All of us know what a subdivision looks like - we’ve all driven through them and visited friends who live in one. All the houses (ignore their similarity for a second) look perfectly finished, with siding or faux stonework and sod covering the yard and lining the driveway. Well I am in the dark about most of the building process, but I can speak about the efforts of the landscaping crews who prepare the ground and lay sod and are often the last people to work on a property.
This summer I departed from the office-type job I held last year and took on a landscaping job for a company based out of Stittsville that makes a habit of choosing commercial and city projects rather than single residential locations. My employer, Meyknecht-Lischer, is also a subcontractor to a custom home builder, Cardel Homes. In Ottawa, Cardel sells subdivision homes in places such as Kanata, Richmond, and Orleans.
I was placed on a three-man crew, which eventually grew to have six guys including myself. I remember my first task was to dig out a window well. Mostly, though, our crew routinely finishes houses: prepare the subgrade earth, add four inches of topsoil, and lay down rolls of sod. I wish I had pictures of this since it is amazing how much the look of a property can change with only the yard actually being improved. I will have to have a point of taking some before I exit the company the first week of August.
And now a word about the “how”.
- Scene One: We arrive on site, walk around, and comment on the job. Okay, truthfully it’s the foreman who does most of the walking and commenting :)
- Scene Two: Everyone grabs a shovel and flattens the subgrade - usually rock in Kanata, and clay in Orleans.
- Scene Three: Dump trucks drop off loads of topsoil on front lawns and a bulldozer does most of the spreading. The minions (me + others) then push topsoil up to the walls of the house and use rakes to make everything slope the right way.
- Scene Four: If we are sodding large areas, we use a sod layer (I don’t know the people in the picture), otherwise we lay smaller rolls by hand. The company water truck is called. Wow, look at that lawn!
Occasionally, our crew is assigned some city work, say replacing stone paving blocks around the War Memorial at Confederation Square in downtown Ottawa, or repairing sod at old City Hall. Incidentally, I took pictures of each stage of work at the latter site.
Something else I would like to offer is a description of the speed we work at. Although the progress made in a (typically 10-hour) day obviously varies greatly, the ratio of preparing for sodding to actually sodding is usually about 50:50. I should add that given that ratio, it is odd how tiring I find raking and grading compared to laying sod. We can sod either the front or the back lawns of 5-7 houses in a day.
Finally, a shout out to Eva for finding the job for me, Chris for his priceless humour, Tyler for his very good voice imitation skills as well as his memory for lines from movies, Lanre for both his experience and not minding our sometimes shocking jokes about francophones, Dan for his skills with a rake, and Kevin for the phrases “have a boo” and “have an eye”.
UPDATE: Ten months later, I came back and snapped a picture with my phone. Here’s the “after” picture of our work: