First we had to dig the footers, then pour the footers. This was not an easy job, as the soil and grass were a hindrance. It is not easy working in a trench.
When the footers were set, it was time to start laying block for the wall. My husband and I did the lion's share of this work, his family would come back later to help move earth and stucco the wall.I think removing the dirt and lowering the sod in front of the wall was the most daunting task associated with our wall construction. We cut the sod off in patches, dug out some soil to a certain level and then replaced the sod at the new level. We lowered a patch of yard measuring roughly 6 feet by 44 feet. The replaced sod looked like a patchwork quilt. We watered the sod every day and now you cannot tell that it was ever cut and moved.
Once the yard was lowered it was time to stucco and then paint. The stucco job went rather quickly. It is a forgiving wall treatment.
My husband and I laid the stepping tiles down and filled in the remaining areas with river rock to form a patio outside of our guest cottage once the retaining wall was complete. We have built two lamp posts in the back yard to give light as well as delineate where the "formal" garden area will be. Most of the hardscaping is done. We still want to pour a sidewalk, build a lower patio between the house and hot tub and build a grill/smoker unit. Next will come plants to create our tropical backyard garden.
We like watching home improvement shows and sometimes I think it would be nice to get "yard crashed" and have the professionals come in and do all the work, but there is great satisfaction in knowing you did it yourself (and saved buckage in the process).