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  • Kathryn R. Biel

The Great Wall of Biel

When we renovated our house over four years ago, we knew the yard would need some work.  Our house faces south and is oriented on a hill that runs east to west.  As such, the driveway is lower than the house.  The previous owner used wood to terrace the hill part.  There were 2 main problems with that for us: 1. The wood was rotting out and home for carpenter ants. 2. We are HORRIBLE at maintaining flower beds, and they looked disastrous.  As such, Pat came up with a wonderful idea to build a retaining wall and a new set of stairs.  Ok, fine by me.

Pat rents an excavator and digs out. October 31, 2008

Once Pat dug the whole, winter set in quickly, and we had a large hole in our yard until the following summer.  Once the heat of July hit, Pat got to work building the wall.  Each block weighs about 70 pounds.  I tried to lift one once, and nearly wet my pants.  Pat lifted every single block into place.

Working on the stairs, with the assistance of Sophia. July 2009.

Nice curve, carefully measured out.

So, Pat got the wall built.  And it was impressive, and he was tired.  And so the wall sat.  It was finished.  Sort of.  We still needed to get caps for the pillars, and the walkway needed to be put in. 

And so the wall has sat, since 2009. 

This spring, we started the process of trying to buy caps.  The first place we went to visit would not return our calls.  The caps we ordered from another place were too small.  No one had the right color and size.  The right color and size were in Utah, with no way to get them here.  We ordered lights to match the lights on the house. In April.  They arrived last week.  So Pat, with "encouragement" from my dad, decided to make the caps.  Pat built a form. 

The form is up on a pallet on the back of my dad's pick-up in our garage, which is the only level spot in our driveway.

He bought concrete.  We borrowed a concrete mixer.  I hand blended color.

This is what it looked like, about 1/2 way through.

The concrete needs to cure for about 24 hours.   Then it has to be flipped onto the post. We will drive it right up to the post, which is why we poured it right on the back of the truck.  We think this cap will weigh about 600 pounds.   If this works, we get to do it again for the second cap. 

Keep your fingers crossed...


Pouring the second cap

The process of getting the caps on and situated was ... interesting to say the least. See above note about the weight of the caps. We ended up backing the truck up to the upper pillar and, with the help of my brother and uncles, they flipped the cap into place. Then, because we are a family on engineers, we put large blocks of ice under and removed the wood supports, letting the stone cap settle into place.

The lower pillar and cap ... well those weren't so easy. Because of the location on the slope of the driveway, it was much harder flip. I literally watched my husband, father, brother, and uncles through my fingers, clutching the phone with 9-1 already dialed in case something went horribly wrong.

Starting position

More ice melting for the win

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