Why? You Ask

It would seem that my previous explanations and photos have left some questions in regards to the current big project underway with the Cruikshanks. I now have the photos to explain “what the heck” and “why we would”.

We moved our heritage home and took advantage of the existing contours of the land. It affords us a lovely view and a slightly sheltered patio. It also means the house is not set east to west but that’s a totally different story. This story is about the fact that we need to create a retaining wall on both sides of the basement walk out walls. So there is the why we need to do it.

 There are many different types of materials one could use for a retaining wall. Precast concrete “Lego blocks” or poured in place concrete are two options. The one outside of our old city house was wire cages with rock fill.  Now rocks are something farm land has plenty of so that is one influence that was running through the engineer’s head.

Ah, and the Romans used rock. It’s natural and it’s free. The Egyptians used rocks. The English, Irish and Scottish built rock walls that are still standing centuries later. Oh and did I mention it’s free. All you need is a strong back and arms to haul them around and something to secure it in place. We are extremely pleased to have a skid steer on temporary loan for a few weeks this summer as that’s going to make the project significantly easier.  

Now this might be a bit dull for some but I feel compelled to talk a bit about “cement” here but not for as long as the guest speaker last Monday at Alyssa’s convocation.

Mortar and concrete have slightly different structural integrities. Sand and masonry cement plus water become mortar. Portland Cement, gravel, sand and water become concrete. The amount of water is a key condition for success as well as the ratio of sand to cement. We are super lucky to have a mixer which makes the job so much easier. That is until it’s time to clean it (after each pour) which is a miserably ugly job but someone has to do the scut work. This photo shows the New Holland skid steer, the mixer and the view. Oh and the crazy first rock.

 I love projects and creating lasting items but the scope of this project is daunting for me. Ron keeps telling me not to worry but it’s not worry so much as logistics. It’s the height and width of the wall that is a bit staggering. Go back to the first picture and you can see the little bit of the house which has no siding on the right hand side — it’s about 11′ at that point and will eventually be covered by rocks. The picture below shows the width at the house and how it tapers out. It’s about 20′ long.

So as you can see it’s a fairly significant undertaking, even for us. I like to show the start and then the finish of projects on the blog but that might mean I’m not back for a while so you might get weekly updates on the status of our muscles and the height of the wall. Especially if we fight for an hour or two with every big rock like we did the first one. It took some time with the skid steer (which operates slightly differently than a Bobcat), swear words, chains and persistence to get it where he wanted it. The more big rocks then less little rocks should mean quicker, right? I noticed that last year’s little is a mini this year, a medium is a small, a large is now a small. The regular size this year means I need to work which the rock to move it alone and wear work boots. The crow bar is my new best friend as that’s how I wedge them out of the bucket onto the concrete pad.  

Our big rock pile down here didn’t get sorted according to size. The big rock pile by the driveway is a dirty pile as they came from digging the basement and the septic tank. So we are slowly sorting and cleaning then dumping roughly into place. Then the fine tuning of what rock where, add mortar and move along. There will be a lot less finishing work on the mortar so that also means faster. We will backfill the retaining wall as we go so one side we will have ground level access to at all times. See all the positives I can find? Oh and time outside with my man which is the biggest plus. That and the fact that it’s going to “rock” when it is done!! Please don’t remind me we have the second side to do just now! 

We spent part of Saturday and most of Sunday working on the wall and the two pictures above show the sum of the rocks in place. We started with the prep work of more Blue Skin, rigid insulation and buffalo board that required placement behind what will be rock wall in the next few weeks.

So, yes we are crazy. Not certifiably but still a bit on the edge. I’m just dreaming about both sides being done, the patio completed by our friend Peter and then the hot tub. I’d love to give a deadline for this but I think that would be deflating if we don’t make it so I’ll just keep plugging away to make it a reality.



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