It doesn’t get any better than this

Saturday was a fantastic day – no exaggeration.

a great toy!

With a break in the weather this week, I set out to accomplish two goals:  remove a washed-out and poorly-graded sidewalk from the north side of my house, and load logs from an enormous tree onto a trailer to take to the sawyer.

All I needed was a skid steer loader.

By Wednesday of last week, the plan was taking shape.  After getting a bid for someone to come out and load the logs for me, I realized that for the same money, I could rent the loader for the day and accomplish both goals.  I’d arranged for a container for the concrete, and for the sawyer to receive the logs at his place.  I would rent the loader first thing in the morning with the assistance of my best friend, Jesse, and his Ford F-350.

We started by loading two logs onto the trailer for the skid steer loader (shh! Don’t tell the rental company!), and Jesse and my dad drove the logs out to the saw mill.

Meanwhile, I taught myself the finer points of operating the loader (it was my first time, and I couldn’t stop grinning for hours!) while removing my sidewalk.

The tree, a swamp white oak that was over 200 years old, fell last spring, crushing my neighbor’s garage.  Over the course of last summer, my neigbor replaced her garage, and allowed me to claim the trunk for lumber.  I split the log with a 30″ chainsaw, splitting wedges, and a 10 pound sledge, but when the sawyer came out with his portable bandsaw mill, we failed to get the log sections onto the deck.  They were each still as heavy as the average log, but incredibly awkward due to their geometry.  For want of a skid steer loader, the logs remained in my neighbor’s yard over the winter.

washed out

The sidewalk was a mess.  Running parallel to the north side of my house, it had washed out severely in one location, funneling gallons of muddy water through the mortar of the stone foundation.  It was also graded slightly toward the house rather than away, allowing rainwater to flow through the cracks between the sidewalk and the foundation. I marveled at the size of the cavity below this section of sidewalk, which corresponded to the worst leakage in the basement.

The plan couldn’t have gone off much better.  I had pulled up about half of the sidewalk by the time Jesse returned for the second load of logs.  We loaded him back up, and he took the second load to the saw mill while I continued on the sidewalk.  Once Jesse returned from his second trip, we finished up the concrete tear-out, minus one double-thick section of concrete that was still connected to the wall. 

With that one section remaining, we had reached a point of diminishing returns on our efforts, and decided it was time to return the loader.  There’s still so much to do to complete this round of home improvement, but it was such a quantum leap forward, it required bold action.

north side, after sidewalk is removed

Though the landscaping is in disarray, the progress I made in a single day is exhilarating, giving me an incredible sense of momentum. Removing the sidewalk opened up great potential for the north side of the house.  With only ten feet from the side of my house to the edge of my neighbor’s driveway, the three foot-wide sidewalk made this space seem even smaller than it was, visually dividing the width, and reducing the planting space.  I’ve always envisioned a contemplative garden retreat here, and finally I can realize that vision.