Thursday, June 22, 2017

Outdoor Spaces

When we began planning this house, which was immediately after purchasing the land, accessing the outdoors was a priority.  We wanted social places in the front (50-foot by 10-foot front porch -- 3 m X 15 m) and the back with our roughly 20-foot (6 m) square covered lanai.  The porch on the apartment in which my father-in-law lives also has a 10-foot (3 m) porch.  The porches and lanai have fans and recessed lighting so the areas can be used comfortably in the day and the evening.  We integrated such ideas into our house plans because we wanted to enjoy the land as much as the house.

The access of our four remaining acres of woods (of our five total acres, ~ 2.0 ha) was always in our discussions.  We knew we wanted to access the woods -- why have them if we cannot enjoy them?  A trail loop in the woods was a minimum requirement.  As there was no timeline for finalizing the plan for our outdoor spaces, ideas came and went, and some had staying power.  We knew we wanted to keep our property as wildlife-friendly as possible, so whatever we did could not destroy significant habitat and shelter.

The first area to make "people-friendly" was the anterior of the woods.  This area had naturally very low ground cover, bare in many places, due to the grove of American Holly trees which occupied the area.  It was this grove which we used to set the limits on how far back from the road our campus would sit.   We wanted to make sure that the construction of the house and its disruption of the surface soil would not impact this native space.  The anterior of the woods extends approximately 71 feet (21.64 m) from the graded yard area, which itself extends 112 feet (34.15 m) from the back of the main house.

The first improvement to the anterior was to mow the grasses and flora to improve human access:

The picture on the left is "before" and the one on the right -- though a different zoom -- is "after".  The log on the right side of the right-hand picture is the same as the log in the "before" picture.  Note the arched holly tree near the left-center of the "after" picture -- it comes into play in our outdoor spaces design.

The first element or "people space" which was added was that of a fire pit.  We will always have debris to burn, and the opportunity to share memorable times with family and friends around a fire.  The fire pit is a good solution for both.  Ours is three feet (0.915 m) in diameter:

Fire pit in the anterior of the woods.  Border Collie is optional, but usually required.

The logs are re-purposed from a 90+ year-old Loblolly pine (pinus taeda) which we lost to the home construction.  Its remnants are used throughout our outdoor spaces.  I used pavers resting upon landscape fabric to give the pavers a unified platform, and then used pea gravel to further level the pavers with respect to one another.

The next space of the anterior woods to enhance was beneath the arched holly.  The holly was naturally arched, no doubt its attempt to get more sunshine in heavy woods.  As a result, we have a natural arbor.  I used a pole-trimmer to clear the branches below the trunk, allowing people to sit comfortably beneath its beauty.

Beneath the holly: at first I made it for the only two Adirondack chairs we
had, but it was so pleasant that Pam purchased two more chairs (next photo).

With the addition of two more chairs, the number of pavers expanded from
15 to 36.  It was the right thing to do, and the photo shows the midday shadows.

The fire pit area and the holly arbor area are the only places added to the anterior.  A swing, which was first hung shortly after we bought the property for our then-one-year-old grandson (he's almost nine years old, now), was replaced last spring with a round horizontal mesh swing, to the delight of all the children who visit.

Tackling the interior of the woods would require more effort -- it would require machines.  I hired a contractor to use a forestry mulcher (here is a LINK to one at work in our area of Texas), like the one we used when we first cleared our property, to create a path in the woods.  I gave him an idea of the path I wanted, and then turned him loose.  His experience gave us a nice "boulevard" in the woods.  He did pause and contact me from time to time to discuss ideas or questions which came to mind while he was mulching the path, just to make sure we were on the same page and that I got what I wanted.  It is always good to work with professionals who understand service.

Photo of our dogs and grand-dog (the cream-colored retriever) running fast
and free on our newly-cleared trail.  The width will make the path both comfortable
and easy to maintain in the years to come.
In addition to the trail, I guided the contractor to create some "social spaces" in the woods -- places where people could sit, visit, read, meditate, reflect -- whatever a person or persons might want to do while enjoying the woods.  Most of the log sections for creating these spaces came from the 90 year-old pine which we had to cut down, and these sections were pulled into the spaces with our UTV.  Further cutting was required and placement was done by hand.

This is the first area when one takes the right-hand side of the trail (facing
away from the house).  It has four seats, a "table", and a log for more than
one person (in case you like to sit close to someone).

This space is called "Fern Overlook" and is on the bank above the creek which
runs through the back of our property at roughly the boundary.

Just for fun, I call this "Adirondack Point", so named for the green resin
Adirondack chair which I found in the bushes -- a victim of the record
April 2016 rains when it rained 17 inches (43.2 cm) in 20 hours.  The bushes
in the background are at least eight feet (2.44 m) above the creek in normal
conditions.  Last spring was not normal.

Fern Overlook (wild native ferns growing on the bank of the creek):

We just planted wood ferns which are native to Texas behind the seating area of the first social space cited above.  This place gets very soggy after heavy rains, and I am hoping the combination of grass which I have sown and the ferns (wood ferns spread as they grow) will prevent the area from becoming a mosquito breeding ground after heavy rains.

Last, but not least, the fountain we ordered finally arrived, and with help from my son-in-law, we installed it among the potted bougainvilleas.  The fountain is the last landscape element on the campus.  While the replanting of failed plants, nurturing the lawn areas, and general outdoor maintenance will continue, the landscape design implementation for Leaning Oak is now complete.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Spring (official) is fast approaching...

People "up North" might argue that deep in coastal Texas we do not have winter, but various stages of their fall and spring.  That might be true, in a general sense, but I would counter and argue that it only gets 18 F (-8 C) in WINTER, which is what we experienced in January.  We lost some plants, but that is all behind us now.  We are rapidly approaching the first day of Spring, and with it comes preparations for green and growth.

Just for the record, any link I post here is for informational purposes only: I do not profit in any way, and have included the 'nofollow' tag as well.

I have already cleared the beds of the fallen leaves of autumn, and the pre-emergent is down to thwart wild grasses and other unwanted annoyances from taking over the beds.  I have walked around with Grampa's Weeder and plucked scores (if not hundreds) of crabgrass remnants, dandelion, and other center-tap weeds and grasses out by the roots.  This is one of the best and most useful tools in my garage.  I have sharpened my reel mower, guided by the video found here (I have the same mower).  I have re-worked/repaired some of the bullrock in our high-water drain areas, and made adjustments adjacent to to the house.  All of the lantana, irises, and muhly have been cut back and fed to facilitate new growth.  There remains the trimming of the boxwood and dwarf yaupon, which will happen over the next couple of days.

The Texoka buffalograss seed has been ordered, along with some blue grama.  I have a couple of pounds of wildflower seeds arriving in the same order.  I have begun monitoring soil temperature to make sure I do not plant the grass seeds too early.  Warm-weather grass seeds need to be sown when ground temperatures are staying above 60 F (15.5 C).  I am in the process of leveling the ground in our "turf" areas next to the house.  These are the areas of which we want a manicured lawn look as opposed to functional lawn areas or areas simply left native.  In the functional lawn areas, there is a lot of clay and therefore bare spots.  I have ordered (and expect this week) a lawn plug aerator so that I can get soil conditioning treatments and grass seed into the ground.

We have planted eight Pink Muhly plants and one White Cloud Muhly.  The Pink Muhly is planted in a bed adjacent to the garage and lanai; a bed which is still in the design fulfillment stage.  It presently contains the eight Pink Muhly and a large urn containing bougainvillea.  We will add another urn and bougainvillea, and as finances permit, a two-tier fountain.

Our most anticipated project of the spring is putting trails in our forest.  It is still too wet -- about the time we are almost dry enough, it rains again.  But we have a contractor and a bid in-hand.  In addition to making the trails, they will remove some fallen trees and clear a couple of areas we want to use for fire pits.  Our goal is to have our entire property (five acres/two hectares) accessible (while leaving it as natural as possible).  We do have a couple of low areas in the forest which will likely require bridges to maintain ready access.

By the end of this summer, I hope to have the fountain, trails, and bridges in-place, and all the bare areas of the functional lawn covered in grass.  Achieving that end starts now, before official Spring arrives, because it is Spring-enough here in Hockley, Texas.  If I can accomplish these goals, it would imply that year three will be devoted to maintenance and selective adding of ornamentals.  That will be a very good feeling.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A big rain and a new year about to begin...

Our first year in this house, so far as move-in is concerned, is January 15, 2017.  As you can tell from the blog posts, a lot of work has gone into making our home and the property more finished and functional.  To be sure, there is more to do: finishing the bougainvillea bed and fountain, adding more pegboard in the garages, overseeding the grass in our "turf" areas, and creating trails and social spaces in our woods.

Yesterday morning we had very intense rain.  It rained at a rate of one inch (2.54 cm) per hour for two hours.  This was approximately the same rate as we experienced last spring, but it only lasted a couple of hours instead of 20 hours.  This was by far the biggest test for our landscape engineering, and I was curious to see how well our combination of bullrock-work and French drains worked.  The pictures which follow are shown in time-lapse order.  Note that we would have standing water for at least two or three days prior to doing our hardscape work.

One can see that the "dry creek bed" is flowing water which is draining from
the culvert (upper center) and our property area to the left.  The flow is slowed
which causes pooling as the bed turns into the drain channel (center right). The
water coming from the driveway to the left and through the front grove is
pooling as the drains and the pipe are completely in overflow condition.

The picture was taken just a few minutes after the rain subsided to a
very light drizzle.  The culvert area is clearing and water levels are receding.

This picture was taken about five minutes after the previous photo..While the
drain channel (center right) is still full, the water is receding rapidly.

Another five minutes, and the standing water in the lower left is almost gone,
and pooling in the dry creek bed is more isolated.  The purpose of the dry creek
bed is to slow the water passing through it, which reduces the impact of erosion.
The French drains are capturing the water which would build up in the area
between the front grove of trees, the grass, and the driveway.  It is draining so
well because we used six-inch diameter pipe instead of the standard four-inch
pipe.  This gives us a little over twice the volume over a standard install and
is highly effective for us.

Ten more minutes have passed, and the standing water is all but gone.  The
drain channel is significantly lower, also.  Prior to this effort, we would have had
standing water for two or three days after the rains stopped, and it would be
soggy for a couple of days thereafter.  We are at the above state 30 minutes after
the rain relented.  Today, I was walking in the area and not getting muddy.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Christmas at Leaning Oak

We had hoped to be in our house, hosting a family reunion, for Christmas 2015.  It did not happen.  It all worked out, anyway.  That being said, 2016 is our first Christmas, and I'll admit, rushing to get decorated for the 2015 Christmas would have been painful.  I am glad this is our first Christmas at Leaning Oak.

What we realized is that this house could not use all the decorations from our previous house.  What does one do with stairway garland when there are no stairs?  How do we arrange our Dicken's Village miniatures?  What should the outside lighting be?  Will our existing ornaments and lights work well on a tree which is 50% taller?  The answer to the above questions?  AART -- Adapt, Add, Replace, Toss (as in, "toss in the trash).  The fine art of AART, at least for us, can be summarized, though not exhaustively, in the following:

Add: icicles lights along the roofline of the house, lighted swags to the coach-style security lights on the garages, potted and lighted evergreen trees for the lanai, deco-jars/lanterns for the inside fireplace, clustered ornaments for the new tree (Pam created the clusters by tying 4-6 red and gold plastic ornaments together), which has a surface area 2.3 times greater than our old tree.  The clusters act as focal points, and by adding normal ornaments around them, it is easier to appreciate the normal-sized ornaments, otherwise, they get lost in the huge surface area of the tree.

Adapt: stairway garland to mantle and table garland, which meant making shorter sections and removing lights, and morphing an eclectic collection of gold-colored trees, ornaments, and angels into a centerpiece for the kitchen island.

Replace: the Christmas tree, as we bought the new one after Christmas in 2014 in anticipation of the 2015 Christmas.  Buying the Balsam Hill tree after Christmas 2014 saved us about 40% in costs.   We converted all of our lighting to LED, replacing all incandescent Christmas lighting.  Our wire-frame outdoor nativity scene needed its incandescent rope lights replaced, which I did with new LED "strip lighting".  The strip lighting is adhesive on one side, intended as an under-the-cabinet accent light.  The adhesive side was ignored by me, as it would not endure the outdoor conditions nor stick well to the round steel of the nativity.  I strapped the lighting to the nativity using white zip ties (after repainting the nativity with a high-gloss white paint to restore the nativity and give it more reflectance).  The LED strip lighting was much more flexible than the incandescent rope light, and much easier to attach.  It it also much brighter than the old rope lights ever were.

Toss: we tossed several storage boxes of incandescent miniature string lights and net lights, a few boxes of generic ornaments we'll not need, the old tree, a couple of outdoor artificial lighted deciduous trees which really did not work for us anymore.

The pictures below give you an idea of what our first Christmas here will look like:

The tree is over 12 feet tall (3.7+ m)
and adorned with 2000 LED lights.

The tree at night, and the reddish
decorations which are visible are
the cluster ornaments, consisting
of red and gold normal-sized ornaments
tied together as one.

The Nativity as seen from the house.  I placed it in the natural grove we have preserved in the front of the property.  The
branches of the live oak and the grasses lend to the look of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus being in an ancient stable.

The Great Room is ready for Christmas.  We adapted a stairway garland for the
mantle, and placed our Dickens' Village in the shelves to the right of the
fireplace -- a forethought in our design of this room.

This is a close-up of our indoor nativity and Dickens' Village miniatures.  We
did add "street lights" so that there is not a dark hole around the skating pond area

This is the centerpiece for the kitchen island (a.k.a, the kitchen 'continent'),
surrounded by angel hair and gold garland.  There is still plenty of room to
prepare a meal, and this picture also highlights the flow from the kitchen to
the Great Room, and yes, the far side of the island allows for bar seating.

We added these small evergreens to accent the lanai area.  The lights
are on timers and are set to be on for six hours and off for 18 hours.
This is the lanai in daylight, with the trees from the previous photo at the left
of the fireplace,  We added "NOEL" pillows and a seasonal centerpiece.

We have rockers and a table on either side of the front door, and so in your
mind, mirror image this picture and you can "see" how the front porch looks.
NOEL pillows adorn the chairs, and artificial trees accent the front door.

The entrance to our house just seemed to beg for icicle lights, and I complied,
with pleasure.  The whole roofline celebrated with me.  I have been wanting to
do this since we drew-up the facade in the architectural design phase. 
As one can see, the icicle lights completely illuminate the front of the house,
and turning on the porch lights is unnecessary.  We had electrical outlets
installed in the soffits to facilitate Christmas lighting.

Silent Night.  Merry Christmas from our family to yours...

Finishing touch...

We had to re-think the area adjacent to the house where the dogs have their fenced-in area.  It was originally planted with lantana, mulched, and had four-inch flagstone laid as a footpath.  All that remained after a few months of puppies was the flagstone.  Many holes were dug, some to see what is under the flagstone, some randomly placed for fun, and some in pursuit of the drainpipe that runs along the back of the house -- they found it about two feet down.  Further, the boys remained a disaster, making it difficult to have them in the main areas of the house simply because they were always dirty or muddy.  We swept the utility room (which they access through a dog-door and where their crates abide) twice a day, sweeping up half of a dustpan worth of dirt each time.  We want the boys to spend more time inside with us, so a solution had to be found.

The solution was not easy, but has made life with the boys much fuller.  I removed the flagstone from the area of concern.  I then proceeded to use my landscaper's rake (the head of which is three feet wide (0.9m)) to level what I could.  My older daughter and I then proceeded to add 14 bags of dirt (40 pounds each (18 kg)) to fill-in and tap-down the remaining holes and areas needing leveling.  After that, we laid two four feet by 50 feet (1.2m by 15.24 m) rolls of chicken wire (a.k.a. "poultry net").  We anchored them in-place using landscaping stables.  After that, we moved the flagstone back into position.  We then covered the area with cypress mulch, which tends to stay when it gets wet as opposed to floating away as pine mulch can do.  THe result is that the boys stay much cleaner, and we can let them in at-will.

Did it stop them from digging?  Yes, once they paw through the mulch and hit the chicken wire, they stop.  They still dig in the areas not covered by the chicken wire, which are all further away from the house.  Lessons learned?  Yes, when putting down the chicken wire, using the landscape staples to hold the ends is not enough alone.  I had to go back and use straight wire to lash the chicken wire to the fence, and this kept them from pulling at the ends.  If I could have gone under the fence and put the ends and staples out of their reach, it would have been fine to just use the staples.

Here are some pictures from the project, the last major landscaping effort (and a re-do at that!) for the main campus:

You can see in this picture that all the lantana and mulch have been removed
by the presence of "the boys".  It should be noted the unevenness of the surface
which is typical throughout the area, except out of picture to the right, where
deeper holes existed.

The stones removed (ufff!), ground filled and
leveled, and now the sections of chicken wire
are in place.  The boys were with us as we worked.

The boys at the gate of the refurbished area.
They are a curious and affectionate pair.

The finished product, highlighting the restored flagstone path.  The re-do of the path helped fix some of the
shortcomings of the original effort.  The bullrocks immediately in front of the extended porch were reworked to prevent
the rocks from sinking (weed-block material was put down before laying the chicken wire) and to integrate better with
the footpath and facilitate better water run-off.

...and it is so nice to have them inside whenever I want...

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Rains of fall are coming...

Here in the sub-tropical climate that is the upper Texas Gulf Coast, we basically have the dry season and the wet season each year -- not nearly as defined as Central America, but we get most of our rain from November through April.  Ironically, hurricane season is basically May through October -- our hot and dry time of the year, unless a hurricane makes landfall.

Here is what we are looking toward weather-wise:

All that blue area says we will see roughly 4.5 inches (11.43 cm) of rain through the weekend, and it could be as high as 6.0 inches (15.24 cm).  This will be a big test for all the engineering we have done to manage water flow in and around the property.  Our berm does have some grass on it -- I over-seeded with annual ryegrass a couple of weeks ago and it has germinated.  The berm looks green, though the grass is still thin.  Nonetheless, there is still straw and now grass, so the berm should stand well.  There is a place adjacent to our outdoor stairs (actually, the only stairs on the property) which I will steady with some mulch today.  I am interested to see how the French drains handle the drain, as we built them with twice the water capacity of a standard drain system.

When one builds on his own property, things like drainage are serious issues for the house, driveways, sidewalks, garages, plants, and the list goes on.  Getting it right is crucial to protecting the value of the home.  When one is in a residential development, all of these things are worked out before the streets are poured.  Building on one's own lot?  It falls to the shoulders of the owner.  

If you have not yet built on your property, my advice is to go out and observe it during a heavy rain.  Put on the rubber boots and walk it, paying attention to all water flow around every contour.  Learn how water moves around and on your property.  It will be very helpful during the house-placement and construction phases, especially to insure that construction traffic does not destroy vital flow patterns (as we experienced).

Christmas decorations are up, and I will have pictures in my next post.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Everything has been put to bed, so to speak...

Yesterday I reached an important milestone: all areas immediately adjacent to the house have their landscaping done (OK, one area has a plan, which it did not have last week, and that plan will execute after the holidays) and we have entered into maintenance mode.  The building of trails in our wooded area will be next year's project.

I brought in six yards of mulch, 1/2 yard of topsoil, 19 lantana, five coneflowers, and planted our three potted yellow mums.  All the beds have been addressed.  The maintenance remaining mostly involves lawn care, and overseeding the lawn areas when spring arrives.

Further, it is berry season now, and I have enclosed some pictures to highlight the colors which surround us.
Here are the pictures as we close this important chapter at Leaning Oak.

The bed where the bougainvillea lives received fresh mulch -- 18
wheelbarrows of it.  I also moved some spare flagstone to add accent.

The bougainvillea will get a sister plant, and between the two of them, we
will install a small fountain.  The plan is set, and due to execute in early 2017.

The stairs and terrace received their lantana and mulch.  There are 19 lantana
plants, with nine on each side of the stairs and one at the back of the terrace
(to conceal a standpipe).  The lantana will help minimize erosion adjacent to
the stairs, and we will add solar-powered lighting in the spring.

Our stone two-car garage, originally designated as an outside recreation room,
is now the home of our lawn maintenance vehicles.  It is a pretty structure, in
my opinion, as the multi-colored stone creates visual interest.  A stone wall
needs ivy (my opinion), and we have fig ivy in place.  We planted yellow mums
(foreground) and pink coneflowers (middle row) for color.  Both are perennials
in our area.  The stone in the bed covers a drain box and prevents it from clogging.

The Yaupon holly has come forth with brilliant red berries. Its cousin, the
American holly, will have its berries by Thanksgiving (next week).

A close of the Yaupon berries -- makes a nice computer wallpaper!

The American Beautyberry, though mostly leafless, is strutting its colors.

I found one with a pair of leaves intact, just to give context.

We are not allowed (per our trash service) to put landscaping and construction
trash out for pickup.  We do what other country-folks do -- we have a burn day.
We wait for a good rain to make sure the flora around us is not threatened, which
can take a few weeks during some times of the year.  Here, we are burning a lot
of landscaping debris, debris from the construction of our dog run, and debris
from the construction of  the stairs and terrace.  The remnants have been cleared
and grass seed sown over the ground where the burn took place.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A test for all the landscaping work...

We had a good rain yesterday, recording 0.5 inches (1.27 cm) of rainfall.  It all fell over a couple of hours.  We had standing water from the driveway run-off.  The new French drains worked beautifully, as there was no standing water an hour after the rain stopped.  There was no fast-moving water seen -- the dry creek bed, with its bullrock providing orders of magnitude more surface area for the water to traverse, slowed flow from the top of our property as planned.  The new berm did its job.  The run-off ditch did have water in it; it just filled rather slowly, as we had planned.  Both the dry creek bed and the French drain system feed the run-off ditch.

We are very pleased with the outcomes of this first test.  I know more wait for us in the future as we are getting ready to hit our "wet season".

The dry creek bed and French drains (to the left, out of the picture) feed
the drainage ditch, but one sees no surface water in the creek bed and
would only see a little standing water around the French drains during the rain.

The drainage ditch has water, but its flow is much slower than one would find
in previous pictures of water flow.  The berm is minimizing any waterfalls which
have come through the woods at this juncture.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Landscaping, Phase 2 completed.

As posted previously, landscaping-of-the-engineering-kind had been ongoing.  It completed this past week.  There are a couple of minor projects for me to do in the near future -- like getting an answer to the puppies' area where every plant has been destroyed -- but, by in-large, the landscaping/engineering efforts are complete.  Pam and I will decide on how to landscape a couple of areas, but no more contractors so far as the immediate landscaping is concerned.  I will need a contractor to help clear the trail in the woods.  That will take place in a few weeks.  

As far as near the house is concerned, landscaping -- both of the engineering and aesthetic kind -- is about 85% complete.  It is a big relief, especially as it appears we have grass covering all areas, bringing the erosion under control.  The grass is not great and good-looking yet, but it is enough to keep the soil in place, and some areas are showing promise.  I am using Texoka buffalograss in my "manicured turf" areas, blue grama on all slopes, and a mix of blue grama and fescues in other areas.  I have also sown high-quality Texas wildflower seeds in key accent areas -- I will have to wait until spring to see whether or not this was a fruitful effort.

We also completed the construction of flagstone stairs and a terrace in the basin at the rear of the house.  As mentioned in earlier blog entries, the pad on which the house was built is up to six feet (two meters) above the natural ground level.  The slopes are steep, making it dangerous for young and old alike to traverse safely.  The stairs we built are two feet (0.61 meters) wide and a comfortable four inches (0.11 meters) in height, and have a handrail running down the middle at three feet (0.9 meters) high.  It should work for us when we have more than 80 years.

I fell in love with bougainvillea in my travels to Morocco and Spain.  Pam and I decided to plant one in an urn (bougainvillea flowers best when it is root-bound) as an experiment.  The area in which we placed it gets six to eight hours of sunlight per day, so we shall see...

The dry creek bed is intended to the take the water flowing from the right-of-way
area and slow its flow.  The flow from the culvert (upper right) is being directed away
from the dry creek bed via a repaired berm.  Tall grasses will also slow the water
flow, reducing erosional damage.

The French drain system will alleviate the problem of standing water and
erosional issues across the front of the house.  The area under the large oak
around which the driveway bends (upper left) was raised to direct water
around the tree and toward the seven-box drain system.

This photo was taken under the oak tree cited above.  It is an example of the
texoka buffalograss coming through its protective straw.  As can be seen, it
is fine-bladed, and it is drought resistant, also.  Hopefully, it will prove
to be a good turfgrass for us.

The texoka buffalograss is beginning to dominate the bermuda grass in this
picture.  By using cutting heights more favorable to the texoka, the
bermudagrass will eventually weaken and die.  The turf texture is more
aesthetically pleasing now that the texoka buffalograss has emerged.

This is the framing of the outdoor stairs and terrace in the backyard, to which
I refer as "the basin".  The top of the stairs is four feet (1.2 meters) above the
natural ground level.

Cement is poured, or at least in pouring progress.  It will need to cure before
adding the flagstone.  The poles for the rail are natural cedar.

The stairs and terrace are completed, and the handrail finished.  We added
the table around which the terrace dimensions were derived, and dirt and
topsoil have been added.  Both ryegrass and blue grama were sown and
covered with straw so the seeds will not get washed away during irrigation or rain.

The clustered bougainvillea experiment, shown in the afternoon sun with
the shadow of the lanai chimney falling before it.  It has been in-place for
two weeks and continues to show new growth.

This is an updated photo of our house, taken today.  The last 9 1/2 months have been a labor of love.  Hard labor, to be
sure, but would have been much more difficult if we were not shaping our dream home.