Building a lifeboat (photo heavy).

(2PM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

There have been worse generations, but none have wasted so much, so fast, for so little.

It’s not clear exactly when America’s stranglehold over the world will be broken,  but American “exceptionalism,” i.e., debt-dollar discipline is being broken, for reals, and for good.  It’s really an amazing point in history.  I don’t know when it will become apparent to all, but that end-time, when we discover Dick Cheney’s real negotiability, the actual mark-to-market value of “The American Way of Life,” cannot be far off.  I’ve seen enough shocking viciousness, lawlessness, and moral depravity from our elites to know the jig is up sooner than later.

At this point, I am pretty firmly in Stoneleigh’s camp that one should be thankful for and use this time of suspended animation, this period of extend and pretend, to prepare for the inevitable and grim future of massive debt deflation.  As she frequently warns, it’s okay to prepare for it too early, but it’s not okay to be late.   In that vein, I offer the following photo-essay.

I’ve been working on a project building retaining walls at my brother’s house over the past year or so.  I don’t have a job, and he doesn’t have any time, so it’s a sweet deal for both of us, and I expect it to pay off in the not-too-distant future.

It started out as small project to level some grades, remove some stumps, build a road, etc., as he and my sister-in-law were thinking of building a garage/barn next to the house, even looking at steel buildings Arizona or somewhere like that, but once we rented the back-hoe our motivational aspirations swirled out of control.  That is the nature going “power-mad.”  If you’ve never experienced the exhilaration and work-multiplying effects of hydraulics and diesel, I can only say, “Do it while you still can.”

Here’s an action photo of me driving the sexy, 25,000 lb, Hulk-smashing beast and wailing on twin massive pine stumps.  They were each the size of a small car, and even with hydraulics had to be rolled, not lifted to their final destination, leaving a hole 7 feet deep and 20 feet in diameter.


I spent the next couple of days making the cut for the future garage/barn and leveling the grade.  But what to do with all the dirt?  Well, the house is situated on a ridge, and on the other side of the house was a rather steep slope, so unless you were a mountain goat, it was not really useful space, even though the view is awesome.  Being under the powerful influence of hydraulics, I suggested we build some terraces to make the hillside more useful.   At first, I pushed out enough dirt for just one terrace, and he was like, “yeah!”  So then I pushed out another.   And another.  Anyway, that’s how it started.  I’ll get back to that side of the house in a minute.

Meanwhile, back at the garage/barn area, we had made the cut and starting drilling post-holes.   Here’s a tip, if you haven’t used an augur:  The driver can only see one dimension of verticality of the augur, so either have someone spot you on the perpendicular view, or if you’re alone, just get out of the back-hoe periodically and make sure you’re drilling straight.  Straight holes will make leveling and aligning the posts a helluva lot easier down the road.


After drilling, we’re ready to plant some posts for the retaining wall.  This photo shows the augur attachment on the back-hoe and my brother holding up one of the timbers.  Note that the timber is about three times taller than the wall of dirt, because the rule of thumb for retaining walls is that 2/3 of the post should be buried in cement to prevent hillside creeping.  


We put these monster pressure-treated timbers (or creosote-soaked railroad ties or used guard-rail posts, depending on our needs) every 4 feet.  The posts were lined-up and leveled, with a little dirt tamped in at the bottom to hold them firmly until the cement was poured.  Here’s what the garage/barn area-to-be looked like with all the posts in.


And here’s the road we cut leading up to the garage with a wall having the boards nailed in place.  We left half an inch of space between the planks to let water drain freely.  Water is heavy, about 8 lbs per gallon.  It’s important to relieve hydrostatic pressure to avoid catastrophic blowouts.  More on this later.


Back on the other side of the house, we pushed out enough dirt to make 5 separate terraces, each descending terrace scalloping off the one above.   None of this was planned.  We did it totally by look and feel, and what the hillside demanded.  Planning schmanning.  This was total “playtime.”  The only constraint was that my sister-in-law did not want vertiginous walls, but rather modest, two-foot descents from terrace to terrace.  After roughing out a design in dirt, we started imagining where the walls would be using stakes and fluorescent tape.


Here’s a view of the posts in place from the top terrace:


And here’s a view from the bottom:


With the planks nailed in place (note the ½” spacing) and a tar-based mastic painted on the inner wall:


Again, a word on drainage.  In addition to spacing the horizontal planks, we installed a rock drain on the inner walls and at the bottom of the wall, so that when water migrates toward the wall, it drops through the rocks to a perforated pipe at the base of the wall:


You can buy pre-fabbed plastic drains that you tack against the wall, but they are very expensive, especially considering what they are made out of.  It’s cheap-ass shit with a huge profit margin.  We went with inch-and-one-half crushed granite, instead, but rock is also expensive, and we needed a way to hold just the necessary and sufficient layer possible.  We decided to hang plastic “chicken wire” on bent nails (16’s) and fill from the bottom up, like so:


Here’s the perforated drain-pipe at the bottom and the heavy-duty filter fabric that was used to prevent dirt infiltration into the drain system:


So, now we got terraces, and a ton of useful space.  What are going to do with ’em?  Briefly, Tier 1 will be comforting grassy plateau from which one can contemplate the mystery of large tree trunks, and perhaps a flowering ornamental,  in one’s field of vision.  The second tier is going to be hardscaped with brick.  You can see the mock steps between tiers formed from dirt.  The next step is installing rebar, concrete, and brick.  This is going to be a place to have drinks (make mine a double) and enjoy the freaking kick-ass view of Mother Fucking Nature.   It’s hard to tell, but it’s a good sized area, plenty of room for foxtrots, swing, rhumba, whatever you need, now wired with electricity in case we need mood lighting, boom boxes, disco balls.


The largest and lowest tiers, Tiers 4 and 5, shown below awaiting top-soil, are going to be used for vegetable gardening.  Off the top of my head I’d say there is around 2000 sq. ft of planting area.  I’m in the process of installing irrigation this very week, in the hopes of having seed in the ground by late February.  Of course, we’re going to have to build some barrier to keep the deer and other critters out of these two tiers.


Well, that’s more than enough for one diary.  Let me conclude by saying that nothing takes your mind of off our bullshit political circus and impending doom like hard, productive work.  If the economy waits to crash until, say, June or so, we should still have something to eat.


Skip to comment form

  1. on several occasions now, and found them very reasonable.  Try not to rent stuff by the day.  Try to have enough use for the equipment to rent by the month, which is soooo much more economical.  Also, take pictures of the equipment before you use it, even if you buy insurance, which, well, I would and did.  The back-hoe was around $1500/month, insurance around $250, so around 1750 a month.

    On our first rental, we had about a week of rain in which the equipment became useless.  They comp’d us.  Also, they were good about getting their mechanic out to us when stuff broke, switches gone bad, hose breaks, wires disconnected.  Overall, we had a good experience with the United Rentals folks in our area, and we’ve been back to them since, and will probably do more business with them in the future.  Just sayin’.

    • RiaD on December 16, 2010 at 12:04

    it really looks fabulous.

    what fun to play on equipment for weeks on end…& how exciting! changing things to make them useful.

    i love the rock/bird netting idea. brilliant!

    please cross-post?

    • banger on December 16, 2010 at 20:55

    to pay debts–or I’d be doing similar things. You’re right that kind of work feels a lot better than cubicle-land however nice.

  2. What a haven this is and will be for sooo much!

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Oh, you thought I was kidding?

    • Edger on December 17, 2010 at 03:36

    just looking at your pictures, CF. On top of hefting ones and zeroes around all day. 😉

  4. If so, you need to check out terra preta, the charcoaling of soil.  I have been doing it for several years now.  Adding charcoal to soil really makes for a very fertile soil, a soil that retains water and minerals and is a haven for microbes.

    Google terra preta and read all about it.

    Great video on how to make it:

    • sharon on December 17, 2010 at 04:37

    and impressive improvisational development!  didn’t notice if you said where you live.  we need a smaller terrace built at our house in maine.  any chance you live in the north east?  the fact you hope to get seeds in by february makes me think not likely, but can’t hurt to ask.

Comments have been disabled.