1
Mar

Planting the Christmas Trees

You don't plant a tree to sit in its shade.
You plant a tree for the shade you've sat in. ~ Dan Grigor

If you have been  following our story you know that we were blessed with 17 Christmas trees in pots. We have been dying to get them in the ground before we lost any and today was the day.

Last night I loaded five trees and 55 gallons of water onto the trailer and this morning I hooked the trailer to Mama's truck and off we went.

Today, for the the first time, we got on our new-to-us 1949 International Farmhall H tractor with the post-hole digger. We hoped it would make digging the holes about a thousand times easier in the hardpack dirt. We had no idea if it was going to work but we had all the stuff, we watched the obligatory youtube videos, we brought shovels and rakes...we felt confident we could do it. Our new tractor is big. It's intimidating with its monster tires, bugeye lights and a user interface from 1949. 

We decided to plant five trees in front of the Mullet. Some time before our move we bought an old antique store. It's uninhabitable so we don't use the store at the moment but we park a lot of stuff on the lot. Come spring we'll fix up the store and the plan is to build a little house there. So it will be business in the front, party in the back. The mullet. It has a split rail fence and we decided to hit every other pole. So they are sixteen feet apart, set inside the fence enough to get a mower through there easily and we only had to go about 18 inches deep. 

I drove the tractor around and got into position for the first hole. Our next task involved getting Wakitu up into the tractor seat (push my bottom!). Once up there she was comfy on the sproingy metal tractor seat on the big old spring. There was a very handy spot to hang the oxygen tank and she had a cool drink in the tool box.

There is a whole procedure for digging holes. We needed holes about  twice the size of the pots. With the free swinging auger head we angled the first cut a little then let it pendulum to straight and hit it again. This way we didn't have to move the tractor. To accomplish this you need to set the brake. You step on it hard and reach down and flip the dog that catches a cog that locks it. It is embedded and flush with the floor under the pedal and you have to get a finger (or toe) under it and hold it up and release your foot.  No you can't do that with either foot and Wakitu's arms were way too short to reach it.

Then I held the auger at an angle and she dropped it down. You move the hydraulic controller in a direction exactly opposite of what you think you should do. Before you do that, you have to engage the hydraulics by pulling a different handle that is supposed to have a catch the keeps it pulled out. It needs a little love, so you have to hold that with one hand and hit the hydraulics with the other. Once the tip is in the dirt you turn on the PTO which is another handle under the seat in the back and you have to pull it up. The clutch has to be disengaged for all of this and if you forget and step on it, nothing works. You can spend like 10 minutes with your stupid foot on the clutch while you figure that out.

We worked out complicated verbal cues like "UP!" or "DOWN!" or "SCREW IT!" and we worked like a really old, well-oiled but a little leaky machine and it took us literally less than two hours to dig all the holes. A little shovel work and the holes were a thing of beauty. A great size, the right depth and we got all five done. Our first idea was to do them one at a time, dig it, plant it, water it and move on to the next. That way, if we had to stop, we wouldn't have open holes while we were gone. The first one was so easy we just dug the next four one after the other. Setting the wheels straight on the tractor and following that line the whole way. All the holes lined up like we actually knew what we were doing.

So she would drive to the spot and I'd run over and set the brake. I'd run back and angle the auger, "DOWN!" Wakitu would put it down, or sometimes up a little and then down, or sometimes down and then up real quick but mostly down. Pin in the dirt, I yank up on the PTO and down we go. "UP!" and with a little wiggling it would pop up and spill the dirt. I'd guide the pin to the new spot, "DOWN!, SCREW IT!, UP!" We figured out that she could control the PTO with the clutch pedal, which made the last few go a bit faster. 

With the tractor keeping us straight and the holes twice the size it was pretty easy to align and plumb each tree to each post. It only took a few step-backs to get everything to line up and make sure that they were "Sugarplumb." They are, after all,  Christmas trees.

We planted the last one in the fading light by the bugeyed light of the tractor. I managed to roll the 55-gallon drum off the trailer without rolling it down Lake Isabella Blvd. It rolled off and downhill to about the middle tree. I rolled it down to each tree and watered them well. Then, when the barrel was lighter, I rolled it back up the hill and watered the other two. I left enough water to hit them again tomorrow and I can then tamp the dirt some more.   

I couldn't be more pleased - other than, if we had started an hour earlier, I could have snapped a final picture. I can do that in the morning. Frankly, I didn't think I could dig all those holes when I got those trees. I'm old. That would have taken me days with a shovel. I was so afraid I would lose those trees. That is just too good a story to have that kind of an ending.

Then that tractor showed up. We said let's sell Moby, our '61 GMC Suburban, and buy a tractor and that's exactly what we did. As luck would have it, it had a post-hole digger attached. With that, it took a half-a-day in the sunshine with my girl to put five of them in the ground. We had so much fun doing it. "UP! DOWN! SCREWIT!" We giggled the whole time. By the time we were done, I was done. Those trees are heavy and 55 gallons of water weighs over 450 lbs. rolling around in the dirt. I weigh a buckfitty soaking wet with my shoes on. Yeah, I know, I wore shoes today and socks and it sucked, all day. I have grown attached to my toes, though, and well you know... I was fairly exhausted and then the neighbor "Bounced" their laundry and I nearly died of perfume allergy-related anaphylactic shock. Wakitu drove me home and made me hot coffee and put me to bed with my migraine. While we relived the day and giggled all over again we stopped and thought about the shade we are leaving there. Someday, if all goes well, those five trees will be forty feet tall and sixteen feet wide, each providing much-needed shade to the whole front yard and parking lot of our little antique store. Adding equity and beauty to an empty-for-years, multi-use lot on the main drag through tourist town. It was a great day. Only twelve more to go. Stay tuned.

Planting the Christmas Trees
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