5/25/12

Let There Be Sod!

After paying off our credit card debts last month we were going to tackle our next big project, mouldings!  But now that's been put on hold for a bit. We just couldn't wait any longer to get the at least part of our yard in working order.

It's been so warm lately and we just really wanted to be able let the little D run around in the yard without tripping and falling into the weeds. The final catalyst was when I found out that we'll be hosting couple of friends and their toddler boy next month in the downstairs apartment. I thought it would be nice to have a grassy yard for the boys to play in. So the die was cast, we need grass now, mouldings can wait, they are purely an aesthetic issue. We've been so used to living moulding-less that a few more months wouldn't hurt.

I did my usual research on Yelp to find landscape companies with good reviews to get some bids. I didn't have the slightest idea how much it would cost to get some sod installed. The bid I got from one company to clean our yard and install about 500sq ft of sod with basic irrigation was $1400. It was a lot more than I would like to pay, because I am a cheapskate. After watching some instruction videos on Youtube, we decided to do it ourselves. Installing sod does not require a lot of skill, it's just hard physical labor.

Like always, prepping the ground for sod is the important part and takes the most time. The dirt in our yard consists of a lot of clay and little pieces of rocks and construction debris and broken glass bits. The ground is also very uneven and super compacted and dry at this time of the year. It took us two days with help from my parents to finish prepping the backyard. We pulled out and clean up the over-grown weeds and filled five 30-Gallon paper lawn bags and two green bins on the first day. The next day, Justin rented an U-Haul truck to pick up a tiller at the Home Depot tool rental department. Justin and my dad took turns breaking up the dirt with a pick axe then used the tiller to break up the big clumps. Using a rake, we did the best we could to level out the ground and mixed in some soil amendment and starter fertilizer.

I ordered our sod from The Sod Shop because not only are they local but their price beat the big box stores.  A big portion of our backyard is shaded half the year by two giant walnut trees that grow near the back fence. So I chose a variety called Mellow Jade, it's the most shade tolerant sod they carry. Once the sod is delivered, it has to be used the same day.  The 550 sq ft that I ordered turned out to be about 60 sq ft too much for the backyard area. Not wanting to let the sod go to waste, we quickly prep an area of the side yard and laid the remaining sod there. Then we water the grass for what seemed like forever to help the grass take root. Now we have to water the new lawn several times a day and wait two weeks before walking on it. I can't wait to relax on the grass back there with a cold drink on a hot Oakland day!

U-Haul - $60
Tiller - $68
Water-Roller - $18
Sod plus delivery - $231
Soil amendment, sprinkler, fertilizer, water timer ~ $100
Total = $477

So we saved almost a thousand dollars by doing it ourselves. It's a good thing because will be going toward a new side gate and fence. We are using the same company that did our front gate, Borg Fence, to replace the old gate and fence that are about to fall over.

The wilderness that was our backyard. We went on a California native plant garden tour recently and we joked that our garden is a 100% native garden.
Some of the weeds that grew over six feet tall.  Most of them got chopped down by the tree trimmers because they were in the way. The people in the apartment behind us sometimes use the back fence to hang dry bed sheets and laundry. 
The whole family pitched in to clear up the yard including little D. Justin supervising my parents. haha...
The backyard looked like this at the end of the first day.
Little D rolling around in the dirt. He's gonna love it when we get the grass in.  
Five bags of yard waste and one and a half buckets of rocks and broken glass.
Justin used the rented tiller to break up the dirt. The soil was so nice looking that I almost felt like ditching the sod and turn to farming in the yard instead. We can grow so much food in this yard.
I covered up the freshly tilled soil with added amendments to keep it from drying out too much and from being turn into a giant cat litter box.  
Sorry for the blurry iphone photo. The delivery were showed up 30 minutes early. We were caught off guard and had to hussel to get the yard ready. Two pallets of sod delivered to our fron door. This stuff is so heavy, I couldn't lift one up by myself. Justin was the laborer for the day moving all 62 rolls to the back and laying them out with my help. 
First row of sod down, seemed like an easy enough job. 
About one thirds of the way through.
Not wanting to let the 60 sq ft of sod go to waste, we used it on the side yard.  It's an instant improvement. 
Here is a before shot of the backyard from 3 weeks ago. Notice the walnut tree branches were still bare. 
The sod project all done after three days of hard work! Now we just need to water the heck out of it for the next two weeks. 




5/17/12

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

There is a little boy who lives with his mom in an apartment behind our house. We called him "the menace", like Dennis the Menace. Last year one of the pickets on our back fence fell off partly due to the neighbor's son constantly pushing it open to retrieve his ball in our yard. Then he started to invite himself over to play even after we told him no. We finally thought we had put a stop to it after replacing the missing picket on the fence.

Few weeks ago, I looked out the window and saw Justin and D playing ball with "the menace" in our yard and they seemed to be having a good time. Then things quickly reverted back to the boy coming over everyday begging to come into our house. I also noticed that someone was leaving our garden faucet on all night. One day last week we came home to find "the menace" running in our yard with a wet shirt on, so we asked if he's been playing with the faucets but he denied it. Then we caught him red-handed playing with the faucet the next day spraying water everywhere. We tried to seal up the only access point in our year but putting up obstacles in the way, but he just pushed them aside and sneaked in again.

Unfortunately, since becoming homeowners we've turn into these "Get off my lawn kid!" shaking our fists at the sky kind of people! But something had to be done quickly and cheaply. We came came up with a solution to temporarily seal off the entry point and add a little extra privacy. The whole thing cost about 60 bucks for two rolls of 6 feet tall by 6 feet long bamboo reed fencing and a box of electrical staples and some hammering. We still have to figure out a way to attach the fencing to our garage with stucco siding, it was too hard to hammer the staples in. We'll probably have to get a cement drill bit to drill two pilot holes for the staples to go in. This is not a fool proof solution to keep uninvited people out, but it'll do for now. 

I forgot to take a proper before picture but managed to find this one I took to show the yard and the fence.  
The bamboo reed fencing is pretty see through but it gave the old fence a little face lift, cleaned it up a little. 
A closer look of the new fence.
There is about a foot of space/dirt between the garage and the neighbor's fence.  The boy was sneaking in through this opening, so let's hope he doesn't try to come in this way again. I found him inside our gate yesterday trying to retrieve his "shoe". Argh!


5/3/12

Visiting Steinbeck Country

The last couple of weeks have been quite exciting I am just now finally able to sit down and write a post for this blog. Two weekends ago, we went on a weekend trip to Monterey for Justin's first bike race. He and three of his friends went on a 100 mile bike ride while me and the little man stayed behind in the hotel on Saturday, the day of the ride. The annual Sea Otter Classic, the Grand Fondo century was meant to be "enjoyed with family and friends", according to the website. It was a grueling ride and not everyone got to the finish line.Justin finished about mid-way out of a group of 600 participants. From our group's description of the route, it was harder then they had anticipated. Everyone was cursing toward the end of the ride as they struggled uphill toward the finish line. Too bad I had to stay back in Salinas with the bambino.

We stayed in Salinas, about 30 minutes away from Monterey where the accomodations were more easier on the pocket. Salinas is a small town so it didn't take long to explore the old downtown area after a brief tour of the John Steinbeck museum. I intentionally took a bus with a much longer route to get back to the hotel to see what the rest of Salinas has to offer. There wasn't much to see but I was glad to have done it anyway.  The weather was scorching and we spent the rest of the afternoon holed up in our hotel room watching HGTV and PBS kids. 

Our two companions had to get back to the East Bay on Saturday night but we stayed because we had planned on some quality family time on Sunday. When we arrived at the Monterey Bay Aquarium on Sunday morning, there was already a long line of families with small children waiting in the ticket line. We were so glad to have purchased tickets online the day before as we casually walked into the will call booth to pick up our tickets. It was early enough in the day where the exhibits weren't yet over run by people and there was room to move and breath. This was my second visit and don't think I will ever get tired of coming here. Their jellyfish exhibit is amazing and the giant fish tank is so otherworldly. Watching the different kinds of fish gliding through water and sea kelp swaying side to side have a hypnotic affect on me. 

On our drive back we made a stop at the Gilroy premium outlet mall and ate at our favorite road trip fast food chain, In N Out burgers. It was a really great weekend getaway and the weather was perfect! 

Downtown Salina
Mural outside of the Steinbeck Museum.
Watching ducks at a lake outside our hotel.
Look, fish!
Experiencing new textures at the aquarium.
Penguin exhibit.
Alien flower?
Surreal looking jellyfish.  
School of fish passing by. 
Bubbly little jellyfish. 
Didn't find out what these were, was too busy trying to take pictures of these alien looking things.