Thursday, April 30, 2015

Landscaping Time! Day 1 & 2, Grading & Planting!

This week was the big kahuna as far as the landscaping!  When you live in an area where everything lies under snow or is frozen solid for months at a time, you have loads of time in winter to grab some coffee and curl up in front of the fireplace with gardening catalogs...and spend hours on the Internet planning your garden.

Consequently you have tons of time to plan and dream.  By the time warm weather rolled around, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.  I wanted trees and shrubs that were drought-tolerant, would survive our pretty harsh climate, provide flowers and fruit safe for animals and people, and be interesting.  I plan on planting flowering shrubs to attract pollinators to the vegetable garden and fruit trees, and placing plants in groups in the chicken yard to provide cover and shade for the chickens.  I drew up a plan for each part of the property:  front yard, back yard near the house, chicken yard and future vegetable garden area.

This was a big job that had to be done in stages, and my husband and I had already agreed that we sure as Hell were not going to attempt to dig any more planting holes, it was 'professional with heavy equipment' time.  So we hired Heart's Desire Landscaping, a local company I found after interviewing several landscapers.

So our plan was this:
  • Grade and de-rock the back yards as much as possible--I was sick to death of tripping over the approximately nine billion rocks out there.
  • Create some interest and break up the flat, boring drearyness of the back yards by adding some small hills that would be planted with shrubs.
  • Dig planting holes for trees and shrubs.
  • Dig out a hole for the small pond I have.
  • Trench for two new hose bibs, one in the chicken yard and one in the future vegetable garden area.
  • Trench to run electrical to the chicken coop so we can have a damned light out there and an outlet for the heater.
  • Plant trees & shrubs, adding in actual soil and compost because we have no dirt in our dirt. Place stakes around plants so they survive our ridiculous winds, also chicken wire so they don't get nibbled to death.
  • Run drip irrigation to all of the new plants. 
After all of this is done, eventually, in the future have a *small* amount of lawn (and, I'm sure, dirt) placed with a large gravel area surrounding it--I envision a grass area with an irregular, curved border.  Landscape fabric will go under the gravel to foil the superweeds we grow around here, and a new sprinkler system will be laid for the grass area.  But the grass/gravel will be a project for another day.

*Whew* So today was the start, and I was delighted to see Aaron and his crew arrive with a backhoe and begin de-rocking and grading the chicken yard and vegetable garden area.  The chickens, needless to say, were locked in while the big yellow autochicken did it's thing and dug.  They were NOT happy.

 Grading is done, little hills are made and I run around with a can of marking paint, spraying where the trees and shrubs will go, then we drag the plants into place.

The surprise big rock that was unearthed by the backhoe was left as an accent. The shrub is a 'Pink Dawn' viburnum, the tree a Bartlett pear.

A Satsuma plum tree, a Silverlace vine on the right alongside the coop to grow up and over the shed and an Eastern Snowball viburnum on the back left.

I'm hoping these plants, an American cranberry flanked on either side by 'Autumn Magic' chokeberries, will grow big enough to hide the neighbor's not-so-attractive woodpile and cool, but neglected Airstream trailer.

Planting holes are dug with a huge auger.  Nothing else was gonna get through our terrain.

One of the planting holes dug by the auger.  They all looked like this, loaded with rocks.
On this side of the fence, left to right, a dwarf pink Flowering Almond, an 'Austrian Copper' rose and another Eastern Snowball viburnum. 

A tiny Ivory Halo dogwood in the foreground, a thornless Cockspur Hawthorne tree and beyond it, two red twig dogwoods flank either side of the walk gate.

The next day is planting day.  The pear tree and pink viburnum go in and the viburnum is staked and wrapped with chicken wire.  The random found rock actually looks pretty spiffy there!

 Weedcat watches to provide the ever-vital proper chicken supervision.

The dead-looking plant on the right is the only survivor from the old house--a Curly Willow plant.  We lost part of it in the windstorm a few months ago, but the rest is doing great. It will be part of another plant grouping with the little hill.

Eastern Snowball viburnum on the right, Satsuma plum tree and silverlace vine to grow onto the coop.

The part of the back yard nearest the house, 'Before'.  Ugh.

The black thing on the right is my little pond shell.

They dug a rock bigger than my head out from right next to the house.  When it comes to rocks, like my sister says, 'Find the queen and kill it!'  I couldn't agree more.

Digging the hole for the pond liner.

Two trees going into the yard near the house, a Lavender Twist redbud on the right and a Showtime crabapple on the left. I'm hoping the redbud will overhang the deck a bit.

Planted, yay!

Some of my plants hadn't arrived yet, so since we already had the auger here we decided to go ahead and dig the planting holes for them now so we wouldn't have to bring the thing back.

Somewhat hidden in the weeds are an Arrowood viburnum and a 'Brandywine' viburnum.

 The pond liner goes in and some of the existing huge rocks are gathered from where they sit on the property and grouped around it.

Pink dwarf flowering almond on the right, three Alpine currants line the fence behind and to the left of the pond.  Another Curly Willow grows in the back left corner next to more huge rocks.

The pond has two more small cascades we'll add in along with more rocks. 

Next we moved back into the future vegetable garden area, which will have raised beds, a compost heap bin in one corner and a bench in the middle under a tree. In the far back right corner is a Thornless Cockspur hawthorne tree.

In the middle of the garden area, a Sugar Tyme crabapple flanked by two 'Profusion' beautyberries, with space for a garden bench between them.

Only one problem cropped up...now I had called the 'Call Before You Dig' folks out not once, but TWICE--the first time when we had the chain link fence put in, the second time to re-mark for the landscaping.  Despite this, they somehow managed both times to miss the neighbor's phone line buried four feet on our side of the fence and mismarked the location of this communications cable.  Needless to say, the auger found them both.  Luckily for us, since we had done what we were supposed to do and called, the repair was all on the utility companies.  Always use 'Call Before You Dig', kids, it can save you a ton of money and headaches!

The little orange flag on the right is where this orange cable was supposed to be.  The auger took out our Internet.

In the front yard, the landscaper's removed two really, really poorly placed plants that were here when we moved in--a lilac planted right over the sprinkler controls, so that whenever you wanted to turn on the sprinklers you had to dive headfirst into the thing, and a rose bush next to the walkgate that would reach out and seize anyone foolish enough to try to come in.  We got tired of giving blood to the thing on an almost daily basis, so out they both went.  Sadly neither was able to be transplanted somewhere else on the property.

But by the end of the day, all of the plants we had were in the ground!
We let the chickens out, it made them happy and they threw dignity to the winds and ran around.

...and stood around worshipping the plants.

 Next up will be the trenching!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Highway 395, Again!

Took another trip down highway 395 again for a doctor's appointment, this time I threw the kid in the car before I left.  It's still Spring, and the flowers are still blooming!

I'm not sure what these shrubs were...

But they had no-kidding thorns.  Clearly one of those 'deer-resistant' plants.

Stopped at the Mono Lake overlook, checked out the view...

...and the stickers & writings that are all over the entire length of the guardrail...and everywhere else.
The 'Pot for Potholes' thing is, at least, a novel idea.

Lots of people make this place a regular stop.

They leave notes for each other.

And their friends!

And I *do* mean stickers are everywhere.  Any available surface is covered, not even this snowpole was missed.
Although I got a good laugh out of the 'IRS gone!' thing.  Yeah, right.

I think the addition of the cat head vastly improves this sign..

I like to stop off at at least one new roadside attraction on each trip, a bit further down the road was the 1872 mass grave for the earthquake victims.

It's one of those things that is really easy to miss.  It sits up on a small hill.

There are two markers.

It's sad that they don't even know who some of these people were.

The gravesite itself is pretty stark.

But people do stop, and leave little remembrances.

So we did, too.

We stopped for lunch and fed mama duck and her assorted ducklings.

Cool old building...

With a cool old sign!

Not fancy, just doing it's job.

One of the things you see a LOT of on highway 395 are trucks, trucks, and just to switch things up a bit...trucks.  I had a bit of trouble figuring out the logo on this one.
Look out, the lamb's got a knife!  Not sure what the bloody knife logo is trying to convey. 'Move your goods with us or we'll shank you straight through your skeevy heart while you sleep...?'

Stopped at the 'Give & Take' sculpture garden near Olancha again, this time there were little origami gifts in the 'Take' container!  Ah ha, someone is responding in kind to the origami I've been leaving!

What's in the box...?

A pretty pink lily!

During the trip we stopped at a motel that has the world's coolest carpet:

And in-room ducks!
 She showed up and very soberly watched us unload the car to make sure we were doing it right, she was an excellent supervisor.

Then politely ate the bits of crushed pork rinds we offered before moving on.
She declined to actually enter the room.  Smart duck.

While unloading the rental car, it tickled me to realize that the Chevy Sonic I was driving was actually the correct color.

We had a great view from the room.

The next day on the way back, we were treated to this on the 15 freeway at Cajon Summit.
I don't think I've ever been over Cajon and not seen something weird.

You know, there isn't a whole lot to do in the high desert...so sometimes I guess getting your drunk on and climbing a billboard to share your message with the world seems like a good idea.

Even if what seemed profound the night before *is*a bit incoherent in the light of day.
This becomes especially confusing when you try to read what is actually written aloud.

Stopped in at Pearsonville, they are quite proud of their fame.

Next to this water tank stands the Pink Lady.  She's very cool...

Even if she does have that 'dead, soulless eyes' thing going on.

Behind her is a semi-abandoned playground, all the more depressing because someone has recently tried to fix it up, and it looks like they lost heart halfway through.

Anyone who grew up in the 70's-80's and went to McDonalds recognizes this thing.

Juusstt plain creepy.

I DO love the jet, it's cool.

You can see the brush strokes the artist made.

My Pretty Darned Faded Ponies.

Beyond the playground are some basketball courts, picnic areas and lots and LOTS of grasshoppers that liked to fly up and smack me on the forehead.

'OK little Jimmy, go play on the rusted farm equipment until the hot dogs are ready!'

Hopefully no one was sitting here when that branch came down.

The plaque commemerates the founder of Pearsonville.  Hopefully it didn't fall on him and they just left him there, the flowers are a bit disconcerting.  They...they wouldn't have buried him in the city park...right...?

World's most dangerous bleachers.

Yikes.  Only die-hard fans would sit on these things.

When I was a kid these merry-go-rounds of death were a staple in every playground.  If your friends got it going fast while you were on it and you flew off or threw up, they'd just laugh.

'This is fun, mom!'

'Pose like a Frazetta painting!'
"What's that?'
Oh, dear.  I've missed an aspect of my child's upbringing.  'Pretend you're a rodeo rider.'
Ah.  Ok.

Next to the Pink Lady are the closed market & trading post.  I'd been through here in the 70's & 80's when they were still open, they were cool.

You can tell when time stopped here.

Farther up the road we swung off and went to Garlock, a tiny ghost town that time and travelers have not been kind to.

The entire townsite was fenced off, sadly, and this is as close as you can get.  I'm quite sure that the rattlesnake warning was no empty promise.

In this building you can peek in juuuust enough to make you wish you could see more.

The orange flowers of last month are this month's windblown detritus.

The place was duly posted.

Again, it made you wish you could get closer.

Don't know how much longer Garlock will last.

Outside of Bridgeport I was pleased to see a brand new marker!

I was impressed by how elaborate this E Clampus Vitus marker is.

The tile and coins I fully expect to be vandalized or stolen sooner or later.

'I believe it because it is absurd', the Clamper's motto...although it looks to be misspelled.

After this it was time to head home!