Tuesday, June 3, 2008

the whole cow

You know the saying don't bite off more than you can chew? Yeah.

Instead of finishing the few things remaining required to get a mortgage, we undertook a major landscaping project. This is partially because I really wanted to make a retaining wall to avoid erosion on a steep slope near the foundation that had me worried. Since this virtually required renting a mini excavator, I figured why not use it for other projects.

So, we decided to make the retaining wall, and go ahead and make the 60 foot long raised garden bed we had planned for the future, and also dig the utility trench to later connect the house to the garage.

Not a huge amount of work? 16 posts, 1000 pounds of concrete, 55 50 pound blocks, lots of hand digging, 13 hours of machine time, 32000 pounds of gravel and 20000 pounds of topsoil later, we beg to differ.

In the end, we prevailed, though I was up until 2 am and then back at it at 7am to maximize machine rental time and finish so we wouldn't need to rent again. On Monday, I could hardly move.

Here's the story in pictures:

One of 16 posts, set in concrete in a sonotube

all 16 posts set, earth torn up.

first three rows of treated 2x12s attached, me in the background hauling gravel. The gravel goes under the topsoil so the soils drain well.

backfilled with gravel, reinforcement structure to be compacted under silty gravel.

topsoil in place, tops of posts will be cut flush

This is the parcially backfilled utility trench which will go to the garage. A PVC conduit for electricity goes in next. These are pex tubes for heating glycol to heat the floor of the garage via the houses boiler.

Roland helps by sleeping sprawled on his back

Me digging out any silt that may disturb the first course of stones for the stone wall. Gravel goes in the trench and then gets compacted and leveled. These machines are fun. Just like playing with Tonka trucks!

Bringing in gravel after a couple courses layed. The gravel gets compacted with a vibratory plate compactor after every 6" course of block. The machine I'm on is a Boxer brand track loader. I got this because it has retractable tracks so it's just small enough to squeeze between the deck and garden wall. You stand on it and hold on as it whips you around.

five courses of block layed

all 6 courses (at the lowest point) and topsoil layed in place. A staircase from the deck will step down to the flat area created by this wall.

Here's another project we've been working on: Deck railing. The space between will be cable rails.