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Lotta work–day two (continued)

Posted by joeabbott on January 31, 2015

It was time for day two, Sunday.

“All” we had to do was put in the retaining wall; simplicity itself. I’d learned my lesson from the day prior and today I wore a bandana (the better to keep from soaking myself in the slow shower that rains from my head when I’m exerting myself), some knee pads, and, again at 10AM, I shook off my aches and pains from the day prior and started in.

Another trip to the lumberyard

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         With the compost bin hauled out of the way and the majority of the clearing completed, we laid out our lines, agreed on where to start and stop the wall, and re-measured this area. Because this area was following the hillside, it angled oddly compared to anything else back there: different from the coop, different from the gate, and different from the fence line. But, it maximized the area for the compost bin and later-to-be-built storage shed. And yet, the result of the odd angle was to keep us from completely visualizing the area.

But, we knew enough to get some more lumber! Off to Home Depot for a load of 18-4×4 pressure treated posts, the biggest handful of 2’x3/8” rebar lengths I could manage, and three dozen 8” galvanized spikes. It dented my wallet proper but would be just what we needed. The hard work was just starting as I moved the timbers from my truck to the backyard; some of the wetter boards biting miserably into my shoulder.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         The first tier

Experience told me not to be disappointed when laying the first tier of the retaining wall took a long time; it also taught me not to rush it. And with the additional challenge of tying into an existing wall … well, the morning wore on and it was well after noon before I had my level out and was assaying the lay of that timber. And as I planning where to stop the wall and start the dogleg, Suzy reminded me we’d agreed on ending the wall about 2’ closer to the fence than I was planning.

Time to get the shovel and do a bit more digging.

And, as I dug, I unearthed a new collection of stones for the dry streambed and additional branches from the preternaturally hard tree that had fallen on our property long before it became our property.

But labor begets rewards and I was soon smoothing out the earth, setting in another timber, and locking it to the ground with a 2’ section of rebar. Following that, the first tier of the dogleg went in.

Crushed gravel

With the first tier in place I looked at the clock and realized that if I was going to get gravel to finish the area below the compost bin I’d need to go get it at this time. With Sunday hours, they would close early. I was thinking I’d get a load of stone, but to save my truck the wear and tear of crushed rock being dumped in I’d consider getting pre-bagged stone.

At Burien Bark, a local shop, you have a number of choices and a fella leaving the store took the time to talk over my options. While I think he was an owner/employee, I’m not altogether sure as he hopped into a nondescript car and drove off after I’d interrogated him on the various options and choices. But, at $20 for a half yard of clean 5/8” crushed (or many more $$ for a bagged equivalent amount), I gritted my teeth and drove under the raised scoop and awaited the shower of crushed stone.

The chap behind the wheel of the industrial shovel looked young but knew his craft as the tidy pile dumped in and, feeling lower and slower, I drove off with my booty. Upon getting home, I parked and headed back to building the wall.

The wall

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Once the first tier is in, installing the rest is just mechanical hammering. It’s quite easy. The first tier establishes a level surface, the line of the wall, deals with the uneven earth, and how (if anything) it will tie into the surroundings. The remaining levels just lie on top of the preceding level and will be pinned in as allowed by the attaching hardware below. That is to say, watch where you’re driving rebar and spikes because you may hit one in a lower tier.

I’m self-taught so I have no idea if I’m “doing things right”, but my results are solid and attractive and have stood the test of time. The one note I can add about the description above is that, for the first level (as described) I’ll use a rebar section; and I do that on the second tier as well. This means, on the second tier, I need a 3/8” auger that’s about 8” long so I can pierce both the timber I’m placing and the first level below it. After that, I use 8” spikes.

For the 8” spikes I will drill through the level I’m placing but then just hammer it into the timber below. While I do this mainly to save myself a lot of deep drilling, there is a potential to split some of the timbers that aren’t drilled. In all my other work, I can’t recall splitting being an issue, however, on this section of wall, it seemed if I wasn’t drilling, I was splitting. Which was odd because the wood I was using seemed very wet … and I thought that would help avoid splitting.


Anyhow, I drilled and hammered and drilled some more and hammered more. By 5:30PM it was getting dark and while I was nearly done with the retaining wall, I still needed another level or two. At that point, I decided to send my boss and email and ask for the next day off.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         While my motivation was in part to complete the job, it was also acknowledgment that the following day was supposed to be as beautiful as the last two (+50°F!) but the day following that it was supposed to rain. I wanted to finish this work before it rained.

After my shower I received a response to my email request with my manager sending a good natured, “well, I suppoooose” response to my query. I went to sleep knowing the next day would be another tiring bit of labor.


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