Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Moving earth

One of the first things we noticed when we moved into our new home is there is a failing hillside right next to the barn.

Our property is sloped and divvied into three "steps" an upper pasture, a narrow and artificially flattened wedge in the middle (which contains the house and barn), and a lower pasture. The photo below is taken from the house porch and shows the "wedge" looking toward the barn.

This wedge is narrow to begin with, and it gets even skinnier at the barn end. In fact, it's impossible to drive a vehicle behind the barn because there's no room on either side of the building.

But it's possible to widen the pad at one side of the barn to make a road access. Apparently this had been attempted by the previous owners attempted but not completed. The result was a mess.

Look at the corner of the building and how it's kinda buried in the ground. Not good.

Widening the pad on this side of the barn is a smart idea and literally the only way to do it, but for unknown reasons the project was left unfinished. As a result, the hillside was starting to crumble and move downhill. A wet spell could send a mound of dirt sliding into the barn wall. Needless to say, repairing this became a top priority.

Besides, we wanted a wider area next to the barn for a variety of reasons. Don plans to build an awning off the side of the barn where we can store firewood, park the tractor, or even temporarily house cows when the time comes. Having a wide graveled pad would be perfect.

We have a neighbor named Bill who operates heavy equipment. As it turns out, Bill needs dirt fill for a project of his own, so he eagerly agreed to reshape the hillside and widen the pad in exchange for the dirt (which he carted off in a dump truck) and a modest hourly wage. It was a win-win for both Bill and us.

So last week Bill brought in his massive track hoe.

He got right to work, but found he could do only a limited amount from ground level.

What he did was build himself a ramp to hoist his machine up the hillside. (The golf cart at bottom left is Bill's commute vehicle to get to our house.)

Next he brought in his dump truck and started uploading the dirt he had loosened so far.

Then, load by load, he carted the dirt away to his place.

Sadly, this little lady's nest was a casualty of the project.

The next step was to bring the dump truck up the hillside of the sloped pasture above the barn. This pasture has access to the road, so Bill simply opened the gates and drove up.

He was very careful to follow the same tracks each time so as to minimize damage to the pasture, but some damage was unavoidable.

Quite honestly, we're not too fussed about the tracks. The pasture has been so severely overgrazed in the past that hardly anything is growing. It will have to be disked and re-seeded before we can put cattle on it.

Quite an operation, n'est-ce pas? Bill had to level a pad in the top pasture for the dump truck because it was getting too tippy. Can't risk having the dump truck overloaded with dirt only to have it tip over and slam downhill into the barn.

You can see how much more room it will give us to the side of the barn, but clearly there's still a lot to do before we can gravel a road to the back of the barn.

That's all Bill has had a chance to do so far. We had rain come in over the last couple of days, and any attempt to continue the project under those conditions would turn things into a soupy mess. Bill is waiting until conditions dry out before he continues excavating the hillside.

I'll keep you posted.


  1. Wow. I am so impressed by people that can figure such things out and do them.

  2. I love seeing pictures of the new place. Thanks for the updates. It is fun to watch this new adventure.

  3. That is certainly an undertaking! It absolutely will be outstanding to have more room and flat area around the barn. We are excited to see the future photos! Great neighbors are life saviors at times, for sure!

  4. Whew, that's a lot of work! It's awesome that you and your neighbor can both benefit from doing this.

  5. I am so jealous, you have dirt dirt, I have rocks held together by clay.
    So much fun watching the big rigs do the job. This will certainly make your life easier and save your barn at the same time.

  6. And now you will have a much much dryer building without all the water running down the hillside into it.

  7. I have rocks held by Clay too!

    Getting a good start on it right away as you are, is best. About 25-27 years ago we let a neighbor cut some hay near the bottom side of our bigger stock dam. Of course, he didn't quite listen. Buried his John Deere up to the frame with the mower on it. Took a bit of work to get it all out and it made a mess. We filled in the hole with rocks and dirt....and have continued to do that a couple times each decade since. And the trough still gets longer. We are either REALLY dry, like we are now, or REALLY wet and then one (or both) spillways on that dam overflow and that spot is all carved out again. We graze that pasture the least, and maintain LOTS of grass there. Still we have a regular problem.

    I pray you get yours stabilized and it stays there as you are in a much wetter climate than we are. (When it gets wet here, hillsides frequently slide.)

    Best of luck!!

  8. Wow, that's a big project! What a blessing to have a neighbor with equipment and know-how. Will you have to put up some sort of retaining wall after it's dug out?