Category Archives: Outdoor Projects & Gardening
For our third work day at my parents house two weekends ago, we had a full crew over to finish the major projects on the backyard and backdrop. It was awesome to have so many people come over because we accomplished more than we thought!
Finalizing the pathways
During the last work day, mass quantities of wood chips were wheelbarrowed in. Now they did more detail work leveling the wood chips throughout the garden.
They also created a solid edge between the lawn and garden that looks mighty fine.
Kevin took on a side project and fixed the brick path to the pool.
With the guys occupied outside, Wendy, Julie, Adie and Alice helped me work on our backdrop. I won’t go into much detail of how it will look finished, but one component is garlands of hearts that echo our invitation design.
The ladies spent hours cutting construction paper hearts out in red, orange and white. Then the hearts were stapled onto a 8′ length of cooking twine which is the height of our backdrop.
Each garland of hearts was then accordion folded and placed into a standard envelope. We did this to prevent tangling in storage and make setup as easy as possible.
Swing set goes down
Another task that fell to the boys was taking down the swing set. This set was an original 1950′s piece from our local elementary school that made it’s way to my parents backyard for the grandchildren a few years back.
We expected it would be a pain to take apart, but it turned out to be the easiest project of the day. The set was very well made and all the bolts and connections came apart easily with no sign of rust.
Of course the Hannah (pictured) and Teagan (my niece) had a hard time seeing it put away, but we assured them it would be back after the wedding.
We will be lighting the backyard with strings of lights that crisscross the lawn and patio areas. My parents decided they wanted to install posts into the garden to hang them and be the support for our backdrop.
The boys got to work digging holes for each post. Nate and Jeremy used some reclaimed lumber from my dad’s supply to cut down into posts.
Feeding the troops
Around lunchtime, we all took a break. I grilled up some burgers and my mom made pasta salad.
Then everyone sat down to eat.
Back to work
After everyone’s bellies were full, we went back to work. The boys figured out the depth of the posts and got to work filling the post holes with cement.
Finally, they built a frame for the backdrop and raised it.
Then they made sure it was level and filled the post holes.
Here’s the final frame propped up to let the cement dry.
And with the posts up the work day was completed, the kids (and parents) took a dip in the pool to celebrate.
It was another great work day with our friends. As I have mentioned before, Nate and I are very thankful for the help. I’d like to give a big round of applause to Kevin, Julie, Derek, Wendy, Scott, Alice, Jeff, Hannah, Joe and Jeremy for helping out on their Saturday. A special thank you goes out to my parents for hosting us once again.
A few weeks ago, we had the second “wedding work day” at my parents to prep the yard for the wedding. I was out-of-town on my girls weekend (more on that later), so this work day was all about the amazing gentlemen in our lives.
All photos below are courtesy of my parents. Thanks for documenting guys!
Prepping for the Work Day
Earlier that week, my parents picked up supplies including wood chips and sod for the day. (Seriously, how cute is my dad in this photo?)
They had 15 cubic yards of wood chips delivered fill in the garden paths on the far side of the property. They also picked up sod to lay right next to the brand new decomposed granite patio.
My dad also got the paths along the back side of the property ready for wood chips. This is where the wedding party will be walking to and from the ceremony.
Breaking it up
Once the work crew arrived on Saturday, they got started breaking up the dirt path that was left over after the decomposed granite patio was installed. The dirt was highly compacted after years under a swing set so the boys had to really put some muscle into it to break it up.
Next, Jeremy and my Dad worked on adding a permanent edge between the patio and lawn.
They dug a deep ditch and installed a 2×4 along the length of the patio. Once installed it laid flush with the decomposed granite.
Onto the garden paths
While Dad and Jeremy worked, the rest of the crew started on the garden paths. A layer of landscape cloth was installed first and then the wood chips were brought in load by load.
Teagan the Garden Fairy helped Uncle Nate with his wheelbarrow loads.
Here’s the wood chips installed along the path. The boys laid a nice thick path that with time will flatten out.
Installing the sod
With the edging complete, it was finally time to lay the sod. The soil was raked and wet down first. Then the sod strips were laid down edge to edge with staggered joints kinda like bricks in a wall.
A patch of sod was also laid down next to the citrus trees to cover a bare patch. Once all the grass strips were in, the whole area was watered thoroughly.
It takes about 1-3 weeks for the sod to root to the soil, so it’s a critical time for keeping the grass healthy. My parents have watered daily to keep the entire area moist. It’s important that the sod not be over-watered because it will prevent grass from rooting and potentially cause rot.
Overall, it was a super productive day at the wedding site. We owe a big thank you to Jeremy, Jeff, Joe and Alan for helping us out once again on this epic adventure.
Next, I will report on our work day from the last weekend. You will be able to see how much the sod has grown in the last few weeks.
I am a little backlogged with all the wedding projects happening these days, so I’ll be posting a few projects (both wedding and house related) we’ve tackled the last few weeks to catch up.
Starting with our backyard. Over the last month we’ve spruced up the backyard in preparation for BBQs and pool time post-wedding.
I wrote about how I experimented with seeding our back grass patch and the results have been pretty good. I expanded the seeding to the entire right side of the pool.
We’ve been diligent in watering the area daily until the grass came up. It still has a few bald patches, but I’m confident it will fill in with time.
Nate worked on cleaning up the patio. We are still as a loss at what to do with the sections under the windows. The cats continue to kill whatever we plant there so I am now thinking that a denser plant would keep them from using it as their litter box.
I tackled pruning the Meyer lemon and kumquat trees into shape. Both trees had enormous growth after the last pruning.
I took my time with the lemon to avoid cutting off any of the flowers. I expect we will have a killer crop of lemons next winter with so many blooms.
The kumquat was given a major buzz cut and in the process I harvested the fruit to use. We’ve never had so many kumquats.
I didn’t measure them all together but I would say we had 3-4 grocery bags full. We gave a bunch away to neighbors, family and Nate even took in bunches each day to share with his students. We still had so many kumquats that I decided to try juicing them whole.
I threw the entire fruit in my Breville and made two pitchers full of pulpy juice goodness. The rind is such an integral part of the flavor it had to be included. And in case anyone is wondering, the juice tastes like a tart creamsicle which I personally find super delicious. I think I found my favorite thing to do with kumquats.
Fast forward a few weeks later, our apricots are beginning to ripen. I expect I will be harvesting them later this week.
The squirrels already got a few and I want to keep the rest for my greedy self.
During Spring Break a few weeks back Nate, my dad and our good friends Jeremy and Bill took a day of their vacation to install a decomposed granite patio in my parent’s backyard. The patio will become our dance floor for the wedding.
Background on the dance floor decision
When we started planning out the floor plan for the wedding we discussed a couple of options for the dance area. The wood chipped swing area next to the lawn was one of our top choices. It’s a big area and we figured we could move the swing set and then rent a temporary dance floor to lay over the chips for the event.
Typically, you estimate a third of your guests will be on the dance floor at one time with 4.5 square feet of dance floor per guest. So for our roughly 150 guests that’s 5o guests x 4.5 square feet = 225 square feet. Most companies recommend at 15×15 square dance floor for this size.
We knew that this wouldn’t work for us. We will likely have more like half our guests dancing at once so we extended the dance floor to be the full wood chip area and got prices. Renting the floor with the plywood subfloor came in around $800. We felt that was a lot of money for a rental so we brainstormed other alternatives.
The solution ended up being very simple. We would tackle a project my parents already were thinking about – replace the wood chips with decomposed granite (DG) and just use the hard DG patio as the dance floor.
Installing a decomposed granite patio in a day
My parents had eight yards of decomposed granite delivered before the big work day. The material cost us $423 so roughly half the cost of the floor rental. Score!
Caffeinated and raring to go, the boys began moving the wood chips from the patio area.
They transferred the chips to other places in the garden including under the citrus trees.
Then they moved the swing set off the new patio onto the lawn for the time being.
Because the patio area subsurface was already prepped (a wood border and landscape cloth was installed for the wood chips) all they had to do was start bringing in the DG.
Here’s Bill shoveling up a wheelbarrow full and the long trek through the yard to the new patio area complete with little wheelbarrow ramp.
They filled half the patio with DG and then compacted it down with a big concrete roller.
Then the repeated the process and filled the other half.
Next they watered the decomposed granite down.
And leveled the whole patio our with a piece of chain link fence.
This full process (compact, water and level) a few times to get it just right.
The patio was finished with a little DG left over. (We are going to use that in another part of the backyard, but I’ll get to that later.)
Here’s the finished patio taken next to the garage looking towards the lawn (where the ceremony & some of the dining will take place).
And here’s the view from the opposite end still looking towards the lawn.
Isn’t it nice? It’s going to be a great dance surface. Plus my parents now have a place to play horseshoes and bocce ball.
All the worker bees deserve a big applause for a very full day of work. And a special thank you to Jeremy and Bill for taking a vacation day to help us out. We love you.
Next weekend marks the cutoff point when new home projects are put aside and we move into full wedding mode. Scary yes, but also a little exciting. We have a lot of DIY projects planned.
I am girl who loves a deadline so I had a big hopes to squash a few projects over my last home project weekend for the next few months. Friday night I organized my file cabinet prepping for the financial merge with Nate. It’s crazy to think this will be the last year I file my taxes alone.
On Saturday, I decided to work on our patchy lawns. Last year by midsummer most of the grass was dead and I’d like to try to avoid that happening again. Since the weather has been unbelievable lately I though it would be a good time to experiment with a little grass seed before the weather gets too hot.
I raked up all the dead grass and debris while loosening about 3-4 inches of top soil. Then I sprinkled the Sun & Shade Mix over the soil and lightly raked it in. Fingers crossed this works. I’ll be watering it daily to keep the seed and soil moist until I start seeing seedlings emerge and they get established.
I also took some new photos of our open ceiling. Yep folks, we have mold again. I’ll be zapping that will a little bleach later today.
We’ve had nothing but bad luck finding the right roofing or general contractor to replace the roof. Either they never get our calls returned, they don’t have experience with flat roofs or after we meet we get a “sorry we cannot send you a quote because x, y or z” email. It sucks. The only silver lining is besides the rainy day drips and mold situation, the roof hasn’t caused too many issues for us. We are very thankful we live in such a temperate climate. Currently, we are looking into another general contractor, but again this project may be pushed off until after June unfortunately.
Then Sunday happened. The day turned out to be all about our used 2001 Honda Civic that came with “better than the standard, but not fancy” rims.
We must have drove through a construction site on our way home Saturday night because Sunday morning we had a very flat tire from a nail still wedged into the rubber.
I hate driving on a spare, so the plan was to get the tire changed out and head directly to get it replaced. If only it was that easy. My roadside assistance sent a tow truck out to change the tire for me but the driver couldn’t get my stupid rims off. He didn’t have the right socket to remove them. After inflating the tire, he advised me to drive directly to the tire store before it went flat.
Not the safest prospect, but Nate and I took the risk and only made it down the street to a gas station before the tire went flat again. The nail that pierced the hole had fallen out and the hole was too large to drive with. Plus the placement of the hole, made it impossible to use a tire patch.
Luckily, a guy at the gas station suggested we use a screw to plug the hole. Once the screw was in, we inflated the tire and it held until we got to the tire store. Thank you random gas station guy!
We ended up buying a whole new set of tires and then spent the remainder of the afternoon waiting for them to be installed. Luckily, there was a great pizzeria nearby with amazing food and a great beer selection (have you tried a Belgium sour beer yet? so good.). So we passed the time with a little food, drink and the NCAA basketball Tournament.
Of course, the rims gave the tire installers some trouble as well, but it all worked out in the end. I hate those rims.
In the end, the tire adventure was a little time-consuming, but now we have lovely new tires that should last us years.
So even though I didn’t get to reseed the front lawn on Sunday, I learned some valuable lessons. 1) It pays off to keep a couple random screws and tools in your vehicle for Macgyver-like maneuvers AND 2) if you have to wait for service, make sure you pick a place with a decent bar or eatery nearby.
In the midst of wedding planning and the Super Bowl this weekend, I got out my Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook to begin planning my garden. I wanted to start early to use a bunch seeds I have stashed in a drawer. You may remember I had grand plans of having a winter garden this season. Well, it never happened so I am more than ready to begin prepping for Spring.
The great thing about this particular planner is after figuring out your last frost date, you have a customized week-by-week task list. I think my garden would benefit greatly by me being a little more organized so here’s hoping I stay up on it!
Of course, no planner is perfect. My biggest issue with this one is how it transitions from Summer to Fall. Sacramento had a really long growing season so I can’t begin cleaning out my garden for winter when I still have plants producing veggies. So I’ll ignore the planner for a couple of months in late Summer. (Maybe I’ll stick it in the same drawer as my seeds. I’ve done a good job ignoring them the last couple years!) Then when the weather cools, I can just pick up where I left off to prep the garden for winter.
If you are interesting in purchasing – here’s an affiliate link to Amazon.
To start indoors
Later this week I plan on starting my tomato and pepper seeds inside. I have an indoor seed starting kit like this with a heating pad I’ll set up near a window. I’ve picked a big heirloom variety and a cherry tomato to start with. Depending on how the seeds do, I may just plan these or add another variety.
Our orange bell pepper did so well last year, I’m going to try this Chinese Giant peppers. This year, I want to make a bunch of homemade salsa, so I am also planting Serrano Chili seeds. I usually am too late to try growing hot peppers so this will be a fun challenge.
To start in the raised beds
Outside, I want to get some vegetables started in the raised beds as well. It’s going to be a little experiment to see how well the side garden does in the colder months. My test subjects are carrots, lettuce, spinach, snow peas and onions.
To start in the front pots
Our front porch pots are looking super sad these days. My plan is to add some color with these Windowbox Sweet Peas, Dill and Cat Grass. I’ve tried growing sweet peas before, but I’ve never actually had a bloom.
I am excited to see what actual grows. I’ll report back when I have some seedling sightings. Anyone else working on their garden plans? I’d love to hear about it.
Funny thing happened the other day in the backyard, I discovered a new fruit tree. Our pineapple guava tree isn’t exactly new (it came with the house), but the fact that it produced edible fruits is a brand new discovery. This year our tree produced these amazing egg size fruits. Our neighborhood squirrels seemed to be enjoying them so I wondered if we could also eat them.
After a little Google research (here, here, and here) I learned an awful lot about the Pineapple Guava or Feijoas. Originally from South America, these trees are common all over, but prized especially for their fruit in New Zealand and even here in California.
I was very excited to try one out, so I went and gathered up a full basket. The first thing you notice about the fruit is how aromatic they are. They smell incredibly sweet and floral. Every time I open the fridge now, I get this huge waft of sweet perfume.
The exterior of the fruit is quite rubbery. It reminds me a little of a hairless kiwi fruit in size and texture. To eat, you cut the fruit in half and then used a spoon to dig out all the good stuff. Through my research, I read that you can also bite off an end and squeeze the fruit out into your mouth. Some people also eat the skin, but like a kiwi I don’t think that’s a very popular thing to do.
The fruit really tasted like a pineapple and a guava. It’s very sweet with a pulpy texture and then has a slightly sour aftertaste. I can not stop eating them. I am totally hooked.
After eating bunches of feijoas last week, I realized I should try making something with them as well. I found a Spiced Pineapple Guava (Feijoa) Chutney recipe from Sunset Magazine. It’s delicious and great to add to a grilled cheese sandwich.
With our avocados and kumquats, we now have an amazing winter crop of fruits to share and enjoy. I’ve got some new ideas on how to use them this year that I can’t wait to share, but in the meantime here’s the chutney recipe from Sunset Magazine in case you find some feijoas near you.
Spiced Pineapple Guava (Feijoa) Chutney
3 cups trimmed and chopped pineapple guavas
1/3 cup pitted and slivered Medjool dates
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon yellow curry powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt