The back yard is finished?

May 17, 2016

Well the back yard is finished as far as adding the last wood mulch path/section. I can’t do much in the area that contains Mom’s chickens, but I have to say the birds are doing an outstanding job on working the compost pile and the egg count is holding steady despite the fact the chickens are getting a bit old.  Setting up the 4 foot high temporary fence that funnels the bird to the compost pile is working out much better than installing a temporary fence to keep the chicken out of the garden area.

The sod is doing okay but I have noticed some drying out of the grass at the seams and where I sort of cut and patched in sod in odd geometric areas.  Also a couple of my sprinklers did not do a great job of watering the sod.  If you add sod or grass seed you will need lots of water daily to get the grass established.

Now the first area I put down new grass seed is getting a nice green look. A few things I recommend.  Buy seed that is good for your zone. while some grass seeds produce a soft lawn like a carpet. I went with a fescue blend or garden seed and the sod was a mix of Bluegrass and fescue grasses  Also take in consideration if you have full sun or shady areas. Water daily or perhaps twice a day. Improve/Augment  your soil before you add grass seed.

I don’t avoid walking on the sod as it  has been in placed fairly well, but you don’t want to walk on any new grass seed areas. Most of the area I’m growing grass needed some soil augmentation. Adding in soil and compost may cost a few dollars and is a pain in the butt.  The better you make your soil, the better results you will see in the long term. Once some grass has grown and then I gently rake in new grass seed.  Over seeding a couple of times  has worked very well for me.

I’m getting rid of three of the raised bed gardens as I think the garden section of the yard has fairly good soil after the break down of the mulch for 2 years and all the stuff I have added via compost and manure.  Don’t get me wrong Raised beds and container garden worked great for me when I had terrible soil. Now my soil is better so I get to try out a new system for the garden area.

Will my new concept of the garden area work?  I haven’t a clue, but if it does work taking care of the garden should be simple and less work in the long term.

 


The last of the contractors are gone and all jobs are done.

May 12, 2016

Demon Murphy showed up on the last job with the drywall but things are still working out very well. I give most of the contractors an A+ on the job and a B grade goes to the contractor that broke the drain hose/ PVC connection while pulling out the washer to get at the drywall job.  There was also a little over spray but Mom got it all cleaned up while it was damp.

We need to paint and I’m going with Kill-Z as my primer/sealer. Now that the contractors are done with their work, I need to paint. Once basic paint work is done I will post some pics. Overall I have had good luck picking contractors and the city of Nampa has a few more good solid contractors for the city. I got at least 3 bids for every job, several contractors I did not pick got into the city system for future jobs.  It may sound a bit silly but all contractors were doggie tested and approved.  I think animals pick up on body language and the pets don’t get faked out by those that talk a “good game”.  Even the city of Nampa person was amazed about how great the people/contractors worked out. Well if my dog doesn’t like you. I’m going to give you some extra scrutiny. If my dog likes you, only normal levels of scrutiny.

While I don’t think I’m all that special. I think the city of Nampa folks likes me since I continue to make my yard great. It was a bit funny as a guy from the office asked where I got my cistern, mulch, soil and sod for the back yard project. I’m not alone on working towards some self-reliance. Every person that gets prepared or works towards self-reliance is one less target and one more potential ally.

Laying mulch pathways is not easy or cheap. It is a great way to add organic material to bad dirt and star building a topsoil as well as conserving water on lawns & gardens. Mulch is great for leveling dirt paths and provides a soft cushion if you fall.  Hell just not worrying about twisting an ankle is worth all of the paths I have set done.

I’m at the lower end of the economic food chain and I got all this work done with some help of the city government and I’m sure some federal money was involve. These things can work and we should not throw the “baby out with the bath water”.  These sort of jobs need to be focused on people that will improve them selves and not just looking for another handout.

I probably added a few grand of value just by cleaning up the stuff that was out of code. But I have seen this house valued as low as $55 grand  and as high $135 grand.  It’s just my little house I will make the best I can so it works for me. I ain’t looking to sell or take out a heloc.


Using Landscape timber, weeding and the little garden cart

May 10, 2016

For the border around the rock entrance way and chicken pen I used landscape timbers rather than the concrete borders. My reasoning is both Mom and I have bad knees and we tend to drag our feet rather than not so tall to step over stuff, especially when we get tired from working on the yard.  The landscape timbers have a rounded edges, so we don’t tend to to catch a toe or foot that can make us fall. The landscape timber I’m referring too is the stuff you see and home improvement stores that they use with concrete blocks to make a small border fence around displays outside the store. Mom fed the chickens and had no problems with navigating the new wood borders even with her stiff knee but both she and I can have a few problems with the scalloped edged concrete edge borders when we are tired.

I cut into the bare dirt in order to place the timbers so they would be tall enough to keep the rock and mulch in place, but so tall they would trip us up as we work in the backyard. I know most people don’t break up a yard in sections but I’m very pleased how the mulch pathways and different sections are working out. While I’m breaking up the yard into sections I’m planing to eliminate several of the raised beds for the garden.  The mulch has broken down and has improved the clay soil beyond my wildest dreams. I will be eliminating 3 of the 4 raised beds and going with a bit more traditional garden rows this year.

The areas that have grass seed got weeded and the grass is growing. So far I have added grass seed several times and I am water those area a lot more than I thought would be needed. But we do have grass growing along with some weeds. Mom helped me clean out the weeds in the backyard strips along the borders/mulch.  Grass seed needs to be watered daily and be prepared to reseed every week until the grass gets starting out. Speaking for myself it seemed the grass seed was not growing for a week or two and then it suddenly started growing. Remember the grass will look a bit thin and it will take some time to fill in bare areas.

Mom and I did a bit of weeding and I love the new little garden cart I got at Fred Meyer. I was still a bit sore in the lower back, but my knees were saved from the pain squatting to pull weeds. I really like as I can toss all my small gardening tools in the little garden wagon.

Do your best to make all jobs as easy as possible because if the SHTF you will be working hard just to do basic stuff to survive. Mama nature does not care about me being a Vet or being disabled. I have to be creative as much as possible because this test is a Pass/Fail. You live you pass this test.


Sod is finished Huzzah!

May 5, 2016

This is the before and after on the sod project. The rest of the grassy areas will be done with grass seed. One mistake I made with the grass seed was not keeping the ground wet. I’m now watering the grass seed areas daily and it has helped get the new grass areas started growing. I will be using landscape timbers as a border on the right and at the rock entry area at the back gate. The last job will be adding in more mulch on the right  and that should keep down the weeds and break down to add organic material to the dirt.

Mom did a great job on cleaning up the grape vines and the alley way. Now I can add the sedums, plant the sunflowers and add more mulch to keep down the weeds and hopefully the new plants will start choking out the weeds. Just killing or pulling weeds is not enough if you want to have good soil and growing spaces. You got to help mama nature by replacing the weeds with good plants.

Now that we have the backyard mostly finish mom and I can concentrate on the garden area.


I started laying out the sod

May 4, 2016

Laying out sod isn’t cheap but it seems to be a good choice for the small area I want grass for the doggies. The area I’m laying the sod is 30 feet by 12 feet so about 20 rolls of sod is enough to cover the area.  I laid out 12 rolls of sod today and another 8 rolls should finish up the job. The other areas along the borders I have planted grass seed and while slower, it is also a lot easier on the budget. Prepping/building up your soil is critical for both grass seed and sod along with keeping the ground, grass seed and sod damp so the grass can take hold and put down good roots.  The internet has great info about how to lay out sod as well as calculating the cost. You will get sod for about 30 cents per square foot and if you have poor soil figure about 30 cents per square foot to improve the soil. 65 -75 cents per square foot is a good guesstimate for the cost of sod but if you have time for growing grass from seed you can half that cost.  Of course if you buy sod in bulk you will probably get a better price.  If you have someone else install the sod you should double the price because of labor.  I think most people could handle laying sod as a DIY project and save some money at least if you want to sod a small area and not a whole yard.

For grass seed or sod you will need to prepare the soil.  A de-thatching rake is perfect for cutting into bare dirt to make it easier for the grass to put down roots.  Also a de-thatching rake is great for keeping a lawn healthy.  I’m adding a lot of top soil as well as some Steer manure/compost mix to augment the clay soil I have in the backyard. Mom’s chickens are doing a great job turning over the compost pile, but I’m still learning the best way to incorporate the compost in my yard work and building the soil. If you decide on sod, lay out the rolls off set sort of like tile so the “seams” of the sod are not all parallel or you will get gaps.  Plan your yard to make all yard work as easy and quick as possible while being inviting.  Using mulch and rock to block weeds, creating borders and paths ways will stop you from creating bad/dead areas in your lawn plus cut down on weeding or using a weed wacker around trees that may cut into the trunk and give an opening to bad bugs. While I’m cheating by adding sod for a quick lawn area I’m also looking at what the yard will look like in the future as well as how functional it is for ease of work.

A few things I noticed about laying out sod. The dogs love having the grassy area and have not done as much digging where I have planted grass seed in other areas. By adding mulch and now the sod we have several nice soft areas that are a pleasure to walk on and will help cushion falls. This is a great thing considering my handicap and works well for anyone with weak bones.  A big plus for me is I’m leveling my backyard and no longer fear twisting an ankle then falling down on hard soil or concrete paths. Mulch paths help retain water and healthy grass will help a lot blocking any weed growth.  Healthy plant growth really cuts down on the mud the dogs bring in. Last winter was a nightmare of mud because I had so much bare ground. Gosh if I had kids it would have ten times worse.

One last thing. If you have a clay soil don’t add sand for drainage as you will make a terrible concrete. Add organic material such as a wood mulch or compost. This is a slower method but after the mulch/compost breaks down over the winter you will have better soil for plants and or a garden.  Using sand for leveling if building a stone wall, deck or garden bed borders is okay. Building good soil can take years depending on your dirt.  Remember if you have lots of weeds your soil is probably missing something. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to experiment with solutions. The solutions may not work but at least you will have learned something practical and not just based on theory.

Don’t be afraid to screw up as that is how you learn. The school of hard knocks may seem a little expensive but it is still a lot cheaper than a college degree and you get to try out both theory and practical applications of your knowledge.

 


Roof is done

April 30, 2016

I could not believe how quickly the roofers got the job done.  From the time the the truck delivered the shingle to when the roofers left about 8.5 to 9 hours. The clean up was good and I only had a couple of plants sort of bent over in the front yard beds.  I don’t know a lot about roofs but what little I picked up everything looks good. The roofers added a couple more vents so this summer things should be cooler in the house.

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Another nice touch is all my gutters got cleaned out so the roof area is pretty much ready for fall. That was the biggest job and all that is left is getting the Kitchen ceiling taped and textured.

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The light is good right now and I expect once the ceiling is finished it will get better overall.

Here are a couple of better pictures of the Back yard work so far. After I add the sod next week I will post up a few more pictures.

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You can see the tree ring I did with a bit of small pebbles around the apple tree. The grass sod will be on the left hand side of the border so the pups will have a nice grassy area in the back yard. The back yard is starting to come together for this summer.

 

 


April showers are good!

April 24, 2016

Had a good rain and the weather is going to be a bit unsettled all week. Another wind storm is coming through should finish off all of the tree shedding stuff.  The rain barrel and cistern added more water.The cistern is over 50 gallons and the last rain barrel is about 3/4ths full.  Once the windstorm passes I can clean out the gutters again and trim off all of the dead tree limbs. Mom can’t wait to break out the little chainsaws and get to work on trimming up the bigger stuff in the backyard. The weather forecast this week looks good for more cleaning up of the grape vines.

I’m going to pull down the temporary fence around the container garden since the chickens seem to be happy in the small fenced off area that includes the compost pile. I can’t believe how much work the birds have done “turning over” just by scratching around in the compost pile a couple of hours per day.  This a win/win as the birds get what they want in bugs and I get the piled turned over with minimal physical effort from me.

I’m going to add a some sod to the grass areas I have already prepped with soil and steer manure. When I pulled the little stone pavers for the back gate entry way I noticed that earthworms were starting to migrate to the mulch areas. I have also noticed the water retention of the bad soil areas seems to be getting better as there is not as much puddling of water. I will be moving a few things around as I’m trying to be flexible enough to work with Mama Nature. I have been surprised by how my dogs use the mulch pathways, compared to the sidewalks or just dirt areas for getting around and where they poo. While I have not walked across the mulched pathways with bare feet. The difference compared to walking across concrete or even soil/ hard pan is significant. If you fear falling for what ever reason. I would recommend adding mulched path ways to your yard. Plus once you lay out a basic layer of wood mulch topping it off every year of two does not cost a lot of money. Like most things the startup costs can be a little high, but maintaining it is low cost. Especially considering all the benefits you get on improving soil and water retention immediately.

I’m adding some “Dragon’s Blood” sedum ground cover to the alley way garden area along with some sun flowers.  My hope is adding these new plants will start to overwhelm the “cheat grass” that is sprouting up.  I see the sun chokes are starting to put out new growth  when I planted them last year.  At this point of time I’m not harvesting the sunchokes as I want them to spread and help choke out the weeds. I have to say the “black walnut leaf” killer mulch did a great job but I did not have a good plan for replacement plants this spring. The low growing sedum and hopefully the mossy rose will re-seed this year. That is my alley way garden replacement plan for the weeds this year.

I dropped the ball on how well I expected the compost pile to add to my yard but overall I think Mom’s chickens will make a big difference this year in the quality of the compost. I’m doing a lot of work and investing in products for the backyard but I’m seeing some results though it is slower than I anticipated originally. Overall I’m pleased as I am making good progress on a sustainable system despite a few setbacks.