Sunday, June 17, 2012

Proposed excavation

A little white flag with "PROPOSED EXCAVATION" is not the kind of flag I like seeing anywhere, much less down the middle of our community garden pumpkin patch. Nor is the email from my utility company contact that says "Say Josh, I noticed you have a garden bed in the area we plan to trench."

Oh dear.

In mid-February on a cold day, my community garden co-chair Angela and I met with an Alliant Energy representative on nearly snowless ground to discuss what all the red spray paint and flags marching through the garden meant.

The flags outlined the furthest extent of the company's easement (so many feet from the centerline of the access road that passes the garden). Our contact then pointed out that the utility needed to bury some new power lines and despite the ominous looking flags (one of which was planted in MY plot) they would not be trenching through the existing garden. 

However, they would have to put a junction box just outside the garden, and he put some stakes in the ground outlining it's dimensions. The junction box was on the edge of our proposed pumpkin patch, and except for losing some square footage, wouldn't be too bothersome. I left the meeting feeling relieved that they would not be trenching through the garden, and since that meeting, except for seeing new diggers hotline flags, largely disregarded all the construction going on around us.
The community pumpkin and squash patch has three 100-foot beds. The bed closest to the bed will be destroyed during construction.

And then last week, these flags popped up smack dab down the middle of one of three beds where we planted seeds for our community pumpkin and squash patch. When I got the email I called our contact.

Apparently, he told me about this proposed excavation down this (then) undeveloped area - and apparently, in my excitement to create our pumpkin patch I forgot about this part of the conversation. Truly I tell you, had I remembered this, I NEVER would have spent half a Saturday with 10 people and a bobcat building a bed along the excavation route. But there's nothing we can do but minimize the damage, and so our patch committee went into emergency mode.

There were several things we needed to do before the construction started:

  • move the cardboard (under the blue tarp in the photo above)
  • move the wood chips (lay them down on the paths)
  • move a pile of hay bales
  • move the sprouted pumpkin seedlings into a plot of ground that had been plowed but not developed yet and was well out of the way.
The patch steering committee organized several work days. It was my idea to move the seedlings so I wanted to lead that one on Saturday - and then I learned about a good friends' dad's funeral that I really wanted to attend. Two patch members volunteered to move the seedlings - I haven't seen their handiwork yet.

I'm going to organize a few more people to move the rest of the wood mulch onto the patch paths. If we don't move it, it will be "consumed" by the construction project, which is set to start on Wednesday, June 20.

Over the weekend, I had an idea about putting the patch back together. If this was any other construction site, the utility would put the site back to the way it was. I'm going to call my contact and ask if they would, after leveling off the area, move several truckloads of compost from our source (500 feet from the garden) to the beds and spread it out. That would save our group tens of people hours and we may be able to do something with the bed after the construction. And if not, it will be ready for us next year.


  1. Darn it! So sorry to hear that your garden is being disrupted but it sounds like you're rolling with the punches. Maybe you can spin this as a double-dug bed? ;-)

  2. Josh- we got it done Saturday morning!! I believe it was six people that came out. By the time I arrived at 9am they were well on their way. Hopefully the babies will survive. Angela

  3. Wow - what a royal pain and a lot of work. I'll be interested to find out if the utility/construction crew is game for putting the compost back.


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