By the seventh day
God had finished his work.
On the seventh day
he rested from all his work.
Calling this a “work party” is too grand, really, as the group comprised entirely family and Karissa… and the excavator, of course. Most of the time it was just three or four of us working our tails off.
Here’s what we had achieved when we stopped this afternoon.
Notice that some of the French drain is done, and we’ve got sod back on top. This is super exciting. I know your average macho guy would say, “Yeah, well, I could do the entire French drain in one day, what’s the big deal?” To that I would reply, “SHUT UP,” and leave it at that. Not eloquent, but there it is. We’re doing our best and we’re not exactly overwhelmed with offers of help.
I’d like to point out that we have actually begun putting dirt back in the hole we dug. This is huge. Simply excavating the hole — using a mini-excavator! — took all day yesterday. Today involved a fair bit of cleaning up the rough hole so it had smooth, evenly angled sides. But now we’ve gotten almost 12″ of mulch + native soil mix into the pond area. Woo!
Check under the fold for more details.
So the big thing going for us during this weekend’s effort was an excavator. We rented it from R&R Rentals for $300, and if it’s not the best money we’ve spent on this project so far, I don’t know what is. (Well, maybe the pointy pickaxe was the best per dollar value, but the excavator wasn’t just useful; it was FUN.) Here’s Ian carefully driving the excavator through the gate and the side yard. Our gate was 3’1″ wide. The excavator, with treads retracted, was exactly 3″ wide. It worked.
ANYWAY! Last week, we had started dumping extra dirt in the side yard. We continued this throughout yesterday, but several times had discussions about whether to find somewhere else to put it. Eventually we decided to just pile the darn stuff up and worry about it later, instead focusing on finishing the rain garden construction. Partway through the morning, Mom and her friend Melissa came and helped move dirt for an hour. They shoved a bunch of it under the porch (away from wooden posts), which helped a lot later on.
This is pretty much what Saturday looked like:
Ian and Karissa focused on the pond hole. While he was here, Dad and I put gravel in the French drain. When Dad left, I switched to helping with the pond. We developed a smooth system of rotating wheelbarrows so Karissa could dump directly into the wheelbarrow, Ian took the full one away, and I positioned and steadied the empty one for filling.
Saturday felt super long. We went from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm, pushing hard to finish everything the excavator could be good for. By the end of the day, we were starting to get a little punchy, but we’d finished the major digging portion of the project. Without the excavator, this would have taken approximately 2,000 weekends (conservative estimate).
On Sunday, we didn’t have church, so I went for a bike ride in the morning. Ian, meanwhile, worked more on the rain garden.
A little note on my physical experience: Mixing is quite painful for me. It involves lots of shoveling with a rotation to toss the dirt in the hole, and then vigorous, digging-type raking that also has a fair bit of shoving the dirt around. Both of those motions exacerbate my back so that by the time we got to the point below, I was about ready to lay down and not move again. I notice that taking deep breaths is painful across my back and upper spine, and straightening up involves some notable spine pain. Verticality isn’t going so well right now. It seems I really can’t do more than an hour or so of that type of work without suffering from significant pain for some time afterward. I don’t want to hurt myself, but I refuse to let my stupid scoliosis interfere with my life.
Another quick note: It’s frustrating that none of our friends that we see regularly have helped. I have dozens of biking buddies and plenty of people at church who I’m friendly with. But when asked, not one made it. Of all the people we asked, we only heard from 3, all saying no for various good reasons. Many had other things happening, were sick, etc., and I know this is the reality of life. But… I still feel frustrated.
But! We got a good bit of mulch-and-dirt mix into the rain garden pond, the dirt piles in the yard are slowly going back down, and the French drain progresses apace. The entire side yard has about 1 1/2 to 2 feet of dirt piled in it, wide enough that we drove the excavator over top of it on the way out. We’re done for today, arms and legs and (for me, back/spine) aching. Any day the weather permits, we’ll both be out there, moving piles of dirt or gravel.
Ian put it well, though: “It feels like it’s downhill from here.” I’d much rather shovel dirt in than out.