Well, the ivy was removed and that left the hill clear for the next ambitious step: Terracing!!!
After a great deal of research and watching lots of how-to videos, we felt confident enough to tackle this. I’m sure there are some of our fellow permaculturists out there asking why we chose to use pre-fab bricks instead of recycled objects like tires or timbers. Well, here’s the rub. When you know you’re going to live in a house (or Abbey) for a long, long time, you may feel free to be as resourceful as you’d like. Unfortunately, as this house is not permanent for us and will be sold down the road, we have to keep yard appeal and resale value in mind. When we have 20+ acres for gardening for the Abbey, then I promise you there will be tires as backfill and rocks as facing. There will be reclaimed timbers and bamboo screens. There will be adobe hermitages and straw bale chapels. Until then, we have to keep the status quo in mind and be curteous to our neighbors view of our yard. While I and many other like minded individuals think tires can be beautiful, we must accomodate. We will take the middle road and use permaculture principals with excepted landscaping design. The middle road. It’s what monks are good at.
Back to the terracing. After the hill was cleared, we marked out the lines for the walls with marking paint. Anyone who is going to try to design their own landscape should, by all means, mark out the whole design on the ground first before starting. This will give you a far better feel for the spacial requirements and layout. At this point, fixing something means marking a new line. Fixing something after you’ve already put four walls in is something entirely different. We marked out the walls, the lines for the porch, the path and the patios. Sure enough, once it was all on the ground, we had to make adjustments and balance space. But once it was all marked, we were ready to go.
For our hills, it was only 8 ft in height, which means four terraces covering that space would only have to be 2 ft. a piece if lined edge to edge from bottom to top. Ours overlap a bit, so they would be just over 2ft. This is important because if your terracing is going to be any higher then you have to build a foundation or sink the bricks into the dirt for stability. The stones we found at the hardware store have lips on the back so that the bricks slope backwards and lock onto each other, so our short walls would be very secure.
Beginning with the lowest point of the wall (ours would step up and dig into the hills as they curved), we dug horizontally into the hill and moved out from there. The whole process, while strenuous, was fairly straight forward. The only trick is to be sure that each brick is level and even as you sink them in. We opted for a simple design using two colors of bricks that would alternate harlequin fashion from wall to wall.