on the road i called back dale, who was expecting me in rockland. i told a little white lie, said i didn't need a rain barrel after all because my father was going to give me his. is it wrong to lie like that? but it lets me off the hook from an awkward situation and i don't hurt anybody's feelings.
i remember haverhill from my childhood. i know it as "hah-ver-hill," not "hay-ver-rull" as it's usually pronounced. my godparents used to live there, and my parents would pile my sister and i into the back of the oldsmobile station wagon and spend weekends up there. it was my only time in a forest environment but being a little kid, it was just probably some tall trees and the fact that i was away from the city. there was a nearby gravel bed that my sister and i would spend time smashing up rocks looking for precious gems (basically anything shiny was cool). we also found a toad one time and tried to keep it but it escaped; later we saw a flattened toad in the driveway. my parents actually bought an investment property in haverhill, but we never saw it before they sold it a short while later.
we arrived in haverhill 30 minutes ahead of schedule. we were expecting some sort of industrial park but instead found a quiet residential house. the blue plastic rain barrel sitting out by the front yard was evidence we were at the right place. i rang the doorbell but nobody answered. a neighbor throwing out his trash saw us. "you guys looking for russ?" he asked, then redirected us to the back of the house, past a driveway lined with metal barrels, to a wooden shack sitting in a gravel-filled yard. i knocked on the door and waited. behind a shed we spotted a stack of blue plastic barrels. moments later russ stepped out of his house. a grizzled looking but nice man, he showed us to the plastic barrels, warning us to the various dog droppings dotting the yard. the barrels he took out were not the ones i was expecting: these were reddish brown in color, with a mason-jar-style screw on top. i was looking forward to the blues, but the reddish-browns would be easier to blend in with the house.
at $15 a piece, we could afford to get 3 barrels. i wanted to haggle, first letting him know we only wanted 2, but then changing my mind to maybe 3 if he'd sell them for $40 instead of $45. "sorry, i can't go any lower. these are $25 a piece." i blinked. $25? "i thought the ad said $15?" russ said he put up two postings; the blues are $15, but these reddish brown versions are $25. he then showed us to one of the blues. these weren't as good, with a fused lid making it hard to clean inside. also, he didn't have anymore blue barrels left anyway (besides the ones behind the shed, which i didn't mention). he gets them from his brother and he won't be getting a new shipment until a few days. he saw my father and i hesitating. "tell you what. i'll sell those red ones to guys for $20 a piece."
so we ended up getting 3 reddish-brown barrels. at $20 a piece, they were still cheaper than what we would've gotten in rockland. these were a better version as well, with removable lids for easy cleaning and spigot installation. my father pulled the car up to the driveway while i paid russ. "i don't think you'll be able to fit all these barrels into the car," he said. but once he helped us load them into the back, he saw otherwise. "this is a great car," he said, admiring the roomy interior despite outward appearance.
returning home, my father drove the car using just the sideview mirrors since the rearview was blocked by the trio of plastic barrels. i thought it'd be fun to go to the airport and see how fast we'd get surrounded by security over the suspicious cargo. after dropping me off in belmont along with the barrels, he left for work. my mother who was home at the time fixed me some wonton soup for lunch.
first thing i did was to clean the barrels. there was nothing inside but there was a bit of gunk underneath the rim and the lid. it was a little smelly, a mixture between skunky beer and spoiled milk. i rinsed them out with a hose and opened them up to be air dried. later i crawled inside just to see if i could do it. my sister thought it'd be fun to roll the barrel. even though i only traveled a few feet, i actually got a bit motion sick.
when my father came back home in the afternoon (after my mother left for work), we started assembling our first raised bed. we still needed corner posts which we created by cutting two 8' long cedar 4x4" into foot long segments. my father has a small circular saw but it can only cut less than 2" deep. even with top-to-bottom cutting, the pieces still wouldn't break, so we had to finish them off with a pruning saw. that resulted in posts with uneven ends, which i think gives our raised bed a handcrafted flavor.
the challenge of screwing together the pieces was making sure everything was flush and level. these boards aren't made with exacting specifications, so the planks aren't 100% flush with one another. these left some small gaps in the finished frame. we also made a mistake in drilling some pilot holes (needed 2" more) and had to do them again. we ended up using 6 screws per corner, for a total of 24 (originally i thought we could get away with just 4 screws per corner for a total of 16).
here's a word on safety procedures: what safety procedures? when we were cutting the cedar 4x4's, i sat on one end to prevent the beams from moving while my father worked the circular saw. our glasses were our eye protection, i used my fingers to block out the loud cutting noises. we should've worn gloves since working with wood can result in splinters. both my father and i got them; he got stabbed so bad that it actually bled into the screw so that there's a bit of actual blood embedded in this raised bed. finally, gloves should've also been worn because there was still a little linseed oil on the boards. i must be kind of allergic because afterwards parts of my hands were dry and a little rashy.
the final raised bed frame was still wobbly when we stood it on its side, but flat on the ground it was pretty solid. we moved it into its potential resting stop, in preparation for 3 more raised beds to be built within the coming weeks. now there's the question of soil; i still need to look around for a cheap supplier.
giving me a ride back to cambridge around 6:00, my father spotted a pair of wild turkeys crossing the road in my parents' neighborhood. we've never seen them before, not quite sure where they could be living, since there aren't any woods nearby (not unless you count fresh pond, but that isn't exactly wild). it's strange, but there seems to be more wildlife in recent years, more than i can remember as a kid growing up in belmont. besides turkeys, rabbits are now pretty common (they come out at nights to eat the grass on the nearby playground), as well as red-tailed hawks. my sister has even seen an opossum a while back, and of course the recently-deceased sharp-shinned hawk. there are also reports of coyote sightings around town but i've never seen them here (yet).
i totally forgot that somebody had wanted to see my place this morning. this is actually the friend of a person looking to rent the guest bedroom for the summer. i'd already sent photos and my place was recommended by a mutual acquaintance (who lived here for a few weeks more than a year ago), but somehow that wasn't enough, so he wanted another friend to check out the place. i finally replied this evening, and he dropped by after work to take a quick look.