Friday, June 14, 2013

On Culverts and The Twists and Turns of Gift-Giving

Remember the O. Henry story The Gift of the Magi? (spoiler, turn your head if you haven't)  Remember where the young couple wants to give something meaningful to each other ...I think she wanted to give him a watch chain for his heirloom pocket watch and he wanted to give her a beautiful decorative comb for her long, lovely she sold her hair to afford the watch chain and he sold his watch to afford her hair comb?

Well, gifts have a way of making you appreciate the giver and smiling a bit over the exact circumstances of the gift itself.  Right?  This gift of the culvert kind of...backfired.  Sort of.  With the best of intentions.  You'll see...

Here is a picture of the front of the property before we began clearing the perimeter:

That's about how it looked for 330 feet along the roadside.  Not much in the eyes of the average passerby, but a DELIGHT to us.  Here are a few things we found to love as the seasons changed in our ditch...

Beautyberry bushes
Coastalplain palafox
Bidens alba



Plumegrass closeup

Let's refer to those as the Before pictures.

I've been saving up for our next project, the culvert, since we had the perimeter partially cleared.  Saving has been a slow process because in the spring, I'm not sure how, but I injured one of my knees and was unable to walk for a time, and recovery has been slow and incomplete.  It requires surgery we can't do at this time or in the foreseeable near future.

This necessarily caused my work days to be cut completely for a while, and then slowly to pick up again, working from one day a week to three, presently.  That is all it can take without going into an acute phase wherein I'm sidelined to keeping  my knee elevated and immobile days at a time.  So saving has been slowwww...and very deliberate.

We had planned to be much further ahead with the land progress than we are now, but here we are and Jack's birthday was looming.  A comparison of DIY equipment rental versus a local farm neighbor who gave us a bid resulted in deciding the neighbor was the more dependable option.  So I started saving towards fulfilling the amount needed when I saw the quote.

Car repairs hit.  And hit again.  And a household plumbing issue arose.  And more car repairs.

I get very morose any more when our aged cars require anything needing a price tag of 4 figures, much less 3.  I definitely had my morose moments, especially during the times I was both unable to work AND watching the repair bills mount.

Did I mention I had morose moments??  (insert several arrrggggghhhhhhss here, and a few too many slices of Edwards Lemon Meringue pie)

Anyway, I plotted for our next get the culvert installed across our ditch.  So many other projects depended on being able to get machinery up onto the property that this one became the most important.  In the meantime, we achieved smaller goals by one by one putting up the front corner posts.  Jack did most of the actual work, my knee and I did most of the cheering on and picture taking...

I saved and saved and PRAYED, and a couple we're friends with got in on the secret plotting.  They put some birthday money for Jack towards the Culvert Fund.

I called the neighbor, lined up the right timing for his buying the materials, and gave him the $$ for the materials as downpayment.  I was SO excited!!!  Jack had no idea what was afoot.

I'll fast forward...this week was his birthday and on Thursday he and I drove out to the farm.  I had told him a couple days beforehand what was going on, and he was thrilled!  We drove through torrents of monsoon to get out there, and there was a brief break in the storm enough to see the work that had been done.

The culvert had been put in!!!!  (the angels were singing)

Jack looking over his NEW CULVERT, baby!!
The new culvert was in!!!!  This is a great day for us!!!!

Here is the view standing on the new entrance.  Do you see any difference between this ditch view and the older ones?

View of ditch from new entrance

Well the main difference is that we can SEE the ditch now.  And...well, GULP...

The new view of the roadside


It was ALL gone.  All 330 feet of naturalized native scrub was...completely razed to the ground.

We saw this heading our way...

We felt the rain start its initial spitting, so all we had time to do was take a good look at the culvert and get the truck turned around.  The roads are subject to flooding, so we had to "git."

The fill dirt will have to pack down with the rain and some dry periods and we'll add more of this and that to it to smooth it out and add more inches.

Lone Survivor

On our way back down the road, we passed our neighbor's relative and passed her the check through the window, wrapped in an old towel so it would not disintegrate in the POURING rainstorm, and then made our way back home.

Upon reaching home we called to confirm the neighbor received final payment, and Jack chatted with him to let him know we'd briefly been able to look at the work he had done, and to thank him.  He told Jack happy birthday and that he had not only done the culvert but ....had cleared the entire roadway to the ditch while he was there with his equipment for free as a gift to Jack for his birthday!

That was yesterday.  It was not until today that we even discussed it.  I said..."about the ditch..."  and we both sat there a few seconds and then Jack said "yeah, I know, I feel exactly the same way."   More quiet until he said "You're suffering."  We smiled and laughed and groaned.  More quiet.  "Those bushes and wildflowers, the....the beautyberries and all the wildflowers I was just learning the names of..."  "I know," he said.  "I know..."

"That was so sweet of the neighbor..he didn't know..."

"You're suffering..."

We laughed a bittersweet laugh.

It's not everyone in our neck of the woods who see weeds and scrub bushes and gets warm fuzzies.  Most of the farms and ranchettes out that way have clear cut their properties, put horses on them, sowed grass seed for grazing and reduced the wild plants to next to zero.  We'll probably be the weird ones even way out there.  We've said the phrase "to grow herbs and native plants" to several locals who asked us what we planned to do with the property, and we couldn't get past their guffaws at the term "herbs" and their stories of the sheriff's latest hauls of contraband marijuana.

We're growing a Florida tweaked version of a food forest, or at least that's the plan, and we wanted to keep our wild things intact to a great degree.

So.....we look at the culvert and the clear cut roadway and...well, we smile.  We gained a neighbor.  And we'll sow seeds there and nature will be fast in reclaiming that space.  But we'll miss all those mature shrubs and native plants that won't be there for many years.


WE HAVE THE CULVERT...YAYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Happy Birthday to my beloved Jack!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Anonymous said...

Oh, I'm so sorry! It was nice of your neighbor to do what he thought would be a good deed.

Does Florida have a natural conservation program that gives out native flora? I know some states do. If not, then what about scavenging some decent looking specimens from public lands/right of ways? That would help nature with a head start on reclaiming the area.

On the bright side, now you can be excited about each new resident as they come, and be vigilant about getting rid of invasive species.

Oh, and wish him a happy birthday from some lady on the internet :)

Michelle said...

Oh Robbyn, I am suffering at a distance with you; I understand completely. You are being gracious by the grace of God, which is as it should be. People ARE more important than things, even beautiful things God created. Sometimes when faced with disappointments like this, I try to remind myself that "it's all going to burn anyway," in the cleansing by fire before the "new heaven and new earth" are created.

Phelan said...

Oh my. On the up side most of it should grow back. Happy belated to the lovely hubby!

DFW said...

Reminds me of the time my friend's BIL was staying with them. He decided to cut the grass one day & to help out further, took all the overgrown weeds out of the raised beds so she could plant some vegies. What he took out was Thyme, Cilantro, Parsley, Dill & Oregano.

Happy Birthday to Jack.

small farm girl said...

Like you said, at least you gained a good neighbor. Love the culvert too!!!

Robbyn said...

Anonymous, I'm going to look into that ASAP...great idea! :-)

Michelle...the initial ouch is over and now we're looking at it as a new opportunity, wheeee :-), yep, already got plants and seeds to inundate the area with!

DFW...LOL, oh dear!! nobody better mess with my wild things again, ha!

Sherri...yes, we really like those neighbors, and YAYYYYY for the culvert!! You and Marcy get to be neighbors now...can't wait to see the fun and trouble you'll both get into :-)