Tuesday, October 19

If you build it.

I am completely amazed, and completely exhausted, thinking about what we accomplished this weekend. The first of three retaining walls is built, and it came out better than I ever could have imagined. We've also started the foundation for the second wall, which is almost the longest part of the process.

We were pleasantly surprised to find that the weekend forecast was going to be quite mild. All the rain that had been predicted earlier moved on, leaving us with sunshine and a perfect working temperature of about 55. Saturday morning we reviewed our directions over breakfast, then headed out to get supplies. We hit up the local Home Depot, the first of many trips this weekend. We found a great Home Depot associate in the tool department who walked us through most of what we needed, including a shiny, new circular saw and a selection of drill bits. Then we headed to the garden department to grab gravel to make the base for the wall. While over there I found a pallet of Japanese Maple trees, on clearance for $15. They were a little worse for the wear, after living all summer in their tiny little pots, but I picked one with great shape.

What was to be our last stop was the lumber department. After tracking someone down we learned they were completely sold out of the 6"x6"x8' pressure treated timbers we were looking to buy. Just two weeks ago we had an employee check the stock and they had nearly 100. So while we loaded up the rebar we needed, I called the nearest Lowe's to see what they had in stock. They did, in fact, have a large number of the timbers.

So off we went to Lowe's. The employee I spoke to over the phone led us to the end of a long aisle, where the 6x6x8's were stacked. As we walked down we told him how many we needed, and then he went off in search of a cart.

We stood dumbstruck in front of the stack. These things are massive! I tried to lift the end of a solo timber that was on the front of the shelf. It didn't budge. Uh-oh. We quickly started brainstorming our other options, because clearly, these were not what we wanted. Just as the employee was returning we settled on the 4"x4"x8' timbers, and we took every last one in stock, about 80 total. Unloading them from Lowe's rental truck was not fun. We later did some investigating to find that each timber weighed about 40 pounds. We estimated we moved about 1 1/2 tons of wood, in about 15 minutes mind you. I moved about a third of that, but by the end of the load, my arms had just about given out on me.

All of this took almost five hours, not leaving us much daylight to work. After dinner we cut a few timbers in half, and then headed off to bed with the hopes of getting up early to start work.

Sunday morning we started, not quite as early as we'd hoped, and with a small list of additional things we needed from Home Depot. I made it there and back in record time, and joined Dave at work out back. The base for the first wall leveled out pretty quickly. All of our directions, and everyone we talked to said the same thing; level, level, level. And so we did. I kept checking with each new layer, and it was dead on every time.

Above is the first three layers of timbers, a close up shot of the "deadman", a perpendicular support that will hopefully keep the wall from leaning. This wall is 12' long by about 3' high, with two deadmen for additional support. The bottom two layers are spiked with rebar deep into the ground, and each subsequent layer is connected with galvanized spikes down through the two timbers beneath it. This thing is solid.

The finished product! We decided to stagger the end a bit to better match the slope of the hill behind. We still need to fill in around it a bit more, and plant some plants to make it all work together. We can't stop checking out our work. I can't wait to see the other wall finished along with it. A very special thank you goes out to our friend Carl, who generously loaned us his tamper, sledgehammer and 6' level, none of which we could have done without. Sorry about that egg, Carl!

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