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Monday, January 26, 2009

Operation: Clean Paws (Part One)

I've decided that I'm absolutely not going to deal with muddy paws coming into my house next rainy season. Muddy paws after a jaunt at the dog park is one thing, but it is quite another to deal with mud being tracked into and all over the house every time the dogs come back inside from going potty in the yard.

When we bought the house the sellers put sod all over the yards to make the place look neat and tiddy. There weren't (and still aren't) any automatic sprinklers so watering was a pain. We didn't see the point in watering and mowing all the yards so we let the grass die after the first summer. Did you know that something like 30% of ALL residential water in the USA goes to watering lawns ALONE? That is just insane and irresponsible considering our farmers struggle to get enough water to grow our food crops. Huge lawns are okay if you live in a rains-throughout-the-year part of the country, but not in a temperate or desert climate.

This is what our side yard looked like before we bought the house (this is the yard that now has the shed in it):
So over the holiday weekend Dave and I decided (actually, I decided and Dave went along with it...) to rent a skidsteer so we could remove a bunch of soil from our side "utility yard." The goal is to install gravel paths to/from the BBQ yard, the clothesline, the shed, the garage, and the gate and then to make a gravel driveway for our boat. Over the last 2 years of using the side yard, it is pretty clear where we walk regularly.

First we used spray paint to delineate where we would remove the soil and where we would keep the soil. It was reassuring to see the pooches run around in the yard in the exact places we were planning on having the gravel paths!

Here you can see our spray paint lines:
On Saturday morning we went over to All Star Rents to pick up the skidsteer. Since the rental place isn't open on Sunday, we got to return it on Monday morning and were only charged for 1 day of rental but got to use it for 2 whole days (and we didn't come even close to the 8 hours of running time = 1 day of use).

Dave ran the equipment and I was in charge of directing him and cleaning up the edges with the shovel. Whoa, there was so much shoveling! My arms were sore for days afterward.
My dad has a skidsteer, which turns out to be MUCH smaller than this Bobcat we rented. The bucket on my dad's is so tiny but our rental had a 5 foot wide bucket on it. This isn't bad except that our paths expanded in width--when we finally get around to installing the wood edging we'll just narrow the pathways and fill in the extra space outside the paths with soil. The wider bucket also meant that we removed a lot more soil than we expected. Dave estimated that we'd remove about 5 cubic turned out to be around 8.

Having no where else to put the soil, we decided to just pile it up in the front yard on top of our pathetic lawn. Once we realized just how much there was, we made a snap decision to spread it out all over the front yard so we could basically raise the level of the entire yard. We also made a snap decision to just do away with all our lawn and just landscape the front around the eventual pathways we'll have there. (Installing new flagstone walkways and underground irrigation in the front yard will be our next outdoor project after Operation: Clean Paws is complete.)

Our front yard before the earth moving festivities began:
Our yard after we removed all the soil. I took this picture at night so it is hard to see, but you'll notice that there isn't much grass showing any more and the garden bed under the tree is much higher now:

Here's another view of the pile o' dirt before we spread it out. And look at our driveway--all that mud the skidsteer tracked all over! After it rained a few days later I nearly fell on my face walking on the slick mud. A few minutes with a square-point shovel made it much safer:
I'll write more later about the rest of the project.

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