04 April 2011

The Root of the Problem

After removing all of the trees from along the back fence line, we were left with seven tree stumps/roots to contend with. We had asked the landscaper who removed the big tree for a quote to pull out the roots, but $200 was more than we wanted to spend on something so inconsequential. I thought we would just leave the roots in place, skip that area with the tiller, and plant around them, but Steve thought otherwise. Before I knew it, this was going on:

The roots were way bigger and more tenacious than we expected. Who knew that relatively puny six-inch trunks would have so much going on underneath?

Here's how we did it. First, the tools. We used a pair of loppers, a rock bar, and a shovel:

And a chain saw (with safety goggles, of course):

Our awesome neighbor, John, loaned us this electric chain saw. (By the way, after using two electric yard tools -- our Black and Decker lawn mower and this Remington chain saw -- I have to say how much we like them. The minor inconvenience of a cord more than outweighs the noise, pollution, and hassle of gas-powered tools or the frustration of waiting for a battery-powered tool to charge.) We dug all around to expose the stump and roots, using the lopper on the smaller roots and the chain saw on the larger. We actually broke one of our loppers on a surprisingly tough root. Fortunately, it has a lifetime warranty, and we recently bought a second pair (only $8 at Tuesday morning!), so we were able to keep on trucking. The rock bar was invaluable for poking around for roots (there was always that one underneath that we couldn't find but knew was still there). I was familiar with rock bars from my Junior Ranger days in Boulder, when we used them to dig up and move rocks, but Steve developed his own techniques for using it on the roots. In addition to prying the stumps up, he used it to dig in tight areas and sometimes -- although rock bars aren't exactly sharp -- cut right through roots with several swift blows. At times, when we just needed to get a better view of what was going on underneath, we would hack away at the stump with the chain saw, but most of them came out pretty intact, and this is what we ended up pulling out of the ground:

Times six. (We weren't going to mess with the big one.)

(Side note: in the picture above, if you look across our next door neighbor's yard and across his (other) next door neighbor's yard, you can see a horizontal slat fence like what we're going to put in.)

In the end, it probably would have been worth the $200 to have the landscaper remove the roots -- we ended up spending 12-15 hours on this "little" project -- but I'd like to think we dug deeper and took out more than he would have, and now we're confident that the tiller will be able to go over this area without any trouble.

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