Monday, June 17, 2019

Dirt Ballet

I had hoped to provide this update on Friday, but then my computer up and died. Most irritating thing in the whole wide world. I'm only grateful I had all of my photos backed up. Sobbing a bit over the loss of my Lightroom catalog (which hadn't been backed up to my external HD in quite some time), but I will suffer that loss knowing I do at least have the photos and can re-edit as I need in the future! ...and you can bet'cha I'll be backing up ALL things more often in the future to try to mitigate any future technology failures. Ugh. Technology, I hate you and I love you.

At any rate, onto more fun topics!

Like the big hole that was dug in my yard last week!


It probably doesn't look dramatic to those who aren't as intimately familiar with the land as I am, but OMG. When they started digging down to grade it was quite a shock for me. I mean, I knew this would happen, but it was so different IRL. I just couldn't fully picture it in my head spatially prior to the initial cuts.

With each progressive scoop, my thought process was something like, "Shit, that's a lot of dirt. Shit. That's a lot of dirt! Shiiiiitttttt! That is so much dirt. OMG. There is no going back. This is a thing and it is happening."

But let's back up a little bit. Because one does not simply start digging dirt for such a project. At least not on a mountain in West Virginia where there are slopes and trees to contend with!

So, as I last updated, the excavator arrived on June 7 and got a jump start clearing trees:

Friday's progress

And while I was at work on Monday, they finished clearing the trees, sorted the trees into to-be-milled and to-be-firewood piles, ripped the stumps out, buried some stumps, and burned the remaining stumps and branches.

What I arrived home to on Monday
Welp, guess my trees are gone!
Smoldering remains
Trees used to obscure this view!
Right of center is the road bench I've discussed in the past. Trees used to line the uphill edge where I'm standing straight
toward the remaining trees visible in this image. I think we cleared a total of 20 trees for the project.
Gorgeous large cherry that will be milled for the interior of the stalls (I wear a size 7 glove for reference lol)
Another beautiful cherry
I sent this to the excavator with the caption: The direwolves have claimed the throne. Long live House Stark!
He loved it.

On Tuesday, they cleared off my top soil in preparation for the real earth moving to begin. 

Now, I know my development was once a 200-acre farm. And I know we've got some decent soil for a ridgetop. My neighbors lawns that are only mowed and not treated otherwise are LUSH. But watching my topsoil pile up as they separated it made me realize I don't just have decent topsoil. I've got some dank ass topsoil. No wonder the yards and pastures that remain on this ridgetop are so damn nice!

Look at that topsoil! LOOK AT IT. OMG.

Even the excavator noted to me how damn nice this stuff was. I don't think I'm going to have much extra, but if I do I plan to do a partial trade for my hay with it. The perks of buying hay from a landscaper! lol

Once the topsoil was cleared, they set up their surveying tools to figure out how much they'd need to excavate to reach grade. The answer? 7 feet.

That both sounded like a LOT and not much at all. I knew it would be okay in the end, but I definitely couldn't visualize what exactly the "end" was at this point! Fortunately, I trust my excavators completely and knew all would be fine whether or not I could imagine how it was going to end up.

And so, the dirt ballet began.

20190611 Barn Construction_38
Father in dozer, son in excavator, dirt ballet in progress.
20190611 Barn Construction_3920190611 Barn Construction_57

Repetitive scoop after scoop of the excavator and push and shove of the dozer proceeded as the father and son team expertly danced the machines around one another in a beautiful and powerful dance.

By the end of Tuesday, they were halfway done with excavation.

It doesn't seem like a big drop, but keep in mind that machinery isn't exactly little!
The dozer is basically sitting in the future barn.
The front of the operator seat and the arm/bucket are in the future dry lot
Because why not?
The sunset was really starting to glow. Never mind that the windchill was in the 30s later this night...
I had to! Still need to send this to the excavator lol
Friday afternoon, Monday night, and Tuesday night.

And by the end of Wednesday, things were looking really nice. I could not believe the change by the end of the day! It really came together beautifully.

Wednesday mid-morning
Wednesday at lunch
Wednesday evening
A Kenai for scale. 
Dekalb loam soil for anyone curious
Standing on the sculpted track down to the road bench looking toward the house. Still some topsoil left to spread up top!
Road bench incline down to the left. The bank in front of me in this photo will become a much gentler slope down into the
pasture when they finish.

It was so much easier to see how things would come together after they finished Wednesday. With the exception of a bit more earth sculpting where the dry lot will release into the far pasture, things with the earth moving are pretty much complete.

Despite being lucky with weather all week, the rain finally made an appearance on Thursday, prohibiting hopes of finishing that final bit of earth work or spreading gravel.

On Friday after it dried out a bit, they did manage to get one load of gravel dumped, but then they had to pull the dumptruck out of the site with the dozer due to the soft ground.

One load of stone...

As a result, they opted to finish spreading the stone Saturday morning.

Unloading the second load of stone in two piles for easier and more uniform spreading
Boom! That's gonna be my barn!!!!! Also, note the new lumber shipment lol

And that's where we left things at the start of the weekend.

The excavators will be back after their contracted duties are complete at my future office site in about 2 weeks. At that time, they will finish land sculpting, install the French drain, the trench for utilities, and complete my dry lot. In the mean time, Dave has a nice graveled spot to begin work on the barn!

My assignment this evening, other than oggling over whatever Dave has managed to accomplish will be to get the banks that won't be disturbed again seeded and mulched. Eee!

Can't wait to continue to watch things unfurl and provide y'all with an update soon.


  1. WOW! That's a helluva lot of progress! So cool to see the play by play!
    I'm sorry about your computer, but yes, having your pictures safe and secure is certainly a GREAT thing

  2. Wow! I love watching talented people work big machinery. Your look like they totally know what they're doing. And you've got that gorgeous stand of trees to shelter from the wind in one direction, and the land from the other. It's like you created your own little valley.

  3. Yeah! How exciting! Those guys sure are professionals - it takes a lot of skill to level and leave things all nice for the next step.

  4. So much excitement! I am so sorry about the laptop though.

  5. It's so cool that you'll be using wood from the cleared trees as part of the construction! It's both cool and unnerving to see them clearing the land like this. Eek! It will be worth it when that barn is up though!

  6. This process is fascinating. How cool to watch the barn go up from scratch! I love the GOT reference.

  7. They accomplished a lot in a short time. Your top soil is to die for. Wow!

  8. I am SUPER jealous of your dirt. That is all. ;)

  9. so cool all those photos. So neat you will have a barn very soon :) How exciting! and 30s at nite. SWOON

  10. oh man, the excitement is palpable :D

  11. This is super cool. Thanks for sharing your dirt!

  12. That is so fabulous!! I am so excited for you!!