Monday, April 2, 2012

A Cunning Scheme: Day 1

With the completion of Mulch Madness and the Yard Reclamation Project, I turned my royal attention to a new scheme. A cunning scheme! And like the best of schemes, this one started out at the local quarry.

Quarry in the middle of town. Why not?

Ah, Sislers Stone, I am totally shilling for you. How can I not, what with my rock fetish and all? And how many people are lucky enough to have a stone yard not a mile from their suburban house? Especially when their newest hare-brained... I mean, cunning scheme is to build their very own dry creek bed full of rocks?

Yes, Mulch Boy and I have decided to build our very own dry creek bed. It will be (hopefully) ornamental (and of course rocktastic), but more importantly it will (hopefully) serve as a drain to channel water away from our house and basement (completely flooded the last two summers, causing our insurance company to drop us like a hot potato).

As with so many things these days, the Internet is largely responsible for our decision to attempt this grandiose (for us, at least) project. Go ahead, Google "dry creek bed" and check out all the nifty step-by-step instructions--with photos!--that make building a dry creek bed look easily doable even for two rank amateurs making it up as they go along. (For anyone who actually IS interested, I can post the specific articles I've found most useful so far.)

We began The Dry Creek Project (TDCP), as I mentioned above, with Step 1: a visit to our local quarry and stone yard. Using a crazy new strategy of common sense and taking things one step at a time, we went with a single purpose, and that was to hand-select some bigger rocks to serve as focal points at various locations along the stream-to-be. All the instructions I read emphasize that spacing larger stones along the creek bed's borders creates a more natural look, while also helping to channel the water, especially at bends in the creek bed. Thus an hour or so was spent among the West Virginia boulder pile picking out these lovelies.

Oh rocks. You are so great.

Step 2 is where things started getting... a little difficult. None of which was the fault of the fine folks at the local tool rental place, conveniently located right next door to Sislers.

I'm shilling for Ace Tool Rental, too, because even though they don't sell rocks, they are incredibly nice and helpful, and I like to support our local businesses. This is where we rented the sodbuster those times, and now where we rented this:

Rototiller of EVIL.
No doubt in the right hands and in the right conditions, a rototiller is a wonderful tool, making short work of long, tedious tasks. We certainly had high hopes that it would do half the job for us in terms of loosening all the dirt and clay in our creek-bed-to-be so that it would simply be a matter of us blithely and easily removing the loose dirt with our shovels.

What we didn't take into account was that the ground where we want to dig is alternately hard clay and sticky mud (kind of the reason we need the creek bed). Thus the rototiller alternated between struggling to bite into the hard clay and sinking helplessly into the mire.

(Mulch Boy sharing some colorul language
with the rototiller not pictured.)

After an hour of struggle, Mulch Boy had had enough, and we carted the rototiller back up to Ace. (No, I didn't try to use it myself; the Queen is afraid of gas-powered tools.) While we were disappointed in the thing, the rototiller did loosen up some of the soil, better in some spots than others, so it wasn't a completely wasted effort.


We got out Forky III and Forky Jr. and started loosening. And once done with that, we started The Digging. We decided to start on opposite ends of the trench, with the goal to meet in the middle a la the Transcontinental Railway.

I started on this end, sitting on the ground
and digging with my favorite trowel.
About six feet so far!
Mulch Boy unearths a railroad tie.
Charlie and Rosie provide their usual assistance.

At the end of the day (and total three hours labor), we were surprised to find that we had finished about a third of the trench--2 feet wide and 5 to 8 inches deep!


  1. What a project! Best of luck to you.

    I didn't know of that stone place. You're shilling worked - I'm going to head over there this week to look at stone for my own upcoming crazy scheme.

  2. Ooo, good for you! Sislers is fun: you weigh your car, then drive down the hill to all the rocks, fill up your vehicle, then go get your car reweighed and pay!

  3. Good work out there digging! A RR tie? Why was it buried there? Can't wait to see all those rocks in place.

  4. Hi, Sherlock! We are equally as puzzled by the railroad tie. I wonder if we can think of anything creative to do with it... Three tons (!) of rocks arriving in the driveway today!!