A Patio Project by My Brother, with a Good Neighbor’s Help

Building the frames for the concrete edging


The project continues, as does the seemingly ceaseless rain! Living near the Gulf of Mexico in the summer brings the possibility of lingering low pressure cells, sometimes dropping inch-an-hour rain. We have entered that middle stage of a project where we have done enough so far to prevent turning back, and yet not far enough along to have confidence about the intended result.

80 pound bags of Quikrete are not easy to lift and move around, and are far more challenging to handle than individual stone pavers. And three cubic yards of ‘gravels and fines’ (perhaps about 5 tons!), brought here to south Louisiana by barge, must be moved from the driveway out front to the new patio out back. In the midst of these considerations, a 9″diameter trunk magnolia had to come down because its roots had already compromised the prior patio. We accomplished that mostly by using a handsaw, but the providential appearance of a neighbor with a chainsaw helped us take care of the hardest and last part of that task.

The magnolia on its way down! (the debris in the roof valley is coming down, as well)

Another confidence-building point has been the kind help provided by our thoughtful next door neighbor, who volunteered to drive his Bobcat small tractor to assist us. In the process of helping clear the area for the new patio, as well as to move the gravel around to the back, we made a discovery. A very large, 80-100′ ancient pine tree had also intruded roots under the whole area of the old patio, and needed to be removed. Below is a photo of the guy who climbed that tall old tree to achieve its removal.

Having cleared the trees and roots, we have continued to deal with the challenge of almost daily heavy rains. Though my brother very carefully provided a packed gravel base for the new patio, heavy rain flooded the area. His good work enabled him to put in a wooden framework for the concrete edge of our intended project, and has allowed us to begin pouring new cement into it.

My brother’s self-taught knowledge of landscaping has helped him know how to prepare a proper foundation for pouring cement in this way, including how to handle rebar. The photo below shows how he has carefully anticipated a pour that we intended to make this afternoon.

As we began to pour fresh cement, the rain (of course) began again:

More to follow!

The Beauty of a Brother’s Skills

Before: a patio needing to be replaced!


Having planned to be away to be with her sister for a week, my wife suggested that I might invite one of my brothers to visit during this time. Greg lives in the far Northwest on Puget Sound, and is an adept self-taught home landscaper as well as builder. The opportunity for a visit coincided with an opportunity to address a need. We have a patio that has become compromised by tree roots as well as a lack of a durable foundation.

Attracted by the beauty of a new patio, but daunted by the prospect of achieving it, I wondered. But Greg not only came for a good visit, he brought his cement finishing tools with him. Ok – game on! If you have been fortunate to have one or more siblings like I have, you may appreciate how wonderful it is to have someone with whom you have grown up be a continuing part of your journey toward wholeness.

This week I would like to share with you the beauty of my own experience of having a sibling who is more skilled at doing some things that I only imagine, and wish I could do myself. Yes, sibling relationships may sometimes be complicated. But there are certain treasures to be found in those relationships that friendships with others can fall short of discerning or attaining.

The former patio flagstones and pea gravel removed

What I marvel at is my brother’s ability to conceive of the broad parameters of a project, from the initial stage outward to the desired result. A couple of outings to nearby large-box hardware and supply stores provided me/us with needed tools, materials, and a slight boost in confidence (for me). We all want dream results, while most of us don’t really want to pay for them!

But the real boost in confidence came with the next step. A good friend of one of my sons recommended a vendor for varieties of landscape stone. This was somewhat unexpected in our part of south Louisiana, where all the soil that exists is essentially alluvial, and where no natural or native stone is generally found. Here, we live upon the deposit of thousands if not millions of years of transposed and deposited soils from Montana (via the Missouri), Minnesota (via the Mississippi), the states between them, along to the rivers’ combined outlet in the Gulf of Mexico, just south of us. And so, we found these attractive paving stones (below) in the discount area of a local vendor, where large pallets of multi-sized pavers had been picked through, and where – perhaps- enough leftover pieces for our smaller project might be found. They were!

Some of the new ‘pavers’ adjacent to the removed flagstone

Having priced the general market for such stones, we had found a deal. But beyond that welcome result, I find myself most grateful for my brother’s discernment about which blocks on the ‘discount’ pallets were worth obtaining, and those which might not meet our expectations for final appearance quality.

The project continues despite frequent and heavy Louisiana summer rains!