Russian Olive update

All three Russian Olive trees are trimmed back to the stumps! Eventually we will try to cut back those stumps more, especially if we ever do fence work as some of the stumps and roots are through the fence and causing shifting.

Still need to cut up and bag all the branches… That is my least favorite part. So many thorns…

Also, speaking of stumps, this weekend John and I worked on digging up a few stumps. One we got out, the other is fighting back but we will get it soon. 

The stump we did get out has a sad story: whoever planted the tree from the nursery had left the burlap bag and wire basket around the root ball, as well as the nylon strap holding the burlap together. The tree grew for what we’d guess is a year or two, and even got some decent growth past the nylon strap, but was eventually strangled by that strap at the trunk. The tree had already been cut when we bought the house, so we have no idea how it looked or what variety it was. But we were very sad to see a tree wasted like that, simply because no one took the time to plant the tree properly.

Those Olives

I haven’t blogged in a while, but we haven’t done a lot of house projects recently. I’ll peruse my pictures and see if theres anything bloggable that we’ve worked on. We also have some upcoming projects and ideas – this weekend we went to the botanical gardens and it filled us with so many ideas and such motivation to make our backyard amazing. However, we must remind ourselves that amazing takes a lot of time…Or a lot of money! Haha.

Anyway, all that inspiration sent me to the yard to work on raking on this President’s Day weekend. Not my favorite task… And our yard is big and fills up with leaves, or so it seems. We have a leaf vacuum/mulcher which makes quick work of leaves, but I still only cleared out a few patches today. And when I got sick of leaf mulching, I moved on to trimming away the Russian Olive tree sprouts. Not so much sprouts as weird trunk growths. There used to be Russian Olive trees along our fence, and they were long ago cut down due to (I suspect) being too close to the fence and starting to grow through. Well, the trees didn’t die after being cut, and there are big bushy tree growths out of the stumps. Very unpleasant, and the tree is labeled as invasive in Colorado. We have been wanting to get rid of them eventually anyway, so today I started in on two of them. 
It is tough work, cutting away the branches and working around the giant thorns. I cut back the small branches and will take out the bigger branches with a reciprocating saw later. Once summer hits and the tree stump is trying to grow again, we will go after it with some Round-Up to try to kill off the stump and prevent future regrowth.

I didn’t get great before/after pics, but here is the first one I got cleaned up.

And the second, which I have only half cut back. It is a much bigger growth, and is also tangled up with grassy weeds.

The third one is smaller, and I haven’t cut away any of it yet.

We will eventually fill in the areas with more attractive shrubs and intentional gardened areas. Some good ideas from the botanical gardens, like I mentioned.

Anyway, that’s the yard so far. Future projects with the yard and the house coming soon!

Welcome Autumn!

Hello! Welcome to the blog!

I haven’t posted for a while… tsk tsk, Abigail. I want to share our living room freshening-up, but for now I’ll share a bit about our current outdoor project.
We are working on redefining the back lawn – new shape, reseed and framed with some large shrubs. We have only started the digging, so it just looks like a messy yard right now.

The juniper bushes are going to stay, and we are reducing the lawn size a bit. There isn’t much lawn as it is, it has been overgrown with weeds and the existing sprinklers didn’t have adequate coverage. But, the lawn that used to be was bigger than we would have liked.

First step is digging out the old sprinkler lines and heads, and laying new sprinkler lines. After that, we will till and amend the soil, and reseed. This might not happen until spring, since we took a little while getting a plan put together and approved by the HOA. And at some point before the end of the project, we will acquire and plant some shrubs, such as honeysuckle, dogwood or lilacs. We want a tall bush which will help with screening of the yard.

Also, this project means dealing with some of the carpet in various parts of the yard – under the sand in the sand pit and under the mulch in the side yard. It’s a pain to pull up and remove for disposal, but it is nice to make some progress on removing all the yard carpet eventually.
I will do my best to keep you updated on the progress! This is gonna be a long project and won’t be done likely until spring. However, if we get a mild winter we may be able to continue working through the season. 

Next project after this is probably going to be porch railing, another long project but much needed for safety and screening.

Thanks for reading!

July already??

When did that happen? Since last I posted, we planted our vegetable garden, and it’s coming along:

Most of the tomato plants are enormous and starting to produce fruit. A few of the plants weren’t doing as well, but those I replaced with extra plants which had been living in pots on the front porch.

IMG_20160710_153853
Tomatoes

Peppers didn’t start out well, only 2 or 3 of the peppers first planted outside are still alive, but we had a few extras saved in the front porch plants. I swapped in some of the extra plants, and those are doing alright so far.

20160703_111148
Peppers

We planted cucumbers, watermelons, spinach and green beans. The former two are doing very well, and the latter two are popular with rabbits. I re-seeded the spinach and beans, and also spread some rabbit repellent to try to keep them away from new growth. Next year we plan to put in a fence around the garden; if the repellent doesn’t work, we may need to install a fence sooner.

20160703_111204
Watermelon and cucumber
20160703_111159
Green bean stalks, post-rabbit encounters

P.S. rabbit repellent smells absolutely disgusting.

I also finally got around to planting some grape vine cuttings from my dad. So far, they are not dead – hooray!

20160703_111233
Grape vines

Inside the house, we have gotten an IKEA shelf for storage and as a room divider between the dining room and the front room. This separates the spaces and also partially blocks the dining area from the front door. Eventually we will furnish the front room with the goal of using it as a sitting room of sorts.

20160705_192746

We also finally installed some fan blades on our bedroom ceiling fan. The previous owner took the original fan blades (we didn’t care for the palm leaf design anyway). Universal fan blades, plus going arts-and-crafts on some wrong-sized grommets, and we have a working ceiling fan! It has made a big cooling difference in the bedroom at night.

IMG_20160710_153729

Keep an eye out for upcoming projects – painting the living room and kitchen, wall-mounting the TV, and building a TV cabinet/bookcase next to the fireplace.

The Wall

IMG_20160515_192351.jpg

As some additional pre-garden work, we built a low retaining wall around the lower part of our garden!

The border of our existing garden was laid out with stones, but because of the slope of the hill that is the whole yard the border had eroded on the eastern edge and wasn’t in amazing shape. We wanted to touch things up a bit before planting, and thought a low retaining wall would be pretty snazzy and not too difficult.

Well, it wasn’t extremely difficult, but like any home project it took much longer to complete and was a bit more frustrating than we thought. Overall, it was a manageable project for retaining-wall beginners such as ourselves.

First thing’s first, we dug out most of the stones that bordered the garden. Ultimately, we only built a new wall on the lower edge of the garden, but the border needed redoing anyway as it was a bit overgrown and eroded in other places.

20160507_180046.jpg

Then, we dug out part of the garden to re-define the border. When building up a retaining wall, you need to dig a trench several inches down and several inches deep, to fit the stone plus a base material – crushed stone or paver base, which we used. In retrospect, it wasn’t the best quality paver base, but hopefully it will be good enough to hold up our wall. The amount of paver base needed depends on the height of the wall you intend to build – we only built a wall about a foot or so tall, so only needed a few inches of paver base beneath the stones.

We measured out where we wanted the wall to sit, and placed a reference line. We intended the line to mark the height the stones would come to so we knew how deep to dig the trench, but ultimately it only served as a guide for the wall edge, as our height measurements were off. As a result of the line being off measure, we laid more paver base in a few places than was needed.

Once the trench was dug, we tamped down the dirt so it was packed well, then poured paver base over that and packed it down to level and was at appropriate thickness.

20160507_182938

 

20160507_183330

Then, we started laying stones. It was very fiddly work getting each stone placed, leveled front to back and side to side and with respect to the adjacent stone.

John thought to lay a test stack of stones for one corner, to work out the turn before starting for reals. We wanted to start in one corner, work across the front, and work the second corner (dig out more garden/trench if needed) to get the fit about right.

20160507_180058.jpg

The base layer of paver stones was the hardest part; after that we were able to stack stones on top fairly quickly. The 12x4x7 pavestone blocks we got from Home Depot have a locking flange on the back, which interlocks with the stone beneath it when stacked. We stacked the stones 3 high. Before the next layer of stones, we filled in behind the previous layer with dirt.

20160508_193106

20160514_081413

20160514_083846

We worked on the edges after finishing the front and corners. We didn’t need the lowest level of stones to run the full length on the left side, as the ground level on the outside of the wall was higher, and the stones would be fully buried under several inches of soil. On the right side, the lowest level of stones runs the full length.

The project took about a week and a half to complete, from moving the original stones and digging out the garden to completing the wall.

Also, and this was only useful at the very end of the project, we got a free wheelbarrow from the previous owner of the house. The tubeless tire was flat, but John was able to re-seat the tire onto the rim and inflate it. Yay free wheelbarrow!

Sprinkler valves and such

20160515_131503

We installed a new manifold for a drip line system! And it was really easy!

The drip line install took only a few hours, besides the advanced research and planning. We had one sprinkler manifold which came with the house, and has three valves total. One valve goes to the front lawn, one for the back lawn area, and the third goes nowhere, as far as we can tell. We capped off the manifold outlet of that mystery third valve.

But the yard is big, and the existing manifold is too far from the garden and hops and future grape vines. However, there is a faucet on the other side of the house nearer the garden on which we were able to add a manifold system for sprinklers. The setup we have now connects directly to the faucet, but we eventually want to solder in a new pipe so the manifold can be standalone.

Running drip line requires lower pressure than sprinklers, so it is a bit easier to have a separate manifold for sprinklers and for drip lines. The lower pressure also means that the hose pressure has to be reduced, using a pressure regulator in line. The pressure regulator we used also has a filter. It is also necessary to have a backflow preventer between the faucet and the valves.

The faucet connects to the backflow preventer, then a 6′ length of hose, which then connects to that pressure reducer. After that, the 3-valve manifold connects via some adapters. Two of the outlets of the manifold are capped – we don’t need a third valve setup yet (though we will once we plant grape vines) and the end of the manifold doesn’t go anywhere. The two valves are connected to the manifold via manifold swivel adapters, then the other side of the valve has an adapter/reducer combo to go from 1″ threaded to 1/2″ barb fitting. The poly tubing which carries the water to its final destination is clamped onto that barb fitting.

20160515_133755

We built up the manifold and valves first, flushed the valves out to clear out any debris that might be in the system as instructed, and wired them to the sprinkler controller in the garage. John tested the valves with the sprinkler controller to make sure they were working correctly.

20160515_155724

From there, it was as simple as laying the poly tubing where we wanted it to go and clamping off the end with a figure-8 hose end, which doubles the tube back on itself and holds that crimp in place. To place drip emitters where we wanted to water the hops, we used a hole punch (not that kind of hole punch) to make holes and pressed 2 GPH emitters into each hole.

20160515_161018

That’s it! It was much quicker to install than I expected, though did require a bit of advance research and planning. We will run another length of poly tubing for the garden drip zone once we finish prepping and fencing the garden plot, and get another valve and set up a third zone for grape vines soon.