Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Yard carnage

The grass in the front yard is dead.  I didn't like it much in the first place, and just stopped watering it during the drought-induced water restrictions with a vague notion that I'd eventually get around to replacing it with some combination of drought-tolerant and native plants. 

With the wet fall planting season now upon us, and some house-project momentum, I decided it was time to attack this project. Take the shovel out to the front yard, dig up the grass, and loosen everything up so it is easy to put new plants in.  It's only about 400 square feet.  How hard could it be?

Oh, the woe of magnolia roots....  I suspected there might be a few, but the situation is ridiculous.  Basically, under the top centimeter of dirty is a layer of densely matted, tangled, snakey roots throughout the entire former lawn.  Not just small roots either.  I swear some of them are braided, and others tied in knots.  Recall that the city contractor who replaced the sidewalk in front of our house a couple of years ago referred to these roots as "anacondas".  Don't even get me started on what they do in the vicinity of the broken sprinkler head.  Clearing them is not an easy task.

After unsuccessfully clearing the first strip despite great effort, I stumbled back into the house and told Chad that I needed an army of Vikings to come hack the yard into small pieces.  He responded, "Do I need to get you a Pulaski?"

A Pulaski, for the uninitiated, is a firefighting tool that has a head that combines an axe and a mattock.  He used one back when he worked for the Forest Service.  Very good for creating firebreaks, or for digging out nasty horrible root-infested former lawns.  I had no direct experience with this tool, but after looking it up, decided it looked even better than the mattock that the contractor who had done a similar job on the neighbors' yard before they put it up for sale had used.

I suppose I *could* have hired someone to take care of it like a normal person, but it's more fun to get a new tool.  More satisfying to do it yourself, also.  Plus, you just have to love a spouse who says "Do I need to get you a Pulaski?"

Through the miracles of Amazon, the implement showed up on the front doorstep as I was leaving for a bike ride on Saturday.  It even matches my bike jersey!  Muahahahaha!

On Sunday,   I headed outside to try it out.  And boy, the Pulaski is a beautiful thing.  You can chop, dig, pry, and hack those horrible roots out.  It's still hard work, but is so much easier and completion of the task has moved into the realm of actual possibility.  I got a few weird looks, but there was one passer-by who made a point of stopping and chatting about the project.  She had done something similar a couple of years ago, and fully appreciated the evil of the magnolia roots.

You can see how dense the roots are along the edge of the cleared section.  This is what the whole plot is like.

Half the yard done.  Yard waste bin full.  Hands tired.  Time to stop.

I headed back out today to work on it some more after my bike ride, figuring that I was already all sweaty so a little more dirt wouldn't hurt.  I had just started happily hacking with the chorus from the witch scene from Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas" stuck in my head  ("Harm's my delight, and mischief all my skill!"; it's been stuck in my head since rehearsing it among other things last night for some upcoming Halloween concerts) when a car pulls up in the driveway of the house next door that is up for sale.  It turns out that the driver is one of the people who just bought it.  She came over and introduced herself and seemed pretty nice, though I am now imagining her relating to her spouse that she met the crazed axe-wielding neighbor today...

Through the back fence

Our projects are small potatoes compared to the yard renovation that the neighbors behind us just embarked on.  They're basically taking everything that was previously in the yard out, aside from a couple of mature fruit trees.  Given that the previous configuration was a lot of patio, this is a big change.  

After a full week of near-constant jackhammering to remove all that patio concrete, the fence came down, giving me an up close and personal view of the project.

At about 4pm every day, the "privacy shielding" would go up, sometimes in a rickety manner,

and sometimes more robustly.

Somewhere in here, one of the other neighbors on our side of the fence started getting overly worried about the project; I spent several days convincing her that nothing abnormal was happening, no one was going to break into her house, and that everything would turn out just fine.  The neighbors doing the project are reasonable, have given lots of notice, and don't appear to be asking anyone to pay their half of the fence, so I have no problems with any of it.  Plus they bribed me by leaving cookies in our mailbox :)

It was a bit odd when the plastic came down at 7:30 in the morning while we were still eating breakfast, but I decided it was just entertainment.  We call that back window the "kitty TV", and there was definitely out-of-the-ordinary programming on kitty TV for about a week and a half.

Cute little tractors,

a most excellent hole-digging augur,

dudes putting posts up,

dudes finding old concrete where they wanted to put new posts,

and eventually the beginnings of a fence.

It was a see-through fence for a day or so, but as I expected, it was filled in with more boards.

Now there is a very solid, very new fence along the half of the back yard that borders that neighbor.

I'm back to hearing lots of small tractor noises pretty much constantly, but no longer can see the progress unless I climb up the fence and peek over.  Which I do occasionally...  (lots of new trenches and a hole that looks like it might be for a water feature today)

Heap reduction

In an effort to set things up so that everything has a home in the bedroom, we recently headed to IKEA before dinner one night a week or so ago.  We came out with a truckload of parts for a storage unit to replace Chad's old bureau.  He rapidly went to work putting it together with his cute little impact screwdriver.

One always has to consult the IKEA directions a few times during the process and interpret the pictographs.

The cat, as you might expect, was somewhat perturbed.

Well, make that VERY perturbed.

And worried.  Eventually she found the pile of packing paper and adopted it as a nest from which to keep an eye on us.

Meanwhile, Chad made good progress,

until we got to the last drawer.  See the little circle showing the contents inside this box?  Black.  Supposed to be white.  Argh...

After going back to the store (annoyingly on the weekend, which made Chad realize why I had done the original trip on a weeknight), we got the correct piece and he finished the masterpiece, which might just be big enough to contain everything we would like to put away.

I can use the shower tomorrow: Bathroom part 3

Yes, it's been a long time.  First, there was a long wait for the countertop people to come out and measure and then fabricate the countertop.  Then, there was an even longer wait for the shower glass people to do the same.  That was finally installed yesterday; I am just waiting for the caulk to cure before I use it.

So when we last left, the room was at this stage;

 Then we got paint,

drawer handles and countertop material,

and plumbing.

Ooh, a toilet!  Note that the tank is in the wall to save some space.

Better view of the shower plumbing after they cleaned up:

Eventually we got the electrical and LED light fixture installed,

and yesterday they came and put in the shower glass (ugly red tape comes off tomorrow)

and a great big mirror :)

Putting the big mirror in and knocking out that wall really made the room feel a whole lot bigger.  Plus, the wall is no longer rotting out behind the shower!  I'm really looking forward to using it tomorrow.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Artistic Output of the Small Monster

While Nim cleaned her room before we repainted it, she ran across this gem of artistic output circa first grade in one of her old journals:

Page 1

Transcription in case you don't want to decode the handwriting (but you still get to decode spelling!):

The Great Journey
Once, on Ginger's Island, evreyone even Nimue complaned.  But Nimue Didn't for long, She went to talk to Ginger.  Ginger said "Me, you, and evreybody else have to take a trip." so one day evreyone went on a trip until they felt land.

All very nice, but then we turned to the next page.  Page 2 is what made us laugh so hard that Nim turned pink and we both had tears running down our faces.  Somehow, neither of us expected this transition:

And that's the end of the story, folks :)

In contrast, her output these days is much more sophisticated (but still pretty entertaining), as her most recent assignment for art class shows.  It's worth clicking on to enlarge it to look at all the little details of the drawing.