Spring Grading


An annual ritual in the country is the spring grading of the driveway. I start looking forward to it in December as the ruts start out slow with the first few snowfalls, then quicken and deepen to dramatic Grand Canyon proportions as the winter progresses.

There are often weeks at a time that I can’t drive up the driveway in the winter anyway, but when I can drive up, the ruts are a nightmare. The ground soaks in foot after foot of snow, creating slush all the way to the Earth’s mantle.

Small children have been swallowed up by our driveway.

Driving up and down the driveway in this condition is akin to a rollercoaster ride. The ruts are numerous, and uneven, leaving you to bounce and jerk and listen to the unholy sound of scraping against the bottom of your vehicle. The ruts are that deep. By the end of winter, wheels sit so low in the ruts, the bottom of the vehicle scrapes the ground in between. And oh, sure, just try to drive on the non-rutted in between parts.

That doesn’t work. Mario Andretti couldn’t negotiate this driveway without falling into the ruts and once you’re in the ruts, you are no longer in control of the vehicle. You just close your eyes and try to survive. I’m just kidding about the closing your eyes part. I hardly ever do that when I’m driving.

Eventually, someday, it will not be quite so bad. Layer after layer of rock, year after year, will build up a stronger base. But rock is expensive and has to be bought a little at a time, and when you’re building a farm from scratch, you’re starting from nothing.

I was SO excited about getting the driveway graded this year that I volunteered to do it!

You know when you’re baking? Or knitting? Or planting peas?

You don’t run into all these “CAUTION” and “WARNING” signs.

I had a brother who died before I was born. He died ON A TRACTOR at my grandparents’ farm in Oklahoma. He was 13. He had been visiting with them for the summer and was learning to drive the tractor. By the time I came along, my grandparents had sold the farm and moved to town. I don’t think they ever got over that event.

My brother’s name was Stanley.

52 gave me instructions on how to operate all the gadgets and gears and doohickeys. It was all completely inexplicable, though I did like this little knob with the rabbit image for HIGH and the turtle image for LOW.

What, was this tractor manufactured by Aesop?

By the time he’d finished giving me all the directions and I’d finished reading all the “CAUTION” and “WARNING” signs, I had backed up about 10 feet and we both knew I wasn’t touching it.

And so he graded the driveway, back and forth, back and forth, scraping the ridges down by dragging the edge of the bucket attachment across the ground.

Because we don’t have any other attachments.

And I was very happy and grateful to have a newly-smoothed driveway.

And everyone lived.

The End.


  1. Nancy in Iowa says:

    Seems to me that by now you should have traded 52 in for 53 or 54..???
    No matter – he did a fantastic job. What a difference! I hope you get no more ruts until next winter, and that those won’t be as bad as this past winter!!! :dancingmonster:

  2. Karen Anne says:

    I am sorry about your brother. Your poor parents and grandparents, that must be about the worst thing that could happen, losing a child.

  3. Connie Trippett says:

    Last spring I did work for that questioneer that happens every 10 yrs and they needed help in WV. We went to the Elkins area and the first thing they showed us was pics of the narrow dirt roads and small creeks we may have to cross. They also told us about black bear, big snakes and lead us to believe that people did not want us there. They said that 3/4 of the people quit right then and there. All we found was some dirt roads with the rock and a lot of very friendly people. Oh, and we went across one of the creeks. It was kind of fun, we were in a big truck. I did get a little nervous looking over the edge though.

  4. NorthCountryGirl says:

    Hurray! The driveway looks great! I bet you are so relieved and happy that the driveway’s back to normal again. Sorry to hear about your brother. Accidents like that happen all too quickly. My husband was almost killed on a tractor that lost it’s brakes. Anyway, happy driving on your “new” driveway. May it stay smooth forever!!!

  5. Tovah says:

    Wow! Now those were some ruts! I can’t imagine driving over them (especially in my little prius-haha)and I’m very glad that your driveway is nice and smooth again:)

  6. lavenderblue says:

    Was it seriously true about your brother? That’s one of my biggest fears as I try to push my family toward country living. We are all city kids now, even though I was born in the country, and don’t really have a clue what we’d be doing out there. My sympathies.

    Even though I would like a crack at driving that tractor.

  7. scorwin says:

    I’m sorry about your brother. M y sister’s best friend’s husband was killed on a tractor, it rolled and he got crushed. There’s a lot of farm accidents involving kids.
    However your driveway looks very passable now. What other attachment would they have for doing that? I always thought it would be fun to run one of those too but all those warnings, Wow, it’s like on medicines, if you read all of them you’d never take the stuff!! (And I’m a nurse!!!!!)

  8. ScarlettSeraph says:

    All this makes me kinda glad I live in FL lol

  9. Amanda says:

    So very sorry to hear about your brother. Farm equipment can be very dangerous. Glad your driveway is now rut free!

  10. heidiannie says:

    I am also sorry to hear about your brother- I lost a sibling when I was ii and it was devastating.
    ANNNND-Big machinery is meant for the courageous! Not that you aren’t- you conquered the dreaded lye and made soap- now didn’t you!?
    The driveway is looking great- but you are right- you need lots of layers of rock!
    But at least you can drive u it without bottoming out, now.

  11. Sheryl at Providence Acres Farm says:

    I am also sorry to hear about your brother. Your grandparents would never get over it.

    I feel your pain! Our driveway is a mess in the spring too. If you think your car makes a mess of it, you should see the pounding it takes from a school bus all year! We have to get it graded in the springtime too.

    I drive our tractors, but they don’t have that bucket thingie on them. They also don’t have those warning signs. I might not drive them if they did or maybe I would just cover the signs up so I didn’t have to look at them.

  12. Lish says:

    We have a small dirt/gravel driveway. Like 1/50th of yours or something? I thought putting the rock on it every year would build up and by now (we’ve lived there 18 1/2 years) it would be nice gravel. We just put another load of gravel on. We have to do it every year. I swear there has to be gravel to the burning core of the earth by now, right?? Amazing how the ground just soaks it in!!!

  13. Carol says:

    Your photos show the driveway to be much worse than I imagined. I’m glad you got it smoothed out, and I was happy to hear that 52 was on the job. How come we don’t hear more of him? I miss him.
    Also sorry to hear about your brother. Life goes on, but it’s never quite the same.

  14. The Retired One says:

    What a WOMAN! (Hear you roar!) to do this.
    I loved the rabbit and turtle symbols!!!!

    It looks great!!! Would you be able to chip some trees and add the wood chips down for a base on the road? That would be free if you used the downed trees that fell down per nature’s fury…..

  15. Deborah R says:

    I’m sorry about your brother.

    Mr. 52 did a great job! I just did a little filling in our driveway over the weekend…of course, our driveway is measured in feet, not in miles like yours.

    I hope the spring rains are kind to your driveway!

  16. Wendy says:

    Yes, that clay just sucks the stone down like a bottomless pit! We just had new stone delivered a couple of weeks ago, and we don’t even live on a farm. (Just a long stone driveway.) This winter was particularly hard on driveways!

    Hope you get that permanent base soon, Suzanne. (Hope we do too.)

  17. MousE says:

    I’m sorry about your brother….

    And glad 52 was there to help.

    Yay! You can navigate your drive now!

  18. Debnfla3 says:

    So sorry about your brother. Such an awful thing for your Grandparents to live with.

    I love that tractor! I dream of having a tractor….LOL


  19. Chic says:

    Suzanne I’m sorry to learn about your brother. I think you’ll do just fine on the tractor..on the flat parts but thank heaven’s you’ve got 52 to tackle the driveway! What a great job he’s done…way to go 52! Man those were some wild trenches. I’m learning to drive our tractor too…so far I haven’t been on it much but I know I’ve got to get good at it as we have SO much dirt work to do around here. Wish me luck! Good luck to you to and PLEASE be careful. Take care….Maura

  20. Abhaya says:

    Wow, does that tractor belong to you? I would so love to have one even though they are dangerous. We’d get everything done so much faster if we had one.

    Be careful!

  21. Barbee' says:

    What a good job he did. I think 52 must be a perfectionist. How lucky you are. Good that the dogs stayed out of the way – or did they; at least they were not in the pictures. I wonder if the donkeys watched the show. I have the impression that donkeys are full of curiosity. I remember my grandfather’s mules pulling a big, heavy drag board to help smooth something out. I’ve forgotten what, because, you understand, that was back in the days of dinosaurs.

  22. Julie says:

    I am so sorry to hear about your brother. I grew up living next to grandparents who had lost their only son. Even when they were in their 80’s, if they spoke of their son, you could feel their pain. Glad you got your driveway fixed! Looks great!

  23. jojo says:

    I’m sorry you never had an opportunity to get to know your brother. The pain of losing someone especially a child is terrible. As for your driveway, you are a stronger woman than I. That drive would put me over the edge, but I’m so happy for you that you are now able to drive without the additional worry of chipping a tooth! :bugeyed:

  24. Mariah says:

    So sorry to hear about your brother.

    Yay for all the 52’s of this world! I have one too, except he’s called 48! 🙂 Did you have to rent the tractor? Would it be cheaper in the long run to lay some kind of paving or something? I really have no idea what I’m talking about…and I’m sure you’ve considered the options! Just curious, and being nosy!

  25. catslady says:

    Lol – I like that idea of 52 forever.

  26. MMT says:

    My husband maintains our drive with our tractor too. We also have to get alot more rock this spring. The drive just seems to eat it up. I run the tractor sometimes, usually mowing the pasture, but now and then DH wants me to run the bucket to lift him up for one thing or another. I hate that! It makes me a nervous wreck. I can just imagine me dumping him out at like 10ft. in the air. Yikes! I do like knowing how to run it though. Very empowering. A tractor is such a great help if you have any acreage. Good luck with your drive Suzanne.

  27. Nancy M. says:

    Wow! And I thought my driveway was bad! My goodness! Glad you were able to get it fixed! Sorry about your brother!


  28. B. Ruth says:

    Rocks, gravel, pebbles..etc………….
    There goes the butter and egg money…..

    Ours needs a good grading and a few more tons of gravel…
    I swear I don’t know where it goes…..but I do believe there is a
    “Big-Foot (Rock Eating) Monster” living under the Oak root bank, down by the spring, that emerges in the winter months to devour the gravel….

  29. Melanie says:

    Very sorry to hear about your brother. :hug:

  30. Darlyn says:

    Suzanne, so sorry about yout brother. I lost my first husband and nephew in a horrible crash a few years ago. Time does heal some of the wounds, but the scars are forever there. Love to you and all of yours. The drive does look fantastic, though! Glad you were able to get it fixed!

  31. kerri says:

    “52 Forever” ( 🙂 ) did a great job grading the driveway. Ours is sloped too and needs to be graded and have new shale each year. When we have heavy downpours the rain washes the dirt and shale into ruts and makes a mess of it. Luckily we have our own shale bed.
    It always looks so nice when first graded but, like housework, the perfection doesn’t last long 8)

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