Sunday, 21 August 2016

moving earth

We have been moving earth and rubble this weekend. Lots of it. I didn't realise there was quite so much of it in our garden. You see, at the moment our backrooms face a wall that is just over chest high. It is the retaining wall that keeps a quite large flat grassy area from sliding into the house. The entire back garden is terraced like that, four levels altogether (counting the lowest one). The total incline is probably about the height of the house.

The women on the digging team
Two buckets at the time....
teenage power nap
The graffiti on the wall is crumbling
digging behind the wall

The sight from our dining room is not pretty and with the house getting bigger, the wall is going to be a lot closer. We could have built into the hill but this would have been an engineering challenge and problematic because of damp. The cost would be rather prohibitive, too. Instead our architect suggested the less drastic approach of replacing the wall with steps, pushing the bottom one back by two feet in relation to the original wall. It looks good on the virtual 3D model. The steps will also extend the living space as they will be wide and can be used as seats, perfect for those two hot and sunny days we get each summer. The new backroom will have a large bifold glass door that can be completely opened if we want to.

For financial reasons Richard decided that we would do the outdoor work ourselves but I blame a temporary lapse in sanity rather than careful budgetary considerations. Did I mention that there is no access for machinery and that the steps need to be dug up manually, with an ordinary spade. All the dirt needs to be carried up the narrow stairs to the top of the garden, where the skip is. Two buckets at the time if you are strong, one if less so. Did I also mention that under the topsoil is a great deal of rubble and concrete? Insane, yes?

Alas, this weekend, we were all working as a team, with the exception of Alistair, who is not the least interested in contributing to the greater good. Even the dog was digging, enthusiastically so. Not sure what he was hoping to find. Family labour is cheap, James work for free, loosening dirt with a big fork and carrying small buckets up the stairs. He was rewarded with a solo trip to the corner shop to stock up on favourite sweets. The teenagers are paid by the hour but the earnings go back into the kitty for school trips, phone contracts and other teenage essentials, which they either pay in full or to a significant proportion. It is quite cunning really. Richard and I get nothing except sore backs and blisters.

We were also lucky to have help from friends. I doubt that they are reading this blog but at the off chance they do: Thanks to Rab, John and Johnny for giving up your Sunday afternoon to shift spoil, one bucket at the time for a cup of tea, Annie's divine cake, and a couple of beers.

I realise that I have been typing this with trembling arms. My job was mainly to move buckets from the top of the steps to the skip and empty them. I don't know how many buckets I personally lifted but Richard guesses we shifted about eight metric tons of spoil altogether.

There is probably another weekend of digging on the menu before all the spoil has been removed, and a few evenings, too. No need to go to the gym next week! Next week will also see the delivery of six tons of nice stone to fill the fronts of gabion baskets. We have plenty of concrete to backfill them. The plan is to cover the sitting face of the baskets with nice decking wood for comfortable sitting.

A shower after a day's worth of hard physical labour is divine! I was working in shorts and there was enough dirt on my legs to fill a flowerpot. I am in need of an hour of mindless television, feet up on the footrest. Have a great week! x