Spring cleaning in rural Maine is quite different from my hometown. Besides the usual closet changeover from winter clothes to summer clothes, and washing windows and screens, we have to remove the acrylic panels from our sun porch, wash them before storing, and then wash and install screens panels in their place. There is also a sense of panic that I have to accomplish any outdoor tasks RIGHT NOW before bug season reaches its peak and stepping outdoors becomes temporararily unbearable. We also needed to rebuild our fire pit. Unfortunately when the snowplow pushes the snow to the side of the driveway, it moves the rocks from the fire pit in the process. So we have to level the gravel with a rake, put the benches back in place, and gather and rearrange the large, heavy strewn rocks in a circle to create a new campfire zone each Spring.
This year I had a new challenge: getting the sand off my driveway.
Last summer after seeming non-stop torrential rains washed out the bottom part of our driveway, and with every excavating company overwhelmed with work, we couldn’t find anyone to lay another 4″ layer of gravel to rebuild the damaged driveway. We finally relented and had several dozen feet at the steepest part of the bottom of the driveway paved with asphalt. The good news is that we no longer need a 4×4 to make it up our driveway in inclement weather – a bonus for guests who visit us from the city who don’t have AWD vehicles.
The downside is that when our Plow Guy had to sand the driveway during this long, snowy and icy winter (you plow for snow, and spread sand on the ice to provide improved traction), there was nowhere for the sand to go on the asphalt part of the driveway once that ice melted. Due to repeated treatments, the sand was 4″ deep in places. Now that the snow is long gone, the sand was creating the opposite problem in Spring: it was making our driveway precariously slippery in dry weather, and muddy after a rain. That sand had to go, but how to remove it was a problem to be solved.
Along Maine’s main roads, and in commercial parking lots, huge “sweepers” clean and sweep away the sand. But there is no such service in my area for private driveways. I’m in a hurry to get this job over with for three reasons: 1) The sand-coated driveway is slippery when I walk it and I’m afraid of taking a nasty fall; 2) Bug season will get worse, and make it intolerable to labor outside for more than a few minutes at a time; and 3) my driveway needs to be cleaned before the Town’s road maintenance sweeper comes by to clean the street, because when it rains the sand runs down the steep driveway onto the road, and if it does that AFTER the road crew comes, the street will once again be sandy and they won’t come back a second time.
At first I tried sweeping with an outdoor broom, but the sand was just too thick, and the area to be swept is simply too expansive. Next I tried shoveling the sand with a dustpan into a wheelbarrow, but the wheelbarrow was not only too heavy to push when full of sand, there was no way to evenly distribute that sand when dumped without judicious and tiring use of a rake. I have to be careful not to dump the sand on the other side of the road next to the pond, lest the Department of Environmental Protection accuse me of destroying the integrity of the soil next to the pond (worst case scenario, subject to fines!).
Unfortunately the only technique that seemed to work was to take a dust pan and bend down to the ground and scoop up the sand. As mentioned, I couldn’t effectively use a broom to push the sand into the dust pan, it had to be done by hand. Bend, scrape, fill, dump – – it took me two hours and more than 100 dust pan loads of sand removed – – and by the end of that time not only had I not finished (I hope to finish it this Sunday), I was utterly exhausted. I did as much as I could until I could do no more. Calling it quits for now, I trudged up the driveway, peeled off my dusty, sandy clothes, and promptly fell asleep for 2 hours!
Amazingly, I do not hurt nor do I have any sore muscles anywhere. Ditto for when I dragged the sixteen, 40 lb bags of compost from my car into the yard for the raised beds for my new vegetable garden a few days earlier. In my old (and weaker) life these chores would have been overwhelming, unpleasant tasks and undoubtedly I would have paid someone else to do them for me.
To my surprise, I am finding that I actually enjoy physical labor. With so many of my friends unwell, I feel so blessed to be healthy enough to be able to do this by myself and know I am getting physically stronger and more capable every day that I live and thrive in Maine – – even if I ain’t no “yungstah.”