps (up to 5 inches or so in diameter). He uncovered the pvc pipes that housed the electrical wiring. These were filled with water.
rusty, non-insulated switch
the switch and outlet in arbor
rusty, non-insulated outlet

the electrical box is now free!
He disconnected the wiring leading from the house and the water PVC as well. Apparently the previous occupants had Jerry-rigged  a hose that connected to an outside bib and ran PVC (unsealed) around the perimeter of the house and under the grass and up the wall to what was the garden.
a view from the top of stairs looking down court

I treated the plants with glyphosate a few times - that stuff is tough! Now it is a matter of getting the rest cleaned up, repeat chemical treatments and keeping an eye on any pop ups, and getting rid of the now 12' x 8' x 8' pile of debris. The cedar tree will be taken down by a professional soon since it is growing out of the wall and leaning precariously toward the house and electric lines.

looking up court - still more to go
Well, at least the goal is complete. Basketball can now be played without the brush in the way! Happy goals!

Lessons:  "Osteo Bi-Flex" supplements are now my friends. Been taking them for a little over a week. I have considerably less pain and swelling in my knuckles and can move them in the morning. Still not completely back to normal or without aches or stiffness yet. But, it has been working for me so I can hold a cup of coffee again and work.
BIGGIE = Always turn off the power source and double check lines are not live before working around possibly live wires. Be careful when digging - sometimes folks DIY plumbing and electricity and, you never know their competence level. Underground Utilities Locators can't find everything.

Now on to the next project...

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