Saturday, March 26, 2011

Zen Stones

Big Ol' Bag O' Rock

This is what 1,170 pounds of Mexican tumbled river stone looks like:

It  was delivered today.  They were able to drop it right next to the platforms -- so great -- because the idea of hauling 1,170 pounds of stone more than 4 feet was daunting.  Two of my neighbors came to help me spread it around the platforms; it took just over an hour.

The rock was pretty dusty so I hosed it down (-- yowser it was beautiful when it was wet!  Too bad there isn't a way to keep THAT look.  Or is there?)   The black rock versus the white was definitely the right choice, and the guy did an amazing job estimating how much I would need.

Today I'll touch up the sprout paint with sand paper and apply the water seal if it isn't too windy. 

I'm thinking I'm going to email a few photos to Jamie Durie to show him what he inspired me to do!

Perfect timing to have these complete, as my neighbor and I signed up for a 21 Day Yoga Challenge yesterday on Yoga Journal dot com.  One day down, 20 to go!

Friday, March 25, 2011

River Stones


I went to a local sand and gravel yard this morning to look at what types of river stone are available and what they cost.  They had two types on hand that had smooth surfaces;  a large white kind that was a little larger than a softball, and a small black type about the size of squished golf balls. 

I snapped a photo of each type -- and said I would call him back (upon which I immediately begain emailing photos to poll my friends for validation of what I really wanted:  the black stone.)  He said he could deliver today or tomorrow, and that delivery would be $75. 

River stone is sold by the pound.  When I showed the guy a photo of what I was doing and gave him the measurements, he was kind enough to help me calculate how much I would need:

78 linear feet x 1.5 for coverage = 117 square feet
10# per foot x 117 =  1,170 pounds

(He did those calculations at speed similar to what my mortgage banker did to calculate my mortgage payment when I was buying my house.  I was forever asking him to talk slower and on a really bad day to write it down, so that I had some hope of following... This morning was no different.)

Pros and cons of each stone were as follows: 

White - Less expensive by half.  A larger size than I had envisioned.  Due to its size, more likely to stay in place.  Too large to be comfortable to step on in bare feet.  (I hate shoes.)  Not as much color contrast with the wood as I would like.
Black - As mentioned, twice the price.  Extremely smooth and more polished than the white, more of a Zen look.  Black will attract more heat.  Smaller stones will likely slide out of the border space and will have to be corralled.  Small flat stones will feel pleasant on bare feet.  Great color contrast with the wood and green paint.

Votes from friends were fairly split, but in the end the black got 4 more votes.  Ultimately I chose the black stone and it's called Mexican River Stone. Even in a dusty bag (a bag roughly the size of my car...) it looks beautiful, smooth and very Zen.  Plus being just so pleased with how the platforms have turned out, it seemed wrong to me to not get the perfect stones for the border for a couple hundred bucks more.  "For Heaven's sake, don't cut corners at the very last step."  I knew that every time I stepped out I would be wishing for the black stone and be disappointed.

I called him to place the order and make delivery arrangements and the whole deal came to a screeching halt.  "We don't deliver a quantity that small." 

I was flummoxed.  Hadn't we just had this conversation not 2 hours prior?  There was no mention of a minimum...?  I reminded him we had just spoke of delivery and that he had not mentioned a minimum....?  He was clearly irritated with himself -- he recalled the conversation as clearly as I did.  He said he hated to tell me no, that, in his words, "No is such an ugly word..."  I reminded him that I am a repeat customer, and that I would likely come back for future purchases. 

And so, I am pleased to report -- his truck will arrive tomorrow morning to bring me 1,170 pounds of Mexican River Stone. 

I guess I know what I'll be doing tomorrow...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Three Little Sprouts

I got home in time to do another round of sanding on the platforms today.   When I was done I wiped them down with a damp rag to get rid of the sawdust...  and then...


Do you love it??  I do... 

I was sort of nervous to start rolling the paint on.  I had made a huge 5 foot by 6 foot stencil out of heavy brown construction paper using an image on my laptop and a projector.  I traced the image, (insert thanks here for not torturing you with all the details) cut it out, and then put clear mailing tape on both sides of the paper around the cut out and cut it out again to give it clean, tape-bound edges.  I was worried that the edges of the stencil would get soggy after one or two sprouts and that it would disintegrate before I could do the third.  And as long as it took me to make the stencil, I knew for sure that I didn't want to have to make a second one...

Anyway, I weighted the edges of the paper down with pieces of wood, and used a small foam roller.  It went very fast.  It was a tiny bit tricky to move the stencil to the next platform without screwing up the wet paint, but I made it.  Here's a close up of one:

My original plan was to sand the paint off a little in places to make it look old and weathered.  I am not postive I am going to do that... regardless of that decision, I am going to seal the whole thing with Thompson's Clear Water Seal.  It won't substantially change the wood color, and it has some UV protection in it.  I'll put a coat on my cedar fence while I have it out...

I plan to go to a sand and gravel place tomorrow to see about having a load of river stone delivered on Saturday for the border around each platform. 


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Digging in the Dirt

I planted some butterfly attracting flower seeds this morning.  Last year I bought more than I could sow, and had put them in a plastic bag in the freezer.  It is time -- and has been time for a few weeks now -- to pull them out and get them into the dirt.  Bonus -- that means that this year they are free.  I planted a handful of mixed butterfly garden seeds, and then these three:

Butterfly Gaura

Showy Fleabane

Yellow Coneflower
They take 14-21 days to germinate, so I'll need to be especially diligent about watering them during that time.  I planted these in 3 beds in the front where I know the soil is already adequate.  I have more seeds that I'll plant in other areas, but I'll need to do some soil amendments first.

Re-frame: It's an Opportunity. Right?

I stepped out into my backyard this morning, heading to my garden shed to retrieve a trowel and some gloves -- planning to drop some flower seeds into my front butterfly bed.  But on the way to the shed, something an unnatural shade of green caught my eye through my alley fence:

I couldn't really tell what it was... so I unlocked the gate and stepped out.  Then I could see clearly:

I got sort of a sick feeling. I looked down the alley, and turned and looked up the alley...

And then I looked down at my fence line:

Subtle.. but omnious.  I looked down the alley again, and there were more, lined up like little soldiers.

Oh no.... my beautiful, quiet little oasis of my abandoned alley... it appears its going to be disrupted.  I'm thinking of my many labor hours of trash pick up, clearing of weeds, crawling around on my hands and knees with Francisco pinning down spendy weed stop fabric, and then the arranging for and spreading of wood chips.  Admittedly I knew it was a risk.  I knew that at any time the City could come in and dig it up, or pave it... but by all appearances it had been abandoned for decades -- the odds seemed slim.

Old fence - before

New fence - after
When I left for work this morning I drove a few blocks out of my way past an alley that has been under-going a transformation for weeks.  I was hoping that I could decipher what they were doing and guess if that was what was headed my way.  I hoped for a worker bee to ask.  Alas, the street was totally blocked to through traffic, and there weren't any workers around.

Once at my desk, I called the City.  No specific information, but they say color of the paint and ribbon indicates sewer and drainage lines and that "digging may occur in that area."  Since our trash pick up is not in the alley, and our driveways are not in the alley, we will not receive notice prior to work commencing.

When I was lamenting to a friend about it, she asked if I could pull up the weed stop fabric?  Ha, I said, well I could... but it seems unlikely.  Although, I wonder if I could somehow roll it up towards my fence to save the wood chips... sigh.  Maybe I will try to catch the workers if I see them before they begin work and see what my options are.

It makes me think about how I handle change.  Almost 2 years ago I bought my house, not fully understanding how fabulous the neighborhood and neighbors would be.  I settled in, made fast friends with several of my neighbors, a few of whom now feel like family to me.  A couple months ago one of them put their house up for sale.  I was surprised at how sad it made me.  I had made my own happy little world within this community of homeowners -- not renters -- and I guess it never occured to me that one of them would actually SELL their house and move away!  Who would want to leave this?  And why?  I'm still in denial about that -- selfishly hoping that they end up staying --

And now, here comes a completely different type of change.  When I moved in, I did think it was odd that the alley behind my house was basically abandoned.  But I re-framed it into an advantage:  quiet, private... and with a little labor (okay and some cash), visually pleasing.  I put up the new fence... laid out some garden beds, built some yoga platforms... my little private oasis.

So now I will work on re-framing this as an opportunity.  There is no evidence that the City is going to pave the alley and that garbage trucks are going to start rambling through.  Maybe the work will give me a canvas of loose dirt to plant a mass of mint?  Or lavender... or mixed wild flower perennials...

Mostly we cannot control the world around us; we can only try to control how we react to change.  It's a good reminder lesson for me -- from little things to the larger picture -- I am not in charge.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

You know me as Project Girl, but ...

Last night my fervant hopes of a decent dinner and home pedicure in front of my DVR came true.  It was ... refreshing to take a night off from projects.  Go figure, I really am in charge of my time.

I got off early today and did the first of two rounds of sanding of the platforms.  I "could" have done the second round, and done the design, but you know what?  I went for a facial, and then came home and read a Reacher novel and had a glass of wine on my porch instead. 

And now, I've finished another decent dinner in front of my DVR (it's true, those two things CAN go together) and now I'm on my wireless internet on my couch.  Porch doors wide open, listening to birds chirp.  Ahh, gluttony.  Who am I??

Monday, March 21, 2011

Yoga for Three


Aren't they fantastic?  We went to great lengths to have the planks all go at the same angle... We had some nail gun malfunctions along the way, and we were short one 1" x 8" x 10' board that we had to go get, but mostly it was a smooth completion of to the project.  Giddy.  Me.  Thank you Red!

Sanding, etc still to be done, and then -- river stones and plants! 


Sometimes I'm thankful that I have a desk job to save me from myself.  I knew going into the weekend that I had a very ambitious list of things I wanted to accomplish.  And let's be clear -- I have totally ditched doing anything on the inside of my house now that it is Spring.  I am all about what is outside. 

Friday night was date night and I relaxed... 

Saturday morning I was tied to the house because I was waiting for the cable guy to show up.  You know the drill; they give you a window of 4 hours during which you really hope they show up on the front end.  I put a note on my front door that I was out back, and tackled raking up the rest of the winter straw cover out of my beds and spreading it into the alley.  That lead to weeding my alley.  Weeding.  The alley.  When I did that last time (yes, not only was I doing it, but I've done it before) one of my friends called me a @#$*%  overachiever.  I think she was kidding... But in my defense, I can see my alley -- and I went to a lot of effort last year to clean it up...must.  Maintain.

Anyway, the cable guy did show up and I lost a few hours of work time; he was there 4 hours (hello wireless internet -- I knew the technology could work...) and you can't just let a service guy roam your house without you.  Although Greta made it very clear what she thought of his presence.  She spent the 4 hours locked in the kitchen...

Anyway, the straw was raked and spread in the alley for additional weed control.  The straw did great things in the plant insulation and mud control departments over the winter, but I am not so sure that it is a repeat.  Or, if I do repeat it, maybe I won't use three bales.  That is more straw than you would think...

Saturday afternoon Red came over and first things first, "Be gone, old wooden deck stairs!"  I am LIBERATED from those nasty ol' hazardous wooden steps.  Although tentative from fear of hitting rusty screws, I took great satisfaction from cutting them into pieces with Red's chainsaw.  I had some fleeting thoughts of saving the old lumber to repurpose into something else, but in the end toted the whole business to the curb.  The steps and other related refuse had been junking up a section of my yard for almost a month -- wouldn't you know they were taken out just after the monthly bulk trash pick up?  I reclaimed that section of my yard.  Visually excellent.

Then we finished building the yoga platforms... photo in the next post!

And then the rest of the dervishing began in earnest.  Raspberries were weeded.  Plants were watered, flower seeds were planted (okay I was procrastinating.)  Construction remnants were sorted and put away.  The dog was walked, fed, and bathed.  Shower, eat, review the list for Sunday... still rather daunting.  Made arrangements to return borrowed bicycles to friends.  Went to bed early.

Sunday.  It began at 7:30 a.m. with a half hour of yoga in the backyard.  Ahhh.  Awesome.  And good for getting the kinks out from the day before.  Next, a dog walk, and coffee on the porch with neighbors.  Then my weekly telephone call with my best girlfriend.  Then an unexpected long telephone chat from a good friend in North Carolina -- she got engaged while vacationing in Italy!  So happy for her!  All fun.  All not exactly productive, but mental health is important as well.  By now... it's after 10.  My first bicycle delivery is slated for between 10 and 11.  Yeah, I am already late.

Insert a fiasco involving 7 foot sheets of paper, Gorilla tape, a lot of wind, an extension cord, a laptop computer and a projector.  Move the fiasco to three different locations before having marginal success.  More on that later...

And then, at 11:45 a.m. put the bike in the backseat of the Mini, and road trip to Richardson.  Realize about halfway there that I forgot the tire pump.  Do not turn back.  Arrive, unload the bike, have a nice chat with the girlfriend (it's becoming an unexpectedly social weekend -- I am momentarily frustrated until I review and say a prayer of thanks for having so many friends.)

Stop at Home Depot paint department and wheel home.  It's now mid-afternoon.  Yikes.  Raking begins again, this time of leaves, not straw.  That leads to attacking (I am not exaggerating) the evergreen vine that grows on the fence along my driveway.

It's pretty, right?  I agree.  But it also is rather aggressive.  I choose not to think about what I've been told with regard to it being a "rodent highway" at night -- which is evidenced by my dog's frequent interest in it.  Ewww.  Instead, I reconcile that while it may be a highway, it is not a highway to say, my attic,*  and that I'd rather look at the vine than a bare wooden fence.  Anyway some semi-annual maintenance is required.  Well that got totally out of control.  Three hours later I had the hedge trimmer and ladder out, and I was literally knee deep in cut up vines in my driveway.  I would still be there bagging all that up if not for my $9.99 leaf hands that I bought last year.  Whomever invented those things deserves a gold medal.

Anyway, it's too late for long-story-short, but this weekend was bonding weekend with my rake.  During all of that, a posse of 8 friends and neighbors showed up for a backyard tour of rain barrels, garden beds, the worm farm, (they have one too) the work shop, and rain barrel dealing (sale) and bicycle pick up.  Fun -- but you know what happens when you've been doing hard labor for hours and you stop?  And then try to start up again?  Your muscles literally make noise.

Then I got up on the ladder and swished leaves and debris off my garage roof.  Stuff was getting on the screens, and then down the gutter, and then on the tops of my rain barrels.  Can't have that.  Then I moved to the front yard and used the chainsaw and took out 4 shrubs and shortened a tree stump.  I was able to dig out the roots for 3 of them... but others were stronger than I.  By now my pile at the curb is reaching epic proportions.  About 10 of my neighbors across the street are in their front yards, drinking wine and laughing.  They wave, call out to me, but I know better than to pop over and say hello... by about 7 p.m. this is what things looked like:

It had gotten a little ridiculous.  By 7:45 p.m. I was showered, in clean lounge clothes, and enjoying a cold beer on my porch -- surveying my accomplishments.  Some neighbors stopped by, and we sat and enjoyed the cool evening for a while.  I know I am going to be sore in the coming days... but my place sure looks better.  My fervant hope for tonight?  A home pedicure, a real dinner, and my DVR.

*Which is one the reasons why last year the vine had to come off of my house.  The other reason?  The movie, "The Ruins."