Days 43-49: Trees! Thuja Green Giants

Monday, 9/12
We came upon the idea of fast growing privacy trees over the weekend and worked hard on Monday to investigate options that were appropriate for our high desert climate.  Due to an *uncomfortable* situation with one of our neighbors and the lack of privacy provided by a barbed wire fence, we have decided that privacy trees might be a proper addition to our property line.

We are going with Thuja Green Giants and selected the plants that were 3-4′ tall.  After a lot of internet reading and sifting through forums, we decided that the general consensus is that small trees survive transplant better and therefore grow faster and are more likely to survive.  This was somewhat nice to read given the vast difference in price between a 6′ tall plant and a 2′ tall plant.  That being said, it would’ve been nice to have a 6′ tall living fence in place from the get-go.

The thujas are said to grow 3-5 feet a year, as long as they have proper lighting, water and soil conditions.  They are supposedly not very fussy and grow in a variety of both soil types and growing zones.

We used google maps to estimate how much of the fence line we wanted to cover and assumed a 5′ spacing.  We ordered 16 trees.

We spoke to the guy who we are expecting to do the bobcat work.  He said “sometime this week”….we’ll see.

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The power line and big tree (roughly center) is our north corner.  The living fence will start somewhere near there and run alongside the barbed wire fence to just beyond the shed (the blue tarp – this is an old picture).  In time, they will hopefully block out the neighbor’s structures and chaos.

Tuesday, 9/13
Our trees shipped!  Hurrah!

We started rethinking our planting strategy and realized it may be better for the tree’s health, in the long run, if they are further spaced apart.  This spacing, however, means we have to wait longer for the trees to grow together and create a hedge.  Soooo….

We’ll plant a staggered row.  The row nearest the barbed wire fence will have an 8′ spacing between trees.  Behind that row, in the gaps, we will plant a second row.  The first row will start near-ish the north corner and will end near the shed where existing privacy trees will take over.  The second line will stop right before the shed (since the space between the shed and barbed wire fence is fairly narrow).

With this plan, we think we may have ordered 2 too many trees.  We may plant these extra two down in the cholla garden or somewhere near where the driveway hits the building pad.  Without being at the house, it’s difficult to estimate exactly how many trees will end up in the first row.  The terrain is varied and neither google earth nor google maps have been updated to indicate where our building pad is.  HOWEVER, thanks to Z3 Surveyors, we do have an aerial shot of the boundary area.

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This photo was taken prior to the shed build.  The line of trees will start just north of the big tree near the power poll in our north corner.  The line of trees will end kind of where the neighbor’s building pad ends.  We think this will be 8 trees.

Brian ran home during the day to try and get a more accurate feel for the lay of the land.

Brian ran home during the day to try and get a more accurate feel for the lay of the land.  This is a 60-65′ long string that is running ~N-NE, not parallel to the barbed wire fence.  We hope to leave the big cholla and plant a thuja on either side.  Supposedly, the thujas are comfortable growing through and around fences; we are hoping they will envelope the cholla in a similar manner.

After Brian took pictures with the string, we worked up a schematic of the plant spacing and irrigation plan. Being fairly confident that our spacing would work with our terrain, we went ahead and ordered an 50' irrigation kit with 15 shrubblers (to be described later).

After Brian took pictures with the string, we worked up a schematic of the plant spacing and irrigation plan. Being fairly confident that our spacing would work with our terrain, we went ahead and ordered a 50′ irrigation kit with 15 shrubblers (to be described later).

After work, we went down to the cholla garden (aka the mosquito haven of Silver City) and placed flags in the preliminary locations of where we wanted the trees.

Wednesday, 9/14
I went home an hour early, organized the trash and recycling, sorted the coffee grounds bucket and started working in the cholla garden.  We initially thought a “grass whip” would be sufficient for cutting down the grass short enough to see and avoid cacti.  It did an okay job but the grass was so tall and the terrain so sloped that it was difficult to get enough clearance to make good cuts.

I labored away for about 30 minutes, alternating between clearing grass and destroying cacti with the shovel.  The tall grass endangers the tool because it hides rocks and rubbish that we still haven’t cleared away (ancient vehicle parts, big strips of rubber, giant mining hardware, etc).  I made a decent sized clearing and acquired dozens of mosquito bites.  I hadn’t even made it to the area where the trees with go when Brian arrived home.  At that point, we decided a weed wacker was in order.

We are waiting until Spring 2017 to purchase a battery powered, Milwaukee weed wacker.  We already have the M18 batteries for our drill, saw and driver and we like the idea of a non-gas tool.  However, needing something right NOW meant we had to consider an inexpensive alternative for the immediate future.  We visited True Value and found a $30 Black & Decker unit that is electric but requires a cord.  That’ll do.

Back at the house, we decided to work for at least 30 more minutes, testing out the weed wacker and establishing how difficult it was going to be to clear 3′ round area, free of grass, for each tree.  After I cleared a path to each flag, Brian came by with the mighty pick axe and hacked away, loosening up the soil and grass.

We finished up to the shed, maybe all of the trees except 3.  Tomorrow, we hope to finish clearing the grass, hacking the earth and then if we have extra time, we’ll knock the dirt out of the grass clumps and better prepare each little plot.  Oh yeah, we also need to saw off some major branches on that big ol’ dead tree near the shed and trim back the branches on the tree near the starting point to allow more sunlight there.

Coffee bucket cleared of its filters - ready to be used as mulch.

Coffee bucket cleared of its filters – ready to be used as mulch.

Grass trimming and dirt making progress at day's end.

Grass trimming and dirt revealing progress at day’s end.

Thursday, 9/15
Both our trees and the irrigation system are scheduled to arrive on Friday.  The irrigation system consists of a 50′ mainline and 50′ of 1/4″ branch tubing that we cut to size to direct water from the mainline to each individual tree.  The end of the branch tubing connects to a pressure compensating ‘shrubbler’ that sprays in a star pattern that extends about 8″ around the unit.  ‘Pressure compenstaing’ means that shrubblers at various points on an incline will ll emit the same amount of water without any individual adjustment.  You can read more about it here.

We also found a narrow cart on Amazon that will fit in the 8″ wide secret closet in the bathroom.  It has 4 shelves and is the most appropriate thing we have found for the space.  We tried a number of homegoods stores in Tucson the last few times but nobody carried anything narrow enough.

I left a little early again to acquire more mosquito bites.  I weed whacked a small clearing and then sorted our rubbish pile into its composite parts – cactus bits (to be avoided), twigs/branches/etc, and ancient car parts/garbage.  With the huge rubbish pile sorted and moved out of the way, I began using the handsaw to work on the big ol’ dead juniper that was blocking the planting locations for 3 trees of the back row.  That was tough…

I was on a sawing break, digging holes when Brian arrived.  We analyzed what we had completed and what was still pending….and came to the conclusion that we no longer want to do a second row.  It seems like the second row will cause some sunlight stealing from the first row and will require more tree trimming than we want to do right now.  With the trees scheduled to arrive tomorrow, we wanted to get each hole at least semi-established so we are ready to hit the ground running when they arrive.

We adjusted the flags in the first row from 8′ spacing to 5′ spacing, as recommended online for a privacy screen.  We stopped for the evening without having done anything for last 5 planting areas.  Without the second row, and with the tighter first row spacing, we also now have an extra 3 trees.

9 mosquito bites on this part of my arm alone. The other elbow-tricep area is just as bad. I look like I have chicken pox on my neck and jaw line.

9 mosquito bites on this part of my arm alone. The other elbow-tricep area is just as bad. I also look like I have chicken pox on my neck and jaw line.

Friday, 9/16
More digging!!!  How fun…

We removed two or three prickly pears and one rotting cholla (the big one we originally wanted to avoid).  We also cut down 3 or 4 big clumps of ‘beargrass’ (Nolina spp).   If you walk through this grass too fast without pants, you will get cut.  All holes were dug 10″ deep and 20″ wide.  We finished all of the holes.  Oh yeah, and delivery of the plants was pushed back one day so the timing was perfect.

Row of holes between shed and barbed wire fence.

Row of holes between shed and barbed wire fence.

Cholla we had to cut down - and lizard occupant

Cholla we had to cut down – and the lizard occupant displaced.

Cholla stump

Cholla stump

Ancient car parts we discovered during our excavation of the first 5 holes.

Ancient car parts we discovered during our excavation of the first 5 holes.

Saturday, 9/17
The 16 trees arrived packed in 8 boxes, 2 plants to a box.  They had to hang out with us at work for a few hours before we could take them home.  Once home, we quickly unpacked everything, cut the zip-ties holding the bags on their bases, opened them up and watered them.  Off to quick (and terrible) snack…then back home to plant.

We planted the 13 trees that go in the row along the fence and stashed the remaining 3 plants in the shade near the house.  Next up, Brian installed the irrigation system and I started adding mulch (coffee grounds) around the base of each tree.  We stopped for the evening around 6:15pm (~two hours, not bad!)

The plants are loaded in the car. What an excellent vehicle for transporting objects.

The plants are loaded in the car. What an excellent vehicle for transporting objects.

We lined up the trees along the house as we unpacked/watered them. As always, the dogs are happy to help.

We lined up the trees along the house as we unpacked/watered them. As always, the dogs were happy to help.

The thuja green giants are planted!

The thuja green giants are planted!

Irrigation system - there is a pressure >>>>> that prevents ,,..... star pattern.

Pressure compensated shrubbler in action.

There's that tiny lizard again!

There’s that tiny lizard again!  Spotted 10 feet from the downed cholla.

View of trees from the other side (from down in the cholla garden).

View of trees from the other side (from down in the cholla garden).  We hope to eventually cut down and remove that giant dead juniper.  It blocks the view to the neighbors currently, which is nice, but it also makes it difficult to get around down in the cholla garden.

Sunday, 9/18
Up by 8am, cleaned up the house, ran errands and then came home to ……finish watching the Netflix show “Stranger Things”.  Top marks.  With that out of the way, we took a stroll around the property to identify where we wanted to plant the remaining three trees.  This brought us to this frustration –

Similar to the HVAC situation, where we were delayed for multi-weeks by the technician, we were told that our bobcat guy would “get to us this week” ….. last week.  He hasn’t answered our calls and there are several projects waiting on him to get the job done.  For example, we decided on the location of the three trees but need the grading done first.  Also, we’d like to put all of the lumber that is in the shed back out on the building pad because there are several things in the house right now that need that space in the shed.  But we can’t unload the shed until after the grading work is complete.  PLEASE CALL US BACK!

We found a backup but they don’t have availability until this coming Friday.  Also, it was surprising to us to learn that they actually schedule out their jobs!!!  The HVAC guy didn’t schedule; neither did the gravel man or the bobcat guy.  Amazing…

Next up, trim stuff.  We hauled it all outside, started cutting for the west arched wall…made a mistake…cut another piece….made the same damn mistake….and finally did it correctly on the third piece of trim.  We still have one long trim piece available and thankfully, only one long trim wall.  The other mistake pieces can be used for the short sections.

We attached the trim (butyl rubber and all) on the two walls to either side of Fred – finishing the west arched wall and completing the south endcap between the arched wall and the door.  The remaining sections include – the rest of the north endcap, the portion of the east arched wall that is in the bedroom nook and the outside (two) walls of the bathroom.  There are also a few very small sections to do in the bathroom.  Phew!

We found a "child of the earth" while messing around in the soil near the trees. It's also called a 'Jerusalem cricket', 'the old bald man', and 'the potato bug'. "They are large, flightless, nocturnal insects that use their strong mandibles to feed primarily on dead organic matter but can also eat other insects. Their highly adapted feet are used for burrowing beneath moist soil to feed on decaying root plants and tubers. [Wiki]

We found a “child of the earth” while messing around in the soil near the trees. It’s also called a ‘Jerusalem cricket’, ‘the old bald man’, and ‘the potato bug’. “They are large, flightless, nocturnal insects that use their strong mandibles to feed primarily on dead organic matter but can also eat other insects. Their highly adapted feet are used for burrowing beneath moist soil to feed on decaying root plants and tubers. [Wiki]

After trim, I fed the dogs and went out to putter around in the 'garden' - the line of trees. I threw cholla poops near the fence, started to encircle the ring of mulch at the base of each tree with rocks (so that the trees are protected from the weed wacker) and collected more metal objects. Here are the treasures that I found, most of it from near one tree.

After trim, I fed the dogs and went out to putter around in the ‘garden’ – the line of trees. I threw cholla poops near the fence, started to encircle the ring of mulch at the base of each tree with rocks (so that the trees are protected from the weed wacker) and collected more metal objects. Here are the treasures that I found, most of it from near one tree.  [Glove in photo for perspective.]

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