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Entries in home projects (15)


(holiday) weekend warriors 

Since moving into our house, when we started by regrading the lawn and putting in one small garden, we have spent most of our holiday weekends working up a sweat in the yard. The projects have varied in type and size over the years, but as long as we were in town on a long weekend, we were working in the yard, usually with help from extended family.

Over six years this has meant a lot of change. When we moved in we had exactly one tree and the only garden was the builder's landscaping in front—everything else was grass, grass, grass. Grass that you have to water, weed, and mow. Now the house is lined with plantings and the yard bordered in flower garden; we have a total of nine trees, three raised vegetable garden beds, and one very large native plant butterfly and hummingbird garden; there are two dry rock rivers to divert the sump pumps that drain in our yard and a fire pit; and now, after this Memorial Day weekend, we now have a patio. There is still a bit of finishing work to do around it, but now we have a great new place to sit and enjoy our gardens and


Let's roast marshmallows

For as long as we've lived in this house the three-day holiday weekends that bookend the summer season have been entirely filled with time consuming, labor intensive projects, mostly yard related (the summary of which can be found here). We've taken out umpteen square feet of sod, planted scores of native wildlife enticing plants, and spread copious amounts of dirt in new gardens. We've dug trenches, moved rocks, altered drainage. And every holiday weekend left us dirty, tired and sore. Today we did the one and only thing on our yard to-do list: we put in a fire pit. It took a handful of hours and a relatively small amount of back-breaking work. Now we don't know what to do with ourselves. And so we sit, enjoying the view of our new fire pit but wholly unable to use it since it started raining only minutes after we finished and took pictures, and has not stopped since.

Calvin helped with measuring and leveling—tools are fun—but once we started working the yard was so muddy he chose to spend most of the time reading, sitting in his play house, or playing with Legos instead. He's performing a re-enactment of the Battle of Troy right now, a slightly more gentle version of the Battle of Troy in which a magical horse makes sure that all the fighting is fair and safe and dragons are ready at any moment to step in and enforce the rules.

Calvin and I have a project we've been working on for a few days now, too. An indoor project, with lots of colored paper and glue, to keep us busy on all these rainy days. I suspect we'll finish it up tomorrow morning and I'll get to share it then.

The weather reports are promising warmth and sun for the remainder of the weekend once we get past the morning tomorrow. I hope they are right. Not only is that more enjoyable than the chilly rains we've had for about a week, but our yard, our whole region, needs the chance to dry out.


Another year, another garden

When we first moved into our house in 2008 we had grass. Lots and lots of grass. We have a large lot (for our neighborhood of small lots, that is) and we had one garden—the standard landscaped garden in the front of our house, crammed full with too many bushes and even one poor out of place blue spruce, planted just a foot or two away from our front porch. Before we actually bought, the inspector had told us that after moving in we would have to fix the grading around the foundation of the house because in certain areas the grass was actually growing up past the siding, a sure fire way to invite bugs, he'd warned us.

And so our garden planning began. We moved in late March so we had some time to stare at our grassy expanse and consider plans for our future outdoor space. Some plans were easy—a 1-3 foot removal of grass from around the foundation, fixed grading, and a variety of native plants in its stead—while other plans came to us only later after seeing the yard take shape. The thing we knew we wanted to do was cut way down on the amount of grass and replace it with native flower and vegetable gardens. We had an eye toward attracting butterflies and hummingbirds, adding trees, and possibly outlining or edging our yard with garden space.

That first summer we accomplished much. We made short work of the grading around the house and also added a shaped garden to the very corner of our lot with the help of Jon's family over a Labor Day weekend. The new garden gave us a place to transplant some of the overcrowded bushes from the front landscaping, including the little spruce tree. Later in the year we added yuccas and some brown eyed susans as well.

Along with the grading we extended the outlet for our sump pump to beyond the edge of the house and made a pretty rock river for it. Or at least, we thought it was a rock river. Shortly thereafter we realized that, thanks to the output of our sump pump, that just wasn't going to cut it, so we decided to draw the water farther away from the house and into a rain garden, which we added in many hours of work over the fourth of July weekend.

You call that a rock river?

Now that's a rock river.

The addition of a small butterfly garden to the northeast corner of our lot rounded out our work for 2008, leaving the lawn looking like this:

You almost can't see the little butterfly garden over there in the corner! That's okay, we definitely took care of that in fall 2009 when we put in a drainage trench/rock river to divert the nieghbor's sump pump away from our new tree:

In 2008 we loving filled the rain garden with native and water tolerating plants, but word to the wise, a sump pump does not a good rain garden make; the influx of water in the spring was too much and we lost all but a handful of our plants. We spent the summer rethinking our drainage plan, took the river all the way through to the other side in September 2009, making this our not-so-rain garden:

While The 2010 growing season brought most of the 2009 perennial plantings back (a huge improvement over the previous year), it highlighted some issues with the new drainage trench in the butterfly garden—namely a low spot and standing water at the outlet—so we decided to go forward not only with our 2010 plans but with our "down the road" plans as well. 2010 plans were to remove the rest of the sod to extend the butterfly garden up to our neighbors' fences (no more mowing/weed whacking in that tight space!), and the "down the road" plans were to connect all the existing gardens with a full yard edge garden.

And that brings us to the first weekend of August 2010 with 5 cubic yards of dirt and 1.5 tons of 18 inch boulders.

Ahhh, so that's what 1.5 tons of 18 inch boulders sound like when falling from a truck. Then we had to roll them down the hill. Thank goodness for that empty lot behind us, eh?

Ollie was a big help. Almost as much of a help as Cookie when we were looking up our property lines on the map.

It's now done, though, and even planted, mostly with transplants from new growth on some of the happily growing native plants we added last year. Four rocks mark the places awaiting trees, probably 2 maples and 2 river birch, to be added over the next few years beginning with at least one this fall.

I think this is our best addition yet and we are really pleased with the way it defines our space while connecting all three gardens and working in the necessary drainage paths. There is always another project, though. Next year the space to the south in the above picture (taken facing ESE) will be made into a patio with a fire pit, a project that is likely to be our most ambitious yet (which is hard to believe after muscling 1.5 tons of boulders). We also plan to add another raised vegetable garden (our current three aren't shown here but are in line with and west of the southeast garden, just out of the above picture).

So here it is, one final before and after (although there really isn't a picture of "before", meaning back when it was all just grass).

End of the 2008 summer season (our first summer in the house)

View from the SE corner on 8/2/2010.


Some assembly required

We have been told many times that having a baby will force us to mature quickly.  Equally as many times have we scoffed at this adage, choosing instead to believe the more poetic motto 'having children keeps us young at heart.'  Today, however, we have learned just how true both of these proverbs are, and the key to their truth can be summed up in just one act: assembly.  We have to ask, why is it that baby items are so much more difficult to assemble than adult items?!?!?!?

assembly.jpgA picture is worth a thousand words.  We followed the directions.  Really.  So why is it that this just doesn't look right? 


The swing ultimately went together, and it was a lot of fun to play with (keeping us young at heart)!  Still, maturity reared its ugly head in the form of realistic thinking:  

(Jon)  "He better not wet his pants in this thing because taking that cushion back off is going to be a real [pain]" [altered for content and rated G for audiences everywhere]

Yes, having children will force adulthood on us.


Unveiling the nursery!

nurserydone.jpgWe put the final touches in the nursery today.  Just in time, too... only 88 days left!!!  Whew.  The design in there is the Carter's John Lennon Musical Parade theme.  We fell in love with it because it is a combination of safari animals and music notes - we couldn't have asked it to be more perfect for us!  We started the process back in February, changing Cortney's neutral office with piano into a special nursery space one piece at a time.  You can follow our progress or just look at photos of the finished product in our Musical Safari Photo Album. 

But that is not our only great news of the day; actually there are two more great pieces of news.  First, Diamond had her yearly vet visit tonight.  We were worried going in because she is a nine year old paraplegic, and has already defied all vets' expectations, so we were anticipating kidney problems and arthritis, if nothing else.  But our worries were unfounded!  Other than a bladder infection, which is normal for her, she got a fully clean bill of health!  That's a load off our shoulders.  Then, when we got home, we found out from Cortney's cousin in Oregon that their baby girl was born this afternoon and will most likely be able to go home with them tomorrow.  This is great news, and our love and prayers remain with them as they welcome their first child, baby Sophia, with open arms.

 Today was a good day!