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


20 comments:

  1. well done, its hard graft but will be worth it, take plenty of pics :-)

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  2. Hey Christina,
    Bravo that family! I love that feeling of a day's hard labour. I look forward to hearing and seeing all progress made.
    Leanne xx

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  3. That sounds like hard work - sometimes you feel more proud of the end result if you do the work yourself. I like the sound of your extension. We had big plans for bifold doors etc but it all was a bit pricey so we are thinking again. Enjoy your relaxing.evening.

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  4. I bet beer and cake has never tasted so good! xx

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  5. I'm aching just thinking about the work you've done. Any time I do something new or different my body has hissy fit. Hope you don't hurt too much tomorrow.

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  6. Impressive work, but worth all the hard work when you see the end result. Wonderful that you are all pulling together, a great achievement. Hope you are not hurting too much today.

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  7. Lots of hard work but so satisfying. Especially when you see the results and can think you did it yourselves!

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  8. Bet you are aching today. Nothing like getting the whole family involved in a home project. Love your idea of recycling money! Can't wait to see the finished product. Love the idea of bifold doors. Have a good week. I won't say take it easy :) B x

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  9. it will great, you can sit on those steps smug with the knowledge you built them, and the aching muscles a fading memory x

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  10. Gosh. Lost in admiration. It will look fantastic when it is done, and the memory of the sore and aching muscles will fade. Just watch your back when lifting. Sore muscles are one thing, but a damaged back is a longer lasting memory of the hard work! X

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  11. I'm feeling quite guilty now about the rather lazy weekend I just had. It sounds like a tremendous amount of work, but will be worth it once it's finished. I think your payment scheme is brilliant. :-)

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  12. Oh, bravo for the epic effort, Christina...both the physical effort and the delightful description of it! I am cheering you on from across the pond! xxxxxxx

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  13. Brave stuff and you have done well to get everyone involved. Keep going my friend - it will be worth it. Jo x

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  14. Teamwork is the best way to get these massive jobs done – well done on getting (nearly all) your crew involved. I like your style. We fail miserably on that front and it's usually just me and David slogging our guts out. We've made a mistake somewhere... Look forward to seeing the end results. Sam x

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  15. Sounds a brill family effort - I loved the thought of the dog joining in too!!! Keep going you will soon be able to step forward to your new look with a Pimms, in hand and talk about the summer of 20 -16 when the Great Wall came down!
    Wren x

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  16. Love the teamwork effort, I remember roping my lot on previous projects but now they just disappear. I hope your aching muscles have eased now. x

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  17. Oh. My. Word.
    I don't envy you at all; it's been a while since I tried any heavy digging/lifting and my arms are aching in sympathy.
    On the plus side, you didn't find any dead bodies, so that's good.

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  18. Wow! It makes me tired just reading this post. I'm sure you are worn out from all this hard work but it's going to be so nice when it's completed. I'm so excited for you. Hugs, Pat

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  19. That sounds like a lot of hard work. I'm such a weakling, I wouldn't have been any good lugging all that earth around, if Mick needs a hand lifting anything around here I'm always the last person he asks.

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  20. Hats off to you Christina, and your whole family. You have certainly saved money here - that kind of labouring work is expensive, and for good reason. I know how I feel after a day gardening: tired and sore but with a feeling of satisfaction. This must have been ten times that!

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Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment, I love to hear from you, I really do. I sometimes reply by email but I am not all that reliable... Christina xx