Diggin’ It


The weather has cooled, which means that it is time to get to work and get some final projects done before the snow flies. Last year it snowed on Oct 26, which is early for our area, however using that as a deadline, we have a little over a month and a half to complete some pretty major projects on top of buttoning up the yard for the winter.

I have said that this is the last year that I want to build rock walls….no more rock walls after this year…PLEASE! So, our plan is to get our last 4 walls built before Oct 26. The hardest part about this goal is that it is finally nice enough weather to be outside camping, bike riding, fishing and just enjoying fresh cool air. I know, excuses, excuses, but rest assured my desire to not have to build any more rock walls is greater than my need for all of the other fun stuff.

So we have started. Kurt got into excavator mode and taught me how he digs out these levels. I’m not nearly as good of a digger as he is, unless you want a deep hole that has no finesse to it, then I’m your girl. Kurt has a way of shaping the ground to be exactly what we need it to be. I have the vision of it, but for some reason cannot get my hands to maneuver the shovel the way they need to. Kurt is a patient teacher though and I think I am starting to get it.

In the spring, Kurt had started to dig the first level on the steep side of our yard. He got the first level dug and was starting on the others when the heat hit. So, that is where we decided to start. We realize that we will not be able to dig out all of the levels at once and then build the walls like we did on the other side. This side is too steep so it will be best it we start at the bottom and build a wall before we dig and build the next. This will give us some flat area to stand while digging and building, but will also support the ground as well.

We needed to dig down the base of the wall a little further as we want to put a gazebo in this corner and need the ground to be fairly level. We ended up digging the whole base area down by about 10″. Although it is still not perfectly level, we will be able to build up the corner a little to bring it to where it needs to be. It is also really difficult to tell the level since the strawberries and rhubarb are still growing, as well as a few other plants, in that back corner. We believe that despite those plants, the ground is at the level we need it to be.

Where I had issues is the path that comes down from our top level. As we dug down, we also needed to fan out the base of the path so that it blended and didn’t just drop into the yard. My lack of finesse was a little frustrating, but Kurt did a great job of showing me how he uses the shovel to scrape those slopes as best as he can and then uses the rake to finish it off. There will be more tweaking to do to that area as we still need to take the tree stump out, but we may create a set of permanent stairs down the side of the garden beds then have the path fan out to those steps. We may or may not get that tree out this fall….more likely to happen in the spring.

Basil was her usual helpful self during the entire digging process. She always makes sure that we are working hard and adaptable to working around her. She also thought that she should help in getting a few of the roots out for us, and proceeded to dig her own areas, which was definitely not helpful. Ellie on the other hand was happy to hunt grasshoppers or stalk the neighbours chickens from our side of the fence. Conveniently out of the way at all times.

Next step was digging the post holes for the bottom wall. We placed them about 3.5 – 4′ apart as we want shorter sections due to the potential pressure from behind. The good thing is the soil on this side is very hard clay, so we don’t anticipate too much shifting. It hasn’t in the last 5 years, so hopefully that will be good for our walls. We will need to top the beds with at least 6-8″ of nice growing topsoil though.

Once the post holes were dug, we placed the full lengths of the 4″ x 4″ fence posts into the hole. From there we tied a string to the last post of the path wall as this new wall will be a continuation of it. We then ran the string how we anticipate the wall going. It looks like we are going low based on the soil, but we plan on removing at least a foot of the soil of the top of that level to backfill the wall, so it will bring that level down.

Once we had decided where the tops were, we marked the posts, and numbered them so that they ended up back in the right holes, and went up to the shop to cut them down. Kurt had the brilliant idea to number them. I would have figured it out but likely after some frustration of putting posts in holes until it looked right.

Then it started to rain. Our plan had been to cement them that day, but it wasn’t a light rain, and we need the cement to be nice and sturdy and solid, so we decided to hold off and we will do it after work one day this week. It was a good few hours of digging and work, so all-in-all it was a good start. Now we just need to keep it up!


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