No matter which way you slice it– by man-hours (235), weight (74,000 pounds), number of dumpsters (4), or amount of alcohol consumed in order to complete (numbers don’t go that high)– the clearing of the rubble pile from the side yard has been the largest single project I’ve ever attempted. (Short of pretty much building a house, of course, but that was really 150 smaller projects all aimed at the singular goal of no longer living in a garage, so… totally different story.)
When I bought this property a year and a half ago, this is what the pile looked like…
It took me two months to confirm there was actual ground under this thing, and it wasn’t just some landfill of barn debris that went to the center of the earth.
This is what the pile looked like on Saturday morning:
Here’s what it took to get to that point over the last eighteen months:
- A first (pathetic) attempt to start clearing out wood by hand right after I bought the place.
- A barn-burning party with half-a dozen helping hands (and Herbie the Bobcat) to stack and move pallets of brick.
- A lot of bonfires.
- Two weekends where I single-handedly filled a 30 yard dumpster with most of a barn. And bled a lot.
- Some organization.
- And unexpected need to clear out the barn for donkeys.
- Two more weekends of clearing trash out of the pile.
- More work inside the barn (thanks to my mom.)
- Help from my neighbor and his German exchange students.
And then the project took a back seat to all of the other things that needed to be done to keep the farm running this Summer. But when the first snow hit us last week, I knew the time was coming to revisit the rubble pile again.
You might ask why I would choose to tackle this kind of all-day outdoor project on a weekend when the nicest possible way you could describe the weather is “bitter-fucking-cold” and all normal and rational people are staying inside, hidden under the covers.
The pile, while in far better shape than it was originally, still consisted of a lot of piles of wood and block along with miscellaneous shit on the ground. Which is fine in the summer, but in the winter, with snow on the ground, it’s a huge hazard for my little dudes to walk around in.
So I did what needed to be done, layered on the long-underwear, carhartts, ridiculous hat, and rented Herbie again for the weekend…
Good news is, even though it takes an hour to start my diesel truck in the cold, that thing pulled the Bobcat like a champ. I love that truck.
So, this was basically my view for 14 hours this weekend…
I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before one or twice or a thousand times, but one of the many blessings of this property is actually just across the road… my neighbors.
They are amazing for a lot of reasons, mostly because they are just good people, but also because they’re always willing to lend a helping hand (without me asking, which is kind of a big deal because I’d rather take a rusty nail to the eyeball than ask for help most days.)
As soon as the neighbor saw me working on the pile with my rented equipment this weekend, he came right over to help out. His titles for the weekend include Chief Barn Organizer and Chief Spotter In Charge of Making Sure I Don’t Run Shit Over, and Chief Donkey Herder.
Seriously. When the donkeys made a break for it and ran into the neighboring corn field, he fired up one of his WWII jeeps and herded them back in with it…
What you cant’s see in this picture is 1.) the look of sheer panic on my face, and 2.) the fact that I’m holding two broken-off corn stalks trying to flag the donkeys in like they were jets landing on a runway.
Yeah. His way worked better.
And despite the donkey-herding interlude, at the end of Saturday, we had damn good progress…
Sunday the cat was all, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING OUT THERE. LET ME HELP.”
So I spent the morning re-stacking pallets of block, and the cat spent the morning doing this…
What are you doing, cat?
“HUMAN. OBVIOUSLY. I AM HELPING.”
Then, all of the sudden, this happened…
Again, for reference, this was a year ago…
Mind you, this didn’t come about like magic without a few sacrifices… like the sensation of feeling in any of my extremities, for example. Have I mentioned what the weather outside was like this weekend? Bitter. Fucking. Cold.
We periodically took breaks to warm up. This is what mine looked like…
I owe this space heater all of my fingers and a good portion of my sanity.
But it was worth it, because by the end of Sunday, every single pallet of brick and block was stored inside the barn, along with all of the barn wood that I salvaged.
(I’m not even sure why I’m posting a picture this shitty, but even in the fuzzy it’s-well-after-dark bluriness, this feels like progress that needs to be documented.)
Meanwhile, back in the pasture… after a good scraping, the “pile” looked like this:
As opposed to this…
You guys, in the scheme of things that need to get done around here… this is epic.
There’s still just a tiny bit of clean-up work to do (and a bonfire to light over the last scraps of wood we piled up, but for all intents and purposes the rubble pile is gone.
While I do my best to tell the day-to-day stories of my DIY projects and life on the farm, I’m not sure that I always capture those things that weigh on me long-term– things that I think about every time I walk out the door, feed the donkeys, enter or leave the property– but this has been one of them. It’s not glamorous, it doesn’t have a great “after” shot, it didn’t require a lot of skill to complete… this was brute force, help from some of the best people in my life, and an unrelenting belief that I could do this impossible thing.
And since it’s the season for this kind of thing, I’ll tell you that this is what I’m most grateful for: doing the impossible thing. When I hauled that first board off the pile, I didn’t really believe it could be done. But here I am.
Posts may be light this week as I recover from this weekend and prep for the holiday, but my Thanksgiving wish for all of you is the same. That you believe in yourselves, and, most of all, are grateful for all the amazing things you can do.