Thursday, March 3, 2011

"Please place box in shade - thank you"

That's the note I left for my letter carrier (see how PC I am?) yesterday.  Because the Happy D Ranch website has a LOT of disclaimers of how they will ship healthy, hungry worms, but that they are not responsible for worms whose box baked in a sunny mailbox all day.  Ewww. 

My worms did indeed arrive from Portland, Oregon yesterday.  Were they hungry?  I don't know.  Where they actively moving around?  Oh yes.

I had promised three neighbor girls that I would not open the box without them.  They were VERY excited.  Their ages are roughly 4, 6 and 8.  (I'm guessing.)  The two older girls were playing outside when I stepped out front, and as soon as they saw me they made a mad dash my way.  "Are they here??  Are the worms here??"  Yes, yes, they are.  I asked them to go find their neighbor friend who lives 2 houses down. 

Their method?  They saw their friend was also outside -- her playmate having just arrived -- and they stood in my front yard, flailed their arms wildly and screamed, "THE WORMS ARE HERE!  THE WORMS ARE HERE!"  The friend heard, positively shrieked, and joined the chorus as she ran our way -- "THE WORMS ARE HERE!  THE WORMS ARE HERE!"  It was nothing short of hysterical.

A short time later I had a group of about a dozen grown up and kids in my yard, and we opened the box.  Poked at the worms.  A collective, "ewwwww!" following by lots of laughing. 

We had a collaborative effort of setting up the worm condominium.  Newspaper was laid down, coir was mixed in a bowl with water (delightfully with bare hands) shredded newspaper was spread around, egg shells were crushed, coffee grounds and lettuce leaves were dispersed to a corner.  And then... the bag of worms was lifted out of the box.

 And then, ever so gently, the worms were moved into their new home:

The whole sha-bang was topped off with a layer of wet newspaper, and then the lid went on. 

A troupe of kids and adults headed off to the park, and 30 minutes or so later returned and begged to see the worms again.  I suggested we wait until Friday; "You know how traveling makes you tired?  The worms traveled across the country in the last 2 days.  And do you remember how exhausting it is to move into a new house?  They are doing that, too.  Let's let them rest a day or two and then we'll check on them."  While disappointed, they seemed satisfied with that answer, although the 4 year old threw herself dramatically across my lawn.

I dutifully left a light on over the condo overnight.  Since worms don't enjoy the light, it is supposed to encourage them to, you know, burrow down, unpack their things and get settled into their new place.  Not surprisingly, my dog is quite interested in the whole set up.  And because I'm not positive I've identified a totally-all-day-sun-free-zone in my yard, today I left the condo indoors.  I put both of my 10 lb. free weights on the lid before I left, lest the dog had too much time on her hands...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Yoga Platform Progress

I was off work yesterday afternoon, so I was able to work on the yoga platforms again.  Yay!   The sequence of events for construction is:

1)  Set corner support posts in concrete - done!  Two were done already and I had posts for the 3rd platform left to do.  I was worried that it would be really difficult to get them straight and in the exact location AND shovel the concrete around them by myself, but it actually turned out to be pretty easy.  So now all 12 posts are set and ready.  The concrete was cheap!  $2.47 per bag.  The project required 6 bags of QuikCrete.  The cedar posts totalled about $35.

2)  Dig up grass for each entire below-the-platform area (6' x 7'), plus a one foot additional perimeter area.  This is manual labor at its best (as my sister would say:  "reframe -- it's a great workout!")  I had one done and two to go.  Now I have 2 done and 1 to go.  It takes me about 2 hours per platform.  And then I have to deal with nearly 2 wheelbarrows full of dug up grass.  The grass from the first platform I put into my compost tumbler.  The grass from yesterday I bagged for bulk trash, because too much of one thing in the tumbler isn't so great for the compost formula.

3)  Lay out weed stop fabric for the area of each platform, and secure it to the ground with pins.  I've purchased two rolls of weed stop fabric, and two boxes of pins.  I haven't laid any of it out yet.  For each platform it will be a 7' x 8' area.  The fabric and the pins were about $75.

4)  Put down a layer of pea gravel on top of the weed stop fabric.  I selected pea gravel because it's inexpensive, and although isn't the most beautiful stuff and it has sharp edges, it really won't show.  It's purpose is to give the weed stop fabric extra staying power against weeds.  I don't want any greenery poking up between the planks over time, and then have to try to figure out how the heck to get under there to get rid of it!  Home Depot sells pea gravel for $3.87 for a 50# bag.  I'm guessing 3 bags per platform, but at this point that's truly a guess.  I'll definitely need Red's truck to get it home.

5)  Build frames and platforms.  Red is going to help me with this part.  Our current plan is to secure treated 2" x 4"S to the cedar posts with lag bolts.  That frame will become the support edges of the platform.  Then we'll affix lumber for the platform surface. (Hello compressor and nail gun!!  Yeehaw)  I think we are going to put the planks on a diagonal for visual appeal. 

We may use yellow pine 1" x 6's or we may use the cedar fence pickets again.  I think I would want to stain both of those, and will definitely water seal whichever I choose.  The cedar will weather better than the pine, but it also will require more sanding than the pine.  I probably will not make this decision until I am standing in front of the lumber in the store...

6)  Put down a 12" perimeter of river stone around each platform.  I think this will visually "ground" each platform and the round stones will be soothing to look at. 

7)  Then I'll start filling in with plants -- lavender, maybe some sedum -- I'll definitely want something fragrant back surrounding the platforms. 

It appears that I am going to meet my goal of having at least one platform before my sister arrives in a few days.  Aren't goals great?  The phantom deadline definitely worked for me.

I can already feel the platforms supporting me and grounding me, and the sun on my face.  And I have more than one neighbor who does yoga too!  One of them wants to be a yoga instructor, and another has a mother who is a yoga master!  I'll be in great company.  I can't wait!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


My neighbor came over Monday evening and we sat on my porch -- our second attempt to plan our gardens.  We didn't actually prepare any seed orders, but I did compile a dream list for this year.  Among the plants on it? 

Kale -- Wholefoods has me hooked on a raw kale salad that is divine. 
Rhubarb -- a childhood favorite --  I've never tried to grow it...
Moonflower -- a blooming vine whose fragrant flowers open at night.
A huge bed of lavender
Red and fingerling potatoes
Herbs.  A ton of herbs.  I didn't get very many in last year!

I think last year I got too hung up in details and structure, and my garden wasn't as successful as I would have liked.  This year I am going to relax a bit, plant the things that I am dying to eat.  I did plant things that I enjoy eating last year, but the garden I planted was the "here are the 12 traditional vegetables every garden should have."  Yeah... I'm not going to be quite as well rounded this year!

Our evening inspired me to get my sunflower seeds started indoors.  I had saved all my leftover seeds from last year.  I got them out of the freezer and looked... hmmm no Mammoth Sunflower seeds, but I found a sunflower seed mixture.  Last year I also saved a bunch of pots and trays from the seedlings I bought -- just for this purpose!  I trundled to my garden shed, grabbed a bucket, and mixed up some potting soil, some Perlite, and some Redenta's Bed Prep.  I put the pots in their original tray for good drainage, and then put that tray on a melomine tray for easy transport.  Here's the end result:

I put them out on my porch in the sun in the morning, and bring them inside in the evening.  When our nights warm up a bit I'll be able to leave them outside at night.  Very fun!   I think I am going to plant them on the driveway side of the porch -- they should make a nice screen.  And speaking of the porch?  My porch furniture?  Some of the best money I've spent recently.  I am using it a LOT.  So comfy and calm out there. Ahhh. 

Morning Garden Walks

Sort of by chance I did the my first morning garden walk of the year this morning.  And as it turns out, it looks as though I could have done one a few days ago -- so many perennials are up!  The delay made this morning extra fun.  By the time I was done I was practically skipping. 

By far the most exciting discovery was that my raspberries are starting to bud!!  The two plants that are budding are from the first batch of canes that I transported from Minnesota.  I can't wait to call mom and dad this afternoon and tell them!

Also budding out in the backyard, my hydrangea:

Now I was excited and I pushed back the straw and cedar mulch and discovered a very happy Italian Oregano plant --

All over the yard, front and back, most everywhere that I looked I saw bright green baby leaves sprouting out of the straw and mulch.  Chives are back.  Russian sage, marjoram, several butterfly nectar flowers are sprouting, my potted batface ("BATFACE!") plant on the pedestal, purple coneflower... the list goes on.  I took a lot of photos -- too many to post -- but great for documenting my garden file.  Oh, happy day.  I can't WAIT for my sister to arrive on Saturday -- she says she wants to garden -- and suddenly there is a lot to do.

The Final Step

Arr, arr, pun intended.

James' steel crew came back yesterday and cut off the hand rail that extended beyond the bottom step.  You'll recall that it appeared to lead down into the ground to a fall out shelter.  Or, as I preferred to refer to it, to my (sadly non-existent) wine cellar. 
They are welding the new cuts closed.

Grinding down the new welds prior to painting
Steel workers and welders do not travel lightly...

This was the final work needed on the steel portion of the project to complete it.  I'm sure that James and his crew are happy about that.  I still have some work to do -- the ground needs to be leveled out there where it meets the stairs.  It's likely that the bottom step will be buried.  I think I am going to rent a tiller for that since the dirt got packed down pretty hard by the forklift and many sets of boots.

Remaining work is gutter re-work to accomodate the rain barrel and the canopy rain run off, Vic needs to come out an finish affixing the lumber, and I need to do dirt leveling and landscaping.  I think I want to plant a whole bunch of different types of ferns under the deck area.  My neighbors and I have decided that under the platform is our new tornado shelter.  Our dogs already have harnesses to tie off on the posts so that the winds don't carry them off, we'll need to get some...

Now Leasing

My worm farm arrived a few days ago, but with all the chaos surrounding the steps going on, it sort of got lost in the dust. 

Look at the cute little hand rake that came with it!  The worms should arrive tomorrow-- they shipped out of Portland, OR yesterday.  I and several kiddos on my street are eagerly awaiting the mail delivery.  I'll be getting the condo ready for leasing tonight...

Monday, February 28, 2011

Zen Pending

Among other backyard items, I worked on the yoga platforms this weekend.  Three platforms like these are the goal:

Choosing dimensions for them took me forever!  I laid a yoga mat out and measured that, and then tried to envision what all I would want to do on the platform; e.g. soak in the sun, spread out garden books and catalogs, play Scrabble with a friend... I looked closely at the ones that Jamie Durie built in the photo above and concluded that while they were not true squares, they were close to being square. I finally settled upon 6' x 7'. 

So then I had to figure out where all the posts would go.  I started out with a tape measure, wooden stakes and string.  It was not hugely successful.  Then I decided to use 1" x 2"s and build a square which I could lay on the ground and mark.  Knowing the frame was very temporary I didn't do a super job on affixing the corners.  It ended up being sort of fragile and since my arms were too short to be able to reach 2 parallel sides to carry it, moving it around was challenging.  I did get it over to the area of the yard I needed it in without it falling apart.  I laid it down, and spray painted the perimeter, with some extra spray paint markers for the posts.  I planned to use the side perimeter lines to help me square up the posts to each other.

Then I dug the first 4 post holes:

I traded vehicles with Red, and I was off to Home Depot.  I bought 24 feet of treated 4" x 4" lumber, and had them cut it into 2' lengths.  I could do that at home, but their in store saw set up is so sweet that it's really easy for them.  I also bought 4 bags of concrete.

When I got home I dug the remaining 8 holes.   I dug the holes 9 inches square and 10 inches deep.  The goal was 12 inches deep.  I got tired, what can I say?  I used the dirt I dug up to fill in holes from the backsteps footings.  Handy.

My neighbor came over for something else while I was reading the concrete bag label, pronounced that she had worked a summer pouring driveways (?) and knew all about concrete mixing and pouring.  Are you kidding?  She helped me out -- I stirred the concrete in the wheelbarrow and she sprayed the appropriate amount of water in.  Then I held the post in the hole, using a level to be certain to get it vertical and squared it up using my handy spraypainted lines and a 1" x 2" and voila!  We got 8 of the 12 poured and before we ran out of concrete.  But that is enough posts for 2 of the 3 platforms.  I was giddy when we were through. 

Here's how it looks now:

The posts are different heights, it's true.  It's intentional.   When we are ready to build, we'll use my laser level and cut them off all the same height.  I hope to do that Saturday morning... my sister arrives Saturday afternoon.  And I know you'll recall my goal of wanting at least one built before she arrives!

I need to dig up the grass within the perimeter of the second one; the first one is already done.  And then tack down weed stop fabric, and likely put down a layer of pea gravel.  I plan to do a 12 inch border of river stone around each of the platforms -- but not before Saturday afternoon!  And then maybe some lavender or some sedum growing between the stones.  Ahhhh.  Zen.  Pending.  Stay tuned.