Friday, March 11, 2011

Sidewalks to sanity

NOTE:  An update has been added at the end of this post.

A number of things were going on around here during my recent absence from blogging, one of which involved having sidewalks laid in my backyard to replace the troublesome stepping stones. My son-in-law and I had discussed this project last summer, and when I mentioned it again as a potential project for the upcoming spring, he called the concrete man to get him out here for an estimate. As it turned out, the concrete man said he'd be very busy this spring, but he would have time to begin our little project the very next day.

Backing up five and a half years, I'd had the stepping stones put in during the summer of 2005 in anticipation of Butch's eye surgery a month later. We wanted him to have time to familiarize himself with their layout before the surgery made him totally blind, so he'd have them as a navigational tool. They served their purpose, and they looked nice, didn't they?

The first problem was that it took constant weed-eating to keep them looking this way--weed-eating around each separate paving stone.

The second problem was that they were laid into the ground instead of on top of it, so if it rained, they filled with water and became totally useless except as landmarks for Butch.

And so the laying of the sidewalks began near the last week of January.

To replace the stepping stones that had run parallel to the back of the house (the ones that had long since been allowed to grow completely over with grass), we extended the patio by three feet and added a sidewalk adjacent to the house.

That sidewalk would extend all along the back to the side of the house, where it would meet up with another new sidewalk that would replace the stepping stones formerly leading from the gate to the garden shed.

As you can see in the photo above, we left the stepping stones from the patio to the garden shed alone. We haven't decided whether to let them grow over (probably) or use them to build up the area behind the shed.

Above is the freshly poured sidewalk as it appeared when we thought the job was done. The little square you can see in the new concrete on the right side of the picture (about a third of the way up) was left on purpose because I wanted a little area of dirt that I could stick a bird-feeder pole into. The pole used to be in the yard, but the yard was so boggy I didn't like wading in the mud to refill the feeders.

Moments after I took the photo above, it began to sprinkle, and the sprinkle turned into a severe rainstorm that lasted for hours. Little did we know that the gutters were stopped up with leaves, so the heavy rains poured off the roof and created a deep rut right down the middle of the fresh concrete. The concrete men, who had hurried to finish the job while knowing rain was expected, had to come back two days later to add more concrete and refinish the job.

That rain lasted for long periods over several days and nights, and, at the same time, the temperatures dropped into the low 20s. For four long days, while the rain damage and the rain itself kept the concrete from curing, I couldn't let the dogs go into the backyard. The first day I took them into the front yard one at a time on a leash. Then I realized there was one little place at the side edge of the old part of the patio, a place about a foot wide, where I could lead a dog on a leash and step out into the backyard. So that's what we did, one by one, over and over and over and over for days. 

I had to wear plastic overshoes, but they didn't actually fit over my shoes, so I wore them over my bare feet as I walked in the near-freezing water that stood in the yard. I also had to wear a scarf tied around my head (couldn't find my ski cap), knit gloves, and a full-length, heavy winter coat, with my mother's old plastic poncho over that. It was no fun for me to do that every time the dogs needed to go out, and it was no fun for them to wait for me to put all those clothes on. In fact, Kadi couldn't wait. Kadi was sick the entire four days. Sick with diarrhea.

Do you still wonder why I didn't feel like writing?

Finally, back to Butch. We'd been a bit concerned about how he'd handle the new sidewalks, and he was a little put off by them in the beginning. On the first day he encountered them, he behaved very much like a Roomba vacuum cleaner: each time his foot touched the edge of the sidewalk, he'd bounce back and go quickly in the opposite direction. With a little time, though, and a little assistance and encouragement while on a leash, he figured them out. He crosses the sidewalks easily now and has even cautiously walked the length of the one behind the house. 

The other dogs seem to enjoy the sidewalks and often use them instead of short-cutting through the grass or on the remaining stepping stones. I love them, too. Being able to keep my feet dry while going from the house to the shed has been nearly impossible in all the previous winters I've lived here.

I thought I'd lose my mind during those long days when the rainstorms and the fresh concrete kept me housebound with three stir-crazy dogs, but in hindsight it was worth it. Now, when I'm standing out there in the moonlight, high and dry, waiting for Butch to take care of his urgent, middle-of-the-night business, I feel like the queen of all I survey.

It amazes me how much a few yards of concrete have improved the quality of my life.

UPDATE (just for Patsy's amusement):

Even after the concrete was dry, the yard was so wet that I still had to take Levi out on a leash.  Butch and Kadi walked gingerly through the muck, but without the leash, Levi ran in leaps and bounds and covered himself with it.

At one point Levi yanked hard on the leash just as Butch darted right in front of me. I was standing on the corner of the patio, with the bird feeder pole right behind me, so there was nowhere for me to go except head first over Butch into the water/mud/dog$#!%. Fortunately, I wasn't hurt.  Between the heavy coat I was wearing and the boggy ground, it was sort of like falling onto a waterbed.

No harm but very foul!


  1. It is amazing how much a seeming small improvement can make you smile. So glad Butch adapted well!

  2. I think I WOULD have lost my mind! I'm glad it all turned out OK and that Butch is adapting. And that you can keep your feet dry!

  3. I wade wet grass, snow and everything dog drags home.

  4. Holly, I know. I think my son-in-law, who takes care of my lawn for me, is kicking himself because we didn't do this years ago.

    Janet, what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, right?

    Patsy, your comment made me think of something. I'm going to update this post just for you.

  5. Wow, it is really foreign to me to lay sidewalks at this time of year, considering where I live! But they look really nice, even though you had such a tough time waiting for them to cure.

    I can imagine what Levi would look like if he was off leash in a muddy yard, heh heh! Possibly the same as you did after you picked yourself up out of the boggy ground!

  6. Wow! Looks great. I'm glad that Butch adapted so well. He's a smart boy!

    Again with the timely word verification! This one is "pajoi" which I imagine is pronounced "paw joy," so that's what I'm thinking about your dogs (and your "paws" too) and the new sidewalk. :-)

  7. Marion, your image of Levi in the mud is exactly right. The good news is that he (so far) hasn't objected to a bath. In fact, a couple of times he has stepped into the bathtub just to sit there and look around.

    Duly Inspired, the idea of "paw joy" makes me happy!

  8. oh, I hope none of the neighbors was watching!

    How's the dog training class going?

  9. Janet, it was dark and raining hard, so I don't think anyone saw me. I would have bet money that I couldn't get up as quickly as I did after that fall.

    As for the training, Levi does wonderfully in class, but getting him in and out of PetSmart on a leash is a whole 'nother story.


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