Thursday, June 29, 2006


Operating a Bucket and Backhoe

What kid doesn't dream of operating a full sized tractor with bucket and backhoe? I was surprised how difficult it all turned out to be, just trying to make it do what I wanted it to. For one thing (on the model I rented at least), the shift lever worked opposite to normal column shifts - drive was in the up position with reverse in the down position. I kept getting it wrong. Also, my left leg got quite sore from constant riding on the clutch. It's more of an art than I had expected.

The first few stumps were pretty hard to pull. But by the third or fourth one, I came up with a way to do them pretty easily - digging out one or two of the three/four main roots and then yanking out the stump. In all I pulled about 30 stumps. It wasn't very hard to dig a ten foot-hole for the stumps using the backhoe, even though I never did quite get it working that smoothly. Backfilling the hole was a lot harder. Then I switched over to using the bucket as a blade to scrape all the tundra and %$@#&*^ alder roots off the surface. I ended up pushing a lot of these scrapings over the sides of the hill. Then I scraped down some of the higher points to fill in some of the lower points as much as possible. Finally we had three truckloads of topsoil delivered and I used the bucket as a plow to spread it around, fill some holes, and generally smooth the final surface. Two long hard days. The tractor rental and topsoil cost about $1,150.

After ten years the stumps are all gone!

Next, I'll borrow a garden tractor for final smoothing and leveling, followed by raking by hand. Then, lime (lots of it, to raise the pH) and fertilizer, followed by grass seed and tons of water. It sure will be nice to have a big lawn!

With all the yard work, I missed two days of playing my cello. I was too tired to even look at it. This morning was a struggle to get back into it. My fingers just didn't seem to remember where to go to find the notes, and they wouldn't move fast enough in coordination with the bow. Finally, after two hours, I had loosened up a bit and was able to continue working on the new second position. First, I'll have to construct a new mental map for my fingers and then work on fine-tuning the intonations.

I picked up a few more cello CDs this weekend; two from Title Wave:
1. Mstislav Rostropovich: Dvorak Cello Concerto in B minor and Strauss Don Quixote,
2. Mischa Maisky: "Meditations";

And one from Barnes and Noble:
3. Yo-Yo Ma: "Plays Enrico Morricone".

The hardest part is finding time to listen to them all. The best time and sound system is in my Subaru, by myself, on a long drive (like when I go to lessons every other week).

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