Building Walls

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I know that the topic of building a wall can lead to many different comments, points of view and political commentary.  This post is not about building that type of wall. 

In our backyard, we have a small retaining wall that was built about 19 years ago. Unfortunately, over the years, the east side of the wall was starting to sag significantly.  

 

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For the past couple of years, I had thought about how to go about fixing the wall.  Having built other retaining wall in my yard (no, I did not build this one!), I knew what needed to be done.  I was just concerned that I may not be able to handle all of the lifting.  Each block weighs 60 pounds, and there were 75 blocks that would need to removed and then replaced.  

Since my two sons at home were busy with finals, and I was unable to find anyone else to hire for my manual labor, I decided to tackle the project by myself. 

At first I set up a ramp system to roll a furniture dolly up and use the dolly to roll each block down the ramp.  This worked okay for the first couple of blocks.  However, I needed to dismantle the ramp and move it over for each block I needed to move.  So, instead I decided to see if I could just lift the blocks.  While they were heavy, that turned out to be much easier than constantly having to set up and move a ramp system.  

While taking down the blocks, I discovered two things that the contractor had done that were wrong.  These two “shortcuts” probably contributed to the wall tipping. 

First, the lowest layer of blocks was placed directly onto soil, no class V gravel nor rock base whatsoever.  So, as a went along, I dug out dirt and then added and tamped down a 2″ layer of gravel below the bottom blocks to provide support for the blocks.  

Second, the contractor did not place any landscape fabric behind the blocks.  The landscape fabric is there to help keep the dirt behind the wall intact and less likely to wash away.  Had they done this, it sure would have made restacking the wall a lot easier.  Unfortunately, without the landscape fabric, when I removed the blocks, the wall of dirt behind would crumble. This made the project so much harder.  I ended up having to work in small sections so that the support for the wall was not removed along the entire length.  

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Starting by the small staircase and slowly worked my way down to the other end.  Yesterday, I spent 12 hours removing the cap stones and blocks and rebuilding the wall.  I did not put the capstone on yesterday.  At the end of the day, I chiseled off the old block adhesive, power washed to top layer of the wall and the underside of the capstones, and left them to dry overnight.

Today, I spent about another 90 minutes securing the capstones in place with block adhesive , repairing the dirt in front of the wall and repositioning the mulch. What a change.  The distance from the apple tree to the front of the retaining wall is 10″ less than when the wall was sagging.

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While I was building the wall, one of my sons came out and spent some time thinking about how much weight I had lifted.  I removed 75 blocks  that were 60# in weight.  These same 75 blocks needed to be reset into the wall.  So the grand total of weight lifted was 9000 pounds.  Surprisingly my back does not hurt today, just a bit of an ache in my butt (yes, I know there is a not so nice way to state that same information that may also relate to how some people would feel about doing a project like this). 

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Big Improvement! And one major yard project done for the spring. 

The weather this weekend was ideal Minnesota Spring weather.  It’s past the time of spring that my allergies are really bad, the humidity was very low, the temperatures were perfect, and there are no bugs out yet!!

All-in-all it was a great weekend spent outdoors.

 

Custom Footrest For My Craft Room

img_2230Lately, I have been doing a lot of hand stitching – applique, embroidery and quilt binding.  When hand stitching, I like to have a place to rest my your feet higher than the floor in order to make myself more comfortable. Unfortunately this was something that I did not have in my new craft room.

img_2253Wanting to add one, I starting looking around the room to see where I could store the footrest when it was not being used.  The size of a place to stash the footrest would be the limiting factor for the size of the footrest itself.  With the room maximized for storage, I was not finding a good spot to keep one.  So, I put off purchasing one.

 

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This past week  I have been working on binding a quilt.  As a temporary measure, I pulled out one of my storage boxes from under my long arm table and used that to prop my feet on.  It worked out fairly well, just the right size, but a bit too low. So, to get the height right, I  put a folded flannel quilt on top of it.

Unfortunately the quilt I used was a favorite of my cat, Onyx.  Most times, when I went into my room to sew, she was sleeping on the quilt. So, I needed to figure out a more permanent option.  img_2229

A trip to Hobby Lobby to purchase a few items (2″foam, 5/8 yd print canvas fabric and elastic braid) and I was ready to make a slip cover to place on the storage box.  First, I cut the foam to fit on top of the box lid (10.5″ x 14″).  Then, I cut the fabric to 20.5″ x 24″.  A few box seams in the corners, a hem with the elastic into and I was done.

img_2254Now I have  a colorful and comfortable foot rest. When not in use it fits nicely into the original storage spot without taking up any space in my room.

 

 

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I even had enough leftover fabric to make a nice throw pillow for my sofa.

New Craft Room

With three of our four boys living out of town, we have several unused bedrooms in our house.  Earlier this spring, I decided that these unused rooms could be put to better use.

Until recently, my long arm sewing machine was in the smallest of these bedrooms (11′ x 11″), a tight fit for a 10 foot table.  My domestic sewing machine was in our laundry room.  And,  my craft supplies were in various closets throughout the house.

One of the unused bedrooms is a fairly nice sized room.  At 12′ x 15′, it is almost 50% more space than the small room that I was using.  So, I decided to move my crafts into this larger room.  Sorry boys, but the guest room is now in a bit smaller!

After spending a few months planning out the change, I have recently settled in to my new craft room.  I love my new space, and so does my cat Onyx.

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I now have all my crafts (except fused glass) are all in the same room.  This means that I can work on multiple projects at the same time.  I can set my long arm sewing machine to stitch out a computer guided pattern, while cutting a paper craft project on my Cameo cutter and piecing another quilt on my domestic sewing machine.

When moving in to the room, I sorted and organized all of my supplies, and even found some things I forgot that I had. I may not complete more projects, but I will certainly enjoy working in this room, especially with the large corner window.

Some useful features in the room:

  1. wall mounted TV with cable and an HDMI connection view on-line programs,
  2. a love seat that is also a sleeper sofa (a place for someone to sleep if all of our boys come home at the same time),
  3. a side table by the love-seat  to hold my coffee, computer and other items I need handy,
  4. noise cancelling headphones (to block out the sound of the sewing machine when I am watching a program on the TV),
  5. several thread organizers for the various spools/cones of thread that I use,
  6. a large closet for storing a cart with my Cameo cutter, my large format printer and lots of other supplies,
  7. storage cubbies underneath my long arm table,
  8. two desks, a dresser and shelf unit with even more storage,
  9. a mounted drapery rod that is large enough to hang a queen sized quilt for photography, and
  10. an attached bathroom.

Since I now had a dedicated craft room, I also wanted to add a design wall.  Originally I thought that I could make something that utilized the quilt hanging rod. After purchasing fabric (Kaufman Framework Flannel Gridwork), I added a lining and rolled it onto the rod.

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Unfortunately the flannel kept wanting to unroll and not stay neat and tidy.  To try to solve this problem, I added Roman Shade cords to the back of the flannel.  But, when pulled up, the fabric would also slide together on the rod and again not stay neat and tidy.

So, I ultimately attached the flannel to some wooden boards and made true Roman Shades to use for the design wall.  These boards were  mounted at the edge of the ceiling and drop down when needed.  I could only mount one section on the main wall of the room because I did not want to block the air intake which was located on one end if that same wall.  To give me more design space, I mounted the second section above the closet.

This is not ideal because large projects will be split into two separated spaces when working with the design wall.  However, it does put design space very near my sewing desk.  This will be handy when I am in the middle of a project.  I will just have to get used to having large projects split into two sections.  But, since I really didn’t have a design wall before, this arrangement is certainly better than nothing.

Front Yard Redo

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Sadly, things just don’t last forever.  With our house being nearly thirty years old, many of the existing features are wearing out and needing to be replaced.  Last fall, the carpet in the living room and dining room was replaced with maple hardwood flooring, making a big change to front part of the house.  A big improvement!

The next big project on my list was to replace the retaining wall and landscaping in our front yard. Interlocking retaining wall blocks, when originally designed, were meant to last about 20 years.  Our wall was built in 1989 and was definitely showing its age.  Over the past five years, several of the blocks had deteriorated.  When a block in the center of the wall would break down, I would remove it and transfer a block from the ends of the wall, covering the gap in the exposed ends with landscape rock.  This strategy worked for a while.  But ultimately, I could no longer postpone replacing the wall.  Too many of the blocks were now crumbling.

So, over the winter I designed my new wall, sought estimates from contractors for removing and replacing the old wall, and had everything set to go when spring arrived.  On May 2nd, I started working on prepping the yard for the contractor to come.  This involved relocated as much of the landscaping rock as I could dig out, and moving my perennials to our back yard in an attempt to save them for replanting in the new landscaping.

The contractor started on May 11th, with the removal of four large trees and the existing retaining wall.  The following Monday, he started to dig out for the new wall. Unfortunately, it started to rain mid-afternoon. . . and continued to rain for the next ten days.  Every day, the contractor would come and pump out the water hoping that he could start working on building the wall.  But, ever day the rain continued to fall.

Finally, when he was able to start, it was just before Memorial Day.  So, our wall, which was supposed to be completed by May 20th, wasn’t done until June 2nd.  And, to top off my frustration, the contractor kept making changes to the shape of the wall. Some of the changes I accepted, because to redo them would have set the project back several more days.  So, every change in the wall meant a change in the plant design that I had been planning.

After the contractor was done, I was able to take over.  Shrubs were planted, perennials transplanted from the back yard to the new front  yard, mulch spread, brick edging placed around all of the planting areas, and black dirt spread over the yard areas. A large maple tree was planted by Arbor Hills Tree Farm (glad I was home the day that they came as it was amazing to watch them dig and plant the tree in less than thirty minutes). After having part of our front sidewalk replaced and new sod installed, the project was done.

After adding some decorative elements, my front yard is now complete.  So, here are some before and after pictures as well as a short video of the project.

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