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Sunday, May 08, 2011

Backyard Retreat: Part 2, the Big Dig

I was amazingly allowed all day yesterday to deal with what I wanted to deal with, and I decided this would be a good time to tackle the patio project.

There is no level spot in the back yard, so I had to make one. I selected a place near the woods, partly for shade and mainly because it was the least steep. I placed corner markers then borrowed a tractor with a front-end loader bucket from the in-laws. I should point out I’ve never done any grading before, so I kind of made it up as I went along. There are no pictures of me in action here, because no one was there to wield the camera. I started by scooping out the high end and dumping the dirt in the low end — I didn’t have to dig more than a foot. The scooped-out end was tilted, because the tractor itself wasn’t level, so I dragged some of the dirt backwards and that helped.

In the end, I decided I’d gone as far as I could with the power tools and got out the shovel. This is when I started hitting some large rocks, some nearly two feet long. I had to use a crowbar to loosen up two of them that were together. You can see some of the rocks along the right side of the photo below; I’ll use them to face the banks.

With the area smoothed out, I jumped on the tractor once more and carried the rubber tiles over. The bucket wasn’t quite big enough to hold them all, but a little overstacking and some care in driving back kept them all on the tractor until I actually got back. Then three slipped off, no problem.

I thought the surface looked pretty smooth, but when I started laying the tiles I realized it wasn’t exactly optically flat. It might have been less obvious had I used rock, but there would have been a lot more heavy lifting and I probably would have worn out before I finished. As it was, I smoothed out the dirt, put clips on tiles, laid them out, and made myself keep going until I had as many down as I could get. In retrospect, I should have dug out a little farther to the right, but I was already hitting roots from a tree just outside the frame in the above shot. Fortunately, the tree to the left was getting its roots covered more rather than dug out. You can see at bottom left where I have to fill in a little more dirt; I had planned for one more row of tiles but the length ran short. I can always fill it in later.

With a nice rubbery surface on the ground, I opened the first big box of furniture and got the chairs out. To prevent scratching, they were wrapped pretty well around just about every surface; I cut and pulled and pulled and cut and finally had four iron frames. I strapped the cushions in (they use Velcro™ or some substitute), and The Boy and Lobster hiked them down to the patio. And immediately started smoking there, not five minutes after I told them “no smoking.” Grrrr. At this point, I’d run out of daylight and decided the table could wait.

This afternoon, I attacked the table. Somewhere along the line, someone cut into the blister pack holding the hardware and took two nuts/bolts out of it. Fortunately, I had some hardware with the proper thread and (in the case of the bolts) length, so I got the job done.

Then I sat down in one of the chairs, put one foot on the table, and called Mom for Mother’s Day.

There’s plenty more to do: lay the rocks along the dug-out sides, get up all the big wood chips from when I had the tree-cutting party out there and toss them in the firepit (built into the table), then run the lawn mower over the weeds. Oh, and fill in that corner. Sheesh.


  1. It's so...green. We don't have none o'that out here in the redneck desert ;) I think it looks like a lovely retreat.

  2. Hi Angela! I think we've gotten all your rain on top of ours so far this spring — everything is running riot around here. Thanks much, I hope to get some writing and relaxing time out there these spring evenings.


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