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Concrete from hell, roof rats & the Winchester Mystery yard

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POSTED August 24, 2010 1:54 p.m.

Cement apparently flowed freely in the 1950s.

If you doubt that just ask the crew from Vince’s Hauling that spent the good part of Monday morning trying to remove what appears to have been twin five-foot or so solid pours in my backyard.

They had broken up most of the two main concrete pads with ease before running into a slight hiccup. First, after digging around the concrete in question it appeared it was poured in three layers to a depth of about two feet thick. After pounding away for a good hour they found a massive steel I-bar with an eye hook and even more concrete. The original owner must have had some type of tower in his back yard that he didn’t want to sway.

To make a long story short they went to Plan B, cut the steel bars off and left what could easily be another three or so feet of concrete in the ground after removing a depth in excess of three feet. Vince wasn’t kidding when he said he could tackle any job. If I had tried to remove the concrete on my own as I did other sidewalk and flower beds I’d still be doing it in 2020. Thanks to Vince’s Hauling I don’t have a trace of concrete left except for what is now buried under more than three feet of dirt.

Of course, that brings up my next problem: What am I going to do with my back yard now that I got the blasted concrete out?

Backing up a second, I have been removing things I haven’t liked since I moved in: An out building, the dilapidated fence, and eight good-sized trees, brick flower beds, the aging patio awning as well as every blade of grass. I’ve got one more tree left - and another stretch of sidewalk running from the house to the alley - that are still on my “get rid of” list.

In the past two years I’ve planted 11 trees in the back yard as well as 34 roses, and about a dozen assorted bushes. That leaves roughly two thirds of the back yard yet to tackle not to mention finishing touches such as brick paths.

I had thought about planting a mini-fruit orchard where the concrete once was. The soil certainly is good enough to accommodate it. That was my plan until several people Monday afternoon happened to point out the problem with roof rats.

I didn’t know roof rats existed until I moved to Manteca 19 years ago and was startled to see one scurry across a power line outside the Bulletin office at twilight.

Within three years I was cursing them for eating out the center of grapefruit and oranges on four of the trees we had in the back yard. They apparently have no problem scurrying at warped speed along fences or darting in and out of tunnels dug by gophers. Dottie - our Dalmatian at the time - used to dig up half the yard trying to get to the rats.

And since my backyard apparently is the neighborhood switching yard for gopher tunnel routes I’d definitely be pressing my luck. Besides instead of one Dalmatian, I now have two which means dirt would be flying non-stop 24-7.

So now I’m not too sure what I’ll do.

I figured I’ll try as hard as I can to restrain myself from planting too many more roses. Altogether I have 55 rose bushes. But then again I didn’t think I wanted to squeeze in 160 roses at the last house.

I’m now in what one of my former neighbors dubbed “Winchester Mystery House yard mode.”

The only thing I know for sure is that Bud’s Nursery and Orchard Supply Hardware are about to have a huge improvement in their bottom line.

 And to think I actually liked the front and back yards of the house 10 times better than any other ones I looked at when I was looking to buy a home 2.5 years ago.

I can only imagine what I’d have done if I bought a house with a yard I didn’t like.



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