For your amusement

Last year, Kathy (my wife) suggested we get a tree for our front yard. Not a street tree, but one closer to the house. The idea would be to provide some additional shade for the house in the summer. I thought that sounded like a good idea. After all, I really like trees. And it would reduce our electric bill and give me less lawn to cut. A great idea all around.

We didn’t get one last year because of various reasons, mostly because we didn’t get around to it in time.

We’re told that the best time to transplant a large tree is fall, so we waited until this fall and went shopping when our local tree farm had a sale. We wanted a tulip poplar (Indiana State tree) but they didn’t have one we liked. We saw some oaks that were quite nice, but went on to look at other trees and could then never find them again. So, we settled on a sunset maple (looks like this — this is from Wikipedia and is not our tree):

It’s a good size (15ft perhaps) will leaf out nicely, and grow reasonably so it will look good before we get too old. Plus, because it was the annual sale, we got something like half off the cost of the tree and the planting! What a deal — only about $400.

The tree company has a huge tree spade that looks like this for planting trees (more like the one on the left):

The diamond-shaped portion at the back opens up in sections, as a huge set of claws. To transplant the tree, they first take the truck to the destination, open those claws, drive them into the ground, close the claws, and haul off the scooped-out dirt, leaving a large hole in the ground about 8 ft deep and 15 ft across. Then they go to the tree, open the claws and position them around the tree, drive them in, close them, and pull up the tree with a huge rootball. They truck this to the destination and drop it in the same-size hole. Voila! A perfect match.

Well, we purchased the tree around Halloween. The tree folks wanted to have a good freeze or two before putting the tree in. Also, they needed to get the yard marked. You can imagine driving that spade into a gas line or high voltage electric wire!! Thus, marking is important.

Our yard got all marked up with colored lines and little flags, and the spot we picked was marked as clear. But no tree showed up. Several weeks went by.

Today, I was getting ready to drive to Wilmington DE (where I am now). I’m involved as an expert consultant and witness in a patent lawsuit with extremely large potential damages (I’m on the defendants’ side). I’m going to be here for an extended time for the trial. (That’s why I drove — I’m here for some time, and wanted to be able to drive around, and maybe take some side trips if I get any free evenings or weekends). It’s a 12 hour drive, so I wanted to leave early so I could get some sleep.

Oddly, nothing had gone wrong. The reason that is odd is because whenever I go on a long trip, something usually happens. They’re odd things, like birds getting in the house, or our (former) cats catching and chewing up mice to leave around the house, or the water heater springing a leak — things like that. And, those things usually happen as I head out the door…or shortly thereafter…so Kathy gets to deal with them all on her own, with me lending what support I can via phone and email.

So, it was about 8:30am, and I’m about to jump in the shower, then my car for my long drive, when the doorbell rings. It’s the tree guy! Well, that shouldn’t be a problem — the yard is marked, and he won’t block the driveway. So, I tell him to go about his business as I head to the shower. Except, there’s no water. And the doorbell is ringing.


Outside, our front lawn had a big, deep hole in it, as expected (to the right and above where the yellow flag is in this picture):


Unfortunately, traversing the bottom of the hole was a badly bent copper pipe. And there was water gushing into the street from several yards over, by the water meter pit, at the side. (You can see some of it above)

Apparently, the crew that marked the lawn only marked where the water main was located, not the feed pipe into the house. It was smack dab in the middle of where we wanted the tree, and of course, the digger had pulled it up and broken it.

Thus ensued calls to the water company, and our plumbers, and yadda yadda. Meanwhile, in the midst of this, I’m also trying to get dressed and finished packing. I had to get on the road, because of schedule, so Kathy got to deal with the rest.

Oh, and the spade also severed one of the sprinkler lines, too, so she had to call our yard guys.

The yard looked like this during the afternoon:

According to Kathy, water is back on in the house. About 10 ft of pipe back to the water meter had to be dug up and replaced. They got all that done by nightfall, but didn’t finish closing everything up. They’ll be back in the morning. So, for now, it is surrounded by yellow tape to keep people from falling in. I guess it looks like a scene from CSI where they’re trying to find the body.

The sprinkler system may not get fixed until spring because it was already shut off for the season and a little cold to work on it now. And the hole is too waterlogged to plant the tree right away, so that may be next week.

The company that marked the lawn? Well, according to everyone we asked, they aren’t liable. They are only responsible for marking the parts of the lines that belong to the utility companies and town — not the parts we own. Thus, the water line from the meter (near the sidewalk) all the way to the house is our responsibility. (Fortunately, the gas meter is against the house, so they marked that for the whole length and it was out of the way of any damage.)

So…, by the time the water pipe repair is finished, the sprinkler system is fixed, and the yard repaired by our lawn service, our “bargain” tree will have cost us over… $6000.

Good thing I’m doing this consulting, although I hadn’t planned on spending it on this.

Oh, and I made it to Delaware in 12 hours and 20 minutes. I averaged 65mph, and 29mpg. That’s pretty good for a big car with a V8 and twin turbo, and a maniac behind the wheel.

But I didn’t get to my hotel room until about 11:30pm because of the late start, and I am exhausted. And tomorrow I have to be ready for a pre-trial conference. Goody. At least I have running water here at the hotel.

Sometimes, we have too much fun in West Lafalot.

6 Responses to “For your amusement”

  1. charlie Says:

    “in ius voco spurius” presumably, the tree sellers/installers contracted with you to install the tree and they (not you) undertook to have the yard marked as part of that contract

    Spaf sez: no, the contract puts the responsibility on us. We thought all was ok because the company was marking the yard. Clearly, a better warning could be involved.


  2. Joyce Hall Says:

    My sympathies….I feel your pain…my sprinkler never worked because the cable people clipped it before I bought the house down here in Texas before I retired from Purdue. So I had the sprinkler people come out this summer to fix the sprinkler and they clipped the cable line…got a temporary cable that stay connected for four months (running across the public sidewalk all this time) even though the cable was finally buried. No one seems to talk to anyone from those who put temporary cable, those who bury the cable, and those who reconnect said cable, and disconnect the temporary cable. I have learned more about sprinkler systems and cable than I want to know. I am wide awake at this ungodly hour because I had to call the police to check out a suspicious truck next door (I had gone out at midnight to turn off my Christmas lights)……three patrol cars and an ambulance later, the police let me know that the young man in the truck was so drunk he was unresponsive so they took him to a hospital…he had been sitting in his locked truck with lights on and the truck in drive….Truck towed, police gone, and I’m wide awake. Go figure.
    Good luck on your testimony. I’m not complaining because your story is so much worse with the $6,000 price tag.


  3. Andra Says:

    You need to share this story with Angie, as in Angie’s List.


  4. Don Deal Says:

    Sorry to hear about your troubles. Backhoes, spades, and augers have a way of finding and disrupting services that are important to you. In the past three months, City workers have dug up the gas main on my street three times while trying to effect sewer line repairs. When I installed a large (approximately 5,000 lbs at installation) tree in my front yard, I decided it was safer to dig the hole by hand. With a few friends, it only took about 90 minutes to dig an 80″ diameter x 4′ deep hole. At least in your case they dug up something simple like your water supply instead of something really expensive, like a sewer line.


  5. Nancy Grenard Says:

    Maybe a second blog… “Spaf’s Laughs”? Sorry about the cost and disruptions, but a story to last a lifetime.


  6. Ron Tencati Says:

    When I was a kid in L.A., my dad had a palm tree removed that had grown from a sapling to a huge tree. It was encroaching on our house gutters. A company offered to take the tree out for free and they would reuse it somewhere else in the Los Angeles area. When the crew came to dig a trench around the tree with a backhoe, they snagged the main water line and ripped it clean off the fittings underneath our house, not to mention destroying the pipe. The resulting damage required our entire driveway to be torn up and replaced so the plumbing crew could replace the broken water pipe running underneath it. Of course, that was at our cost. the crew took the tree out and disappeared after saying “Oops, sorry about that…”


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