I wear two hats with different names: Madison Woods when I’m wearing the artist hat, Roxann Riedel in real life and real estate. I'm a rock-smashing paint-making artist & a sales agent for Montgomery Whiteley Realty. Hailing from the wild Ozarks in Kingston, Arkansas where my husband and I work toward a sustainable lifestyle.

You can text or call to reach me by either name (see above):
(479)409-3429, or email madison@wildozark.com

Installing a Culvert Retaining Wall was Today’s Homestead Project

Today I built a culvert retaining wall for the culvert on the shop driveway to keep it from washing out around the sides. I was grateful for the overcast and dreary day so I could do this work without getting burnt to a crisp or dehydrated.

Sloped Lands = Washed out Culverts

Almost all of our homestead area is sloped. Some of it is sloped pretty steep and when it rains, it tends to wash out around the culverts.

We needed a culvert retaining wall new culvert for the shop driveway to keep this from worsening the situation.

The culvert before I started working on it.
The culvert before I started working on it.

You can see the buildup of silt in front of it and where it’s starting to wash out around the upper sides. When we traveled to Germany a few years ago, there were so many rock wall structures and I loved seeing them. I’ve seen many of the culvert retaining walls here in the Ozarks, too. Building them is hard work, but a structure that is both beautiful AND functional is such a nice combination to me.

I was determined to try and I had the idea in mind of how I wanted it to look.

Getting started on the Culvert Retaining Wall

Rob brought a nice pile of rocks to the worksite from a pile of rocks by the creek with his front end loader. So much easier than walking around to gather rocks from the area!

The rock pile for culvert retaining wall.
The rock pile for culvert retaining wall.

Ordinarily, I would take photos of all the steps along the way in a project like this. But with it looking like it might rain at any minute, I didn’t want to have the camera out there.

But that’s not the only reason I didn’t take pictures between the start and finish. The work was hard and I was too tired to take pictures when I did take breaks.

First Step

The first thing to do is to dig out around the culvert. I also dug a little beneath it so I could place the “floor” stone.

Then I chose an assortment of various sized rocks from the pile and brought them closer so I could reach without getting in and out of the ditch.

If the rock I wanted to use was too big for the spot, I dug out a little more. Keep in mind that all the dirt had to be removed from the ditch. This was the hardest part of the entire job.

The digging and shoveling out of the dirt was not enjoyable and it was extremely tiring. But it had to be done before I could stack the rocks around the sides.

One of the rocks broke when I dropped it and when the shard came off of it, I saw that it was a beautiful pink sandstone. Most of the rocks here are sandstone, but some are prettier than others. This was one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen. (8/11/20: I should have saved this to make some paint, but at the time I didn’t even know that would be a thing I’d ever do.)

Pink sandstone from the Ozarks.
Pink sandstone

For each layer, or “course”, I dug out deeper than the rock needed it to be. Deeper, as in deeper into the side, not deeper downward. Then I backfilled behind each course with the small stones and soil that I’d taken out initially.

Irregular Rocks

These rocks aren’t uniformly shaped, as you can see in the photo below, and they don’t stack one on top the other without some shimming with flat or smaller smaller stones.

Once it was all done, I was pleased to note that I’d done a pretty good job of keeping it all level. That’s not always easy to do with odd-shaped rocks.

The finished culvert retaining wall.
The finished culvert retaining wall.
Rocked in culvert 4 years later. Still holding up, though not as pretty.
Jan 2020. Rocked in culvert almost 4 years later. Still holding up, though not as pretty. The capstones kept getting run over as we cut too close to the edge going in and out of the driveway. The culvert needs to be longer. But at least the walls are still keeping the oncoming water from washing it out. I’d say, mission accomplished.

So that was my project.

The Other End

While I worked on the entrance end, Rob worked on the exit end. Two culverts intersect there and it also has a tendency to wash out, but in a different way.

Different Problems need Different Solutions

So it needed a different kind of rock work. He put big flat rocks on the sides and bottom after digging out the accumulated silt. This will help keep it from washing out on the sides and bottom.

The floor on the exit side of culvert.
The floor on the exit side of culvert.

Homesteading can be backbreaking, muscle-exhausting work. But I love living out here and I love seeing the results of all of our hard work. I just hope when the next rain comes it doesn’t wash it all away!

Making Use of Rocks

We have so many rocks here. There’s nowhere that doesn’t host a rock in or on the ground. Some are huge boulders, some are small, and there’s a lot of sand from all of the eons of weathering rocks.

But I’ve found that there are a lot of ways to use and appreciate them! Here’s a post on a few of those ways. My favorite is making paint from the pigments found in the stones.



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