Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Continuing Saga

In my last post, I wrote about how a section of our back retaining wall collapsed last autumn. Throughout the fall and winter, we worried about how it could possibly be repaired, and whether we would find anyone to do the work. We called some excavating companies, but they were not available or willing to do the work.

In October, the owner of a local excavating company came and looked at the fallen wall and said he could do the work but he was very busy. The earliest he could come would be in March. 

In February, we hired someone to demolish the shed and remove several more sections of the fence. Larry from the excavating company said he'd stop by at the end of February, but he didn't, and we couldn't get in touch with him. And then late in the afternoon of March 12, a Friday, Larry dropped by. He apologized, saying he'd been extremely busy, but he could start the job next week or the week after. 

That weekend, we dug up all the shrubs and small bushes that were in the section of the yard where the equipment needed to work. We set a few of them aside to be transplanted back into the yard later. The rest we gave away. Our friends D & G recently moved into a new house nearby and wanted to do some landscaping. They came over and helped us dig up shrubs, and took lots of them home for their garden.  

Early Monday morning, we looked out the window to see an excavator being unloaded onto our front lawn. The front lawn would serve as a staging area for the equipment, soil, drain rock, and large boulders for the new wall. 

The Excavator at Work

Excavator Tracks
It was fascinating to watch Jody, the excavator operator at work. The first thing he did was use his bucket to dig up the remaining trees and two large bushes and set them aside. We phoned D & G again, and they came over again. We sent them away with two more car loads full of trees and shrubs. We kept four of the trees aside to transplant back into the yard later. 

This photo shows the narrow area along the side of the house where the excavator came through to the backyard. The light coloured sand in the lower right corner of the photo is the location where the shed used to sit. It was built on a base of large concrete composite pavers resting on compacted sand. 

Jody used the excavator to dig down along the edge of the steep hill to create a wide, flat platform all along where the middle section of the retaining wall used to be. Soil from the backyard as well as the rocks from the old retaining wall went over the edge of the hill.

Once the earth platform was created, Jody and his assistant Parker built a new wall using huge rocks. The load of rock was deposited in our front yard, and then Jody brought over a bulldozer (skid-steer) and used its bucket to bring the large rocks around to the back. Jody laid down a row of rocks using the excavator, while Parker directed the rock placement from below. It was amazing to see how precisely he could place each boulder with the bucket and thumb. 

Old Wall Meets New Wall
Once the first layer of boulders was in place, they back-filled the area behind them with drain rock. They also put down geo-grid, which is held in place by the second layer of rocks, as well as by the garden soil that they replaced over the drain rock. 

Parker hand-built the connector sections between the old part of the drystone wall and the new wall. The remaining part of the platform where the new wall is now serves as a path along beneath the wall.

We did not have to tear down the gazebo or the fish ponds! In fact, the goldfish seemed completely unperturbed by all the work going on around them. Presently the gazebo is serving as a tool shed, as we no longer have a shed.

New Wall and Path
As you can see, the slope of the hill below the wall is very steep. 

The whole job of rebuilding the wall and cleaning up the work site was finished by Friday. Yes, that's right. It took only 3 1/2 days in total and cost less than half as much as Larry had quoted. We are very happy with our new wall.

Of course, the story isn't over. There's lots still left to do.

We will need to have a fence built along the top of the new retaining wall and at the side of the house. Without a fence, the deer will come into the yard and eat everything in sight. Although the landscaping at the front of the yard is deer-resistant (plants the deer don't like to eat), the backyard plants are not.

We would like to have a shed, and we need to re-landscape a big section of the backyard, and repair the damage to the front yard. We want to get some plants established on the steep slope below the wall.

The Backyard After the Wall was Finished

Before the excavating company left, they covered the areas where they had worked with topsoil, and left us some of the load for our future landscaping. Our first task was to replant the trees and shrubs that we had set aside.

Replanting Trees

It is a tremendous relief to have a new retaining wall in place. We are thankful that we contacted Larry when we did, because all of the contractors are extremely busy this year. There are a lot of new houses being built, and also lots of people are renovating. All of the tradespeople are fully booked. 

Look for another installment on this topic. In it, I will tell you about the fence, the landscaping, and the slippery slope. . . .