January 02, 2013

The backyard project keeps on growing...

What began as a simple project to replace a fence that ran along the back of our backyard grew to taking down another 50-foot fence on the side of the house and an 8-foot panel on the other side, and demolishing a big shed -- the latter a tour de force Tim and I started on Saturday and finished on Sunday.

Removing the roof's shingles.
We began by emptying the shed of the stuff we had stored in it -- tons of old wood, a satellite dish, a door. We used a screw driver to take off the door, the easy part. Then we took turns standing inside while punching out the roof with an old painter's extension  pole, a solid strength workout as it was covered in a 2-inch layer of moss, and another 2-inch layer of snow.

We wore glasses to protect our eyes.

Tim loves a good demo.
We used the Stanley "Wonderbar" to pull off the trim from the outside corners we could reach, then handled the hammer to knock out the siding, again standing on the inside of the shed.

Then came the tricky part -- taking down the frame. We didn't want to risk working further on the inside of the shed while removing more parts to weaken the structure. Since the shed partly overhung the ravine, we needed to be careful that we didn't accidentally push it down the hill -- there was no risk to anyone, we just didn't want a pile of old wood in the forest below.

Almost down ...
And it would be a nightmare to have to retrieve it from there.

We also had to be careful that the remainder of the shed wouldn't sway to the side of the neighbour's; again, no risk of harming anyone, as they weren't home. We wanted it to fall to our right, into our yard, but without destroying a fence post that was only a metre beside the structure.  

So we positioned ourselves side by side, and began rocking the structure back and forth -- pulling on the roof's edge, in a diagonal line to where we wanted it to end up. As the movement gathered strength, the structure began to sag increasingly though slow enough for Tim to take a picture.

Then we pushed it back and forth, back and forth, until we believed we had enough momentum, stood clear ... and watched it crumble in the exact spot we had wanted it to. High five!

Taking down the structure had taken about three hours of hard work; it was time for some rest and a Bikram yoga session.

Happily oblivious to the next day's work.
The challenge that awaited us on Sunday was dismantling the fallen structure. We wanted to split the roof into the four parts it had been constructed in, which required more hammering, Wonderbarring, but especially sawing the supporting beam. Tim took care of the latter, as I lacked the strength to do that -- though I tried.   

Meanwhile, a friend asked for part of the wood to build a treehouse for his kids and came to take a bunch of 2x4s from the shed's sturdy frame on Sunday morning, another load on Sunday afternoon after we had finally managed to dissect the roof into four pieces. (Today he came to pick up a final stack that contained the fence boards of six 8-foot panels).

This fit a ton (and a half) of stuff.
But there was still a ton left to get rid of -- literally, and then some. Tim called the guy who replaced our roof a few years ago, and he agreed to rent us his truck. He came to check out the amount of wood we wanted him to take to the local tip and estimated we'd be able to fit it in comfortably if we loaded efficiently -- the truck holds about 1,500 kilograms.

A day off on Tuesday, New Year's Day, was the perfect time to do it.

January 1, 2013, turned out to be a beautiful sunny winter day. We began shortly before 11am, though we had carefully considered our plans the day before. First we loaded one of the four roof panels upside down in the truck; the length just fit. Then we loaded fence boards into the structure, and the debris that was a mix of shingles, moss and snow, before adding another roof panel and repeated the process, then did the same for the next two.

Hard work, and unfortunately we had to be neat about it -- we couldn't just fling debris into the truck, as it became increasingly clear it would be a tight fit. We dragged beam after beam, carefully avoiding a myriad of long and nasty nails still sticking out from them, and focused on adding one piece to the pile at a time. Somehow the pile in the yard got lower, and the one in the Ford got higher.

The shed's foundation.
As the piece de resistance we got to the foundation of the shed; here it was time to use a pick-axe, a first for me. It is amazing how precise swings from way above your head can be when you're aiming to get right between a couple of 1x3s.

Swinging that pick axe felt great.

Learning to get rid of the foundation for something that was no longer functional but that had seemed too tough to tackle provided a renewed sense of capability; I like working with my hands.

Truck stuffed - and so were we.
By 4pm we had piled as much into the truck as was possible. Most of the debris was gone; we each had hauled well over 700 kilograms of wood into the truck, and a few 100kg of stuff that went to a good (tree) home.

Demolishing all those items in the backyard that had been bothering me since we moved into the house four years ago felt like such a great way to finish 2012. The weather, while cold, had been beautiful and it was spectacular to work in the snow.

Beginning the New Year with productive teamwork to rid ourselves of the things that no longer served us was also very satisfying. At Bikram yoga last night, the teacher mentioned that 2013 is a year of the Snake, a time for shedding old skin, she said; Tim and I have made an appropriate headstart.

There is still plenty of work ahead, yet it is of a constructive and creative nature. The slate has been wiped clean to start afresh, ready to be rearranged as we'd like it to be. Happy New Year!

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