Saturday, October 04, 2008

Once upon a time...

...there were some men that were building a house in the woods. They cut down a lot of trees so they could make a nice backyard but they didn't know where to put the trees. So, they put them in a big pile and covered them up with dirt. "No one will ever know," they thought, "and now we don't have to worry any more about all those trees."

A few years later a nice family moved into the house in the woods. They loved the backyard, and the sloping hillside covered with juniper. They loved the crape myrtle trees that bloomed in the summer - on the hill and at the base of the hill.

But one day, the hill began to sink. Slowly, almost imperceptibly at first, the crape myrtle got lower. A few months went by and the hill sank even more. Before long, instead of a hill, there was a big hole. And the crape myrtle in the hole was sinking lower and lower.

The nice family was worried about the hole. It was getting deeper and the sinking crape myrtle was dying. They were also worried about the other crape myrtle, the big one that hung over the pool. It was lovely and big, but it dropped leaves, flowers, and seed pods into the pool. The father didn't like having to clean all that mess out of the pool.

One year, the mother got a chain saw for her birthday and decided to help the father out by cutting down the big crape myrtle. So, then the family in the house in the woods had a big hole, a dead crape myrtle and a very large stump. They didn't know what to do.

Now the mother with the chain saw really began to worry about the hole. It was getting bigger and it was eating away at more of the hillside with each rain. Something had to be done. But what? She gathered concrete from busted sidewalks and rocks from vacant lots. She read about walls. But she couldn't figure out what to do.

About that time, a helpful engineer came on the scene. He made friends with the family in the house in the woods. He was a smart engineer and knew all about soil and walls and things like that. He was a very nice engineer, too, and when the mother asked for help, he said yes. He drew nice pictures of walls with measurements and arrows. He discussed physics, soil stability, geogrid, footings and many other things that the mother didn't know anything about. Slowly she began to understand and together they tried to figure out how to fix the hole and how to build a wall.

Now fortunately, the mother and father had four strong sons living at home. They always helped their mother whenever she asked, so she set them to work, excavating the hole so the engineer could see what was making the hill turn into a hole.

The boys dug and dug. They moved dirt and pulled out the small stump. The tried to pull out the big stump but it was too hard.

They worked in the hot sun and even invited their friends over to help dig.

The deeper they dug, the more holes they found. All those trees buried by those men who built the house in the woods long ago had rotted away and left spaces in the hill that caved in and made the ground sink. Finally, the boys had dug as far as they could and there was nothing left to do but make a wall and fill in the hole, the very big hole.

On a very hot day, the engineer came over and helped the boys make a foundation for the wall. They dug and mixed and poured and smoothed.

They got hot and tired and thirsty. They all took off their shirts.

Then the smart engineer showed the helpful boys how to put in a drainage pipe behind the wall. He told the mother to buy gravel to put in the bottom of the hole and behind the wall. A big truck brought a load of gravel and dumped it in the driveway.

The boys began to stack the stones and shovel the gravel to backfill the wall. They worked hard moving the gravel from the driveway to the hole. The boys were smart, too, and made a slide with tarps for the gravel to roll on down the hill. The boys shoveled and sweated and kept their shirts off. The mother didn't mind. Sometimes she made them root beer floats or lemonade. Sometimes she brought them Dr. Pepper and drinks from Sonic. She was so happy to see them building the wall that she wanted to make them happy, too.

The boys worked hard stacking the stone. They lined the stones up carefully.

They stuck yellow fiberglass pins in the holes so the wall would be strong. They rolled geogrid fabric over the gravel behind the wall. The engineer told the mother that this would make the wall so strong that it would not move.

The pile of stones looked so big that sometimes the boys wondered if they would ever finish the wall. They wondered if they'd ever get all that gravel down the hill and into the hole. But they did.

And then one day, after they had finished shoveling all the gravel, a large dump truck arrived. It dumped a very large load of fill dirt down the hill on the tarp. Some of the dirt went all the way down the hill but most of it stayed at the top. The boys were very sad. They thought they would never get all that dirt shoveled into the hole. They began to think how nice it would be to go away to college or hide somewhere.

But they were good boys and they stayed and helped their mother.

They worked together and played loud music while they worked. Their father came out to work. Their cousin came to work. Their friend came to work. They sweated some more. They still kept their shirts off. It was very, very hot.

And then, finally, the blocks were all stacked. Two of the boys went off to college. They didn't work on the wall anymore. But that was OK. The next week, the engineer brought a big saw and cut all the cap blocks so they fit just right. He and the mother glued the cap blocks to the top of the wall. One day soon after, the father and the two boys left at home shoveled the rest of the dirt into the hole. This dirt was topsoil. It was very soft and the boys worked barefoot. Their feet got very dirty.

At last the wall was finished. The mother was so happy. She wanted to hug the boys and the engineer and the father. She did. She wanted to say thank you to them in a very special way. She is still working on that. She felt so happy it was like being in a fairy tale that ends "happily ever after."

Now she just has to figure out what to plant in the new garden behind the wall. But that's another story...


nicole said...

How did you figure out that the trees were "stored" in the ground??

It looks beautiful!!!!

Beth said...

I began to suspect after asking the county extension agent. He said this used to happen fairly often but there are supposed to be rules against it now. Other builder type people I talked to agreed that this was probably the problem. Then, as we dug, we actually pulled out one long, beautiful cedar tree trunk. Cedar doesn't rot very fast so it was still in the shape it was in when it was buried. That pretty much confirmed that our suspicions were correct. The dirt behind the wall could still settle a bit if we get more decomposition but the wall is at the front of the hole where the ground was not sinking and the concrete footings and geogrid will make it very stable. We teased Gary of over-engineering the wall, but are thankful that he did. It's not going anywhere!

nicole said...

Over-engineering is MUCH better than under-engineering! HA!

Kelly said...

It's quite a story! I can't believe I forgot to look at it when I was over there.

kk said...

if it wasn't a 24 hour drive, i'd stop by with some tea and invite myself to sit in your garden and chat. :)

Beth said...

Wish we could have tea! If you're ever in this neck of the woods, you know you'd be welcome anytime for a little porch time/tea time.

Amber Benton said...

What a fairytaile, but for the boys I'm sure it seemed all to real. They can always look back on this summer as the summer they built a wall - it will stand and I'm sure built something in them as well. I know - I once had a wall building summer :)