Tuesday, March 27, 2012

In the Last Week of March

Where has March gone, this glorious month of perfect outdoor weather?  Kathy and I took on a couple of epic projects and brought our favorite contractor back to help with two jobs we knew we couldn't do well on our own. 

One rainy day last week I bought a walk-behind lawn mower with powered wheels, a 21" Honda, so that I could do the tender areas where I don't want heavy lawn machinery chewing up the sod.  The early spring put the grass into a burst of growth, so I mowed most of the property in two big sessions on Sunday and Monday.  Today I feel like well-rusted machinery in a junk yard.  I'm used to 30 minutes on a treadmill at the gym.  Two hours behind a lawn mower put my legs into a state of emergency, and I had to do another hour or so yesterday to do the back yard.

This is not whining.  I am delighted to have the exercise outside rather than on a treadmill in a gym.

Steve Brandt and Tim Yanko have been correcting the French drain that probably never drained anything in its life.

This wall is on the right as you walk out of the garage.  On the other side is a steep grassy hill that was showing signs of steady erosion last spring, owing to the failure of the drain to catch any of the storm water that flows down the driveway and through the wall on the way to the lake below.  The French drain connects to a buried drainage pipe that Steve installed on the other side last April.  It empties into the storm drainage swale in the distance beyond the wall.  We'll get to that part of the story in a minute.

Opposite this wall is a companion wall on the left as you walk out of the garage.  They are moving the wall so that we can plant on either side of it.

They finished laying a new base yesterday afternoon.  The original wall was laid up without a base.  Since the soil can become waterlogged after a long rain, we wanted to protect against settling and tilting, so the base includes at least six inches of crushed rock.

Kathy has been at work since Sunday planting one of the two corner berms we built last May.

She planted creeping phlox in two colors all along the outer edge.  The wispy shrubs on the crest of the berm are Russian Sage plants just coming back to life.  The three trees are Kousa dogwoods.  They flower after leafing out in the spring and are suited to a full-sun location.  Our "line-out" beds for daylilies are laid out in S-curves inside the berm.

Looking at it from the other end, you can make out the pretty blue perennials (Lithodora) she alternated with a small variety of creeping Thyme.  The Lithodora is a creeping plant that she hopes will join with the Thyme in covering the surface.

The collapsed drainage swale I've been writing about is within two more work sessions of being emptied of rubble and paving brick.  I spent two hours yesterday lobbing bricks onto the grass.

I finally exposed the ugly break that had been obscured by layers of paving bricks.  Not that this is any better, but "inquiring minds want to know."  I imagine the developer built this swale in the same fly-by-night manner he built the house we live in.  Over the years it cracked, and water got under it, and a trickle became a rivulet, and so on, until a big section collapsed into the undermined area and broke apart. 

The problem I saw when we first inspected the property is that the mass of fill material was mounded up down the center of the channel, forcing storm water out to the sides and sometimes over the bank.  The sides in this area have been considerably widened by water flows, and the slope of the broken concrete exacerbates the problem.  A great deal of the rock I've tossed out has to go back in on the sides to protect the banks and force the water toward the middle, which has to be lowered.

"Sometimes in this life, Baby, ya see things ya don't wanna see."  There's one more pile of paving bricks in the way of seeing what I have to deal with, and one more small zone of rocks beyond the bricks.  I might have to invite Steve and Tim back with their jackhammer to break up that big sloping section, but there's another big section under the last brick pile. 

By the end of this week, I want to know what this looks like without rubble.

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