Re{tain} Yourself

Long post alert. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

When most people take vacations, they take them to go somewhere in relax. When Andy takes vacations, he takes them to work and get projects done around the house. At the end of it, he has to go back to work to relax.

One time, in 2009 long before this blog, he took a week off to build a new leach field for the septic system, and replace the tank. He’s been asking me to do some retro posts, so here’s a glimpse. He built a new septic field with just him and our tractor, and we had a new tank installed. I won’t subject you to an explanation or photos of the old septic system, which was sub par.

A few notes. Yes, we have septic. Our water comes from a well (but not through a hand cranked bucket) and we use propane instead of natural gas. I love it all. Okay, truth be told, I don’t love the septic. I’m indifferent about it and don’t think about it, but I sure am thankful we have it.

Andy’s latest work-cation was the three days before Thanksgiving, building a retaining wall. Here’s what I {think} I know. It retains dirt, and looks nicer than before. I know it has something to with supporting the foundation to the new addition we built. To be honest, I’ve been putting off writing this for a few weeks because for starters, I wasn’t here. Second, my construction terminology is limited. This frustrates me, because I wish I could explain to you exactly what happened. I told Andy this and he said, “what does it mean to the house?”. He really feels like this blog should always be my perspective, and not his. I was confused, I said “what do you mean?” He said, “forget the technical – what does this mean to the house.” I don’t know technically how he built the retaining wall and I’m not quite sure what it means to the house. I’m going to try and explain this though.

Update: after reading the original post, Andy reminded me we have a “before” shot of the back of the house from before we started the foundation for the addition. So without further ado – the before.

First Andy showed me the materials we bought. I loved the rough face on them.

I score a technical point for knowing that they go together with these white things, and are filled with crushed stone.

First, Andy measured out the steps to get from the deck to the basement door. No more rolling ankles down hills.

I got to yank out a wire we found that had to do with the old above ground-but-sunk-in-three-feet pool that used to be here. I got to yank it out with the tractor. It. was. fun.

Once that was done, Andy started digging out the “wall” where the..uh…retaining wall blocks (technical enough?) go.

As he did that I promptly got distracted and found a few trinkets in the dirt. We’re always finding things around here in the dirt. I think the lesson here is don’t ignore road blocks.

Then Andy did some more of this.

While Nikon and I did this. Oh those sweet soulful, trouble making, razzamatazzing brown eyes (eye).

After that it was back to work for me, and I put Andy on point-and-shoot-don’t-touch-my-nikon duty. This is what we got.

Random overnight snowstorm hinders progress. Unless you’re Andy, then the snow melts fast under the speed of your handiness. I think he’s secretly the Chuck Norris of construction.

Primrose supervised him almost the entire time. Just to make sure he knew what he was doing, and that no snacks were dropped. He texted me an almost identical photo while at work. I wanted to come home immediately to witness the cute.

She checks out the unfinished stairs.


The mud happened the Friday after Thanksgiving and my, normally not caring, self demanded all boots be taken off before entering any upstairs area of the house. Paws were not allowed in the yard that day near the mud. There may have been an expletive out of my mouth when I saw thick mud boot prints in the kitchen. I live with two boys – and it wasn’t my husband.

This was the last photo Andy took, so on a nice sunny day I’ll get out there and get one of it with my Nikon again, since this is a little jobsite looking still. It is still a retaining wall so don’t expect a whole lot. It’s one that practically broke my husbands back and neck, and one I love him dearly for. Houses really do mean so much more, and so do husbands, when you know how much hard work has been put in.

So even though I don’t know what the retaining wall literally means to the house, I do know this.

I know what Andy’s hard work means to his house. It means we are continually getting a nicer home, at the expense of his personal time and his body; and even at 28 it’s becoming apparent the toll it’s taking on his body. It means I am always assured a roof over my head, and food on my table. It means I become a better person, and work harder and more intense by his example. It means our dogs have yummy food, and boundaries that I have trouble enforcing but he makes me realize are essential. So I’m not sure what this retaining wall means to our house besides structural things, but it seems to kind of represent him. He holds out the unstable things of everyday life, especially in this economy. He leaves a clear path for anything that rains on us to drain away from us as a family. For that I am forever grateful. I’m also grateful what you see is not what I see when looking at the same photo. It’s already fully landscaped up in my noggin.

Much love,


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