Saturday, June 30, 2007

Pergola Begun

Today Dave came over and we got started on our Pergola project. It's a little ironic, the first thing we do after we get our lawn planted is to tear up a 14' x 14' chunk of it - but it will be such a nice feature in the yard. If you don't know, this is what a pergola is.

Our first step was to stake out the site and make sure everything was square, so we'd know where to dig the post-holes. This was accomplished without too much trouble...
...and then it was time to dig. At first it wasn't too bad, but soon we got down into the hard-pan clay, which is ridiculously difficult to penetrate with a shovel. We took shifts, one of us (usually Cary) stabbing into the hole with the shovel to break up the soil, and then the other leaning in with a bucket and scooping the clods out. It was slow, thirsty work.
The holes are supposed to be 18" across and a minimum of 4 feet deep, but we decided after the first one that 36" deep seemed plenty deep enough. We're going to backfill the whole hole with concrete, after all. The 6" x 6" support posts aren't going anywhere, even with a foot less concrete around their bases. It took us most of the afternoon, but we finished digging two of the holes.

Tomorrow we'll hopefully finish digging the other two holes, and then on Monday the lumber, fittings, concrete & hardware will be delivered. If all goes well, sometime next week we'll get the posts set in the ground, and then on the weekend we'll really be ready to build the rest. It so exciting to see this taking shape at last!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

1 Year Ago Today...

I can't believe it's only been a year since we poured the footings. Here's a walk down memory lane, with my post from June 21, 2006...

The drainfield is built, inspected & approved! In the background you can just make out the house site. It's fair distance away, down what little slope we have on the property. The soil here is almost totally clay, so drainage can really be a problem. It took quite a while just to find a place on the property that was suitably percable to get a septic permit. But now here it is! Wonderful.

The septic tank itself is just off the southwest corner of the house. The excavator also dug out the foundation area, and the concrete guys got right in there and poured the footings, as you can see. These guys aren't wasting any time! In the background you can see the tank & drainfield.

Wow. I get all excited again (just like I was last summer) looking at these old pictures. We've come a loooooooong way!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

An Unexpected Visitor

"Hi! I live next door, thought I'd drop by and introduce myself, take a look at your new house. Love the porch, all this nice dry concrete to sun yourself on..." Howdy!
Isn't he a cutie? This little guy turned up last night and explored the porch for a little while. He's 4-5 inches long, including the tail. His topside is brown, a bit knobby and dry-looking, and his underbody is light orange. He moved v-e-r-r-r-y slowly, but purposefully, checking out several nooks and crannies while I took pictures of him.

rough-skinned newt
Eventually he decided he'd seen enough, so he walked back to the edge of the porch and slipped away into the 2" drainrock that is our back "stepping stone".
Bye! See you later...
I looked him up on the internet, and it's pretty clear he's a rough-skinned newt (Taricha granulosa). They are common in the pacific northwest, and are known for moving slowly, having rough, warty skin, and generally frequenting this sort of habitat. They have the distinction of being the most poisonous newt in North America. Only our native garter snakes, which have evolved special resistance to the newt's toxic compounds, can eat them and survive. No wonder he didn't seem very concerned with all the humans standing around watching him! I sure hope our cats know better than to try and eat these.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Progress Report

The grass is growing! Here Sprout poses with the sprouts, to give you a sense of scale.
The cool, rainy weather we have been having has really helped, we've hardly had to worry about watering at all. Which, as you can see, would have been a really big chore, because this lawn is huge! It'll be great for the wedding, but I'm sure not looking forward to the mowing.
Our grass is not the only thing that has enjoyed the rainy weather, the wild salmonberries growing around the edges of the clearing are huge, plump & juicy....
...and there are lots of them! Yum.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Our First Flower Bed

Actually, its more of a Fern & Rock Bed, I guess. This is the shady NW corner of the house, just to the right of the front door where the cat door is. We aranged the rocks to give the cats a dry path out of the bed, and a few more just for decoration. Clockwise from the top, there are two Autumn Ferns, a Maidenhair fern, a Ghost Lady Fern, Phlox, a Pasque Flower, more Phlox, and a Soft Shield Fern. There are also a couple different types of miniature thyme along the front and between the path rocks.
I hope they all do well! We put down a soaker hose because much of the bed is actually under the eves so it doesn't get the rain. Even after a week of rain, the soil there was still dry when we started digging in the compost.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Flowers and Rocks

Alongside putting in the lawn, I've been working for a while collecting large planter-pots and planting them. I've got quite a little pot farm going now, so I thought I'd take a break from pictures of proto-lawn dirt and get a little color on the blog:
These petunias are a cultivar called "Madness" according to the little plastic label. I can't decide if I think that is humorous or just plain ridiculous. They are very pretty.
This little white daisy is doing really well, I think the plant has already doubled in size since I planted it. It's light blue pansy neighbor is in danger of being overrun!
We have some nice rocks on our property here. These are a couple of the closest ones to the house... This one has a nice garland of native trailing blackberries looping over it. It will sure be beautiful when they get ripe... Mmmmmm. Berries.
This is the "rock garden" we cleared a path too a few weeks ago. There are a lot of rocks here, some of them are pretty big. They are all different colors, and some of them have speckles.
With all the work we've been doing, frantically trying to get these projects finished, it's good to take a break and spend a little time just wandering around looking at the beauty that is already out here. This is a nice place to live, and I feel really lucky to have it.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Tired, Sunburnt & FINISHED!

Dad came over Saturday night, and Sunday we really got down and dirty with the remainder of the lawn. We got a nice early start at about 7:30 in the morning, and it took all day, but we are FINISHED now and it feels soooooo good. It looks wonderful, too.

The cultivator attachment on the tractor worked like a charm, breaking up the clay without any trouble, even on the first pass. Even the few large rocks we ran over (the biggest were watermellon-sized) didn't faze it, although they did make some alarming sounds when the tines struck them. The grass, sticks and weeds just got chewed right up and incorporated back into the soil.
After the cultivator had gone over it a few times, it was time for some rock-picking. We made 3 or 4 pretty big pile of apple to grapefruit-sized rocks, bucket-full by bucket-full. And thats not even counting all the ones that were picked up close enough to the edges of the trees to just get tossed directly into the woods. My back, knees, hips and arms are still sore. It's a real workout - squat, pick, stand, throw... and repeat (on one of the hottest days so far this year, too). Cary and I spent a lot of time doing this, and I'm sure it will pay off in the long run. Meanwhile, Dad kept making more passes with the cultivator, and the dirt just kept looking better and better as the clods broke up even more.
Eventually we decided we had gotten most of the rocks out and the clods broken up nicely, so we swapped the cultivator out and put the rake on the tractor. Of course, this turned up some more rocks, so it was back out with the buckets for Cary and me... whew.
Once we had everything graded and smoothed out beautifully, it was time to put the seed down. It felt like I walked about a mile, back and forth, until the whole area was covered. We used Scotts Sun & Shade mix. I sure hope it does well!
The final touch was to roll the seed in with a roller our neighbor kindly let us borrow. Dad had noticed it parked in the pasture across the driveway from our place the last time he was here, so my job was to go introduce myself and ask to borrow it this time. That way Dad didn't need to bring his, which meant he didn't have to drive the dumptruck over, which means a serious savings on fuel. I was a bit nervous, but Paul and his wife Debbie were super nice and more than willing to let us use the roller - he even delivered it over to us midway through the day! I really should have gone over and introduced myself earlier. Oh well, better late than never, I guess. :)
So, by the end of the day we had a lovely, smooth, perfectly graded, seeded lawn-to-be! Now we just have to water it twice a day for the next two weeks. Luckily, nature took things in hand last night with a big, soaking downpour and some thunder and lightning, which was a good thing because we were all exhausted. Hopefully the rain will continue for the next several days, until we can recouperate enough to get all the hoses and sprinklers set up.