Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Rock Wall Update

The rock retaining wall we're building has been a constant point of contention this summer. I love working on it but Josh never (and I mean never ever ever) wants to work on it. Because I can't lift some of the rocks needed to get it done, and was convinced my rock placing/stacking/balancing abilities were inferior to Josh's anyway, I felt defeated with regard to the project and had somewhat resigned myself to the fact that it might sit unfinished for years. It's just not the kind of project novices like us can whip out last minute after procrastinating all summer.

But everything changed Saturday when I discovered that (lo and behold!) I am in fact better at building the wall than Josh. On Saturday evening I found myself outside staring at the half finished wall and mess of rocks strewn all over, and decided to place a few. An hour went by, then another, and I was still going. When I stepped back to look at my work I was shocked. I'd completed more work on the wall in a few hours than the two of us combined had completed during the entire month prior, and what's more my section looked pretty darn good. When Josh finally came out to see what I was doing he took a look at the wall and said, "Oh my god, that looks really good! Wow, that's the best part of the wall..." I continued to work on the wall until it was too dark to see.

The next morning I was up at 5 am and went straight outside to continue gathering and stacking rocks. When I ran out of rocks, I took apart and raided the fire pit for rocks (we needed to disassemble the pit anyway to make room for the pergola) then hauled them back to the wall with the trailer on the back of our ride-on mower. Mid morning Josh came out to see what I was doing, and without being asked he began pulling rocks out of the brook to replenish my pile. This was a major breakthrough. He never does that without serious begging and pleading. We continued working on the wall throughout the morning until it became too hot to stay outside. I picked back up again later in the afternoon, and by the end of yesterday I had made major progress and felt totally empowered. The wall will be completed because I am going to do it!

Now granted the wall does not look "uber professional" per say, but it looks pretty good for a 5'3" 115 lb. klutz who had never given a second thought to rock walls before this project, let alone built one. Major lesson learned -- Do not underestimate yourself, and do not expect others to do what you can do yourself.

And now, some photos.

There are three sticks in the ground in front of the wall. The tallest one on the right is about the spot I started working from on Saturday and over the weekend completed most of what you see on the left portion of the wall. It is not done - I need to stack everything quite a bit higher and finish the taper on the left end. When the wall is done we will fill in and level out the soil behind the wall to make a plot for a small food garden.

A close up

In addition to the rocks you see on the front face of the wall, there are also two to three layers of "backer" rocks behind the face. These rocks don't have to be pretty or flat, they are there to support the front layer and provide stability. This shot from above shows the backers. The backers will eventually be covered in soil so as not to be seen.

I am planning to work on the wall pretty consistently this week and would like to finish the left side within a few weeks. After that I will move around to the right side of the wall and finish the section that runs back perpendicular to the front face on the right. If we can find enough good flat rocks it should really be a breeze. The tough part is finding the good rocks.

In other news, we finished construction of the murphy bed in the daylight basement bedroom yesterday and all it needs now is a coat of paint. Photos coming soon!


  1. Congratulations my dear! The wall is fabulous and now you have a visual reminder for all those future times when you think you can't, when in reality you really can. Cheers to that and all your determination:)

  2. AMAZING! It looks so good! Congrats. =)

  3. You go girl. But just remember, don't get toooooo good or you'll be doing it all! (-: But there are times that is good. Congrats to you both for a wonderful existence and life together. I really look forward to receiving your blog also Claire. This ol' woman is envious of you younguns'.

  4. It looks fabulous. Oh, to have a strong young back. Dare I say it - you ROCK!!

  5. That is freaking amazing, Claire! What a BEAUTIFUL wall!!!!

  6. I love this rock wall! So beautiful!

  7. Sanding the entire pergola may seem tedious, but it is necessary! Skipping this step may result in your paint peeling years before it should.