It's Saturday, and it's a beautiful sunny day, about 65F/18 C, perfect conditions for doing some digging! My Father's old mate Jeff Haystacks once told me that digging is second only to swimming in terms of muscle usage and all round good-for-you-ness. Under the right conditions, it can be very enjoyable.
I'm working on the area immediately in front of the house. I started by digging out around the irrigation connections, and building a quick retaining box from some scrap 2" x 12" PT I had in the shop. We laid irrigation lines and electrical cables below the concrete walkway before it was poured, but we're not ready to connect the pipes to the water supply just yet, so I will need access to this area in the future.
I'm grading the dirt in front of the house to about six (6) inches below the concrete walkway. This will give us plenty of space which we can fill with nice topsoil before we plant. I'm using a scrap piece of 2" x 6" and a spirt level to establish the grade. It doesn't have to be perfect.
It's not obvious in the next photo, but the ground slopes down significantly from the walkway towards the steps that lead to the deck. It feels weird to step downhill, and then climb steps. The solution is to get rid of the bottom step and raise the grade accordingly.
To do this, I have to pull everything out, cut the stringers and install a new concrete pad. Dismantling the railings and the first few treads and risers was straightforward, but the rest of the structure was really not designed to come apart.
The treads and risers are constructed from composite material that is rot resistant and maintenance free. I discovered that it is also not in the slightest bit flexible:
Both of the posts were rotted out, so they will need to be replaced...
Getting out the base of the stairs really was a slog. I couldn't do it without damaging the stringers and in any case I discovered rot in at least two of them. So, yeah, there's a decent chance I'll have to re-make the stringers in the not too distant future as well as the posts.
The top edge of the concrete that supports the posts was more than a foot below the surface, so I didn't bother digging it out - I just cut the posts off at the top of the concrete:
This operation left a sizeable scar on the landscape: It always looks worse before it looks better...I'm going to leave the concrete pier, and dowel into it when I pour the pier for the replacement steps.
Time to backfill in the spot where the steps used to be? Well, not so fast. There is a sizeable gap between our new retaining wall, and the house, which cannot be filled with dirt alone.
There are a number of ways I could fill this gap, and I think I will probably end up using concrete. For now though I just need a "stopgap", and I choose a few landscaping rocks and some mortar. It's only temporary if it works!
I continued digging out infertile subsoil and gravel from in front of the house, and dumping it onto the hole where the steps used to be. I don't need this area to be perfectly flat, I just need to remove enough material to accommodate at least six inches of top soil.
This is later:
Did the same at the other side of the porch:
We still need quite a lot more dirt in this area and inside the new retaining wall.
I took a break from digging and moving dirt to dig out several small trees and clear out some sections of the yard in preparation for our irrigation system...and ultimately for new trees and shrubs. This spot gave up a small citrus tree and a hawthorn sampling:
I also removed another small citrus tree and a mid-size maple, which sadly died during the drought a couple of summers ago, from the area next to the soon-to-be-moved mailbox:
This produced a decent sized debris pile...
I also unearthed a number of large landscaping rocks and about a dozen house bricks while digging out these trees. I've lost count of the number of "ornamental" house bricks I've removed from the yard since we moved in. No doubt we'll figure out a use for the nicer rocks.
Another job.....the double gates at the side yard used to work perfectly, but that was before the concrete walkway was installed over the spot where the cane bolt deployed:
I thought about drilling a hole in the concrete, but instead I moved the cane bolt to the other side of the gate and made a new "hole" by hammering a piece of copper pipe into the ground. I also filled in the gap where the decomposed granite meets the walkway. Gates back in service!
Filled-in a few low spots at the stairs while I was at it:
This is how the side yard looks at the end of January...we'll be planting in the next few months.