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Stone landscaping a garden on a slope, between a fence and a waterfall: almost there.


It is nearly done, excepting the installation of the cobblestone circle (which was delivered yesterday) and about 10-50lb. bags of black granite, which is what you see immediately above. I have also an edge of exposed concrete block I need to cover somehow.

The image above is the entry to the garden on a slope; except, is it really a garden (in the traditional sense) any longer given the paucity of dirt and plenitudinous of stone. Ask me if I care.

No. I don’t. I like it, and I will have yet another place to sit and rest, and do little other than contemplate my surroundings, or transcendentivly meditate myself into a state of nothingness when I actually have the time to do such things. It does happen to be the case that I have an awesome wireless signal in the center of the future cobblestone circle, which I’m beginning to consider as my own personal Stonehenge, and I’m thinking that the psychic energy is such that it might be a great place to work on my laptop, on my novel, on consecutive evenings darknesses, broken by the muted glow of thirteen low-voltage lights, each powered by green-friendly 3-watt LED bulbs.






















Although the stairs are incredibly level and stable, I’ve still managed to stumble both up and down them for some reason or another. Probably because of not paying attention, looking for a roll of electrical tape or wire cutters or something else desperately in need of, apparently whisked away by one of those little borrowers of childhood fiction just now remembered.

The black granite in the beds is nice, but dirty. It’s only black now because it was raining; when dry, its gray; but if I clean an individual stone of its accumulated dust, it is black. Maybe I’ll take a power washer to it next spring, although that’s uncomfortably close to “maintenance.”


By the end of next weekend, it will be done, if God wills it.

Stone landscaping a garden on a slope, between a fence and a waterfall: because I could.

Skycam/fifth week

If you were to ask me, now, why I did this I could give you no good answer other than because it was there, and because I could. Sure, it looks nice; stunning even, if for no other reason than the sheer volume of effort the result represents; and it’s still not done. But, Merciful God on High, it is close. I’m finding it hard to resist planting plant media in the various areas I initially intended for rock, insofar as my plan of a maintenance-free dry (Japanese) garden. The original argument included the inconvenience of caring for the flowers on an awkward hill with unstable stepping stones, randomly placed and poorly dug into the ground, that would shift and slide, placing the gardener at risk of fracturing a hip or suffering blunt head trauma from impacting one of the aforementioned stones. However, now with the convenience of 8 steps at regular intervals as much a part of mother earth as, say, the Grand Teton (currently closed), accessing the various planting beds would be as simple as dropping to a foam knee-pad on a stable stone ledge and taking care of business. Hmmm…we’ll see what the boss says.

Twisty Baby/topI planted a Twisty Baby Locust tree yesterday at the top of the hill. On the right are fabric covered sections awaiting black stone, and a few pots. The small green plant on the right, at the top, is a green-seedless grape vine that I’m going to grow along the lattice.

I’ve placed 12 low-voltage lights here and there, and should have got conduit larger than half-inch. I managed to make it work, but only after smashing the knuckles of my right hand against a stone when the fish pulled free of the wires (secured with electrical tape per instructions–obviously not secure enough).

Path/bottomFrom the bottom, looking up. The joints are mostly mortared, but I have some dry stacked too, and everything is surprising level.

Diamond blades last a long time. I never changed my first one, and I bought at least five. I should have plenty for my next endeavor in the spring which will require much more cutting of stone. I should finish up in one more uninterrupted weekend, as soon as I get my cobblestone circle delivered by Bissen.

Had I the intellect, or at least the common sense to more accurately foresee what lay in front of me before I started, I doubt I’d have begun. Rather; I’d have said, “Look, Honey, it’s not so bad. I’ll have those weeds pulled in a jiffy; and this fall, I’ll happily cut everything down with my machete; and next spring,” with a song in my heart I’m sure, “I’ll thin, and transplant, and mulch the garden on a slope between a fence and a waterfall.”

Good riddance.

Stone landscaping a garden on a slope, between a fence and a waterfall: Part Three: progress

Project/fifth weekAt least now, when I spend a couple of hours in my self-induced Purgatory I can actually tell that I was there; whereas previously, hours upon hours of labor resulted primarily in musculoskeletal aches and pains and assorted soft-tissue injuries, which of course still happens, it’s just that it is now accompanied by aesthetic structural progress. Thanks be to God. Lord Have Mercy. Christ Have Mercy…

Mortar is forgiving, stone is not. There is something in mortar that is terribly bad for skin. I discovered this after defaulting to my hands for packing the mortar into the joints. I was wearing gloves of course, but apparently the mortar managed to get inside and when I took the gloves off a couple of hours later it was similar, I imagine, to bilateral wrist-seal failures while on a space walk. It felt like I still had gloves on, so foreign did my skin feel and for days the desiccated skin would catch on clothing and pretty much anything I picked up or happened to touch. My hands felt like Velcro. Thankfully, I stumbled upon some better gloves that were actually cheaper–imagine that.

From the Skycam

From the Skycam

I’ve one more level to finish, then the entry, then the low-voltage lights, then the cobblestone circle in the biggest part, then it’ll be Christmas-time.

Things seemed to take a turn for the better after returning from Ludington Michigan last weekend where I performed a small animal sacrifice to the Sun God:




It occurred to me on a beach just outside of the Ludington State Park. I espied the Sun-God atop this wooden structure quite by accident and was struck by his magnificence and power burning into my retinas. As I cast my eyes about for a suitable offering (Sue was already far up the beach) a wounded seagull limped across the sand; but before I leapt upon it with my unsheathed Leatherman, I felt a ferocious sting on the meat of my left bicep. Thinking that the pretty horsefly with the iridescent wings would do nicely instead, I offered up a humble prayer while simultaneously slapping it with the palm of my hand.

Call it coincidence, but ever since then my project has been progressing much more smoothly, and the end is at least in sight.

Stone landscaping a garden on a slope, between a fence and a waterfall: Part Three

Stone wall


I am definitely in part three now, one month later during which my sole focus has been this ridiculous obsession with digging trenches, pouring pre-mixed concrete down cinder blocks stacked on each other after pounding three-foot sticks of rebar into the ground. I have finally finished the sub-structure, of which a friend at work suggested might actually be a mausoleum in disguise to which I replied that in fact it was, and that in a hundred years a future generation of as  of yet unborn Melarvie’s might walk down a musty corridor past a row of  tombs, like Bran Stark from the Game of Thrones in the crypts at Winterfell; and in reaching the last one, in the deepest darkest corner where the air lays still and heavy on the underground might be told, “Look, here lies great, great, great, great Grandpa Melarvie.”

I just read about  a giant cave found in Chongquing province of China that is so massive that it has its own weather system, including clouds; and I keep hoping that I might stumble on some similar glorious find, at least something as big as the cave at Horseshoe Bay, and with each rock I pull up I wait expectantly for a draft of cool air against my face; but all I find are yet deeper rocks increasingly more difficult to unearth. I’m obviously not digging deep enough. Maybe if I persist long enough, I might actually find my way to the Chongquing province.

Truth is, I’m already missing the flowers, and the memories of the weeds and mulching and cutting down and watering are rapidly fading in significance the longer I work on this sterile exercise of straight edges, stone and mortar. The weeds weren’t so bad. Hmmm. Oh well, too late now–the die is cast, the horse has left the barn, the bridge is burned, the Rubicon has been crossed.

Like Dante, I too have passed through a gate, that if not hell should at least share the same inscription overhead: “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate”.

“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

Stone landscaping a garden on a slope, between a fence and a waterfall: Part Two (B)

I still feel like I’m on part two, aesthetically I mean, and I don’t know how much of the alphabet I’ll get through before emotionally moving on to part three. My nightmare is that I’ll devour the 26 characters and have to start over with a Part Two A(a) or some such thing. Actually, I’ll be disappointed if I go past “D”.

IMG_0655It is my third day of vacation, each day a 12 hour plyometrics workout, kind of like a insane  12 hour session with Tony Horton, except more dangerous because I couldn’t count the times I’ve tripped downhill and nearly impaled myself on a stick of rebar. In fact, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened given my propensity for self-induced injury. As a naturally intelligent person, after the 4th or 5th stumble, I began stacking blocks around the rebar so that the shards of iron were at least covered. I also carry my cellphone in a fanny pack centered at the small of my back because in the front it would get too wet. That way, if something bad happens I can call 911 from my back, just like I did a few Memorial Days ago; only this time, instead of a bubbling brook rushing past me, I’ll probably be staring at a red piece of rebar sticking somewhere from out of me.

It’s kind of like building a pyramid I’m thinking, except that it doesn’t look triangular. I’ve been thinking alot about pyramids lately; like how in the f_@k did they build those things without Quickcrete and rebar? At least it was under 70 today, and breezy, and I even listened to the Packer game while assembling my obsession.

I have an inkling of what it must have been like to have been a prisoner back in the day when they had those chain gangs; you know, before flat screen TV’s and weight rooms. I have a huge pick-axe I’ve had for years, bought it at an antique store; and I’m swinging that, feeling the thunk before I hear it. I pry and pull and sweat, constantly sweat. Then I dig and pry and heave; and then I stumble up the hill to get something that I can’t remember when I get there so I drink the jug of water on the flat surface of a boulder next to the pond.

trenchingHere’s an example of the rebar. Problem was, I ran out of concrete blocks, so I couldn’t stack them around the rebar. I know it looks like a mess, but it’s starting to make sense to me. I didn’t know exactly what I was doing when I started; but I do now. I know that type “S” mortar does not stick well to vertical surfaces. I know that the mortar has to be more wet than dry to use in the joints between the blocks. I know that the liner of my waterfall had a low spot that leaked water slowly over time. I know that in some years not too distant I won’t be able to do what I’m doing now.


I definitely prefer this to pulling weeds or spreading mulch. I like the physicality of it. I like that I figure it out as I go. I like that I’ve lost ten pounds since starting and before it’s done I should most likely be rippling like a Spartan.

Thank God for the 5 yards of quarry wash at the side of the driveway that I had delivered 3 years ago for some reason I cannot now recall. It’s amazing what a modest amount of disposable income, quarry wash, and a stupid-strong back can accomplish.


Stone landscaping a garden on a slope, between a fence and a waterfall: Part Two

I’ve stopped keeping tract of the time. At first, I thought it’d be kind of cool to see how quickly I could knock this out; alas, it goes not so quickly, and one afternoon seems much as another, and day follows day, each ending in a pile of dirty clothes and sweat soaked work boots; and I’ve yet to lay an actual stone, stones that are stacked in low walls along random borders around the yard; tree lines, driveway, walkways, stacked stone that I pass between with wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of dirt and fill and rocks, maneuvering between the iatrogenically narrowed pathway, wondering why in the world I stacked them on both sides of the walkway at such an idiotic distance apart, but too tired and lazy to move them now.

Terracing the gardenI’m hoping that concrete blocks and core-filling grout are idiot-proof because I’m not specifically mortaring one block to another, except for the last row on top, and that didn’t seem to work so well. Maybe the mortar needs to be wetter–I’ll try that tomorrow; still, with the rebar and the pourable concrete, it all seems fairly solid; plus, I’ll have a series of irregular boxes (concrete block sections) before I’m done, and they will all be interlocked with each other as one unit, so I don’t think there will be much movement, at least, I hope not.

I want to get the middle level leveled and done (I’m adding one more row of blocks, 2/3rds of the way this side (on the far side will be the stairs going to the top) so that I can throw the dirt down into it to fill it rather than wheelbarrowing it up and out and beyond the fringe of the front yard, which has already developed  mounds of dirt like you might see in the unfriendly part of a golf course except of course that my mounds are not covered in grass.

Another angle:

Terracing a gardenI didn’t know there were so many kinds of mortar; type N, S, and I can’t remember the others–I just read the description on the placard associated with each kind of mortar and picked what sounded right. I’ve also become a low-voltage lighting expert, at least so far; I guess we’ll see when I eventually plug everything in.

I have this picture in my head, kind of, and I don’t know that it will come to pass; but at least I’m losing a hell of a lot of weight.