Phase 2: Forever house

We are back. With Covid came the chance to move back and work remotely. So now we’re all in – if there was any doubt before, it’s gone now: this is where we want to be. So, here we go with making improvements we planned “if we decide to stay here permanently”.

First project: deal with just slightly not enough kitchen storage. If not for supply chain drama, this would have been done a couple months ago, but hey. We finally got the last piece of a new cabinet for by the back door, and used the blizzard weekend to put it together and reorganize.

Before. Cute, but wasted space below is just what we need to capture
More before
This poor cabinet is stuffed to the gills. We will move a few items out and reorganize the rest. Someday this guy will get repainted too.
And after. 3” deeper but the real win is that third drawer – the crock pot, immersion blender, and a few other things fit great!
We’re not *quite* done, we will finally get a new countertop for this and the washing machine area, both of which have temporary laminate tops at the moment.

Week 83: Not in Maine any more

Winter socked us in at the new house, and it’s been a while since any camp visits or work. And now – I’m in Joshua Tree for work. It’s always nice to get some desert sun in the winter – can’t complain. They even have camps here (old original family’s mining house, complete with Maine-style collections of rocks and interesting objects). A highlight was the hike to the oasis.

Unfortunately, right as I got back home, we were about to go into Covid lockdown, so another long pause is next…

Stone cold (actually, hot…really, really hot)

We finished* the patio! It was a really hard week, as we had to haul up the last, oh, 10,000 pounds of materials during a freaking heat wave. Lots of early mornings, afternoon siesta, then work again in the evening if we could get motivated. Our bright spot: the heat pump, which we bought primarily for heat, is also an air conditioner and it was 72 degrees and 65% humidity in the house while it was 90+ outside (temp and humidity). So breaks were quite refreshing. We went through a lot of popsicles and sweaty clothes, but we have the patio installed, and even finished early enough to sit on it this afternoon. Now the hot tub is heating up so we can go soak our aching backs. Ouch!

So many pavers. 153 to be exact, at 40 lb each.

*Fine print: We still have to finish a few rock edges, install a step – which will be concrete and stone – on the end with the path to the hot tub, and finish that pesky ramp, but we are about 93% done with the back yard. Yeehaw!

I finally remembered to use the panorama setting on my phone and took pictures at each major stage (when not addled by heat exhaustion), so here’s the series:

Dogs approve.  And liked their new patio bed.

Ramping up

At the end of the patio, there used to be a steep dirt slope onto some jagged, buried boulders and a tight squeeze past a tree stump and a rock. No more! We decided to go with a sloped path (ramp) instead of stairs here because of the awkwardness of the buried boulders. And yesterday, we packed in all the base to make the ramp! Progress.

Go pound sand.

That is pretty much all we’ve been doing. We are building the patio out back, which means moving a LOT of heavy stuff. Up stairs, then up the trail on the side of the house, then dumping and pounding it into a packed patio base. Needless to say, it hasn’t been very photogenic and has taken a long time, with small progress every day. By our calculations, we’re in the process of moving:

  • ~6,000 lbs of rocks and boulders (done!)
  • 8,000 lbs of gravel (about 10 buckets from done!)
  • 3,000 lbs of stone dust (up next)
  • 6,700 lbs of pavers (next week?)

That’s like 12 tons of stuff. What?! No wonder we are so tired and sore. So very glad we have the hot tub to soothe our muscles. And we resurrected the ladder-sled hauler contraption (see: https://youtu.be/bi0deCR-3oI). Otherwise we’d be dead, since it saves us carrying buckets of stone up 23 stairs. But hey, it’s really coming together! We’ll be BBQ-ing by the Fourth of July…maybe? Little help, anyone?

As you can see in the photos of the ramp (where we’re filling now – almost done?!), the patio area was originally way out of level – there was more than 18″ or so of drop from the high to the low end. We left 6″ fall in place for drainage – a hair more than recommended for this length – and now the access point is about a foot higher than it already was! So we’re creating a sloped ramp – because of the iceberg-like rocks in the walkway area, we couldn’t do stairs here, but are filling in all around the rocks. With any luck, the ramp base will be done this weekend, then on to stone dust and pavers, then a party on the patio!

Les jardins de rocailles

Rock gardens. Our summers always start with moving rocks around. Great to get the back and knees in shape for a long summer of running around in the woods and building things. No toes were crushed over the past couple of weeks, but we did manage to pull together a few gardens from the rubble in between various trips. Behold:

And out back, even more rebuilding of formerly lovely, but abandoned/neglected terraced gardens around the patio.

To the left of this set of terraces, we significantly rebuilt the wall that had basically completely toppled over and was a condominium for chipmunks. We did that one today, and have no pictures yet…but it’s looking really nice, and houses my collection of columbines. Here are a few of them – they are especially stunning now, all in bloom.

I have a work trip this week, but KJ plans to start on the rock steps that lead to the back yard. Luckily we have more rocks than anything else here, so no shortage of materials.

Oof – it’s finally spring

It’s been a tough couple of months, with some sad news about family and dreary weather to boot. Spring has never been more welcome, and it finally seemed to arrive this weekend. Getting outside and into some gardening (which here has a lot to do with rocks) was just what the doctor ordered. Here are a few early spring projects that have gotten us going; we have a lot more planned for this summer and look forward to more time outside the cabin.

First, signs of spring:

Second, jobs of spring: we renovated a couple of fallen/overgrown beds. Near the back of last year’s new veggie garden, there was a tangle of lilacs on a rock. We scraped it clean, added a new set of steps to access the cucumber patch, and planted in more creeping phlox rescued from the road ditch, which is scheduled by the town to be completely redone this year. We also tidied up the rock garden immediately to its left, and moved those lilacs to the far end of the cave seen here, so they can hold back the soil next to the porch. And smell pretty too.

We also rebuilt a small bed to the right of the stairs, where rocks had tumbled off and left a mess anchored only by a sad red osier dogwood and a false honeysuckle rescued from the ditch on the other side of the road last year. We bought a few humble junipers to fill in the back and hold the slope, and will get some perennials to fill the front, hopefully when Mom & Dad come to visit in a few weeks. Greenhouse field trip!

Finally, we checked out the small mess of intermittent water tumbling in from the upper end of the property and coordinated some of the flow that previous owners had running through a wrecked old pipe – now it runs under this great natural stone bridge rather than creating a giant soppy leaf pack all over the back ‘valley’ under the leaves.

More rock & gardens to follow as we continue to work our way around on the weekends until work lets up.

Garden dreaming

We are really looking forward to getting out to do some landscaping and gardening this summer, with priorities in the back yard and some smaller projects out front. As we were thinking about the back yard, I realized that last year, every time I wanted to pop in a plant or snag a weed, I had to run through our around the house, down 25 steps, and to the garage to grab my trowel or weeder and gloves. Barring adding a shed out back (which we don’t want to do), it seemed that having a stash of simple tools would be ideal, so I looked online for old mailboxes, thinking I could install one that would look window-box-like under the bathroom window, in easy reach. Most of the ones I liked on ebay or etsy were a fortune – but I found this gem for under $20 and the seller worked with me to reduce shipping to a reasonable amount. And it’s absolutely perfect – exactly what I was imagining, and old galvanized, beat-up mailbox from a farm in the midwest. We cleaned it up and clearcoated it to keep any additional rust from forming, mounted it, and popped in some new tools and a pair of gloves my Aunt sent me last fall. Now we’re ready, whenever the sun wants to come out.