Saturday, March 30, 2013

A big step for Several Gardens Farm

From the day we moved to Several Gardens Farm, one thing was obvious. In true farmhouse style, guests come to the back, kitchen door, not the front guest entrance. When we entertain, people gather in the kitchen, and stay put in the one room where they started. The more guests, the more crowded the kitchen, because no one ever wanders beyond.

The front entrance, the formal door, is only used by people who do not know us: kids selling candy, folks with religious tracts, meter readers, pizza delivery, etc.

And Halloween ghoulies, of course. Each year, intrepid children stagger up the grassy hillside to our dark, imposing house.

The back porch has a clear, simple pathway.

The path to our front door. Nice huh?

The front has a steep, grassy hill to clamber up, and dark, narrow, walkway.

We can make the door inviting once you get there but the property does nothing to get you there.

We have always wanted to modify this, but it's been a little unclear how.

Above all we needed stairs, but that was easier said than done.

Until the day we got the great deal on ten stone slabs from a  demolished building. The stones were big rectangles with rough faces. Perfect risers for stairs cut into the hillside.

The prospect of cutting into said hill, and setting the stones in it, kept holding us back. The stones weigh at least 120 pounds each. They were stacked at the top of the hill and would have to be lifted and settled into place. In addition, we feared doing the job badly and ending up with ugly, slippery, unwelcoming steps.

But we have a tractor, and that helps cut back on the physical labor. So on an early spring day, the sun was shining and we decided to jump in. Well, do some math and then jump in.

We measured the rise of the hill = 34". The run from start to end following the shortest path was 140". The steps were each 4" high, so we needed eight of them to get our height, with 2" left of height to figure out. If we used eight steps, each needed to be 17" deep.

Our stones were long enough, just barely. We then had the idea of slightly curving the path. This would lengthen it a bit, which was fine, as we had extra stones. The extras would be used as path, like stepping stones bedded on grade with no gain in elevation. The curve would let us meet the sidewalk straight on, as it follows a slightly different curve than the driveway below.

So we excavated a spot for the first step. We dug down below grade and filled in with sharp gravel. This lets the stone settle in very smoothly and lay really flat. The first an second stones went in well.

But by the third stone we noticed a problem. The bottom of the steps was the concrete rim of the driveway. The driveway is on a slope, so the rim itself is not level.

We had measured from the top - but there was a difference from top to bottom.

The top walkway is also sloped. We miscalculated our rise! Luckily the mistake worked in our favor because we had the extra stones. We backed down the driveway till we had a rise of 36" and used stone 9 as a stair instead of a stepstone.

Once the steps were in place, the hill is much easier to navigate. Perhaps we will add hand rails or a row of solar powered lights.

Next we should add some pretty flowers along the sides, to hold the earth in place and mark it out as a walkway.

It remains to be seen if more people start coming to the front door, but I feel that they certainly will.

And I know for a fact that we will.

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