Our front yard makeover, Part 4

We sympathized with the builders of the pyramids after Beaver Valley Stone delivered our 4,180 lbs (1,896 kg) of weathered limestone. Not only did we ask ourselves how we’d ever move these big hunks of rock into position; we asked how the heck we’d ever get them off the skid – without breaking any backs, feet, driveways… or stones.

We estimated they ranged from 200-500 lbs. (about 90-225 kg.) a piece.

After looking into rental of a small backhoe (too complicated), and an experiment with a block and tackle (unsatisfactory), we – or, rather, I (because, after the design itself, it’s my most important contribution to this project) – came up with a low-tech solution. We’d excavated yards and yards of sand – why not pile some sand beside the skid, and lever rocks onto that soft cushion? By jiminy, it worked.

A few words about selecting stone for a project like this. On one hand, you want the largest stones possible to give the design an established look. On the other, you’re committed to buying your stone by the skid. Really, you don’t know what you’re getting until you’ve got it. Putting the rocks in position is like an elaborate jigsaw puzzle, where every piece weighs a few hundred pounds. A good eye is as essential as a strong back.

After trying a stone supplier closer to home, whose stock was limited in the weathered limestone cap we were looking for, we visited Beaver Valley in the north end of the city during one of summer’s most drenching downpours. The guys in the main office directed us “down the hill” to find Ernesto. Down the hill took us to the stonework equivalent of Hangar 51 in Raiders of the Lost Ark. We clambered over and around sticky-outy wire baskets of stone to find the skid we thought looked best, marked it with a blue-painted stone, then let Ernesto do his job. Our skid was hoisted into our driveway two days later.

My hero, Mr. Toronto Gardens, pauses for a photo opp

How did we move the stones? With a heavy-duty dolly, borrowed from M next door, industrial-strength tie-downs from Lee Valley, and a battered 5/8″ pry bar – all used to apply the ancient and amazing power of the lever with a lot of oomph, principally from Mr. TG, plus added push and pull by our son and me.

Landscape cloth, with gravel at the base, prevents fine soil from filtering through the cracks between the stones. In a few years, the landscape cloth will decompose, but the soil should then be stabilized by roots. We tried to disturb as little of the garden as possible.

The design was meant to be a balance of straight lines and organic shapes – to reflect what was happening already with the house. Straight, clean lines impose a sense of order on my natural tendency towards chaos.

My final post will be a post-mortem of our solution, including an unofficial environmental assessment.

Here it is, almost finished


  1. We moved two pallets of rocks, not anywhere as large as yours. I bow to your fortitude! I like the rocks you have too, love the lines in them. I think you struck a good balance between the straight lines and organic shapes very well!!

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