My wife, Carla, was dropping not-so-subtle hints that we needed a load of stone on our 75-foot gravel driveway. It had something to do with splashing through a big mud puddle near the mailbox. And it didn’t help that where I parked, I immediately stepped out into mud. It’s possible some mud got tracked into the house.
OK, I ordered 24 tons of gravel. After the guy who delivered it spread what he could as he unloaded, I hooked up my scraper blade to my John Deere utility tractor. This should be a piece of cake. How hard can it be to level a driveway?
Creating a washboard
It’s much harder than it looks, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. Before long I had little piles here and there. Once the front wheels plopped over a pile, the blade popped up, making things worse. The swimming hole near the road was gone and the mud was covered, but it was like driving over a washboard.
I knew that wouldn’t do, so I shoveled gravel here and there until I couldn’t shovel any longer. It was a little bit better — but not enough.
I got the bright idea to tip up the loader bucket and use it as a drag. It ought to knock gravel off high spots and into low spots. That was a good theory. All it actually did was hop over high spots when the rear wheels went into low spots.
About that time, Carla came home and drove into the garage.
“Isn’t the new gravel nice?” I asked, smiling.
“It’s bumpy. Can’t you smooth it out?” she replied.
I knew that was coming.
Our 16-year-old neighbor, Jarrett Hensley, was coming over to fork manure. With two grandpas who farmed, he’s a born want-to-be farm boy. He looked at my driveway.
“Tom, we need some chicken wire,” he said. Some what?
“We could tack it to a board and pull it across the driveway to level it,” Jarrett explained.
I burst his bubble when I convinced him chicken wire was too flimsy. But metal hog panel wire isn’t flimsy. He had given me an idea. We cut a 6-foot piece off an old hog panel. Then I had to figure out how to make a frame and how to hook the frame to the tractor. I bought a bunch of chain and bolts. Since our dog passed away, there was an empty doghouse, and I didn’t want to sleep in it.
My original idea didn’t work — nor the second or third. Finally, though, Jarrett and I figured out a way to make it work.
But we needed to add weight. I stood on the homemade drag while he drove slowly across the driveway. That sort of worked, but I wasn’t heavy enough — true story! We added two round rear tractor weights from a Co-op E3 restored by Delphi FFA. Sorry, Doug Walker. He’s the instructor. The weights were freshly painted bright orange.
That did the trick. We ran our drag over the driveway, moving it by hand on the ends. Magically, it smoothed out that gravel. Carla came home, drove in and smiled. I looked at Jarrett and smiled. We all smiled.
The weights are scuffed up, but it was worth it. And the drag is stored in the barn — just in case we need gravel on the driveway again!