Hold The Press

Hold the press, seriously. Prepare yourselves for what I’m about to write!

The two big retaining walls are DONE!! He did the last pour today.  Continue reading

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One Away 

It’s all over in one pour but now the finish lines seems elusively far away. That because the stone mason, who likes to start and complete one project, has galavanted off to start the next big project. I’m like “we’re one pour away, can we finish it today?”. He’s like “no there is more pressing stuff to do.” Me in my head; what the frik is more pressing than finishing this bloody wall?

Apparently he felt there was good cause. There is concrete to get poured again this fall and so that’s a priority. The reason it’s a priority is that we have picked out and Peter has ordered our paving stones for the patio. Which means that after five years of pencilling us in for the fall he’s actually going to create us a patio!! 

Which means we need to figure out what size of hot tub so we can pour that piece of concrete. And yes Ron knows you don’t need to put concrete under a hot tub but feels it’s a good idea. 

So with three pours away we stopped working on the wall two Sundays ago and did prep work with the bobcat. Lots of backfill,  rock picking, scut work for me. 

Then he did two pours during the week and has the front of the wall finished. It’s just one little side section over the top area of the waterfall that needs completion. Just one pour — can’t we get back to it? Doesn’t he want to cross this off the list I think out loud here on the blog. 

Then I go away for the weekend and come home to the bobcat working away.  This time he was laying down the base for the concrete areas. Somehow I missed most of the skut work that day. Lucky me because that would have meant running the tamper which is bloody hard work. Never mind what the tall guy says about it doing the work. 

But now that the foundation work is done for the pads he’s been busy forming up. The areas are so small but they still need rebar and the correct elevations etc. 

Then there is the electrical prep work to do. The ends of the walls have lights ready plus the fire pit and pizza oven need lights so there is more questions to ask and answer there. 

The conduit was laid and the line ran out and to through the wall with minimial issues for me. But that’s because I was at work while he was doing most of this. 

The weather has been holding and so he hussled along in the evenings getting the forms up and all that prep work done. His goal was to get the concrete poured asap. That turned out to be today at 2:30. While I was at work so hey that was easy for me again. A friend came out to help a bit with the spots that needed to be brought in by wheel barrel.  No hoarding needed because the day time high was 25 and the low tonight is supposed to be 8 so again that’s a super positive element. 

There was a little bit more design discussion this week in regards to the size of the landing and how the stairs will tie in along the wall. I just pretty much nod and accept his suggestions. Very occasionally he does the same for me. The outdoor kitchen now has a small little ending wall as that was my suggestion to help incorporate the landing post. Which is clear as mud to all of you but makes sense to us. You’ll see next year. 

In the meantime we also did some shopping and bought a hot tub! I’ve wanted one, again, since the day we left the city house. We did a complex convuluted decision making process but “whatevs” because hey we bought a hot tub! It’s in stock so as soon as we are ready it will be ready. That will require a little more electrical work so I guess the stone mason had better change hats. 

But wait – not too quickly as there is just ONE MORE POUR before the walls are finished! Then perhaps I can resign as a stone mason.


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The Fourth Quarter 

It’s the start of the fourth quarter here and the excitement is building. The first three-quarters were like a Continue reading

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Our Castle Walls 

A comment last evening that the stone wall looked like it belonged in a castle made me think about inspiration. Perhaps the mason was inspired by several trips to England and Europe and not just free building materials. Castle walls were built by hundreds of workers though. 

England 2013 293Here it’s become a bit of a one man show. The front, both sides of the waterfall and now the back all show SO almost every rock is pre picked and placed. There is very little inside fill. Tedious but rewarding for the mason.

I wander along when the mixer finishes and help place the stones. Then I clean the wheelbarrow and go back to gardening. Repeat a couple of times a day, if things are going smoothly. Meanwhile he does a ton of finishing work and finds the next stones.

I was pretty excited when we backfilled because it means I can stand on the back side easily. I can also walk on the wall. Today I was totally pumped because the rebar is cut to the finishing height. Now I actually have no idea when he did this but I finally noticed. The amount remaining seems so minor compared to where we started at.

We have just the final big rock to place for the waterfall and then to put the old fashioned pump into place (with new workings hidden). 

The “end” of the wall is just behind that and now we’ve started building it up. That section and about 4′ on the front of the wall are the only portions that go to the house height.

There is real hope and a fair degree of certainty that it will indeed be completed by the end of the summer. Which means we could indeed have the patio done before the snow flies. Maybe even a hot tub! 

We’ve been “on the fall list” for Peter and Precision Landscaping for about four years. He may actually fall over in shock if we are actually ready. For that to happen we need to do some excavation for the next concrete pad which will be home to the outside kitchen bar area. This is relatively small compared to all our other pours but we will do it in conjunction with tying the first long low retaining wall into the stairs of the second wall. Lost yet? Don’t worry as I will blog all those steps and then it will make sense. 

In the meantime this amount of momentum actually breeds excitement and more momentum. We are both geared up for the final push. Heck I’m even happy to see the mesh come out for the final little section of the wall even though working work it is such a pain. 


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One Behind Us 

At long long last one wall is behind us. It seems to all of us that we’ve been doing these crazy retaining walls forever. 

In less than a month of getting underway in the late spring we have the first one started completed. So that’s the west wall. I am finding the completed project hard to capture well, on camera, to show the true size and grandeur.

But there is no resting on our laurels as up next was the need to backfill it so it can settle out. It seems that the stairs and the adjoining to the very first retaining wall will come later but remember I am just the lackie and not the Mason nor the Visionary.



Backfill happens with the Bobcat as does a lot of compaction but only about 2 feet outward from the wall. All the base leveling and compaction along the wall is done with the rake and my two feet. I often think it’s a good thing I carry around a few extra pounds when I am playing human packing machine! It feels so awesome to have backfilled this area although it will require some fine tuning when it is time to put the stairs in. It is still no less steep but the wall is doing exactly what he designed it for so that’s a plus and it’s going to be sturdy long after we are gone.


We, although if I am honest, mostly him have also been hard at work on the second side. This was commenced last year but our technique was a little bit different as we finished from the short end up to where we quit last fall. With the first wall we finished the house height first and then went back to the beginning. So it turns out we are farther along on this second long wall than I had actually anticipated. Like seriously we are going to finish it this year!! That’s pretty exciting for us as it means we can then hire Precision Paving and Landscaping to come out and do the patio. We have been looking at the stone samples and talking about the different functional areas.

 In the meantime Ron is working on his waterfall feature and sourcing the supplies required for this. That’s his “baby” so to speak. Me I just keep throwing rocks down in behind and building that sucker up as fast as it can go. We’ve finished the hidden width of the wall and are now able to backfill for the second time on this wall. The scaffolding is crazy high as I discovered when setting big rocks with the Bobcat on the weekend. waterfall with key for scale

larger view of waterfallBernie 


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Post “post”

A long awaited post about the newel post and balustrade that really isn’t a reveal. Alas we did not manage our goal before spring work kicked in but I still feel the progress  worthy of a post. Especially since we are in the process of watering trees and I’m bored waiting for the semi in front of me to finish filling up. 
The one lone outstanding project in the basement is the stair railing. It’s slow going and we’d had a minor hitch that, theoretically, has held us up a bit. The 3 wall mount holders (find real word from ron) we ordered arrived but 1 of them was missing parts. 

But truthfully, even if it had all arrived, we might not be done. The balustrade and newel post had to be custom sized and then restored. The final cut seems to be waiting to mature to just the right time.  

Now in the carpenters defence he has done an outstanding job of 90% of the spring work alone. He continues to spend a portion of each day on the consulting gig under way so does have limited time. 

We also discovered that the spindles  are all different sizes and there was no filet boards for placemat. So he will have to custom create those as well which is more complex because they aren’t attaching to the stair but rather to the spandrel. In the meantime he picked out 6 spindles  that are quite similar and I will set about redoing them. Now I’m tying to creatively think what one could do with a ton of leftover spindles. 

Now it’s 3 days later and this update  hasn’t even been posted yet so small amounts of progress have been made. He measured again and made the final cut last night. Now there is some “jiggling” that needs to occur before I can do final stain and varnish. 

We will continue to work away on it as evening time permits and perhaps soon we can tick that item off our list. 


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Last Day of April

It’s the last day of April and we are marching boldly towards the finish line. So close! Will we make it? Continue reading

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