As the snow melted this spring, it came to our attention that our backyard was beyond all hope. We decided that the best way to deal with this realization was to abandon the space and move to the front yard for Josie to play. When Josie started letting herself out the front door and walking to the park by MYSELF (as she would say), we decided we needed to take action.
While our yard is the size of a postage stamp – it’s OUR postage stamp and it was time to re-claim the space! I sat out back and drew my plans for our future utopia, which included new French doors coming out of the back of our house, a multi-level deck, flag-stone patio, hot tub and fire-pit. Matt humored my plans for about 8 seconds then brought me down to earth with what the budget and timeline might look like. We settled on a plan for a new brick patio and grass – easy peasy right?
WRONG! I’m sitting on the patio right now suffering from mild PTSD about how it came to be. After a bit of research I decided that this project sounded so easy we could finish it ourselves in a couple of nights after work. After all, the steps to making a patio can be found on websites named “simple DIY brick patio” or “DIY patio in minutes.”
Here is how building a DIY patio might actually look:
1. dig out area and haphazardly throw dirt everywhere so it is impossible to clean up later
2. flatten area
3. add leveling string lines (still not sure why)
4. cheap-out and place a wooden border around the space instead of the recommended plastic
5. pour special paver sand on area
6. level and flatten special sand 770 times with some contraption called a scree-bar
7. scream at your dog to get the F off the special leveled sand
8. place bricks down
9. realize your brick pattern is totally screwed-up and pick them all up
10. repeat steps 6-8
11. realize that you have to somehow cut the bricks at an angle
12. watch several YouTube videos about cutting bricks by hand
13. attempt to score each brick and hammer the line to break with a mason’s chisel
14. miss the mason’s chisel and smash your finger
15. swear and throw each brick that breaks in the wrong place – which is every brick
17. realize that you might not have enough bricks for your patio if you keep screwing-up each cut
18. yell at your spouse that he/she is doing something wrong
19. work in defeated silence hauling bricks and sand until the project is done
20. fill with polymeric sand and mist with water and tears of exhaustion
That pretty much sums up our lives from 7-10pm 7 nights in a row. To all those professional stone masons out there – how the hell do you do that every day!? Props.
Once the patio hell was almost behind us, we decided to jump right into a whole new challenge – sod.
The steps for laying sod are similar to laying a patio:
1. rent a sod cutter
2. realize you tossed dirt all over the lawn from your last project and now have to shovel and haul it away before you can start
3. use sod cutter to cut up old grass
4. realize you actually have no living grass in your backyard, it’s more like the Grapes of Wrath dust bowl
5. break sod cutter because it’s a POS and not meant to cut dirt and rocks
6. return broken sod cutter and get a complete refund – score!
7. buy 770 bags of top soil and compost because you have not seen any signs of life in your dust bowl, and load them all in your mini-van
8. dig up whole yard by hand because there is no rototiller to rent in Missoula on a Tuesday at 8 pm
9. hide in the house drinking beer so you don’t have to help anymore
10. add top soil and compost by hand to yard
11. ice your aching back before bed
12. level and spray down the ground
13. Yell at your spouse that they obviously don’t know what level ground looks like
14. abandon project and make your spouse finish it….
I am not proud that I abandoned Matt to get the project done alone, but it was probably for the best. The truth is, if I had continued to help we may have killed each other. Matt bucked up and got the sod rolled out during lunch one day and in return we both lived.
In a rare moment of serendipity, it rained on and off for the next 2 weeks, making our sod very happy. Josie is obsessed with being naked and outside in her yard; our dogs enjoy peeing and pooping all over it; and Matt and I have found a new love for grass and outdoor dining. I guess it was all worth it!