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A weekend in the yard

Posted by joeabbott on May 13, 2009

Suzanne had a couple days of vacation scheduled for yard work so I joined her. No other plans than to do some stuff around the yard and what better way to force the issue than to have 10 yards of bark dumped in your driveway! OK, 1 yard is 27 cubic feet; 10 yards is 270 cubic feet! 

When I first saw the pile in the driveway on Friday evening I wasn’t sure if it looked like a lot or not so much. After all, I paid for it and wanted a BIG pile. After I started moving all of it, I decided the pile was pretty darned big.

First, a little about the mulch. A  few years back we had a professional put in our backyard. He put in a crib wall to retain a bit of the slope, added drainage as our house is built beneath a slope and gets a lot of water, he flattened part, brought in rocks, built a deck and after putting in a lot of plants, he added GroCo. The premise of the GroCo is to create a layer to hold down the soil. As I’d noted, we have a sloping back yard and the soil just wants to wash away. The GroCo can either be mixed with the soil or just spread over the top. It does wonders keeping the moisture in and holding the dirt back. Also, spread thickly enough, it holds down weeds beautifully.

Saturday came and we first attended a funeral service for a distant relative. The service was for Ted Pang, the father of my sister-in-law … the wife of Suzanne’s brother. Go ahead, take a second and work it out. I may have met him before but never spoke to him at length; which made the funeral an obligation. Still, I wish I had spoken to him. His service was simple but several hundred people were in attendance and many gave simple but moving tributes to his well-lived life. I have to say that if I get half as many comments about the decent way in which I lived, I could call my time here successful. I wish the Pang family, and all their in-laws, the best during this trying time dealing with their loss.

The service wasn’t too long but we didn’t dare start before we had to go. It probably lasted until around 2 PM or so.

And then we got home, changed into our grubbies, and we were all grins posing by the big pile of mulch. The work start was about to start.

We decided to do the front yard areas first … there wasn’t much and it would be nice to just have that area done. The way this seemd to go was Suzy did the weeding and I moved the mulch. As her work took a bit longer the just moving wheelbarrows full of stuff, I started bringing some to the back yard and forming a big pile from which we could do other projects back there. Load after load I moved and the pile in the back seemed to be getting much bigger than the front pile seemed to be shrinking. And I was getting tired.

Fortunately, Suzanne called and I was able to just haul loads along the relatively flat path to the side yard. In what seemed like “no time at all” we had a really nice looking side yard area and the pile in the front was starting to be whittled down a bit. That was nice! While I wanted a huge pile so I could feel like I got a good deal on the mulch, there was such a thing as too much mulch.

I don’t know how many of my little wheelbarrow’s full of mulch there was, but I do know that it took six very full snow shovel-scoops to fill it. All I know is that it was a lotta scoops.

Our plan for the weekend was to get the mulch out of the driveway. My earlier hopes were to have it spread everywhere and just be done with it but as the day was wearing, it was clear we wouldn’t get that far. By Sunday night the best we could hope for was to have all the mulch out of the driveway and a good start on the other parts. Oh, we were also racing against a forecast rain front moving in. Not surprising for Seattle in the spring … but we had a big pile of mulch to lay down!

With the front yard done I resumed my activities of just hauling back mulch and now starting to create piles down “the path” in our backyard. A picture would do the best justice but you’ll have to suffice for words.

Imagine all the work I’d mentioned having been done in the backyard by the professional landscaping guys stretching from the left side of the property to just about the right. Now, just before you get to the right side fence, stop. Here’s where you need a roughly 8′ wide path for a bobcat and other heavy equipment to move up and down while ferrying stones and gravel and who knows what all. This is “the path”.

Anyhow, at 8′ wide I was only able to fill part of it without compromising my ability to get more mulch to the higher areas. So I’d spread from the fence to about three feet from the other side and move down. I was starting to run out of space.

About then, Suzanne had finished a big area and I started to throw mulch there. I was working the lower section and the left side of the yard. We then moved clockwise around the lower section and finished in front of the potting shed. And then it was late.

So, we called it a day, had about 40% of the pile removed from the driveway, and knew we’d hit it hard on Sunday. We planned to BBQ some steaks and enjoy our new backyard. Who would have known we’d need every bit of daylight available to finish up?

And Sunday dawned and my back was aching. I rolled out of bed and puttered about until Suzanne joined me. I’m used to getting up early as the cats like some eats but today they were unable to rouse me before 8:30 AM. Which is pretty incredible as they normally don’t let me sleep past 5 AM!

But, I made some breakfast (simple poached eggs and toast) and then we started.

For me the majority of the day was moving what remained of the 10 yards of mulch, wheelbarrow at a time, into the back yard and up the slope. Occasionally Suzy would finish an area and I’d pat in some mulch or bring her loads to pat in. With the yard sloping we had to pat things in and with all the plants situated in the beds, we had to be careful with the patting. No easy jobs today!

And, I suppose talking about “no easy jobs” I should say something about Suzanne’s contributions. While I mentioned she was weeding, I failed to detail that this amounts to removing the top one-to-two inches of dirt to ensure we had the roots up and all the nasty seedlings removed. Bags and bags of yard waste were removed and either dumped into a small sink hole we have in the back, tossed into a nearby vacant lot (don’t worry, it’s overgrown and the people who own this largely neglect the property but know that we toss stuff in there), or into a small sloping area we have off our driveway that’s just wasted area.

Anyhow, she did a tremendous amount of work and for a break would occassionally join me to move some mulch.

Toward the end of the day I was faltering. The exertion of moving all the stuff repeatedly was getting to me and I’d move a load, take a short break, move some more, break some more. Rought stuff. But, we were making progress.

About that time Suzy asked to see the pile and I replied, “it’ll be smaller than you think but not as small as you might hope.” And it was. I estimated about 6 big wheelbarrows full and it ended up being well over a dozen. Probably closer to 24 or so. Anyhow, with her help we moved the last load and were “done”.

Before the last load was up we heard faint but obvious precursors to the rain coming down and making tiny tinking sounds on the tarps we’d laid out. In this fine mist like air I gathered up the tools, cleaned them as best I could, and put stuff away. Suzanne folded the tarps and swept the driveway. We finished together and headed in. While she showered I did a few dishes and then enjoyed my own long shower. It felt marvelous and, when I got out, we sat on the couch and listend to the rain fall. Did I mention we didn’t have time for our BBQ?

Monday we both had off and was supposed to be a lot of rain so we scheduled in some time to watch the new Star Trek movie. While I was still sore after we got out of our matinee movie (I think it was 4 PM-ish), the sun was shining incredibly brightly. Where was the rain!?! I can’t say I missed doing yard work but we did have more that could have been done.

Anyway, we headed home and I started feeling off. I just laid around and we finished watching the original Star Wars trilogy (we saw Star Wars IV: A New Hope on Saturday, and Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back on Sunday … time for Star Wars VI: The Return of the Jedi!) I was feeling not well at all (headache, bit of naseau) so I turned in immediately after that.

Tuesday dawned and I slept in again but only until about 6:30 AM or so. Fed the cats and laid around. Not well yet but Suzanne came down and headed out for yard work. I toyed with the idea of going for a little hike but decided I could best help by staying around.

I put in some edging in the front yard and then helped mulch the areas Suzanne had cleared. I was feeling much better. So for the rest of the day we moved mulch in, removed weeds and soil, and patted it in around the plants. Around 5:30 PM we called it a day. Much earlier than our other sessions but we had work the next day so it didn’t seem right to drive things into the ground. It was a lot of work and a good job was done.

More pictures can be seen at my Flickr photostream.

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One Response to “A weekend in the yard”

  1. […] A weekend in the yard May 2009 3 […]

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