Dirt Day

Friday was “Dirt Day” I joked with my kids. It was the day I had hired my “regular” backhoe guy to move the piles of fill dirt that I have been acquiring over the last few months. Why you ask… I will get there, but maybe first some background.

I live the county, have 7 acres of land and no HOA, so I am generally on my own if I need to clear some brush, fix some erosion, etc. At my previous house I had used excavator services to expand our front parking, add some RV parking and extend our back yard. It can be transformational, adding improved flow, utility or even landscape features. Our current home we designed and had a general contractor build. I left a lot of the landscaping for myself, hiring designers or other professionals when I am out of my depth. While I would not quite call it a hobby, it is fun to think about a space, devise a plan and see if all come together.

Anyway, my house is built on a hill and has a very steep driveway. When the builder originally put in the driveway, it was bad… super steep and too close to the house. I had my “backhoe” guy come out and make some changes… then I made some more changes… finally I settled on layout that had a nice wide parking areas. I was not particularly happy with it, but given the steepness I need to pave it. There were a lot of other things going on at the time, and not to mention my budget was getting low.

That brings us to the current situation…most of my other major house projects are done. I have a great backyard, detached garage and recently a new workshop. I am pretty happy with everything, but the front drive, front parking and front landscaping. So I have decide to do something about it, using fill dirt to push out the drive and then have a switch back to a parking area directly in front of the house.

My plan is to approach it like iterative software development. While I have a target state in mind, I will take a cautious phased approach. Before I start tearing up any asphalt I am going to get the fill dirt to “try out” a new drive approach. If that goes well I will continue and if it doesn’t I can adjust.

And so that was Dirt Day. I spent a good part of the day watering down dust and improving soil moisture for compaction. My 20 loads of fill dirt have become a new drive. Right now the edge is too steep, and it is too narrow, but I can see potential. Next Dirt Day we can drop the level a bit and widen the drive.

If I had to boil this all down to a few insights:

  • Don’t underestimate the impact of sculpting your land. Creating a new area, adding a path, etc can often be a very impactful change. So rather than a $2k new patio furniture set, find a place for a garden.
  • Don’t be afraid to iterate. Try something and know that it can be undone or changed in the future.

There are a few things I did not mention:

  • My neighbors probably think I am crazy. I get some questions, or cars slowing out front. I respect that what I do to my house impacts what they have to look at and ultimately their home values… at the same time there is a reason we all don’t have an HOA.
  • I do hate to harm the native plants, or have to uproot a tree that I planted 5 years ago.

I guess that sums it up. I need to go assess my driveway slope and ponder what I will do in the next phase of the Front Driveway Project.