Power-Trippin’

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may remember me crowing about the fun I had with a mini excavator we rented back in 2017.

Well, pshaw.  This time we got a SERIOUS machine (and I’m a lot better at operating it now, too):

It’s only a ‘midi’, but at 14,000 pounds it’s much bigger and more powerful than the mini.  (Which was still a hell of a lot bigger and more powerful than my muscles.)  Our ‘soil’ here is so full of rocks that the only way to dig by hand is with a pickaxe and hoe and a lot of elbow grease.  Even the mini struggled to scrape out a small hole. But this excavator?  Big beautiful bucketloads, woohoo!  Those rocks don’t stand a chance.

This is our fourth year in our ‘new’ place, and while I’ve accomplished a lot of landscaping by hand, there were some projects that were just too big to manage.  F’rinstance, here are before-and-after shots of the rhododendron garden. (The ‘before’ photo comes from the post I linked to above.) I did all the rock and soil fill by hand, and it took a couple of years to show progress:

Back in 2017 when I was just starting to lay out the beds.
Early this spring. (You can still see the snow on the mountains in the background.)
And a few weeks ago in full bloom. (Different angle, though.)

But… here’s a project I just did with the excavator. That embankment is about 4 feet high and full of rocks; and it took me around 10 machine-hours to scrape up the fill, level the garden, and grade/contour afterward:

No chance of me EVER doing that by hand, unless I wanted to make it my life’s work.  (Hint: Nope!) 

I’m getting a bunch of other long-postponed projects done with the machine, too.  More landscaping and grading, some new flowerbeds, lifting deadfall trees off our beleaguered deer fence… the possibilities are endless! 

Better still, even though my first project was a flowerbed only two feet away from the house, I haven’t caused any property damage.  (Well, except for our wheelbarrow, which suffered a permanent curvature of its spine when I had a brain fart at the excavator controls.  But the wheelbarrow still works, so I’m counting it as an ‘oops’, not actual property damage.)

There’s only one flaw in this seemingly-idyllic situation:  I’m far too attached to this machine.  The more I use it, the more I want it.

Yep, I’m power-trippin’.  And when it’s all over and the machine goes away, my withdrawal symptoms will be truly ugly.

But that’s in the future.  Meanwhile, I’ve got more flowerbeds to build!

Anybody else tackling major landscape projects this spring?

42 thoughts on “Power-Trippin’

  1. Is there nothing you can’t do Diane? I’m afraid I would take down the house getting behind the controls of that machine. The wheelbarrow would have been rolling for its life at the sight of me. Your gardens are looking amazing. Dig on!

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  2. Does that look like fun or what!! I’d do some serious damage with that digger!! The garden is beautiful with all of those blooms. You live in a beautiful part of the planet!! Also wanted you to know, I finally carved out time to read your latest and I couldn’t put it down…seriously I couldn’t put it down!! Awesome writing to say the least!! I love how you keep evolving the characters!!

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    • Thank you so much, Kirt — I’m so glad you enjoyed Book 16! That makes my day! 🙂 And the digger is a lot of fun. I haven’t used it for the past week, though. We’ve had a heat dome hovering over us, and the temperatures have been between 38C and 42C (100F to 107F). Yesterday the forecast said we’d have one more day of it. Today the forecast still said we’ll have one more day of it. I’ll be afraid to look at the forecast tomorrow…

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  3. Your gardens are just beautiful, Diane. Necessity might be the mother of invention (re the challenges of your land) but what a lovely invention it is.

    I wouldn’t mind trying one of those machines, but if I was in the driver’s seat I’m thinking it would be a case of Give Me 40 Acres and I’ll Turn This Rig Around …

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    • LOL! The beautiful thing about an excavator is that you don’t have to turn it around — you can just swivel the cab 180 degrees and run the tracks in the opposite direction. And I’ve been practicing my jump-turns for those times when I need to turn 90 degrees on the spot. Good fun!

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  4. That machine suits you, Diane! Honestly, by the looks and the sounds of it, you two are the perfect pair. How long will you be together? How many blissful days/weeks? No big summer project for us, unless you call the indefinite pick-up truck search one. Well, it is a huge project. Just not a fun one… Happy digging’’!!

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    • I’m quite at home in that machine; and I’m now at the point where (sometimes) I’m so comfortable with the controls that the boom, arm, and bucket feel like an extension of my own body. And speaking of bodies… just never mind why I had to dig that big hole out back of beyond and then fill it in immediately. Just walk away. Nothing to see here. 😉

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    • Isn’t it? I can’t believe it’s been four years already. Someone once told me that time goes faster the older you get; and if that’s the case I’ll be doomed in twenty years — I won’t even be able to get out the door for a walk before it’s next year!

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  5. Love your garden. If I rented a machine like that, could I come to your place and move dirt around? 🙂

    I wanted to buy a backhoe but my wife got all hung up on, “what would you do with it.” I’d dig hole and move rocks. She also didn’t like the idea of it taking up the whole driveway.

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    • Aw, that’s sad. Maybe she’d let you rent one just for a little while if you promised to move it anytime she needed to get in or out of the driveway? And hey, volunteer dirt-movers are always welcome here! 🙂

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  6. That thing is as big as my house, lmao! Seriously though, anything that makes life easier is a win. And if it happens to also be fun all the better. I have too many projects that need doing at the moment. Re-grade and gravel my driveway. Pour a concrete patio, and I dislike concrete work. I need a truck with a bucket so I can trim and shape my trees. My massive magnolia in the front is getting a little dense and my Sweet Gum tree in the back is just a monster. I’ve heard there’s a way to “neuter” them so they don’t produce those thorny balls, but something about emasculating a tree just sounds wrong. And it’s about 100 feet tall. It might decide to fall on my house in retribution. 😵 😂.
    Your garden is beautiful! Love all the colors, and I can just imagine the smells….lovely.

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    • Thanks, Michelle! It’s a real labour of love, with emphasis on ‘labour’. My challenge this week will be to keep everything from burning to a crisp in the heat wave that’s coming for us — apparently we’re supposed to hit 42C/107F. Our wimpy coastal plants won’t like that AT ALL. I just hope they can make it through if I give them lots of water.

      And I’d definitely be concerned about retribution if you neuter your tree. Trees can be vindictive that way. 😉

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  7. It is far too early in the day (not yet six here) for me to be filled with lust.
    I am though. Despite knowing that if I were to have such a machine my oopsies would be huge.
    And I would love to amble through your garden.

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    • I love ambling through my garden, too, and would be happy to have you do the same! I planned it so that no bed is more than 4 – 5 feet deep, so I can reach in to weed from both sides without stepping into the beds; and also to conserve the expensive soil that we have to truck in. I only designed it that way for convenience and economy, but a neighbour dropped by (before COVID of course), eyed the many little pathways, and exclaimed, “A meditation garden! I love it!”

      And she was right. It is a meditation to amble along the little paths, because I can concentrate on all the plants ‘up close and personal’. And what a treat to be able to stand completely immersed in scent and beauty!

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  8. You look way too happy behind the controls of that excavator! 😁 (And I think my better half knows better than to let me use anything bigger than my 1/2″ impact wrench!) I don’t really have use for one in our tiny bungalow yard, other than possibly removing a spruce tree and filling in the area with some topsoil to help with the standing water. Thing is, an excavator would probably sink in the backyard since we’re in an area with a high water table. I’d also like to dig a couple of trenches and put in drainage tiles to drain some of the water in the backyard out towards the street, but I could probably trench a bit with the rototiller (with the two outer tines removed) so it doesn’t all have to be hand-dug. (We might have muck, but we also have a lot of clay.)

    I had to giggle though. In my part of the world, if I said I was coming by with a pickaxe and a hoe, someone would ask why I’d bring a garden tool with a “working woman”!

    I added onto our flower bed in the backyard, adding some retaining wall blocks to create the border, using wood mulch between them all. We mostly have containers (various pots and planters), but have hostas and daylilies in the rest of it. I’m also trying to recover the lawn–some of us in the neighborhood had some sort of fungus attack it that resulted in dead spots, so I’m still trying to get some new seed established. I also tried a “thicker lawn” product that didn’t seem to do much, until I looked closely and saw a lot of new grass growing up among the old over the past couple of weeks. Maybe there’s hope for this old turf.

    The rest of my summer projects are all car-related. Plenty of projects lined up. Only my latest one is moving at a glacial pace since it’s a lot of planning, measuring twice and cutting (sound deadening project). Some are maintenance, others are upgrades or other minor changes. I’d also wanted to do a mild offroad build, but the project truck in question is hard to find in my area unless it has unacceptably high mileage and/or has too many rust issues. And used car prices are insane anyways. I may just wait until next summer to do this.

    Happy excavating!! 🥳

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    • I am way too happy behind the controls! I had a bit of a learning curve in the beginning, but now it’s like having an extra, super-powerful hand. Reach out and scoop here, dump there, scrape it smooth… what fun!

      Your yard sounds like a real challenge. Our gravel isn’t great for growing stuff, but at least the drainage is good and it’s extremely stable. Pile some actual soil on top, and the gardens turn out okay. I’m trying to avoid a lawn altogether by growing a thick carpet of wooly thyme. It’s quite attractive, with a bonus of pretty purple blooms in the spring; but it takes a LONG time to get it to spread over a few hundred square feet. It’s a process…

      Sounds as though you’ve got an enjoyable automotive summer coming up! My project car is still gathering dust in the garage, but maybe after all the landscaping is done it’ll get its time. I keep hoping.

      Happy car-building! 🙂

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  9. Now that is sooo cool.
    It’s also interesting that the terrain in western Canada is similar to the geology down here in Texas. On second thought, we are all on the third rock from the sun.
    Anyway it’s very nice looking landscaping.
    Bob

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    • Thanks, Bob! Vancouver Island is very rocky. There are small pockets of decent soil here and there, but it’s mostly a whole lotta bedrock close to the surface. Our place is on the bed of an ancient glacial river, so we have about 30 feet of gravel instead of soil. Our neighbours got the “good” side of the ancient riverbed — they’ve got nice silty soil. But at least we don’t have drainage problems… 😉

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  10. Gad, those things are fun!! Years ago, a dear friend and I worked closely on several largish projects. I had a small Bobcat loader (a 610, air cooled, mechanical drive) that was more fun to operate than most people should be allowed to have. He had a little Kubota tractor with EVERYTHING. The backhoe attachment was particularly fun. We were such close friends that we each had permission to just go get anything we needed from the other. With that stuff to choose from, I promise you that a large time was had by all. 🤪😜

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    • Awesome! See, now, a loader would be the perfect teammate for this excavator. Oh, the things I could do…

      Okay, back to reality. I do actually have other responsibilities besides moving tons of earth with a big grin on my face, so this will have to stop at some point. But it’s sure fun for the short term! 😀

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  11. Pingback: Power-Trippin’ — Author Diane Henders - Jakhala.com

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