The Big Machine

The excavator arrived on Tuesday afternoon, on a huge flatbed trailer. As we all went out to look I couldn’t help but admire how clean and shiny it was. It occurred to me that this must be the sign of a professional. Then the guy told me that this was a brand new machine and ours was its first official job. By this time the neighbours across the street had come to check out what was going on, and while I chatted with K. our husbands ooh-ed and ahh-ed over the cab: heated seats, air conditioning, stereo system, and a lunchbox that can be heated or cooled. Apparently it cost around $200,000. It was quite something to behold up close.

The excavator’s job would be to clean up the logs and debris. Two log piles were created on the west side of the property; one for firewood and one for logs that could be milled into lumber.

The debris was be piled into a large heap and burned throughout the day. However, before we even got started there was a hitch in the plans: I found out the night before that just six months ago our district passed a new bylaw banning the burning of landclearing debris. To be honest, we were only slightly perturbed: neither Husband nor I had been too happy about burning the wood; now we were forced to come up with an alternative. The choices given by the district were to have it hauled to one of the local yard waste facilities, or to burn it using something called a burn trench or air curtain, or to chip it and/or grind the stumps. All of these options are extremely expensive and we quickly ruled them out.

Our solution was to pile the debris in an out-of-the-way spot on our property. Over the summer it will dry out considerably, and we can then tackle it in small burns (which are still legal on approved air index days), use it for campfires, haul it in a utility trailer to the nearby waste facility (which will compost it) and generally dispose of it in any way we can. We are fortunate to have enough space on our land to do this.

For the next two days we watched the excavator (and Bobby, the friendly operator) go to work. On the one hand I was conscious of the exhaust being generated (though, reassuringly, this brand new machine was far more fuel-efficient and cleaner-burning that a model even 10 years older) and the destructive power of these massive machines, but on the other hand I couldn’t help but be awed by this engineering marvel. The operator worked so smoothly that it was easy to imagine the long arm and excavator bucket as a hand, delicately plucking stumps and branches from the ground, giving it all a shake to dislodge the soil, and then tossing it onto a pile with a casual swing that belied the sheer size and weight of the load.

This dramatic land clearing project has brought many pleasant surprises. Turns out we have some lovely views, and the area in question is now bathed in direct sunlight up until late afternoon. Its gentle southern slope is the perfect spot for gardens, and Husband has already ordered his heritage wheat and corn seeds. Here’s a “before and after” of our new field:

We now also have an open view towards the next section of land, which is full of deciduous trees and open spaces underneath. We have not been able to get a good look at it from a distance until now, and it provides a truly lovely background to the open area.

We also discovered that the cleared area is thick with soil, much of it really good stuff. The operator pointed out that if we spread out the mound of dirt at the top of the hill (left over from excavating the garage years ago), we’d end up covering the good stuff with poor quality soil. So we had him put the poor soil off in a pile on the edge of the property, and we will draw from it as needed for little projects around the place (meanwhile it has become a fun place to play for the kids).

The work was finished on Friday and the result is a landscape transformed. It was days before we could walk by a window without pausing to take in the new views. We are very pleased with the results. The next step will be to mark out the field boundaries, mark out our planting areas (wheat, corn, and my veggie garden), and seed the rest of it. We’re using a revegetation mix that is specially formulated for our region. Stay tuned!

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  1. Pingback: House Planning « Rural Aspirations

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