The Patio: Part 1

When I last left you we were on the brink of getting a patio. Spoiler: we have one now.  In order for you to  living vicariously through the whole process I will break it down day by day. This whole shebang took 6 days, and I am going to walk you through day 1-3, so buckle up.

Day 1- You can see our nice post holes covered in case of rain. The back hill completely flattened out and the wooden steps removed, but they are covered with the trap so you will have to imagine dirt that looks like it recently had steps on it.

Brett worked from home this day, because we were down a vehicle, but it was also a major perk that he could be there for the first day. Except that Brett felt weird about snapping me updates of people working throughout the day, so it was hardly even worthwhile. It’s not exactly like the workers could call the cops for a peeping tom, we live here, not that we wouldn’t still be creepy, but also not exactly illegal….I’m just saying I was pretty jazzed that my backyard dreams were happening and I only got one picture at work and it was mostly of my kitchen window. For Pete’s sake, up the creep factor at least slightly, Brett.


Day 2- Our backyard is a bit of a doozy to get any equipment in and out of, so they actually took off part of the fence.


They dug out around the sunroom so that they could regrade the yard to flow away from the sunroom, have sufficent space for stone steps and get set up for the retaining wall.

New dirt mounds from the excess dirt. The patio was dug down and gravel placed.

So first thing in the morning on day 2 we got a bit of a curveball thrown our way. Now originally we were going to put in the concrete in the holes we dug for the pergola posts before the paver guys ever came, but then we were really unsure of what height everything would land at and didn’t want concrete sticking up or the concrete too far down. So we had just the holes dug and cardboard tubes placed when they came.

The contractor tells Brett that they want to do brick right up to the posts so it will look seamless. Great I totally want things pretty too. But the flip side of that was the concrete needed to be done by the next day. (To be fair it was what we had originally agreed we woudl do, since the pergola is our project we are taking on) That left Brett renting a truck from Home Depot after work to bring home 24 bags of concrete. Did you know concrete bags weigh 80 pounds a piece? Let me save you the hassle of calculating, we got 1,920 pounds of concrete. Don’t worry the fun didn’t stop there, we needed to unload these bags, get them in the back and then actually do the work of mixing and setting the concrete in the holes.

Lucky for us we had a series of fortunate events.

First- Brett conned two friends to help. Matt and Brad, who now whenever they hear “what are you up to tonight?” will always have an answer at the ready, so as to avoid this very thing ever again.

Second- The guys working on the patio were still here when Brett got back with the concrete and they 1-fork lifted the nearly ton of concrete out of the truck and 2- let us use their powered wheelbarrow thing.


This meant Matt, Brad and I (Brett was returning the truck), just had to somehow manage to lift the bags from the pallet into the muck-truck and get them to the backyard. I used every muscle hugging/balancing/back lifting to do my part.

Matt did the driving of the muck-truck to the backyard pretty expertly given that our yard has hills and slopes in every direction.  He also really had to manhandle the thing to drive it, which was quite amusing to watch except for when getting a little too cute and trying to turn while driving and got somewhat close to tipping the 800 pound load. But at 2/3 the mass of me, he managed it far better than I could have hoped to.

Third Perk- my brother Josh happens to have a cement mixer, that we were able to pick up and borrow (Now if you have been reading this blog for any length of time and are wondering is there any tool/equipment that guy doesn’t own? So far no. He has a massive shop, filled with all the things. It’s like having a vacation house minus the destination and the vacation.)

We did all the concrete, my mom put the boys to bed and we all celebrated with a drink.

Whoa that was a long day 2. Moving on.

Day 3- The backyard is full of equipment and they started  the retaining wall along the fence.

Here is the start of the other retaining wall and steps to the sunroom.

And here is picture of the kiddos, who clearly have no problem checking out the work being done. Gideon wanted a better view so he grabbed himself a stool to see better. See Brett, the kid’s know how to creep.


As soon as I get around to compiling the rest of the pictures I’ll get us from day 4 to patio! Until next time.





Our Backyard Transformation Starts Tomorrow!

I could kind of see getting used to this… I get to dream things up, plan them out, pick things out and then someone else does the work! I will say though I am slightly nervous about not being able to make every tiny decision and we will be at work during the day.

So in order to get ready for the guys to work on the backyard, we had a couple of things we had to take care of first.

  1. Dig holes for the pergola footings
  2. Get rid of the long tube of wires
  3. Clear all the miscellaneous crap out of the backyard

How wrong could things really go?

So for task #1 we decided to rent a 2 man auger which we had experience using back when we did our fort footings. We decided to get Brett’s dad to help out again since unsurprisingly after zero time spent working out in the last year I am equally as strong as last time (not really at all). And besides there is nothing quite as fun as doing something dangerous without the skills or strength to do so with the person you love and would likely blame anything that could potential go wrong on.

But before the digging of the holes there was the marking of the holes. Now I’ll say that I am a terrific eyeball-er and a mediocre measure-er. The tricky part was Brett’s dad was really set on everything being square… not exactly our strong suit. I really wanted to just build a rectangle out of 2x4s and mark the corners for holes, but we didn’t have long enough boards. So instead we had to do math. Which I don’t know about you but nothing makes Brett and I crankier than doing math, except for doing math together.

So we made some attempts at measuring to make sure everything was the same distance from the house, but that was complicated by the transition from the house to the shed. Then we tried measuring off the fence, but that proved tricky too. So after a short break to remember that we loved each other, which turned into a sort of necessary longer break because the remembering was harder than we anticipated… We found a video that explained how to make sure everything was square. So we placed the pegs where we thought they should go and then did the 3-4-5 method from the video to make sure we had right angles.


You can maybe barely see the white string between the wood pegs. But what you can really see is all the wisteria that will look so pretty from this pergola once we actually build it.

We got it marked out Friday night so Brett and his dad could dig the holes the next morning. I love that we pinpoint this perfect spot that is square and then the idea is to dig these massive holes, supposedly with the spot we marked in the center. So they started bright and early on Saturday with the auger, but unluckily for them they found a random chunk of concrete quite a ways down, some rather large rocks and an auger that really wasn’t feeling it.

The upside was we got all our money back for renting the junky auger, but the downside was it meant digging by hand, but I didn’t actually do any of that, so I can’t say that it was really so much different or worse.


Task #2 Get rid of the wires.

Now if you are just catching up with us we once had a non functioning hot tub in our backyard (broken since we bought the house, presumably before because a rotten hot tub cover was composting in the bottom of the tub. It was also weirdly small like a bath with two of your very very close friends. We took it out last summer when we ripped out the splintery rotting deck it was built into). Now this tube of wires was just barely under the grass hanging out until now. We had flipped the breaker to the hot tub sometime ago, so we assumed the wires were dead. But to be safe Brett had capped all the wires poking out of the ground by the fence, away from the house.

Turns out the wires were still live. Whoops. How did Brett figure this out? Well he initially had a safe idea and bought one of those live wire tester things, but it got left in the van (the van that decided to crap out when I was in the left lane of 94 on my way home, the van that is now at the shop. Now in case you have never been married, or maybe you are just a very nice non-blaming spouse you may not understand this, but as I am driving and the van feels like it is sputtering, I call Brett. Do I call and ask “do you know what might be going on on?” No. Of course not. I say “did you put E85 in the van?!” Because I may have no clue what is going on, but I already know who is likely at fault. I’ll give you a clue. It’s not me. In case you are wondering, no he did not screw it up, some spring in the engine that isn’t supposed to break, did.)

Alas, Brett is without a wire tester, so he touches two wires together, they make a bright light and a popping sound. So we flip a few more breakers, do the same very safe test of touching potentially live wires together, this time without issue. Brett then cuts all the wires, is still alive, and caps them once again right at the point they enter the house. We will have to sort that out later, but task #2 is complete and everyone is alive!


Levi desperately wanted to see how deep the holes were, about the size of him it turns out.

And finally task #3: Clear all the miscellaneous crap out of the backyard, which should have been the most simple of all….

So we had Gideon’s third birthday party today and filled up our new inflatable pool from Menards. It just so happens to be much larger than any pool we’ve ever had before. The kids had a blast. Gideon thoroughly enjoyed his “birthday themed” party he requested. This evening I go to dump the pool out, not giving it much thought at all. I deflate one of the three rings and water starts pouring out as it deflates. Except it rushes out with so much gusto it pours right down the wood steps, soon to be taken out, and into our sunroom, which we really intend on keeping. I yell for Brett, who is as my mother taught me to answer the phone as a kid, “indisposed”. So I tell Levi to get his dad and tell him to come outside ASAP, since I am now stuck holding the pool, trying to make sure no more water escapes. Levi casually looks and says he can’t find him. The kid’s a real sleuth.

The moral of the story is we can make any seemingly benign task far more difficult than it ever should be.

And just like that we are all ready for work to begin tomorrow!