• Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
sunshine & unicorns: a blog about love, learning, and life in the upper midwest

01 June 2010

i think i'm just going to set the stump on fire.

Stump saga time. Aren't you excited?

It's been a while, so let me direct you toward the following related posts:

Backyard project part 1

Backyard project part 2
Backyard project part 3

The next step in the backyard landscaping process was to have our big ol' stump removed. It sounded simple enough. I thought the steps to stump removal were:

  1. Call the 'Call Before You Dig' number and get guys to come out and flag our buried lines. (Power, gas, cable, etc.)

  2. Call stump removal service and have a guy come to grind it out.

  3. No more stump!

Now, here's what really happened.

I figured I should start by calling a stump removal service, so I did. I actually called two of them, both of which I thought were pretty reputable. The first one didn't answer the phone, but the second did. He gave a very reasonable price, and told me to call the 'Call before You Dig' number and then call him back. This sounded reasonable to me, so I did it.

Within 2 days, our yard was all colorful with lines.

yard all marked up

What's this though?

the writing means we're cleared to remove the stump. the flag means we're not. [7/365]

Hmm. Looks complicated.

Having talked to Pink Hubby, I decided to give the other stump grinding company a call - they are more well-known in town. This time, they answered. The man (I'll call him Joe) told me that I needed to call 'Call Before You Dig' (CBYD from now on) and ask what the symbols on the trunk meant. You'd think he'd know, being that it's his job and all. But whatever.

I called. The CBYD transferred me to a regional branch who essentially told me that Joe's tree company was supposed to call CBYD, not me. Oh, whoops. CBYD pretty much told me that the symbols on the stump mean you can only hand dig around it. I should have tried to clarify more, but I was flustered, so I ended the call.

I called Joe again and repeated what the CBYD people had told me. Joe then told me that I should go home and dig up the area around the stump, to find the buried cables. Then, call him back and he'll come grind the stump out. When I told Joe what CBYD said about how his name was supposed to be on the ticket, he said something to me like "Well, only you and I need to know that I was there at all."

That gave me a sour feeling about the whole thing. I talked to Pink Hubby* about it, and he was as interested in poking around in the dirt looking for our home's electrical lines as I was. He suggested I call the power company (it's the electricity cable that's too close to the stump) to get clarification.

This is where the story takes a positive turn. Do you ever spend what feels like forever on the phone with person after person, and just feel so drained by their chilly, 'matter-of-fact' or 'should've-known-better' attitudes toward you? That's how I felt by this point. After 2 days of it, I was so tired of being told to call here, do this, dig that, re-do the other thing. I was sick of being the middle-(wo)man. Calling the power company did not sound appealing at all.

But I did, and I got the nicest, most helpful man on the phone. I'll call him 'Steve'. I told Pink Hubby later that Steve sounded like a knowledgeable, good-natured and slightly gruff older fellow, maybe a retired contractor doing this phone-answering job for a few extra bucks in his retirement. Steve and I talked for over 15 minutes, as I vented my frustrations and he told me how the process should work (according to my state's laws). He offered his advice and told it like it is. I'd like to have a beer with Steve. He kept saying things like "I want to be blunt and honest with you." I could just picture him leaning forward at his desk, ready to dish me out a helping of The Honest Truth of Digging Up Your Yard, According To Steve. Here is the gist of what he said.
  1. He told me the meaning of the stump marks. The writing means there's nothing under the stump. The flag means that the area between the stump and the buried power line needs to be hand-dug. Stump-removal is possible, but a little extra care needs to be taken because of how close the stump is to the line(s) on one side.

  2. He said it was wrong of any professional tree service to tell me (the homeowner) to call the CBYD service myself. This is state law, not preference. Any contractor "worth his sod" should know that, according to Steve. Whoever's name is on the CBYD ticket is responsible for anything that happens with the buried lines. Let's say that my name is on the ticket, and Joe's tree service comes out and hits a buried power line and breaks it, and Joe gets injured. All of the associated costs (digging, replacement of cable, parts, medical for Joe, damage to Joe's equipment) could be pinned on me.

  3. Steve couldn't believe that the tree service told *me* to hand-dig and locate the cables. Contractors and landscaping businesses are supposed to know that it's law that they need to call the power company, have the power cable de-energized, and then do the hand-digging. For Joe to tell me to hand-dig was irresponsible and unsafe.

Anyway, yeah. My talk with Steve left me feeling much more informed and a little bit angry. Steve advised me to call a different contractor, so that's what I did. I called a local landscaping company with a good reputation. They didn't do stump removal, but she recommended someone who they use. Great! Now I had a phone number. I decided to Google-search that phone number though... and lo-and-behold it was the NUMBER OF THE FIRST GUY I HAD CALLED. You know, the one who told me to call the CBYD myself in the first place? Ugh. UGH. UGGGGGHHHHHH.

All of this happened about 4 weeks ago. I gave up and decided to let Pink Hubby handle it when he has the time. Meanwhile, the stump is still sitting in our yard and the weeds are growing up around it. Looks super-classy. But at least the baby bunny (remember his mom?) has had a chance to grow up and leave his nest.

baby bunny

Pink Hubby, by the way, had been buried nose-deep in school projects up until a week or so. That's why I was having to do all this stump crap, even though it's clearly a man job. (Remind me to tell you about "man jobs" sometime, hah!)