November 28, 2013

Fall Plantings: A few Natives

I usually think of Spring as the time to plant, but I read somewhere that Fall can also be good because you don't have to worry about watering new starts. This must apply only to hearty plants - probably not for annuals or something will freeze easily.

I planted these guys in September and they are still tiny, but hanging in there! The grass is from the Samara Restoration folks at Farmer's Market. This was part of their concept for a Rain Garden, using native plants that can help soak up the run-off and thrive in wet conditions. I've seen these grasses all over, mostly in the bottoms or forest edges. The little guys are Coral Bells propagated from other starts around the Manor.

October 28, 2013

Excess Patio Materials Finally Find a Good Home

Although the new patio has been complete for months, the project hasn't felt finished because the backyard still looked like a construction zone. Of the 3 pallets of Basalite pavers we bought, we used a little more than half. The excess pavers have sat there, and sat there. They have been piled on pallets smack dab in the middle of the yard, irking me. For 6 months they sat there while we passively thought about what to do with them. I am not proud of this. That's the problem with D.I.Y. projects - you can't blame anyone else for taking a long time to clean up the worksite!

I posted the pavers on Facebook to see if any friends would take them - no luck. What lousy friends I must have to not help solve this heavy dilemma (kidding!). I asked my dad - who said he would take them, but I think he was just being polite.

Finally, we got our act together and posted them on craigslist. We figured we would have to negotiate and deal with a bunch of people. We did have a couple of fake-outs early in the week - people who had questions about the pavers, but didn't really want them. Hey, that's ok - such is the way of craigslist and trying to move awkward, heavy objects off your property.

But then the magical offer came in: "Have Trailer and Cash, interested in pavers". A day later, we were helping our customer load the rest of the pavers and sand into his trailer. I'm not sure how he made it home with what was likely over a ton of concrete pavers and sand in the back of a converted truckbed trailer. I remember learning a valuable lesson when towing some of the equipment we used to install the patio: it's not the hauling, it's the stopping of the vehicle in front of a heavy load. I didn't read anything on Lost Coast Outpost about a guy with an overloaded trailor wreaking havoc on the freeway, so all's well that end's well!

And now the grass can finally start growing back. It's a beautiful thing!

August 24, 2013

The Manor Goes Social

The nice folks at Keep Eureka Beautiful snapped a pic of the Manor and posted it on Facebook. They post a house or two a day - there are some really beautiful ones in mid-town Eureka. so many of these great old houses are within a few blocks. I'm glad someone's calling attention to all these great historical homes - all roughly similar styles, but wildly different styles of color, landscaping, & details.

August 6, 2013

Late Summer Garden Update: 2013

We spent most of the early spring focused on the patio project  and put in the vegetable garden late. Still, the strawberries, zucchini, lettuce, & carrots are all plugging along. But nothing is doing phenomenally well, or even as well as last year.

A couple of plants are filling out, like this Smoke Plant that took the place of a miscellaneous grassy area. I really like these, even if they are bare most of the year.

Apple Tree
This little guy has 4 wimpy apples on it. Last year, it had 10+ apples, and the year before it had 5. Maybe we didn't water enough? Or didn't talk nicely enough to it, since we were too busy cursing at the patio heavy equipment. I'm pretty sure pollination wasn't an issue, since the backyard has been full of happy bees this year, and the leaves look pretty healthy. Maybe some years are just apple-ier than others?

These guys have surprised us this year. We planted them 2 years ago in this area and this year they have been producing enough berries to go out almost every day and have a few. We've been careful not to let Mattie see us picking them, because we know for a fact that she is part deer and can nibble them off by herself.

Cherry Tree
Ok, it's not actually our tree, but it overhangs the fence, so we help ourselves to whatever's on our side :) They were really good this year! Not quite as sweet as a couple years ago, but good enough to make cherry clafoutis quite a few times.

Raised Beds
Strawberries were good, but a little late and kind of small. Lettuce has been successful - we got 2 batches in so far. The peas did alright, we planted the second generation now and it's starting to come up. Carrots: a little thin starting out (snails? cats??) but plugging along now.

June 14, 2013

Patio part 6: Completion!

We finished the patio a few weeks ago, but finally.. here is the much anticipated "The Patio is Finished!" post. Wrapping up the paver installation included: more compaction, more sand, and quite a bit of sweeping sand into the cracks. There was also a 1.5" - 2" edge one one side (nobody's perfect!) which we filled with rocks and gravel.

We were waiting for an opportunity to remove the Dirt Pile (thanks to Laura and Bryan!) We finally had a chance to clean up the job site a little, including spending the better part of a day loading up the dirt and driving it over to Wes Green Landscaping, who took it for free).

Instead of using concrete pavers by the shed door and pathway, we installed gravel with stepping stones to differentiate the space from the patio area (above). Plus, it was easier.

The exciting part of this project was that we spent about 1/4th of the cost of what the estimate was. Sure, it was a ton of work and we had no idea what we were doing until we did it - but we saved a ton of $$$!

April 29, 2013

Patio Part 5: Compacting Base Rock, Leveling Sand and Placing Pavers

It finally started to get fun! Or at least started to look like a patio. Over the past week, we rented our trusty friend the plate compactor (for the 3rd time! could have almost bought one by now!) and compacted/leveled out the 3 inches of base rock. That went a lot faster/easier than compacting the soil below it. No idea why, less dust to fly around? (Shout out to Brian here, thanks Brian!)

Then we dumped in the 1 inch of sand that is the base for the pavers. Using two 1" pipes nestled into the sand (accounting for 2% drainage slope) we used "screed guides" to level the sand (I've always wanted to screed!) After that task, it was time to get those pavers down and those stick arms beefed up! As you can see below, Mattie enjoyed the beach-like atmosphere, and was no help at all.

Of all the patterns available, of course we had to pick the most complicated one. Having never done this before, we wanted to keep things challenging. Well, not really - it just seemed like the best pattern that would allow for a natural, non-O.C.D. sort of look when complete. I stared at the schematic of the pattern on the website for awhile. Didn't get it. Squinted at it.. cursed at it. Then finally gave up trying and did something else for awhile.

That must have been the key, because I came back to it with a sort of magic-eye approach about 30 minutes later and somehow the rows made sense. We managed to get the pavers down almost 100% correctly. I see a mistake we made in the pattern, but since the the arrangement is pretty balanced, we're going to live with it. Also, I was getting to the point where I couldn't stand up any more. Placing the pavers was awesome and satisfying! (but crampy, muscle-soreness inducing work).

Next steps are: more compaction, sand in the cracks, rinsing, and toasting to completion! (and oh - cleaning up the construction site that is now our backyard..)

Also: Anyone who completes this project in a 2-day weekend (as the D.I.Y. youtube videos state) either: 1) owns a sod cutter and plate compactor and really knows what they're doing, or 2) is on meth.

April 22, 2013

Patio Part 4: Shoveling Rock, Cutting the Border, and More Shoveling Rock

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!

April 16, 2013

Patio Part 3: Paver Delivery

A gauntlet of landscaping piles

They never show in the DIY videos or HGTV where to put your piles of variousness. We're taking a few days off to work our day jobs, but plan to get back at it this weekend! We can't use the excuse that we're still waiting on materials, because it's all here!

April 14, 2013

Patio Part 2: Shoveling and Hauling Board & Rebar

Today was more of the same (digging and shoveling!), but making good progress. We've excavated the area down to 6"(a little more than that in some places). Once you start digging, it's hard to stop precisely at the 6" point. We've leveled that area off, and in our next installment of work, we will grade it more carefully in preparation for the permeable weed tarp, pressure-treated wood border, and begin adding the 3" of base rock.

Oddly, the most time-consuming (or so it seemed) element was the trip to Piersons to pick up the pressure treated wood we ordered and paid for yesterday. They said it would be ready at 9:30 a.m., but when we went in they didn't know what we were talking about. Alas, we were still able to get the materials, it just took over an hour to gather, cut, and load up the 17' pressure-treated boards. We also learned that rebar is crazy expensive - who knew? And guess who forgot her gloves on the trip to the back lot of Piersons!? DOH!! Such an amateur! Oh well, it's just chemical-infused wood splinters and a little tetanus.

Tying down the boards and driving home was a little (ok, a LOT) dicey, but we're no cowards. We picked a route with the least amount of hills so the boards didn't slip off the rack (which seemed entirely possible). We made it (2nd gear the whole way), but it was exciting whenever we hit a pothole, had a car behind us, or saw a pedestrian fleeing our path.

Check out this amazing dirt pile. Some of this is going to fill in areas where we overshot with the excavation, and some will get mixed in with some manure for the raised beds. I think we'll still have some leftover. Anyone need some topsoil?

April 13, 2013

Patio Part 1: Sod Removal

I'm (almost) live blogging the patio installation! Well, not exactly live (since I'm not one of those people who can blog on my smartphone and dig a hole a the same time), but darn close.

We're putting in a permeable patio in the backyard in one of the sunnier spots. Currently, it's a nice little area, but it's lumpy grass. So it requires all mowing, all the time. And even when it's perfectly cropped, there are high and low spots (real ankle-turners!). So we're putting in a paver patio over the next few weeks. The steps so far are looking like: pulling out the sod, putting down landscape tarp, 3 inches of base rock, 1 inch of level sand, then pavers, then sand to fill the cracks.

Yesterday was a big work day: we rented a sod cutter to remove the grass, getting started digging the 6" deep x 11' x 17' hole, and taking delivery on 2 cubic yards of base rock. We got a couple inches down, but still have more digging to do.

Per the usual, it's quite the archaeological dig. We've found some weird stuff in the ground: hangers, BBQ parts, dog bones (I hope!) and big pieces of concrete - lots of them, which we're collecting in a very heavy pile. I was thinking of creating a raised bed using the concrete pieces as a border, once the patio project is done.

February 26, 2013

Winter Doldrums Art Cure

There isn't too much happening at the Manor at present. It's winter: the garden isn't doing much, there are no building or reno projects in progress. Nothing major planned for this year other than planning and saving for bigger projects. But that doesn't mean that creativity has ceased!

Here's a watercolor painting I just wrapped up, photo taken from a succulent plant in the yard.

January 10, 2013

Closet Mini-Reno

Old houses don't have big closets. Which is fine, we don't have a ton of clothes. Plus, having a small closet helps keep you from accumulating too much crap.

However, since we moved in 5 years ago, the closet organization has gotten worse year by year. Instead of shelves, we had expandable Ikea hanging pockets. Which is a great temporary solution. But when they are full and you try to put your clothes away, they swing and belch clothing all over the floor. Which is INFURIATING when you have just washed and neatly folded everything. I know what you're thinking - this is a First World Problem, and I'm complaining about it too much, and you are correct! However, good feng shui and smart design make for a harmonious life - you might as well have this concept work in your favor.

The accordion shelves were attached to a hanging rack that was lightly screwed into the drywall. A couple of weeks ago, the dog and I heard a loud "thump!" in the bedroom. We investigated, but couldn't see anything, thought it must have been the neighborhood skunks having a party. But a couple hours later, opening the closet revealed that the rack the accordion shelves was attached to had fallen out of the drywall, leaving a nasty scar in the closet wall and dumping our clothes all over the floor. Crap. Something had to be done.

The Mrs. and I asked for an alternative Christmas present from my dad this year - new closet shelves! The gift that keeps on giving. And he came through with fantastic incense cedar shelves. What followed the new shelf installation was 2 whole days of going through clothes and accessories, creating piles to toss, donate, and keep. Plus, more measuring was in order to acquire shelving systems for the shoes and a new hamper system. Multiple trips to Target, Bed Bath & Beyond in the rain made for a less than fun weekend.

However, it was all worth it! Life has improved immensely, and we no longer fear going into the closet! (insert coming out of the closet joke here).