I’ve spent most of the year completely redesigning my small Harrisburg City backyard. What started as simply wanting to replace the small, ancient, crumbling sidewalk grew into something much larger. As many homeowners can tell you, that seems to happen with a lot of projects.
Lets take a trip back in time. Back to October 4th, 2005. The day after my birthday and the day after my offer was accepted for my very first home. Below is a photo of the backyard. Note the chain link fence, the two shrubs at the back pf the yard, and the tree to the right. Well, that tree finally met it’s demise last October when we got the early snowfall and the tree still had leaves. It came down in pieces. The sidewalk was only about 12″ wide. Too small for anything useful.
Now let’s jump ahead to May 5th, 2012. I talked my neighbor in to helping me out a bit. You see, the soil around the sidewalk was about 1-2 inches taller than the sidewalk. This caused a problem for rain runoff. So we needed to remove some topsoil from my yard. After killing the grass off, we dug up about a ton of soil to be removed. We also formed out where the new sidewalk would go. It’s going to be over twice as wide! This will give me more room to park the motorcycle. Note the arrowwood tree that was given to me by Chris from Wildwood Lake (Dauphin County Parks) when I was doing some volunteer work for them. I’m trying to use native plants in my yard. This is where the project begins to grow. Notice how the sidewalk seems to run in to the fence posts at the back of the yard? That is going to be a problem. Because at some point I want to replace that fence with a wooden privacy fence.
Here’s another view via Instagram with Terry playing in the dirt. He sure enjoyed all of this. This is a better view to see how the fence and gate were going to get in the way. This is when I decided I would need to remove the fence in order to properly pour a new concrete sidewalk. Looks like I’ll be building that fence earlier than I thought.
Skip ahead to June 6th. I spend the evening removing the old chain link fence. Carriage bolts are a pain the butt to remove when they are rusted or if they start spinning. I needed to use a saw to cut some bolts and a hammer to beat some hardware into submission to remove the fence. You can see how I started to dig out the fence posts here too. These poles were buried about 3′ deep with remnants a tree stump and roots that grew in the back of the yard over the last seven years.
June 9th I was able to pull the first post out. All thanks to my neighbor’s truck, a chain, and lots of prying with various tools. Spraying the holes with water helped to soften the ground and make it easier to work around the concrete and also to reveal any roots that were getting in the way. This took hours of back breaking work in the hot, humid Summer we had. I was not a happy camper. I thought I would be done by the end of May. I was so wrong.
Looking back towards the alley you can see the fence posts are out of the ground leaving huge holes in the yard. I used my dad’s wheel barrow (which was stolen a few days later) to cover one and my trash can to cover another while we had plenty of more work to do.
On July 7th my cousin Clint came over to help me remove the old sidewalk. You see, my neighbor was trying to help, but his plans were, umm…. not very precise. Clint helped by adjusting the sidewalk forms to be more even and wanted to remove as much of the old concrete as possible which would give more room, and a better foundation for the new concrete. We rented the jack hammer from Hornung’s on Mountain Road near Linglestown. These guys have almost anything you can think of to rent. It was around 95 degrees by 9AM that day. But Clint had the old concrete removed and the forms re-positioned within about 2 hours. Thanks cuz!
Here is Terry on July 11th staring at the backyard which has has become a pond due to a huge storm that rolled through the area. The sidewalk forms are in place with a nice layer of stone waiting for the concrete.
The concrete was delivered in July 28th and my cousin Clint came over once again to give me a hand. Another hot day was in store for us. The concrete delivery was a nightmare! The concrete truck was unable to make it down the alley to deliver the concrete due to low hanging branches and cables (Comcast, telephone, and/or electric). It was up to me to get the concrete from the truck parked out on Seneca Street to my yard which is about half way down the block. What didn’t help was the fact that my dad’s wheel barrow was stolen earlier in the project. I sent dad to Hurning’s to buy another wheel barrow. Meanwhile, my neighbor went to round up some plastic trash cans to use to transport the concrete in the back of his truck (which didn’t work very well).
Here’s Clint working in the expansion joints and smoothing thing out.
And the final sidewalk is in place. Time to let it dry.
July 29th I removed the sidewalk forms and began to backfill with soil using a tamper to pack the ground.
Now I’m left with a pile of concrete and fence poles. Everything is piled up waiting for a hauler to take it all away.
Sure enough, Dirty Dog Hauling removed it all for a reasonable price. I totally recommend them if you need ANYTHING hauled away from your home.
On August 6th I started to really work on the area that would become grass. The entire yard was hand raked and level out to the best of my ability. My back really felt it after a few days of this.
Now you can see how well the BMW R1100S (Gray Ghost) sits on the new sidewalk.
On September 16th you can see how I placed some stone edgers around areas that were to be planted with shrubs and such. This includes the left side of the sidewalk.
On September 17th I mulched the areas behind the stone edging. Starting to look the way I want it to. I also have new grass seed down and the entire area is watered.
On November 3rd I dug holes for the wooden fence posts and have them concreted in with QuickCrete. Staining all of the wood for the posts and fence pieces took weeks. I’ll spare you the photos of watching the stain dry.
On November 10th I was able to get the cross braces on and start hanging the vertical boards. The project is finally coming to an end!
December 2nd you can see the grass has come in nicely over the Fall. The fence is finally up and waiting for the gates to be build and installed.
A view of the fence from the outside.
December 8th, the gate is installed with locking hardware keeping nosey people and prying eyes out and little Terry in.
The yard finally feels more private and relaxing. I’m excited to see how things are in the Spring and I’ll probably plant more grass around that time. The project is finally finished. Phew… that was a lot of work. I wonder if this adds any value to my house.
On this day, years ago, I came into this world. *Applause* Ok, ok, I’m blushing. You can stop clapping now. I have more to talk about. Preceding me was my brother Tim. Tim was a pretty cool guy. Pretty cool for the fourteen years that I knew him. I can’t help but think of him on my birthday.
And so the story begins. Sometimes life just happens to you. Things happen that you really have no control of. Tim was a role model in strange ways to me. Sure he picked on me. Then when my parents got divorced I watched him transition into something that was less than pleasing for any parent to see. Underage drinking, smoking, and the drugs.
I watched him self-destruct. The drug abuse happened right before my eyes. All sorts of drugs. One of those memories was after he went through a break up with a girl he was dating. He had taken a bunch of pills and was laying on the sofa in a zombie-like state. I believe this was after he had his stomach pumped. Yet he was my brother. I couldn’t get away from this. His friends would pass drugs around and I would decline. The upside was none of his friends EVER pushed me to do drugs. And to this day my motto is this.
It’s easier to say no than to try to overcome an addiction.
So how was he a role model? It comes down to one event that stands out in my mind. A friend and I had a falling out. I was probably 12 years old at the time. Tim decided to try to mediate the situation by taking us for a walk. We walked for a few miles, which is nothing when you live in rural Perry County. That’s basically a walk around the block for that area. We ended up at some rock cliffs where we decided to climb to the top. The whole time he was doing his best to resolve the issues between my friend and I. And it was working. On our way up the cliff I had slipped a little and Tim had reached over and grabbed me to stop me from sliding. After stopping my slide and making it to the top he said these words to me. “I don’t know what I would do without you little brother.” Tim had resolved the issues between my friend and I and spoke words to me that I would remember for the rest of my life.
Fast forward a few years. Tim still struggled with drug abuse and alcohol, had moved away for a short time. But had moved back to live with my mom. He hitch-hiked from Virginia Beach, Virginia with a small puppy in his backpack to get home for Mother’s Day. I believe he was about 20 or 21 years old at the time. I’m sure that was a pleasant surprise for my mom.
Now fast forward to October. Tim had moved back home with my mom and I. My birthday came and went. I really don’t remember what happened for that birthday because of what followed. I believe it was the following day that I was sitting in the living room listening to the Gun N’ Roses Appetite for Destruction album with my brother when he decided to go see some friends. He told me he didn’t forget about my birthday and would get me something. He walked out of the house through the front door and across the porch. I still remember the sun was slowly setting as I heard his car start and he drove away. Bored, I grabbed my Walkman and went for a walk to watch the sunset.
When I woke up the next day, it was well past the time I should be at school. The house was quiet and I had no idea why I wasn’t at school. Did mom forget to wake me up? Now what do I do? I obviously missed the bus. Finally I heard someone. My mom came to my room and brought me to my grandmother’s house which was just two houses away. My dad was there too which I found strange since he lived in Mechanicsburg at the time. That is when I learned that Tim was no longer with us. That moment I watched him walk through the front door was the last time I would see my big brother alive. That birthday present he mentioned he would get me? It never came.
Just a few miles away from home, and on his way home, he was involved in a car accident. Drugs and alcohol were both involved. Let that be another lesson he taught me, never to do drugs or drink and drive. It leads to disaster.
From that time on, birthdays just haven’t been the same. They seem to be overshadowed by that event which occurred many years ago. Some days I like to think of how Tim would be today had he stopped the drugs and alcohol abuse. I can picture him clean shaven and as the CEO of some corporation. And even though he left us at the young age of 21, my mind always sees him as older than me, even though I’m much older than 21 today.
Tim, wherever you are, I love you. You have taught me much, and for that I thank you. I really wish you were here some days though.
I’ve been going through a lot in my life the last few years. Sometimes I feel like I’m barely hanging on. And things have gotten even more difficult in the last few weeks. Having made some bad decisions in my life, I’ve learned from them. I guess you can say I learned the hard way. And with those lessons comes a fear for what may lie ahead. I’m at a weird point in my life, my late 30’s. Decisions made now leave little room for error. I guess I ponder what my legacy will be. What can I give back society? How will people remember me when I’m gone?
I still remember that day in October almost 25 years ago when I said goodbye to my older brother for the very last time, even though I didn’t know it at the time. He said he was still going to get me a birthday present, he just didn’t have the chance to pick something out yet. I said goodbye and watched him walk out the front door. It was in the afternoon and the screen door was left open. The sun was setting leaving a warm glow to everything. I watched as his car pulled out of the parking area in front of our house and went down the road.
I grabbed my Walkman and went for a walk by myself, because it seems that’s all I ever really had. I walked up the dirt lane that went around a hill just outside of town watching the sun sink behind the mountains that border Perry County. My brother never came back that night. He was killed in a car accident less than five miles from home. My life wasn’t the same after that.
As I go through life I find that when things bother me, I hold them in. Almost as if they were a treasure. As if solitude would be an answer to all of my problems. Countless times I would disappear for hours. Driving around to find that perfect place in which to watch the sunset and listen to music that would bring out ever tear I’ve bottled up inside my entire life. As the sun sets and the sky turns dark, I’m reminded of just how small and insignificant we are as humans. We’re so fragile. Walking this planet and bringing pain upon ourselves. When in the end, life goes on and the planet will continue to spin.
The latest song that brings out these feelings is Strobe by Deadmau5. Who would have thought a country boy from Perry County would grow up to enjoy electronic music. The song has no lyrics, which fits perfectly for letting my mind make it the soundtrack for my life. The slow parts remind me of the hard times I’ve been going through and the difficult decisions I’ve had to make that effect my future. It also reminds me of friends that are no longer with us. The upbeat parts remind me of times when I can’t stop smiling because of the people in my life. Still, life doesn’t get any easier. We just need to get through each and every day and remember that we are loved, by someone.