Borracho Springs & Angry Beaver Garden Railway
Well let’s try this one more time…
This thread will be chronicling the building of my new layout, outdoors this time. Seems like every other layout I’ve tried building gets going well enough, gets stalled and dies a slow tragic death. Such is my indoor Gotham layout, which is still there! It lies behind a wall of clutter that I have been unable thus to render into the nearest Salvation Army, despite my best efforts to do so. So here we are again. Only this time I’m going into a spot where no clutter can block. I decided I am going to build a simple layout in the back corner of our yard, a corner that abuts neighbors barking dogs and trash cans in an alleyway.
A little backstory first. This is where I began:
It’s looked like this ever since we rebuilt the garage. For whatever reason I never had the energy or strength to deal with it until this fall, when after being on jury duty for an extremely depressing criminal trial, I needed to do something positive to pull me out of a serious funk. I first did a couple planters; one became the little outdoor pizza layout, and converted a couple of pallets into mobile planters.
I really got serious just after Thanksgiving with beginning to rework a nasty section of loose pavers that used to abut the old garage before it was torn down. For whatever reason, I simply placed large retaining blocks against the raised edge and created a step down between the higher pavers and the old garage floor, now the driveways. But over time the soil under the pavers washed out creating a drupe in the paving. So out came four feet of pavers, soil dug, recompacted, and reset to create a ramp between the higher patio and the driveway area. Big improvement immediately, now I could move things between the upper and lower areas with far greater ease than before. So easy in fact that the next step was to take the small metal toolshed on skids that we’ve had since forever in the back corner, careen it onto its sides and add four large lockable caster wheels to it. Once accomplished, I could now wheel it down onto the driveway and rework an ugly planter spot along the fenceline at the rear of the current patio pavers. Landscape retaining blocks and soil were removed, concrete pavers laid down and now I had a convenient alcove to push the toolshed into.
I then started removing the pavers laid in the back corner, and discovered that the tree against the rear fence was sending out root runners and were pushing up the pavers. We had already paid a guy to cut it down last summer 2018, but it started growing back stringers out of the old stump, I tried to keep it in check but the damn thing grew like something out of a horror movie. So after cutting it back filling a 100 gallon trash can a couple times over, I tacked several copper nails into the stump. Now came the big dig, digging and relaying pavers. I had several dozen concrete Saltillo pavers, left over from the patio, that were mixed with regular concrete pavers in that area originally. They got sorted and as the area nearest the patio was releveled, reset against a new PTDF header, another improvement over the haphazard previous installment, more importantly it gave me a hard edge to start placing CMUs for a low retaining wall. At only two blocks high, I decided to treat them more like landscaping blocks, so they are set right on the soil, sandy loam no clay, with each cell having a #3 rebar driven into the ground and filled with post hole mix. This is an experimental idea but given how low the wall is and how well the soil here drains, it shouldn’t be an issue.
Once I had the blocks down I could now focus on the bane of this area, the bamboo. Luckily for me the area it was growing in the soil was higher than the area I had to dig down to for the interior wood planter walls. So I would dig out the soil to where the roots were exposed, then using a variety of tools (shovel, cutting chisel, mallet, 8 foot breakers bar, and a chainsaw that went from sharp to dull as a butterknife no less) and invoking several words and phrases that would have resulted in any fine young Edwardian ladies fainting from the hearing of, broke out the roots by the chunk. But as of now the bamboo is gone. I have also placed PTDF headers and concrete chunks against the fenceline. Luckily this type of bamboo grows straight up and doesn’t spread runners everywhere but I know it will be an ever vigilant job to keep them out of the yard.
Also I decided that I really hated the way the chain link fence looked, I mean its ugly as sin. Last year we had our fence between our neighbor on the other side replaced completely with a cedar fence, and really liked it I decided to add a cedar facing to the chain link. And it’s just that, I placed a PTDF 2x4 at the top and bottom and simply screwed the cedar pickets to that. The method is simplicity itself. Some bailing wire top and bottom to fix the 2x, then use plumbers tape strap to secure the 2x. The top 2x is strapped around the top crossbar so it’s doing all the hard work, the bottom 2x just needs to hold the pickets. It works well and looks a hundred times better than the ratty chain link.
After another big push to meet the Miks Challenge deadline I got the interior wood retaining walls in place, I used wood here mostly for space to maximize the layout area and still have comfortable interior walk around space. It’s the same method I used for the outdoor pizza layout but with added steel stakes to help keep everything in place. I had to remove awful roots along the way from the tree that looked like something straight out of the Upside Down in Stranger Things but luckily they were a lot softer than the dam bamboo roots and were removed as I went. So as of this weekend I managed to get the walls set in place. Next will be to level the soil across the layout bed and set the pavers in the interior walkway.
This is where it is today, next the layout itself