The neighborhood hoarder
Part 5. Landscaping
Satisfying as it was to clean up the junk and cars. A little bit of landscaping after was like one of those makeovers you see where they give a street person a shave and haircut and turns him into cover material for Gentleman’s Quarterly.
I mentioned above that some neighbors brought rakes over one day. Nobody had raked the yard in decades so there was maybe six inches of leaf litter and spruce needles in addition to branches and twigs. Those neighbors with the rakes have a hillside lot that they’re filling in so we just wheel barrowed most of the organics over there at no cost.
The exception was the dirt driveway where Old Dave used to work on cars. That stuff was black, presumably from oil. After years of rain and snow the volatiles had evaporated off but still, I didn’t want to dump it on the hill. Instead, after the cars were towed, I’d go over on garbage day and rake up about 100 pounds or so of that dirt and put it in the garbage. Surprise. There was a cement driveway under it no one knew was there. We also found some nice slate stones around the yard from when there used to be a garden out front.
A few thousand pounds worth of creosote piling sections between 3 and 5 feet long stood on end around the yard. Toxic creosote slows decomposition but given enough time nature can break down anything. Some of the sections were rotting from the top and center and most were leaning at crazy angles from being pushed by trees and roots. Some ends were buried a couple feet deep. To get them out of there I set up a high-lift jack and chain with a slip hook as you see in this photo. Found this set-up on an internet video. (citation below) It worked great. Of all the sections, four were stuck so tight in roots that, not wanting to compromise the big trees by cutting their roots, I left them be. You don’t want to use your chainsaw on those because the creosote makes hash of the chain and blade and gunks up the motor housing. Anyway, the ones we left became kind of a fun feature in the yard that we set flower pots on.
These sections were heavy, some went 200 pounds or more. A older couple took a few of them that they planned to cut up for their garden border. For the rest, hoping to avoid paying dump fees which go by the pound, and maybe having the dump tell me they wouldn’t take them because they’re hazardous materials, (hazardous-waste disposal didn’t want them-we asked) I called the city. I did that because the city has a dump of old creosote dock pilings just a few miles away. It’s been there forever. On the phone I was transferred from person to person, four I think, until getting someone in charge of the dead piling pile. After explaining the situation I asked if we could drop ours there.
Did the guy say, “This is great! You’re saving the city thousands of dollars, making it more beautiful, and solving a problem for us after all these years of hassle and complaints. I’m gonna send a truck over with a couple of my workers and we’ll take those baby’s off your hands!” ?
Ha Ha Ha. You silly reader. That’s what you would say.
He, on the other hand, went into full, “I can’t” mode. “We’re trying to get rid of the ones we have.” “We don’t want to be responsible.” “We don’t have…We don’t want…No insurance…We can’t…”
With the project nearly done, getting mad wasn’t on my agenda. So I imagined Al Capone had a gun to his head after telling him the next time he said “I can’t.” he’d be a goner.
Told the guy, “Okay, guess we’ll figure out something else. Bye”
The something else was renting a 16 foot box truck with a hydraulic lift on the back. One of those, by the way, can be a god send for hoarder clean-ups. If you’ve got your timing down, you can get it for a half-day at a half rate. If you need one for a couple days you might be able to get it on Saturday morning and return it Monday and only be charged for one day if the rental place is closed on Sunday.
Make sure you cover the bottom and sides of the truck with tarps or bicycle boxes if you’re putting something nasty in there. If you bring it back all slimed out the shop will charge you to clean it. Besides, it’s ignorant. The next renter might be moving bedroom furniture or something.
Hydraulic lifts on a box truck are empowering. The rental shop will show you the drill if you haven’t used one before. You don’t have to muscle anything. Just drop the ramp, roll those suckers on, push a button, up they go. Easy peasy. Turned out the dump has a section for construction waste so they went there. It cost about $180 as I recall. Totally worth it.
All the cars were gone. All the junk was gone. All the creosote pilings were gone. Yard raked. We were feeling pretty good about things and getting back to our own summer projects. Our neighbor who’d hauled the hazardous materials to the dump mentioned some tree work would make a huge difference in the vibe of the yard. She even offered to pay for it and recommended a tree service she liked.
She was so right. Since trees grow towards light and house clearings open up space, trees grow that way. At Dave’s place, trees were hanging far over the house. And, on the street side, they were hanging over the road. Way over. Some of them half way over.
It was now the second week of July, 2019. Our time slot was up and tree work was outside the scope of our agreement with the owner anyway, but nothing ventured nothing gained. I drew up a second agreement asking for his permission. He said he’d planted all but one of the trees and wanted to keep them. Still he recognized the advantage of trimming some back. Especially one that was doing a slow fall onto his roof.
Another neighbor offered to do the cutting for free. Good of him to offer but with houses and cars so close I thought we should go with someone who had all the equipment and did that for a living.
This was the most expensive thing we did. A thing we learned is, sometimes if multiple homes on a street need work done they can coordinate it with the tree service and get a discount. The neighbor on the other side of Dave (not the Bill and Carol side) needed some limbs cut. He paid for that, others chipped in, so the woman whose idea it was didn’t get stuck with the entire fee.
The night before it was to happen I set up surveyor’s tape to keep the parking spaces open. That worked well. When they dropped tree parts into the road the crew would stop traffic. They had a chipper to grind up the branches. We didn’t have to pay disposal fees as most of it went into that hill side lot that wanted fill. Some of the chips were mixed into people’s raised garden beds. The tree service was top rate. All very efficient. Took down a couple small leaner trees, limbed others, cleared the yard, chipped the slash, and swept the street out front, all in a day.
As far as we were concerned it was time for gin and tonics. We were done.
*Citation for pulling a post with a high-lift jack, chain and slip hook:
‘How to remove a fence post’ by Daniel Perry on YouTube. I didn’t dig a hole around the posts as Daniel does but used the same set-up otherwise.