Barn Burning: Big Progress

Before I tell you about the impressive bit of work that got done on Saturday, I have to admit something. This weekend… I fell in love.

I know you’ve heard me say this before about my nailer, my drill, basically every other tool in my arsenal, but I swear my fickle, fickle heart has finally found “the one.”


Meet Herbie.

He’s cute, he’s strong, he takes care off all the heavy lifting, and he lets me drive. What more could a girl want?


My mom kept referring to him as “the little guy” all day, and finally decided he needed a name. This, by the way, is what you do when you spend six straight hours re-stacking bricks. Name the heavy equipment.

The plan for Saturday was simple: pick up Herbie,  make as much progress on the rubble pile as possible, then burn some stuff.

Here’s what the rubble pile looked like before:


It was one of those pesky little tasks noted in the appraisal that needs to be taken care of before I get my money out of escrow. I’m not thrilled about being told what to do on my own house, but it is good motivation to take care of something that feels suspiciously like cleaning and therefore might have taken me years to get around to.

My mom and I actually started digging around in this pile back when we were in hat-and-long-johns weather and made exactly zero progress.


You may have guessed this by the title of the blog, but I’m not great at asking for help, or even accepting it when it’s offered. When I bought this house one of the things I told myself was that if someone offered to help, I would make a concerted effort actually take them up on that offer, since, um, there are still 170 items to check off my list and much to my dismay I’m not getting any younger. It occurred to me that tackling the rubble pile would be a great project to have extra hands on, so I invited anyone who had ever offered to help with the house to come stack a few bricks.

Unfortunately the day started off with rain, so my mom and I–never afraid of getting dirty–put in a few hours on our own first. By which I mean, we hand-stacked enough pallets of brick to build a small cottage.


It was an awesome mess.


Luckily we had some reinforcements show up before the end of the day. Special thanks to everyone who showed up to help!

By the end of the day the pile in the barn looked like this:


I only had one little incident with the Bobcat.



In what feels like another life I used to manage a plant that made concrete blocks just like these so I have more experience than the average bear at hauling cubes of block around on a forklift, which may have been to my detriment since the controls on a forklift are exactly opposite of the controls on a Bobcat. So. This was not my crowning achievement of the day and I’ll be restacking those as penance later this week.

The exciting this is that what used to look like this:


Now looks like this


We got through at least half the pile, which is completely amazing. And to celebrate our success, we lit things on fire!

By “things” I mostly mean a pile of barn bits.

Using Herbie was by far the easiest way to get wood to the fire ever, and may have been a little too efficient, since that fire was not conducive to marshmallow roasting.


This worked if you didn’t mind feeling like your face was going to singe off, but fear not, we’d uncovered some masonry reinforcement in the rubble pile, which I did have some use for after all…


I don’t know why as humans we’ll drop a piece of food on a spotless kitchen floor (not that mine ever is) and then refuse to eat it, but pop a couple of mallows on a piece of metal that’s been sitting in a rubble pile for god knows how long and we can’t wait to shove those things in our faces. Don’t worry, we stuck it in the fire for a few minutes first to sterilize it and nobody died.

The sad thing is that I had to take Herbie back on Sunday, but guys– I gotta get me one of them. I think I might almost rather have a Bobcat than a tractor. Right? I just lost some of my country cred, but they are just way too fun to drive.

As far as the rubble pile goes, there’s still one big trouble area left to tackle.


But made enough progress that I think I can sort out the rest of the block and salvageable wood over the next few weeks and then hopefully Herbie and I will be reunited for a short tryst to get the rest of the block in the barn.

What I’m going to do with this huge crumbling concrete pad is a whole other story…


However, I’m not going to worry about it for the moment since I’ve got the next couple of days off work and the freedom to tackle a number of projects on my list. Feel free to assume anything you read on this website in the next 48 hours will have been written here, with a glass of sangria in my hand.


9 Responses

  1. What are those holes in the bricks for? Do they serve a purpose, or decorative?

    I see a jackhammer in your future…

  2. Wow! Progress in incredible! Kudos to all of you. Hmmmm….cement pad = landing pad for a helicopter -the next big toy after Herbie?

  3. My brother rented a bobcat a few years ago for a project I was helping him with. Never even got a chance to drive it but SO have always wanted to. They look like SO much fun! Was bummed when we loaded it on the trailer at the end of the day and I hadn’t even gotten in the seat! Oh well.

    Do you have plans for all that brick? Looks pretty clean and usable! Good progress feels good uh? I got the metal cover off my patio this weekend and the framing painted. Its all about extra light in the house and loving it!

  4. Looks like you made a lot of awesome progress!

    Bobcats are can be handy to have. My father in-law has one that we can borrow when we need it but honestly it mostly just sits around unused. The problem is you need a lot of “stuff” to own one. You need a big multi-axle trailer and a full size truck to tow it around. Some people like to think they can get away with not having that but when it breaks they are stuck not being able to haul it somewhere to get fixed. They are good for construction site type work but won’t be as useful as a tractor when it comes to outdoor country work. A tractor can mow your field and do the heavy lifting. Granted it’s bigger and not able to move around inside the outbuildings but I’m thinking the majority of your work will be outside.

  5. Wow, wow, WOW! Debris my a–! Is that the pile she called debris?? That is what I call “value added”!! Those bricks are GREAT!
    Hooray for Herbie! Such a time and back saver.
    I just arrived today at my house in Oregon for 6 weeks vacation…I think tomorrow I will need a detailed list like yours. Thanks for the template. Living and working away from home I had completely forgotten what two years away can do…from spiderwebs to weeds, pond scum to DUST a foot thick. But if you can tackle that property plumbing and all, I can probably get through 6 weeks of maintenance and upkeep. I love the wine/laptop picture for inspiration… onward and upward! Those who are about to dive in rake first salute you! Good job!!

  6. The work you all did in the yard looks great! You accomplished a lot with that little Bobcat. The bonfire also looks like a fun way of getting rid of what you didn’t need.

  7. Yes, yes, you must get one of these for yourself!! We bought a bobcat a couple of weeks ago and it’s the BEST…and our entire lot would fit under just one of your barns so if we can rationalize it, so can you 🙂

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I'm not interested in a mediocre life. I'm here to kick ass or die.