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Great Wall project - Fourth phase

Fourth phase:
We made some mistakes.  We decided to wait through another winter season before attempting to retain that which we just cleared out.  I don't know why, but I just believed that as difficult as that clay was to remove that it just wouldn't move that much on it's own.  Just look at how wrong I was:

We should have either kept working, or put some sort of moisture barrier up there to stop the clay from eroding down.
None of that was done, and instead I came close to losing my fence due to the erosion.  Not only that but now our cleared out work area is again filled over with clay.  Since this is not acceptable we were given the choice of digging it and throwing it uphill to where it would eventually rest behind the retaining wall, or dig it off to the side and then later throw it back over.  I wanted to toss it uphill, I really did.  Why move it twice?  Too bad it was wet and insanely sticky.  We had to move it to the side, a shovelful of that wet clay is easily 40 pounds.

First path was not near wide enough, but laid the groundwork for an extension:

So, as you see I dug out a path for working in.  Such a mess, why oh why didn't I cover that up last year?  I easily added 20+ hours of labor.  Not only did it fall down, but it is no longer power-washed clean of debris.
It was still early in the year, maybe early March. So I still had time.  Besides, I had already told myself that I'll finish this fast.  I've built a few retaining walls before and that can only help...
Doing our best to make an educated guess on materials needed, we set off to order retaining wall blocks to be delivered.  These blocks are no joke either, you see the walls all the time but never have I really considered that each one is 82 pounds.  When you consider the weight of the stones compared to us having nearly 550 of them, it gets to be a bit overwhelming.
Delivery day comes and my intention is to have them drop the pallets as close as possible to the work site.  I figured this wouldn't be an issue since we had the foresight to add a double-gate for this type of access when we had our fence put in.  I can now tell you that the truck mounted forklifts need 9' of clearance, not the 8'2" opening that I had.  Fun.

The closest we can get is to the gate opening.  This put the nearest pallet about 35' away, and 12' lower than where I really needed it.  Ugh, time to carry stones.  I want to say I  got about 20 of them up there before the reality of my struggles set in.  I can't carry all of these up there, I'll die trying if I do.  Besides, I don't just need them up there, I need them installed and finished.  It was time for a change.
Searching around online I was able to locate rental equipment and got myself a 6000 pound telescoping forklift.  I never operated anything of the sort before, and now I had to spend an afternoon moving pallets out of the way of the gate opening and then up onto the wall.  This went way better than expected and I was able to move all the pallets up to the work site 12' off the ground.  The telescoping forklift did fit through my gate, and had almost 6" of clearance after the gates were taken down.

Now we have it.  Work can begin on the wall now, well sort of...  I still needed to finalize my plans to secure it to the bedrock.  Not only that, but nothing up there is flat and these stones demand a flat surface and strong foundation.  Many ideas came and went, do I try to build concrete forms and make the bottom 8-12" be concrete?  This would be awesome to start a wall on, but you can't just buy a concrete foundation from Lowes.  I thought my way though several ideas on how to create a form, fill it with reinforcements and level off with concrete.  Ultimately I decided to level as I go using Type S mortar mix.  Was it the best idea?  I guess time will tell, though it had better tell me I was right.
I spent my time in the sun, dreaming of having all the first run done.  Once that first row is in place it is all downhill from there right?  Spoiler alert: It wasn't.

First row fun:

An example of elevation variance that made this job so enjoyable:

Do you know how much aggregate is needed to fill behind a retaining wall that will near 6' in height and over 90' in length?  I didn't either, and I still don't really know for sure.  I think we put in 20 cubic yards of clean aggregate.  Don't forget that this is up on top of a hill.  Gravel is heavy and terrible, but I needed it for drainage and really didn't have a choice.  So out comes a section of fencing and in goes a makeshift gravel ramp for me to shovel onto from a pickup backed in.

Gravel ramp, backstop, and wheelbarrow.  Not pictured: Despair:

Gravel is heavy, the sun is hot, something might be wrong with me.
Good news though, the first two runs are down and have been back filled with aggregate.  Now to compress and grid, followed by doing it all over again just higher up.

Row by row, this came together nicely.  Once the gravel was done I started shoveling my precious clay back over.  That soil sat there for a millennia and now has been dug, thrown, and dug again.
Clay gone, top cleaned off again, but still a sizable void that needs topsoil in it.  20-24 cubic yards of top soil later, and we have ourselves a filled in retaining wall.


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