Thursday, February 2, 2023

Central Yard Part 2

It's Saturday, and it's a beautiful sunny day, about 65F/18 C, perfect conditions for doing some digging! My Father's old mate Jeff Haystacks once told me that digging is second only to swimming in terms of muscle usage and all round good-for-you-ness. Under the right conditions, it can be very enjoyable. 

I'm working on the area immediately in front of the house. I started by digging out around the irrigation connections, and building a quick retaining box from some scrap 2" x 12" PT I had in the shop. We laid irrigation lines and electrical cables below the concrete walkway before it was poured, but we're not ready to connect the pipes to the water supply just yet, so I will need access to this area in the future.

I'm grading the dirt in front of the house to about six (6) inches below the concrete walkway. This will give us plenty of space which we can fill with nice topsoil before we plant. I'm using a scrap piece of 2" x 6" and a spirt level to establish the grade. It doesn't have to be perfect. 

It's not obvious in the next photo, but the ground slopes down significantly from the walkway towards the steps that lead to the deck. It feels weird to step downhill, and then climb steps. The solution is to get rid of the bottom step and raise the grade accordingly. 

To do this, I have to pull everything out, cut the stringers and install a new concrete pad. Dismantling the railings and the first few treads and risers was straightforward, but the rest of the structure was really not designed to come apart.

The treads and risers are constructed from composite material that is rot resistant and maintenance free. I discovered that it is also not in the slightest bit flexible:

Both of the posts were rotted out, so they will need to be replaced...

Getting out the base of the stairs really was a slog. I couldn't do it without damaging the stringers and in any case I discovered rot in at least two of them. So, yeah, there's a decent chance I'll have to re-make the stringers in the not too distant future as well as the posts. 

The top edge of the concrete that supports the posts was more than a foot below the surface, so I didn't bother digging it out - I just cut the posts off at the top of the concrete:

This operation left a sizeable scar on the landscape: It always looks worse before it looks better...I'm going to leave the concrete pier, and dowel into it when I pour the pier for the replacement steps. 

Time to backfill in the spot where the steps used to be? Well, not so fast. There is a sizeable gap between our new retaining wall, and the house, which cannot be filled with dirt alone. 

There are a number of ways I could fill this gap, and I think I will probably end up using concrete. For now though I just need a "stopgap", and I choose a few landscaping rocks and some mortar. It's only temporary if it works!

I continued digging out infertile subsoil and gravel from in front of the house, and dumping it onto the hole where the steps used to be. I don't need this area to be perfectly flat, I just need to remove enough material to accommodate at least six inches of top soil.

This is later:

Did the same at the other side of the porch:

We still need quite a lot more dirt in this area and inside the new retaining wall.

I took a break from digging and moving dirt to dig out several small trees and clear out some sections of the yard in preparation for our irrigation system...and ultimately for new trees and shrubs. This spot gave up a small citrus tree and a hawthorn sampling:

I also removed another small citrus tree and a mid-size maple, which sadly died during the drought a couple of summers ago, from the area next to the soon-to-be-moved mailbox:

This produced a decent sized debris pile...

I also unearthed a number of large landscaping rocks and about a dozen house bricks while digging out these trees. I've lost count of the number of "ornamental" house bricks I've removed from the yard since we moved in. No doubt we'll figure out a use for the nicer rocks.

Another job.....the double gates at the side yard used to work perfectly, but that was before the concrete walkway was installed over the spot where the cane bolt deployed:

I thought about drilling a hole in the concrete, but instead I moved the cane bolt to the other side of the gate and made a new "hole" by hammering a piece of copper pipe into the ground. I also filled in the gap where the decomposed granite meets the walkway. Gates back in service!

Filled-in a few low spots at the stairs while I was at it:

This is how the side yard looks at the end of January...we'll be planting in the next few months.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Central Yard Part 1

Finally a nice day, and I have the afternoon off! 

We have been bursting to get to work on "making good" the areas around our new concrete.  However, the first thing we have to do is apply sealer to the porch and walkway. The sealer will prevent stains at the new concrete and should protect the surface. To begin with I had Amy Sheep clean up the walkway and the porch with our noisy leaf blower, while I filled up the sprayer.

We are using a water-based matt sealer which does not require dilution:

Amy Sheep applied a light coat of sealer to the porch and walkway, and rebutted any offers of help apart from when the sprayer needed refilling, so I just stood around snapping photos and generally enjoying the first nice day of 2023.

After the sealing was completed, we went inside and had some tea and biscuits and what not, and when I came back outside the sealer had dried and Amy Sheep was nowhere to be seen. I busied myself adding dirt to the voids at the uphill side of the new walkway, until the path was just a couple of inches above the dirt:

Then I laid my first course of moss rock against the path....

Then backfilled with more dirt up to the top edge of the moss rock...

And then rinse and repeat. I managed to build the section of "wall" you can see below from rock that we had on hand. Amy Sheep was nowhere to be found while this work was going on.

I have been backfilling with some rather nice top soil that was left over from another project. When this runs out, we will have to order some more from tut' garden center. 

I broke into the pallet of rock that has been sitting outside the house being rained on for the last couple of weeks...

Progress after a couple of hours....still no sign of sign of Amy Sheep.... 

The next day Amy Sheep emerged from her hiding place and we went to work building up the dirt and adding more moss rock to the uphill side of the path. The gradient is such that less rock is needed as we work towards the street.

The pallet of moss rock was shrinking fast by this point.

We managed to extend the rock all the way to the street...

...and build a sizeable wall at the porch side, before we ran out of rock and topsoil. The wall needs to be a layer or two higher in places.

To be continued....

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Rain Stops Play

So, as has been well documented on this blog, we spent the latter half of 2020 and most of 2021 transforming the yard at the side of property - we built raised beds, constructed stairs and walkways and enclosed the whole area with deer fencing. For some reason, all my blog posts on this project was refer to  this area as the "front yard" even though is is located at the side of the house. Which would be fine, except that now it is time to work on the proper front yard, I have to come up with another description...hence  this is bit of the property is of now the "central yard." 

Apart from digging up some of this area so that we could expand the driveway and installing the new walkway, all we have done with this area is dug up the odd dead bush or small tree. There is no irrigation in this area (yet), so anything that it still alive is clearly drought tolerant. 

However, there are many things to do before we can think about planting new flora. We have some significant regrading to do where the new path cuts through...

...and behind the new wall.

We also have to figure out wat to do with these small areas immediately in front of the building:

We also have to finish off eradicating the remains of the old entrance path, move the mailbox over to the edge of the driveway, and get rid of the street lamp. 

The problem is, that although we came back from England just before New Year, full of ideas and ready to get cracking on the landscaping, it has been raining almost constantly ever since. We have discovered that the voids next to the walkway rapidly fill with water under these condition...

So far our progress has been limited to taking delivery of a pallet of landscaping rock....installing it in heavy rain does not appeal. The weather has been so bad, I've even had time to film the workshop tour I posted a few days ago!

To be continued when the weather dry's up...

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Workshop Tour

It's been a long time in the making, but our basement expansion/workshop construction project is complete enough to allow the cameras inside for the inaugural Workshop Tour. Thanks for watching, and I hope you enjoy the tour.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Cabinet Saw Outfeed Table

I love my cabinet saw, but what I really need (next) is an outfeed table. I'm not sure if Sawstop sell outfeed tables, because I didn't bother looking - why would I, when I can make one myself using the Alm Fab design you can see on YouTube. My table is based on this design, only it is bigger, made of thicker material, and has two integral support legs. 

The outfeed table is constructed from two pieces of 30" x 44" plywood which is just less than 3/4 of an inch thick...for a total of a bit less than one and half inches. I cut one piece very accurately, and then used a flush trim bit on my new handheld router to make the second panel exactly the same size. I also used the router to make two 3/4 inch wide groves in the top panel, which align with those in the bed of my saw.

The next challenge is to make a timber baton which will attach to the angle bracket at the rear of the cabinet saw:

This piece also sets the height of the outfeed table. I used a combination of the saw and my new jointer  to mill this piece from a kiln-dried 2" x 4".

The plans call for 3/4" oak trim at the perimeter of the plywood panel, which I didn't have on hand and didn't want to buy due to the astronomical price of materials right now. Instead I poked around on my wood rack and found some 3/4 inch tongue and groove oak floor boards that were left over from a repair at a house I don't own anymore. 

I trimmed off the tongues on the cabinet saw, and then I took the boards over to the jointer and made the de-tongued edges square. 

Then it was back to the saw to trim the boards to the appropriate width. Easy as pie!

I bough a pair of adjustable support legs and attachment brackets, and all the hardware, directly from Sawstop. This means that the legs will match those on the saw side table and also be easily adjustable. I cut recesses in the second sheet of plywood to accommodate the brackets:

I used the long level to get the leg adjustment perfect...

....and then I installed the final piece of oak trim at the outer edge:

The outfeed table is attached to the saw via the baton I described above...

...and with recessed bolts into the side table through pre-exiting holes. 

There is a 3-bolt connection at each of the support legs.

Finished outfeed table, after wiping down with furniture polish:

Same saw, different angle!

Coming Soon: Video tour of the Papa Sheep Workshop