We made pretty good progress over the weekend. First, we got the dirt level back up to where it needed to be (between 5" and 6"). Then we got tough again with Serious Power Equipment to compress the dirt to "95% compaction" (or around 95%, I honestly have no idea how you know for sure).
We also laid down the permeable landscape tarp. I usually hate this stuff, but I'll be damned if we'll have weeds coming up from underneath the patio. I'm sure we'll get something growing in the cracks, but hopefully, only small weedlets that have taken root from above, rather than evil growing things from below. But of course, only time will tell. This is Humboldt, and part of why I like it is how easily things grow.
Then, we measured out the frame (4x6 pressure-treated wood), set the rebar to anchor it, and then began to fill it to 3". We got to have MORE FUN with fancy landscaping toys, when we realized we were short about a cubic yard of crushed rock and had to pick up more. The upside was we got to use this fun toy:
Here's what it's looking like now in the evening light:
Next steps are: compaction of the gravel, putting down more tarp on the pathway section by the shed and framing it out, adding 1" of sand, leveling it off (that's what those pipes are for), and then the real magic gets to happen: laying down the pavers!