Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Feats of Strength

(Edited to add:  I had this post largely complete prior to the events of yesterday.  While it feels a bit inappropriate to be posting about patios this morning, I'm sticking to the plan.  If we've learned anything from our past tragedies, it's that life must go on.  That said, my thoughts this morning are with the family of Martin Richard and everyone touched by the tragedy yesterday in Boston.  May you all find the strength to carry you through the days ahead.) 

You must believe me when I say that my weekends are generally not this productive.  Typically, the Mr. goes to work at least one day out of the weekend, and I'm lucky if I shower--or the kids get dressed--before lunch.

THIS weekend, however, we cleaned and organized the entire garage, washed the exterior second floor windows, and brought out/washed all of the outdoor furniture.  Independently, I also planted 15 new hostas, washed and installed all of the window screens, oh--and FINISHED SINGLE-HANDEDLY INSTALLING THIRTY-TWO 16x16" 45 LB CONCRETE PAVERS on a base of crushed gravel and paver sand in an annoyingly inaccessible part of my yard.  No biggie.

And no, I cannot move my arms right now.

Before I get all paver patio on you though, I just have to share a few more shots of my awakening yard:

Top left--one of our many allium azureum just starting to break out.  I swear that in the 24 hours since I took this picture, these grew at least 12 inches.  No joke.   Hyacinth next to that.  Middle left--that's what happened when I stuck a pruned twig of hydrangea, with no roots, straight into the ground and just hoped for the best.  I did nothing whatsoever to foster its growth, and look at it now!  Voodoo sedum next to that.  Bottom left--tulip just dying to break out, and next to that is the teeniest tiniest set of geranium macrorrhizum leaves (very very close up).

So.  Patio.  This has been a long time in the making, since I actually started last summer.  But the thing is, each of these pavers weighs about 45 pounds.  Then, for every two pavers, I needed a bag of paver base and a bag of paver sand--each of which weigh in at 48 pounds.  I got all of these materials from the Big Orange, with a preschooler as my only help.  Because a total of four pavers and their associated base materials made the back end of my car drag on the ground, I decided that was my max load.  That means:  32 / 4 = 8 separate, nearly 400-pound trips to the store.

And yes, I did price this out and I did look into delivery...  but doing it this way--THE LONG TEDIOUS WAY--was infinitely cheaper, and I am extremely cheap.  Now is not a good time to ask me if it was worth it. 

To add to this, my property is kind of unusual and the patio site is a bit difficult to access [with hundreds of pounds of materials].  There are steps (pictured) off the back of the deck to get to this area, but steps weren't really feasible with all of this weight.  Instead, we had to make one billion breathless, wobbly wheelbarrow runs down and around a path that winds through the back of the property.  We went through two wheelbarrow wheels.

At the bottom of those steps, you can kind of make out an existing concrete paver patio.  That patio appears to be original to the house, but it doesn't extend out much farther than what you can see in the photo.  I wanted to create a patio out in the open space using the same materials.  And the beauty is, since I was essentially trying to "match" the haphazard, weather-heaved look of the original patio, I didn't have to be too crazy anal about leveling. 

Process was as follows:  I dug to a depth of approximately four inches.  I hit approximately one million very large rocks.  I swore loudly and repeatedly.  I attempted to level things using a metal bow rake.  Following this, I put down about 2 inches of gravel paver base (the reddish stuff in the bottom right photo) and raked to level again.  I covered this with another inch or two of paver sand, raked to level, and then used a tamper to compact everything down. 

Then it was paver time!  (Mind you, I did all of this in about four separate sessions.  I did NOT do the entire patio at once.  That would be truly nuts.)  Since these are nearly 50 pounds each--and again, I did this completely alone--this was a bit of a challenge.  As a former occupational therapist, I can officially tell you that my body mechanics sucked.  Bend at the knees, people, or pay!  Because I didn't formally level anything when putting down the base, I also had some issues with a few of the pavers being too high or too low once I put them down... which meant I had to pull things back up again (UGH), add or remove sand as needed, and try all over again.  Nightmares.  But look what I did!

I love this picture.  See how the light is coming through the trees?  Can you just imagine me sitting there, sipping a lemonade, looking out at my accomplishment and reflecting on a job well done?  BWAH HA HA HA!

While it looks like the heavens just opened and the paver patio angel choir is singing, all I was thinking was, "Damn, my arms are killing me.  I think I threw out my back.  It's already after 5:00 and now both of my kids are filthy, and we have to give everyone baths and tick checks and... CRAP!  Now I totally don't have enough time to make dinner and--OMG am I thirsty!  I'll bet the kids wore their boots into the house.  Now I have to vacuum.  I totally need to make a walkway from the stairs over to that patio... This looks like hell with no landscaping.  Wait--is that paver crooked?"

It's not just me, is it?  Don't all normal people beat themselves up immediately upon finishing something huge and backbreakingly difficult?

But perhaps the best part was this:  My seven-year old son watched me work for the last couple of hours, heard me grunting and straining as if I were giving birth to a toddler.  And when I finally finished, he confidently announced, "Mom, you're the most awesome mom ever!!"  I seriously almost shed a tear.  Because if my feats of strength served to teach my son firsthand that women are strong and powerful and capable of grand things, then YES--it was definitely worth it.


  1. The last paragraph made Me shed a tear! You are awesome! ... and thanks for confirming for me that I never ever want to do pavers. :)

  2. I'm impressed! Don't think I could lift a 50-lb paver myself. Steve did a similar project in our old house in STL nearly 10 years ago, and it was difficult for him too. So if it was a tough job for a 20-something guy, then you should be very proud for doing it on your own!