To confirm my suspicions that the only reason I have a blog in my name is to enhance my status in others’ eyes, I will now proceed to boast nonstop for 500+ words (with pictures!).
When we moved into el rancho robino the back yard sloped from the sides of the house gently to the basement floor level in the middle, like a lot of houses with walkout basements. Like yay:
But it turned out that those slopes made it tough on croquet games, and hard to pitch a tent. Plus, it turned out, the slopes just offended me: where was the mark of man’s awesome manipulative hand? I am from the midwest. To me there is no more powerful or beautiful line than the horizontal. Not that a mountain doesn’t do it for me, but this? This pissy little hill? Remove it.
So I set to flattening and opening the space, carving back the hills and retaining the earth with walls. It was a lot of dirt when you add it all up, definitely work more suited for a machine like a Bobcat or a backhoe, and that’s what the neighbors who stopped on the sidewalk to ask me what in hell I was doing kept telling me. The builder down the street even offered the use of his. But no, I said. What I really want, when I’m done, is to be able to say “I did this all myself, just my shovel, my wheelbarrow, and my back.” Free gym, as the guys at Food Gatherers call it. Plus, machines are for the domesticated. None of that shuffle-shuffle obsequiousness from me in the old diad of house and field. I am now and always will be, an inveterate, incurable field nigger.
Well, I stand up next to a mountain/ And I chop it down with the edge of my hand
I started digging late Autumn ’07. Work languished during the yearlong-honeymoon Summer of Beer, and especially during renovations. I picked up again Fall ’08 and with the house finished and the area having looked so completely post-apocalyptic for so long that we were just too ashamed to let it go any longer I finished in one month-long burst of activity this May (’09).
I bought twenty tons (Twenty Tons!) of field stones and boulders from the Rock Shoppe for the walls. I don’t know how much a house weighs, but twenty tons must come close, yeah? Couldn’t I have shifted the earth’s rotation on it’s axis with that, pulling twenty tons from one spot and placing them in another? Did you feel the world wobble when it happened?
And b/c many of the rocks ended up being four or five hundred pounds each (what did I say about machines?) I rented a Bobcat for a day, and my brother and I hefted them into place with hydraulics. So fast, so easy! When I had to finish moving the dirt with just a wheelbarrow and a shovel I cried out for my long lost bobkitty. How spoiled I became, and how quickly!
And I bought 15 tons of compost to cover the clay that I had scraped down to so that grass would actually grow. And I planted the grass, and lo, it did grow.
See? Now doesn’t that feel better?
And I did it. Just like I said I would: I moved all that dirt myself, with just a shovel* and a wheelbarrow and my back.
Now all I need is the T-Rex for the woods and I’ll be done I swear.
* Six shovels actually. They don’t make ’em like they used to.