Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Building a wall...in the yard

This summer has been focused on pretty much one yard project - a natural rock retaining wall.

We have a bit of a slope on the side of our house.  A neighbor of ours on the next street, was wanting to replace his rock wall with a wall made of landscape block.  In exchange for helping him dig out the rocks, we got the rocks without charge.  It was a lot of work.  That was part of our summer projects last year. 
My kids were put in charge of taking the pictures.  They chose to do it through the window.  Eh.

This year, we wanted to get all those rocks put in place.

The kids and I dug a trench where we wanted the wall to go.  We took the dirt that we dug out of the trench and sifted it to get out pea sized gravel and the other small rock.  The sifted dirt went to the other side of the house where we had tire ruts from driving our vehicles there while it was muddy.  That area is more smoothed out and packed down now.  The pea sized gravel was used to line the trench with, and the larger rock we sifted out was put in a pile to be used later to help backfill over the drain pipe we purchased to go behind the wall.

That was all very time consuming.  The part we had to put out real money for was for the mini excavator to lift those darned heavy boulders into place.  Back in August was our first chance to use one.  My husband drove the machine and I did my best to be the spotter and guide each rock to it's final resting place.
My husband tried to show me how to drive this thing when we were taking a break.  I can drive a stick shift but on this thing there were way too many levers and pedals for my taste.  He's definitely better at that.

We learned a couple of things.  We should have had a LOT more pea gravel in there.  We should have dug the trench wider.  Mini excavators are LOUD so you have to shout to communicate.  We should have labeled each rock we had dug out so we would know better how to fit them back together.  We should have rented the machine for two days instead of just one.
I had to wear safety goggles just to help keep the flying dust out of my eyes.

We found that we were going to run out of time and still have rocks to put in.  As the clock ticked down, we got in a hurry and we started "throwing" rocks into place hoping they would work.  They didn't.  I got very frustrated, my husband got very frustrated, angry looks were exchanged...when the pickup guy arrived to get the machine, we were both pretty worn-out and grumpy.  The rock wall wasn't even finished and the last half of it looked horrible.
Our cruddy first attempt from the back.  I was ticked off, I didn't want to get a shot of it from the front at the time.

We had resigned ourselves to waiting for another few months to save up more money to rent the machine again to do it over.  Our next door neighbor kind of unknowingly pushed us, however.  He had a load of lime chips delivered. I could see he would want to use his borrowed skid steer to spread a layer of lime chips next to his house on the other side of our "wall".  I thought, "Oh, no.  If he spreads his chips all the way to our wall, we'll just be messing it up when we do it over."  I asked him if he could just leave us a foot or two of space on his side of our wall because we still had more to do on it.  He said he could hold off for a bit.

Now we were on a time crunch.  We used some funds that we had hoped to put down on a credit card to rent the excavator once again.  Last weekend, we tried again.  We undid almost half the wall and we started again.  This time we went more slowly.  We took more care to make sure the rocks we placed weren't tipsy.  Several times we tried putting a rock in, saw that it wouldn't work even after turning it around different ways, and putting it away and trying a different one.  As our supply of rocks dwindled, it was getting harder to find a good fit. 
2nd attempt.  Not perfect, but better.  And yes the time stamp is wrong...stupid camera.

We got to the end of the trench and we still had a few big rocks leftover.  Our time was again run out, so we didn't get a chance to see if the last few rocks would go on top in some of the lower parts of the wall.  We will probably rent a smaller excavator sometime in the future at an hourly rather than a daily rate since we have less than ten rocks left.  My husband has certainly gotten better at driving such things.
We put the leftover large rocks along the dry creek we made last year.  These "problem children" will have to wait for a while longer.

At least we got the wall done enough that our neighbor can now spread the rest of his crushed rock.  And for amateurs, I think we did pretty well.  The wall runs fairly straight along the string I stretched between the corner stakes.  We still have to backfill with smaller rock on top of the drainage pipe and top the rock with some trench liner and soil, but I think I can get that done before the snow comes.

So there's my essay on "What I did this summer."


Mom said...

My goodness what a lot of work! The wall looks very nice and I'm glad it's done for now. Some day that yard will be to the sit back and enjoy stage. I hope you won't be too exhausted to do that!

Pam said...

HEY that wall ROCKS!!