Rain Garden Work Party 2

Day’s Verse:
By the seventh day
God had finished his work.
On the seventh day
he rested from all his work.

Genesis 2:2-ish

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 a summary picture.
Rain Garden Couple
(I know, I’m missing a rake, but we were tired enough that thinking to do this at all seemed pretty clever.)

For those with short attention spans, here’s where we started at the very beginning, last Saturday morning.
Early On 1

Early On 2

Here’s what we had achieved when we stopped this afternoon.
Late Sunday 1
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.

Late Sunday 2
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.
Excavator In

Karissa spent most of the time driving the excavator, and she got really good at it, enough so that it started getting boring. I drove it just enough to have a blast, but not hit the boredom point.
Karissa Excavating

Katie Excavating
At one point I got to take out the two little trees you can see in that picture, and when I did, I stared laughing maniacally. I felt like Calvin in this picture.

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.

Mom digging:
Mom Digging

Melissa digging:
Melissa Digging

Here’s the side yard at a couple points in the day.
Side Yard Filling Up 1

Side Yard Filling Up 2

This is pretty much what Saturday looked like:
Partway Through Saturday 1
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.

Later in the day, we’d achieved measurable progress.
Partway Through Saturday 2

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).
Katie & Karissa End of Saturday

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.
Ian & Pond on Sunday

Then I got home and came out to help, Karissa — that glutton for punishment — arrived and helped, and we went at it again.
Sunday Rain Garden Work 1

Karissa Mixing Mulch
The dirt is a 50:50 mix of native soil (read: whatever we just took out of the hole) and this really nice, dark, beautiful mulch. The mulch looked like this rich chocolate cake… yum…

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.

Sunday End of Day
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.

2 thoughts on “Rain Garden Work Party 2”

  1. Oh yeah, I got to fulfill a lifelong dream by driving that thing. It was GREAT. Probably the most fun I’ve gotten from that money in a long time. Seriously, I would consider renting one just for the heck of it, except you’d need something to dig to have the whole experience.

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