As predicted, pie day did not happen.
It was walk day instead.
I say day, but of course I had to work all day, and got home at 4:15 with about half an hour of daylight left. I’d warned Morgan by phone what we were going to do, and as predicted, he wasn’t thrilled. But I got him to work raking away the few leaves and digging up the old flagstones while I got changed. Then we set to digging. I marked it out with a flat bladed shovel and we started pulling up the sod. That was the easy part. Because under that was clay. Clay so thick and solid it felt like rock when we hit it with a shovel. Thank goodness we didn’t have to get too deep or it would have been a nightmare. As it was, Morgan had no patience for it and ended up melting down trying to dig it up. We got to have a shouting match there on the front steps. It’s times like that that I’m reminded forcefully that he is still a teenager, even if it’s only for a few more months.
The biggest problem we ran into was actually a really old one. 100 years old, to be precise. You see, when our house was originally built, it had had a wrought iron fence around it. There were still bits and pieces of it lingering when we moved in, but not enough to even be called a fence anymore. I knew it went along the side of the house, but I hadn’t realized it went along the front. So when we hit the base for the gatepost, I thought initially it was some pipe valve I hadn’t known about. Morgan came up with the explanation, and I figured he must be right. As we got the rest of the base level, I started trying to dig it out. Got about three feet down and tried giving it a couple of kicks, but that sucker wasn’t moving. So I’m adjusting the whole shebang over 4 inches, and we’ll just bury it again. Or something.
By then it was dark, Morgan was unbearable, our shoes were caked in clay, and we were done. I roped the hole off so no one would fall in and we called it a night. I took Hero to colorguard and made dinner, fought with Xander over homework, picked Hero up and crashed. A typical Monday night.
But I did get a little Thanksgiving prep done. This year I decided to try dry brining my turkey. I don’t have room in my fridge or my life for wet brining, no matter how wonderful it may make the turkey. But a couple of weeks ago I found instructions for doing a dry brine. These call for the turkey to be thawed, and mine never thaws in time, but fortunately it links to permission to do it frozen as well. Making do with what I had in my cupboard, and in the spirit of the season, I mixed 1/4 cup of kosher salt with 2 tablespoons of poultry seasoning and half a tablespoon of pepper and rubbed it all over that sucker. It was still too frozen to get any inside, so I’ll do that when it goes in to roast. It looks a little…green at the moment.
This bad boy will now sit in the fridge until Thursday morning, soaking all the flavors in and drying out a little bit. Then Thursday around 9 it goes in the oven for 4 hours with nothing more than olive oil and butter. Looking forward to it!
This morning, I got up bright and early (well, 6:15), got the kids up and went outside to do the next phase. 8 bags of paver base and a cinder block to tamp it all down, and you get the picture above. That took me about half an hour. So so far, total time for actual execution of this project = an hour and 15 minutes. Keep that in mind the next time you think you don’t have time to do something.
At work I found my spatial relations skills failing me, so I printed out some graph paper and during lunch sketched out the design for the brickwork layout.
Simple, and the squares are stamped with a cobblestone look, so I think it will look nice. I still have a pile of bricks from when the borough pulled up our brick sidewalk 12 years ago, so I wanted to incorporate as many of those into this as I could. I also have a cement brick making kit that you can put words into the bricks with, so that may be a summer project, to replace some of the bricks with words.
I slipped out of work a little early so I could get started and have a little extra sunlight time. The sand went down FAST, although three of the bags were soaked, making it a little harder to level it out. I just took a board edge and went over it just like planing the sides of a sandcastle. Then I picked over the old bricks and started laying them out according to the plan. First problem: It was about two inches too wide, meaning I had to incorporate the fence post into the brickwork. Okay. Found a couple of broken ones that fit either side. I could fill in the gap with dirt and sand, maybe get something low to grow in there. It took about fifteen minutes to get everything laid out, and it was all going beautifully until I got to the last row by the steps. I was about half an inch too small. The bricks wouldn’t fit if I laid them flat, but if I put them on edge, they’d be too skinny. So I shoved some in, lifted the last square paver up to make an angle with them, and then stomped them flat. It worked! It was just enough to force everything closer together and make it fit. It wasn’t elegant, but it was done.
I had a bag of garden soil left from the garden, so I shoveled that in around the edges rather than mess with that godawful clay. Then I dumped half a bag of the remaining sand on top and swept it into all the joins. Again, whole thing took me maybe an hour. And in the end, I had…
Looks like it’s always been there, doesn’t it? I think the older bricks help. It’s far from perfect. It’s not quite level, and it bows towards the middle instead of the edges. But it’s so much better than what was there, and I think suits the character of the house and the family that lives in it. And now I have even more motivation to replace those ugly steps come spring! They’ve needed it for about 5 years.
So that’s it. Done just in time for the first snowpocalypse of the year. Oh, and Thanksgiving. But that’s okay. It will be easier to shovel.