Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

This week, I've been spending a lot of time in the yard. Today, we had neighbors over helping us fix our front entrance and the day turned into a community assisted day of heavy work and heavy machinery for me.

We recently fenced off an area of the yard for Bo and Pookie. The problem is, it is a dirt area and they get all muddy. Mizuka and I decided to make half of it grass and half of it gravel. I asked on DogReader about whether to use wood chips or gravel and I got good advice that I should use pea gravel. We went to the hardware store and bought some gravel. It was very heavy and expensive... (relatively speaking)

I got my wheel barrel and shovel out and was preparing to lay the gravel and the neighbors laughed at me. They said that I definitely didn't have enough gravel and that it would be too expensive to cover the whole area with enough of the pea gravel. They recommended that we get some cement gravel and lay it down first. It sounded liked a good idea.

One of the guys jumped into a truck and came back with a few tons of gravel. He looked at the fenced area and went and got another few tons. Sitting in our front yard was about 4 cubic meters of gravel, a wheel barrel and a shovel. I remember reading about how French farmers protest against the government by dumping tons of manure at the front gates of government buildings. It's the battle between those equipped with heavy machinery and those who are not.

As I started loading up wheel barrel after wheel barrel, images of forced labor flashed through my mine. "Put your back into it!" As I moved wheel barrel after wheel barrel from the front yard into the fenced area, the neighbors who were working on my front entrance watched me with pity.

"Do you know how to work a excavator?"

"Umm... No..."

"OK... wait a sec. We'll get someone to bring one over. He'll help you load up the wheel barrel."

Soon the beautiful excavator arrived and I was promoted from shoveler/barreler to barreler with excavator assistance.

After several hours of barreling, finally I had moved several tons of gravel about 20 meters and spread it out a bit.

"You're going to need to flatten it out a bit. Have you ever used a forward plate compactor?"

"Umm... No..."

"OK.. wait a sec."

Soon a forward plate compactor showed up.

"Here's the choke, here's the throttle. Wet the gravel a bit and use the compactor to flatten it down and even it out."

"Umm... OK..."

Soon, I found myself behind a roaring plate compactor. Lucky for me, I had my new Sensaphonic custom molded ER 9 ear plugs. I could keep my ears from being blown out and still hear what people were saying.

Anyway, I'm quite tired in a pretty healthy sort of way, but unfortunately, I'm too tired to blog. So instead of something political, all you get is this silly diary post. ;-)


It's not silly!

Joi - This reminds me of one of my favorite things about living in a rural place - the competence of the people who live here with me... and the assumption that you, too, are competent with heavy machinery as well. We're Americans, so neighbors don't show up to lend you heavy machinery... but there's an amazing family-owned hardware store the next town over that will rent you more or less anything. My happiest weekends in recent memory have begun with guys in greasy overalls teaching me how to operate the 200kg field mower without removing my toes, or how to drive nails into concrete using .22 shells. I keep thinking that there ought to be some sort of licensing procedure keeping obviously incompetent people like me from using really scary machinery... and then I'm glad there isn't.

Now the important question — how’s your thumb?

Actually, thumb is fine, but just about every other part of my body hurts in different ways.

You're a cute cityboy, Joi ;)

Hey Joi - hello from DogReader. Thanks for the mention. Isn't it amazing what we do for our dogs? I hope it works out well for you... perhaps the next suggestion will not involve manual labour and heavy machinery ;) - Catherine

Too bad you don't live next door to the Benny Benassi Satisfaction team.

Americans do help each other with loans of machinery, it just depends on the situation.

As a victim of the '70's oil shocks, my first lawn mower was the kind that, when you push it, the blades spin. When my neighbors saw me mowing with that in the searing heat of a summery Saturday morning, they all offered to loan me their gas-powered mowers.

That was when I lived on a short dead-end street (cul-de-sac). It was like having 10 next-door neighbors, a very friendly environment.

Joi, some of your stories of rural life remind me of the old U.S. TV show "Green Acres."

Ahh. I remember Green Acres. Yes. Some of the situations definitely remind of Green Acres.

I enjoy your country life posts very much.

It's nice to know there's still some community

in the snail world.

I rebanked the house a few years ago without benefit of heavy machinery. I actually rather liked it, although to start with I was a little on the small and scrawny side to be handling the 40 - 50 lb. bags of topsoil and rocks. Ultimately, the obstacle to doing as much of it as I would have liked was the cost. You pay a premium for having the dirt or rocks in those "convenient" bags. And I know that I can't fill and transport wheelbarrows full of dirt or rocks fast enough to remove a truckload before erosion spreads it over the whole driveway. So anything that involves a truckload of something seems also to involve a crew from the yard service; guys with whom I share no common language. And that takes the fun out of it. The one exception we make is for wood chips. There is a tree service around here that will dump loads of free wood chips in our driveway. And those are light enough that we can transport them. I use them to shore up the path (although they float, so they work less well in rainstorms than would stones) and as a play surface for the kids.

Enjoy your gravel adventures. I find that there is something deeply honest about soil and rocks. They are what they are and do what they do: no calls to tech support to find out why top soil doesn't actually sustain the roots of plants or why that rocks float when it rains. Enjoy your labors.