Wednesday, April 13, 2011

You're invited to my "Jack-hammer Party"!

Can't make it? I'm not surprised - turns out a lot of people are "busy" when you throw certain kinds of themed parties...

Let me back up a bit.

We have two darling Chihuahuas. One is sweet and stays right by my side (mostly) and the other one has a wanderlust that would rival Marco Polo's.

Huckleberry is the white one - don't be fooled by Golly's innocent posture - he's guilty!

Huckleberry is the homebody. Golly is the escape artist - he's older than dirt in dog years (16 in people years) and yet he still has the stealth of a wily cat and the speed of a tiny greyhound.

He puts these skills to use about 3 times a week.

Imagine me out hunting for him in my slippers (this morning it was in my socks)...calling "Golly" at the top of my lungs. The neighbors must think I'm terminally surprised.

We live in coyote country so each of these searches is fraught with a genuine fear of finding his remains mixed with a tiny sense of "he almost deserves to be eaten for all the trouble he causes".

The emotional toll is significant - enough in fact that we decided that an enclosed backyard was essential to our family's mental health. Dave envisioned some sort of low fence that would keep the dogs in. I had grander plans...

Of course, I needed to make a model which meant the first step was to measure our backyard. Then we could make a scale drawing of what we already had in terms of elevation changes, plantings, and irrigation. Luckily Dave has vast experience in measuring for traffic accident investigations which is oddly fitting for my projects.

One of the many scale drawings I used for planning.

Then I had to make a 3D scale model out of foam core to see how my ideas would work. I even used plastic foliage to help with tree placement.
I swear - making the model is half the fun!
Here's the backyard modeled in its "before" state.

Here's the "after" model looking westward.

The "after" model looking east.

Here's the view from the model's kitchen window to help with tree placement.

Now, professional landscape designers create plans that conform to the clients' tastes and certain design aesthetics. I am not a professional so I make my designs conform to the spots where it's easiest to dig.

By "easiest" I mean "away from irrigation lines that would have to be repaired" (not my strong suit) and "thorny foliage" (some plants in the desert are really poky).

To my credit I wisely called Arizona Blue Stake to make sure I knew where the underground utilities were located.

Turns out the ground is so dang hard here, the majority of the utility companies avoid the backyard entirely. Except for the phone/cable company who solved the concrete-like earth problem by laying lines on top of the ground and then sort of covering them with rocks. 

They even helpfully sprayed the lines with orange paint in case the large black wires I routinely trip over escaped my notice.

Having dug a 2 foot deep mailbox hole by myself in just under 3 hours and 2 chiropractor visits, the thought of digging the 11 holes required for the new dog wall posts was enough to drive me straight to the Vodka bottle.

That is until a neighbor mentioned that he had a jack-hammer he could loan us. Of course, he'd been consuming some adult beverages himself at the time and so also said he'd be willing to show us how to use the dang thing. (Somehow digging and alcohol go hand in hand in Arizona).

And so the idea of my "Jack-Hammer Party" was born.

I invited about 20 people to the event and was only slightly amazed at the number of folks who had scheduled haircuts and pedicures for that very same afternoon...strange.

But the 7 who did show up were FANTASTIC!

We had Jessie using the jack-hammer (he did let Dave try but after a few minutes of watching Dave's efforts he took over the operation in the interest of time).
Here's Dave trying to learn Jessie's jack-hammer technique.

Ken and Brian were on the bucket and shovel team with Dave - scooping out dirt and rocks as fast as Jessie could loosen them.

Jay and Diane were with me on the dry sluice-box making planting dirt by separating out all the rocks.
Jay and Diane working the rock-screening tray.

In less time (and alcohol) than it took me to dig the mailbox post hole, we had 11 holes dug and post-ready!!!

Fortunately, there was only one injury during the operation; Ellen stepped into one of our freshly dug holes - she provided moral support and professional photography from the bench during the party.
Ellen and her camera.
I - quite simply - have the best friends and neighbors a person could ever hope for!



  1. Awesome Mum!!! And I see that Dave is in his customary Star Wars Sandman Victory pose. Fitting. :)

  2. I want to be invited to your next party!!!

  3. Wooo Jack-hammer party! hehe I knew I did something wrong when I had to remove that tile in the townhouse. I did all the work with the jack-hammer myself causing my back to be very angry. Next time I am going to plan a party for it. :P Looks like it is off to a good start cant wait to see the progress.

  4. Hahaha on the Sandpeople victory pose!

  5. You are ALWAYS invited to my parties Susie Lee!

  6. I think you have to weigh more than 150 pounds to handle a jack-hammer without suffering permanent damage - the themed party approach is definitely a safer strategy.

  7. I'd swing by if you promise that I could sit on the sideline, point and laugh.

    But seriously, very interesting. I especially like your model.

  8. I can just imagine you pointing and laughing - come on by anytime Margaret - we'd love to have you :)