Misadventures in Tree Planting

Over this weekend we planted two new trees in our back yard. One is an 8ft maple and the other is a 10ft ash. Of course, it’ll be years before we have enough shade to place two lawn chairs under, but you’ve gotta start somewhere. Two small trees in the backyard beats zero.

It was an adventure getting the trees in the ground. Each tree’s rootball weighed about 250lbs by my guess. Thankfully my sister, brother and sister-in-law-to-be were able to drop by to help. Deciding that the wheelbarrow method of transportation was going to be a death sentence, we ended up having to pull the truck and trailer into the back yard, cutting some nice ruts in the yard.

That was the part that went well. Buying the trees was another story… Warning: a long poorly-written story follows. The upside is that you can laugh at me.

On Saturday we hitched up the little 8ft utility trailer and headed out to run a few errands and shop for trees. After a couple of stops it was time for lunch, so we dropped by Jimmy John’s. This parking lot was not conducive to parking a trailer, so I backed the trailer into the corner, unhitched, and parked the truck next to it. Parking spaces occupied: one. Since this trailer is very light, it’s also very easy to run off with, so I got out the short length of chain I keep in my toolbox and ran it betwen the trailer and the leaf spring on my truck. As I fastened the lock, I said outloud, “Boy, I hope I have the –click– key…” It was too late- I’d already issued the orders to my hands to lock. When I traded trucks a couple of months ago, I took everything out, and I hadn’t gotten around to putting all the essentials back into the new truck, including of course the small keyring holding the trailer keys. Fantastic. Now I have the trailer locked to the SIDE of the truck, leaving the truck undrivable. Good plan.

We go inside to get a bite to eat while I ponder my options. I give my sister a call, and she happens to be near by. She comes and takes us back to the house to get the keys to the trailer. On the way back, we stop for ice cream as a “let’s make today go better than it has been so far” treat. Problem solved, and we’re on our way again.

We finally end up at a local nursery where the trees are on sale, so we make our selection. I was talking with the sales person when my wife noticed the employees beginning to load the trees. I hustle over to help/supervise, and the guy tells me he had a problem with the trailer. Apparently, when he stepped on the back of the trailer, the coupler came off the ball! Even though the coupler latches on its own, I normally put a lock on it as well for extra safety. Today I didn’t (refer to the above story about my luck with locks on that day…) I theorize it jostled loose on the drive without that lock. Thankfully no one got hurt and thanks to the safety chains no major damage was done, not to mention being fortunate that it didn’t come uncoupled while driving. It did pull apart my trailer wiring, but I had just installed a disconnect on the trailer itself a few months ago so it came apart there. Somewhere during the day, I later noticed, my tailgate handle got temporarily misaligned. Either myself or one of my helpers leaned against it, or that tongue made a one in a million shot hitting the only part of the back of the truck that could take a punch without damage. I’ve hauled lots of stuff in my trucks, and thanks to my Line-X bedliner and being careful I’ve never had even a scratch, though that little episode cut things a little close…

So, they load the trees on the BACK of the trailer, and in case you’re not aware, a good rule of thumb to have 10-15% of the weight of the loaded trailer on the tongue. Putting 500lbs of trees on the back of a small trailer yields about negative 50% tongue weight, so reloading was required. Next they take my ratchet strap and begin to cinch the trunks of the trees against the back of the trailer (which would result in breaking the branches, scraping the bark, and pulling the rootball around by the trunk of the tree, not to mention that the ratchet strap would come loose on the first bump). I politely inform them that that wasn’t a good idea and suggest that I can take over.

Next we need some compost. Two 40lb bags will run me about $9. You can also buy it in bulk, so I elect to purchase 1/4 yard (about 500-600lbs) for the same price (more is better, right?). Since my new truck only has a 5ft bed, I asked the guy how wide the bucket on the loader was. He replies that “it’ll be fine” which I interpret to mean that it’s either narrow enough or he’s got some plan. He did in fact have a plan, but it was to dump most of the bucket into the truck while letting the remainder fall onto my bumper and hitch. I began to wave him off but he didn’t stop. It was only dirt and… let’s just say “organic material”… not rock, so it wasn’t really going to hurt anything. I’ve had bulk materials loaded in my trucks probably at least a dozen times and have always been impressed by the skill and careful nature of the operators, until this time. I’ve since come up with a device that allows safe loading of a 5ft bed with a 6ft bucket.

In the end, the trees are planted, the yard is fixed, my equipment is unharmed, and my truck had a nice bath (to make up for its manure shower). Thankfully I had a little luck on my side to make up for my (hopefully rare) lapses in judgement.

Oh yeah, on the drive home, I looked at my regular keyring, and what do I see? The spare key to my trailer lock…

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  1. Korey Little boy Evan, boy of many “hats” and he sure looks the perfect “happy camper” You have seen places at SR that I have never seen.
    Re: purchases and landscaping– you endured, I would have yelled help right after the ice crean stop Love G

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