Last summer I dug a hole. It wasn’t especially deep, only about 6-8 inches, but it was substantial in size, about eleven feet across. I dug this hole into the side of a small hill in our backyard, and I mounded all the dirt upon the top of this hill making it rather large. I had all the digging done by the end of last August, at which point I took a break; for the next 10 months.
The hole remained, changing very little. Sometimes it was filled with water, on other occasions it contained snow streaked with brown, come spring it began to grow some weeds, and for a time these interesting bee-type insects appeared to establish a burrow system. The hole also uncovered a drain pipe, which possibly connected to an old septic tank; my son was quick to clog this up with small rocks and sticks.
My wife found the entire operation to be a reflection of my many character faults. She openly ridiculed me whenever I suggested another ambitious home repair project. I endured my rebukes with a nod and ample self loathing.
I started a project and completely failed at seeing it through to completion, leaving my backyard to project the appearance of a meteor strike.
Fear not, this past June, as soon as summer vacation began, I set to work. I removed the weeds, ordered some base stone and had it delivered, costing a little over $100. I rolled two enormous 8 foot logs into place to serve as my retaining wall. This process would have been best observed in the silent film era, as I strained and pushed to roll the logs. From time to time, I’d roll the log onto a tiny log to create a fulcrum, which allowed me to turn the large log without assistance. In my mind, this trick was nothing short of an engineering marvel, and those who’ve asked how it was done have nodded in approval – I think.
I shoveled, I raked. I ordered sand and shoveled and raked again. I tamped it down. I laid bricks, acquired for free from my brother in law, and ug up from the backyard of one of my rentals. I swept sand into the cracks. I tamped and swept, tamped and swept. I cut logs in half, coated them in vanish, and bent rebar into place creating benches.
A few weeks ago, I finally enjoyed and evening with S’mores and fire. Watching my two year old son attempt to eat chocolate and marshmallow smashed between graham crackers was worth all the hard work.
This patio is an expression of art, I used free or found materials (logs and bricks) along with a few minor purchases (base stone, sand, edging and vanish) to create a beautiful addition to my backyard. Sure I could have paid someone to create this landscape but not only would that have cost potentially thousands of dollars, but I wouldn’t have learned any new skills, nor enjoyed an outlet for my creativity. Not only did I save money, but I added value to my property and to my personal knowledge base. All these elements are hard to pin down with a specific monetary value, but I think it was worth every penny.