Sunday, July 10, 2011

Portal to Hell No More

When I bought my house two years ago, there was this big, weird rectangular indentation in the back yard.

Along the edges of it were stone walls, and at one end it opened up where a door would be, and there were metal pipes nearby that the lawnmower would hit, which made a horrible awful sound.

No one-- the seller, the neighbors, the seller's realtor, my realtor-- knew what it was. Theories included an old greenhouse, barn, garden, bomb shelter. I thought it might be an alien landing pad, or an Indian burial ground, but then I decided it was just a generic Portal to Hell.

Whatever it was, it had been filled in, and then settled, so that now there was a big old indention in my back yard. For two years it sat on my list of house projects to fill it in.

Last week I made it happen.

First I needed a shit-ton of dirt. My landscape consultant, Peter, priced around and told me to order "8 yards" of it from our dirt guy.

A big dump truck dropped off 8 yards of pulverized processed topsoil, which looks like this:

AKA, a shit-ton. On the receipt it says "Sterling Dump." I don't know what this refers to-- the place it came from, the type of dump truck, the method by which the dirt was created-- but I really like that phrase.

I never realized when I bought my house that I'd be concerned with the price of dirt, but this mound of premium fertile Midwestern soil cost me $191.20. And I was excited about it-- another thing I never thought I'd be capable of before I owned a home.

Here's what the Portal to Hell looked like just before the project:

The plan was to remove the grass sod, lay it aside, fill in the hole, then cover it back up with the sod. About three hours into the project, we'd removed a lot of the sod:

And laid it aside on tarp:

It took us about four hours to get all the sod up.

We unearthed many artifacts (click on photo for larger view.)

Pieces of cinder, glass bottles, clay pipes, light bulbs, a blue plastic knife, plastic bags, a rubber O-ring, big stone slates. No human bones, though. The demons must have already feasted on those.

Now the fun part started. Moving the dirt from the big mound on my driveway back to the Portal. This was my favorite part of the project. I really wish I'd counted how many wheelbarrow loads it took. My guess is about 50. Here's the pile when we were about halfway done:

Two wheelbarrows: one red and one green. To make it festive.

We dumped the dirt into the hole.

The last load:

Swells of dirt, like a mountain chain:

Then we smoothed it out:

The last step was the most boring, difficult, and tedious. We had to take all the sod pieces...

and put them back over the dirt. It was like putting together a huge, filthy puzzle. Under a hot sun.

I took a picture of our progress once an hour:

The shadow from the house moved across the yard, making pics difficult. But as these time-lapse photos attest, it took at least four hours to finish this part. All that was left at this point was the very back edge:

There was some dirt left over from the sod pieces, so I dumped it in the corner and created Mount Tim. I will use this dirt to fill in any holes as they appear.

It looks bigger live

The last step is to drench the Portal so that the grass transplant takes.

We were lucky that it didn't rain at all during the three days we worked on this project. Moving wet dirt (aka mud) would have made it a real mess, and more difficult.

However, since I've finished this project, we haven't gotten any rain. One of the few times in my life when I would WELCOME rain-- where it wouldn't just ruin tennis plans or outdoor fun-- and it won't come. I've been watering the Portal day and night all week. I can't imagine what my water bill is going to be this month. (Yes, I know: First World Problem.)

I love the idea of all the grass and mud pieces fusing back together into one teeming mass of roots, soil, and life. I'm really eager to see what it will look like in 2 or 3 months. Will there be any evidence that the Portal was ever there?

But I'm not too concerned. If I learned anything from Jurassic Park, it's that life will find a way.

Eventually, something will grow there.


Gamera said...

Zombie grass.

Tim said...

Yes! Exactly!

Jolene said...

wow, nicely done. I am sweating just thinking about doing that project. No thank you ;-)