July 26, 2010

Bridging the Gap

When we moved here the previous owners allowed their horses full access to the creek. As a result there was almost no vegetation on the creek banks and they were slumping and eroding away. The first thing we did, after cleaning the house (which I'm sure wasn't cleaned for about 7 years), was to add fencing to keep our animals out of the creek. We created a great system of gates to create two pastures with access to the pole barn. What we didn't figure in was that the far side of the creek, between it and the new fence, would need to be mowed and we no longer had a crossing for the riding lawn mower.

At first this wasn't a big deal. There was very little vegetation along the creek and when it stopped flowing in early July Jeremy could just drive across. But 5 years late, and lots of work planting shrubs and trees and battling blackberries and reed canary grass, the vegetation is getting thick. Jeremy can't drive across the creek any more, so he found a different option.

The first bridge was two pieces of plywood and a couple 2 by 6's. It couldn't take the weight of the riding lawn mower, so Jeremy had to use the push mower - that's some long, hot work! But he did it, no complaints.

Then last winter I planted 15 fruit trees on the far side of the creek. I need access to the plants all year, even when the creek is full and flowing strong and the "bridge" would be washed away. I found a place where the creek was narrow and I could jump across. But this is very risky considering my track record of falling into oat troughs, tripping in mole holes and my most recent fall off the tall flower bed into a 5 foot high shrub.

This spring I asked my dad to put his 35+ years of engineering practice to work and design/build us a real bridge. Dad did some fancy math stuff and came up with a design for the span of the creek that would hold Jeremy on the riding lawn mower. It took two weekends to build. Jordan got to help stain and some of the stain even made it onto the wood. On Saturday, Dad and Jeremy spent 4 hours in the blazing sun (92 F) digging footings, placing the frame and securing the slats. At about 5pm, we did a load test and it held!

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