Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links, which means I may make a commission if you decide to make a purchase through one of my links, at no cost to you.
Disclaimer: So many, many thanks to Compact Power Equipment Rental for sponsoring this project. You guys seriously rock. And now I’m going to have a new back yard because of you! 100% of these words are my own.
Giveaway has ended! Thanks to those who participated! Winner announced at the bottom of this post.
Ok, so the backyard leveling project — can I take a moment just to be glad this is off my to-do list? Not the physical part of the project itself — but the act of writing everything down and finally publishing these before and after photos. And THERE’S VIDEO. After more than six years of blogging about the house and its transformations, it’s amazing how integral these recaps are to my sense of completion.
And since this one also includes a giveaway for one lucky reader, I think that’s pretty fantastic! (*giveaway has ended*)
If you weren’t following along in August (or just not paying that much attention — which is fine, we all have those moments and I forgive you), I did something that I never really thought I’d ever get the chance to do: I spent an entire week in the driver’s seat of a backhoe from Compact Power Equipment Rental and leveled out my yard. It was one of those projects that has been on my wish list ever since moving into the UDH, but because of time, expense, and a complete lack of experience in literally moving the earth to my will, I put it off. Doing the math on how many cubic yards of fill dirt I’d need, the logistics of how dirt is even going to get distributed, who I’d need to call, whether I’d need approval from the county or whatever, how long this might take, etc. — the list just went on for reasons not to think about this yet. Each little detail seemed so intimidating, and I’ve never really had a picture in my mind what things would look like once finished… making it all that much easier to procrastinate.
But I promise you: you can definitely, totally do this. I did. And it was awesome.
So, let’s get to it:
I covered back in this post how the whole thing suddenly came about, especially some of the things I needed to cover before the equipment even arrived: why the sinkhole existed in the first place, how I decided on the right equipment, what to do before you dig in regard to buried utilities, finding fill dirt, and the delivery. After day one, I did a Facebook Live post about my thoughts so far, and you can catch that here.
In the second post, I covered a little more about what the yard has looked like in previous years, the other projects that had to be done before I could tackle this one, how I tricked my friends into giving me free labor (I kid… sort of), and learning how to use the equipment. I did another Facebook Live video then, too.
All caught up? Good. Because when I last left off, things were starting to look really different, and I was finally standing in a part of my yard that I’d never stood before (that sinkhole was dangerous, so I generally avoided it).
It took many trips from my driveway to the back yard to distribute the dirt (low power lines prevented the trucks from driving back further), but after days 2 and 3, I was making significant, visible change, especially to the back left corner:
Starting on Thursday morning, it took about two full days of work to get the entire first huge truckload of fill dirt moved into the yard. For my neighbors, watching me ride around on this thing, scoop up dirt, and carefully navigate to my back yard proved to be a sight to see. One guy walking his dog grinned from ear to ear and gave me the thumbs up; kids getting off the school bus were thoroughly confused.
After trying to compact the sandy fill dirt (lowering the bucket in the front along the ground seemed to do the trick), I realized I’d probably need some topsoil so that I could help establish grass. According to my neighbor, I didn’t want all of this work to get eroded away from rainfall, and grass would help it stay. I called up the soil guys to get a second load, and that’s where I ran into a snag: they were closed as of Saturday afternoon and wouldn’t be able to deliver until Monday morning. Wop, wop. I was pretty disappointed, especially since I was expecting a whole crew of my friends to come over that evening to help move more dirt around, and that essential piece was now missing. We made it work by having them start on all of the roots left over from the pine tree removal from last year, and they all seemed to really enjoy it!
Sunday was rather boring since I was merely trying to get things compacted and level and scoop up remaining dirt off the driveway (the ONE area where it seemed super easy to get everything compacted well, which I didn’t want). I also filled in another sunken spot in the front yard that would make mowing easier in the future, and dug up the rest of the plants that I wanted to clear out. The pile was laughably huge… all of that was in my yard?
I also piled everything up since I didn’t want to have a repeating sinkhole problem; the whole issue was created back when the house was built because of buried debris just like this, so I was cautious to remove and separate every large branch, root, and bush I could find, and only leave compacted dirt behind.
Finally, the topsoil arrived, and I finished things off with distributing the remaining load. Insert “that’s what she said” joke. I did a final Day 5 Facebook Live video too.
Charlie was… a little uncertain with what had all happened. I pretty much gutted her bathroom, which I can understand is quite a change! She seems to love how much more of the yard she can explore now, though.
Once my rental was over, it was time to arrange for pickup. All I had to do was hose the equipment down and fill the fuel back up, and it was ready to go. (Sniff. I’ll miss you!)
I’d like to take a minute and just acknowledge that for some of you guys, this might not even look like the most amazing transformation to ever happen to this house. But I assure you, after the last couple of months of being able to walk around my entire yard instead of having to avoid the giant pit behind that tree, believe me: this is big! And the most amazing part was that once I had this part solved, I suddenly found the inspiration for what the rest of the yard will look like. I started drawing plans!
I basically Kevin Costner-d my way to an actual plan for the back yard’s design; until I finished it, the ideas would not come. It’s been a couple of months already, so the pine straw is coming down and I’m full of ideas. I can’t wait to get started on all of the other things. My favorite part? The overgrown back corner is now going to be the perfect spot for a shed:
At CPER’s request, I combined most of my experience into a short video for Youtube, along with some video footage of me in action. If you can’t see the embedded video below, just click over here (and subscribe if you’d like to see me do more vids). I also uploaded the Facebook videos to a single playlist so that you can watch them all in one place if you wish.
And here’s the after: aerial view! As things were leveled out, it became clear that there was still one “ground” stump that wasn’t going to budge (it was WAY too large). So, I’m going to use it as a burn pile for a little while to see if I can get rid of more of it, and then begin the next few plans. :)
The yard still has a slight slope, but that was the plan all along since I didn’t want to interrupt or change the flow of water as it drains from my yard to my neighbor’s; I’m pretty proud of myself for keeping that intact.
I also started growing some grass seed, but it’s going to be a longer process to get it all green again. Still so much left to do. And finally… the giveaway…
Giveaway Alert! (ENDED)
And now, one of YOU guys gets to win your very own rental! With how big of a difference this project is going to make on my future backyard changes, I’m thrilled that CPER was willing to let someone else try this out for themselves. They have lots of options for rental equipment, so it’s a choose your own adventure situation — up to a value of $500. Here are all the details:
PRIZE: One equipment rental of your choice from Compact Power Equipment Rental, up to $500 NUMBER OF WINNERS: 1 (one) LOCATION: US residents only. They rent their equipment out of select Home Depot locations (cities listed below), so that should cover most of you guys just fine. But should it be the case that you don’t live inside their delivery range, they are happy to provide an alternative prize, such as a Home Depot gift card of equivalent value. So even if you don’t see your city on this list, you should enter! HOW TO ENTER: As usual, let’s keep it simple, and make me laugh! Use the Rafflecopter widget below to mark that you’ve left a comment (yes, I’ll check), and answer this question for entertainment’s sake: What’s the funniest or most embarrassing thing your neighbors have ever witnessed you do? GIVEAWAY ENDS: Friday, October 29th at 11:59PM Good luck!
Again: many, many thanks to Compact Power Equipment Rental for sponsoring this project!