One of my favorite things about living in the country is the serenity. Each morning, I get in the car to drive my daughter to school so thankful to be looking out at trees and ferns instead of crosswalks and stoplights.The birds are singing, the ravens are calling, cows are meandering, and egrets are fishing in the slough.Then I begin the drive down our quarter-mile graveled driveway. The silence is broken by expletives coming from my mouth as the left front tire drops four inches into a crater sized pothole. Then I veer to the right to miss another spine jarring crevice, which puts me directly in line with two more pits positioned to rattle my teeth just before I turn onto the paved road. Serenity, blown.
The driveway is always under scrutiny at the farm because several of us drive it each day, including visitors and delivery trucks, all getting a similar shake, rattle, and roll treatment. Since the driveway will continue to deteriorate with three more months of rain ahead, we wanted to make it a priority farm project. We decided that the next break in the weather, we would all dig-in to haul and spread new gravel. I seriously don’t have a clue about cubic yards or how to estimate spatial measurements. Rock tonnage talk is wasted on me. But, being the team player that I am, I told my sister and brother-in-law that I would help with the project any way that they might need. In my mind, we are going to get a truck bed of rock and shovel it into the holes and, Boom…in an hour we are done.
We are now on day two of spreading gravel and filling potholes. To reduce mud, improve safety, and make it easier on our vehicles we spread a layer of rock all the way up the length of the driveway. We borrowed a tilt-bed trailer, which holds over three yards of gravel per load along with a small backhoe. Without these two pieces of equipment, this project would have been much more painful. This road maintenance stuff is not for anyone who has a fancy manicure or an aversion to sweat. This is real work, noisy equipment, coordination, and shoveling stamina.
So, it has been a laborious experience, but I did learn something useful: Gravel is sold by the yard or by weight. The only thing that changes, depending on the what it is used for, is the size of the rock. The experienced road builder in the family decided upon 3/4 inch minus to fill the potholes and then wheel-rolled them. To cap over the entire driveway we used 1 ½ inch minus. Both these gravel sizes provide larger rock pieces to be mixed with smaller fine grit to fill in gaps. Over time, the fines will compress between larger rock for a compacted bind. This is very functional information I will try to remember for future property projects.
I also learned a few things that are not as important, but still part of the experience:
- You can’t hear over the hydraulics of a tilt bed trailer. Ask all questions before the bed is in motion. No matter how many times you say “What?,” no one working is going to answer with anything other than, “Huh?”
- Don’t grab the small shovel because it looks easier. The smallest shovel may be lighter, but it takes double the lifting to fill your potholes. Lesson noted.
- Gravel doesn’t stay put. Those potholes will be back next year when the rains begin.
- The first one to quit shoveling for the day has to make a pizza run for everyone.