Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Just what I need....

....another hosta bed!  What do you plant on the north side of the house that will keep the dirt from splashing onto the house?  Hostas...of course.

We figured that we might as well plant this bed now since hostas take several years to become established.  The price was right for this!  The hostas were plants that we already owned and divided and the rocks were quietly waiting in a pile to be placed somewhere.

I have been adding soil along this side of the house over the last month or so.  The lawn sloped towards the house and towards the east.  We think we have raised it enough to keep the rain from running towards and downhill to the east.  Once the gutters are installed this problem should be a problem no more.
I scored the sod with a sharp flat shovel once we had enough soil in place.  This made it possible for R to come along and shave the sod away.  The sod that was removed was placed upside down under the deck to start filling in low areas.  Nothing goes to waste here at The Gear.  We recycle dirt and rocks!!!

Once the sod was gone we outlined the bed with rocks to mimic the beds on the other sides of the house.  R picked through the pile of rocks and I placed the rocks along the edge.

Next came the fun part....planting the hostas.  I knew I wanted blue hostas because of the north location.  Hostas that are classified as blue actually have a coating of wax on the leaves.  You must keep them out of the sun or the wax melts and you end up with green leaves.  I also wanted yellow hostas to contrast nicely with the blue.

While weeding last week, I ran across a Krossa Regal hosta that was crowded between two other hostas.  I like Krossa Regal because of the vase shape and it's blue.  The vase shape allows you to plant a low growing hosta  underneath the Krossa Regal to get a layered look.
The other hostas I chose were three First Frost hostas still in the pots, that I purchased on close out last fall.  First Frost is a low growing medium sized blue and pale yellow hosta.  Perfect for layering under the Krossa Regal.

I also planted a Cherry Berry which is a yellow slender leaved hosta with red in the stem.  I rounded out the bed with Dream Queen, Marilyn Monroe, and a miniature called Little Treasures.

The bed looks sparse right now but once it fills in next year it will look fabulous.  I forgot to take a photo of the bed after I planted the hostas so the bed doesn't look quite as sparse as the photos represents.

What's next?  One more hosta bed to weed.  Then of course we need to mow.  If we get a stretch of no rain, we might start taking the shingles off the front of the house.  Basically we play it by ear and if we feel like digging we dig, if we feel like demoing we demo.  So I guess we've been feeling weedy lately...can ya dig it???

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Ran out of rocks and energy just about the same time.  You just can't plan it any better than that.
We finished putting the remaining rocks under the roses.  We will need at least another 1/2 yard of rocks but we can do that at any time because once the rocks make it to The Gear, the process goes fairly fast.  Now getting the rocks to The Gear is another story.  R has to drive very slow since the weight of the stones maxes out the capacity of the truck.  He makes sure they place the rocks/stones slightly in front of the rear axle.  The S10 already has 450K miles on it and we probably should not overload it because at anytime it could decide it's the last mile.
While listening to the later laps of the Nationwide race, we continued our ongoing weeding of the large hosta bed along the fence row.  Earlier in the spring we weeded the large hosta bed in the middle of the circle drive. So that leaves only one more hosta bed in the side yard left to weed.  It's a small bed and shouldn't take too long.
The hostas are getting to the point where they are considered mature and have their true characteristics.  I moved several today because they were next to a hosta that was too alike in color or size.  I found a small very blue pointy leaf hosta called Flemish Sky in the back of the bed where it could not be seen.  I had a bare spot in front of a chartreuse large hosta so I move it there for the contrast.

We have about half of the bed weeded.  We should finish up tomorrow unless it rains or if the temperature really get to 93 degrees we might not finish.  It is in the shade but 93 is hot, but then again I want to listen to the Indy 500 on the radio and weeding doesn't make any noise.  Well, maybe a little noise because every time I stand up straight I say..."Oh my back hurts.  I'm getting old."

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Rocking the new mailbox

We knew that something was needed to keep the dirt from washing away every time it rains.  We also knew that we wanted something that was fairly permanent, would stay put during rain and snow storms,  and was inexpensive.

In the past I have purchased my rocks at a local company and was always satisfied with the rocks I received from them.   So I decided that I would stop by to see the selection of rocks and decide if rocks were in the budget.
I knew I wanted something in the size range of river rock.  Larger than pea gravel and smaller than fist size.  They had an option called 4A Raw.  I have no idea what that means but it was $39 a yard.  Do I need a yard???  Would our S10 truck carry a yard of 4A Raw?  After speaking with a sales clerk we determined I needed 1/2 of a yard and the old S10 could carry it.

So for less than 20 bucks we have rocks for around the mailbox.  The rocks won't wash down the curb during the rain nor deteriorate away and need to be redone as would mulch.
We shoveled the stones around the mailbox to a depth of 3 to 4 inches.  But that didn't even put a dent into the pile of rocks in the bed of the truck.  So we decided to put the remaining rocks around the rosebushes that line the walkway to the kitchen door and edge the driveway.  This will requiring buying an additional 1/2 yard but we really like the looks of it, so far.  The light color of the rocks really show off the dark purple of the roses.  An added bonus is that it will keep the dirt from washing onto the walkway when we have a gully washer of a rain storm.

We ran out of steam about halfway through that project.  Luckily R had laid an old tarp in the bed of the truck and we were able to grab the edge of the tarp and pull the remaining rocks out of the bed of the truck.

Looks like the new rocks will get a little bath tonight when it rains.  

Friday, May 25, 2012

Retaining wall installed

We finished up the retaining wall installation.  But of course the project is not yet completed.
The main blocks are stacked on top of one another and back filled with gravel for drainage.  The caps are glued on with Loctite adhesive for stone and granite.  The adhesive takes at least 24 hours to cure so check your weather forecast so you have at least a 48 hour window of dry weather.  We also waited until later in the day when the sun was behind the trees before we used the adhesive.  This gave the blocks a chance to cool off before we applied the adhesive.

The next day we planted the area around the mailbox.  This can be a difficult area if you don't use hardy plants that can withstand the heat, cold, and road salt.  In an attempt to keep costs low for this project we used plants from elsewhere in the yard.
I have an abundance of spiderwort in three different colors.  I chose two spiderwort plants in the Concord Grape color.  I also added an Autumn Joy sedum, Pink Cone flower, and a iris of unknown color that was given to me several weeks ago. I could have used the day lilies that were planted around the old mailbox but I wanted plants that would give me early, mid, and late summer color.  The day  lilies are a one shot burst of color and then it's over.  I still need to dig up those daylilies but first I have to find some place to plant them.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Finishing this project is taking too long

Several days ago we ran out of cap pieces for the retaining wall along the driveway and behind the mailbox.  We went back to the Home Depot where we originally purchased the blocks and caps.  Only 7 remained and we purchased those pieces.

We then continued with the project and soon came to a stop when we needed more caps.  So the next day I went to the Home Depot in Fenton,  Mi.  They had 6 pieces, so I put those on a cart and went to a check out lane.

The cashier rang the pieces up for $1.00 more than what I had been paying.  I informed her that they were $1.52 each but she assured me I was wrong.  It was hot and there was a long line behind me so I left with my over priced caps.

Today we went back to the first Home Depot and they still were out of stock on the caps.  R hunted down an orange aproned associate, which is ironic because when you don't need one they are constantly bugging you.  She called around and verified that they did not have any.  I showed her my receipt from the other store and she said the clerk had charged me for another style of cap and not the one I purchased.  So now I hope they believe me when I show them my receipt and say, "they overcharged me."  I saved another receipt that shows I purchased the correct style.

While at the original Home Depot we noticed that the pallet said "Grand Blanc Cement Products".  Hmmmm could they have purchased these blocks from there?  So off to Grand Blanc Cement Products.  Once there, we needed to hunt down a sales clerk.  R shows her the cap we are looking for and she says we don't make those.  R tells her about the pallet.  She says "they are using our pallets."  Great another dead end.

So off to yet another Home Depot.  Lo and behold they have them in stock for the correct price of $1.52.  As we lay the last cap on the starts to rain.  Unbelievable.

We have some of the caps glued in place.  We used an adhesive in a caulking tube that is made by Loctite and is used for cement and stone.  The first tube glued 10 caps.
Tomorrow is mowing day so Wednesday is the next day to work on the wall and with any luck we will finish it.

Friday, May 18, 2012

We're exhausted but progress was made

I feel like someone ran over me with a truck. We installed about 2/3 of the blocks.  I need to purchased more plus the cap pieces.  Thank goodness we don't do this for a living.  It is probably easier with big equipment and soft soil to shovel but this little bit was a nightmare.
Of course , we still need to back fill  and plant flowers etc.  But that HAS to be easier than what we did today.  The ground was so so hard and filled with crushed rock that it made every small shovel full extremely difficult.
We have this short 4 foot long area to finish.  The plan is to stop at the gate post.  I'm estimating 8 blocks so I will buy 10 to make sure.  We will wait until next week to put the cap on.  I'm thinking we need a break from retaining wall stuff.  But then again, I would like to get this unpleasant project off my list to I can start removing cedar shingles.
It will be nice not to constantly have dirt pooling at the end of the driveway.  This will keep it tidier.  The grass never grew too well on the slope, it was mostly crab grass.  I tried to cut out as much of that as I could.  I'm thankful that the other side of the driveway does not have this drop off.

R had a great Curbside Treasure today.  I was so exhausted that I forgot to take a photo.  He had to make a U turn in front of the trash truck to grab it......LOL

Mailbox in place

We finished up the mailbox installation today.  The numbers that I bought for the post all needed to be trimmed down on each side so that they fit in the recessed area of the post.  R used aviation shears to cut the aluminum plates that I purchased the other day.  They are made of aluminum so that should make them maintenance free, which is what we are going for in this mailbox/post installation.
Next on the list is the retaining wall behind the mailbox post.  We picked the basic grey stacking blocks at Home Depot.  Nothing special just basic grey.  It will probably require two rows and then the flat cap piece.  The landscaping plan is to plant something hardy, maybe Autumn Joy sedum and fill with small rocks.  Planting anything delicate would be a waste of time and $$$$.  This area gets LOTS of sun, heat, snow, and winter salt.  I've had good luck with Autumn Joy around the pillars so I guess you could say they are tried and true.

Might even add some day lilies for summer color.  I have some of the day lilies plants from R's childhood home.  They might contrast nicely with the post because they are very tall and pale yellow.  Plus, they are an older variety which is more age appropriate.  
Now off to bed.  The plan is to try and get two entire rows installed tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

New Mail Box Post

We were finally able to get around to continuing the new mail box post installation. 
The 4 X 4 post has had plenty of time to set up so we were ready to move on and slide the molded black plastic mailbox post over the 4 X 4.  It went on nicely and fits snug. So good.
Next we attached the arm that will hold the mail box.  Screws and decorative plastic caps were included.
Looking good...except that it now has dusty fingerprints ALL over it.  I'll give it a good wash after we are through with the installation.  This mailbox post is made by the Mayne Company.  They make several versions in white, black, and tan.  They also make planters and window boxes.  We liked the black verssion because it matched the wrought iron driveway gates.

Tomorrow we will install the mail box and add house numbers to the mail box post.  Then comes the hard part...landscaping around the bottom of the post.  Notice the elevation change, so that will require building a retaining wall.

Also tomorrow we will be able to toss that ugly mailbox post into the burning pit.  This new post will never need painting unlike the old post that required a yearly coat of paint thanks to the snow plow snow blasting it every winter.

Camera Woes

This camera fiasco is starting to seriously crimp my photo taking.  I can't seem to send a photo in an email nor insert one into a Craigslist listing BUT I can insert them into my blog.  I'm beginning to think that it might be the size of the photo that is keeping me from inserting into an email.

I even tried my cell phone camera and that doesn't insert the photo into an email either.

So my only recourse until I can figure it out is to post the photos here on my blog.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Let the new mail box installation begin

We started digging for the new mail box installation since we are in small short project mode until the weather stabilizes.

The winter of 2011 was not kind to our mail box post.  The mail box survives the snow plow but the post did not.  Heavy wet snow being flung from a plow doing 50mph+ can kill even the best of mailbox posts.  Ours was not the best so if didn't withstand the power of speeding slush.

This area has always been a pain in the butt.  When the curb was installed many moons ago, they never bothered to grade the earth accordingly.  When we purchased the house in 2004 the curb was not even visible because the dirt and grass were growing right over the top of it.  During one of our many "let try and find the edge of the driveway" escapades we found the curb.

Once we cut the dirt back from the curb we were left with the lawn being on one elevation and the curb about 6 inches lower.  It made mowing a real nightmare plus it just plain ugly.  We spent last summer trying to think of solution.

We did manage to at least buy a new mail box post.  I wanted something that did not need paint.  The flinging slush works as a sand blaster and I just do not have the time to paint my mail box post every year.  We settled on a molded plastic post in black plastic and molded to look like it was made of wood.  The design is a paneled look base with a decorative arm to hold the mail box.  The black will match the black iron gates that are close by.
First, we dug out the corner where we are installing the post.  That area has about 6 inches of top soil and then goes right to a thick slimy clay.  Next, R started to dig the hole.  He got to about the 24 inch mark when he hit ground water.  clay and water = big mess.
The old mailbox did not originally hang out over the curb like it is now.  The only area soft enough to dig when the plow destroyed the post in the middle of the winter was the very edge.  So R dug there and installed a 5 gallon bucket with sand and placed the broken off post into the sand.
Finally we installed the 4 X 4 cedar post and currently waiting for the concrete to harden before we move on to the next step.

While R dug...I swept the curb and removed a winters worth of dirt and bits of junk.
I forgot to take a before photo, so all I have is the photo of piles of dirt and the final 'after' photo.
Ahhhhh.....clean curb.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Flood Update

Within 3 days, the creek water had retreated back to it's banks but it left in it's wake a big mess.  It will be weeks before we can walk on the lawn to pick up the twigs and branches.
Missy, the peacock, was gone for 2 days following the intense rain.  I have no idea where she was hunkered down at but when she showed up at her feed bowl...she was not happy.  You could just tell that her routine was messed up and this gal loves her routine which is eat some bugs, eat some seeds, visit the neighbors, keep the cats away from her water bowl, eat some bugs, take an afternoon nap in the sun, eat some bugs.
She's happier now that she can walk around the back yard eating bugs and worms.  Notice the high water marks on the trees.

In between rain storms we weed and mow the lawn.  We mow, it rains, it grows, we mow.  Repeat.

Last week I listed down tree wood for free on Craigslist.  So on Sunday they came and dragged the wood out of the pool.  We kept their phone number and will  call them later in the year when we cut down that leaning box elder tree.  We have enough cut wood for ourselves for the next decade so it is nice to have someone else come and pick it up.  We don't even need to cut it into small pieces.  They used a wench to drag the huge pieces into their trailer.

Until we get a stretch of dry weather we will continue to weed and trim.

Last Saturday I attended a cheese making class with my sister and niece in Ann Arbor.  OMG home made cheese is to die for and so easy and interesting to make.  We made several types of mozzarella.  One type involved making your mozzarella into a pouch which we then filled with grated mozzarella and heavy cream.  Then we tied it off.  The cream is absorbed into the cheese and OMG is it deleesh.

I bought a container of homemade cream cheese with bacon and scallions.  That was unbelievably good, too.

My sister and niece took me to a bubble tea place located within the college area of A2.  After taking 10 minutes for my sister to parallel park...I was thirsty or maybe sea sick from going in reverse and then forward and then reverse and then forward. Thank goodness she left that 3 foot space next to the curb for me to get out.  I could have tripped over the curb if she had gotten TOO close.  LOL

I had no idea what bubble tea was or is or tastes like or what is even in bubble tea.  I ordered mine and they handed it to me along with a straw.  I looked at the straw and thought to myself  "that's a frigging big straw."  I then started to walk away from the counter sipping at the same time when I nearly choked.  I had no idea there were little round gummie balls in the bottom of the drink glass.

The round thingies look like salmon eggs.  I think in the future I'll pass on the bubble tea but I can now cross that off my list of things to try.

We then headed to Blimpe Burger for a burger.  Guy Fieri from Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives went there once for his TV show.  They make a double hamburger with a fried egg on it.  I passed on the egg but the burger was very very good.  Onion rings....not so much.

Here is a quick photo that I snapped of my burger.  It's a double on pumpernickel, with ketchup, mustard, pickle, onion, and green olives. 
This photo is of the location.  It's the little tiny place where the car is parked.  I swear that most people's living rooms are larger than this place.

As we headed out of Ann Arbor we stopped one last time at Whole Foods.  I'll admit it...I was a Whole Foods virgin.  This is just my opinion.  It's a nice place but who could shop there every week???  It's sooooo expensive.  Check Whole Foods off my To Do List.

Friday, May 4, 2012

100 Year Rain Event

.....and more on the way.

The Gear is on high ground and probably on the highest elevation in Grand Blanc so it should be dry.  Unfortunately our other house is located next to a creek so it looks like we have lake front property.

See the little ducks swimming their little feathery butts off?
Here are some Canada geese trying to decide which puddle to jump in.....the big one or the even bigger one.

It has only flooded once before in the 24 years that we have owned this house.  It was from a rain event associated with a hurricane that hit the east coast.  The water took two days to recede and return to it's banks but the lawn took a month to dry out and even longer for the stinky silt to go away.  PLUS the amount of debris you have to pick up is huge.  You get all the broken tree limbs and cut wood that people store by the edge of the creek.  Then there are the various fast food Styrofoam cups, miscellaneous plastic, and basically anything that floats and ends up left behind.

Off to the post office.  I have to rethink my route and make sure I avoid all low areas.  They have closed I75 and I69 because of flooding.

With more rain in the forecast.....I'm going to go out on a limb and say things will be wet.