Urban Homesteading on a Small City Lot: October 2012

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

October is Here! Where did the summer go?

I got so busy with work that we didn't get much done on the house this summer.  I didn't get any gardening done besides what I planted in the pots.  Even that was not very good, because I neglected it a lot.

This is our house from the street now.  The stumps are all gone and the front lawn is all leveled out.  We have not planted it yet because we have been waiting for the weather to cool off.  It was very hot until this week.  I think this weekend we may plant it.  With my cousin's wedding coming up the weekend after, we may not have time. It does look a bit better now.  We also took down the fence. It was a horrible fence. We are still deciding what the heck to do about a new fence.  We both think rod iron with brick pillars would look nice. We can get the materials inexpensively, actually free if we find a way to go and pick them up about 90 miles away.

Here is a closer look at one side of the lawn.

This is the other side.  You can see the tail end of the french drain pipe sticking out with a sock over it.  We didn't know what we were doing with the curb there so we left it a bit long so we can adjust it later as necessary.  You can also see the first two raised beds that we have actually finished.  They are made of 8 foot 2 x 6 cedar with outdoor screws.  They are braced at the corners with 18'' sections of 4 x 4 cedar.  They should hold up pretty well.  We hope to make 5 more eventually, but the lumber is very expensive so we are taking it a couple at a time.  The next big building projects will be the arbour and the chicken coup. I hope to finish those both by spring, so I can plant the grapes and hops and order the chicken eggs from my Jersey Giant breeder.  I am so excited for those.
The front yard is looking pretty good, but I dread showing you how the back yard looks. Yikes!  Well here it is:
This is what is left of the fence posts.  We were borrowing my dads truck now and then to take these kind of things away, but it got too expensive driving the truck back and forth every time he needed it, so we decided to get an inexpensive old truck of our own.  Our aunt and uncle offered us the one they inherited from my grandpa when he passed, but it needed a little work.  It has not been driven much lately.  It needed a new battery and an oil change and tabs.  It is finally ready to go, so we will be clearing out the last of this junk starting this weekend.

We ordered 1.5 to 2 inch gravel and got this delivered.  It is not gravel and it is mostly around three inches.  I have half a mind to call them and tell them to come and get it back.  It has been here for a while and Heath did use some in the french drain, so maybe I will just have to find some uses for it.

This area is the most shamefully neglected.  Heath has been chopping wood here.  As you can see he still has a bunch left to chop.  Winter is coming and we don't have enough wood piled for the winter yet.  Maybe we will have to spend our time with the truck this weekend getting wood. It will have to be wood that has been cut for a while and is dry.

Here you can see the yard behind the raised beds.  We did a pretty good job keeping the weeds pulled.  The majority of this is wheat.  I have no idea why wheat came up in the yard, but I left some of it to use in the wedding arrangements for next Saturday.  Most of this will be hauled away to make room for the chicken coop and the compost pile.

This is the wood shed.  You can see there is way too much empty space.  There are some large logs that still need spitting, but not nearly enough.
In this picture you can see the window wells for the basement windows.  These have proved to be the bane of my existence.  The tops of the wells are lower that the level that the lawn would be if we leveled it.  Right now we have the yard sloping down towards the house.  This is a bad idea in general because the water, melting snow and runoff from the roof will run towards the house and seep into the basement through the porous cement.  We have installed a french drain along the side of the house that slopes towards the street.  That should help a lot.  We are very dry here, especially during the summer, but when the winter weather hits, it may not be enough.  When we bought the house last November, the basement was showing signs of seepage.  It has dried up and has not been a problem since we put in the french drain, but it has also been dry outside.  The real test will be this winter.  The basement is unfinished so if it does seep a little it will be okay, but we will have to take more measures to fix the problem.  We may have to bight the bullet and just replace the window wells with larger higher topped ones.  I have done some price checking and unless we can pour our own it will be very expensive.  We will go ahead and do that someday, but it is out of our budget for the moment.

These are the windows on the other side of the basement.  No window wells but the wooden sills are very close to the ground level.  Before we cut out the huge Oregon grape bushes you couldn't even see these windows.  We will probably have to replace the windows. The frames are a bit water damaged and the windows are very energy inefficient.  There aren't any signs of water leaking in around the sills, though.  We probably should put some shallow window wells around them to keep the snow off in the winter.

We have been finding lots of large rocks as we level out the lawn.  We keep finding them in the oddest places.  We are piling them here so we can use them later in the landscaping.

Here's another small pile of rocks.  The whole side of the house here was covered with black plastic and river rocks a long time ago, but the plastic has broken down and weeds are growing though everywhere.  The dirt and debris from the trees and bushes have also covered the rocks and made it very messy. We are trying to clean it up.  It looks a lot better.  We are planning on having a kind of rock garden here with lots of shade tolerant stepables and violets.

This is a very bad picture of a very bad blackberry vine.  We need to get this out one hundred percent.  It is half on the neighbors side of the fence.  We are going to have to team up on this bad boy.
Speaking of the neighbors.  They are making us look bad.  They got their house at about the same time that we got ours and they are so much farther along than we are.  They just finished painting the house.  It looks so much better.  You can kind of see it in some of the pictures.  They have an army of family members that come over and work on the house two days every week.  Heath and I get some help from our families sometimes, but we don't even have time enough to work on our house ourselves every week, let alone organise our families to come and help.  We all have our own lives that are full enough.
Well, I will be out of work after the 15th and the wedding we have all working so hard on will be on the 13th so I will have more time to wok on the house. My priorities will be to clean up the backyard, plant the front lawn, stockpile enough wood for the winter, build the chicken coop and the arbor, and build the rest of the raised beds.  We might not be able to afford the lumber for all of that until I go back to work, but I am working on some new things to sell on Etsy along with my soaps and needlework, so hopefully I can get a majority of it done before next spring.
I will keep updating this blog with new pictures as we go.