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During those few moments it’s actually summer

If I owe you an email (or for that matter, a blog post), please bear with me.

We’re having another mini-summer and I’ve been out taking advantage of it.

Today I scraped and repainted a few peeling fascia boards and set up a 60-foot overhead cable dog trolley (in hopes of eventually replacing Ava’s deplorable makeshift yard). Just as I was conditioning her to her newly enlarged (“But what’s that thing hanging over me, Mom?”) space, the lumberyard truck arrived with two yard guys and 168 long-awaited 8x16x1.5 concrete blocks.

The blocks are as ugly as … well, as plain gray concrete blocks But I’ve waited in vain the last two summers for any nice patio block to go on sale. Finally, I gave up and bought the cheapest thing available. It’s now my job to make it look good.

I started as soon as the delivery truck rumbled back down the driveway.

That’s 1/7th of an 8 x something* patio. I wanted to complete another course or two this evening, but I opted to soak my aching back in a hot bath instead. Good thing I didn’t keep working. I could barely even make it through the bath; I thought I might fall asleep, slip down in the tub and drown from tiredness.

Early night tonight, methinks.

Oh, and for you guys who worry about such things, yes there’s plastic under the gravel. But weeds would never grow there, anyhow. It’s not only the north side of the house; the soil is unfriendly-to-all-living-things clay that used to be three feet underground until we excavated several years ago. (And finished excavating last year via redneck engineering.)

And for you guys who worry about that, The Wandering Monk and I set up a superb system to take the water off the impermeable plastic+clay and carry it away in perforated drain tile.

We got everything covered. Now the big challenge is just me alone laying block in gravel, which is harder than setting it nice and evenly into sand.

The good news (although the labor of it doesn’t seem like such a good prospect tonight) is that some of the 3.34 tons of gravel I shoveled into that space last year are being displaced by the block. I’ll haul that aggregate rock back out of there and it will eventually be useful in some other place around the house.

But not tonight. I’m too darned tired.


* I originally wrote 8 x 11 patio, then I woke up at 2:00 a.m. and realized I had more block than that. I can either go 8 x 17 or use the excess for walkway or mini-patio elsewhere.


  1. Pat
    Pat August 9, 2018 9:29 pm

    “Watch your back” has a different meaning when you’re working with concrete; use your knees when lifting or bending, as much as possible.

    8 x 11 is a good-sized patio, room for a BBQ and a standalone hammock — or whatever. Don’t forget to stop and enjoy all this preparation.

  2. Beth
    Beth August 10, 2018 5:33 am

    Could you try applying clear stain, perhaps thinned, to the blocks? Maybe in several different shades, even some non-woodtone colors?

    I’ve been thinking about trying this tactic for 12″ square red blocks to make a woodstove surround, but haven’t tested it yet. Outdoor blocks would likely weather some, of course.

    Take it easy as you work, now. :~)

  3. Claire
    Claire August 10, 2018 6:48 am

    What a clever idea, Beth! I didn’t know it was even possible to stain concrete until you said that. Looks doable, though:

    And yes, Pat and Beth, I’ll take it easy. Fortunately these blocks aren’t terribly heavy, but the amount of lifting and bending and the working on my knees are killer.

    I’ll be ready for a hammock when I’m done!

  4. Bill T
    Bill T August 10, 2018 7:40 pm

    I have been beat to it but yes it’s not hard to stain concrete block. It’s best to do it while the block is fresh before it gets weathered as it will take the color better.

  5. Beth
    Beth August 12, 2018 6:06 am

    Hey, Claire, glad you like the stain idea. And you found an excellent link about it. I’m saving that!

    I’d forgotten about some links I bookmarked awhile back, when I discovered that concrete stain comes in virtually every color of the rainbow.

    Here’s a link to an online gallery of concrete floor work on an industry website. These people make floors into colorful art — even mural-like designs in some cases.

    And here’s their link to sellers of concrete stain products:

  6. Claire
    Claire August 12, 2018 6:26 am

    All those possibilities; I had no idea. If you do something with them, I hope you’ll post it somewhere.

    Given how much is already going on in my patio area (multi colors on the house wall, multi colors on the retaining wall; multi hues of gray in the gravel), I’m going to keep it simple and just use one color. But designs like those in your link are just the sort of thing I love.

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