There’s piles of stuff and then there’s stuff in piles. While my office is a testament to the former—magazines being the foundation of that bad habit—I wanted to address the latter. Right now, outside, I not only have a lot of piles but I’ve also moved these piles a lot. Try as I might to place something in the right spot, semi-permanently, eventually I decide that I need the space for something else—often just another pile.

Today’s perfect spot is tomorrow’s okay-ish spot, and next month’s problem. This has a lot to do with the limited access from my front to back yard. (Suggestion: buy a house with more than three-feet of access on at least one side.) But I think this may be a somewhat inevitable predicament for someone trying to tackle multiple landscape projects at once, all of which involve moving a decent chunk of the Earth by hand.

Before we dive into the piles, a quick shout-out to my dad and my friend Matt, who have both helped me move dirt and rocks. If anyone else wants a workout, just come over.


Here lies Crabbie, the only likeable pile. A 150 lb sandbox whose weight drops every time the lid is opened and several dump trucks make their exit. Crabbie is pretty happy as long as the ground is level. I’ve moved Crabbie three times.

Dirt, Etc.

This is a pile of duff, dirt, and sod. Nothing great, just a mix of loose matter raked up and dug up from all areas of the property. I’m planning to finally turn it into compost, now that I’ve moved the compost bin for the fourth time.


This is a pile of 6x6 landscape timbers that were initially delivered to the driveway, cut in the carport, and moved to the backyard to build stairs. These remaining pieces will, someday, become stairs too. Embarrassingly, I’ve moved these heavy pressure-treated timbers twice this month because I initially placed them too close to a tree. You shouldn’t stack things close to trees.

Tree Litter

There is no shortage of needles and cones that fall on the roof and form piles on their own. I will be moving these piles for as long as I live here.


This is a pile of rough, bluish rocks that I’ve dug up from around the property. If I knew anything about geology I’d figure out what they are because they’re interesting enough to keep and to use. This pile has never moved but it does grow.

River Rocks

If I put a shovel in the ground, they’re there. Everywhere, they rise up. Like zombies—in a zombie movie that has no ending. They might find a home in nearby park, or maybe I’ll make some sort of rain garden. This pile has moved three times within a ten-foot radius. That’s a stupid amount of wasted energy. Maybe they already ate my brain.

The Old Wall

Stones large and small, from the retaining wall that I’m replacing. Spiders love them. It’s less of a pile now; I spread them out the other day to re-assess what I had. They need to go somewhere. The green tarp is filled with compactable gravel that I’m using for the foundation of the new retaining wall. Until it’s empty, it remains.


These guys. A sprawling six-ton pile, minus what I’ve already put into the slow-going 50-foot wall. It took a lot time and effort to get each stone to the backyard, moving them off of wood pallets and then back on to pallets. I’ve handled each stone at least twice but I’ve never counted them. It looks chaotic at a glace, but they’re all organized by either size, thickness, common irregularities, or some other criteria that I can’t recall.

The rainy season has begun and these piles may not budge until Spring. But I could probably do something about my office. 