Monday, February 29, 2016

Weathering the storm

Remember the aggravation I expressed over the delay in the hydro-mulch people shifting their Monday arrival to Friday (then showed up on Thursday)?  Oh?  You didn't.  Oh yeah, I spared you of that post.  We could have used the extra days they took from us.  A couple of days after the hydro-mulching, a storm blew into our area with intense rainfall (over two inches, five centimeters) and winds up to 40 mph (65 kph).  The landscaping blanket was blown off the slope of the main house, and a lot of the hydro-mulch effort is now somewhere in our forest.  The days we lost for "whatever" reason would have cut our losses significantly.

The pictures on this post give illustration of the impact of the storm.  Referring back to the previous post and comparing the pictures will illustrate our concerns about the loss of seed.  I have since purchased Bermuda Grass seed (25 pounds for $130! (12 kg for 120 euros)).  The coverage for such a bag is 10,000 square feet (~930 square meters).   Though a lot for that kind of coverage, it is less than 10% of the cost of hydro-mulching (though hydro-mulching also includes rye grass seed with the Bermuda seed, and is supposed to be more effective in establishing a lawn).   I could not afford to do the hydro-mulching twice, and as there are a lot of slopes and uneven ground (another place of excelling for hydro-mulching), I got out my hand broadcast spreader and seeded the entire yard.  I even threw some wildflower seeds in certain areas for good measure.

Here are the pictures:

This is the back 'platform', and the land mine-sized divots are places
where the ground gave way on me.  I had been walking on this area
for several days without a problem, but when the rains came, we
discovered how soft the built-up areas around the house really are.

The landscape blanket got blown off the slope, and took a lot of grass seed
with it.  One can see the rye grass poking through the places where the
blanket remained intact.  As the main purpose of the grass is erosion,
we are starting over in this area.  I will be bringing native grasses into play.

The natural drainage of the driveway/motor court comes right at the basketball
goal, and this storm incised a definitive cut into the slope behind the goal.

Another example of erosion off the slopes, this one caused by the drain pipe
we installed as part of our rain run-off management.  We will permit the erosion
for at least one more rain, then we will fill the incisions with landscape fabric
and rocks.  This will slow the velocity of the water and prevent further erosion.

It was green with the hydro-mulch stain before, but has now been re-seeded.

The rapid pouring of rain also eroded our edging before it could get established.
This will be filled-in again and compacted.  The grey you see in this picture
is from the wildflower seed which I sowed, and if you zoom on a large screen,
one can see the much smaller Bermuda seed as well.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Landscaping, Phase I, is now complete.

The hydro-mulch service team gave us a surprise visit this late afternoon (instead of tomorrow), and they completed the job by dusk.  This marks the close of Phase I for landscaping.  The crew will be here tomorrow to complete tweaks and cleanup, but no further additions will be made at this time (except for the already-paid-for blue lantana and Mexican Feather Grass, when suitable plants become available).

I have already begun my own Phase 1, which involves some tree-trimming, tree-removal, and removal of "undesirables" (defined as Chinese Privet and briar vines, for the most part).  I am also in the process of identifying saplings for harvest and protecting their development for the time-being with stakes and a little bit of string.  I have areas which I have identified for re-forestation, and will use the saplings for these areas when the areas are prepped.

Looking ahead, we will be adding a terrace which will be placed amongst the trees and below the house.  I will continue removing the undesirables in the anterior forest, trimming its trees, and creating its outdoor "living spaces".  Getting the anterior space useable and enjoyable will be my highest priority over the coming weeks.

A video and photos from the completion of Landscaping Phase I:

Along the back of the casita the hydro-mulch can be seen as applied to the
area between the rocks and landscape "blanket".  The hydro-mulch was
applied directly to the porous blanket, which will continue to control
erosion until the grass takes full hold. 
This is the corner off the shop -- the fifth car slot -- showing what happens
when the guy wielding the hose stumbles in the mud -- the gravel gets
hydro-mulched as well.  LOL

Out strategy was not to hydro-mulch the entire area, but just enough to
control erosion and let nature take its course.  We are seeding Bermuda
grass, which spreads across the surface of an area and then takes root.
What we did not hydro-mulch, the Bermuda will cover on its own, in time.

The job is finished and the crew readies itself to depart.  The area around
the tree will receive regular mulch.  In two weeks or so, we should see grass.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Landscaping, Phase I, drawing to a close

Finally, we have some flora on the landscaping!  This is Phase I with our landscaping architect, Jeremy Macki, owner of Hortus Landscape Design.  Honestly, it is a big property, and it needs a lot of plants to cover any area, which makes it all quite a bit more expensive than we realized -- despite the fact we are only landscaping near the house!  But we have a plan, and we are adjusting and working it according to plant availability and our budget.  All that remains of this phase is the hydro-mulching of grass seed.  This will be mainly for erosion control.  Phase 2 of the landscaping (next year) will add flora to some of the areas receiving grass this year.

My own work on the landscaping begins when Phase I closes.  My job is that of forest ranger and park curator.  There are some other trees I need to take down, non-native invasives I need to remove, cultivation of trails, and sitting areas I will create.  I do not expect to get all of these done in this calendar year, but I expect to make decent progress in the short-term.  Pam and I will also do some addition of plants ourselves in advance of the formal Phase 2.

Here are some pictures from the work to-date:

The perspective picture shows that a little greenery goes a long way.  In a few weeks, I hope to see the dirt covered in grass.

This is the outside of the first driveway turn, and you can see that we have
"padded" the curve with creek pebbles in case of "navigation errors".  We
have red yucca planted along the landscaping stone near the center.

The front beds are mirror images of one another, with muhly, boxwood,
African iris, prostrate rosemary, and soon-to-be-added blue lantana.  We will
also harvest a couple of multi-trunk Yaupon hollies from the property to
frame the bay windows.

Welcome to Leaning Oak (Bienvenue a Chene se Penchant)

A close-up of the prostrate rosemary and the African iris which will greet you
as you approach the front door...

We planted three dogwood trees in front of the two-car garage.  We live
just 2-3 miles north of the southern-most extent of dogwood growth.

This picture captures our yellow lantana and water management effort.  The
bull-rock will slow water coming from the roof and drive it toward our basin
drains which we installed previously.

The casita received its landscaping look as well, mostly its bull-rock and
grass line.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Landscaping begins in earnest...

Though I will not say we are completely "settled", we are at the point of being weary of all the dirt around us.  We have begun landscaping, and have hired Hortus Landscape Design ( to do the design and work.  We are keeping things as native as possible, while adding a bit of color at the same time.  There will be no exotics -- everything chosen does well in this part of Texas.  Out property is near the confluence of the Blackland Prairies, South and East Central Plains, and Western Gulf Coastal Plains.  As a result, we have a varied ecosystem that is quite unique.

The first thing we did for landscaping, as seen in previous posts, was to bring in  extra dirt to build-up the areas around the campus.  We did an assessment of trees which we might have lost during construction and found that a small pine, a holly tree, and a very tall pine near the house had to be removed.  A sweetgum tree and white oak tree are "on the watch" -- if they do not come back in the spring, they will need to be removed.

Here are some pictures:

First, this is the direction our lanai has taken.  And that is a rug in the middle,
not tile.

Here are the remains of the trees taken down, and the large trunks are from
the tall pine tree which was near the house.

Irrigation lines have been run, and should be operational by the end of today.

Fresh loamy dirt being brought in for the front beds.  I always enjoy its smell.

We will have two types of gravel on our site, with the one above being used
in areas where people will walk, and "bull rock", two-inch stones, being used
in water run-off areas.

The felling of the Lolblolly pine's top.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Major mission accomplished!

What major mission?  I am so glad you asked!  We now have four cars in the garage and the main garage (the five-car one, with the fifth slot being the shop) is about 95% in-place (by that I mean that there is a little tweaking to do, but it is all but finished).  Getting that fourth car in was very, very, and seriously important because it was Pam's car!  So tonight, all vehicles sleep inside.  Mission accomplished!

We had a lot of trash hauled away, which was not surprising to us.  We had been at our old house for 24 years, and "stuff" just accumulates.  We just have to be rather mercenary in getting rid of it.   The peg board is full of tools and other "kit".  Dirty little secret: a lot of family furniture was moved from the five-car garage to the two-car garage as out-of-town family members will be coming later this month to pick it up.  Since I knew I could not even begin on the two-car garage until after that event, getting the five-car garage in-shape and Pam's car inside was the main mission.

I finally got around to hanging robe hooks in Pam's voluminous closet.  Somehow we forgot to make provision for such items in the plans, but I took care of them and it looks like they are well-anchored, even though they will only be used for a robe (of course) and pajamas.  However, it is also a big win for the me because it made her happy.

One other thing: our basketball goal was installed!  Many thanks to my daughter and son-in-law for being partners in it becoming a reality!

Here are some photos:

All four cars are in as Pam has comfortably parked her car in the garage at Leaning Oak for the first time..

The garage, several days ago, even after some clean-up.

Photo taken from the door of the "fifth cat slot", a.k.a. "The Shop".  The
cabinets to the lower right form a very good workbench and space.

The "no-cars land" between the two double car slots.  I have packed our
camping equipment for storage in these shelves.  Golf clubs can be seen
between the wall and the shelving unit.  The containers in the foreground
are destined to depart Leaning Oak in the near future.

The above and the three photos following document Pam's car
finding its home in the garage.

Mission accomplished!

Rupp Arena, Hockley Campus.

My only team for hoops...

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Move-In relentlessly continues

The move-in continues onward. The big things were easy by comparison.  After all, the living room furniture goes in the living room, and after that it's just a matter of moving them around until you either get tired or you decide you really like it. The bedrooms are much the same, they have beds and  there is only so many ways you can place the bed in the bedroom. The kitchen is a bit more of a challenge, because there is a significant amount of get involved. Each must have a place, that place must make sense with respect to the person cooking. These things we have accomplished to date. What remains, is what to do with the other "stuff".   However you wish to describe it, separating the wheat from the chaff, or separating the sheep from the goats, it is an arduous task.

The next few days, or less hopefully, will find me in the garage sorting through our stuff.  The things we are likely to find our tools, exercise equipment, cookware previously stored away, pictures, books, and a myriad of other small items.  I hung 24 feet (7.32m) of pegboard to facilitate this process. The pegboard is 8 feet (2.44m) tall and as of right now, it is mostly full.   Despite that effort, it appears only a small dent has been made in the stuff.   As is normal with any move, many things are being thrown away that had once held some value or esteem. Some things one finds and it recalls a use or a memory, and then the realization comes that this item has not seen the light of day for 15 to 20 years. It is trash. This is what makes the "stuff stage" so painfully slow.

Today I will start with some pictures of the dining room, and end it with pictures of the "stuff".

The Dining Room is complete now as the chairs arrived on January 29 (this past Friday).  Pictures are hung, and flowers
on the tables.  In this configuration it will seat 16 people, which can occur at least monthly around here.

Looking down the length of the table with
chairs one can see that there is plenty of
room for everyone.

The tables as decorated for Pam's birthday, with tablecloths.
We have to buy long, rectangular tablecloths (at least 108
inches - 274cm), and be able to buy two at a time, which is
not always as easy as it sounds

This is in the five-car garage, which is full of "stuff".  Some things one can
ascertain, others not so much.  It does not help to be closer.

Progress is hard to measure, but the two boxes center-right have been
converted from "stuff" to garbage.  In addition to the stacked boxes, the large
box to the far left needs to see such a conversion.

This is the "fifth-car slot" which will be the shop area for tools, storage and
outdoor vehicles like a UTV-4WD and mower.

The pegboard is up and has tools hanging all over it.  I have thrown some
tools away because of broken handles, duplications, or irrelevance; these
are the ones which remain.