Building A Wall

On April 18, 2008 I wrote: I have been in Hillsboro, New Mexico (USA) for two days - continuing the long process of preparing for the relocation to here, from Portland, Oregon (USA).  I spent much of the day in Las Cruces looking for a wall contractor - the one I had been talking to from Truth or Consequences not only did not show up, he failed to return phone calls.  (From the future: A recurring problem of the Anglo culture in this part of the world…)

While in Las Cruces I met with a number of solar energy contractors.  As I discussed photo voltaic systems with one I could not help notice a nice collection of hummingbird feeders outside his window.  When I handed him my business card we wandered off into the world of birds.  He is an ornithologist by training, having done his graduate work on the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador.  The world is full of the periodic crossing of paths.  Earlier in the day I had been discussing solar hot water systems with another contractor when I noted a number of posters and pictures of the Alaska Railroad.  Alaska is not a heavily populated place but here he was in Las Cruces, New Mexico after a number of years in Alaska with the Public Health Service; across the street lives a woman who spent years in Alaska providing dental services in the bush; Rebecca and Barbara (Rebecca’s long-time best friend - who were visiting) also spent significant time in Alaska; and I spent time in Alaska as a youth and later as an adult.

Late in the day I met with the Manager of the Sierra County Electric Cooperative to discuss issues they might have with the installation of photo-voltaic cells on the house here.  I gather that we will be on the cutting edge of that technology in this area.  There is a home south of Hillsboro which has solar and is interconnected to the electricity distribution system.  I will need to talk with the owner down there about the system they put in and the interconnection issues they may/may not have had with Sierra.  Support for solar technology is mandated but the implementation of that support is something else.  Electricity people are generally very conservative by nature - plus, they run a finely balanced system and have significant safety concerns for their employees.  I have the impression that Sierra will be easy to work with and I look forward to the autumn and the installation of our solar systems.

A note from the future (October 12, 2011):  The house south of Hillsboro mentioned above is that of Lloyd Barr and Matilde Holzwarth - who have become very good friends during the intervening period.  Sierra Electric turned out to be fairly reasonable to work with but incredibly conservative -- they have a disincentive rate which has a minimum use charge (not a system or administration charge - a minimum charge on your use) which means you can produce more energy than you use and still have to pay them for electricity.

By April 24 I was writing:  The building of the rock wall on the front west side of the property line begins in earnest today (by Hernandez Fencing Company of Las Cruces).  Yes, we are building a wall too, just like the Bushites along the Mexican border and the Soviets in Berlin -- seems to be the thing to do.  We need a rock wall along that fence line for flood control, the house is located in a flood plain and the area has flooded in the past.

6:30 AM  Today starts with two semi-truck loads of material in the back - one of wall rock and one of sand and gravel.

8:15  The air is full of chain saw sounds as they start to take out the trees in the fence line.  The thud of a tree hitting the ground punctuates the call of doves and the industrial hum of the saw.  The bird seed and overripe banana I put out early this morning will doubtlessly go uneaten today.

9:11 AM   Three snags are down now, one had an inch of wood around the perimeter of its 18 inch (diameter) trunk - the rest was hollow.  It hurts to take out these trees, in the case of the wall line they have to come out to put in the wall, in the case of the three snags - they were a real danger in the wind, and the three trees abutting the house are so close that the trunks hit the house in the wind storms.  I hate the loss of habitat and solitude that the falling trees bring, but look forward to their replacement with native flora.  A moment of rest for the chain saw and the doves call on... 

9:37 AM   The trees on the wall line (some are thirty feet high) are coming down rather quickly, about a third of the way down the wall at this time, but the remaining 2/3’s is more heavily treed. The chain saw is being replenished with fuel so it is quiet for the moment.  Some tea and tamarind for Mr. Hernandez and his wife - to replace the sweat.

Amid all of the activity European Collared-Doves, White-winged Doves, Wilson’s Warbler,  European Starling, and American Robin fly about.

10:27 AM   The trees in the wall line in front (the larger trees) are starting to come down, most of the trees that are coming out are Tree of Heaven but there are two Elms in the wall line as well. More tea and tamarind for the saw-team.

12:00 Noon   All is quiet, the work crew is off having lunch, I fell asleep in my chair, and the doves continue to call.  The side yard looks like a war zone, most of the wall line trees are down to stump level and the area has really opened up (not a good thing in my opinion but necessary).  Trunks, limbs, and sunlight are everywhere along the line, it is expected but I am saddened by the process.

12:20 PM  Work resumes.

1:30 PM  Part of the wire fence is coming out of the wall line; stumps, more wire fencing, and a few trees remain.  I have been adding bags of leaves and limbs to the yard debris pile in the back, it is getting to be a very large mound.  Bullock’s Oriole, Brown-headed Cowbird, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, and Say’s Phoebe are added to the yard list for a total of 33 (18 species in the yard today, a new high).

2:20 PM   Looks like the workday is over.  Lots done today - lots to go.

On April 25, 2008, I wrote: Fourteen bird species in the yard today, by 8:00 AM.  Sixteen by 8:30 including two new yard species; Barn Swallow and Western Kingbird (bringing the yard list to 35).

10:15  The work crew has arrived with a big load of cement bags and more rock.  Looks like another busy day.

12:20  More trees are down, including two of the big ones which were snug against the house.  Downed wood is being hauled away and it is possible that the place will look less like a war zone this evening.  One of the big trees on the corner of the house looked awfully sound (we just wanted it out because it was overhanging the house so much and Tree of Heaven is very brittle) but when it came down the center of the trunk (about half the diameter) had rotted out.  More of the Tree of Heaven will have to come down - but later, all this sunlight is difficult to take.

1:00 PM  The crew is leaving for lunch, all of the big trees around the house are down, one or two remain in the wall line.  To tie off the pull line they put a ladder on the roof to get high enough to achieve leverage.  Pretty impressive undertaking.

2:30 PM  Another load of branches and trunks has headed out.  I have had a chance to look at more trunk sections of the big trees.  Much looks like big concrete pipe in perspective, just a rim of wood and lots of hollow center.

3:40 PM  The last of the trees is down, they are working on taking out stumps and hauling stuff away in the late afternoon.  The crew today has been 3 - the senior Mr. Hernandez and two young men in their twenties.  A great deal has been accomplished today.  It seems that quite a bit remains to be done on the wall line however.  The trailer has just returned, time for logs and branches to be loaded aboard.  Spanish music pours from the pickup cab, it really does feel like life is different here than in Portland.

5:40 PM  The work crew is back from its last load of the day and has headed home.

Added Mourning Dove to the yard list late this morning and a Great-tailed Grackle at dusk - bringing that list to 37, which I find pretty impressive.  Nineteen species in the yard today, breaking yesterday’s “record” by one.

On April 26, 2008, I wrote: 6:45 AM  Joe Hernandez and his father have arrived and started to work - and I have only seen 7 species this morning.  They brought a small cat front-loader with them this morning so the yard is now churned up pretty good.

8:50 AM  Two more crew members have shown up and trenching and stump removal is well underway.

9:45 AM  Mini-disaster.  While trying to get the stump out by the front wall the bobcat hit the last remaining Tree of Heaven in that quarter of the yard - there was a loud crack - it was obvious that we had to take it out as well.  When it was coming down the tree trunk (about fifteen feet up) hit the wrought iron fence on the top of the neighbors fence.  Bent it all to hell.  Near the base the tree was about three-quarters rotted out, after the bump from the bobcat the first big wind was going to topple it.

10:30 AM  They have just finished taking out the last big stump, the one referenced in the last entry.  Now they are filling in the hole.  Lots of bobcat work, chainsaws, shovels, and axes -- it was a devil of a trunk.

1:30 PM  The crew has gone off to lunch.  All of the stumps are out and the foundation of the wall is in, they start building the thing this afternoon.

3:00 PM  One more big tree has bit the dust.  This one a Tree of Heaven which was on the outside of the front wall, it was completely dead.  The nice thing is that the stump makes a nice plant pot, it stands about 18 inches high, has an inch and a half rim of solid wood, and is completely hollow inside.

5:00 PM  The crew has just left - the wall is about 20% up, I suspect they will finish on Monday, certainly by Tuesday.

On April 28, I wrote: 7:00 AM  The crew has arrived, the cement mixer is tumbling, wheelbarrows are rolling, rocks are being placed and shaped, and Spanish is the language of the moment.  The crew today consists of the senior Mr. Hernandez a person from yesterday and two new people, who are obviously trained wall builders.

10:45 AM  The wall is about 60% up, there will be finishing work after the basic structure is in place, it is looking quite nice.

A Gambel’s Quail brings the yard list to 41.

1:00 PM  They say that the wall will be complete today.  The south end of the wall is almost to full height, the sides of the north end have been finished off, we are getting close - as always this crew works hard, well, and fast.  The wall is 42 inches high, 18 inches wide, and 90 feet long - it will be topped with a wrought iron fence.

I have been reading more of my Google book and planning my trip back to Portland.  I feel very lazy when I look outside at these guys working on the wall.

1:45 PM  The basic wall is in place and most of the finish work on the east side is complete.  The crew has left for lunch.

3:00 PM  The crew has returned and are back at work.

4:00 PM  The east side of the wall is finished, the west side is underway, and the wall is about half capped.

5:45 PM The wall is complete and clean-up is underway.


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