The Good, the Bad, and the Part Where I Cry over Concrete Anchors

Soooo… weekends. If it feels the first post of the week lately has felt a little bipolar… uh… yeah, I also feel that way pretty much every minute of every weekend. Spring is a hard time of year on the farm, because there’s basically a 3 week window between the time when it stops snowing and the time everything needs to be planted. And if we’re going to be honest here, I still have some cucumbers and tomatoes that aren’t in the ground yet…

Also, something has eaten all of my lettuce, chard, and cilantro because I haven’t managed to get the missing sections of my garden fence up yet.

All of which is probably beside the point of this post, but these types of things start to wear on you after a while, and the truth is that I’m away from the farm 10-11 hours at a time during the week, so most of this work has to get done on the weekends. God help you if you’re a person who suggests maybe I do something social on Saturday that doesn’t include a twenty-pound box of deck screws and all of the drills that I own.


This is what my social life looks like, guys.

Okay, so I decided my sole focus of the weekend was going to be getting one damn thing done on the farm. Just one. And I picked this fence around the propane tank because it really wasn’t as properly secured as it probably should have been. BUT, since I bought an awesome new tool the last time I lost my shit over this fence, I thought getting it straightened out and installing the gate would be a breeze.


Do I really need to cue the ominous music here?

Let’s just say the “anchoring” portion of the days activities did not go as planned. I mean, the drill worked beautifully, but I’d be hard pressed to use another Red Head concrete anchor if my life depended on it. At the end of a couple of hours I had two bloody knuckles and three anchors stuck uselessly but immovably in my concrete pad. I was sopissed.

And I was thinking about how much I hadn’t gotten done already. And how much time it would cost me to go back to the hardware store and get different anchors. And why the fuck the anchors I bought wouldn’t just work properly. And I hit those anchors with a hammer a lot of times just to vent some of my frustration, which, oddly, did not help. Hitting things with a hammer usually is a surefire way to make me feel better about life, but this time I flopped down in the garage to “take a break” and made my angry face for a while.


I know, you’re like, um, did you totally just selfie yourself crying over concrete anchors? YES. Yes I did.

The interesting thing about telling stories about your projects on the internet for a decade is that even when things are going way, way wrong, there’s a part of your brain that recognizes, hey, this is a moment… like a real, unfiltered moment of Shit Not Going Well, and as much as I love building things and fixing up my farm, these moments happen to me too.

They are fucking ridiculous moments you guys. I’m not downplaying my emotion or frustration, those are real legitimate feelings. They are also things I’ll make fun of myself for twenty minutes later when I’ve dusted myself off and gotten back to work, because if there’s one thing I know about myself it’s that all the frustration in the world doesn’t hold a candle to that awesome feeling of doing something I didn’t think I could do.


I created a slightly hacked– but also functional– support system for my leaning fence. (There might have been beer involved at that point.)


I also added some supports because those boards were getting wonky over a ten foot unsupported span. And it straightened everything right up.


Of course, in the spirit of not being able to do one thing right this weekend, I did manage to trip backwards and trap my leg under a seventy-pound piece of fence at one point…


That happened.

But once you’ve cried over anchor bolts, shit like this is just funny. Don’t worry, I’ve been lifting the big-kid weights lately, so I managed to extract myself with all limbs mostly intact.

And after that horrendous progress, I decided come hell or high water (or more tears) I was going to get the damn gate built for the fence. So I set up a temporary workspace in the driveway…


To build the gate I laid out all the pieces, some of which warped since they were sitting outside for over a week–don’t do that– and required a little creative straightening…


The gate consists of boards that are evenly spaced like the fence boards, two side braces (2×4’s) and one cross brace…


This is how I handle cutting cross braces. Lay the 2×4 across the assembled fence and mark the angles with a… crayon?


Yeah, that’s right. I still play with crayons because I flat-out refuse to grow up. (Also one of my good friends got these for me for my birthday and they are super handy. Crayons from Lowe’s… who knew?)

So, the tricky part about this whole thing was that I built a gate in my driveway that weighed–as far as I can tell– somewhere between one-hundred-and-twenty and four-million pounds. But, as you can imagine, I had quite enough frustrated energy to heave this thing on to my back and walk it– awkward-turtle-like– to the fence.


I’m not going to say that was “no problem” but I will say that it got done, and that’s what counts.

I already attached the most industrial-sized gate hinges I could find while the gate was on the ground, so installing it became a matter of figuring out how to prop it up and keep it steady while screwed them in place on the 4×4. Naturally, I used a garden arbor.


One day I will write a book called “Using Garden Implements to Avoid Being Crushed to Death by an Oversized Gate”… bestseller material.


But I’ll be dammed if it didn’t work.

Last step was adding the short fence pieces on the left to match the gate…


And, of course, I ran out of wood to finish the 16″ section to the right of the gate…


So after all of that, I can’t even check this damn thing off my list. But I’m close.

One more afternoon sinking the final two posts, shoring up the gate, and trimming the 4×4’s, then giving the front a coat of stain, and this one will be officially done.

And I have to say, tears or no, it’s totally worth it not to be looking at this anymore…


That’s the raw, unfiltered version of Shit Not Going Well, and it happens to me too. The reason I push through those moments is because they are nothing, nothing compared to that feeling I get when I do something I didn’t think I could do.


18 Responses

  1. When you get to the point you feel you are just now getting ahead you are coming to the sad end of this race…Breath-in-and-out, laugh a little, revel in the amazing amount you have gotten done. If all that fails just remind yourself you are just a temporary guest here.

  2. As frustrated as you were in the post, I loved reading every bit of it. It also made me feel not-so-lame in resorting to beer to get me through certain projects gone awry 🙂 Hang in there. Nothing feels better than finishing a project.

  3. If I don’t hear myself in every word, I don’t know what. Sometimes I tell myself I can only do what I can do – but I don’t really accept that. Shit happens. A five minute pity party followed by some beer ensues. Tomorrow is another day.

    And I will finish levelling and concreting my kitchen floor this week 😉

  4. LOL…Beers and Tears, manipulating brain chemistry when it’s most needed.

    So why didn’t the anchors work?
    What kind did finally work?

    1. It’s hard to say. The way it’s supposed to work is that you bang it into the concrete and then turn the nut on top to expand the anchor and tighten everything down. I had three anchors that would just spin in the damn hole BUT were not loose enough to actually remove from the hole, even though I’m using the recommended size bit and depth. Two anchors worked just fine. I finally went back and bought the sleve style anchors and had more luck with them.

  5. Crops gone missing is MY emotional breakdown trigger. Currently putting up a huge fence to hopefully prevent said scenario. Nice work, hope the garden fencing involves a little less character building.

  6. Thanks for a few laughs to start off my Tuesday 🙂 you are a superhero and I’m sooooo jealous 🙂

  7. I can’t tell you how much this post resonates with me. I have been there done that and eventually made it through. Way to keep going and push through and get it done!

  8. No matter what the package reads, concrete anchors and/or screws = tears. Every time.

  9. Seems you were writing about a bunch of us! The enclosure looks great and well worth the beer & tears!

  10. Like everyone else, I can’t tell you how many times I have been frustrated to tears on a project.

    (I love how you took a picture after falling over the fence. I SO would have done that myself.)

  11. Fencing has always been the bane of my existence. I am getting ready to do a project very similar to yours, and I was unsure of digging holes at the corners or attaching to the concrete… now I am glad I decided to go with the post holes.

    Luckily not much grows near my concrete there, so there won’t be much trouble with weeds for me. For yours though, I bet you will be glad you dealt with all those anchors when the weeds grow up and not into your fence.

  12. If you ever find yourself trapped under one of your weekend projects, call 911 first, then take the selfie.

  13. What impresses me so much about you is that when things go horribly wrong, you take a bit of time to acknowledge your feelings about it, but don’t wallow. Then you brush yourself off, move on, and learn from it! Not everyone knows how to do that. Keep on going, Kit. You are such a strong woman, and I enjoy learning from you!

  14. I don’t care what you say. Hitting things does help and I will continue to do so when things go wrong.

    By the way, your fence looks great! It a big improvement over the old view.

  15. Soooo, if it isn’t difficult, it’s not worth doing. I can’t tell you how many times my husband and I have struggled through similar situations. But, that is exactly why you, and we, are successful. This is why we prevail at our home, and are successful in our business. Your get it done, take no prisoners, I will not fail attitude will see you through these days. You know that. This is not your first day on the job, nor your last. Keep up the good work. You are an inspiration for the newbie, and, let us all know that we are not alone out there. We all run out of materials, get trapped under fences, work until you can hardly see what you are working on. It’s the American spirit and drive that makes us what we all are. I’m so impressed by you daily. I only wish you posted daily. (Relax, I know you hold a full time job. Just love hearing what you accomplish!). Hang in there!

  16. Thanks for always being so honest and sharing the tough times and the good. ^_^ It is so comforting to know that even someone as awesome and experienced as you get stuck and frustrated.

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