Or . . . how about a dry stacked stone retaining wall? It would only need to be a foot high. A low rustic wall, more ornamental than functional. Yes, that's it. Off we went to the stone store to buy rocks and hire a contractor.
This is where it all went wrong.
The man at the stone store said a wall one foot high and 20 feet long was too small a project for a contractor. He looked at us, a gray haired couple in our mid 60s driving a sedan, and without blinking said "you can do it yourselves. Easy. Just put down 3 inches of crushed gravel and line the rocks up so they are staggered".
He sold us a pallet of rocks and sent us on our way. The pallet was delivered the next day.
First, it took us the better part of a week to hand dig the strip where the wall would go. The pennisetum at the far end would not come out, that clump of grass just would not budge. That took two days, but Jim finally got it hacked out with the crowbar and shovel.
Then digging up the thyme and removing the dirt turned out to be a huge effort. Who knew we had to remove a yard of soil by hand and put it somewhere? Aching bodies. Jim's back snapped, and we broke the bed on the John Deere lawnmower trailer hauling the dirt away.
Did I mention we are both in our 60s? Did I tell you about Jim's back? Pick up rocks, put rocks down. Sort rocks. Move rocks. Exhausted, and the wall building had not yet started.
(All of my pictures are terrible because it was either overcast or drizzling each day we worked. It kept us cool and wet, but clear photographic evidence of this debacle is wanting.)On a damp, muggy day, already sore and tired from the week's prep work, we began to build our wall.
As soon as we started to lay rocks, the painstakingly leveled gravel base was demolished. You have to rock the rounded stones into place, you have to scrape out a depression for the uneven sides to sit in, and then you have to move each one multiple times to try it out, rock it level, then try another, then try a third stone, squishing the crushed gravel every which way.
Apparently the whole rock laying thing is 99% art and only 1% careful preparation and measuring.
Jim discovered that one of the stones was shaped like a heart. I know nothing about wall building technique, and so far the whole thing looks like stacked rubble, but that heart had to be set in as an accent somehow. It took hours of jimmying and wiggling and it falls out each time I put a new stone anywhere on the wall, but you get the idea.
And we still need to backfill behind the wall, somehow get level cap stones on top, and figure out how to stabilize the whole thing.
I am beyond confused about how to get these stones stacked at all, much less keep them from toppling over. It's impossible to put any piece on top of any others without it rocking and tipping.
Because I am constantly reworking what I build three and four times or more, I can't get the hang of mortaring stones in the back for stability where it doesn't show. That would mean I'd have to commit to the placement of at least two stones. I can't commit to any two, I keep moving every stone around.
I thought there would be more flat(ish) rocks to work with, but about 3/4 of the whole pallet, small and large sizes both, have uneven topsides and very rounded irregular bottom sides, so they will not stack on top of each other. They rock. I've already used the flatter ones I could find, and now am trying to fit increasingly rounded tippy rocks over them.
I shim with small stones underneath the wobblers, but there's a limit to how much chunky rubble you can stuff under every stone and I am already running out of small stuffer stones.
I have no idea what I'm doing. I am incredibly frustrated, Jim's back is very painful, and I am sore all over from bending and kneeling, and lifting and shifting rocks.
This is not a project for two older homeowners who have never laid stone. It simply isn't. What was the guy at the stoneyard thinking when he looked right at us and said "You can do this yourselves." WTF?
Stay tuned. I will post a picture of the finished wall if my painkillers and patience hold out.