Backyard Work
Back Home Up Next


By the time this project started, I had already re-done the front yard, the driveway, the side driveway, both side yards, the fence, and ground out some stumps in the back yard. Pretty much all that was left was to re-do the rest of the backyard, so I broke out the shovels and got started. What can I say, I need to have stuff to work on or I get bored...

The plan is similar to the work out front, but with some extras specific to the nature of a private backyard setting. The goal is to make the yard more functional, more enjoyable for our family (including folks with allergies, like myself), lower the current maintenance requirements, and to increase the overall resale value of the house.

  •  (Done!) Pull dirt away from the back of the house under the existing deck to prevent dirt-to-wood-siding contact where it existed when I bought the house; it was one of the items in the home inspection report.
  •  (Done!) Remove the railroad ties and replace them with mow-strip edging to eliminate weekly trimming.
  •  (Done!) Add a retaining wall at the back edge of the property to get a level back yard.
  •  (Done!) Replace the wood-chip filled planter beds with stone filled ones with a few non-flowing plants.
  •  (Done!) Install a full width and full height double gate on the den end of the house.
  •  (Done!) Add an in-ground drip irrigation and lawn sprinkler system, tied into the existing irrigation control in the garage.
  •  (Done!) Add extra outside outlets on the deck for future use.
  •  (Done!) Install outdoor speakers and hook them up to a control inside the house near the rear slider door. (I went with a more complicated system; there are more details on this on my page on the speaker wiring.)
  •  Install wiring for the hot tub and pool via a large-capacity sub-panel mounted on the rear of the house.
  •  Provide a place for a hot tub. I was also trying to include a small round pool, but there simply wasn't room with the septic system.
  •  Expand the deck to surround the hot tub and pool as well as to wrap around the corner of the house and slope down to ground height at the new location of the side gate. (It turned out I don't have enough room for even a small pool with the septic drain field, so that's out.)
  •  Remove the existing deck partial railing/seating combination and install a code compliant railing around the entire deck - including the proper height railings around the pool and hot tub areas of the deck, and a gate and railings on the stairs off the deck.
  •  Replace the existing deck surface with new manufactured wood nailed down with an "invisible fastener" system - similar to how the bridge out front was done. I may need to replace the entire deck structure at some point, so I may just do it all at once...
  •  Add low voltage lighting around the yard, tied into the existing low voltage lighting controls in the garage.
  •  Add new 120V lighting on the back of the house on a "dual brightness" motion sensor, the same as the front porch lights.
  •  Add speakers on the deck near the hot tub.
  •  See if I have room to install a "pondless" water feature somewhere on or near the deck for some added visual and acoustical interest.
  •  Install weed barrier underneath the existing and future deck areas to prevent weed growth.
  •  Install a "mosquito trapper" to reduce the population of breeding and biting mosquitoes in the area.
  •  Move the deck stairs towards the dining room window so they are not on the corner section of the deck. (I ended up not being able to do this; the original location was the only realistic place for the stairs after I discovered the exact location of the septic tank.)
  •  Install a brick paver walkway from the foot of the relocated stairs to the edge of the gravel side driveway, similar to the walkway across the front of the house. (This ended up being impossible once I found out the exact location of the septic tank - it would have gone right over top of it.)



Early Work

Removing the stones and existing planter beds. I saved the stones for use later. Deb was shooting the pictures, so you get to see me work along with Caitlin.

BackyardWork001.jpg (1355926 bytes) BackyardWork002.jpg (1316510 bytes) BackyardWork003.jpg (1401518 bytes) BackyardWork004.jpg (1368269 bytes) BackyardWork005.jpg (1336782 bytes) BackyardWork006.jpg (1340924 bytes) BackyardWork007.jpg (1327730 bytes)

Various pictures of the backyard after I removed all of the wood chips and planter beds.

BackyardWork008.jpg (1431294 bytes) BackyardWork009.jpg (1441346 bytes) BackyardWork010.jpg (1471820 bytes)

Fence building remnants saved for future fence work.

BackyardWork011.jpg (1364160 bytes)

Stump remnants and wood chips yet to be disposed of.

BackyardWork012.jpg (1442929 bytes)

Fence building remnants to complete the open corner of the yard, yet-to-be-disposed of railroad ties, various landscaping and drip irrigation supplies, plus a spare section of hose from the pond.

BackyardWork013.jpg (1473457 bytes)

Grill, small shed, and yet-to-be removed gravel from under the hose reel.

BackyardWork014.jpg (1397598 bytes)

What gravel?

BackyardWork015.jpg (1383901 bytes)

More wood chips. The previous owners loved them; I do not share their enthusiasm.

BackyardWork016.jpg (1385723 bytes)

Staking out some possible deck and hot tub ideas. This area turned out to be way too soft to be easy to put a hot tub here - there used to be a tree right in the middle of the possible hot tub location, so the ground ended up being very soft for a long time after this - as in, years later. And, it's on top of a gravel pit for the downspouts on this side of the house, another bad thing to put a hot tub on top of. It's fine to cover this area with a deck, but bad to put a bunch of weight on it from a hot tub.

BackyardWork017.jpg (1504991 bytes) BackyardWork018.jpg (1621335 bytes) BackyardWork019.jpg (1475597 bytes) BackyardWork020.jpg (1462672 bytes)

Staking out some possible ideas for a new set of stairs to the deck. This turned out to be a bad idea - the stairs landed almost on top of the septic tank. I'm glad another project let me find that out before building the stairs and paver walkway over top of the tank...

BackyardWork021.jpg (1684379 bytes) BackyardWork022.jpg (1567310 bytes) BackyardWork023.jpg (1503617 bytes) BackyardWork024.jpg (1659916 bytes) BackyardWork025.jpg (1483000 bytes)

Temporary Sprinkler System

The temporary sprinkler system. I bought the final manifold and valve assembly, and rather than do all the work to bury it, I just used a pair of simple sprinklers and hoses set out of the way to water the lawn. I did this after I brought in some dirt and re-seeded after some septic line work so that I wouldn't have to get up and water the lawn every morning. Now, the same timer that controls the front sprinklers and drip irrigation system controls the temporary rear sprinkler system. I'll be able to re-use almost all of the parts, and the sprinkler valve control wire exits the house in the final location; it's just not buried yet.

BackyardWork026.jpg (2583784 bytes)

This large leafed plant behind the deck is the primary reason for the drip irrigation system being installed along with the lawn sprinklers. This plant was one my father in law cultivated at his house and was very proud of. After he passed away, my wife transplanted it to our house to remember him, and I'm under orders to make it thrive in memory of Dad. To ensure both domestic tranquility and to honor my father in law's memory, I made sure it's well placed and well watered. It's known as "dinosaur food" to some gardeners, but it's proper name is Gunnera tinctoria. It's doing quite well in it's new home. I actually kind of like it now that it's been there for a while.

BackyardWork027.jpg (3017643 bytes)

We had a bit of a freeze for Thanksgiving 2010, and I found out I forgot to turn off the water to the temporary sprinkler manifold. A burst valve was the result. And easy replacement in the spring, but I should have known better and it's money I didn't want to spend. Oh well. Such is life.

BackyardWork028.jpg (2021438 bytes)

Major Work - Day 1

Major work on the back yard commenced in June 2011, with the borrowing of a friend's Kubota. Sweet! I had some time off work across a month or so of calendar time, so I worked on this. Each day of progress is noted, those these are not consecutive days, nor are they all "full" days of work. But, it was all days where I made progress worth noting...

This is unloading the retaining wall blocks from the trailer. These will be used to build a retaining wall along the back edge of the property so I have a level back yard. Also, my daughter decided to take a number of pictures as I worked, so you get to see me working, and some things that are interesting to a 9-year old.

BackyardWork029.jpg (2603684 bytes) BackyardWork030.jpg (2967998 bytes)

This is the pile of gravel that will be used for the base of the wall and to surround the French drain I'm putting behind the wall to keep it dry. My daughter turned it into a castle before it got moved.

BackyardWork031.jpg (2799255 bytes) BackyardWork032.jpg (2904513 bytes)

This is the first pallet of retaining wall blocks moved into the backyard.

BackyardWork033.jpg (2446984 bytes)

My wife decided she wanted a container garden, so here's the hanging part on a simple frame of 2x4's screwed into the side of the deck. Apparently Topsy Turvey has some nice units to grow tomatoes and strawberries, and my wife got a good deal on two of each kind. They are set low enough for her to water them without a stool, which makes her happy. Later, they'll have automatic drip irrigation, but they still need to be reachable to tend to and pick the fruit when it's ready...

BackyardWork034.jpg (2991376 bytes) BackyardWork035.jpg (2170626 bytes) BackyardWork036.jpg (2395578 bytes) BackyardWork037.jpg (2665913 bytes)

Digging the first section out for the wall. I used the backhoe to dig out the uphill side and get a level patch of ground to start using the bucket loader on.

BackyardWork038.jpg (2927933 bytes)

A video of the same.


More of the same. Yes, my daughter loves to take pictures.

BackyardWork040.jpg (2943736 bytes) BackyardWork041.jpg (2793929 bytes) BackyardWork042.jpg (3018458 bytes) BackyardWork043.jpg (2778998 bytes)

Finishing touches on the hanging garden. Looks great!

BackyardWork044.jpg (2532205 bytes)

With the first section level, I was able to start using the front loaded and move some dirt. Due to the slope here and loose soil on the downhill side, I had to dig down a good bit to get to a stable wall base. Some sections ended up hip-deep on the uphill side. Wow!

BackyardWork045.jpg (3134395 bytes) BackyardWork046.jpg (3134612 bytes)

I needed someplace to put the dirt for a few days, so I made a pile up by the house. It won't get too big, right?

BackyardWork047.jpg (2696335 bytes)

Deb watering the hanging garden for the first time...

BackyardWork048.jpg (2161374 bytes)

Nearly done with the rough-in of the trench. The pile is getting bigger than I was expecting...

BackyardWork049.jpg (3077720 bytes) BackyardWork050.jpg (3195867 bytes) BackyardWork051.jpg (2783005 bytes)

More trench work. That pile by the house is still growing, and now I've started placing some of the dirt at the far end of the trench near the shed. I'll move that first when it comes time to backfill the wall.

BackyardWork052.jpg (2798744 bytes) BackyardWork053.jpg (2730547 bytes) BackyardWork054.jpg (2678524 bytes) BackyardWork055.jpg (2439106 bytes) BackyardWork056.jpg (2813201 bytes) BackyardWork057.jpg (2908996 bytes) BackyardWork058.jpg (2727358 bytes) BackyardWork059.jpg (3132875 bytes)

A random picture of the retaining wall block pile from my daughter.

BackyardWork060.jpg (2212160 bytes)

The trench is basically done and down to the proper level. Wow.

BackyardWork061.jpg (2454510 bytes) BackyardWork062.jpg (2981473 bytes) BackyardWork063.jpg (2720858 bytes) BackyardWork064.jpg (2533013 bytes)

The first load of gravel for the base of the wall. Yay!

BackyardWork065.jpg (2473794 bytes)

My quick measuring stick to set the level of the base gravel relative to the string line.

BackyardWork066.jpg (2220187 bytes)

More container gardening work...

BackyardWork067.jpg (626179 bytes)

This is my father in law's plant. It's doing quite well. We're going to have to divide it at some point and plant more starters from it along the back edge of the deck. It does a good job at screening the back of the deck, it doesn't have smelly flowers to bother my sinuses or attract bees, and my wife loves it. Sold!

BackyardWork068.jpg (460463 bytes)

My wife had me pose on the tractor for a picture from her camera phone. The only thing I could think of while posing was this song. :-) If your wife doesn't find you handsome, she should at least find you handy, right? No duct tape was harmed in the making of this page.

BackyardWork069.jpg (771713 bytes)

More camera phone pics from my wife of me working the tractor. The dirt pile by the house is way larger than I expected.

BackyardWork070.jpg (727555 bytes) BackyardWork071.jpg (777766 bytes)

Deb was proud of her container and hanging gardening efforts, so there were more camera phone pics for that.

BackyardWork072.jpg (729469 bytes) BackyardWork073.jpg (626179 bytes) BackyardWork074.jpg (402972 bytes)

Major Work - Day 2

The second day of work saw the retaining wall begin to take shape, including the French drain at the base of the wall. I was able to get about 20' of wall completed on a very shortened work day. It's pretty good progress overall.

BackyardWork076.jpg (2753060 bytes) BackyardWork075.jpg (2870722 bytes) BackyardWork077.jpg (2804233 bytes)

While daddy was working, Mt. Caitlin was established and defended on one of the dirt piles.

BackyardWork078.jpg (2580285 bytes)

Major Work - Day 3

Despite some rainy mornings slowing things down and other "honey do" items taking up time, the wall is steadily getting longer by the end of Day 3...

BackyardWork079.jpg (3051648 bytes) BackyardWork080.jpg (2820784 bytes)

Major Work - Day 4

Day 4 was largely taken up with other unrelated work and errands, but I did make more good progress, and that was despite not having the tractor for part of the day. I started backfilling the trench up near the generator; Mt. Caitlin is already shrinking fast. It will need some careful sorting of the fill to get the grass clumps not on the surface later on - that will be hand rake work - and filling along the edge right behind the wall will need to be done by hand. I'm also almost ready to make use of some of the concrete debris as backfill in the bottom of the trench - I can get to it now with with tractor without driving across the septic drain field, though it's very tight along the edge of the trench. I'll be using that near the ramp - that's the deepest part of the trench, at least so far.

To get this far, I've used up one new pallet of retaining wall blocks (112 to a pallet) plus the spare ones I had lying around from earlier work (15 of those), and I'm now working through the second new pallet of retaining wall blocks. At this point the wall is five blocks high and will become six blocks high in the next bit I add on. The max height of the wall should be seven blocks over near the edge of the lawn; to go any further I'll need to switch to larger blocks for more stability... At 6 blocks high, a pallet of 112 blocks goes fast - that's only about 18' of wall. I may need to get more blocks...

BackyardWork081.jpg (2763474 bytes) BackyardWork082.jpg (2850718 bytes) BackyardWork083.jpg (2823749 bytes) BackyardWork084.jpg (2916469 bytes) BackyardWork085.jpg (2974217 bytes) BackyardWork086.jpg (2509200 bytes)

Major Work - Day 5

Day 5 saw a lot of visible progress - I started backfilling the wall! This was the first real "full day" of work on this project, and thankfully, even the weather cooperated. To get there, I had to figure out how to do the sprinklers and what sprinkler heads I was going to use. To do that, I built this sprinkler test stand out of some basic PVC fittings and spare lumber, complete with individual shutoff valves, hooked it up to the garden hose. For the water pressure at my house and the distances I needed the sprinklers to cover in the backyard, three sprinklers at once was the optimal number. I selected the smaller gear driven units - not only were they cheaper (about 1/3 the cost of the other units due to a clearance sale at my local Home Depot when I did this work), but they are also quieter. The larger units were the kind that make a ratcheting noise as they move - they have an arm on a spring that slaps the unit over a degree or so at a time and the water pressure pushes it back out again to repeat the cycle. I'd prefer quieter if I'm going to do early morning watering just outside my bedroom window... I'll return the unused sprinklers. The test stand only cost me about $30 and a couple of hours to build, and was well worth it. I set it up in the side driveway and adjusted the sprinklers to a narrow pattern, and let 'er rip. The plywood kept me from getting soaked by any mis-adjusted sprinklers on initial startup, as well as keeping most of the "backsplash" away from me. I still got some, but it worked pretty well.

BackyardWork087.jpg (2645581 bytes)

After figuring out the sprinkler layout, I hit up the local Home Depot for enough to cover the entire backyard. I got all of the needed fittings to assemble the flexible risers to the sprinklers and pre-assembled all six sprinklers I'll be using. I only have two installed so far, so here's the other four.

BackyardWork088.jpg (1962735 bytes)

Here's the sprinkler in the middle of the run along the retaining wall, awaiting final positioning and backfilling of the trench.

BackyardWork089.jpg (2493355 bytes)

Here's the sprinkler at the end of the run near the generator, after initial backfilling. This is the "end of the run" for this circuit- it will be the last of the three sprinklers along the retaining wall.

BackyardWork090.jpg (3030979 bytes)

Since Daddy got to "play in the water", Caitlin had to as well. She spent the day making mud anywhere possible in the backyard, and Daddy tried to make sure it was in areas of the yard he wouldn't be working in today... I did managed to spray her with the hose once, though, so it was sort of worth it. :-) What is it with kids and mud? I did it when I was a kid, so it must run in the family...

BackyardWork091.jpg (2925349 bytes)

The middle sprinkler along the retaining wall after initial backfilling. Caitlin helped with this by holding the sprinkler in place while I hand filled around it to hold it in place. I also hand backfilled around the water line to ensure it was not getting pulled or kinked in strange ways, and that it was reasonably well supported before I did any tractor-powered backfilling.

BackyardWork092.jpg (2272205 bytes) BackyardWork093.jpg (2438094 bytes)

Initial backfilling of the half of the wall closest to the generator. I basically pushed the dirt near the wall into the trench and drove over it with the tractor to help compact it. I tried to get the grass clumps buried deeper so I could later smooth out the surface where needed. Also, I made sure to stay at least a foot away from the wall with the tractor to prevent "blowouts" due to excess point loads on the wall due to the tractor tires pushing directly (or almost directly) on the wall. It's new and not as stable as it will be after things settle into place. As the wall gets taller further along, I'll give it an even wider berth to be safe. Also, I was careful about not placing shock loads on the wall by suddenly dumping a ton of dirt on the back side of the wall. Slow and steady, and give it room. The tractor is plenty heavy enough to compress things quite nicely just by driving over it, and you can use the bucket to smooth things out and level the surface. I did have to hand rake the section right next to the wall to smooth it and pull sod clumps up to the open area of the trench, but that was pretty easy. For reference, I believe the tractor as seen on this page is about 2600 pounds without anything in the bucket and without me on it - add me on it and the chains we keep in the backhoe bucket to pull roots and hold stuff to the front bucket when moving about, and it's about 3000lbs total... It compacts stuff nicely...

BackyardWork094.jpg (2699829 bytes) BackyardWork095.jpg (2980108 bytes)

Next, I started excavating the pile of dirt I had previously placed at the shed end of the wall. I spread it over the backfilled area of the trench for now, and it's clearly much higher than it needs to be. But, for now, this is keeping the dirt out of the way - I'll spread it more evenly later. I need access to the concrete debris up by the generator to use as backfill, and I don't want to drive over the septic drain field to get to it. This keeps the dirt pile out of the way until later work is done. I only have so much room in the yard to work with, so I have to do some shuffling like this...

BackyardWork096.jpg (2697335 bytes) BackyardWork097.jpg (2484564 bytes)

The very end of the wall has a ton of roots there; basically, it's a root festival. Some of the roots are from the neighbor's live tree that you can see behind the fence in the first picture (don't dig those up!), but those are the deepest roots and should be out of the way. There are a ton of older more surface roots from my old Norway maple that are slowly rotting in place. The stump for that is cut off at ground level just to the right of the green metal post in the first picture, and the stump is touching the fence line at it's base. Fortunately, the Norway maple roots are above (as in, they are closer to the original ground level) the roots for my neighbor's tree, so I was able to remove a good chunk of the Norway maple roots with the tractor and not touch the roots from my neighbor's tree. There are also a bunch of even older mostly rotted roots in the area from trees removed before I bought the house, and those came . And to get decent access to this, I decided to just make the ramp into the ditch wider, all the way over to the edge of the lawn. It was easier than trying to back down the ramp and attack this area while the tractor was sitting at an angle, and it was faster too. I tried to separate the excavated dirt into "good topsoil" and "sandy junk" as I excavated it. The good topsoil went along the previously backfilled section of trench and will be surface level material when all is said and done. The junk went over to Mt. Caitlin and will be used as lower level backfill along the base of the wall, likely around the concrete debris.

BackyardWork098.jpg (2667674 bytes)

The dirt pile on top of the trench is growing larger during all of this...

BackyardWork099.jpg (2681383 bytes)

Remember all those roots I mentioned? As I pulled them up in pieces, I was simply throwing them up onto the grass area that I was not driving on with the tractor until I could take them to the yard waste bin. This is a small portion of what eventually ended up in the yard waste bin... Wow. The bin is quite heavy, and I still need to mow the non-trampled grass this week...

BackyardWork100.jpg (2818520 bytes)

The dirt pile near the wall got pretty large, but can be easily pushed into the trench to the right once the wall gets longer... That's the theory, anyway...

BackyardWork101.jpg (2975310 bytes)

Major Work - Day 6

Day 6 got me to a major milestone - the completion of the retaining wall to the edge of the lawn by the shed. The retaining wall is not completely done - there is still a bit more to go behind the shed at some point, but that part is for later. For now, I can complete the backfilling behind the wall for the lawn area (and get rid of Mt. Caitlin - my daughter will be unhappy), finish the sprinkler installation, and get going on growing some grass again. The day was rainy in the morning, so I ensured a sunny afternoon by running out and buying a raincoat; Murphy lives. The yard was pretty slimy and muddy, but it was only the top few inches, so I pressed ahead and made good progress. I also had to buy another pallet of retaining wall blocks to get this far. I have a bunch more to complete the wall behind the shed for later, though. I was not able to get any pictures on the day of the work due to running late and working right until darkness fell, so any pictures of this work are form the following day.

Also, as part of today's efforts, the drainage pipe behind the wall now has an exit outside the wall at it's low point about 2/3'rds of the way from the generator to the shed. Only a short section of the wall ended up being 6 blocks high. Most of it ended up being only 5 blocks high, which is good news for materials cost and the overall stability of the wall.

Here's the wall. It got a bit wavy at one point. I was working fast in the rain about then, and it's the highest portion of the wall. I'm declaring that it "has character" and moving on. :-)

BackyardWork102.jpg (2597951 bytes)

It got real squishy where I was running the tractor back and forth...

BackyardWork103.jpg (3109413 bytes) BackyardWork104.jpg (3072473 bytes)

The remaining retaining wall blocks to be used behind the shed...

BackyardWork105.jpg (2536431 bytes)

Mt. Caitlin in it's final form. The previous ramp excavation work put more junk dirt on here. It will all be back in the trench soon enough...

BackyardWork106.jpg (2953313 bytes)

Major Work - Day 7

First up was getting the tubing for the sprinkler nearest the shed situated, and hooking up the sprinkler head and the inline automatic drain valve at the lowest point in the lines. You can see it in the second picture. I also installed more filter fabric over the gravel covering the last sections of French drain at the base of the wall, and then covered it in dirt to protect it. The drain valve is covered with a healthy sized pile of gravel  for good drainage.

BackyardWork107.jpg (2622075 bytes) BackyardWork108.jpg (2403456 bytes) BackyardWork109.jpg (2383380 bytes)

Then, I moved all the random concrete debris and small rocks I had stored by the generator into the bottom of the remaining hole. That way it helps with drainage, and it will end up at least 12" below the surface when it's all said and done. And excellent use for all that junk, if I do say so myself. :-)

BackyardWork110.jpg (3034082 bytes)

I did have to backfill and level a bit next to the generator after removing the debris. I just scooped it out with the front loader and that dug a small hole. Meh. It was faster this way.

BackyardWork111.jpg (2642906 bytes)

This is the state of things after Mt. Caitlin was put back into the hole. Overall, it did a pretty good job of filling the hole, though I still will need more topsoil. I expected that, though. I am raising the level of the yard noticeably with the retaining wall...

BackyardWork112.jpg (2561206 bytes) BackyardWork113.jpg (2889260 bytes) BackyardWork114.jpg (2833740 bytes) BackyardWork115.jpg (2776167 bytes) BackyardWork116.jpg (2882160 bytes) BackyardWork117.jpg (2901032 bytes)

I also had to remove the remaining gravel pile closer to the shed so I could pull a vehicle through the side driveway.

BackyardWork118.jpg (2681153 bytes) BackyardWork119.jpg (2774731 bytes)

What vehicle? This one. I needed topsoil, and the dump bed was helpful, though only after unloading part of it by tractor and by hand. The topsoil was wet and stuck to the bed, and was very heavy. I got about 2 yards on this trip. By weight, the truck itself was officially overloaded, the dump kit even more so. It was still very helpful to have the dump kit, though.

BackyardWork120.jpg (2616815 bytes) BackyardWork121.jpg (2772430 bytes) BackyardWork122.jpg (2724863 bytes) BackyardWork123.jpg (2446089 bytes) BackyardWork124.jpg (2554529 bytes) BackyardWork125.jpg (2735484 bytes) BackyardWork126.jpg (2257995 bytes) BackyardWork127.jpg (2675035 bytes)

Naturally, Caitlin needed to help. Even with the dump bed up, a bunch of topsoil was stuck to the bed at the front and had to be removed with a hoe and a rake. Whatever. What slid out on it's own still made a nice sized pile...

BackyardWork128.jpg (2736444 bytes) BackyardWork129.jpg (2558576 bytes) BackyardWork130.jpg (2630259 bytes)

My wife noticed that her container garden was starting to sprout, so she took some pictures of it.

BackyardWork131.jpg (3196115 bytes) BackyardWork132.jpg (3327713 bytes) BackyardWork133.jpg (3436249 bytes)

One more picture of the dump bed up for good measure. In fairness, this was the first time my family had seen it in use since I got it installed, so it was a big deal to them. I just wanted to make progress on the yard... :-)

BackyardWork134.jpg (2870311 bytes)

And here's the rough leveling of the new topsoil with the tractor, plus some hand raking near the wall. I will need more topsoil at the far end, but it's definitely a good start on this piece of the job.

BackyardWork135.jpg (3038254 bytes)

Major Work - Day 8

This was a real work day, so all I could do in my spare time was get 2 yards of topsoil home, unload it, and smooth it out with the tractor. It's progress, though...

BackyardWork136.jpg (2826930 bytes)

Major Work - Day 9

Another "real work day", but I managed to both get some more dirt, and work on extended the wall a bit towards the shed. That's why the pictures are so dark and out of focus - it was late when I knocked off work on this. :-) By extending the wall another 4' or so further towards the shed, I can backfill the area at the edge of the lawn to the correct height and not have a cliff of dirt at the edge. This will help hold things in place until I can find time to move a bunch of things from behind the shed and move the car that's presently next to the shed so I can finish the wall back in that area. It's not critical to the lawn work, and can be done later, so this is a good stopping point on the wall.

BackyardWork137.jpg (2443272 bytes)

I started trenching for the feed tubing for the sprinklers along the wall. I also had to re-do the fittings at the sprinkler take-off from the main line - the bend in the pipe was too sharp, so it kinked. I added a T-fitting on a much more gradual bend (that was further away form the corner) and a short piece of tubing that runs back into the corner to the existing fittings and flexible pipe to go to the sprinkler head.

BackyardWork138.jpg (2423049 bytes)

While trenching, I found the edge of the French drain for this side of the house - this is where the gutters drain to. So, I'll have to make the trench a lot shallower in this area, which means I'll have to be more careful later when it comes time to till the existing lawn surface...

BackyardWork139.jpg (2442074 bytes)

Major Work - Day 10

Almost there... Another two loads of dirt (that's another four yards) today, plus a lot of leveling and more trenching. First up is some video of me digging that my daughter took while she was walking across the yard. You may want motion sickness pills before viewing...


Work continued on the trench for the feed tubing for the sprinklers along the retaining wall. I made it as deep as possible to keep it away from any future errant shovels and the like.

BackyardWork141.jpg (2777225 bytes) BackyardWork142.jpg (3194526 bytes) BackyardWork143.jpg (2805245 bytes) BackyardWork144.jpg (2851826 bytes) BackyardWork145.jpg (2753047 bytes) BackyardWork146.jpg (2619965 bytes)

Caitlin decided that riding around the backyard was a good way to stay un-bored.

BackyardWork147.jpg (2611095 bytes)

The sprinkler feed tubing at the end of the trench closest to the house. I still need to hand-trench over to the location for the valves and do the hook-ups for all that...

BackyardWork148.jpg (2597223 bytes)

More bike riding - this time with her tongue out in an attempt to get Dad to stop working and come play with her instead... Sorry, gotta work...

BackyardWork149.jpg (2792053 bytes)

The trench is done! Note the union in the tubing not far from the house.

BackyardWork150.jpg (2997284 bytes)

A close up of the union in the tubing in the trench in case I need to locate it in the future.

BackyardWork151.jpg (3021207 bytes)

Same trench, looking the other way.

BackyardWork152.jpg (3133965 bytes)

The trench, after backfilling and tamping down by driving the tractor over it.

BackyardWork153.jpg (2640306 bytes) BackyardWork154.jpg (2685913 bytes)

The backfilled retaining wall and trench area after a full leveling and grading was done on it.

BackyardWork155.jpg (3298961 bytes) BackyardWork156.jpg (2810619 bytes) BackyardWork157.jpg (2711397 bytes) BackyardWork158.jpg (2756208 bytes) BackyardWork159.jpg (2789324 bytes) BackyardWork160.jpg (2401759 bytes)

Same thing, just from a different viewpoint. Note the stack of left-over retaining wall blocks stacked in front of the car next to the shed. I'll use these when it's time to extend the retaining wall further behind the shed. That's for a later project, though.

BackyardWork161.jpg (2943302 bytes) BackyardWork162.jpg (2733431 bytes)

Major Work - Day 11

Laying out the final set of sprinkler heads and tubing, the planting beds along the house and deck, and the location of the valve box for the sprinklers.

BackyardWork163.jpg (3029537 bytes) BackyardWork164.jpg (2776062 bytes) BackyardWork165.jpg (2588517 bytes) BackyardWork166.jpg (2535390 bytes)

Digging the first section of trench for the mow strip edging and the sprinkler tubing. Turns out I have some hard pan about 12" down in this area. Whee! And it's too tight to the house to the use the backhoe, so it's all hand-digging...

BackyardWork167.jpg (2670467 bytes) BackyardWork168.jpg (3054415 bytes)

Major Work - Day 12

I'm bringing out the big guns for final leveling of the yard - the tiller.

BackyardWork169.jpg (2406052 bytes) BackyardWork170.jpg (2898538 bytes) BackyardWork171.jpg (2378253 bytes) BackyardWork172.jpg (2690737 bytes) BackyardWork173.jpg (2529701 bytes) BackyardWork174.jpg (2526499 bytes)

BackyardWork175.jpg (3076990 bytes) BackyardWork176.jpg (2887163 bytes)

It did a quite reasonable job with ~2 passes over each area set to go down about 3" or so. What grass? If I'd have had more time, I would have done another 2-3 passes to chew up the small grass clumps some more, but this was quite good for the time I had to use the tractor.

BackyardWork177.jpg (2985976 bytes) BackyardWork178.jpg (2981140 bytes) BackyardWork179.jpg (2921673 bytes) BackyardWork180.jpg (3097968 bytes)

Laying out the string lines to be used for leveling the lawn area. You have to click on the pics to see them full size to be able to see the string lines, but they are there.

BackyardWork181.jpg (2859618 bytes) BackyardWork182.jpg (2747256 bytes) BackyardWork183.jpg (3104723 bytes) BackyardWork184.jpg (3057276 bytes)

After tilling and laying out the string lines, there was a bunch of hand work to rake the lawn area out smooth and level.

BackyardWork185.jpg (3067680 bytes) BackyardWork186.jpg (2875443 bytes) BackyardWork187.jpg (2873940 bytes) BackyardWork188.jpg (2928269 bytes)

After all was done, there was one small area near the stairs that needed more topsoil to get it to the desired level that will match the existing concrete pad at the base of the stairs. I'll be using some gravel near the base of the stairs to connect the concrete pad to the lawn, so no sense backfilling that. The curve of the extra backfill roughly approximates the eventual mow strip edging line I plan to use.

BackyardWork189.jpg (2820610 bytes) BackyardWork190.jpg (3334229 bytes)

Major Work - Day 13

At this point, it's all hand work. Joint numbing, slow-going, hand work. You can't use the big toys for everything, unfortunately... I'm digging an 8" deep trench where the mow strip edging will go and using it for the mow strip and the feed lines for the sprinklers. I also excavated for the sprinkler valve box, and excavated over to where the water line will penetrate the foundation plus where the control wire comes out of the house and heads down into the soil. I excavated extra deep under the valve box to put down some gravel for better drainage in case of leaks.

BackyardWork191.jpg (2906248 bytes) BackyardWork192.jpg (2978295 bytes) BackyardWork193.jpg (2913099 bytes) BackyardWork194.jpg (2793217 bytes)

A few pictures from Caitlin of things in progress. She tends towards close-up shots of things that don't give a ton of context, but they're decent pictures of various stuff, so I'm posting them for-the-record.

BackyardWork195.jpg (2220931 bytes) BackyardWork196.jpg (2512624 bytes) BackyardWork197.jpg (3033598 bytes) BackyardWork198.jpg (2720535 bytes)

The corner by the side driveway is taking shape, and the sprinkler head is installed. There is an automatic drain valve next to it, buried in gravel for good drainage. The feed tubing is almost right under the mow strip edging for the first few feet. I used a special 90 degree corner piece to hook up the edging; I think it looks pretty good.

BackyardWork199.jpg (2939689 bytes) BackyardWork200.jpg (3188500 bytes)

Adding gravel under the valve box so that the top of the box will be at ground height. The valves will lay on this, and there will be some more gravel around the edges so the box rests on gravel and not on the tubing.

BackyardWork201.jpg (2755814 bytes)

Working my way around the corner by the stairs... I had to move the stakes to be able to dig here. I'm still not 100% sure where I'm going to mount the sprinkler head yet, but it will be somewhere in this area. Maybe in the gravel, maybe in the lawn... We'll see how it works out...

BackyardWork202.jpg (3148250 bytes) BackyardWork203.jpg (2897136 bytes)

The first corner after backfilling, tamping the backfill down, and raking/leveling the lawn surface. This may need some hand-tilling later on... It's pretty packed down here, and I had to shave a couple inches of hard-packed sod and dirt off in some places to get it reasonably level.

BackyardWork204.jpg (2738876 bytes) BackyardWork205.jpg (3015565 bytes) BackyardWork206.jpg (2816475 bytes)

Major Work - Day 14

Next up, more hand digging, mow strip installation, moving and tamping dirt, and installing the manifold and valve assembly. I need to get it all hooked up and ready to go out-of-the-ground, then install it in ground. I also need to drill a hole through my foundation and hook up the sprinkler feed properly at some point. For the initial work, it will probably be a temporary hook up to the garden hose, though...


Major Work - Day 15

Not much real work here, just some pictures of preparing for a parts run to the local Home Depot. For some reason or another, I couldn't quite get it figured out right, and needed not two, but four trips across two days to eventually get all the little pieces I needed to complete the sprinkler system. Not expensive, just annoying. There is a theory floating about that having my daughter around during the planning and along for the trips may have contributed to the altered mental state that led to this situation... :-)

BackyardWork207.jpg (715652 bytes) BackyardWork208.jpg (503774 bytes) BackyardWork209.jpg (652767 bytes) BackyardWork210.jpg (577289 bytes) BackyardWork211.jpg (560834 bytes) BackyardWork212.jpg (541603 bytes)

Major Work - Day 16

The sprinklers are hooked up and working, and more of the mow strip edging is in place and done. Getting the valves hooked up and in place proved to be the most tedious part of this, mainly because the drip irrigation stuff is is no way designed to be hooked up to an automatic sprinkler circuit easily. It can be done, but it takes some creativity to do so. It could be a lot easier if the manufacturers made the right parts, but they don't. They design the drip irrigation to be hooked up to a outdoor hose connection and run manually, or maybe on a dedicated timer. So everything is made for hose connections. Sure, they have adaptors to go to pipe thread, but you end up with 50% of the hookup being adaptors by the time you're done. Want to hook up a backflow preventer valve on the drip system? You need a pipe thread to home thread adaptor to mount it to, and then another hose thread to pipe thread adaptor to get to the adjustable pressure regulator. *sigh* Oh well, it's almost all done now... The only thing I have left to do it to try and hook up an automatic drain valve to keep the lines empty so they don't freeze in the winter if I forget to drain them.

The valve box after testing the two sprinkler circuits and properly aiming the sprinkler heads - that's why it's wet. I did have some amusement when the sprinkler head at the foot of the deck stairs first came on - it was pointed right at the deck. Where my wife was standing. Oops. :-) The wiring hookups can be clearly seen here. Orange is the far circuit for the drip irrigation, red is the middle circuit for the three sprinkler heads along the retaining wall, white is the near circuit for the three sprinkler heads closest to the house, green is wrapped out of the way and is unused, and black is the common/ground connection for all of the valves.

BackyardWork213.jpg (3176324 bytes)

Here's the main shutoff valve that will be buried near the foundation with an access cover over it. For now, it's connected to the hose for testing with a pile of spare adaptors left over from previous work plus a PVC fitting I bought on my third trip to Home Depot. I'll replace the adaptor with a some hose fitting fort the 3/4" poly line I'm using to plumb the system when I get it run through the foundation and properly hooked up to the house water supply. I already have the plumbing in the crawlspace to hook up the outside faucets and sprinklers, it has a backflow prevention valve and individual circuits for each faucet or sprinkler feed that each have their own shutoff valves. It's a nice looking piece of copper work that no one but me will ever see...

BackyardWork214.jpg (2365800 bytes) BackyardWork215.jpg (2653170 bytes)

The sprinkler head at the foot of the deck stairs. It's set to rotate through ~200 degrees so that it waters along the back edge of the deck and then over towards the house. I couldn't have it do a full 270 degrees (aka, a 3/4 circle) since the deck isn't deep enough and it would end up spraying the back of the house badly. It works out pretty well though, with the sprinkler head by the corner of the house getting the area this one misses. The area in the corner is in shade much of the day and stays damp anyway, so this works out quite well to water that area less that the rest of the yard.

BackyardWork216.jpg (3012511 bytes)

The sprinkler head at the far edge of the deck. It's temporarily set above ground using rocks to hold it in place until I get the trench that far along. This is good enough to test the system and rough-set the range, angle, and throw of the sprinkler heads, though. There is an automatic drain valve near the sprinkler head, though it's hard to see in this photo.

BackyardWork217.jpg (2769964 bytes)

The valve box after some more testing and refinement.

BackyardWork218.jpg (2674631 bytes)

The valve box after the initial backfilling with gravel for good drainage. I pulled up on the box slightly after some backfilling so that the box wasn't sitting right on the tubing that runs under the box edges.

BackyardWork219.jpg (3012014 bytes)

The valve box and surrounding area of mow strip edging after final backfilling. The pile of dirt on the left is still being used to backfill other areas along the mow strip edging along the back edge of the deck. The black tubing coming out of the ground to the right of the valve box is the drip irrigation tubing. That will be on the surface for now, and later barely buried under a layer of decorative rocks. When you plant something out here, you add a drip irrigation nozzle for it, so you want it to be accessible to do that when needed.

BackyardWork220.jpg (3122375 bytes)

The sprinkler head at the foot of the deck stairs and the mow strip edging in that area after final backfilling. I'll put gravel between the mow strip and the concrete pad at the base of the stairs later on to level things out. Also, at the far left and running behind the stairs you can see the drip irrigation tubing laying on top of my pile of random left-over tubing and other parts from various projects. I've been saving the oddball bits and pieces until everything is done. It's nice to have spare parts to complete various pieces of work. I'll get rid of it all when I'm done, likely when I re-do the deck...

BackyardWork221.jpg (3053527 bytes)

The mow strip and sprinkler tubing trench along the back edge of the deck. I switched to a single-shovel-blade-wide trench here because I only have one sprinkler tube to bury and it's a simple straight run all the way down the line. I have some extra mow strip  edging from another project that I can use to fill out to the end of the deck for now. Eventually, the deck will get redone and things may change out along the fence, but for now, this will do just fine and I don't have to buy another 60 feet of mow strip just to go 10 feet... This is why saving left-over bits from earlier projects can be helpful...

BackyardWork222.jpg (2458713 bytes)

Major Work - Day 17

This day was final work on the mow strip along the back of the deck, installing the final sprinkler head, and getting the sprinkler valves hooked up correctly.

The mow strip is now finished, complete with a short "return" at the far edge of the deck.

BackyardWork223.jpg (2774232 bytes) BackyardWork224.jpg (2843151 bytes)

And now the sprinkler head and automatic drain at this end of the sprinkler line are also final installed and the trench backfilled.

BackyardWork225.jpg (2488499 bytes) BackyardWork226.jpg (2904759 bytes)

Same thing, just viewed from over by the generator.

BackyardWork227.jpg (2811752 bytes) BackyardWork228.jpg (2779462 bytes)

The 2" PVC line that houses the sprinkler wire needed a longer pipe to be run down into the ground to prevent exposed wire along the foundation - compare to previous pictures to see the difference. it's subtle, but important. The 2" PVC pull point and tubing was spare stuff I had laying around when I did the temporary sprinkler valve install the previous summer, so it's way overkill for size, but it works fine and it was free. The down-pipe was intentionally left short before so the cable could be accessible above ground for the temporary valve install. When I did this, I temporarily unwired the cable form the valves, pulled the spare cable out of the crawlspace, final tacked it down inside the crawlspace, and ran a longer piece of 2" PVC down below ground level.

BackyardWork229.jpg (2475117 bytes)

I laid the wire in place and made sure it was out of the way of the main shutoff valve ad backfilled a bit to keep the wire in place. I then re-ran the cable back into to the valve box, cut it to length, and did the final hookups to the valves using the same wiring colors as noted previously on this page.

BackyardWork230.jpg (2870252 bytes)

Same thing, just with more backfilling around the sprinkler wire.

BackyardWork231.jpg (2526875 bytes)

I also moved the pile of dirt off the lawn and next to the deck so that I could final level things and plant some grass seed. I'll need the dirt to backfill the hole next to the foundation after I run the water line into the crawlspace and hook it up for real, but that may not be for a while. The front sprinklers have been on a temporary hookup for a few years now... :-/

Major Work - Day 18

This day was the final drip irrigation hookup work, wiring up the new 6-station sprinkler controller, and testing the sprinklers + drip irrigation setup.

I needed one last fitting to hook up the automatic drain valve on the drip irrigation system - a 1/2" PVC 90 degree elbow that went to 1/2" female pipe threads. Now, once the pressure bleeds off of the drip irrigation system, it will automatically bleed off the water so it can't freeze in the winter time, the same as the sprinkler lines.

BackyardWork232.jpg (2722164 bytes) BackyardWork233.jpg (2932138 bytes)

I also took the time to run drip irrigation to all of the containers in my wife's container gardening effort. I was pretty sure that getting up in the morning to water it would be hit or miss, and sure enough, it has been. I had a ton of spare parts laying about form the previous work out from, and with a few new adjustable emitters and about 60 minutes of time to sort it out and hook it all up, it was all set and working. No more waking up to water the garden in the morning before it gets too hot. Whee! I did have to adjust the pressure regulator all the way down - the previous setting was way too high and it literally took 12+ hours to the tiny emitters to bleed off all the pressure in the system. That was a lot of overwatering on the first try...

I hooked up the new 6 station controller and tested it out. Nothing special here. It's laying on a shelf in the garage until I get that area of the garage fully re-done. I can reach it when I need to get to it, so it's fine for now. And it's now set to water the back yard starting at 9am. I should probably plant some grass seed pretty soon so I'm not watering the back yard dirt for nothing... :-)

Major Work - Day 19

This day was for spreading grass seed and fertilizer and doing the "watering in" of them to get things started. Nothing too special here, but I do officially have grass growing on my back yard again, so it's a big deal. :-)

I buried the automatic drain valve for the drip irrigation system in some gravel so it drains properly; the picture is in the ones for the previous day (see above) because I took the pictures out of order from the work. I also found a few minutes to apply some weed/grass killer along the edge of concrete pad at the bottom of the deck stairs so it will be ready to place some weed block fabric and gravel there in the near future...

BackyardWork234.jpg (2735028 bytes) BackyardWork235.jpg (2750466 bytes) BackyardWork236.jpg (2764910 bytes) BackyardWork237.jpg (2690307 bytes)

Major Work - Day 20

This was an evening of small work, but it was progress worth noting. First, a couple of pictures of the stuff my wife is growing in her container garden. I think she may have planted a wee bit much in those first two containers...

BackyardWork238.jpg (483374 bytes) BackyardWork239.jpg (422587 bytes)

Here's the real work for the evening - drilling a hole in the foundation for the sprinkler feed hose. Notice the copious quantities of pulverized concrete below the hole. All that material ground up while drilling the 1 3/8" hole had to go somewhere....

BackyardWork240.jpg (2488787 bytes)

I rented a huge hammer drill and 1 3/8" (!) bit to do the drilling for this and for the front sprinklers. It made short work of the drilling, but it was heavy, beastly, and so large I had to excavate a slightly larger hole to make room for the hammer drill and bit to sit level and drill into the foundation. Impressive!

BackyardWork241.jpg (2501227 bytes)

I installed a short piece of 1" Schedule 40 PVC as a surround/shield/rub protection for the eventual 3/4" poly tubing that will go through the foundation and hook up to the water lines in the crawlspace. Remember that it's 1" inside diameter, so the outside diameter of the hole needs to be larger. I used copious quantities of Liquid Nails as both to glue it into place to keep it from moving around relative to the foundation and as a sealer to keep small critters out of the crawlspace. Why Liquid Nails? I had a brand-new tube of it lying around, and it seemed like it would do the job nicely, so I used it. Before installing the PVC I even remembered to file down the inside edge of the PVC at both ends into a smooth radiused edge so the poly tubing wouldn't have any sharp spots to catch/rub/break on.

BackyardWork242.jpg (1702066 bytes)

I also took a quick picture of the grass - it's slowly but steadily growing in now. I discovered that I needed even more water that I had been applying - the most heavily watered spots (the sprinklers are not perfectly even in how they water) came up first and are growing the best. :-/

BackyardWork243.jpg (3491682 bytes)

Major Work - Day 21

This was a full day of work around the house, both on this project and on similar work for the front sprinklers. The big deal here was doing the final/proper hookup of the sprinkler feed to the house water supply by running it through the new hole in the foundation and hooking it up to the feed lines waiting in the crawlspace. Installing the 3/4" poly tubing was pretty straightforward with the exception of the usual wrestling with getting it on the fittings - they are a tight fit. In the crawlspace, the hookup to the previously installed feed line was easy. However, after turning on the water and leaving it sit for an hour or so, I discovered I had a small drip on the pipe thread fitting on the outlet side of the shutoff valve in the crawlspace. Since it was copper line, I had to turn it all off, cut the line, remove and re-install the leaking joint with better thread sealer, and then solder in a coupler where I had cut the copper line. Not hard, but it took a bit to get it all done. My copper pipe soldering skills are getting better, apparently. None of those have leaked, so far... *knock on wood*

Here's the outside shut-off valve hooked up and working for the first time. W00t!

BackyardWork244.jpg (2619637 bytes)

Same spot, after installing the access "box" with gravel around the base, plus backfilling it with dirt and compacting it down a bit.

BackyardWork245.jpg (2410902 bytes)

I still have a non-trivial dirt pile here, so I'll have to put it behind the shed or something after I can walk on the yard again. It's annoying, but I'll need backfill in that area eventually, so no biggie.

BackyardWork246.jpg (2833737 bytes)

While doing the crawlspace work, I also took the time to repair the copper feed line that goes to the side faucet I had installed earlier. I previously had to do a similar repair on this feed line with the leaking pipe fitting, and I chose to try and install a threaded union in the line instead of soldering it - bad idea. The union always dripped/leaked, so the shut off valve for the line to the side faucet was off until I got it fixed. This time I did it right by cutting out the union, loosening all the clamps so the line could be spread apart an inch or so, and soldering in a piece of copper tubing with couplers on both ends. With the feed line fixed, I finally got around to installing a hose reel on the side of the house. Too bad the hose I was using over here is so old the the end fitting leaks and the hose is too stiff to wind around the reel. I'll replace the hose soon enough, though. That's the easy part of all this...

Also, when working over here, I realized that I could see the top of the footing directly under the faucet (!) - not good. You can see the original dirt line on the foundation - much higher than the current ground level. The previous owner had re-leveled this area to make a decent side driveway and then after I bought the house it seems that things settled some more. The net result was that the top of the footing was at ground level on the outside. I brought in some gravel to help fix that, and that's the new gravel you can see here against the house. It's about 8" think in places. The gravel here was very low for some reason, I'm guessing settling, so adding more helped fill this area in nicely.

BackyardWork247.jpg (2550806 bytes)

Major Work - Day 22

No major work this day, just a photo of my well-watered and fast-growing back lawn. Houston, we have grass! I also too the time to remove the various car parts from the planter area behind the deck and get then stowed out of the way elsewhere. Yeah, I'm a car guy and I have spare parts for a ton of different projects stashed all over the place. Meh.

BackyardWork248.jpg (3339949 bytes)

Major Work - Day 23

Another real/full work day with lots of progress. First up was clearing the grass from the foot of the deck stairs, adding weed block fabric, and laying down some gravel. I made the gravel level with the concrete base pad for the stairs so that the 2" tall concrete pad wouldn't be a tripping hazard like it used to be.

BackyardWork249.jpg (3093487 bytes) BackyardWork250.jpg (2846722 bytes)

The last of the dirt pile is gone - it's all been moved behind the shed, where eventually I'll finish the retaining wall all the way back there. Eventually...

BackyardWork251.jpg (2605385 bytes)

Clearing the grass and old weed block fabric from the planter area behind the deck. I used a grub hoe to pull up the grass that was there and disposed of it all behind the shed. It'll rot and compact into dirt by the time I get around to working back there. I hope... Dad's plant is safely tied up out of the way, and the drip irrigation line is temporarily routed behind the deck railing supports to keep it out of the way while I'm working.

BackyardWork252.jpg (2812271 bytes) BackyardWork253.jpg (2611343 bytes) BackyardWork254.jpg (2563239 bytes) BackyardWork255.jpg (2673476 bytes)

Laying down the weed block fabric in the rear planter area. My daughter got a hold of the camera, and she can pick some real great times to take pictures... The weed block fabric came out pretty good, though.

BackyardWork256.jpg (1941563 bytes) BackyardWork257.jpg (2333394 bytes) BackyardWork258.jpg (2172471 bytes) BackyardWork259.jpg (2467530 bytes)

I laid the drip irrigation tubing back down and staked it in place, and put large rocks over it to help mark it and hold it down. Naturally, Caitlin managed to get in middle of one of the pictures... The pressure gauge on the line is there to check the adjustable pressure regulator. I'm still having some issues with it dripping for hours after it shuts off, and I was trying to make sure the pressure was set right. It is, so that's not the problem. It previously worked well when run for a slightly longer time, so I'm resetting the timer to let it run for a bit longer to see how that works.

BackyardWork260.jpg (2567447 bytes) BackyardWork261.jpg (2093342 bytes) BackyardWork262.jpg (2187140 bytes)

At this point I'm finally starting to get some decorative rocks into the planter. I had a huge pile stored over by the fence, and I'm moving them over one 5-gallon-bucket-full at a time. I've placed my few larger rocks near the corner and other places of interest. The rest will be filled in by the medium and small sized rocks, with the very edge of the planter being filled in with the same 1-2" rock that I used in the planter beds out front.

BackyardWork263.jpg (2556583 bytes) BackyardWork264.jpg (2610551 bytes)

Here's the rock pile underneath the stored truck canopy for my 1986 Ford F250. The pile is steadily getting smaller, and by the end of the evening I was finally able to get the canopy sawhorse supports setting on the ground instead of on the rock pile, which is good news. I also managed to catch Caitlin while she was helping load the rocks into the buckets. The last picture was taken the following morning.

BackyardWork265.jpg (2526324 bytes) BackyardWork266.jpg (2476479 bytes) BackyardWork267.jpg (3310448 bytes) BackyardWork268.jpg (2462791 bytes)

Another "the next morning" picture to show the progress on the planter behind the deck.

BackyardWork269.jpg (2784667 bytes)

This picture was from the day of the work. While moving the rock pile, we found a small frog living in it. Caitlin managed to get an unexpectedly good photo of it while avoiding work for a few minutes. I decided it was worth posting here.

BackyardWork270.jpg (2651324 bytes)

Not shown here was some re-arranging work behind the shed so that I had room to dump the extra dirt back there. It will eventually be part of the backfill behind the final section of retaining wall that will be put there. For now, it's basically "dirt and debris storage" in the form of a compost pile...

Major Work - Day 24

Today was filled with more time spent altering the locations of many small rocks. Without too much work, the remaining rock pile by the fence was gone and moved into place in the planter beds. Now I have more area to grow weeds grass over by the fence and under the stored truck canopy for my 1986 Ford F250. As part of this initial round of work, I also got the section of planter bed next to the deck cleared out, put down weed block fabric there, and started putting some of the rocks there. I did have to re-do some of the drip irrigation tubing a bit as the 1/4" line running up the hanging container garden support post was too short to let the main 1/2" line sit flat on the ground after I removed the extra dirt pile from that area. No big deal, just amusing...

BackyardWork271.jpg (2513450 bytes) BackyardWork272.jpg (2566959 bytes) BackyardWork273.jpg (2546792 bytes)

Next up was filling in around the larger rocks with smaller 1"-2" sized rocks. I had an excess of these stored in the front yard planter bed from previous work there, so I removed them and relocated them back here. This killed two birds with one stone, so to speak. I filled in and finished the planter behind the deck plus some of the one next to the deck, and I finally completed the front planter bed. W00t! I also finally was able to remove the straps holding my father-in-law's plant up against the deck. Now that I was done working in that area, the plant can flop around more or less however it wants to. Unfortunately, I think the stress of being tied up for so long was a bit too much for some of the main stems - two of the main leaves fell flat to the ground and right onto the lawn. I don't think they will recover this year, but it should do fine next year. I hope... The final result here looks quite nice and it hasn't really cost me anything yet for the rock as it was all on the property already - it just needed relocating from different parts of my yard.

BackyardWork274.jpg (2314375 bytes) BackyardWork275.jpg (2543295 bytes) BackyardWork276.jpg (2627093 bytes) BackyardWork277.jpg (2583874 bytes) BackyardWork278.jpg (2157535 bytes)

Major Work - Day 25

This was an evening of work getting started on the planter bed on the rear of the house. I moved the car parts out of the way temporarily so I could work. They'll go back here until they get used on their various projects, but only after the planter bed is installed and has the decorative rocks in it. Less weeds, it will look better than not having the planter done even with the part there, and frankly, the planter work will be done and I can cross off another project from my to-do list. The grass and weeds were stripped, the ground was leveled, and weed block fabric was put down, same as everywhere else. Note the drip irrigation line is running along the foundation so it's out of the way of any future planting work.

BackyardWork279.jpg (2437527 bytes)

Same thing, but after I installed my sonic mole chaser in the gravel near the corner of the lawn, and after laying down a bit of gravel at the end of the planter bed to level things out. The second picture is a better view of that end of the planter bed work. It turned out that the mole chaser was not installed deep enough in the ground, so it was way too loud. I could hear it inside the house when I went to bed - the master bedroom is on that corner of the house - so I had to turn it off until I can dig a bit deeper of a hole and solve the nighttime noise problem.

BackyardWork280.jpg (2440799 bytes) BackyardWork281.jpg (2525772 bytes)

I also purchased four large square stepping stones to put in place under the hose reel and shut off valve to provide stable and sure-footed access to that later on. They're grey and will blend in with the decorative rock nicely. I also remembered to staple down the drip irrigation tubing so it would (hopefully) stay put. Not shown is the vehicular shuffling I did to make sure I could back my truck down into the side driveway with a load of decorative stones when I find time to pick them up.

BackyardWork282.jpg (2317025 bytes)

Major Work - Day 26

Next up was an evening of work to complete the planter bed along the back of the house. I need to get a load of 1"-2" decorative stones to complete this work, and one pickup load of 1 and 1/4 yards (about 3000lbs or so) did perfectly to complete this area. These pictures are before washing the stones down. They come fairly dirty from loading and unloading, and need a final wash after placing them to get them to look correct. This also helps settle them into place a bit.

Check out the third picture - isn't the lawn doing great? I need to mow it again. It needs mowing twice a week right now - it's growing very fast, which is a good thing. It's getting nice and strong and thick and hopefully will be crowding out any weeds that might want to take hold.

BackyardWork283.jpg (2410716 bytes) BackyardWork284.jpg (2694928 bytes) BackyardWork285.jpg (2958111 bytes) BackyardWork286.jpg (2397994 bytes)

After rinsing the decorative rocks and letting things dry, it looks pretty darned good. The pressure treated wood is to go under some of the car parts to prevent damage from the rocks.

BackyardWork287.jpg (2417055 bytes) BackyardWork288.jpg (2559988 bytes)

Major Work - Day 27

Another part-day of work, starting with a lawn mowing. Looking good!

BackyardWork289.jpg (2941345 bytes)

I moved all of the car parts out form behind the shed so I could work in that area to complete the wall. It hasn't been this empty back here in years...

BackyardWork290.jpg (2843514 bytes)

I needed to put the car parts back against the house to get them out of the way, and I also needed to move some other car parts from behind the shed to be able to complete the retaining wall in that area, backfill it, and put down some gravel there.

BackyardWork291.jpg (2442227 bytes) BackyardWork292.jpg (2394100 bytes)

Before doing anything else, I needed to remove the weeds and wood chips from the area behind the shed, so the yard waste bin was filled up. Caitlin got a hold of the camera and took these pictures while I was working. The final picture of the area near the fence shows I need to remove some dirt and loose fill from there, but overall it's not too bad.

BackyardWork293.jpg (2323443 bytes) BackyardWork294.jpg (2572566 bytes) BackyardWork295.jpg (2874280 bytes)

The final result of the de-weeding and de-wood-chipping. Not bad for an hours work. I ended up filling a spare trash can with more weeds and wood chips that did not fit into the yard waste bin - I'm planning to dump that into the yard waste bin as soon as it has room again.

BackyardWork296.jpg (3147635 bytes)

Major Work - Day 28

This was actually spread out across a few days of spare-time work, but it adds up to about a days work.

This was the work on the side of the shed to deal with the ~3' tall stump that was left from the previous tree removal work I had done. We simply cut it off as flush with the ground as possible. To do that effectively, I rented a monster 32" bar chainsaw. The 20" saw I had access to for free just wasn't cutting it, literally. All I can say about the 32" Stihl chainsaw that I rented is "wow"; that was a serious tool! Very cool, very powerful, and very tiring for someone not used to using it.

BackyardWork297.jpg (2654108 bytes)

After doing that, I moved my car parts stashed beside the shed rearward to the area where the stump was, and then cleaned up the last of the wood chips and weeds alongside the shed near the front. After that, I used the last of my spare gravel alongside the shed near the front to get the area under my parts graveled in so they wouldn't need to move anymore for this work. They are heavy, and I often get to work alone, so I didn't want to be blocked waiting for a hand to move them later on in the project.

BackyardWork298.jpg (2361908 bytes) BackyardWork299.jpg (2270753 bytes)

I've decided to build a simple 8' tall x ~16' long lattice screen behind the shed and just inside the retaining wall. I'll be using three fence posts to make two 8' long fence sections and lattice instead of fence boards to ensure it's not a huge sail in the wind. I will use three cross-beams - one at ground level, one at 4' and one at 8' - which will make it easy to nail full 4'x8' sheets of lattice to, and put trim boards on the side facing the neighbors to make it look nice. This will help screen the parts I'm storing back there from view and make it look a lot nicer from the neighbor's point of view for very little work and cost on my part. After figuring out the wall location, I can figure out the fence post locations and prepare for them. I will be using 12' 4x4's for fence posts so that I get a full 4' of post in the ground to help ensure a stable fence, even with so much of the post sitting in what may end up being very loose backfill for the wall.

As part of this batch of work, I got the first two of the three fence post holes dug and I put in 4' cardboard footing tubes that were on ~8' centers and plumbed up. The dirt in this area is very sandy with lots of small rocks and lots of roots, so a manual post-hole digger is a real joy to use here here. Each hole was dug on separate days - my arms just couldn't take more than one at a time. Why use footing tubes? This way I can dig them first, then build and backfill the wall, and then set the posts in concrete last. Why last? After I backfill the wall and have a reasonably level surface on top, it will be very easy to bring a concrete mixer over there and do the required mixing and pouring work without worrying about the mixer or a wheelbarrow full of wet concrete taking a tumble down the steep area of the hill back there.

In the first picture, you may be able to see the yellow mason's line that's been strung up to represent the top outside edge of of the wall all the way back into the corner. This allowed me to figure out the footing tube locations and get them dug and in place. You may also be able to see the very creative bungee cord usage to keep the huge bamboo plant I have back there held out of the way so I could do this work.

BackyardWork300.jpg (2760202 bytes)

This is the first post hole I dug - the far corner in the back. This one ended up being a larger 8" tube because it was laying around unused from some previous purchase at Home Depot. Since out of the three fence posts, this one will be most exposed to backfill and most prone to move, I decided to use the larger one here. It uses a ton of concrete - about 1 bag for each foot of the tube you need to fill. That's a lot of concrete for just this one fence post...

BackyardWork301.jpg (2206168 bytes)

This is the second post hole I dug - the middle fence post of the three. This one was a huge pain to dig - roots, rocks, and sand that didn't stay in the posthole digger without excessive force on the handles. Whee! To make my digging life somewhat easier, I bought a smaller form tube this time, only 6" in diameter. I think I'll use the smaller tube for the last hole as well...

BackyardWork302.jpg (2710899 bytes)

This is a really bad cell phone picture of the 32" Stihl chainsaw I rented. Since I had a full day of rental time and my stump cutting went quickly, I let a friend use it to get started on dealing with a huge old stump in his yard. It did a very impressive job of cutting off the top ~2-3' of this stump and then cutting that cut off piece into quarter-round pieces that could be more easily moved/disposed of. What's left of this particular stump will be the target of a very large stump grinder on another day...

BackyardWork303.jpg (445608 bytes)

Major Work - Day 29

After the last bit of work above, the weather changed and our wet winter weather patterns set in. As a result, the project sat for the entire winter with no progress. My two nicely dug and installed cardboard concrete tubes disintegrated with all the wet winter weather we get around here and by the time I got around to starting work in the spring, the weeds had grown up quite nicely back in the corner of the yard. Blargh. It's not the end of the world, but it is a bit more than slightly annoying.

I first chose to complete the retaining wall under the side fence before getting started on the work on the back retaining wall. It was easier to get done (less digging and less stuff to move) and I had help to move the car parts out of the way from the side of the shed to make it easier. As part of that work, I fired up the weed whacker for the first time in forever, attacked the weeds back here, and put down weed killer to help keep them done for a while.

BackyardWork304.jpg (2937037 bytes)

Major Work - Day 30

After that, it was time to start on the rear retaining wall again, and the first step was digging out for the retaining wall so I could set it on a good stable gravel base. The cardboard tubes I had set in place last year for the lattice fence posts had completely disintegrated, and the holes partially caved in. Blargh again.I also dug out enough to add a perforated pipe for drainage, and wrapped it in filter fabric left over from last year to keep the dirt and fine particles out of it. I used the left over retaining wall blocks form last year to do the first bit of work.

BackyardWork305.jpg (2960147 bytes) BackyardWork306.jpg (3000029 bytes) BackyardWork307.jpg (3352077 bytes) BackyardWork308.jpg (2674648 bytes) BackyardWork309.jpg (2727773 bytes)

When I ran out of old block, I made a Home Depot run to pick up more. I calculated I'd need almost a full pallet to complete the work, so I just had them load a full pallet to make it fast, and then went right back to work on the wall.

BackyardWork310.jpg (2925571 bytes) BackyardWork311.jpg (2996342 bytes)

Major Work - Day 31

More work on the wall, this time mainly on the curve and the final connection to the side retaining wall. I didn't leave myself enough space to match levels after the curve, so it came in too steep and didn't meet up as nicely as I would have liked. Oh well, live and learn. It's in the far corner of the yard and no one will really ever see it, so it's OK. There were a number of very creative cuts on the wet saw to make the final few pieces of retaining wall block fit into place, though. That took up a lot of the day. You can see how little is left on the pallet of blocks in the back of the truck. Not bad for a quick estimate...

BackyardWork312.jpg (2637507 bytes) BackyardWork313.jpg (2275214 bytes) BackyardWork314.jpg (2348174 bytes)

Next up was the post-hole digger and getting the holes for the fence posts dug out. The dirt was heavy clay with rocks and was wet, so it was fun digging - very heavy and it stuck to the post hole digger a lot. After I got the tubes in the holes and plumb, we backfilled them with gravel to hold them in place. After that, we spread out the large dirt pile from excavating the base of this section of the wall to fill in the middle of this area. I'll lay gravel over the top of it later and do the final leveling then. it will likely settle over time, but I can always add more gravel later if needed.

BackyardWork315.jpg (2967030 bytes) BackyardWork316.jpg (2557943 bytes) BackyardWork317.jpg (2653351 bytes) BackyardWork318.jpg (2397588 bytes) BackyardWork319.jpg (2459909 bytes) BackyardWork320.jpg (2539481 bytes) BackyardWork321.jpg (2801209 bytes)

Here's one of the dinosaur plants from my late father in law. This is the first one we transplanted, and it's doing great. It's as high as the deck railing already - it's taller than Caitlin is! The other three are smaller since this is their first year growing in their new spots, but they are doing quite well already and should catch up to this one in a few years.

BackyardWork322.jpg (2554417 bytes)

Major Work - Day 32

A short day of work, but an important one. I got the first two fence posts installed, plumbed, braced, and concreted in place. As soon as the concrete dries, I can build the fence for that section, lay down more gravel, and be done working on the far back area. That means I can put some parts back there and get them out of the way of the rest of the yard.

BackyardWork323.jpg (2644964 bytes) BackyardWork324.jpg (2647995 bytes)

Major Work - Day 33

A good evening of work. The bracing on the posts came down now that the concrete was dry, and the first section of lattice fence went up - complete with trim. We also spread gravel over most of the area; we only left the area where the third fence post will go without gravel. I also removed the green metal fence post from the corner and un-tied the bamboo from the back fence. I think it looks pretty darned good at this point; not too much more work is left to be completely done with the back yard.

Did I mention that gravel is getting expensive? At this point, it was ~$70 for a pickup load (about 2 yards) at the local Cadman yard. Ouchie...

BackyardWork325.jpg (2825379 bytes) BackyardWork326.jpg (2763753 bytes) BackyardWork327.jpg (2420637 bytes) BackyardWork328.jpg (2203600 bytes) BackyardWork329.jpg (2505150 bytes) BackyardWork330.jpg (2630247 bytes)

Major Work - Day 34

Another small bit of work, this time done over a couple of evenings. This time it was mainly parts shuffling to get my stash of spare parts for my various long-term car projects back into safe storage behind and next to the shed. It's not entirely done since the lattice fence is not done yet, but we did manage to get the final post hole dug and the post in place and braced - all that's left is to pour some concrete as soon as I get a few spare hours to deal with that.

BackyardWork331.jpg (3118098 bytes) BackyardWork332.jpg (2494474 bytes)

Check out all the empty space around my generator - yay! I still have to get that one last part moved after the 1973 Electra is moved back a bit, the railroad tie removed, and the dip in the gravel + lawn is filled in. This does mean I have enough empty space to put some gravel around the generator, though, which is a good thing.

BackyardWork333.jpg (2754230 bytes)

Major Work - Day 35

A good day of work. The lattice fence is finished, the area around the generator has been cleaned up and mostly filled in with gravel, and I got my 1973 Electra moved back so I had room to remove the old railroad tie and properly fill in the dip at the edge of the lawn.

My daughter Caitlin did most of the work clearing the built up debris from around the generator. I really dislike my neighbor's tree sometimes due to all the stuff it drops, but this was 2-3 years of build up, so not too bad overall. You can see the gravel left in the wheelbarrow from laying more down around the last fence post for the lattice fence now that the concrete is dry.

BackyardWork334.jpg (2840858 bytes)

Caitlin was less than thrilled to be caught in the middle of a rest break, so I got a picture of a really good glare out of it. :-)

BackyardWork335.jpg (2621433 bytes)

While she was cleaning up around the generator, I completed the lattice fence behind the shed. I think it looks great. Caitlin came over to help hold things at various times, which was a huge help for me.

BackyardWork336.jpg (2691653 bytes) BackyardWork337.jpg (2907659 bytes)

After debris removal around the generator was gravel installation. Caitlin helped by loading the wheelbarrow with gravel while I was still working on the fence, and then I moved it over. This was the last of the spare gravel from previous work - time to go get another 2 yard load...

BackyardWork338.jpg (2421380 bytes) BackyardWork339.jpg (2520478 bytes)

After getting more gravel and dumping it in my gravel side driveway, we put some down around the generator and tamped it down. I still need to put in some mow strip lawn edging and fill right up to that, but for now, this is pretty good. Depending on exactly where I put the mow strip at, there is only another one or two wheelbarrow loads of gravel to go back here.

Not shown here is that I also picked up a pickup bed full of topsoil to use in backfilling various small areas, such as along the rear retaining wall where things have settled. I can do small bits at a time in the evenings in the next week or so.

BackyardWork340.jpg (2471129 bytes) BackyardWork341.jpg (2617236 bytes)

Caitlin took some time off after I mowed the lawn to ride around and try to harass me in the process. So, I decided to capture it for posterity and later embarrassment. :-)

BackyardWork342.jpg (2319171 bytes) BackyardWork343.jpg (2570029 bytes)

I was also able to get my 1973 Electra moved back so I could work on the dip in the gravel and the lawn, as well as dispose of the old railroad tie that is in that area. It used to mark the edge of the gravel at the back of the shed. Now it's just rotting in place and needs to go away.

BackyardWork344.jpg (2359392 bytes) BackyardWork345.jpg (2981896 bytes)

Major Work - Day 36

This was an evening of working on the yard after I got home from my day job, and it was good progress.

I pulled the railroad tie out from next to the shed and moved it to the far corner of the yard - it will get disposed of later. For now, it's out of the way. I also raised the mow strip edging in the low area, backfilled the gravel side with gravel, and the lawn side with fresh topsoil. After that, I moved the large car part from the other side of the yard so it's out of the way. The area around the generator is looking nice and empty again.

BackyardWork346.jpg (2961712 bytes) BackyardWork347.jpg (2634249 bytes)

After the large front end section was moved into it's final location, I could move the rest of the misc parts from around the yard to stack nicely out of the way.

BackyardWork348.jpg (3089006 bytes)

That meant the back of the house was finally clear again. Well, almost. I have some glass stored near the corner to keep it safe, as well as the old compressor tank I'm saving to use as a portable air tank on wheels.

BackyardWork349.jpg (2536437 bytes) BackyardWork350.jpg (2603515 bytes)

I also filled in the low area along the retaining wall - the last 12" or so of the lawn next to the wall had started to settle. It was not unexpected, especially given the volume of backfill that went behind the higher sections of the wall. I'll seed it later. By this time it was getting a bit dark, so the pictures are a bit blurry.

BackyardWork351.jpg (2539712 bytes) BackyardWork352.jpg (2403815 bytes)

Now that the area around the generator was clear, I could install some mow strip edging to separate the gravel form the lawn and do the final backfilling + leveling of gravel and topsoil in this area. It looks much nicer. I will move the pickup cap to be closer to the generator sometime soon to keep it further out of the way, along with getting rid of some of the spare wood stored underneath it that I no longer need.

BackyardWork353.jpg (2283257 bytes) BackyardWork354.jpg (2530106 bytes)

One final shot looking back along the retaining wall. Once the grass fills back in, it's going to look pretty nice.

BackyardWork355.jpg (2213117 bytes)


Major Work - Day 37

This was a couple of short evenings of work plus a bit more the next morning. It's about a day's worth, so I lumped them all together.

I got the side step to the deck built, installed, the gravel put in around (and under it), finished off the mow strip in this area, added some good topsoil here, graded it, and then put down grass seed and fertilizer.

BackyardWork356.jpg (2785326 bytes) BackyardWork357.jpg (3073432 bytes)

I got the pickup cap moved to it's long-term resting place. I also put down grass seed and fertilizer on all the other areas that I put down new topsoil. In a few short weeks, I'll be back to a complete lawn again! W00t!

BackyardWork358.jpg (2486707 bytes) BackyardWork359.jpg (2436591 bytes) BackyardWork360.jpg (2764629 bytes) BackyardWork361.jpg (3276197 bytes) BackyardWork362.jpg (2843523 bytes)

I also got my 1973 Electra moved back into place; it ended up being within inches of the original location. You can see the left over gravel pile I have to spread on the side driveway to fill in low spots in the near future. Might as well put it to good use, right?

BackyardWork363.jpg (2513014 bytes) BackyardWork364.jpg (2513909 bytes)

Not shown here is that I moved the railroad tie out to the front so it was easier to dispose of.

Major Work - Day 38




Work Left to Do

At some point I need to add some more plants into the planter area directly behind the house and get the drip irrigation going for them - you know, the little stuff that helps turn it into a finished project...

Complete the to-do list way up at the top of this page.


Comments? Kudos? Got some parts you'd like to buy/sell/barter/swap? Nasty comments about my web page so far? See Contacting Us.

Pretty much everything on this website is copyrighted, if you want to use something, ask first.

Page last updated 06/24/2012 10:16:27 PM