Flemish GARDEN WALL - Sept. 2002
How to get from here
To get inspired, I usually have a cup of coffee while playing with my "little bricks" (above) from ToysRUs. They're a great design tool. The pattern (+ = +) is intended to mean "nice gets nice". (Keep in mind all you nice people: you won't necessarily get niceness returned from where it's given. But it will come back to you from somewhere eventually.)
Here's the part I like least - not the digging (except maybe for the sections with major 4" root networks!) The problem is always where to put the dirt. I dug anchor footings at either end of the wall. During extremely cold weather, the ground can freeze solid down into the clay layer. To avoid frost heave damage, you must dig below the clay (grey streaked with yellow in photo), usually 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 feet down. The remainder of the foundation is approx. 6" deep (same as sidewalk). I regraded the front lawn with the great Garden State topsoil and hid the clay under some bushes. Maybe I'll do some sculpting and kiln-fire some it. Or better yet - make some bricks! I used 31 bags of mortar on this wall (80lbs. each) and probably half went into the foundation.
I opted for a Flemish Bond because it worked out to be more structurally sound. Every day I would prepare a small section of foundation for the next day's wall work and then lay the bricks on the previous section.
I break a lot of masonry rules, but "level" ain't one of them. On a low wall like this, you can eyeball plumbness by straddling it, you can curve the face along the surrounding terrain, but topography is tricky - for accurate horizontal reference, I had a level line in place at all times, as well as a small level to check individual bricks and a longer one to make sure the course was holding level.
I was working curbside, and dozens of people stopped by daily. Apparently people find masonry work fascinating, particularly when done by a woman. Even among very handy men, only a few have ever attempted something like this. Every contractor van that passed by paused to give me a thumbs up or to say "Nice job!" A few even got out to examine the work and offered nothing but praise and encouragement. It was incredibly gratifying to know how many people shared my love for the project and had so much admiration for my ability to see it through.
The pattern made it fun, and kept it kept me thinking (like playing "Connect Four") all day.
I worked so long on the bench platform that it's nightfall in the photo. There's nearly 100 bricks in it!
Making progress - only 15 feet (three more pattern repeats) to go
It's not just the tilted bricks or the open work patterns, but the chunks of blue glass and the seashells imbedded in mortar that show a woman's inspiration. But men and women alike all noticed and appreciated the detail. The stone is granite (Belgian block). It's great fun to build with and goes very quickly on account of the large size. Mortar takes longer to set between blocks because they are not porous like brick and have no wicking capacity.
Seashells from Gunnison Beach, Sandy Hook, NJ
Ta-dah! All done. Now be nice - because nice gets nice!