Learning the Hard Way

 There is a door to enter the building, but how shall we approach that door?  If only there were a path to follow, I said... 

There is a door to enter the building, but how shall we approach that door?  If only there were a path to follow, I said... 

As might expected, working on an old place like our house often involves learning new things. Sometimes this is just a matter of doing research, investigating how to do something correctly before undertaking the task. Other times it involves learning things the hard way.

The garage we have on our site is a later addition to the property. It is, in fact, a transplanted building. It was moved from the property that I grew up at, across the field. When my Dad decided to build a barn at that site, my uncle chose to move the existing building over to this property in order to provide a garage for my grandmother. Since it was a later addition it doesn't really fit into the existing landscaping and, in particular, there was no formal walkway from the house to the garage. In the dry height of summer this is no big deal, of course, but for the rest of the year - when it rains, when it snows - this meant we were tramping through, or shoveling over, bare grass. This probably wasn't that big a deal when my grandmother lived here alone - she didn't leave the property frequently enough to make a track between the back door and the garage, and likely chose not to leave at all if it was snowing enough to make travel challenging. We are considerably more mobile.

We needed a sidewalk.

There are lots of ways to go about this, of course. Lay down cement, hire someone to lay down cement, get paving stones for your local landscaping company or big box store. But I had heard about an acquaintance in the area that had a large number of flat rocks stacked up in their backyard - rocks that had previously been part of a stone home foundation - that they wanted to get rid of. This seemed perfect to me: the ultimate in recycling and the price (free) was right. I just knew that Henry David Thoreau would be proud of me.

I laid out a small patio to come off the existing sidewalk and go around our old bell - there had been something resembling a patio there before, as stones were already in the ground - and then a curving pathway between two smaller trees out to the garage. LB and I cut out the pathway in the sod by hand with a spade and shovels. I did research on the depth that it should be, and what the bed for the pathway should be made of. I laid down sand and then gravel for a foundation before laying out the stone.

Laying out the stone - which we also did by hand - was really kind of fun. It was challenging, working with found materials, to put things together in a fashion that worked as a pathway. It was a little like assembling a real-world jigsaw puzzle with no picture to follow. The project took several weeks to complete, but when it was finished I was really pretty happy with the results:

 One happily pictures years of walking along that path, sitting on that patio enjoying drinks, listening to the birds, taking in the view and the smells of country life.  

One happily pictures years of walking along that path, sitting on that patio enjoying drinks, listening to the birds, taking in the view and the smells of country life.  

I am not exactly sure what the differences are between the paving stones one buys from a landscaper or big box store and the ones that were used a hundred years ago or so to make a basement, but whatever that difference is, it's apparently kind of important. The patio and sidewalk were completed in August of 2010 - less than five years ago. This is what it looks like today:


 This picture was taken this Spring, the ravages of winter apparent in a number of areas. I'd like to say it was just a hard winter that took out the sidewalk, but it's been working towards this condition for longer than just the past season. 

This picture was taken this Spring, the ravages of winter apparent in a number of areas. I'd like to say it was just a hard winter that took out the sidewalk, but it's been working towards this condition for longer than just the past season. 

Now, as I've detailed before, I'm not necessarily the handiest guy in the world. To be clear, though, this isn't my first stoney-things-in-the-ground rodeo. I've actually laid down several brick platforms in multiple locations - solid places for grills, garbage cans, and a guy changing his oil (that guy was me) to stand on. I've never had this type of problem before, so I am left assuming that it's the materials I used. 

Stupid Henry David Thoreau.