For the second weekend in a row, I have a sunburnt face and neck. Last time it was due to our trip out on the lake, this time it is due to yardwork. But not just any yardwork. This was a project.

Our house doesn’t have much of a yard at all, and in particular our side yard is pretty much useless. When we bought the house, the side hard was taken up by two huge conifers, a garden shed, and a whole lot of ivy. We have slowly been removing these obstacles, first one tree, then the other, and the shed, and the battle with the ivy has been ongoing. Of course, by disrupting the vegetation, we have permitted the native thistles to gain a foothold, which they have taken advantage of with a vengeance. Although in the spring the area is festooned with daffodils, it is an unsightly mess the rest of the year.

After discussing the possibilities with a landscape engineer, we had decided to embark on a remediation of our yard. First, we knocked down our semi-rotten fence, opening up access to the sidewalk. Then, the wife started digging up daffodil bulbs. She scheduled the landscape engineer (a friend of ours) to come in on Saturday to level the side yard, bring in some topsoil, and seed it.

I’ve always been a big fan of letting other people do the work, so it was with some trepidation that I noticed that my wife kept mentioning “preparing the yard” and “working all day” when she discussed this little project. What is the point of hiring people to do the obnoxious jobs when you have to help them? My trepidation turned to outright horror when I found myself hauling wood chips away, trimming weeds, and mowing the yard on Friday night until it was too dark to see what I was doing.

Saturday morning, bright and early, our friend showed up with a rented John Deere tractor and a bunch of yard equipment. He was followed shortly by a dump truck that dropped a mess of dark, loamy-looking topsoil on the street in front of our house. And then the fun began.

We did more trimming and hauling of organic matter, followed by tilling of the entire side yard. Well, intermittant tilling, because every time we hit a tree root, the two of us would have to pry/hack it out of the ground before tilling could continue. He used a shovel, I used a mattock, and it took both of us to get some of those monsters out.

After tilling, we immediately started compacting the soil we had just fluffed up with the water-filled roller. This was largely my job, since it required no actual skill or technique. The roller was now full of water, making it very heavy indeed, and while I pushed and pulled the heavy roller back and forth, grunting, our buddy raked and scraped the ground until it was smooth as a baby’s butt. Now, the contour of the side yard sloped gracefully away from the house down to the sidewalk. We used the tractor to dump topsoil on it, and raked that out as well.

I did a lot of raking yesterday. A LOT of raking. And a LOT of rolling. Too much rake ‘n roll will kill you.

After the side yard was done, we started applying a layer of additional topsoil to our scraggly and uneven yard. More raking! More rolling! Everywhere we had a low spot or scraggly grass, some of the black rich soil got dumped, raked out, rolled, and raked again.

By late afternoon, I was so exhausted that my arms were shaking. By the end of the day, with the help of a couple of teenage boys from down the street, all the soil had been applied. We didn’t have the time or energy to start seeding, applying mulch, or figuring out how we would keep the grass seed watered, but that would keep for another day.

Then came the big reward. I had purchased two pork shoulder roasts (pork butts) Friday, liberally applied dry rub to them, wrapped them in plastic and put them in the fridge overnight. Saturday morning, I had preheated the smoker, and got both pork roasts nestled inside it by 7:15 am. They smoked all day long on a mixture of cherry and hickory wood. The smell was intoxicating.

I took them off the smoker at about 6:00 pm, let them rest, and then started pulling them to shreds. When the work was done for the night, we had fresh pulled pork on big white rolls, with a choice of barbecue sauces, and ice-cold watermelon. I had made a batch of North Carolina vinegar-based sauce specifically to go with the pork, and it turned out to be quite interesting: Pungent with vinegar and pepper, it had no tomato in it at all, and provided a lot of flavor to the pork without covering up the wonderful flavor of the meat. I can see why people like it.

I can’t think of a better way to round out a day of punishing physical labor than barbecue pork. Our landscape guy was in whole-hearted agreement, and he put away a couple of generous sandwiches while making yummy noises.

And I took three Advil and slathered Tiger Balm on my lower back before bed last night, so I am actually able to walk today.