Around the Yard

Building a Rock Wall – originally published by Josh 1/26/15

For Christmas in 2014, my grandma gave us all quite a bit of money.  I wasn’t sure what to do for our 4 boys but knew I wanted to do something that would get them outside.  After looking around the internet for ideas I decided to build a rock wall.  Much of what I based my ideas on came from Ben’s Backyard Climbing Wall.  Without that as a starting point, I think I would have been lost.

My dad had already built our boys a fort which gave me a nice starting point to anchor the wall to.  He also came up with the idea to hang a 4×6 from the fort to an A-frame that we built.  That gave us an anchor 8 feet in the air to attach the wall’s posts to.  Like the wall I based mine on I decided to make my wall 12 feet tall.  To make it strong I used three 16-foot-long 6x6s.  Thankfully, the boards we got were already a bit old and had dried out because otherwise they would have been very heavy.  My dad helped me pick up the beams using his trailer.

Originally, I wanted to put 4 feet of the beams into the ground.  However, where I live the ground contains a lot of clay.  About 1 foot into the ground I found clay, 2 feet down I found a white extremely hard clay.  That white clay was almost impossible to dig with a shovel.  I ended up having to dig a 8.5 foot long trench that allowed me to get in the hole and dig my 3 points where I wanted to put the 6x6s.  I was unable to get the holes 4 feet deep, but got them a little over 3 feet.

digging the hole 2 digging the hole 1

Once we got the beams in the holes we used carriage bolts to hold them to the 4×6 cross beam.  I then put 600 pounds of concrete into the holes to hold the beams in place.


beams in air

I wanted to make the wall look like a castle and I learned how to make a nice pattern at



I currently have one section of the wall done.  It is 4 feet wide by 12 feet tall and goes straight up.  I had to take a break from the wall to work on my bathroom remodel, but plan to revisit the wall soon.  My next section is going to be 4 feet wide by 12 feet tall, but will have a 20 or 30 degree angle leaning back to make for a more difficult climb.  Later when my boys are a bit more proficient, I plan to make a section with a more difficult angle like the end section of the one I copied.


Turns out I don’t have a photo of the entire 12 foot wall just the 8 feet I did at first.  I guess I will have to get a picture and add it.

I Try My Hand at Masonry

In my backyard is a large patio area.  It was built out of concrete triangles seperated by 2x4s.  The triangles seem to be quite old, and some of them have moved quite a bit.  If I had to guess I would say there is well over 1000 square feet of the triangles.

Can see the settling due to tree roots

Can see the settling due to tree roots

concrete triangles

The cost to have the concrete hauled away is prohibitive so I needed to find something to do with them.  My yard has slight slopes to it, so I decided to use the broken concrete as low retaining walls. To hold the pieces together I decided to use mortar as it is inexpensive at Home Depot.

First I measured 3 feet from my fence at three locations to give me the general  path of the wall.  I then ran a string to keep me on course.


I had previously broken a few of the triangles using a sledge hammer.  I had the two oldest of my boys help me start moving the concrete into place and attempting to piece it together into a line.

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I mixed the mortar in a 5 gallon bucket and used a trowel and my hand to put it onto the blocks.


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One bag of mortar allowed me to make around a ten foot wall stacked two or three high depending on the lay of the hill.  I started at the highest part of the hill so I made the wall low that way I don’t end up with too high a wall at the end.  Now I need to break up more concrete and get more mortar so I can finish the rest of the wall.

After working on the wall, I decided to plant a Pomegranate tree I bought a few days before.


The dirt in my yard is shallow and is over clay.  The clay is thick and hard to dig, even worse there is a white clay under the brown clay that is like digging in rock.  I spent many hours trying to plant trees in the past and wasn’t able to dig proper holes for the trees.  All that work and effort helped me convince my wife that I needed a jackhammer with spade attachment.  For digging in my dirt, it was totally worth the money.  I was able to dig a good sized hole for the tree in about a half hour rather then several hours.

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Animals of Our Hobby Farm

We currently have two bunnies as part of our hobby farm, a white mini-Rex named Tofu and a white and brown Holland lop named Mochi. They live in a bunny hutch in the side yard and have really been a fun experience for us. Our son, Corran, all of 11 years old and 5 feet tall already, feeds them every morning, though our son, Matthias, who is 8 years old and adores all animals, will go see them just because. Tofu loves anything new and exciting, while Mochi takes a bit to warm up to anything new, food or toy-wise, that enters her hutch.

Mochi soon after we first bought her.

Mochi soon after we first bought her.

Mochi - 6 months old. Mochi is our calm, sweet bunny who likes to be petted and has soulful brown eyes.

Mochi – 6 months old. Mochi is our calm, sweet bunny who likes to be petted and has soulful brown eyes.

Tofu - now 6 months old - is our fun, crazy bunny. She loves to hop around her cage, sniff anything new, and devours carrot tops whenever we give them to her.

Tofu – now 6 months old – is our fun, crazy bunny. She loves to hop around her cage, sniff anything new, and devours carrot tops whenever we give them to her.

Josh has started clearing a corner of the yard to build a chicken coop.  They will be our next hobby farm animal project! With the price of eggs escalating and most likely not recovering for another year or two, we look forward to collecting eggs from our own hens.  However, we have read that once you get chickens it is like owning Pokemon: You have to collect them all!

We bought a bunny! – Originally published by Joshua 4/25/15

Yesterday, we bought a bunny.  She is a mini-rex that is about 8 weeks old.  As a mini-rex she will end up being only about 4 pounds when she is fully grown. She is going to be a pet for our children, but more importantly she is going to be a manure machine for our yard.  Rabbit manure is supposed to be among the best available, and my yard needs a ton of manure so she cannot poop enough.tofubunny1 tofubunny2 tofubunny3

Cement Block Raised Garden Bed (04/03/15)

Today I built a raised garden bed.  I had planned to build one out of redwood until I saw the prices.  Creating a decent sized bed would have been well over $100 just for the wood alone.  At the same visit to Home Depot, I saw that concrete block was only $1.05 per block.  I ended up buying 36 blocks to create my bed.  Each layer is made from 18 blocks.

I had to dig out my yard some for the back section of blocks.  I then laid out my first layer of blocks using a 3 foot long level to make sure they were at least mostly level.  After that I used construction adhesive to attach the second layer of blocks to the first.  I have used the adhesive to hold together some other small walls I made before, and it worked out well.  Once the wall was built I laid 1/2 inch hardware cloth  on the ground to keep gophers out of the bed.

Once I get the dirt in, I plan to plant some Jalapenos, Habeneros, and Bell Peppers in the bed.  With the low price of the block, I should be able to build another bed for this year.

While working on my project, I even got to see a sun halo.  That isn’t something I have seen often here in San Diego.

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