Sheesh. Good thing I have a truck now.
I saw a note on craigslist today (online classifieds) that a guy had put “10 to 15 more” eucalyptus logs out in the alleyway behind his house. LA is all blocks split in half by access alleys big enough to drive 2 cars through (barely). The Google directions were a little wonky (didn’t name one of the roads, had me lost for an hour), and so a 47mi. round trip turned into a 75mi. round trip, and there were an incredible number of cop detours, road constructions, and things like a row of cars in each lane, side by side, all doing half the speed limit for miles so I couldn’t break through the otherwise empty highways (I’m just venting now), but a stop for gas, and help from a guy there who had a Thomas Guide (thick, handy map-book), and a few more misadventures getting lost, and I found it. The road was a “pl.” (place), meaning it was only about 3 blocks long, so if you missed one of about 3 cross streets, you’d never find it, as I proved, over and over and over again…
Anyway, I finally found it, blood pressure at max levels by this point, and rolling down the alleyway, several movie references popped into my head, like “That’s no logs… that’s a battlestation!” (Star Wars) and “We’re gonna need a bigger truck” (Jaws). He had said they were 2-3 feet long, and as much as 2’ in diameter. Usually these ads greatly exaggerate. I’m reminded of one lady who stated she had logs that were 48” in diameter, which would make them about the size of the plastic versions you sit in on log flume rides :) They looked, based on the bricks they were standing on in the picture to be more like 16”. Turns out she meant centimeters, which put them at around 16”-18”. This is common in LA. People don’t know trees here, nor how to judge their sizes. I think I found an exception. I actually had a sinking feeling overriding the euphoria of finding them. These were absolutely huge, by my standards. If you own a sawmill, they weren’t all that big, but if you’ve been collecting branches for a year like me, it was an eye opener. They were all leaning up against the fence. Some were standing more than waist-high.
I got out and shut the truck door, and dogs erupted in barking all around me. It was about 2:45AM – first chance I had to get up there, plus all that driving/being lost time – and my “SHHH!”s didn’t help at all. These were all big dogs, like Dobermans, and bulldogs – junkyard dog types. Climbing up into my truck, I could see over the fences, and both sides seemed like junkyards, full of rusty old trucks, boats, scrap metal, and weeds as tall as me. But this was a neighborhood, and I felt bad that the final obstacle had to be sprung on its sleeping inhabitants as well as me. They barked full volume the entire 20 minutes I was there – about 5 dogs, 3 on one side, 2 on the other, behind their fences. Oh, and I lied. There was one more obstacle. Leaning a particularly large log out of the way, I found the one thing I’d been most worried about, and why I was glad I brought my headband lamp – a black widow spider. It was the biggest I’ve ever seen, with a 1/2”-5/8” body. With the legs, it was over an inch. I didn’t know they got nearly that big, but it was definitely a BWS. Black, patent-leather body, and large, ominous, fire-engine red hourglass. I don’t know if the big ones are worse than the little ones, but I decided to leave that log – one of the ones I couldn’t lift anyway – and in the morning I’m going to call the guy and warn him.
Lifting the logs was a major chore. These have been sitting out for 2 years, according to his notes, and one was hollowed out pretty well, so they were lighter than fresh stuff. I wouldn’t have been able to lift them when they were wet. As it was, there were 4 or 5 I simply could not lift, and that’s saying something. I’m 6’, 250lbs, and just a few years ago I was maxing around 320lbs on bench, and a little over 800lbs squats. I’ve lost quite a bit of that since then, as I stopped working out in late ‘04, but the guy wasn’t kidding in his note when he said “You’ll need 2 people and a trailer.” All of my friends are skinny computer nerds, and they wouldn’t have been able to pick up any of these ;) I just barely could pick up the ones I did, and I had to try a few times with some, comically getting to within an inch of the tailgate, and then slowly sinking back down, veins bulging in my neck and forehead. All the tendons in my wrists, fingers, and elbows – and my biceps – are telling me right now that I’m going to be locked up tomorrow like an NFL player the morning after a game. The last 5 that I couldn’t budge from the ground wouldn’t have fit in the bed with the rest of the logs anyway, unless I put them unsafely on top of the other logs, but I didn’t want to take the 405 and 101 again, with all their hills and swerving turns with anything not on the bed floor – not at this size.
They all featured significant checking, as I’ve come to expect from eucalyptus, but I think there’s a ton of useful stuff in there. I managed to tile the floor with them like a game of Tetris, really packing in all that I could. The scraping sounds as I slid them on the bed liner sent the dogs into screaming wails. The guy wrote “They’re in the alley, so you can pick them up any time,” but he didn’t mention I’d be waking the town if I came by late. I had to push the last one up on its corner so I could shut the tailgate, and then I was off. The truck, normally a bit bouncy on the textured, cracked highways out here rode like a dream on the way back. All that weight in the back dampened all movements to a smooth glide. It was like being in a luxury sedan. My big, bouncing belly appreciated it :)
I’m leaving the logs in there when I go to work in the morning. I can show them off to my coworkers, which will mask the real reason, which is that I need some time to heal up before I go at them again. And of course, my 16” Homelite electric chainsaw is going to be severely inadequate, both in power, and in length. I probably need something 3 foot long, and gas powered. I think I’m going to have a go at just taking my time, chipping away at them when I can, manually. Of course, now I need an old-timey whip saw ;) Once I thin them down by cutting off their edges, I can slab the remainder with the chainsaw. I’d like to free some bowl blanks, too. Regardless, hooray for lots more to play with!
I’ll post some pics soon.
I also restacked all the juniper branches today so the gardeners could get into the back yard, folded up the tarp, which is exactly the size of my yard, and laid it over them, cleaned out a ton of branch piles, cutting up pieces I could use, throwing the rest in the green waste recycling bin, swept and raked things, cut and routed some panels for my next project – a simple shelving unit for an open spot on the garage wall – wired a switch-operated outlet combo box, and redid some lighting for another project, which I will also post about pretty soon. This was a great day, all-in-all, and it’s after 5:30AM, and I have work today. TGIF. I’m going to go sleep the sleep of the dead. Goodnight.
-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator