The Great Gopher Fence rolls on

March 11, 2000

We spoke too soon last month when we praised the balmy spring-like weather we had been enjoying. Old Man Winter showed he still has some teeth, frequently dampening our homestead throughout late February and early March and stalling progress on several outdoor-related activities.

The inclement weather was one of the more minor challenges Glenn encountered in his ongoing construction of the Great Gopher Fence. The fence, which we introduced to you in last month's installment, has slowly progressed around the garden area on the southeast side of our back yard. Beginning with the berry patch near the garden's north end, Glenn dug a 6-inch wide, 2-foot-deep trench along the garden's perimeter, sometimes completing only a few feet per day before rain, work or darkness forced him to stop.

He made quick work of the berry patch and the row of asparagus along the east fence, but any hope of a speedy completion to the project was dashed when Glenn reached the site of what had been our infamous retaining wall. About a third of the old wooden wall has been removed since October, and the rains combined with heavy foot traffic have contributed to significant slope failure. The unstable soil wrought havoc on the gopher fence trenching project as mounds of sandy earth collapsed into the trench almost as quickly as Glenn could remove it. Over several days, he tenaciously battled the collapsing hill and eventually caught up with the end of the remaining portion of the wooden wall, relieved in the thought that the aging planks would hold back the sand as he dug his trench.

Late one night, Glenn had just stumbled into bed after an engrossing game of Railroad Tycoon when he heard a loud "crack" followed by a heavy "thud." Convinced something or someone had hit the house, he listened in the darkness for more activity but heard nothing. The next morning, he returned to the garden to discover what had happened. The "crack" was the sound of breaking wood as a weakened portion of the retaining wall gave way, followed by the "thud" of a ton of wet sand tumbling into his freshly dug trench! Another delay. A week of digging out. At least one more section of the doomed wall had been removed.

Roni poses in front of our ornamental
plum tree, which is in full bloom in
early March. Photo by Glenn.

The scenario nearly repeated itself on the subsequent wall section as tons of sand began ripping away from the embankment, threatening to fall into the strawberry patch and crush our grapes and apple tree. With some temporary bracing and Roni's assistance, we worked feverishly around the wall to the corner of our patio, backfilling as we went. Now we're in the home stretch, with a trench dug along the patio's edge and back toward the house. Another weekend ought to do it ... providing Mother Nature holds up her end of the deal!

With the garden phase of the gopher fence project nearing its completion we are finally ready to turn our attention to the retaining wall. We have made several forays to Home Depot to price retaining blocks and have settled on a type we like. All that remains is to place the order and wait for that big truck to dump it all in our driveway.

Speaking of big trucks dumping things at our home, we acquired a new stove from Sears earlier this month to replace the aging model we had lived with since moving to Oakley nine years ago. Roni is excited that the new stove has four burners that work and that she can actually use them at the same time the oven is on -- two features the older model lacked. We broke in our new appliance with a weekend of home-cooked meals featuring steak, asparagus and enchiladas. We hope there will be other oven-baked meals between now and Thanksgiving.

Benji is preparing for a week-long spring break following a busy month at school. In February he participated in a schoolwide reading program that asked students and their parents to read for a few minutes each day and awarded kids who met or exceeded their reading goals over a three-week period. As a kindergartner, Ben's goal was 200 minutes. For 400 minutes he could obtain the distinction of "Super Reader." He surpassed the 400-minute mark in less than two weeks, and received his certificate and prize (a McDonald's Happy Meal coupon) at an evening assembly March 3.

We survived the California primary election March 7, but we may not survive the current spike in gas prices that has seen fuel at our corner pumps soar to around $1.80 per gallon. If that sounds astronomically expensive to you then you obviously don't live in California, where Bay Area prices currently are hovering around $2.00. At those prices, $1.80 feels like a bargain.

Well, spring is just a few days away and we've got a garden to plant, Roni's birthday to celebrate and our 12th anniversary to commemorate. Until next month, enjoy the wildflowers.

Glenn, Roni and Benji.

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