Restoring Hope With Yard Work

Sunday, December 3rd, 2017

When events in the larger world leave me feeling hopeless, frustrated, and angry, my antidote is to spend time outside or working on my ongoing house renovation project. It helps to do something positive and to remind myself that despite the discord and greed dominating American politics, there is still much good work happening in the world. 

Which is why I spent the weekend hauling and spreading 4.5 cubic yards of crushed gravel. The gift of gravel came courtesy of Jeff Durham, my contractor, who filled his dump trailer at the quarry, and left the trailer in my driveway late Friday afternoon. 

In case you can't envision what a cubic yard looks like, 4.5 cubic yards of crushed gravel filled the trailer in the photo above from from to back, and side to side. (I didn't think to shoot a photo until l had already hauled and spread about a third of that pyramidal pile.) 

Put another way, a cubic yard of crushed gravel weighs somewhere between 2,400 pounds (just over a ton) and almost a ton and a half. So it's no wonder that the tires of his double-axle dump trailer were riding a little low--it was laden with between 10,800 pounds (five tons) and 13,050 pounds (six and a half tons) of gravel! 

All that crushed rock was to complete a front-yard project that Jeff and I started last May when he rented a baby Bobcat (the heavy equipment, not the wildlife) so we could scrape turf from my lawn-bound front yard to create walking paths and a sitting patio. 

The baby Bobcat (aka walk-behind mini-bulldozer) after a long afternoon and evening of turf-scraping. 

After the turf-scraping, we got busy with other, more urgent renovation projects (installing a new electric service, building an en-suite bathroom in my master bedroom, re-doing the bedroom floor, blowing seventeen inches of insulation in the attic, beginning window replacement, and so on).

Which means that my dirt paths and patio stayed dirt through the summer and most of the fall. I did line them with bricks reclaimed from other projects around the house and yard. 

Last week brought a rare conjunction of good weather predicted for the weekend, dump trailer availability, and my time free of other tasks. So Jeff brought me gravel, and I spent two happy and completely exhausting days hauling and spreading it, shovel-full by shovel-full, wheelbarrow-load by wheelbarrow-load.

The first path partly graveled yesterday noon, a gorgeously sunny and warm late fall day. (Much too warm for December, in fact, but I was not complaining.)

I hauled and spread about 2/3 of the pile in the trailer yesterday. And then applied arnica ointment to my back and shoulders, and went to bed early, very pleased to finally be getting one of my long-delayed yard-renovation tasks completed. 

This morning when Jeff arrived to work on piecing the interior trim for my bank of three huge replacement windows in the living room, he was impressed at how much gravel I had moved. "Do you want me to haul some?" 

I shook my head as I shoveled gravel from the trailer to the wheelbarrow. "No thanks. Believe it or not, I enjoy this."

He shook his head with amusement and went back to work cutting trim. 

Getting to the end... 

By late this afternoon, as thick clouds rolled in and the air began to smell like snow, I had nearly emptied the trailer. Jeff hooked it to his truck, and with me guiding, backed it up and dumped the last half-cubic yard into the last area of bare dirt on the sitting patio by the front door. 

Then he headed off to work on his own living room, and I finished hauling and spreading. After which I admired the finished paths and sitting patio before stowing my wheelbarrow, scoop shovel, and rake in the garage, admiring my work once more, and then walking slowly inside to rest. 

The paths and sitting patio, graveled and ready for tonight's snowstorm. 

Outside, low clouds are scudding past, and I am sitting on the couch with my feet up in front of the fire, astonished that I moved that whole trailer-load of crushed gravel in the past two days. And in the doing, finished a front-yard project that has been nagging at me, and turned out just as well as I imagined it. 

My neighbors have already commented about how great the paths and patio look. They'll look even better next spring when the daffodils, pineleaf penstemon, blue sage, and others I've planted to replace the lawn grow and bloom. And the birds and butterflies and native bees discover them.

Thinking of that makes me smile, and restores my faith in the essential goodness of life. It only took hauling and spreading some 10,000 pounds of gravel to get there. It was well worth the aching muscles, believe me. 

Salvia pachyphylla, blue sage, a Great Basin native, and one of the plants that will brighten my front yard next year.