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Job Site Adventures with Northwest Ridgeline Pt. 2

In our previous post we discussed construction on a rock retaining wall. On this

episode of “Job site adventures with Northwest Ridgeline” we will talk in detail about

the stacking or “second layer” construction of the stone wall.


Have you ever been down to a river or creek and witnessed Micah the Whole

Foods cashier stacking round rocks off the riverbed? Maybe you’ve just seen the

remnants of the statuesque figure he left behind. Seven perfectly balanced stones out in the open, triggering a mental response in you to notice that doesn’t occur naturally. Even though he’s gone now you can still see the creativity that he has under that rasta hat, you can almost still hear the beat of the bongo he played prior to construction, and you can still smell the refer that he puffed to get his creative juices dancing.

It’s something that humans have done for centuries, we like balancing objects. It must have some deeper meaning to it. Is it a metaphor for balance? Almost anything you think of in life that is worth having, has a proper blend of balance. At least I hope it has deeper meaning. I believe it does.


Micah is onto something, he’s connecting with nature and his inner being, something that we all should check in with from time to time.


We have the same mentality as Micah when it comes to being creative when

building and stacking our walls , but without the devils lettuce being consumed. These rocks require steady hands on the joysticks of the machine that precariously perch tonnage of this magnitude. An operator can’t have a lapse in reflex while melting in his chair only to have a 2000 pound paper weight end up in his lap.


Some rocks are more dense than others and some don’t have a very prominent handle on them. A real round big boy is difficult to get a handle on like any good interior defensive linemen. If the excavator teeth can’t get a good bite on anything they can be slippery like a wet bar of soap.


You’ve seen the discovery channel where the wilder-beast goes for a drink of water only to be surprised by a massive crocodile. If the croc sinks his teeth in, you know the rest, however sometimes the croc gets a mouth full of round hind quarters

and there’s nothing to grip. Those pearly whites don’t get a chance to sink into that

robust beast buttocks and the four legged mammal, or the boulder in this analogy, can escape.


Sometimes when the machine gets a grip on the rock, you’ll hear it let out an

eery creek, it’s an ominous sound, one that you don’t forget, the rock is slipping. The

machine groans and the teeth squeal as you swing it into place, it slips! You hear a

loud , nails on a chalkboard scrape, the rock goes tumbling and left behind is a wisp of white smoke and a nostalgic smell accrues, you know that smell, it’s familiar, but

takes a minute to process. It hits you, a firework. The aroma left behind is something

similar to gunpowder created by the friction caused by the battle between machine and nature. It’s not a pleasant smell, but its also not a bad one either, it reminds you of our nations birthday and brings back special memories of family get togethers in the sunshine.


Stacking a large rock onto another large rock is difficult because they’re not perfectly shaped nor designed for that There is a small trick to it, almost an optical illusion. We sprinkle gravel chips in behind the first set of rocks, filling the void up like a glass of water reaching the rim. The gravel creates a soft bed for rock number two to lay on. The rock now appears to be riding on his friends back, but it in realty it’s resting on a cushion of his smaller broken family members.


Picture throwing a dry dirt clod against pavement and having just a bunch of powder left over. That’s essentially what the gravel is, same massive rock, just smashed into thousands of pieces. The gravel helps out in another way as well, defending against hydrostatic pressure. Water is friend and foe, however we see the devil on waters shoulder in this scenario. Water pushes relentlessly and will stand the test of time eroding anything in it’s path. The gravel courteously allows the water to pass through like a door man at a fancy hotel.


To finalize the wall cap that nestles in the gravel chair, we need to ensure level. Taking a step back like an artist with one hand covering his optical view can help. Just like Van Gogh looking up into the night sky ,but without the ear issue he brought upon himself. The human eye craves plumb, level, and square like a raindrop finds the ocean. One way or another that drop is going to get there, no matter where it falls it’s getting to the low spot. The same goes for the eye, you’re drawn to level. You can pick it out a mile away , your eyes will find it. We get the top rock as close as we can and try not to second guess, imperfections are ok and actually show some character. Get it as close as you can and you’re on your way to creating something humans have been doing for thousands of years..... STACKING

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