Monday, May 25, 2015

Flagstone Path, Rain Barrel Install, and Hosta Planting

The area to the east of the garden shed was a total disaster when we purchased the house.  Besides the overgrown evergreens there was a huge dead crab apple, several large choke cherries, miscellaneous dead branches and waist high weeds.

Every year we worked a little on it until last year when we were finally able to till up the soil and somewhat level the dirt.  It was during the tilling that we found the steps that lead to the old tennis court.  The grade was about 6 to 8 inches higher in our back yard than it was at the top of the stairs.  I really wanted to utilize the steps because it is far easier to take the steps than to walk all the way around the garden shed and down the hill.  I raked and raked and could not blend the grade without having a steep grade from the lawn to the steps.  Since I wear flip flops ALL summer it can be slippery if the lawn is damp.  So I had to put on my thinking cap and come up with something.

Over the years we have found a lot of stuff in the yard and rather than throw the stuff away we just make a pile here and there until the light bulb turns on and we think of a way to use the stuff.  One of the piles was for the green shingles for the roof of the garden shed but another pile was of large pieces of flag stone.  These would work perfect for a pathway if there was enough of them and that was a big IF.  So on Saturday we hauled them all over to the side of the garden shed and was just starting to lay them out when we received a phone call from our son.  He needed his dad to go with him to bump off the sprint car because he had a race on Sunday and needed to shake down the engine because it was rebuilt this past winter.  So off we went.

For those that don't know about this type of racing this type of car is referred to as a sprint car.  They can be asphalt or dirt style and winged or non winged, this one is a dirt non wing sprint car.  Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, AJ Foyt, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, and Kyle Larsen all raced sprint cars before they ended up in NASCAR.  This particular sprint car has a 700+hp methanol engine.  These cars do not have starters and need to be pushed by a truck to get them started.  There are many arguments for and against starters but mostly it is a tradition thing along with the fact that it would need a heavy duty starter to turn over such a high compression engine. Add the fact that a dirt clod could take it out during a race and most importantly it is added weight and in the world of power to rate ratio the mere mention of weight has engine builders pulling their hair out.

At the track my daughter in law gets the sprint car lined up using her ATV and then a truck will push my son's sprint car out onto the track to get it started.  My husband was going to use his truck to push the sprint car so they needed to protect the fuel cell nerf bar with a tire tread to prevent damage to the fuel cell. Normally that ugly tire tread is not on the car....LOL
G uses an empty road in an industrial complex when he needs to bump off the car.  That's slang for push starting and is not gangster for killing someone.  The first attempt resulted in an aborted attempt when my husband noticed fuel leaking from a fitting on the fuel cell.  Alky fires are scary. Once that was fixed the second attempt started the engine.
You have no idea how powerful these cars are until you stand next to one while it is idling. You can really feel it when G gave it throttle as the car sat there warming up.  Once G determined everything was OK and that the engine was completely warmed up, he cut the fuel off and we loaded it back up into the trailer.
He has an electric winch that pulls the race cars up into the enclosed trailer but you still need to line everything up and get it onto the tail gate ramp.  B and G take their nephews to the race track and B said she has had to correct them when they call it a wench....LOL  Boys will be boys.

FYI this is the same type of car my husband raced.  My son also races the winged version and a dirt modified.  Both my husband and my son have also raced asphalt modifieds.  My husband no longer races because of vertebrae damage in his lower back.

So by the time we got back home we were exhausted and called it a day.  No biggie the forecast for Sunday was zero percent chance of rain.
Sunday morning was cloudy.  R was concerned it might rain but I assured him that I had just checked the weather report online and it said ZERO percent chance of rain.  We walked outside and it started sprinkling.  We worked through the sprinkles and it finally stopped.

We laid out the walkway with several shallow steps to accommodate the grade difference.  We used every piece of flagstone except for three small pieces.  I laid them aside to later put in the stone pile.
Next was the rain barrel.  They suggest that you sit the barrel on a patio slab so that you can level the barrel for safety reasons.  The instructions said that a full barrel of rain water can weigh 500 pounds. So it was back to our pile of stuff to look for a patio slab.  We had one 24 X 24 inch slab that was given to us by the same friend who gave us the concrete bird bath pedestal that we bought a top for last week.  The only problem was that one of the corners was broken off but we did have the piece.

Supplied fittings that came with the rain barrel
We leveled an area and laid the slab with the broken corner up against the house and facing a hosta plant which should cover the broken corner.  Actually you can hardly see that it's broken because R placed the broken corner back in place after we leveled and back filled around it.

We then added all the fittings to the barrel.  You have several options depending on if you are going to fill a watering can, attach a drip hose or if you are going to connect several barrels together.  We intend to fill a watering can but we still used the lower hole (drip hose hole) and just attached a section of hose about 5 feet long.  Why didn't we use the higher hole?  Once the water level gets below the spigot you would be without water and I wanted to utilize the entire capacity of the barrel.

There are also several styles of barrels and several ways to set them up.  We live in the north and will need to return our downspouts to normal operation in the fall so we will install a diverter in the downspout.  This diverter will allow water to spill onto the top of the barrel and fall into the barrel through the screen to filter out particles.  In the fall we will empty the barrel and store them in the shed.  The diverter will flip up and allow the down spout to work in a normal manner.  If we lived in a warm climate the set up would have the down spout enter directly into the top of the barrel.

I planted the remaining new hostas (purchased last year) on the east side of the shed while R riveted the new elbow to the bottom of the downspout.  We had a traditional elbow but needed to change to the sideway elbow because of the rain barrel.
Fragrant Queen 
June Fever
Lakeside Paisley
Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Then it started to rain....yup rain...even thorough there was a ZERO chance of rain.  B and G were on there way to the race track when it started to pour and his race was cancelled due to rain just as they arrived at the race track.

We still need to install the diverter but I just ordered them from a company in Canada.  I can buy metal ones here in the US for 45 bucks plus shipping or I can get white vinyl like our down spouts from a company in Canada for 12.95 plus shipping.  It was less expensive ordering directly from the company than buying them off of eBay from a Canadian seller who was charging 56 bucks for shipping.
Also, we need to install an over flow hose for when the barrel fills to the top.  You do this by attaching a hose to a fitting at the top of the barrel so you can direct the run off away from the barrel. We intend to use a section of hose and run the hose over to a small spruce tree.
So far we like the looks of the rain barrel and how it blends with the grey shingles.  Of course it will look a lot better once the hostas get bigger and I get all the weeds pulled out of the hosta bed, grass seed laid, and the weeds are gone on the hill. But for's a huge improvement.

Tomorrow I'll show you our two latest curbside treasurers.