Being a photographer isn’t a particularly physically demanding activity, especially when you consider how much of the effort is spent sitting in front of a computer screen. So I have to look to other tasks to get some exercise. In this case I’m digging back the hillside that we built our garage into, something I’m quite an expert at anymore as this is the third time I’ve at least partially dug it out.
When we built the garage into the hill, I designed it to have dirt back-filled clear up against the wall. I had to do the backfilling by hand since I couldn’t get my backhoe in there to fill it. After about 10 years I noticed the pressure of the dirt had bowed in the wall an uncomfortable distance. To relieve the pressure, I dug it down part way–by hand.
Then last year I decided it needed be dug out further, so I dug down all the way to the base of the garage, about seven feet–by hand. I lined the exposed dirt with rocks to prevent erosion. Last winter that all collapsed, so I’m now digging it all out again–by hand– and trying to slope the hillside back more to prevent another collapse.
Through this relatively Sysyphean task I’ve learned a couple of thing: there’s not as much conservatism in structural load calculations as you might think safety would dictate, and I really don’t have as good a grasp of the practical aspects of angle of repose as perhaps I ought to. (Angle of repose is a geological term, and also a fine novel by Wallace Stegner.) Until I grasp these concepts more fully, I imagine I’ll be getting plenty of exercise.