A sitting wall – and a garden border redo…

A redo of our front yard border has been on the To Do List for quite some time. In fact, it was on my mental shortlist for this year.

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Spring turned into summer before I even realized it.

Summer flew by.

The total eclipse came and went.

I complained in August that I hadn’t gotten anything done this year.

Fall arrived and I decided that I needed to just do something.

So, I built a big dinosaur egg!

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Ha – I wished. It is totally cool, isn’t it? We saw the big egg at our Botanic Gardens as we were touring a couple of Saturdays ago – while looking for an answer to our front border redo.

As I have mentioned before, I love a particular border at the Botanic Gardens made from block stones.

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I considered this border for my raised garden bed last year. Sadly, it didn’t work out for that project. I had my mind set that I would definitely use it for the front yard border. It was perfect. It was like a mini version of a stone courtyard wall. I love courtyard walls. I love stone. A mini version seemed good because our yard is pretty small and has a lot going on.

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Then, I started second guessing my decision – because there is a lot going on out there. Would another random element look just as disjointed as the current brick situation? Would the stone blocks be just too much – stepping over the line from “interesting” to “junky”?

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Eventually, I decided the block thing was, in fact, just a bit too much. I was sad. I love, love, love those stone blocks…

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I had to move on. I sort of moved on. My next thought was a smaller, just barely above grade version of the block stone border.

Yep. A shorter, smaller version of the stone block border was it.

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Tad wasn’t sold on the idea of smaller stone block border. He wanted to look at all the options one more time.  So, we did.

Here are all the additional options we considered.

A poured concrete curb. I voted no – too urban.

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A flat poured concrete border. Again, I voted no – not interesting enough.

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We both still liked the idea of a “sitting” wall as the border itself – or as part of the border.

Tad kept pushing for concrete. I liked this formed concrete couch. It is a piece of functional art. I seriously considered a smaller version of this. Ultimately, it got eliminated because I didn’t want to hire anyone for this front border project.

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This type of textured concrete wall always comes up as an option when we talk about outdoor projects. We both love board formed concrete and want to use it in a project. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the project where board formed concrete would make it’s appearance.

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Stacked stone sitting wall? I liked it, but too “formal” for our project?

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The concrete base with a stone cap was cool, but felt a bit too modern and blocky for the mountain retreat thing I continue to strive for.

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We, then, stumbled upon the winner!

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River rock that matches our existing flower bed material! A cut stone cap that matches some stepping stones already in the yard! A “mountain, state park” kind of feel! I liked it! Tad liked it!

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This inspiration was found at Hudson Gardens in Littleton, Colorado. The place is cool – quiet, small, pretty, and free to visit. It feels like a private park…

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Back to our garden in progress.

We now have our own sitting wall out front!

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We built it ourselves – despite Tad initially suggesting that I call up someone to come build it.

We dug down a foot or so – carefully avoiding the sprinkler system,

Dug down one...

threw down some mortar,

Mortar base for structure...

placed a few cinder blocks for the structure,

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gathered some river rocks for the facing,

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applied the river rocks with some more mortar,

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did some shopping for the bench top,

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decided we needed a time capsule,

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installed the cut stone top,

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filled in some finish mortar between the stones,

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decided the one end needed to be built out a bit more,

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and stepped back to view our handiwork – the bench and the bird!

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A view from the porch…

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One step closer to feeling like our own private park…

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We talked about doing the whole border as a sitting wall, but I still wanted to see the moss boulders from the front yard. We also talked about doing a step down to a shorter border for the rest of the border like this wall.

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In the end, Tad decided that a flat border would be easier to mow and trim.

Keeping with the elements already in the yard, I opted to replace the brick with a buff stone.

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It still needs to be set level in a mortar base, but I can already tell that it was the right choice!

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Brick before…

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Beautiful buff stone after…

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Yep! I am hoping for a finish date by the New Year. So, check back 12/31-ish…

Odds & Ends (and, an oddity or two)…

Today is Q&A time – about all the odds & ends I have left hanging out there.

But, first up, let’s get the oddities out of the way.

Today is August 21st, 2017. It is the day of the Total Solar Eclipse of 2017!  I would call the total solar eclipse one of the most interesting oddities in Mother Nature. I love oddities. This is definitely my thing! So, the question of the day is…

Why-oh-why, did you not spend the day in Wyoming (or Nebraska) experiencing this once in a lifetime odd event given it is just a few short hours by car of where you live?

The simple answer is that I am a procrastinator. I had a tentative plan. I requested the day off of work. I tried to find somewhere to spend the night, but there was nothing left by the time I started looking. Then, I decided we could just drive somewhere the morning of the eclipse, spend a few minutes in total darkness, experience the event, and drive home in time for dinner. I thought this was a great idea. After all, I had the day off and nothing else to do. I told Tad the tentative plan. He was definitely not on board. I think it was the getting up in the middle of the night, driving for several hours in likely heavy traffic, and possibly missing the eclipse anyway if traffic was really bad. Tad does not get excited about odd things like I do. So, two minutes of odd was not enough to convince Tad to go on this day trip with me. So, I thought I would just head out on my own. It could still be kind of fun? As the day neared, the final deciding question of whether or not I would be experiencing this 2 minute once in a lifetime event was “Is sleep more important than 2 minutes of total darkness in the middle of the day?”

Yep. Sleep won out. I know. What is my deal?! I wanted to go, but I love sleep. I have missed out on a lot of sleep in my lifetime! Sleep is very important to me. I am not one of those people who lives by the “I can sleep when I am dead” mantra. Anyway, post solar eclipse I am ok with the decision. Plus, I did a quick google search and discovered that there will be a 2024 total solar eclipse in Rochester NY. Tad has family in Rochester! And, in 2045 there will be a total solar eclipse right here in Colorado. It can’t get more convenient than in my own backyard! That will likely be my final chance to experience total darkness in the middle of the day. I won’t miss it – unless, of course, I am sleeping :)

Once I got over the disappointment of being a procrastinator (and choosing sleep above all else), I realized I could still make the best of this day. I showed up at my dentist appointment early and told them that I needed to get out of there ASAP – so, no X-rays, no doctor exam, no fluoride – just the basics. Yes, I had a dentist appointment today – on Total Solar Eclipse Day. I seriously don’t know what is wrong with me sometimes!

Last night somebody on the news said that the eclipse here in Colorado would be like it is at dusk. He was wrong – in my opinion. I would compare the 2 minutes of “total” eclipse here in Colorado to sitting under our courtyard shade screen.  A bit like it is when it is hazy, but without the actual haze. Then, the light had a golden feel, but not like the “golden hour” at dusk. It was like being in a golden city – kind of like what I would imagine Emerald City to look like – a bit odd, but golden nonetheless – if Emerald City (and the Wizard of Oz) were real.

So, here is what Colorado felt like during the solar eclipse of 2017…

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I don’t know. It looks mostly like it does any other day. Maybe, the “golden” thing was in my imagination?

Anyway…

Now to the Odds & Ends (and other lesser known oddities)…

Did you win the garden contest?

The good news is that I didn’t lose! So – no, I did not win the contest. However, I have had a bit of an interesting garden year. It has been very unusual…

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That is an upside down purple pepper! I realize it is doesn’t really compare to the solar eclipse, but still a bit odd, I think. In case you are wondering, it tasted just like a right side up pepper :)

Is your blueberry bush alive and well?

Yes – yes, it is. It hasn’t grown much and hasn’t produced any blueberries, but it is still alive. The oddity here is that it is still alive! Odd or not, that is a win in my garden book!

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Other than the upside down purple pepper and a surviving blueberry bush, what other contributions have you made to the outdoor scene this summer?

I, maybe, saved a bee and cheered up somebody’s day with some alley sunflowers. Somebody might consider this odd. In my mind, every little bit counts. I am willing to risk being thought of as odd if there is even a slim chance of saving a bee or cheering up just one person’s day.

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Again, it isn’t a total solar eclipse, but it is a line through one of the items on the To Do List.  I spruced up a drainage swell in the front yard. The exciting part of this project was crossing it off the To Do List…

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Our outdoor room (aka courtyard/patio) got some added pep! On a recent out of town trip, I added to my collection of blown glass patio decor…

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and a striped pillow or three.

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Speaking of outdoor living space – I started a renovation of our patio art table…

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I say started because I think it needed an update from it’s original design. I still think it needs something more, though. It is missing color, maybe?

Ok – so – this hasn’t been one of my most productive summers.

And – frankly – the anticipation of the solar eclipse thing kind of overshadowed everything anyway.

Did you find something sculptural for the living room wall – above the wallpaper art?

Yes – I did! We were wandering around a local art show this summer – and it drew me in.

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Handmade and very cool. Maybe, a little odd in some people’s (design) book…

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It’s a bat.

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It’s a totally cute bat!

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I seem to recall another bat decor item in your house? You seem to like bats? What is up with that?

I don’t particularly “like” bats. It just so happened that a couple of bat type items crossed my path – and I like those bats for their uniqueness. Though, I like that real bats control insects and stuff. I like that about bats.

Did you ever get the hardware installed for your guest bedroom built in and closet?

Yep. We went with simple in an oil rubbed bronze finish. I love this built in. There isn’t enough room in our guest room for a dresser or any other kind of furniture storage. We thought a built in and a smaller area for hanging clothes was the best utilization of this closet space. It isn’t completely finished – we want to now install some lighting, but at least the hardware is installed. Every little step gets us closer to the finish…

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Why did you not have lighting installed for the built in during the recent renovation?

Good question. It is kind of a long story. The short version, though, is that plans changed mid construction. More on that in the future.

Is the bathroom finished?

I think we last left off waiting on hardware installation, the mirror, and some artwork. So – the answer to this question is “Yes, it is mostly finished”…

Finally finished too...

The cabinet hardware was easily installed once I procured the longer screws.

Tile Close Up...

The frame for the mirror was started by Tad, but finished by the woodworker who built the vanity and bedroom built ins.

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A photo of a little girl playing the violin for a cat and two dogs was framed and hung.

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A huge nutcracker King rules the room…

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Is that you playing the violin for the cat and dogs?

Ha – you aren’t the first to ask that same question! No, it isn’t me, but I can see why you might ask – given the antique nature of the photo – and my age…

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Why don’t you just take a picture of the finished bathroom and call it good?

I know, right! I have tried taking those exact pictures you speak of. It is impossible to get decent pictures of this tiny space with my little non professional point and shoot camera. I think a video tour of the room might be better to show you around.Yes, I think a future video tour of the new bathroom is in order – stay tuned for that!

 

Our garden is in a contest & I would like to not lose…

I entered our side yard garden in a contest. I didn’t really think it would get chosen.

It ended up making the finals – and is now up for vote.

My main goal is to not lose. The pressure is on. I am currently #4 – with only slightly more votes than the edible garden at AT&T baseball park.

I realize that my edible garden may not technically be seen by some as “the best” given it’s very small size and the non-traditional mixing of flowers and edibles.

Again, I am just trying to not lose at this point. So, I am asking for your vote. Plus, the website is kind of cool to peruse if you like garden stuff.

https://www.gardenista.com/submission/2017/our-house-project-tiny-urban-garden/

Oh – and if you have 30 seconds per day, you can vote every day until August 4th…

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Ok. Now, with that out of the way, here is the real 2017 garden story.

This year’s yard and garden has been a bit of a challenge. A very cold spring, followed by an early hot spell, then a multi day freeze, next a hailstorm with golf ball sized hail, a neighbor’s ash tree that dropped millions of seeds in our yard, very late germination of vegetable seeds, and finally the cold season vegetables going from seedlings to bolted overnight. Sigh…

You might notice (if you voted) that the contest entry pictures look pretty lush. In fact, that garden looks darn amazing! So amazing that you might actually think it could be the best one?!

You also might be thinking “Wow! Why are you whining? Your garden looks pretty decent, especially since you submitted those entry pictures in June! Who knew that gardens in Colorado could look that great in June!”

Here is the truth. It’s a spoiler :(

The pictures I submitted are from previous years – because a garden, in Colorado, in June – especially this June – is just barely getting started. My garden this June was just a bunch of empty troughs, hail damaged perennials, and what I thought was a dead grape vine. It was sad.

Fast forward a good 4-6 weeks…

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Things sort of recovered. Things did finally sprout in the troughs. By things, I mean tomatoes. The tomato plants have gone completely crazy. Unfortunately, there are only about a total of 9 tomatoes on those huge plants.

The front raised bed, is what I would call a partial success this summer. The middle stuff never quite recovered (lots of bare dirt in there). The carrots (there at the bottom) look great, though I haven’t actually harvested any yet. The strawberries and blueberries (there at the top) have thrived!

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Here is a close up of the successful berry section…

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The flower part of the garden has been beautiful this July…

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The grapevine (the tree looking thing in upper left corner) did not die! It did eventually leaf out again, after been frozen this spring – and there are even a few grape clusters…

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The sunflowers in the alley are now going strong…

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They haven’t flowered yet, but there is still time – and hope…

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So.

As you can see, I am still trying to contribute to the gardening world despite the adversity of Mother Nature here in Colorado.

Thank you for helping me not lose the garden contest.

The prize is a book – or something – at this point, I can’t even remember.