Stormy weather

by Chuck May 5, 2009

We had a storm last night. Lots of rain. And wind. Enough that two of the trees we planted yesterday came crashing down overnight, the two furthest from the house. Dana and I got up early to replant them, this time a little deeper than the time before.

While I was at work, two of them blew down again, this time the tree furthest from the house and the one closest to the house. I re-planted them again. Then I put stakes and rope to hold them up.

So far so good. 



Arbor day, redux

by Chuck May 3, 2009

We accidentally planted some more trees today.

Not accidentally, per se. It wasn't an accident to plant them, but buying them and putting them in was a spur of the moment sort of thing.

Early on Sunday morning I started digging out the trenches where we are putting the pier blocks for the deck. Dana came out, saw me digging, and said "We need to rent a tool." We rented a little Kubota excavator for the day, 8 hours of engine time in a 24 hour period. Since we only had an hour or so of digging for the patio, we looked around and said, "What else can we use a digger for?"

We came up with three things. Digging in a water line from the hose bib in the middle of the front to the chip shed, digging in an electrical line to the front gate, and digging the holes for the trees. Two of the projects meant leaving ditches across part of the place for a while; putting in the trees seemed like a one-time use of the digger. So that's what we did.

I waited for the excavator to be delivered. Dana headed down to Woods Creek Nursery to buy flowering plum trees. You remember a couple of weeks ago when we planted a flowering plum we bought the smaller trees? This time they didn't have smaller trees, we ended up with three enormous (20-feet tall) flowering plums to plant along the driveway.

Digging the holes with an excavator was easy. I loaded the dirt into the back of the truck and Joey and I unloaded it into the stock pile that I'm building over next to the compost bins. Last time when I planted a tree I used the tractor to mix dirt and compost, and then to haul the mixture to the planting hole. This time I moved one load, and then the front left tire on the tractor blew out. We ended up moving compost the old fashioned way -- shoveling it into the truck and then shoveling it back out.

Putting the trees in the holes was harder than we expected, but in the end we had the three trees planted along the driveway. It looks kinda elegant, the tree-lined driveway up to our house. It's a look that I really like, it's gonna be nice each spring when the trees flower.




by Chuck April 26, 2009

We've been describing laying the flagstones for the patio as "building a jigsaw puzzle, only there's no picture on the front of the box, all the pieces are the same color, and none of them actually fit together." It turned out to be exactly like that.

Dana and I hit the, well, not bricks. Rocks I guess. Rocks early and started laying the flagstones for the patio. With only one short break in the morning when my Mom and brother stopped by and a slightly longer one at lunch time, we laid the whole patio by 4:00 p.m.

It looks surprisingly good.

We've decided now that we have the patio we're pretty much committed to building the entire deck. The patio by itself looks pretty silly.



2-Part Harmony

by Chuck April 25, 2009

Today's installment of "the patio from heck" went in two parts.

First, in the morning I went to Rockman and got another truckload of 5/8-minus gravel. The lady there puts a serious load on your truck.

Then I took Joey to Lake Tye where we had a baseball game. I called the game from behind the plate -- the other team's fans didn't think much of my low strike calls, but there you go.

In the afternoon I started putting gravel in the hole. Took most of the truckload but I finally had the whole patio area filled to 3 inches below the grass. There must be 8 inches of gravel in some places, but no one will ever be able to say I didn't put enough rock under it.

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A fair curve is, well, fair

by Chuck April 20, 2009

Today was a beautiful day. Too beautiful to stay indoors at work. But I did anyway.

But as soon as I got home Dana met me at the door and said all your tools are waiting for you, so I headed out and started cutting sod away from the area where the patio will go.

The sod cutting and digging went quickly since we were only doing a few square feet, then I used the rest of the gravel that I had on hand to backfill the hole. Unfortunately the gravel I had on hand only filled the new area, there wasn't enough left over to bring the whole patio area up the two inches that we need. That will have to wait for our next chance to work on the project.



More 5/8-minus gravel, please

by Chuck April 19, 2009

This week we started working on our new deck and patio in earnest. We've always planned a deck on the side of the house off the dining room, we just couldn't afford to put one in after building the house. Instead, we put a gravel pad on the side of the house where we wanted the patio to go.

On Wednesday I used the tractor, a rake and a shovel to remove the gravel from the pad. On Saturday we started digging out the dirt to put the gravel base in for the patio section. 

I guess I should explain a little. We're putting in a 20x20 deck, but the 8x8 northwest corner is going to be a flagstone patio instead of a deck. Dana saw something like it on DIY Network, so we're using the idea. After we get the patio section in, we'll put the deck over the top of the inside corner with a step down to the patio. Our firepit will go on the patio so we don't inadvertantly burn the house down.

Anyway, we dug out the corner, piling the dirt up over by the compost bins, then backfilled with the gravel from the rest of the pad. When that ran out we went to Rockman here in town to get a pickup-load of gravel. Everything looked great, we went out and bought sand and edging and even a couple of rubber hammers to pound the stones with to settle them.

On Sunday we found the a stone that we liked at a place in Clearview off Highway 9. It's a stone that they call "Cowboy Coffee," but that's a color name, I'm not sure what the actual stone type is. Probably a Kentucky bluestone, it looks like that to me.  Anyway, we bought jsut over a ton. Then loaded it into the truck and hauled it home. Then unloaded it. That was about it for our Sunday.

And then I realized I wanted to put a curve on the outside edge. 

The edging helped me make a nice fair curve, but it meant we needed to do some more digging.



Backing up

by Chuck April 8, 2009

I started cutting a new back for Odyssey's hatch tonight. The first one was about half an inch too narrow at the top, and since I've only got half an inch or so to work with the darn thing doesn't fit. This time I'm cutting and fitting each piece individually, and it seems to be working out so far.

I cut the two sids, they are just slightly different angles. Not enough to make up all the problem at the top, but enough that I needed to reset the miter gauge on the saw before I cut each end of the bottom piece. I had to go in to make dinner before I cut the top, but I'll do that tonight and see what it looks like after I glue it up.



Our own Arbor Day

by Chuck April 5, 2009

We have a nursery just down the hill from us, Wood's Creek Nursery. The couple that run the nursery know their stuff and are willing to take the time to walk around the nursery and show the plants that they have that'll meet your needs. I enjoy purchasing plants there, but it seems like every time I go in there I come out with a tree.

Today we headed down to the nursery to buy some plants to replace the lavender in our front garden. The cold weather this last winter was just too much for it -- first the lavender died and then one of our dogs used it for a bed. It was looking really ratty. We pulled the lavender, but that left the front garden looking bare, so we decided to replace it right away.

Down at the nursery one of the owners took us through about half the greenhouses on the place looking at possible plants. The cold weather over the winter had her spooked too, she would point at a plant and say "That's nice, but mine died this year so you won't be able to grow it" and move on to the next.

Eventually we decided on two varieties of Euonymous -- one Burning Bush and two Emerald and Gold.  

Then Dana said "And a tree. I'd like a flowering cherry." Flowering cherry is getting a disease, our horticulturist replied. "How about a flowering plum?" says Dana, since our flowering plum had come out of the ground a couple of years earlier in a wind storm. "Oh, I have some great trees on sale" came the reply, and off we went.

We did not buy the biggest. We bought the smallest. And it's still pretty darn big, about 12 to 15 feet tall. And then we headed home where I needed to get our new tree into the ground.

I dug a tree-size planting hole -- 6 feet in diameter and 2 feet deep. Not a bad day's work, most days, but I started a 4:30 in the afternoon. No sense waiting until the last minute, after all. The soil under our gardens is horrible, we have about 8 inches of topsoil on top of thick, gooey clay. I shoveled the topsoil off and set it aside, then put the clay in the bucket of the tractor and hauled if off. When the hole was big enough I started mixing the clay soil with our compost to make something that a tree might be happy in, then back-filled the hole.

Once the hole was refilled and tamped down, I dug out a space for the tree's rootball and dropped the tree in. Then I shoveled the topsoil I'd saved back over the new planting, mounding it up in the middle and making a well to water the tree. Then I looked at the tree and realized that not only had I not cut the strings that wrapped it together, I also left the red plastic flag the nursery man had tied on the top for the drive home.

Fortunately it's a young tree, and quite flexible. I pulled it over 'til I could reach the flag, then cut the bindings while it was down. A small tug was all it took to bring it back upright.

I watered it in and cleaned up to tools. And it was only 8:00 when I finished. Just in time to make dinner...

There's still a lot of bare earth in the front garden, but now the anchor plants are in. We can put more understory plants in over the next few months; later this summer the garden should be looking pretty darn good.



Just a sunny Saturday

by Chuck April 4, 2009

Today it was sunny -- for the first time in a long time. The constant rain has been getting to us -- we lay in bed at night and listen to the rain pound on the roof and gurgle through the gutters and think "just how long is a cubit, anyway?" Getting a respite from the rain was a nice change.

Even the local wildlife was feeling happier. Our neighborhood deer, a doe and two yearlings, were gamboling around in the pasture, doing that funny sproinging run that deer do. 

Katie, Joey and I -- along with Katie's friend Darrington and Joey's friend Justin -- went to a Civil War re-enactment and remembrance ceremony over in Snohomish. There's an old Grand Army of the Republic cemetary there, with more than 150 Civil War veterans interred there. It was an interesting experience. What struck me during the re-enactment was the noise. There were only 10 rifles on the Confederate side and 15 on the Union side, but when they let off a volley it was like getting struck. I can't imagine what it must have been like on a battlefield with thousands of rifles firing at once.

The ceremony part was pretty cool, but I bet the guy who plays a Confederate general gets tired of surrenduring all the time. Afterwards we walked through the cemetary and looked at some of the headstones. That's an old cemetary.

When we got home Dana was mowing the lawn and Jim, our neighbor, was grading the road to our houses. It may only be spring from now 'til Monday, everyone was trying to get some work in. I popped thistles for an hour or so, took out all the ones that had started up in the back yard. I've been meaning to do that for about six months now, it's good to knock that off the list. 



Starting the garden

by Chuck March 30, 2009

This morning there was an inch of snow on the ground when we got up.

This afternoon Katie and I planted the first seeds of the year. Katie put some parsley in her garden over by the barn, and I planted spinach and beets in one of my garden boxes. The garden boxes weathered the winter very well, we only had to pull a few weeds to get them ready for spring.

Later on we helped Dana weed the front garden bed. It looks good now, but we need to put more plants in it this year, otherwise weeding it will be too hard.



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