Home Improvement

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Permeable “paving” in progress. But doesn’t the finished part look nice?

It is 8 a.m. on a Sunday and there are men on our driveway, working. Just so you know, in case you were wondering, this would not be a job I would be signing up for. Never mind that is is shoveling gravel — any job that requires me being on the jobsite by 8 a.m. any day of the week is probably a non-starter.

There is a man here in town, Jim Scales, whom I met during my early days at Pat’s when he wanted shirts for his first venture, Jim Scales Enterprises. An enterprising sort indeed, he took on anything, and while I printed his shirts, he installed windows in my house along with a beautiful lawn.

His crowning achievement, and my pride and joy, was my library, my full-wall bookcase with built-in desk. The desk is here in the house; the dimensions of the bookcase meant it has now been pressed into service as garage shelving, but at least it’s all still here with me.

Eventually Jim settled his many varied enterprises into something more focused, and changed his business name to SealCo, an asphalt company. He still gets his shirts from us, and since asphalt is a dirty business, he buys a lot of shirts, even in years of Pandemia.

Earlier this year, when he was in getting shirts, I asked what I thought was a rather idle question, about this notion of permeable paving. I was rather thinking of the roads in Riverwalk, which went through a prolonged muddy period this year, but after less than a year of use our new driveway was already developing ruts and a series of four tire-wide mudholes just before the garage.

Before I had time to blink, Jim was showing us samples and submitting a bid. (He also said Riverwalk has asked multiple times for quotes to pave the roads, but it’s always in the millions of dollars. The total collection of HOA fees for the year isn’t that much over the bid for our driveway, so I guess we’ll be living with muddy roads.)

Having just spent a lot of money ourselves, on a house that went well over budget, we have decided to have Jim do the driveway in sections as we can afford them. Late last week we got this year’s installment of permeable paving.

Which isn’t paving at all, but gravel. The difference between “paving” and just a load of gravel lies with the industrial-strength plastic honeycomb that goes down over some sort of matting prior to the gravel being placed. The honeycomb will hold the gravel in place, lasting much longer. Or so goes the theory.

Apparently this is a cheaper route to go than asphalt paving, which is good, but I like it for the environmental factor. We have already disturbed the ecosystem with the advent of our house, although based on the rampant wildlife activity all around us (I watched a skunk scuttle at a rather high rate of speed from our lot clear over to Kokanee the other afternoon — I had no idea they moved that fast or that far), we haven’t done too much disturbing so far. But instead of rain and snow running off the sides of a paved driveway, the moisture will percolate down through the gravel.

As mitigation goes, it’s probably not much, but I’m going to hope it counts for something.

We thought Jim’s workers were done Friday, and I’m guessing they thought so too, but Jim must have come by at some point and seen something he didn’t like, because his manager called promptly at 8 this morning to say the crew was on its way.

Thinking back on Jim’s success with our lawn on Irwin Street, we probably should have put him rather than our contractor in charge of our soil reclamation project out here, although Jim’s lawn-care days are long behind him.

We limited our reclamation budget last year, but even so, what we’ve ended up with has been disappointing. I keep recalling Dusty being indignant that the one time he hired a landscaping company (for a previous build), the lawn failed to come in as anticipated, and he was ticked off that the company didn’t bother to try to make good on its work.

But I feel reasonably sure that were we to call Dusty and tell him every last blade of grass is yellow and dead, this would be our fault rather than his. And maybe it is, somehow. The grass that came in unseasonably late last October greened up in early April, long before we were done freezing, and by May all the grass was dead and weeds were proliferating, same as would have happened had we not spent any money or water at all.

We should have taken our gardening friends’ advice and simply amended the soil last fall and seeded after the last freeze this year, whenever that might be. If ever it might be.

In the meantime Lynn, who took two more days of her dislocated vacation this past week, has turned her attention to her flower beds, focusing — since it’s still freezing — more on the beds than the flowers.

What looks small to the eye turns out big when you buy rocks and bark by the bag, so she had to make many more trips to lawn-care centers all over town than she thought the first time. And the second time. And the third time. Or maybe that was the time she finally overbought.

At any rate, she now has beds in place. Yea for vacation, hm?

So we have a spiffy new portion of our driveway, and spiffy new flower beds, and a spiffy crop of weeds. The deck rail, whose environmentally-friendly clear coating didn’t seem to last into December, still needs a better covering. I believe nephew Justin has volunteered for the job, after others who said yes failed to follow through, but we have to find time among rain, wind and heat for him to be able to do the work.

And then we’ll be all spiffed up. Outside, anyway. Inside is a whole different story, best saved for those rainy days.

Lynn’s new flower beds, surrounded by our admirable crop of weeds, recently mowed down by Kara’s husband.

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