Marking Hardscape

Over the weekend I spent a bit of time in the garden, measuring out where I want hardscape to go. I have a few things I want to put in the revised landscape plan and was pondering some options.

First, I want a greenhouse. I have some orchids and would like to be able to get more, but right now the only orchids I can keep are either able to live outside (I have an unreasonable number of cymbidiums which love it outside here as long as you water them), or indoors without special climate control, or are small enough to fit into my terrarium (which is large, but fairly full). So, greenhouse. My initial plan had been a 10x12 foot greenhouse, which is pretty large. Then I was playing with the landscape plans and pondered a larger one. How much larger? Well, that was the question.

Second, I want a koi pond. Since we live in a coastal environment, this is going to require some defenses against our large flocks of herons and egrets, not to mention raccoons. So not for me the lovely shallow naturalistic koi ponds of Japan. I'll need something that is deep with steep sides so predators can't hunt for my fish. The real question was how large a pond can I fit in the garden without overwhelming it. I like koi and ponds but I don't want a garden that is all pond.

Third, I want a patio space between the greenhouse and pond where I can hang out comfortably. This is the controlling factor on the size of things.

Marking paths with Bunny

So we got the can of marking paint and off we went.

Note the dog lying in the shade helping me with this process. Bunny turns out to not only have a bad back, but to be riddled with cancer. We are taking a gentle approach, just pumping her full of painkillers and steroids, and helping her enjoy the time she has left. So while she's not in pain she's also even lazier than she was before. Walk ten feet? That calls for a nap.

Anyway, this is the main path to the back yard, pretty much where it was before. Because of topographical changes in the yard from construction, it's going to have to slope down and then back up. We'll make it work.

New orchard layout

When we were in Japan a couple years ago I fell in love with the way some trees were handled, and I'm refashioning the orchard to look more decorative. Several trees will need to come down, but I think the results will be worth it.

This is the view looking down over the orchard as you enter the back garden. The path will dip down to allow rainwater to drain into a rain basin, as it did before (the contractors very kindly filled in that rain basin for me to make the back yard level, which isn't working), then there will be some steps up to a higher area in between the trees, with the path widening and narrowing around the root balls of the trees. Eventually this path will go to a bridge that will cross the pond.

Greenhouse and pond

This is a little jumbly because the angle was all wrong. But basically, after measuring out a 10x12 greenhouse and the larger options, I realized I didn't want so much of the ground covered up. So original greenhouse size. Then I measured a pond that felt like a good size. I'd like a 6000 gallon pond, which is mostly about the ease of maintaining water chemistry. I can get that with a long narrow pond, which gives the koi room to swim fast, too. And makes building a bridge across it simpler.

While I was marking things out, I was also picking up pieces of trash and throwing them in the wheelbarrow. Contractors are always messy. It's basically not avoidable.

The orchard

This plant is from seeds I picked up on the beach ages ago, and it has spread all over the yard. I love it. The bees love it, too. I cleared out a small clearing to get the feel of how I want the orchard to feel and I feel like it really works. The bees were a little pissed that I took away some of their plants.

In the coming weeks the gardeners are coming back, and we're going to get started on making this thing happen. It's exciting.

Getting the Magnolia Did

This year I hired an arborist to prune the Magnolia out front (Magnolia 'Jon-Jon'). The arborist I chose was the Cycling Arborist, Michael Thurman.

Here's the tree before:

Magnolia before

This tree is right about at his limit for tree size, which was pretty evident when he got up on the ladder and got to work.

Arborist in the tree

I really just wanted a light cleanup, opening up the branches a little, getting more light into the center of the tree and showing the structure of the trunk.

Magnolia after

And after pruning, you can see the shape of the tree is more clean, and there's a lot more light in there.

The ground view of the magnolia

I also really like how the tree feels from below, which is, let's face it, about 90 percent of how I experience it. Anyway, I was super happy with Michael's work and highly recommend him if you live in Alameda.

While Michael worked, I weeded out the front beds and picked up all the weird little pieces of trash from the garden, which felt pretty good. I'm really ready to be back in my house.

Long Time No Update

Hey there, folks. We are not dead, and the house is not collapsed in a pile of rubble. We went on a cruise for a week, and I got really, really sick, like seven weeks and two rounds of antibiotics kind of sick. If you are considering a souvenir to bring back from the Caribbean, may I suggest that this one was not the best choice?


Some stuff has happened. When last we saw your fearless heroes, we'd brought some books over to put in the library and messed around with the chandeliers a bit.

Front parlour chanedlier

Well, the chandeliers are installed now, though I think it took longer and was more complicated for the electrician than it should have been.

Library chandelier

The chandeliers in the front parlour and the library are the same, mostly because the two rooms are very open to each other and there's already different light fixtures in the dining room and in the front bay. I didn't need more stuff going on in there.

Dining room chandelier working

And the dining room chandelier is also working. I got a message from the electrician today that putting the LED chandelier bulbs in it was causing the arc fault breaker to trip, which didn't make sense at all (an arc fault breaker is supposed to trip when there is an arc fault, not when... I'm not sure what a light bulb could do to cause this to happen). Anyway, Noel and I went over after work and tested it out, installing each bulb one by one, and nothing was going wrong, so I guess our magical touch healed the chandelier.

Fancy new driveway

We also got a new driveway, which is pretty cool. Seen here, the money shot of the new, wider curb cut that allows us to park side by side without having to drive around each other.

Towel warmer installed in the front bath

And the electrician installed the towel warmers, which is kind of not a massive thing but neat. This is the one in the front bathroom, our Victorian theme bathroom. It looks suitably fancy.

Ready to install closet system

One thing I haven't gotten around to doing yet, on account of spending seven weeks sick and then another couple weeks trying to get all the work I was not doing while sick done, is installing the closet system we picked up at IKEA. There are a few pieces that were not available (like ALL THE SHELVES), but for the most part I could in theory install this system any day now.

And today, we took delivery of our new stove and refrigerator. There are some issues with the refrigerator (a big old dent in the front of it, plus for some reason there is no outlet for it?), but the stove is now in and looks great.

This stove looks great

I guess in a different kind of world the edge of the stove would be flush with the counter, but I wasn't about to install extra-tall cabinets for that given my own height, so the stove is a little taller than the cabinets around it. This does not bother me, though the installer seemed to think it would. Clearly I have some issues.

Anyway, you may wonder when we are moving back home. I also wonder this, but we have one thing that is keeping us from doing so. Let me show you:

This floor finish issue

In places where protection paper was taped down, the top layer of the floor finish came up with the tape when it was removed. Initially I thought this was the tape delaminating and leaving the sticky stuff behind, but no, the whole top surface of the flooring finish peeled right off, leaving behind a more shiny surface below. It looks like what they did was finish the flooring glossy, then without sanding add a satin layer over the top. If you know painting, you know not sanding a glossy surface before painting it is asking for trouble.

Anyway, the certified independent inspector for the flooring company is coming next week to check it out, and until something is done about the floor finish we can't really move in or do much in the house, because no matter what he decides we're going to have to refinish all the wood flooring in the house (either the manufacturer pays for it or we do). And until that happens we can't really move anything more into the house that we'd just have to move out.

So there you go.