Ever since we moved into our lovely property in 2019, we have wanted to make a change to the paving in our backyard. A wide expanse of large off white paving stones covered the area from our kitchen to the entertainment area several metres away. It made for a very bright, very hot, very harsh view out of the kitchen and dining room. The cats loved sunning themselves on it, but we didn’t.
Working through the variables
Three years later and we had worked through the variables to the point that we were ready to make the change. When we say we had worked through the variables, we mean we had worked through the variables. Lots of them.
Friends who are architects had inspired us to bring some greenery into the space. Initially we were going to construct a pergola across the paved area and have creepers growing over it. On consideration we realised that it would potentially block out our view to the sky and our diving man, a sculpture fixed to the wall above the outside buildings. No, that wouldn’t do.
Then we were going to plant a few trees to bring in shade. Again the concern was that they may grow too tall and obstruct the view of the sky and the diving man. Choices, choices. We also wanted something that we could do. Nothing too major. So we brought in a landscaping friend who considered our options and sketched out something we could consider. It looked feasible.
Mapping the way
Not wanting to make a mistake with the moving of the heavy paving pieces we cut out grocery paper bags into the shapes and sizes of individual paving stones and laid them out as a map of how we saw it working.
We live in a part of the world where we really only have wind when a storm is coming, but suddenly we had wind. Gusts of wind. All afternoon. Wind that felt playful and whipped the bags around regardless of the rocks weighing them down. We didn’t want to play.
Building small towers
We ummed and ahhed and moved the bags about. We debated and argued and eventually came to a place of agreement. Yup, we think it is going to look pretty good. Matthew marked the stones to be lifted with chalk and we were ready to start.
Clive, our hardworking maintenance and garden man painstakingly levered up the heavy blocks making small towers of them along the side we were keeping paved. Underneath was river sand. Once all the marked pavers had been lifted Clive cleared away two cubic metres of river sand to reveal a solid slasto paving underneath. That 70’s delight that was used for paving everything.
Bigger, badder, louder stuff
Oh dear. We planned to plant grass in the open areas now we would have to drill through that slasto so that the water could drain away and not form a grassy marsh. Matthew tried a DIY approach but even his SDS masonry drill was just not cut out for the job. This required bigger, badder, louder stuff. And an extra person to help Clive.
Thanks to the engaged, friendly and helpful owner and staff at our local tool-hire shop, Talisman, we were sorted with the right equipment. One jack hammer, one large masonry drill that could drill through the walls of a French chateau and we were back in action. Loud, messy, dusty, cement and slasto piles of action. The neighbours were not amused.
We are still busy with the project, of course, but the heavy work of clearing the slasto and concrete it was embedded in has been done. We hope. In the meantime Matthew is having stern, and very loud, words with the hadedas who think we have laid on a buffet for them in the newly laid compost filled soil.
Every so often I get jerked from my peace and concentration by a man diving outside, arms waving in wild circles, baying and swearing to scattering birds squawking in fright. Notwithstanding his vigorous and stealthy guard, Matthew is having as much success as King Canute did with the tide.
The detours and the delays
Whenever we embark on a project, it often feels like it never goes in a straight line. No zero to the finish line in under 10 seconds. No zero to 60mph in two revs. No, it’s start – stop – start again – jump to the left – step to the right – turn around – do the hokey – you know what we mean. If you have done renovations or any building you will understand the detours, the delays and the unplanned for additional expenses that pop up at the most inconvenient times.
We are grateful, it could have been worse. Somehow. We are not thinking of how. But we are sure it could have. We were gifted with soil that we didn’t know we would need. Now we do. It is going to look magnificent when it is finished.
The experience has reminded us that life is not a straight line. It is more often a journey of many detours, missed opportunities, some lucky breaks and the odd bumpy landing in some foreign land.
Knowing what it is you want, is a great start, but even when the goal is clear and the determination to succeed strong, there will be setbacks, disappointments, and failures. Flexibility, patience, and resilience are useful companions. As is a sense of humour and a way to restore depleted energy resources. It also helps to have a supportive practice in Shape of Emotion that has built our emotional fitness so that we have been able to meet these challenges resourcefully.
We look forward to showing you the end product, the transformation of our backyard. We are not quite sure when that will be but as we said, patience is a requirement with these endeavours.
About the author
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