The hill behind the driveway is not the hill where I slipped and broke my ankle, but it might as well have been. It is steep and slippery and we knew it was just a matter of time before we, or someone else, met an unfortunate fate. See the cool gate, which is at the back of the driveway? It’s not the main entrance, but it is useful if you’re bringing stuff down to the basement or the back cabin. What we didn’t want is for someone to come through the gate and then hit dry, crumbly dirt and slide their way down the hill, dropping children and groceries along the way.
The only way to make a slope navigable is to put in stairs. Stairs need to be pretty even, because that’s what people expect (and thus if they are not even people will trip and fall) and they need to be level.
We kept it simple and cheap. We used the old fence posts, which had rotted on the bottom but were plenty long enough for stairs. They are 6×6 redwood, so they should last pretty much as long as we do, or at least as long as we’re capable of going up and down stairs. Working down from the top, we used a pick-axe to cut into the slope to create level steps roughly 16 inches wide and 6 inches high. We had to pour one small concrete footer to keep one step from falling off on the left where the hillside starts to drop away, but we did it with leftovers so it didn’t cost anything. We pounded 4 foot pieces of rebar deep into the hillside to hold the steps in place and backfilled with gravel and dirt. That was my least favorite part, although it is a good triceps workout if you’re looking for one.
We ran out of fence posts and had to use a railroad tie for an additional step down at the bottom but we don’t think it looks too bad. And we used the redwood logs we’d scavenged a few months ago to create a division between beds.
This hillside will not be on a watering system, so everything has to be a native or drought resistant. We planted lavender on both sides. We’re hoping it puts down enough roots by winter to help hold back the dirt.
Then we went and picked up almost 2 yards of wood chips, which is what will fit in a small pickup truck.
We filled up the steps and pathways and tossed the rest on the hillside.
See how the stairs meet the path at the bottom? We now have a clean, chipped path all the way around the house, which is something of a miracle given what we started with. We’ll hand-water this summer, because planting at the hottest time of the year is kind of like throwing someone into a lake to teach them to swim. But after this year, these babies are on their own.