Digging in the dirt – Got the Jimmy Legs

Digging in the dirt

This isn't the tent he gave me, but I assume it looks like this.

I'm trying to get organized and live up to the secret pact I made with myself that go me through the winter. During the cold months, when there was work to do on the house, I comforted myself with the thought: "I'll do it when it warms up."

Then this weekend comes along with 90-degree temperatures. Great. Unable to put it off any longer I went into the back yard with the intent to half-ass some yard cleanup then retreat to the TV again. Over Christmas we refinished some floors in the house, which produced a whole lot of scrap wood. Instead of dealing with it at the time (see above), I just piled all the wood in the yard. The Plywood, 2x4s, Masonite and old wood paneling have shuttled around the yard over the months, coming to rest against the neighbor's chain link fence. It somewhat resembles the barricade in Les Miserables.

I figured I could put the smaller debris in contractor bags and lash together the longest wood boards together in preparation for sawing them into bundles small enough for the trash guy to pick up. This still would leave some huge plywood sheets that would need to be cut repeatedly but there was no way I was doing that for now. I busied myself with the easiest of the tasks, bagging up small garbage, breaking down some of the thinner panels and whatnot. Meanwhile, my neighbor a couple yards over was puttering out back as well.

He struck up a conversation with me, noting that he had just dug up a bunch of dirt from his yard while working on his latest project, which appears to be a sort of gazebo structure (he described it as a 'cabin' and admitted that he's sort of winging the plans, making it up as he goes along; I like him already). Anyhow, he had a bunch of dirt, and he knows we have all these cats running around (his son learned to say "gato" before "Papi," I was somewhat chagrined to learn). The cats love to 'play' in the dirt, as he put it, so it could help keep the cats in my yard if they had more dirt to 'play' in. So I said sure, gimme the dirt.

Herein lies one of the awkward issues of yard-having in Brooklyn: we can't enter each others' yards. My next-door neighbor and I have no fence between us, but nearly every other yard is fenced off. So dirt that needed to travel some 20 feet would need to be carted through the neighbor's house, out the door, down the sidewalk, and through my living room just to get over here. He suggested an alternative: he would fill up sandbags with dirt and hand them over the fence to me.

For the next couple of hours, he shoveled dirt into reinforced bags, dragged them over to a ladder next to the fence, climbed up and gingerly dropped the bag into my waiting hands. I don't have a lot of space to dump extra dirt, but we do have a sizable plot in the back of the yard and a sort of narrow median down the center. We filled up every inch of available dirt-space, and there's still some dirt leftover. Part of his motivation was that now he won't have to pay to have the dirt hauled away. I don't know how much that costs, but he seemed grateful. It must be expensive, cuz I was exhausted and my muscles are all sore from the hauling and dumping; he did all that PLUS the shoveling. He even gave me a new gazebo tent that would have gone unused by him since he was building the permanent cabin thingy. Wow.

I admit I don't interact with my neighbors as much as I should. I talk to the next-door neighbors, since our houses are identical, so we feel like we are sort of related or something. But we're on head-nodding level at best with most of the other neighbors. So it was nice to have an excuse to speak to him, especially since his family is just about the only other family on our end of the block to use their back yards much. I'm hoping we keep talking, I'm racking my brain to find something I can give to him in return, but I'm pretty rusty in the ways of Neighbor Gifting. If I can't find something I would otherwise throw out he might find useful, should I bake him some cookies or something?


  1. Sean
    Posted April 27, 2009 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Beer is the universal gift to a neighbor for helping with home projects.

  2. Suz
    Posted April 27, 2009 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    I vote for home-made cinnamon buns!

  3. Kris
    Posted May 7, 2009 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    We actually installed gates on both sides so we can get to our neighbors' back yards. (everyone agreed this was a good idea of course…) Very Park Slopey!

    Also – it does cost quite a bit to have dirt hauled away…

    And I think that cookies never go amiss, especially with kids in the house.