Adventures in Landscaping

side view of front wall

Since I’m off-topid right now anyway, I thought I’d crow a little bit about the amazing amount of dirt I’ve moved over the last couple months. Mom and I decided we needed to make some changes to the front yard to add a second walkway. (She apparently thought my habit of shoveling through the middle of the grass to get to my car last winter was tacky or something.) We watch entirely too much DIY network…

view from front door before
Before
view from front, after
After. (We're still working on the gravel area - it gets planters eventually.)
before, from front
Before
yard from front, after
After. It will look even cooler when mom does her plant-magic. I don't do plants. I just move dirt.

Now, truthfully, the walkway area and the flower bed in front of it were absolutely all we planned on doing. So you can imagine my mother’s surprise when I told her I was ripping out the planting area around the pine tree and putting in a wall…

the wall
I built this!

The wall is about 3′ closer to the tree than the old planting area (ie, the part without grass in front of the wall). It’s made from a lot of old landscaping blocks that we had lying around (no, really – mostly in the back, as far from the project as possible).

Now, I built the wall to hold the dirt that I had to remove from the area that is now gravel and brick. 20’x8’x4″ is, in fact, a whole lot of dirt. Add to that the flower bed in front (which goes down 24″, at my mother’s insistence), and the additional 4″ of excavation for the brick path, and, well, it’s a lot of dirt.

Sane people do this with a bobcat or other dirt-moving machine.  I had a shovel. Right now, I also have a slightly improved waistline, and the best tan of my adult life.

I’ve never built a wall before. As I understand it, you’re supposed to excavate down and put in a level gravel base. I skipped that. I found out while digging the front area that at about 3″ down, our front yard is one solid mass of gravel. We felt pretty confident that it would be silly to dig out 4″ of the existing packed-till-concrete-hard gravel in order to replace it with newer, cleaner gravel to build a wall on. (We also now know why we’ve always had such a time with the grass – the builder’s seem to have skipped the part about putting down topsoil when they rolled out the lawn. After almost 40 years, it’s probably too late to complain….)  The blocks we had were really meant for straight walls, not curved walls. We filled the areas between them with concrete, just for good measure.

I’ve never worked with concrete before, either. If I had, I might have realized it would be a good idea to concrete as we went, rather than waiting to the end and trying to get concrete into little spaces. (The best way seems to be to make little concrete patties and shove them in, btw. Just in case you ever find yourself doing something like this.)

I used a bunch of extra rocky, gravelly goodness right inside the wall for drainage. Did I mention the rocks? Oh, but there were rocks… And the occasional stray concrete clump larger than my head. No big. After all, I had a shovel….

rocks
Here are just a few of the rocks I dug up....
brick walk way
Here is my lovely, curved brick walkway.

This project was composed entirely of things I didn’t know how to do. Like, brickwork. I’ve never had to do that before. Looking back, the curve makes this less than the best starter project. This was also a “wrong tool for the job” project. Modern people cut bricks with a masonry saw. I had a hammer and chisel. That takes longer.

rock lined path
More rocks...

We also added a rock lined path through the garden area, between the pine and the house. All these rocks were in our yard. Mostly, they were in the back, as far from the place they needed to be as possible. They used to border a bed of ferns, but the ferns jumped their bounds a long time ago, leaving the rocks strangled by dead ferns and living weeds. That was … annoying.

True story: I’d been putting off starting this whole thing. (Shoveling through the middle of the yard bothered me not at all….) I started it July 18th, as I recall. Mom had left for a wedding, and I was planning on working on website code for the rest of the day then going to watch my guy perform in a show that evening. The most stressful thing I was going to do was take out a small bag of trash.

Which is when I got locked out of the house. I checked the door to make sure it wasn’t locked (I always do, because I used to have a very bad habit of locking myself out of places), pulled it shut, dumped the trash, and somehow, the door had locked itself. The neighbors no longer have a key. There was a hidden key, buried under the front left leg of the bench under the pine tree, which would have been helpful if I hadn’t moved the bench to trim some of the lower branches on the tree.

So I started digging up the yard. It seemed like the most logical response….

Unfortunately, I was wearing a heeled slide, which is probably the most wrong shoe for digging in the history of ever. Fortunately, mom got home from the wedding early, and I had time to get cleaned up for the evening.

side view of front wall
I love the view we get when we drive up to the house now!

So, the moral of the story is: if you’re locked out of the house, you might as well do a little yard work.

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