Monday, June 29, 2015

Caveat Emptor - Part 2

So, it's been a month since my poor Linden was topped.

I still have not been able to resolve the situation with the company. Let me walk you thru the timeline since the work was completed

On May 28th I sent an email detailing the damage to the linden, complete with the photos from the previous post. In it I stated that:

I would appreciate a phone call to discuss this, in addition to other concerns I have. Most notably:
  • the fact that I had requested a copy of workers compensation insurance prior to any work being done and none was sent
  • the fact that I had requested a call to schedule a time for service and no call was made
  • the fact that NO communication was made informing me that someone would be out on my property yesterday
  • OR the fact that there was no follow up communication regarding the need to contact Digger's Hotline in order to grind out the stumps.
On May 29th, I received an email from the owner of the company:
I reviewed the photos and spoke to the crew leader about your Linden. First of all let me assure you that this tree will be perfectly fine and in the long run will have a better appearance and structure.  There apparently were a combination of communication issues that became a domino effect which is certainly not our typical way of doing business or providing client satisfaction.  I have informed D that you do not have to pay for the Linden prune and also have issued you a Panera gift card for your inconvenience.  It seems the job description was the main source of confusion, as it indicated reducing upright growth to promote horizontal growth, hence the more substantial central leader reduction than you expected.  This is a pruning process we use in the nursery all the time on virtually every tree to stimulate horizontal growth which gives the tree a fuller character for sale ability. The center leader is retrained in young trees quite easily.  I spoke to K about using different wording in the proposals/work orders in the future to avoid this confusion. Thanks for your time and effort on this, it is how we improve.
A little annoyed at his response, I sent the following:
Thank you for responding personally.
Setting aside the Linden for the moment, your team should not have been on my property in the first place. In my email to K with the signed work order, I stated:
"We'd like to go ahead and contract for the attached. However I'd like to get copies of insurance coverage in hand as well before scheduling the work."
To date I have not received that. I want to have that in hand before any further work happens. Specifically, the grinding of the birch and mugo stumps, as the birch clump sits close to utilities.
I'm aware that topping trees is something done in a nursery setting and that the tree will, ultimately, be fine. Not to put too fine a point on it, though, but this tree is not in a nursery and should not have been treated as such.
It also does not explain the fact that no other significant pruning was done to the tree. The top was cut off and all the other laterals were left in place. No other shaping or pruning was done to promote healthy re-growth or preserve the pyramidal shape of the linden. Instead I came home to find my favorite tree looked more like an out-sized mushroom.
In addition to the linden, the initial work on the maple was also unsatisfactory. Several competing laterals were left in place and there was an obvious fork at the top of the central leader that should have been addressed but wasn't. I had discussed these specific issues with K on the initial consult, as the tree is now tall enough that that sort of pruning was out of my reach. When J had come back, he agreed with my assessment and finished the work, but that should not have been necessary.
I want to work with you and your team to resolve these issues. I understand that communication issues happen even to the best groups, but there was a lot here that went wrong. Please feel free to call me. I've left my cell phone number previously.
No further communication was received.

At all. Including a revised invoice removing the cost of the linden.

In the meantime, they completed work on the stump removal and I received an invoice on that. And I got my $10 Panera gift card. *SNORT*

Finally I called the company on June 15 and spoke with D, their office manager. She said she'd send a revised invoice the next day.

I did not receive an invoice. I asked H if he had seen it in the mail. He had not.

So today I fired off another email. I was, perhaps, less than polite:
I am writing yet again to express my extreme frustration and dissatisfaction regarding my service with your company.
Two weeks ago, on June 15th, I called and spoke with Diane regarding having a revised invoice drafted and sent - one that did not include the work to the Linden on my property at 123 Main Street. I cited your email from May 29th that she was CC'd on. D said she'd send a revised invoice in the mail the next day.
To date I have not received it.
This is completely unacceptable.
Please send a revised invoice with a new Payment Date and Terms.
For once, I received a prompt response that stated she mailed me a copy on June 15th (funny, she said that it was not possible as the mail had gone out already, but whatever). The invoice was attached as well.

I am just utterly frustrated. But I'll be getting a check in the mail to close out this ridiculousness.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Caveat Emptor

So, we've been in the process of contracting with a local arborist and tree care company to do some work. Specifically, take down the dead river birch and mugo pine, grind out those stumps, and then do some basic pruning of the maple and linden out back. The maple especially needed a good shaving but the linden could have used some.

I found the company thru the ISA website. Did research on them on various online forums. They checked out. Their quote looked good. So I sent back the work order with an email stating that I wanted a copy of their workers comp insurance for my records and a request to call me to schedule a time for the work to be done. I hadn't heard back, but I figured it's a busy time of year and wasn't in a huge rush.

Yesterday I got home and was shocked to see the birch and mugo were gone. The stumps hadn't been ground out though, which I found curious. Then I went out back to see if they'd pruned the maple and linden. And this is what I saw:
I think I started screaming. I'm honestly not sure. I was so horrified.

Because here's what it looked like last summer:
They'd lopped the top off. At least 2 to 3 feet of the central leader, completely gone. They'd left all the competing laterals in place and didn't do any other structural pruning. I couldn't believe it. There was no reason to do that.

Here's a photo of the tree just starting to leaf out from earlier this spring.
See the lovely structure? The strong leader? How straight it is? I had just been bragging about this tree to my father not 5 days earlier.

The maple wasn't nearly so bad. They'd done some decent cleaning up, but left a bunch of upper competing laterals at the crown as well.
I stormed into the house, shaking with rage and yelled "WHAT DID THEY DO TO MY TREE?!" Eric was suitably horrified; G and C were startled because mommy does not yell. I continued ranting and raving.

Eric finally suggested "You should call them."

"They're closed." 

"So? Leave a message. You should call and they should hear how angry you are."

So I did. I generally don't like doing that sort of thing. I knew it was going to completely ruin someone's day to get in and the first thing they hear is Angry Lady Message.

But. BUT! I looked at my tree. And called. And let it loose.

I don't remember exactly what I said, but I know I used the phrase "destroyed my tree" and signed off with "Please call me on my cell phone at BLAH BLAH BLAH. Thank you." And then felt a little funny having signed off so polite but whatever. Old habits die hard.

So this morning I was driving C to the doctor when at 7:58 my phone rings. It's the service company, returning my call.

After some civil back and forth, we arranged to meet up after I'd dropped C off at daycare after his appointment.

He arrived on time, introduced himself.  I don't know if this was the guy who'd been out the day before and didn't ask because I didn't want him to become defensive. I started up with the fact that they shouldn't have even been there, and he replied that I would have to talk to the office manager, because once the work order landed on his desk that it was ready to go. I forgot to ask why he hadn't called to either schedule a time or at the very least let me know that they'd be there. Another question for the office manager, I guess.

We then went out back to look at the trees. I was calm and civil, but firm. I did let a little of my outrage and frustration show thru because, dude. MY TREE.

We started with the maple, that being the closest and least controversial tree. I pointed out that the general pruning was fine, but that there still needed to be some clean up done. I pointed out the very clear split at the top of the central leader, the remaining competing laterals. He agreed immediately with what I was saying.

We then moved on to my poor, butchered linden.

He explained the work order stated to strongly prune back competing laterals to encourage growth and do general . I said "That's fine and dandy. That's NOT what was done. That's the OPPOSITE of what was done. The central leader was CHOPPED DOWN and ALL OF THE LATERALS were left in place. And NO other pruning was done!" He looked more closely and agreed. Apologized. We agreed on the approach he should take to fix it. He went to get his gear and go to work and I went inside and sat at the kitchen table to work and keep an eye on him.

Long story short, here's the end result.
The maple looks much better. Very clear central leader now. Nicely trimmed.

And the linden?

She still looks so sad and stumpy. My heart is broken. But it's an improvement and he did a good job taking care of pruning out the body of the tree. There's a reasonably strong lateral to the left that looks like it should be able to take over as the central leader.

Here's a close up of what the top looks like now.
So we're in wait and see mode for this year. She'll need some careful pruning at the top there to encourage Lefty to take over. Fortunately she's a strong, healthy tree and has proved to be a vigorous grower.

I still have to call the company's office and speak with their owner or manager. Because they have some explaining to do.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Weekend update

So much stuff done. So much left to do.
I finished edging the west bed, including along the fence. Then I put down a new layer of mulch.
I also trimmed out the dead wood from our poor dogwood. She's still alive, but rather thinned.
The new salvia is so fun and funky. I like the soft, curvy style to the blooms.
My transplanted spirea are coming back! It's amazing what happens when they aren't being trampled.
A freshly weeded bean bed with the creeping phlox and bugleweed blooming.
Finally, partly prepped garden beds. I weeded between the two, pulling out several dozen pounds worth of dandelions. Then edged along the front and back entry. Then removed last year's black tarp and shims.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Finishing out the West Fence bed

So this was a thing. Because H had made the west fence bed larger than the plan called for, we didn't plant the whole thing out.

That changed this spring. I was on a mission.

First I re-edged and weeded the entire bed.

Then I purchased the following: 6 rose bushes, 5 flame grass, 4 coneflower, 5 black-eyed susan, 5 salvia, 5 phlox, 6 daylilies.

Then I dug up and transplanted 5 more phlox.

Then I fixed the "pothole" that was left by someone not properly filling in the hole left by the dogwood last year. That meant digging up the grass/sod, dumping a bunch more dirt and topsoil in, and then re-laying the sod.

It took three full weekends, really, to accomplish all this. And this weekend has been wet and cold but, well, if I waited for perfect gardening weather I'd never get anything done all spring.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Spring Cleaning - Part 1

Spring is here! Which means it's time to clean out the garage!

Here are some "before" photos - I'd already actually started reorganizing. I can never seem to remember to take a photo at the very beginning.
Three strollers, snow blocks, soccer goal, sleds, dump trucks, lawn chairs... ugh
Work bench and yard equipment
Snow shovels, yard shovels, a tennis racket?
And after.
I had the small shelf as a spare in the basement, so up it came. Milk crates now contain beach & sand supplies and bubbles and chalk and such.
I ran into a whole nest of spiders behind the bags of fertilizer. I was not happy. The workbench has been reorganized so there's actual work space. I got rid of a crappy storage cabinet and relocated those supplies to the top two shelves of the large shelving unit by the door, well out of reach of the kids.
Sled relocated to the basement until next winter. I still have a little bit of work to do here, but it'll do for now.
Overall, a vast improvement. Eventually I want better shelves on the workbench and pegboard on the wall above it. But this will do for now.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Winter Renovation

In addition to winter being a time when I get crafty, I also take the time to blow thru indoor projects. In this case, it was a much needed renovation to the master bathroom.

One of the odd things in this house was our difficulty with the paint colors we had chosen. I don't know why, but it seemed like when we got the color we wanted on the wall, we were not impressed. We had to re-paint the entire main floor because the yellow that should have been a pale buttery yellow ended up looking like mustard.

The bathroom was one such situation.


The purple on the chip looked much lighter and gentler but once on the walls it was a vastly different story. In addition, the fixtures were your standard builder grade 90s polished brass vanity light and brass/chrome accessories. Neither of us were a fan, but we decided to live with it.

Six years later, I declared "Enough." The primary driver was that the tub needed to be re-caulked due to it peeling along the top of the surround. So, I took 3 days of my winter break and tackled the bathroom.

On day one, I removed the old caulk, applied new caulk, and primed the walls with Killz. On day two, I applied two coats of paint on the walls and ceiling and installed the light fixture. Day three was dedicated to adjustment, touch ups, installing the towel bar, toilet paper holder and robe hook, and clean up.


The color is Behr's Misty Surf and is a light blue-grey. The vanity light is Hampton Bay "Architecture" and the fixtures are mostly the Delta Mandara line (the robe hook - not pictured - is Delta Phoebe, as the Mandara hook was too bulky for my taste).

Also, just outside the bath was a matching brass single vanity light with paint smudged on the glass. So we replaced that as well.

All in all I think it turned out nicely.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Winter means indoor crap

So, generally I do not think of myself as a creative, crafty person. I don't really know how to sew. The extent of my crafting is sporadic needlepoint or embroidery.

However. I am a big believer in DIY if you can and coming up with jerry-rigged solutions where appropriate.

And every year I struggle with where to put our Christmas cards. Generally I've always just lined them up on our mantle behind our stocking holders. But as our family has grown, the number of holders has slowly crowded out the space for our cards. So when I came across a pin on Pinterest about using a fabric covered foam board as a Christmas card holder, I was sold.

Except both the craft store and fabric/craft store said they no longer sell foam board. However, as the salesperson from JoAnn Fabric was walking me back to where they would have had it, had they sold it, we walked by a cork board. Bingo! So I got the largest one they had in stock. Then I picked out some cute, mod fabric which I got 50% off. And then some remnant basic white cotton to provide an extra layer. And then ran home with my purchases, poured a glass of wine, and set about figuring this out.

Most people at this point would be reaching for a glue gun, I think. I don't own one because I don't craft. I do, however, own a staple gun.

So I cut the remnant white cotton into strips and stapled it to the board.

Then it was time to put the littles to bed, so that was the end of crafting for the night. Because a staple gun is a lot louder indoors than outdoors, I discovered. The next day I starched the hell out of the fabric I bought so it was nice and crisp. I then decided to starch and iron the fabric already on the board, which actually worked pretty well.

I then used masking tape to get it lined up correctly. I then staple gunned the hell out of it, pulling the fabric taut.

I then just staple gunned some basic picture wire to the back et voilĂ ! Not bad! I feel like it needs some sort of spotlight though.

I do, however, have to stop using my dining room table for this sort of thing. No good will come of it.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Garden Stalker

Whenever I'm out and about, I'm always on the lookout for garden inspiration. I have my favorite gardens on my commute that I try and observe through the seasons. I often wish I had time to stop and take pictures, cause random strangers photographing your property isn't creepy at all. But generally I'm running on a carefully calibrated time table, so that just doesn't happen.

Today, though, I had done time to spare before picking G up from school, so I went for a walk around the neighborhood.

Friday, August 22, 2014

July roundup

Lots going on this month!

First of all, the baby keeps getting bigger. He is now pulling up on everything and cruising all around the house. I predict he'll be walking in a couple months. He's 8 months. So this post is being typed in a rare moment of peace while H takes the kids.

Let's start in the back yard. Our new garden bed is coming along nicely.

Tomatoes without cages. If there is a theme to this year, it's "Oh, crap, I forgot to do that."

However we have pumpkins! By last count, 10 of them 

And a baby watermelon!

Our Liatris is stunning this year 

Here is the Linden, 7 years in. She's getting HUGE! 

Our Annabelle Hydrangea

Check out the massive flower heads. I don't remember them being this large before


The new plants are doing mostly well. 

Daylilies along the front path 

Some of the bushes need a little pruning, but it has filled in nicely here 



In the "yay! look at all the weeds I pulled out!" category

Then the depressing reality of what is left.
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