Monday, April 16, 2018

April 16th Updates.

It rained all morning, so I was inside with Aoife. Around one I went back out to get some things done. Since I regret having not taken proper pictures before I've started doing projects. Well now I'm out to remedy that, but I think I went a bit overboard. I think today's post will just be a picture dump that I can grab from later when writing about projects. I'll just caption this for now.
They have ended up in terrible order, so I'll label them for location.

Backyard: Mid right. This is the area where I want to put in a flagstone patio. This used to be a wall of cedars. I took this one up a lot higher today, and now we can see into the gully from the bedroom
Backyard: Mid left. I cleaned up this side over the last few days. I've limbed up a lot, and now we can see the stream. I will probably cut down those laurels as well, though they are supporting the hillside. 

Frontyard: Terrace. This is a bush of some kind that was here when we moved in. Actually there were about three of these. I cut one out. This one I saved. As it was growing at an angle, I pruned it that way, thinking I will plant it sideways out of the hillside, hoping it will correct itself, thus making a sort of bonsai-type effect. 

Here is some terrace and pruning work. The rocks are coming tomorrow. 

Back of the house. I found a stream leaking from what looks like our drainage pipes into the neighbor's yard. I am slightly concerned. 

Backyard: Right hillside. This is where I have roughly cleared a spot down to the bottom. This hill is extremely steep and very fragile. Ill be removing that ivy soon. 

Backyard: Right hillside. This is a picture of the section behind my neighbors fence. It is overgrown with blackberry and poison hemlock. I am hoping he will let me clear it out. If he does, I hope to plant salal here on this steep hillside (another neighbor is giving me salal).

Frontyard: Terrace. More work on the terrace. I believe this is the before picture. 

Frontyard: Terrace. A before picture. This is before I pruned this bush. I was also shaping out how I want the terrace to be cut. 

Frontyard: reverse view. This picture is taken looking from the terrace. I am trying to shape out the lawn to flatten it out as much as I can, while still maintaining a slight grade. 

The grass was darker in the area between these two tools. I thought this must mean that the drainage system was here. Talking to a neighbor, I found that the previous owners had had some water trouble and the water company dug up the yard.
Apparently this is a 'Mexican Orange Blossom.' I know because the previous owner didn't take the tags off them when they planted them. I trimmed these up, thinking I will move them somewhere else. This one I cut thinking I'll plant it sideways to make it correct. 

An Orange blossom, post pruning. 

This is some kind of laurel (probably invasive, as it's all over the place) that was growing in low spots in the back of the yard. I was going to rip it all out, but decided to keep this and prune it up. I thought I could give it a kind of bonsai look. I may keep it, but I am thinking of taking it out and using it to screen our side from the neighbor's. It gets big as well and I don't want that in that spot. Better to plant a cherry or something. 

Backyard-- Center hillside. This is pretty much right in the middle of the yard. This section of hillside descends down between four alders. There is a small section here that I think would be good to plant flowers on.  The skinny alder there is dead and broken off half way up. This could likely be a good woodpecker tree in the future. 

Backyard--center hillside. I need to cut out the ivy on these trees. 

Backyard: Right hillside. I was thinking of either cutting a pathway, or a creekbed here. Or both. Lately I've been thinking maybe I should do neither. This is a nice hillside though. I should try to reinforce it. 
Backyard: Right Hillside. On this side of the hill, there really isn't much of a trail, and the hillside is extremely fragile. At the bottom of this hill, just the dark part at the very center of this picture, there is a fairly significant stream that for now, I am referring to as 'stream B.' 

It's hard to see here, but this is an old growth cedar stump, likely left over from when the area was logged--at least I am going to believe it is. It is surrounded by alder saplings and just hard to see. Could use a good shave. 

The stump close up. 
In front of this laurel, a huge tree had fallen at some point and there is a large exposed rootball upturned here. I have been using it to throw branches and things. I may leave it as a place to throw stuff, but only if the neighbor doesn't mind. As it's covered over by the laurel, it won't be visible from above. 

The bottom of the hillside. 'Stream B' flows out of the hill just in front of this. 

The source of Stream B. Compared to Stream A, this one is coming out of the hillside quite strong. Much of the hill above this seems to be riddled with water erosion and very fragile. 

The outlet of Stream B. This beautiful mossy log sits perfectly in the shade underneath the laurel here to become this brilliant green. Also spreading out amongst the blooming salmonberries is a garden of swamp lanterns. I believe that this area was planted by my neighbor across the way, to be viewed from the opposite end. I am hoping I can open it up enough that we can see this from up above. 

Here is the stream B hillside after I did a bit of pruning. I made the stump visible, and it is possible to just see down into the swamp. 

A wider view of the same hillside. 

This is the reverse view while standing at the start of Stream B and looking up at the house. 


Back Yard: 

When I moved in a year and a half ago, the backyard looked like basically a lawn, two completely overgrown flower gardens, and a wall of cedars. Looking out of the living room windows, we could just see cedar branches closing in above a snarl of various types overgrown laurels. In the "flower bed" there were a bunch of overgrown trees and bushes in front of a mass of invasive blackberry plants. The yard looked very small, and I basically didn't do anything with it. Last summer I cleared out all of the garden beds of stuff I didn't want. I cut pretty much everything except a vine maple and a dogwood. I cut down another pine, a yew tree, and a second dogwood. We also had a tree service come in and take out four alders. I didn't take many pictures at this time, which I now regret. In the picture here, the alders had already been taken out, and I was in the middle of clearing out the beds. The original lawn is still in as well. The gravel parking lot looks good still too--right now it is a mud pit, barely and gravel to be seen! It is too bad this is the earliest picture I have, because a lot of work had already been done at this point.

Last summer I basically ripped out everything the old owner had (with a couple exceptions). This at least made the hard feel a bit bigger and gave me hope that I could make it into something decent. We also had four alder trees taken out (seen above) and a new lawn put in (below).

These pictures here, while mostly showing the changes to the lawn, also show just how much vegetation had grown up at the back of the yard at the edge of the hillside. It really felt like the yard was walled in.

One day, I was clearing out some ivy on the back hill and started looking at the surroundings: I lived on a hillside overlooking a streambed filled with salmonberries and other beautiful native plants. After this realization, I discovered another encouraging sign: a pink flag tied to a tree at the bottom of the hill. Could this be my property line? Either way, I realized that it was probably fine for me to sculpt out my own landscape. I've been obsessed ever since.
This past month, as I was standing at the top of the hill looking out over the gulch, I visualized what the land was doing and how much it had been covered up and blocked by out of control vegetation, much of it invasive and/or noxious. I slowly began clearing out all of the english ivy and himalayan blackberries, discovering and unbelievable environment in the process. Since then I have opened up much of the yard and given us a pretty good view down below.

In this picture, you can see how overgrown the back corner of this bed was. It's not visible, but behind the dark laurels was a huge snarl of blackberries. I've gotten rid of all that and opened it all up. We now have a lot more space, and I'll be able to have a nice terraced hillside garden in the back. I have also shaped out a dry creek bed, as this area gets a lot of water in the winter.

This is the earliest picture I have of the left side of the yard. This is the view we can see from our living room window. This picture was taken just after I had finished limbing these cedars, whose branches had previously extended to the ground, blocking all of our view. As you can see, this entire area was very overgrown, mostly with invasive, noxious weeds like spurge laurel, English ivy, English holly, Portuguese laurel, and Himalaya blackberries.

In this picture I had cleared a good deal of this out, and in so doing, discovered a creek running behind the house! As I continued to clear, I realized I was going to have a problem with erosion. I began using logs from the alder we'd taken out to build a sort of scaffolding which I've been filling in with dirt from the front yard and reinforcing with rebar. I have then taken some tiles left by the previous owner and have been building stairs.

I will make a separate post documenting the stream, but for now I'll end this with an update of how our view has changed:

  This is the view from our living room window as of mid April (2018). The stairs lead down between the hemlock and one of the big cedars. Beyond the cedars is an extensive stream system filled with salmonberries, swamp lantern, ferns, huckleberries, and a whole lot of bright green moss. There are hummingbirds all kinds of songbirds, three types of woodpecker, and a family of squirrels including two little brown babies (the adults are grey). All in all, this place is looking very exciting as a place for our daughter to grow up.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

New Start

I have decided to start blogging.
I am eventually going to put these up on my website, but I thought it would be good to have a blogger site set up so that I could do it from my phone. I can first post them here, then edit them and put them up on my page later.

My daughter was born a week ago. It is wonderful and exciting to be a dad. I am on two weeks of paternity leave, and besides all the diapers, bottles, and screaming, my wife has been gracious enough to let me out into the yard. This has a been a blessing in many ways: Not only has it been an outlet for stress, it's also been great exercise, and it's been a source of inspiration as well. It's also amazing being able to plan out a yard that my little girl is going to be playing in in a few years.

I've decided that I want to document this process. First, because I am really enjoying it, but also, because this is a project I've always dreamed of being able to do with my dad. My dad is an artist when it comes to plants. I have watched him transform 4 different yards in my lifetime, and as I have been working on this project, even though I don't have a lot of first hand knowledge of the things I have been doing, I seem to have, by osmosis, been able to absorb much of the wisdom and understanding of nature that I gained through my dad's love for gardening. This has let me just dive in handle the mess of my yard to turn it into a beautiful garden.

I shouldn't forget to acknowledge my stepmother here as well. They have worked together on all of their houses and have brought so much beauty to their yards. Beauty and practicality: I remember that while there were always blooming flowers in the yard, there were just as many vegetables and fruits being grown as well. They also raised chickens.

I have such an amazing yard to work with, and I am excited to be able to share this with those interested, but mainly, to share with my dad. This will allow his legacy to carry on to his granddaughter, where the garden he helped to design will be the place where she grows up.

For this first blog, I will outline the projects I am currently working on:

Front Yard: 

Overgrown hillside

When we got this place, the front yard was a mess. There was a huge crooked pine tree that had been allowed to grow too big dropping hard, spiky pinecones all over the yard. There were a whole bunch of ugly, overgrown bushes blocking out all of the light. The lawn was mossy and laid at a weird angle, and the flower bed was an awkward hillside taking up a lot of space I figured I could better employ.

I started to dig out the hillside to put in a rock wall, but after some research, found that that would require (expensive) permits. I decided to terrace the wall instead and flatten out the lawn. I've been shaping it and moving the excess dirt to the backyard to be used on other projects.  Tomorrow I intend to call and order 5 tons of 1 man rockery rocks to be used to complete the terrace. Next Sunday I'm having a work party with some buddies to move the rest of the dirt to the back and get the rocks in place. Then we can plant.

Ripping out stuff I don't want.

Leaning Pine Tree

Some time last fall, I got the power company to come by and completely cut out the pine tree. Normally I would have needed a permit, but hey--who am I to argue with the power company! They took out the tree, and I have since dug out the root (only nearly avoiding disaster when I dug up the gas line.
No more pine!

The stump I've removed.

Front lawn with sloped lawn and garden bed.

Terracing begins.
My current plans are to terrace the hillside and reinforce it with basalt rocks. I am a bit worried about drainage, since I have no idea what kind of drainage plan has been put in with the house. I don't want to cause problems later on. I also intended to take the lawn down to be level, but I've been thinking that maybe it is graded this way on purpose, and that this is a means of slowing down the water. If I mess with that, I could be asking for trouble.  For now, I think I will just focus on the hillside. I am looking forward to planting some trees.

Back Yard

Friday, July 6, 2012

Axolotl Dying

My axolotl was fine for a couple weeks after putting him in the new tank. But several days ago I noticed he wasn't eating.  I left him for a couple days, but he still wouldn't eat.  He was also floating at the top of the tank and he was very pale.  He's been this color for around a week now. 
I've had him in the fridge for the last 3 days but when I got up this morning, he was floating upside down and looked completely dead. I moved the container and he swam around a bit but he is lying on his side and seems to have no energy.  I don't think he's going to make it. 
I don't know what else to do except leave him in the fridge.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Here it is: I think this is pretty much done.  This came out about as cool as I had hoped.  I'm really happy with it.  The one problem right now is that the waterfall splashes onto the glass.  But that's not so bad.  
Here's a video.  I think my camera kept trying to focus on the glass.  It goes out of focus a lot, but you can get a good idea of what it looks like. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Mostly Done

Here's an update.  After giving all of my plants a bleach treatment, I added them to the tank.  I'm pretty happy with it.  It may prove to be a bit over planted, but I can always take things out.  I don't know if the moss will stay wet enough either.  I'll have to spray it all the time.  But it looks pretty cool!
The waterfall splashes on the front glass making it hard to view. I think I'll by some wood to put in and try to "catch" the water so it doesn't splash. I also saw a grey tree frog on sale for pretty cheap, so I got him.  I now have this one, a japanese tree frog, and another that I can't remember the name.  I also put my newts in.  I think they will like it. 
Also, here's a video.  Don't mind the documentary in the background!