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DIY Projects are Fun??

Several months ago I somehow managed to convince Jason that putting in an arena would be an acceptable idea. I’m still in shock that I made it past the first go of, “what would you think about putting in an arena?” Amazingly he acquiesced, and we began to discuss the logistic of arena building. Our first conclusion was that aside from the dozer and backhoe work our budget was DIY. Jason only trusted one specific dozer operator to make the pad, and we had to wait over four months for him to be available. He stays busy because he’s really good.

I eagerly awaited for construction to begin for several months. Finally we got the call that our project was next on the list. A few hours were spent measuring, shooting points and making a plan with the equipment operator. Then the bulldozer work started. The first step was to make the pad, and also to put in two tile drains down the long sides. This part went fast and the dozer and backhoe work were completed within 2.5 days. These were long days with the equipment running from about 6am until 8pm.

The next step was laying out the geotextile fabric and beginning the delivery of the quarter down for the base. This also went quickly and over the course of another day and half the fabric was laid out and what seemed like 2,000 loads of quarter down was laid down in the arena. (Side note, this arena project made us realize more than ever how desperately we need to own our own gravel pit . . .). As the quarter down was brought in a bobcat with a very wide box blade was smoothing and leveling in conjunction with the laser level.

To this point it seemed like a fun project. Then it was time for the DIY part. Before we went further on the base we needed to set railroad ties around the perimeter to hold the footing in. Everything has seemed so simple to this point I was  innocently excited to move on to the next step. Jason was not excited at all. I quickly learned why. We were now entering the phase of first world problems that involved intense physical labor.

Those railroad ties are freaking heavy and impossibly hard to manipulate with precision. Jason bought two cant hooks so that two people could lift a tie, each using a cant hook, and put it in place. Then we had to make sure it was straight, level with the other ties, etc. I had never hood of a cant hook before and I’m thankful Jason had. I don’t know how we would have moved 200 ties without them.

After four days of lifting and moving ties into place (Of course doing this around all of our regular farm work) my body hurt in places that I didn’t know it could hurt. That’s when Jason told me we were now to the hard part. After he revived me with smelling salts he explained that now we needed to drill two holes in every railroad tie and then use sledgehammers to pound in rebar to hold them in place. I stupidly thought this couldn’t be hard, that’s what power drills are for. Jason bought special drill bits, and went through several of them. He put our generator in the front end loader of the tractor and used the hammer drill to drill the holes. It was so hard to drill through these holes, even with his exepensive, fancy, super sharp drill bits, that I literally couldn’t do it. Jason had to drill every last hole. He did this over the course of a few days. It was seriously hard, it was hot,and of course we still had a farm to run. So he drilled holes for a couple of hours after we’d finished the farm work each day.

Just when I thought things couldn’t possibly get worse Jason handed me a sledgehammer. We each had our own sledgehammer and we pounded in almost 400 rebar spikes to hold the railroad ties in place. In case you are wondering, this was not fun. At this point I stupidly thought we were now in the home stretch and our first world, arena building miseries were done. But they weren’t. This was also the time that I began regretting this entire project and wishing I had never had the desire. Those railroad ties were killers.

Now it was time to get more quarter down brought in and continue building up the base. Yet again this fell on Jason’s shoulders. He put countless hours in on the tractor using the box blade and front end loader moving quarter down, smoothing quarter down, leveling quarter down. I was beginning to think we were permanently stuck in this phase.

Finally, this phase seemed to wind down and Jason rented a vibrating paving roller for a day. We (well mostly Jason) spent an entire day rolling, rolling, and rolling some more. Finally, at about 6:30pm, Jason decided it had been rolled enough.

I want to weep as I type that we’re still not done (insert more regrets about deciding an arena was a good idea here). Jason says the base needs to continue to compact and settle for awhile before we add footing. I will at least be allowed to ride in it the next few months when Jason finds the conditions to be acceptable. I will continue to pile onto my first world problems by apparently having many days where I can only admire this arena and not ride in it.

A few weeks ago I looked at Jason when we were sledgehammering in rebar, with sweat dripping off every part of my body and huge blisters on my hand, and said, “whose idea was this PITA, money pit idea of a project anyway?” He graciously elected not to strangle me on the spot.

the first step was measuring and shooting points in order to make the pad


the earthwork began


the laser level was used extensively


It started off looking like a big mess. The pad was made, the tile drains installed, the geotextile fabric was laid out, and the initial quarter down was brought in. 


setting the railroad ties, drilling out the holes for the rebar, and pounding the rebar in with a sledgehammer was up there with the worst jobs ever


Jason has spent countless hours on the tractor moving quarter down using the front end loader and the box blade


today’s job was rolling, rolling, and more rolling


Quigly and Mick


Igor having a cat nap


Johnny and Happy


Moe and Homer


King (Trigger in the background)


Chance and Convey


Walon and Ripley


Magic, Sushi and Squirrel


Roho and Gus having an early morning grooming session


Donneur and George having a grooming session


Toledo and Rocky


Wilson and Walon


Asterik and Silver


Cuffie and Maisie


Romeo and Lotus


Miel and Sam


Cinnamon and Dawn


Silver, Asterik, Lofty and Donneur; I like the fog around the hills in the background

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