Monday, September 3, 2012

The Ultimate Sandbox

It's Labor Day!  I hope you don't have too much planned in the way of labor today.  In honor of today (and because I have neglected to for almost three months now), I will show you the fruits of our labor we did in days past.  Several days in fact.  Well... it took just over a year to complete.  Not because it actually took that long.  Just lots of 'thinking time' was involved.

Anyways, we built a sandbox!  We got the whole thing framed and filled with sand, but we had no idea how we wanted to finish the 'roof', so there it sat.  For a year.  We knew that shade fabric had to be involved because there is no shade to speak of in our yard, except from 2 - 8 pm on summer days, just below those aspen trees in the back corner.  Which is also where the dirt pit from hell is located.  Along with stubby aspen roots.  Not a fine place to play at all.  So the cool shade made by the aspens is absolutely worthless to us, but the dog enjoys it.  We do have two other trees in the backyard - a maple and a locust.  The maple is doing its best to die.  I think it might actually succeed this winter.  The locust is growing....slowly.... but we planted it in such a weird location that it will be years before it shades anything of consequence.  In the meantime our backyard will continue to be the most unpleasant place to be from May - September.

I dreamed up the idea of a sandbox, thinking that it would be an awesome place to park rowdy kids.  Slap some shade on it and make it big enough to fit all of them so that they would be out of my hair.

Caution!  I did not think this through.  A sandbox in the yard means lots of sand in the house.  And in the mouth...the diaper...the garden...the window well...the drain pipe...the bbq grill.

You've been warned.

We decided to locate the sandbox right in front of the kitchen bay window, so that we would have something 'nice' to look at in the wasteland that is our backyard.  We started building on April 16th...last year.  I wanted the finished size to be 8' x 8' square, so Dean cut the boards and Rylan helped me stain/seal them.

We all helped in the endeavour to remove the sod.  Which wasn't hard because you can't really call the random green patches in our yard, 'sod'.  The ground is as hard as concrete, with lots of divots and several ant hills.  Dean laid out the frame, bolted it, then cut the corner posts and we stained them as well.  If I remember right, they are five feet tall.

The next day (17th) the kids and I excavated down a few inches and carted off the dirt.  When Dean got home from work we filled in the bottom with a couple inches of rock, for drainage.  The rock came from another part of the the yard.  Then we laid down two layers of weed fabric - running in opposite directions.  We picked up the entire frame to pull the fabric all the way up from the underside.

(Colin, 14 mo.)

Look at those chubby cheeks!  I want to bite them!

The peanut gallery...

The following day Colin did this...

And I evidently did this, because that's all I have pictures of...

These were the first books that we rowed with FIAR.  We really did enjoy the process - especially creating watercolors of the Yellow Ball.  I also must have ordered sand on this day, because the next morning, (the 19th), this is what arrived in our driveway...

The 19th was actually a very sad day.  My grandma Betty passed away shortly after the sand arrived.  I remember, because I was shoveling as I was waiting for the news.  Grandma's health had deteriorated quickly in the previous days, and we knew the end was imminent.  The shoveling really, really helped me focus instead of falling to pieces with grief and frustration because I wanted to be there with her.  Grandma lived three hours away, and there just wasn't time to get there.  She was also unaware of her surroundings, by that point...and it would have been inappropriate to bring all of the kids.  But I still wanted to be there, to hold her hand as she slipped away.  Gosh I miss her...

(and this is probably why I have waffled on writing this post - I don't like to think about it)

Anyway, I shoveled, carted and dumped all of that sand in just a couple of hours.  In the following days we did some school (the middle part of the art project), enjoyed some snow, installed a new sink and celebrated Easter at home because everyone was sick.  But at least Owen got outside on Easter Sunday (the 24th) to play a little in the sandbox.

And then May and June came and went.  In July Dean worked on drainage issues in the area between the sandbox and the house - he installed a French drain to deal with soggy ground.  And the kids, of course, played in the mud.

Evidently, as you can see in the picture above, Dean completed the cross pieces to complete the upper portion of the frame.  I think he did that shortly after the funeral, but I don't remember - and I don't have any pictures of it.  But this is where we remained stuck.  We knew we wanted to top it with shade fabric.  But we were stuck on how to go about it.  There needed to be some sort of framework for the fabric to be attached to so that it wouldn't sag or rip away in the wind.  It also needed to be removable, in the winter time.  And stuck we were... for a whole year!  And there was another problem as well.  The area between the sandbox and the house used to be covered in rock.  I hated the rock and we eventually removed it - ultimately using most of it in the sandbox for drainage.  What remained was dirt.  Which would promptly turn to mud any time water was applied.



Since nobody was very fond of the clean-up process, we needed to solve this issue.
Aha!  Now we're getting somewhere...
And finally inspiration hit.  We were actually surfing the web looking at pergola ideas when a roof design popped up that Dean was pretty keen on.  So he went with it...

I poked fun at the math that was involved...

I made a plastic template for the pattern needed for the shade fabric.
My zucchini and pumpkins finally sprouted after four weeks in the ground...

And then, as soon as we got back from vacation to OKC, we finished it.  One evening I pulled out the plastic template that I had made, we laid out the shade fabric on the kitchen floor, and cut out four triangles.  I sewed along the seams, and made a seam large enough to accommodate metal conduit along each edge.  I used heavy-duty nylon thread and double-sewed everything.  The next morning we stretched the fabric out, cut the conduit to length and notched the inside of each crosspiece.  The fabric is pulled tight, and the tension between all of the sides holds it in place.  When winter arrives, all we have to do is pull the conduit down on one side to release the bar, and then all of the other sides will release and we can store it until next year! 


One way to ease the amount of sand coming in the house is to place a bucket of water near the door.  The kids dunk their feet in the water to rinse the sand away, and then wipe their feet off before stepping inside.
I have no answers to the dilemma of sand in the diaper.  You're on your own, there....   If you hear of one - let me know!

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