Bottles & Cans

Bottles & Cans

At some point last year, Nate decided to start collecting bottles & cans to help pay for our honeymoon. His plan was to collect as many as he could and then cash out at the local recycling place before we left for Hawaii.

Family and friends were very generous to donate their own recycling to the fund. Many evenings I would find a paper bag of cans on our doorstep from a neighbor. We also found that parties at our house were a great way to fill out the collection. We just set up special recycling buckets so people disposed of their empty containers correctly.

Collecting bottles and cans

For months, we accumulated bags along the side of our shed. The bags were well protected here, but the pile grew a little out of hand before Nate took them in.

So many bottles & cans
It’s amazing how many cans you can collect. When Nate finally cashed out, he had about 50 lbs in aluminum alone and made about $130 bucks. Not bad at all and certainly enough to pay for a dinner on our trip.

It’s pretty cool to see the small changes you can make at home that can potentially make you money. Can recycling isn’t a huge deal, but Nate and I agree that it makes sense to make money on it instead of just recycling them through the city.

Bags of bottles and cans

After our trip, we’ve decided to keep collecting cans but this time make some improvements to the process. Instead of bags of cans, Nate is dumping crushed cans into a plastic garbage container with lid.

The Crusher

To consolidate the cans, we installed The Crusher on the back shed wall. Our good friend Dean donated The Crusher to our cause. Dean’s dad had this guy up in his workshop and we are super pleased to continue to put it to good use.

Last Saturday, Nate attached The Crusher to the back of the shed and tried it out. I recorded the first crush with my hyperlapse app to show you The Crusher in action.

The plan is to fill the garbage container with cans and then take it to the recycling center. We want to figure out how long it will take to fill and how much we can can make per container. We have a few bags ready to crush so I bet we are already half way there. I’ll report back when we take the can in and give you an idea of how much we think we can make a year projecting out.

Field Notes: Summer Veg Garden 2014

Field Notes: Summer Veg Garden 2014

I am happy to report we finally are producing ripe, beautiful tomatoes in the garden! This is an exciting moment. One of my absolute favorite things about summer are fresh tomatoes. I am so excited to make that trek to the garden every morning to find a few for my omelet.


I planted this year’s summer garden the beginning of May in my two raised beds planted plus large pots in the back near the pool. The beds always do a little better since they are consistently watered by my drip system.

Field Notes: Summer Veg Garden 2014 // Our Concrete Home (

A third pot was purchased this year so we could grow squash in the back. (That’s me excited to find the right “squash pot” at IKEA.) He sits between my tall tomato pots I’ve been using for a few years. So far it’s been an awesome addition. Nate and I needed a break from eating a million monster zucchini this summer so I went with a container squash instead. The size and quantity are easier to handle – although I will say that I prefer the gooseneck type of squash a little better. Maybe next year I can find a plant that has both qualities.


I try to water the pots as well as I can, but I already noticed a little tomato rot so I am not doing as well as I hoped.


Here’s the full list of what was planted and notes on how each is doing:

In the raised beds along the side of our house

(4-6 hours of sun with timed drip system)

  • Blue Lake Long Beans – producing
  • Japanese Eggplant – nothing so far
  • Beefsteak – producing
  • Cherry – producing
  • Tomatillo – a few flowers so far
  • Serrano – just starting to make peppers
  • Cucumber – died
  • Thai Basil – not as great as last year, but doing ok
  • Oregano – going crazy
  • Rosemary – doing well
  • Peppermint – the butterflies and other insects love this guy

In containers in the backyard

(6+ hours of sunlight and watered manually)

  • Porch Tomato – a few green tomatoes on it. bottom rot on a few.
  • Container’s Choice Tomato – a few green tomatoes on it
  • Japanese Eggplant – only one eggplant so far
  • Papaya Pear Squash – producing


To summarize the notes above, our raised beds still have issues with bugs and spots which I think it largely due to the amount of sunlight they get. There isn’t much I can do on this point and luckily besides looking a little funky – the garden is thriving. Our pots definitely look better than the raised bed cousins, but the manual watering has caused issues like bottom rot. It’s a hard trade-off. With their placement next to the pool, I can’t use a drip line. So either I need to get better at watering or I will need to move them so I can install an automatic system. Either way, I am pretty pleased with this year’s crop. We have a lot of variety and an abundance of the veggies we can’t get enough of.


SO what am I making with all these veggies? Well, most of the time we grill them with a little salt and pepper or use them in salads. In the next few weeks, I hope to make my favorite tomato soup recipe once we all the tomatoes are producing. It is so good and I can’t wait to make batches to freeze. If all goes well, I will share it on the blog as well.

Happy Monday Everyone!

DIY Weekend: Phase #1 of the Side Patio

Mulch Side Patio: Phase One

Why hello!! The last few weeks have been madness. I’ve been working on multiple wedding projects, hosting Nate’s birthday, be a bridesmaid and then travelled to Hawaii for some R&R. So much has happened that it left little time to blog, but don’t worry – I took about a gillion photos (you may have seen a few on instagram) to document all the fun. So now I have the big task of writing it all down and posting. Luckily, I am recharged and ready to go!

Mulch Side Patio: Before

So let’s go back to that first weekend of June…. Remember the short-term plan for the side patio project I mentioned? Well the time had come to get this project finished. Nate’s birthday was the following weekend and it was important to me to have the side yard usable for the pool party.

Mulch Patio: Before

This meant, dealing with sweltering temperatures outside and doing the project solo. Why? Well, this also happened to be the final weekend of school for Nate which meant he was under deadline to get all his grading completed. Under no circumstances could he help me as much as he wanted to although he did help a little at the very end. Some may think this was an odd project for me to do by myself, but I was actually fine with it. I felt it was a challenge that I could handle with proper planning.

Purchase the mulch and prep the yard

Mulch choices

Speaking of planning, I researching many different kinds of materials to use until I had two favorites.

1) Walk-on bark mulch has longer pieces of bark and wood usually 2-4″ long. This type is used as a ground cover in areas that will have foot traffic, and on slopes to help control erosion.

2) Playground bark mulch is man-made and has shock absorbent qualities. This type is used in playgrounds, jogging trails and backyard play areas.

I liked the idea of having the playground bark, but decided on the more organic look of the walk-on kind. I needed about 3.5 cubic yards for the patio area, but bumped it up to 4 to get free delivery.

Mulch delivery

The delivery happened during my work day, so I wasn’t able to direct them how I’d like it dumped. And surprise, surprise – the delivery was more in the street then the gutter where I asked them to put it. So once I got home I spread out the mulch so it was out of the road as much as possible with help from neighbor Lee. Then since I knew I had quite a bit of weeding to do in the morning, I watered the patio area with a sprinkler to soften the dirt.

Project Breakdown

I recorded a little video vlog of my weekend if you would like to see a play by play.

Mulch Patio in Five Steps

This project consisted of five basic parts.

Mulch patio: weeding

1) Weeding and working the soil

I started the day by weeding and turning the soil. This took the majority of the morning and by the time I was done – I was a sweaty, dirty mess. I stopped around lunch time, showered and headed to a graduation party for a couple of hours. This was a nice break, with the weather in triple digits.

Mulch install: leveling

2) Leveling the soil and install a border

Later in the afternoon, I worked on leveling out the soil and then watering it down again so I continue the next morning. It’s amazing how packed that dirt has gotten over the years.

On Sunday morning, I picked up where I left off. I continued to level the area using the flat edge of a 2×4 to help me out. Our side yard is a little higher than the concrete around the pool, so I worked on giving the area a nice slope so water would run off and settle into the mulch the end of the patio before getting to the pool.

Install edging

Next, I installed a 2×4″ border between the patio and grass area for a permanent edge. I dug a trench, inserted the board and then leveled it before packing it with dirt.

Mulch install: landscape cloth

3) Lay down landscape fabric

I was torn about installing landscaping fabric or not, but in the end I went for it. Obvious benefits include a even surface to lay the mulch out on and it being a weed barrior. I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to do the extra work. Turned out it was one of my better decisions and actually fun to install.

I bought a large roll of fabric and two boxes of staples. Then it was just a matter of laying out the cloth, cutting it to size (a little bigger than you want) and securing it down with plenty of overlap between pieces.

Pixel on landscape cloth

The cats were very interested in this part of the process. They were dismayed to see the dirt covered, but their love for fabric had them all over the landscape cloth.

Mulch goes in

4) Bring in the mulch

With the patio prepped, it was now time to bring in the mulch. I put in my headphones with a nice upbeat electronic mix, got my dad’s big flat shovel and went to work.

Mulch wheelbarrow

I counted 40 wheelbarrow trips until our wonderful neighbors arrived with two extra wagons to help me finish off. We each took 6 trips to get it all in. Lee and Carol were so sweet to help me out and it save me a bunch of time since it was almost dinnertime on Sunday.

Mulch in

Before the sun set, I leveled out the mulch as best I could and called it a day.

Mulch leveling

5) Level

The final step was leveling out all the mulch which turned out to be harder than I thought. If I were to do a project like this again I would have added mulch a little at a time then leveled and repeated. I think this was partly due to the shape of this mulch which was hard to shovel and rake.

Watering it down

Finally, we watered down the mulch to reduce the dust and help settle it. This will of course happen more with time, but the water gave it a good start.

Cost (all other materials & tools used I had on hand)

Tips for your patio project

  • My favorite tools for this project was my work gloves. I wore them through the whole thing. They did a great job protecting my hands from blisters, splinters and even the sun.
  • I also love my hand tiller. I think this is the perfect gardening tool for me. It’s small and pretty powerful.
  • Remember to support your back when doing this sort of work. I try to keep the mantra of “belly button to spine” in my head as I work.
  • When the mulch was flying you really need something to protect your eyes. A cheap pair of sunglasses work for me.
  • Doing a project alone I really needed some motivation to stay out in the triple digits. My Spotify playlists got me through most of it.

Mulch leveled

For the party, we moved our dining table and chairs onto the mulch for extra seating. Eventually I’d like to have a real outdoor dining area, but we either need to find the right table or build one ourselves. So my plan for now is to set up a little sitting area with the outdoor chair we already have.

I was extremely proud of myself for completing this project. I know Nate wanted to help, but it was personally satisfying to undertake this on my own and complete it.

Field Notes: Drip System Install


Last weekend I crossed off a huge task from my to-do list and it felt excellent. I have a tendency to put too many projects on my plate and do then lo-and-behold can’t finish all of them! This week I told Nate I was only going to focus on one and do it right. Well, this approached worked out. Imagine that.

The project that got completed? The drip system extension in the front yard. I mentioned last week, that I planned to put in drip lines throughout our flower beds this summer. Drips are great for our hot, dry climate and since we are on water restrictions, it’s a way to get the biggest bang out of our water use.

I decided to write up a few of my observations to share today. If you want to read about the step by step, take a look at my garden drip system project.


1. Buy more parts than you need.

I mean seriously, is there ever a home project that doesn’t take multiple trips to the hardware store? Saturday I went to Home Depot and picked up all my supplies, but of course I forgot a few and had a do a return trip as well. This time I was smart and picked up extra pieces that I can also use on future projects. Turns out I needed them so glad I thought to pick them up.


2. Throw the lines into the sun to loosen them up.

The first thing I did was throw all my lines (1/4″ & 1/2″ tubing) into the sun to loosen them up and make them more pliable. This is such an easy tip, but also so important when you are trying to lay it all out straight.

I also switched our my single Orbital timer for a bigger unit. The Orbit Automatic Yard Watering Kit is programable for four extensions but I am only using two right now. This is perfect for us since our veggie garden needs a little more water than the flower beds do. Plus we have options to expand it later into the lawn depending on what we decide to do with it.


3. Cats love freshly turned earth more than life.

Once I got the timer in, I pulled back all my (overgrown) plants in the beds and dug a shallow ditch along the back of the flower bed a couple inches from the house. Most of our plants are rooted in the middle of the bed so I didn’t have to remove anything for my ditch.

As soon as I started digging, Loki joined me and took a liking to my work. Nothing like a little dirt to make our cats happy.


4. Make sure to run the lines under pipes and roots.

Next, I laid out my lines in the ditch starting at the timer and working towards the front porch. A few times, I had to run the 1/2″ tubing under water pipes to the house so glad planned it out before connecting the tubing together.


Check and test the line before you cut and attach.

I slowly cut the tubing into pieces and connected them as I went. I used four elbow fittings and one tee fitting to run the length of our bed. I caped one end with a hose end plug in case I want to extend it later. The other end I used a simple end closure fitting. Once it was all in I turned on the water to check for any leaks and to clear the line of any dirt. A few fittings needed to be adjusted, but other than that it was solid and ready for emitters.


6. Excited this will make life simpler.

Finally, I added the actual sprinkler heads. Along the length, I used full circle micro bubblers every three feet of flower bed. I punched a hole in the 1/2″ tubing and inserted a length of 1/4″ line (that I cut myself) to the bubbler (with a barbed coupling on either end). I tried to cut the lengths long enough so they can be easily moved around depending on what we plant.

Then in each flower pot on our porch, I added bubblers with longer lines to reach from the tubing. I plan on doing a better job hiding the lines, but first wanted to make sure everything works this week before I do that.

Once all the bubblers were all in, I tested the full system out again and had only a few bubbler heads to tweak. With it all working, I buried the line and fixed all our plants back into position. They still need some pruning, but again I was only focused on one goal this weekend!


With teacher duties occupying most of his time, I appreciated when Nate and the cats check in on me a few times during the project. Next week, I will start on the backyard and general yard clean up. We have Nate’s birthday in a few weeks and I want the yard to be in top shape. Woo!! Summer is almost here!!

All products discussed were purchase with my own money or a wedding gift. Products linked above are affiliate links.

Planning for a drought

Cleaning up the front porch

I am planning on working on a few projects to make our house more water efficient. California is bracing for a big drought this summer. Residents in Sacramento have already been asked to reduce our water usage by 20% and a public option poll has recently come out saying that most Californians are on board with these sort of measures.

Planning for a drought // Our Concrete Home (

Our priority is to keep our established plants and vegetable garden doing well this summer. We are willing to sacrifice our patchy front lawn to make this happen. Last summer, we actually stopped watering the lawn when we realized that it was mostly dead, so we will just continue doing the same this summer.

Drip Irrigation System Install

1. Extend the drip systems

Even with a dead lawn, we want to conserve as much water as we can. I am going to extend our drip system in our front flower beds. Then expand it into the back yard to water the flower beds on either side of the pool. Each section will be on its own timer so I can have a specific water plan based on what is growing where.

Planning for a drought // Our Concrete Home (

2. Finish the side patio

I have told Nate this is the summer I will finish the side patio. Now more than ever, I am really excited to have giant concrete pavers that have drainage between them. this allows any water to absorb back into the ground and prevent runoff.

We always entertain a lot in the summer so have decided to have the short range and long range plan.

Short Range Plan: We will level the patio spot and add mulch this month. This way we have our backyard looking good for parties and events in June.

Long Range Plan: Then, we transfer the mulch to other areas of the yard and put in the concrete pavers when we have more time to work on it in July and August.

I am going to sit down this weekend and come up with my game plan and budget cost for this one. I like the idea of at least having some sort of ground cover on the patio site so it’s usable immediately.

Rain Barrel

3. Add rain barrels

My final project is setting up rain barrels around the yard. We don’t typically get much rain this time of year, so my goal is to get them in before the fall months. Hopefully by that time we will also have our roof done or scheduled.

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