Friday, June 16, 2006

Some "After" Shots

It occurred to me late this evening that I neglected to include a couple of after shots of the yard and all of the back-breaking work I did the other day. By the time I resurfaced from my heat stroke/dehydration/malnutrition, it was already too dark to take the shots.

Taken out of context, the yard doesn’t look like much has changed, but it is the details, always the details. Note: The trees are straightened and pruned, the gravel level, a small walkway added, the concrete curbs down, the bark filled and a complete trimming of all the shrubs. Some parts of the grass are still yellowed (thanks Elsa), but that was the whole reason I started this project in the first place so they will be fixed as soon as Elsa is trained to use her area effectively. Also, I culled out some of the rocks from the front yard, those that were hidden by bushes, etc., and put them in the planters as a nice touch. As well, I commandeered the solar lights from another area of the yard, and it looks nice at night.

Now I’m in the market for some old, rusted farm equipment like a plow or a wagon wheel of some sort (it will go along nicely with my smudge pot) to dress up Elsa’s rather stark looking gravel area. I’m sure she’d appreciate it, and anything I can do to make her area look more inviting, I’m willing to try; it’s like putting a fuzzy cover on a toilet seat, I guess. At the nursery, they had for sale a seven-foot gorilla made of welded-together metal; and it looked fun and funky, but the idea is to get her to want to go in there instead of it being fiercely protected by some mammoth rusting beast she would cower from. Plus, it was a cool grand, and I’d be willing to bet I could get a real monkey for that kind of money. Of course, feeding it would be a problem, and then I would have to make an area for it, and I don’t know the last time you’ve been around gorillas, but I understand that they like to fling that stuff…and I don’t know what kind of lawn art makes a gorilla comfortable enough to refrain from the flinging. Perhaps a metal giraffe (the nursery had one), but a real one would be cheaper probably, and then I’d have to make another area for it, and I hear they poop a lot—which is why they have such long legs I guess—and this would turn into an endless cycle of smaller and smaller areas for animals that some people would start to call me Noah and my house would look more and more like a boat. And I just don’t want to go down that road, er, river… or flooded Earth, whatever. Let’s just stick to the dog…well, not literally. Sigh. You know what I mean. One dog, one area.

Excuse the tangent there; it’s late, I’m punchy, but I am looking for the farm equipment, just not the gorilla, et al.

For the continuing saga of the backyard, I’ve been garnering estimates for the block retaining wall to give us another 10 feet or so of back yard space (equaling nearly 800 extra square feet of actual yard), and I didn’t think it would be so expensive to stack a bunch of bricks on top of each other. Natalie loves to stack blocks, and she doesn’t charge me a small fortune to do it either, so I should contract her for the job.

I need a 72-foot-long retaining wall three- to four-feet high to replace a gentle, if not useless, slope that's there. It's ugly, lousy with ants and nothing grows there but weeds. Seventy-two feet only equals about 250 bricks, some concrete and some mortar. The first estimate was eight grand and the second one I got was nearly eleven. Perhaps in front of my house is a sign that says rich white guy who is as dumb as he is rich, but the only thing true about that sign is that I’m white (maybe the dumb part too sometimes); well, sunburned slightly and I ain’t so dumb. Wonder if I can get a redneck-who-went-to-college sign; I’ll bet estimates would be lower.

I know for a fact that the bricks run around four dollars each, so that’s a $1000 of the estimate…leaving $10K worth of labor!?! I think I’ll do it myself, as I think I’m worth more than ten thousand dollars, according to my insurance company anyway. Plus, how hard can it be? You stack up a few bricks with mortar, make sure they’re straight. After all, I went to college. Add a little rebar for support and put in some drainage holes. And I have a degree. I think I can figure it out, and obviously I don’t seem to mind doing the labor (sometimes it is a refreshing change to shovel dirt instead of sit at a computer, but in the long run, I’m glad for the lamb skin hanging in my office). What I do mind is digging out the 72 feet of the slope. That’s sheer mindless muscle-mushing grunt work best left to the professions. I did that at the old house, and it took me two days to do eight feet; I ended up hiring out the rest of it.

Then again, that guy brought his whole family to the job, and picture a little girl no older than Natalie walking around your backyard with a pick-axe over her shoulder and your homeowner’s insurance policy tucked away in the file cabinet in your office upstairs will start to shudder violently. Maybe he was hoping she would impale herself on the thing and then I’d be the one out there digging the dirt and he’d be inside my house, er…his house, with the air on drinking lemonade.

Yes, I think I’ll build the wall myself. I’ve got skills… I think. Next up: How much will it cost me to hire someone to fix what I screwed up (it’s a life-long theme). Stay tuned.

* The above picture is of Natalie and Elsa immensely enjoying their big backyard this evening, but more importantly, it illustrates what a smudge pot is, in case you didn’t know. They were used in the citrus groves to warm the trees during a frost. I guess they burned great-for-the-environment oil which belched out black smoke and kept off the chill; and just think, when I was a citrus worker, we used to have to cuddle with the trees all night. Ah, modern conveniences.

If you’re aching to see one in its natural environment, go here: If not, don’t, as it is just an old, poorly pixelled shot of a line of smudge pots near some orange trees.

Also, your sharp eye may have noticed a new friend in Natalie’s hand. That, my dear reader, is Surprise Bear, the newest addition to the flock we found at Target. I don’t know where the name came from, but that’s what Natalie called it. Her (all of Natalie’s stuffed animals are female)… her welcome mat was abruptly ripped out from under her paws a couple of hours ago when Natalie, quite tired and cranky from the day’s activities, announced that Surprise Bear needed to go home, and she was summarily booted from her bed. She's back in bed with Natalie again but Suprise Bear is facing the wall. It must be tough to be one of Natalie's guys.

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