Saturday, March 29, 2014

Finally An Outside Day

This winter seemed to continue to go on forever.  Usually it is possible to get some outside work done here in February.  For months the only activity possible was plowing snow and shoveling out machinery that had become trapped in the snowbank.  Today it was a quick task to remove the plow from the tractor but the chains will remain in place for a while longer.  April snowfall is common here.

My purchased pile of screened and washed gravel catches sunlight on two sides and is workable at the surface.  My gravel bank is still in daylong shadow and is frozen solid.  I prefer to use my gravel to repair the driveway.  Its brown muddy fines pack to a solid surface that is almost as hard as cement.  The washed gravel remains somewhat soft and quickly surrenders to running water.  It was all that was available to me today so that is what was used.

This winter the snowbank extended across the ditch onto the driveway.  The resulting ice pack forced early runoff down the gravel surface as the ditch was solid ice.  With two inches of rain forecast for tonight, the gully had to be filled while it was still small.  More runoff here now would have made a sizable channel.  Once running water cuts a ditch it quickly expands its claim.

I have recently discovered the many advantages of fitting the task to the opportunities offered by conditions of the day.  Ice still holds most of the garden plants so any cleanup there would have been a miserable experience for both plants and gardener.  The gravel however was soft and wet.  That combination is perfect for road work.  Only wet gravel packs hard.

A one and one half inch screen is used at the commercial gravel operation.  I find stones that large a nuisance when trying to resurface the lane.  My inch square screen was still frozen to the ground so another method had to be found to deal with the larger stones.  Gravel was dumped toward the center of the road and raked diagonally downhill in the direction of the ditch.  Larger stones stayed with the rake while the fines dropped out onto the road.  Filling the gully with larger stones will make it more resistant to erosion.  Running water quickly carries away the sand while larger stones resist being washed away.  After tonight's rainfall we shall have a chance to see if any of my repairs survive.


The tray of lettuce plants spent some time outside again today.  A house shadow limits exposure to sunlight but allows the stems to strengthen in response to light wind.  They also had some time outside yesterday.  Forgotten, they spent the night outside.  Fortunately the night temperatures did not drop much below freezing.  Residual heat from the house and the stone wall afforded enough protection to avoid frost burn.  The plants are presently in the basement to prevent damage from their first rainfall.  I plan to start the tomato and pepper plants tomorrow.  It is a little early for tomato plants but they will be moved into large pots for the last month when frost is still likely.  Out on the wall by day and back into the basement for the night will be their routine.  I cannot wait any longer to watch garden plants grow.

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