August 03, 2009

We've got stones

A few weekends ago, Scott and I went rock climbing. That is, we went to his friend's rock-selling business and scrambled up huge piles of river rocks to select the perfect stones for our yard. Scott wanted some medium-sized rocks to go along the side of the garage. Weeks earlier we had torn out the paving-stone path that I had very laboriously laid there three years ago. By tearing out the path we had inadvertently left a mucky ditch for the dogs to romp in. With near-record rainfalls this summer, we'd finally had enough of muddy paw prints everywhere. The plan was to fill half of the ditch with rocks and to lay sod in the other half. Scott's hope was that the new rocks would filter away the rainwater that had previously dripped from the roof onto the path and into the garage. (You may have seen our old paving-stone path, as well as evidence of the dogs' love of romping in muck, here.)

Precariously perched on the rock piles, Scott and I picked the patterns that most appealed to us. That was the fun part. We loaded the rocks into a crate in the back of a borrowed pick-up truck and headed home on the highway. At one point Scott braked hard and the crate slid toward the cab at such a rate of speed that I thought it would crash through the rear window and crush us. There were points later on in the project when the thought of being crushed by a crate of rocks sounded inviting, but at the time I was pleased to be alive.

After arriving home safe and sound, I decided that we needed to insert a gardening project into our schedule. I thought that my rapidly reproducing red border lilies would look sharp nestled between the garage and our new rocks, so we spent the next hour digging the flowers out of the garden and planting them beside the garage. I had given no thought to the fact that the bulbs are completely shaded in their new location and will never feel the warmth of direct sun; they may never bloom again.

Next we unloaded the rocks. We painstakingly placed them, one by one, in front of the replanted lilies, being careful to avoid having too many of one size, shape, colour or pattern in the same area. It was a long, slow process, and in the end we had... far fewer rocks than we required. The sun was setting, our stomachs were growling and our muscles were aching. Neither one of us had to speak it to know it: after having chosen and placed each stone so carefully, we would not be hand-selecting the next batch. We would have them loaded into the crate by a backhoe and we would dump them unceremoniously on top of the thoughtfully placed first batch. Anything worth doing is worth doing well, unless you're so bloody exhausted and sore that you really couldn't give a rat's ass about aesthetics anymore.

During a subsequent weekend Scott borrowed a rototiller and tilled the clay-filled mud. Since we have had so much trouble keeping grass alive with the dogs tearing up the ground day after day, he was intent on doing it right this time. I thought that a new stepping-stone pathway from the driveway to the dogs' poop area would be just the thing to preserve the grass. All we needed to do was to lay the new path along the same route as the dogs already travelled. It was a great plan, but not one that we were able to stick to. In laying out the base for the path we forgot entirely about the dogs' usual route and instead dug a meandering trench faintly echoing the curves of the garden wall. We anchored weed barrier with rubber lawn edging and at the end of a long day the yard looked like so:

Eventually we purchased two dozen rolls of half-dead sod -- the only sod we could find mid-season -- and turned our yard into this:

We had rejected the idea of stepping stones, feeling that introducing yet another texture of stone into the yard would be an eyesore. Instead, we opted for smaller versions of the river rocks we had laid along the garage. Our yard then became this:

You may notice Montana, the main culprit in lawn destruction, gleefully trotting along beside the path in the photos above. Since their poop area is gravel, I had never imagined that the dogs would balk at walking on stones. But balk they did. They refused to set paw on the path, and as a result they began doing their business all over our new grass. To say that this displeased me would be an understatement. To say that Scott was fuming mad would also be an understatement. The next week found us taking turns walking the dogs back and forth along the new path. While they eventually got used to the feel of the river rocks and resumed using their poop area rather than the lawn, I am no longer foolishly harbouring the illusion that they will stick to the pathway at all times and cease to run muddy ruts into the lawn. For now, at least, the grass is thriving and the yard looks half decent:

This was a typical Scott-and-Jenni project: poorly thought out, done in numerous steps weeks apart, and involving several spats, streams of sweat and superfluous swearing. I can only imagine how painful a process our upcoming home renovations will be. All's well that end's well, however, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Even if our victories are only temporary.


ryssee said...

LOL I really did laugh out loud at this one. We're the same way, but we're far to lazy to even start such a big project.
It looks beautiful. I love the stones, and the new grass gives me hope that maybe I can have decent grass someday.
I love the planters along the fence. Did you guys do those too? I have an area that needs some raised planters.

Calamity Jen said...

Yes, we built the garden wall a few years ago. We had to hire a mason to cut and fit the cap pieces, but we did the rest ourselves. I only lost one toenail in the process!

Anonymous said...

Try hanging wallpaper together.

Calamity Jen said...

Please. We could get into an argument just hanging a picture.

Heather said...

I adore you. Did you know? LOL

Calamity Jen said...

The feeling is mutual!

Rob K said...

You guys have got a real sitcom going on here.

panda said...

It looks beautiful! It never ceases to amaze me what the dogs will/won't walk on, poop on, do, or eat.

I've seen some of the things they consider acceptable, so I KNOW they're not THAT picky!

panda said...

... and your yard looks absolutely gorgeous!

Anonymous said...

You and Scott have done it again. In spite of the problems the finished project is beautiful! I hope our path lokks as good when we get around to using your old stones.
Aside to my dear daughter the talented writer....isn't your title a little similar to saying "We've Got Cohones?"

Calamity Jen said...

You got the pun, Mom. Too crass? Nah, I didn't think so.

Thanks for the comments and compliments, everyone!

amelia said...

We have completely organized our yard for our dogs!
People think we're crazy but it makes for us being much happier because there's less mud!
Your yard looks as if there's less mud too!

Calamity Jen said...

Exactly, Amelia. I think this is the next big trend in niche marketing: canine landscaping.