Grit Blogs > Adventures of Old Nebraska Dave

The Poor Man's Patio

A photo of Nebraska DaveThose that I have hung out with over the past year have heard me refer to the Poor Man’s Patio. This blog entry will explain what that is and how it came to be. It all started with a desire to improve the curb appeal for my house. Many years ago I planted a Spring garden by the front door. Colorful flowers including Crocus, Tulip, Daffodil, and Iris made the display spectacular during the spring weeks. As spring moved closer to summer the vibrant display would begin to wane, droop, and finally die. The dead carcasses from the once terrific display slowly became a weed patch as time moved into the dog days of summer. Something definitely had to be done.

The weed patch that once was flowers

With a plan in my head and shovel in hand the Poor Man’s Patio construction began. Through the summer weeks and into the fall weather, sweat dripped, dirt moved, and massive rocks were excavated. Neither wind nor rain nor hot weather would stop construction for long. Ok, yeah, well, don’t listen to the neighbors that would tell I you I sat on those rocks drinking coffee more than working. That wasn’t me that was my twin brother. Oh, wait, I don’t have a twin. Well, just don’t listen to the neighbors, OK? I was working when they weren’t looking.

A rock pile, or the patio in progress

Then with excavation nearing completion sights were set on the building of the retaining wall. Massive blocks were hauled in the little truck that could, my Ford Ranger, who I affectionately call Ranger Rick (Ricky for short). Shhhhhh, he doesn’t know he’s just a little truck. OK, you got me on that one they were only 50 pounds each, and we, Ricky and I, only hauled 10 at a time. I’d like to think that I was trying to give Ricky a break, but the real reason just might have been to give Old Nebraska Dave a break. Whew, all this talking about work is making me think about taking a break.

Wall construction begins

Finally the actual construction of the wall began. I’d like to say this went more quickly but the foundation of any project is the key to success, and, well, then there are the breaks with coffee drinking. I do like breaks, and I do like coffee, so there might have been just a few of those along the way. Ah, OK, there were a lot of those along the way. I had to make sure that I drank enough fluids. Right?

Wall construction continues...

Finally after a week or two ... or three ... maybe even four, and 137 coffee breaks later, some real progress has been made. Did I mention that I really like breaks and coffee? Now that the first few feet of the wall is completed progress can begin on the rest of the wall. Um, well, that will be right after I take a break.

Dave sawing patio blocks

On the occasions that I wasn’t on break actual progress began to take place. The main retaining wall was completed, and the main patio began to take shape. You might wonder why I named it the Poor Man’s Patio. It was because instead of using real bricks I used 16 inch square colored cement patio blocks that were imprinted to look like bricks and thus much cheaper. Toward the completion of the project the patio blocks had to be cut and shaped to fit the rounded wall. The trusty old (and I mean old) Black and Decker saw outfitted with a diamond saw blade cut the shape of each finishing block.

The finished Poor Man's Patio

After the completion of the patio I had to put a bench to, yes you guessed it, take a coffee break. I renamed the patio and now it’s known as the “Poor Man’s Living Patio.” Well, I think the coffee’s done, so I’ll be taking a break now. Keep your back to the wind, your powder dry, and I’ll catch up with you on the next blog.

jerry greene
6/6/2010 12:14:49 AM

Speaking of fire pits, I just built my own. Very simply, I used a "Bud Wheel" from a semi-tractor trailer. I stopped at a salvage yard and purchased the steel wheel for $10. The wheel has holes on the inside which allow for ventilation for the fire when in place. I just placed the wheel on a level spot in my yard and surrounded it with two layers of interlocking retaining wall stones I had left over from a previous project. I gathered five Adirondack chairs and placed them in a semi-circle around the firepit and instantly created an outdoor room. It was simple, easy and quick. By the way...it's a great place to sit down for conversation and coffee, if you drink it.


mishelle
6/3/2010 4:09:44 PM

Wow! Looks great! And love the flowers; will be graduating to flowers next year-- So far they are proving more challenging than veggies!!


pam_6
3/11/2010 8:28:27 AM

What a fine looking patio! The bench sure looks like the perfect place for a coffee break. Love the flowers around it too. You did a great job on it. GaFarmWoman Pam Life on a Southern Farm


nebraska dave
3/10/2010 10:04:54 AM

Susan, thank you for stopping by and leaving your encouraging comment. I still sit on the patio and marvel that I actually did that. My Dad can testify that it just wasn’t in me to be handy. He on the other hand could fix any thing with a piece of baling wire and a pair of pliers. Maybe I’m just a late bloomer …. like way late. I have enjoyed the time spent sipping coffee and watch the neighborhood activity. I have a couple more projects on the drawing board for this summer. Hopefully I can stay home long enough to get some work done this summer. The weather here is finally starting to break, but the Farmer’s Almanac says to be ready for a wet Spring with violent weather. That could be a garden breaker if the strong winds come in at the wrong time. Wet is bad here because the farmers can’t get into the fields when they need to plant. Mother Nature has a mind of her own and we have to work with it. Ah well, I'm not going to get to serious about gardening for at least another month.


susan_7
3/9/2010 7:44:44 PM

Loved the story, Dave! Really nice work. Alaska Susan


nebraska dave
3/7/2010 7:35:39 AM

Shannon, Thanks for stopping by. I’m excited about having a blog here in the Grit community. With summer on the horizon there should be many things to write about. I can finally see dirty grass. The last days have been warm enough to melt quite a bit of the snow here. It will be wonderful to see the Spring flowers that I planted last fall come to life. Hopefully by the end of March the tulips and daffodils should be poking up through the ground on their way to glorious full bloom. It’s been a long Winter and even though I like all the seasons, it’s time to be Spring. I’m just chomping at the bit to get outside and get started on the summer projects. It looks to be another day above freezing which will dwindle the snow some more. Well, better get started with this day. See ya later.


nebraska dave
3/5/2010 3:34:03 PM

Cindy, every time I sit on the patio I just marvel at how well it turned out. I have spent many enjoyable hours on the patio. I understand about the fire pit. Husbands should always hear that they’re the best in every way from their wives. This year I think I’m going to try to build a 10 foot trellis from the front door out to the rim of the wall. I’m thinking to plant some kind of fast growing vine that will grow up and over the trellis. One on each side maybe grown in containers would do. I haven’t decided on what that plant would be just yet. I know that morning glory would do what I want but I’m afraid of it escaping into the yard. I have seen how morning glory can take over an area. I would consider it a noxious weed, but it does have a nice flower and grows incredibly fast. Would anyone have any other suggestions for a fast growing vine?


nebraska dave
3/5/2010 3:26:21 PM

Cindy, every time I sit on the patio I just marvel at how well it turned out. I have spent many enjoyable hours on the patio. I understand about the fire pit. Husbands should always hear that they’re the best in every way from their wives. This year I think I’m going to try to build a 10 foot trellis from the front door out to the rim of the wall. I’m thinking to plant some kind of fast growing vine that will grow up and over the trellis. One on each side maybe grown in containers would do. I haven’t decided on what that plant would be just yet. I know that morning glory would do what I want but I’m afraid of it escaping into the yard. I have seen how morning glory can take over an area. I would consider it a noxious weed, but it does have a nice flower and grows incredibly fast. Would anyone have any other suggestions for a fast growing vine?


cindy murphy
3/5/2010 2:46:32 PM

It's a good thing you like coffee, Dave, because you've got the perfect spot to sit and enjoy a cup (or two...or three). Looking at the beautiful job you did on your patio, there's no doubt your fire pit to be will be the "Daughter of All Fire Pits" - Keith built the "Mother of All Fire Pits" last spring, so I can't say yours will out-top his; I have to live with him, yanno. This spring's project is to redo our front porch; nothing so fancy as the Poor Man's Patio, though. The wood decking is starting to rot in places, and I was thinking about replacing it with that stronger than wood super-duty faux wood stuff made from recycled plastic. I've seen it at landscaping trade shows, and it looks enough like real wood to almost pass the test, but still....I dunno; there is nothing like real wood.


nebraska dave
3/5/2010 9:03:29 AM

Shannon, I’ve been an avid coffee drinker since my military days. When working as the team clerk for missile site in Germany there wasn’t much to do. It was either smoke cigarettes which were $.12 a pack or drink coffee which was free. I chose the lesser of two evils, the coffee. I’ve always drank coffee straight up black. I always figured for me if I was going to drink coffee, drink coffee. Well if I could make my way through military coffee then I could make it through any kind of coffee. I’m not much of a connoisseur of coffees and could not tell the subtle differences from one to the other. I just like a good old cup of small town hole in the wall café coffee from chipped mug with stain on it. It doesn’t get any better than that.


nebraska dave
3/5/2010 7:24:02 AM

MW, Thank you for coming to see the patio. I'm afraid that right now my yard doesn't look like that either. I'm so hoping that in a couple more weeks the snow will be mostly gone and the Spring flowers will be at least thinking about coming up. I replanted the front of the house by the patio with 100 daffodils and 60 tulips. We will have to see how that turns out. My plan is to plant Day Lillies to take up the slack after the Spring flowers are done. I don't want to end up with another weed patch. I usually leave the grass a little longer than most that way it covers up the bare spots a little better.


s.m.r. saia
3/5/2010 6:56:59 AM

That looks REALLY nice! Great job. And I'm with you on the coffee...... :0)


mountain woman
3/5/2010 5:09:23 AM

Okay, Nebraska Dave, I also LOVE coffee and I'm very fond of breaks. Kind of makes it all worthwhile to sit with a cup of coffee and watch the world going by. When I opened your post, I noticed the beautiful lawns and flowers and trees and as I gaze out on a snow covered vista (coffee in hand), I was refreshed by the gorgeous landscape. Your home and your patio are both just so lovely and a place where I can see you would enjoy spending time enjoying life. Brick is so expensive and it was interesting to read about using the cement patio blocks. I've seen them for sale and now I know they look beautiful when they are in place. I so enjoyed your entry. I love the way you write and the humor. Makes for a wonderful morning read!


nebraska dave
3/4/2010 8:17:23 PM

Oz Girl, Thanks for stopping by. If I could get a cup of coffee through the computer I'd offer you one. I'm just back from Nicaragua with coffee fresh off my friend's plantation there. I don't roast my own beans but I do grind them. Good luck with your patio and fire pit. A fire pit is on my project schedule for this year. A friend and I worked on taking down Old Rose (A Rosebud tree) and spent the better part of a year and a half removing the stump. Now I have a big crater in my back yard that screams fire pit.


oz girl
3/4/2010 7:14:20 PM

Dave, I LOVE your patio, it looks awesome! We need a patio outside our back door, and also a fire pit. Maybe this summer... it's on our "project list". Love your sense of humor. :-)