I don't take much encouragement. Here is the past week's activity (post grading).
First, the gravel for the patio was spread out:
And the mason began the retaining wall.
Here you can see the path of the wall taking shape:
Here you can see the backend of the work. The mason is using broken cinder blocks as ballast that he is mortaring the stone to. It isn't what I imagined I was going to see in some of the verbal descriptions, but its coming out quite nice, so I'll take it. I was expecting a high end veneered wall. This is better IMHO.
Closer of the same
This was after the second day of building:
The local inspector is monitoring the progress quite closely.