Monday, April 25, 2011

Building a wall

We'd been planning this retaining wall for some time, to keep our front yard from falling further into the street. I wanted to use the space for more garden, but every time I would try to plant anything there it would eventually slide down into the street. Ever hear of the angle of repose? Interesting concept, and the reason why my landscaping always washed away down the hill.

Originally I was going to build a picket fence type barrier out of disassembled shipping pallets, but upon actually acquiring some of these things we determined that the wood wasn't sturdy enough to hold the weight of the dirt. Scrapped that idea, now I have a pile of pallet wood to use for something else in the future.

Then we went in search of other building materials, pricing cinder blocks, bricks, concrete, and then finally found what I have come to know as castle brick. Castle Brick is an interlocking system just for building landscaping walls. Each brick has a lip on the bottom of it that catches on the brick underneath. The weight of the dirt behind the wall holds the whole thing in place. Pretty interesting, how physics works in all sorts of situations around the house!

Our search took us to Custom Concrete, which is a locally owned building supply company that is just outside of Sabraton on RT 7. They were super helpful, calculated how many bricks we would need for the length of our wall, and even sold us the bricks for a sweet discount (about half as much as they retail for at Lowes). Keith made two trips in the truck bringing about 60 bricks each time, and we unloaded them into the side yard. There they sat for a couple of days till it quit raining. We watched a couple of how-to videos on the internet and became confident in our ability to build this wall ourselves.

If you click here, you can see a photo of the front yard in the before stage.

Keith and Tammy

Thursday I came home from work and the sun was shining for the first time in what seemed like months, so we set out to excavate and then build the wall back up before it started thunderstorming again. That was an insanely tall order, upon reflection, but we did in fact work from about 2PM till it got dark at 9, and in that span of time, with the angelic assistance of one Malissa Goff (who kept us from killing each other during the ridiculously difficult process of leveling the ground and then the bricks). Keith had a sledgehammer (which he named Tammy Wynette) and I had a shovel, it probably wouldn't have been much of a fight.

There were a LOT of rocks in that dirt, not to mention some fairly rotten landscape timbers and the remains of the original wall. But we got it out of there.

Four feet of remaining cinder block wall, reduced to a HUGE pile of rubble by Tammy Wynette.

Me, on the sidewalk, hunched over the trench filled with rocks and dirt and sand, armed with two levels, a spade, and my fierce determination.

We laid the 5th course in the dark, and had to quit, but I decided it was enough to keep the impending rain from washing the whole foundation of our house away. Then we drank a couple of beers and collapsed into a pile of aching backs jello-like muscles.
The first day's work.

Today, Monday, we woke up, ate brunch, and got to work. Delia wasn't really down with carrying bricks or digging or weeding, so she decorated the job site with the chalk she got for Easter. Keith and I got the rest of the bricks in place, and I putzed around in the dirt throwing out even more rocks, mixing in soil amendments and just generally trying to determine where to put the plants. I think we have more work to do on the yard, but the retaining wall is pretty much finished. YAY!


bnicholson said...

Wow. You guys are pretty amazing, Good Job!

Serafina said...

Thanks! It was like building with legos (20 lb legos, but still) - pretty easy, after all the digging.

Erin said...

How cool is that? Your wall is lovely! I look forward to garden tales.

Malissa said...

That looks so good Tracy! I am inspired to deal with my backyard now! aka neighborhood eyesore.

Trisha said...

Sweet Mary on a pogostick! Great Times! I shall think of this when I look at my yard and think... 'Get off yer duff!'


Prisoner of the Universe #2-16 said...

Reminds me of the old days of yard work, when my Dad said:'Pick up those rocks and carry them to the ditch.' And I would pick 'em up for a while; then go into the house for a 'drink of water' and end up on the couch with a book... until he caught on to what I was doing.

I love the wall, even if Robert Frost doesn't agree...

Serafina said...

Thanks all! I can't wait to get the veggies in the ground.
Also, Mom, did you teach your sneaky "drink of water" technique to my daughter? :)

MsOli said...

Are you planning on planting veggies out front? Cuz you know the neighborhood dirtbags (a.k.a. college students) are going to steal them.

By the guys are so industrious. Muy impressivo.

Serafina said...

MsOli, We also heard from a neighbor that the dirtbags would steal our bricks too if they weren't mortared down. I guess people steal all the time, but I can't let it stop me from planting veggies there. It is the only part of my yard that gets any sun!
If you live your life in fear of what the dirtbags will do, then the terrorists have already won.

I am much more worried about dogs or groundhogs or whatever animal did my beets in last year. It wasn't bunnies because they left the lettuce alone!