My Non-Consumer Backyard Project — An Update

by Katy on October 20, 2008 · 3 comments




















My summer has been dominated by a backyard project. And like all household projects, it started out small. 

A brick patio. All I wanted was a nice brick patio. A place where I could set up a table and chairs and do some simple outside dining with the family.

Is that so much to ask?

Apparently so.

The area where I could put a patio is like a stylin’ 1970’s sunken living room. Lower than the rest of the yard, but only on three sides. And the cinder blocks that had been retaining the surrounding soil were not stable. So out they went. 

It was decided that we would put in a stone retaining wall. This part scared me as front yard retaining walls are all the rage in Portland, and I know they can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Not a pretty prospect.

So I hired my baby sister Sara. (I am 16 years older than her, so it matters not that she’s now an adult, as she will always be my baby.) 

Unfortunately, we were maybe a week into the site prep and planning stage when thunk, my husband’s shovel hit something hard, and the ancient non-decommisioned oil tank was located.


All forward progress ground to a halt while my husband Dale cut open the tank, inspected and cleaned the inside, sent soil samples to a lab, and then hired an expert. Because yeah, there was significant diesel fuel leakage in the surrounding soil.


Suddenly, all the money earmarked for this project went to dealing with the %^$ %*$# oil tank.


Luckily, except for the gravel and sand, the only expenses for the wall were for labor.

We were able to get all the rocks for free from My mother owns a truck, so the hauling was taken care of. Just a matter of paying Sara and her boyfriend Chente to go get everything.

I know that it would have taken my sister a lot less time to build the wall if I had bought the rocks, as we could have picked rocks of uniform size and type. But I liked that all rocks were local, and did not have to be mined, and then shipped from far away lands. These were local rocks that people had dug from their yards and were looking to get rid of. Much more gentle to the land.

Sara finished the wall last week, and it looks gorgeous! All that’s left to do is put in a rock mosaic in the center of the brick steps, re-sod the lawn, (I’m crossing my fingers to get score enough free sod from craigslist.) put in a shade garden. And, oh yeah . . . .

Put in the %*((&@ brick patio!

I figure it should be completed just in time for the freezing cold Oregon rainy season.

But I don’t care if we have to dress like we’re climbing Mt. Everest, we’re going to eat at least one dinner in the backyard this year.

Even if we lose a finger from frostbite.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

CanadianKate October 21, 2008 at 5:14 am

“I figure it should be completed just in time for the freezing cold Oregon rainy season.”

No problem. Just score a large umbrella or shade structure and a patio heater and you’ll be able to enjoy it year round. Just imagine, sitting out there, wrapped in a blanket, toasty warm from the heater, sipping hot tea and reading while listening to the rain on the canvas above your head. How cozy is that?


Kristen October 21, 2008 at 6:38 pm

Very cool! Is the whole area in there going to be bricked?


thenonconsumeradvocate October 21, 2008 at 8:15 pm

Yes. The whole area inside the wall will be a gravel/sand/brick patio. (It’s Oregon, so drainage is an issue.)

And of course, I got all the bricks for free.


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