Monday, May 16, 2011

Curls and cornbread

Two weeks ago Katie got her hair curled for church.  Averi saw this and decided she wanted pretty curled hair as well.  Of course, about 4 curlers in she wanted nothing else to do with it, but I’m a mean mom and made her stick it out.  Poor thing—we ran out of curlers, so I had to redo several so that she didn’t have a lop-sided head, but she was tough.  She’ll eventually learn that beauty is pain.


Love those pretty green eyes.


I forgot to take pictures the next morning, but it was cute.  Sunday afternoon she was the designated helper for dinner, and she helped me make cornbread and shuck the corn on the cob. 



And even a pretty curl in this picture!


The other side has some major bedhead from naps.  Oh well.  It was nice for church.


And this is why baking takes so much longer with little kids.  Do you really need to life the whisk 18 inches above the bowl?




Oooh, look!  There’s corn inside!


Teasing Mom that she’s going to eat it.  Except I think she really did take a bite out of it.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The patio saga, explained

Do you ever have one of those projects that never ends?  Sometimes it’s your own fault.  Sometimes it’s due to circumstances beyond your control.  And sometimes it’s both. 

I’m pretty sure that Aaron will never listen to any of my, “Honey, we can totally do this!” ideas ever again.  Never.  This patio has consumed every weekend for the past two months, it seems, and there’s so very little to show for it.  We’ve had the beginnings of a hole (well, just sprinklers moved and a bit of sod pulled up, but still…) since the beginning of November.  NOVEMBER.  That’s how long we’ve been working—or thinking about working—on this project.

There are a few things to understand. 

First, the area to cover is huge.  It’s nearly 400 square feet.  It runs the entire length of our house and partway down one side.  That’s a lot of everything: digging, crusher fine, flagstone, and back-breaking labor.

Second, we (I?  I’m no longer sure at this point) chose to lay flagstone.  And not just the imitation, interlocking, factory cut flagstone.  It’s the real stuff.  You know, the real stuff with irregular shapes and varying thicknesses. 

Third, we don’t own a truck.  This was perhaps the single biggest factor in 80% of the delays we’ve experienced.  When you don’t have a truck, you’re at the mercy of someone else: friends who have a truck you can borrow or the delivery guys and their schedules.  And you’re really out of luck if they can’t deliver your base in time for the available two-day weekend coming up because their schedule is booked.  Or if their forklift is broken so you have to wait an extra week to have your stone delivered so the forklift can be repaired. 

Fourth, we don’t don’t know what we’re doing.  That means we’re relying on the experts.  So when you tell the so-called experts your square footage, the depth you want your base to be, and the type of base you’ll be using and they tell you to order 2.5 tons of crusher fine and THEIR GUY spreads it out for you and everyone realizes that this is only a third of what you need, then it kind of stinks.  Now you have to wait (see point #3) for them to deliver more base, pay for delivery AGAIN (of course at the highest rate since you’re on the edge of town), and spread it yourself, because you only paid to have the guy spread the 2.5 tons, not the additional 5 tons you had to order.

So there it is.  I’m kind of kicking myself for not having just poured cement and called it good.  Of course it’s not going to be as beautiful.  But it would be done, and we wouldn’t have had to do it.

Aaron told me that if I wanted this done, then I needed to be the master planner.  So I watched a million YouTube videos on laying a patio and read thousands (I’m sure it was thousands) of tutorials on the best way to do every aspect of the project.  And let me tell you: the bozos who say that this is a weekend project have no idea what on earth they’re talking about.  That point was knocked home when I watch a professional lay a flagstone walkway.  It took him about 5 minutes of an edited video to get a single stone level and perfect.  Remember: this is the perfectly imperfect flagstone we’re talking about here.  And that’s when I realized that even when we got all the other steps finished, laying the stone was going to take forever.

So now you have the background.  Here are some photos of the progress we’re making:


Our backyard a year after we moved in (2007).  This was progress, actually.  At least we had a picnic table, a hose (for all the vegetation, as you can tell), and we were getting ready to have the curbing put down.


That same year after curbing, sod, and a circular patio were installed (not in the picture).  Our grass sure was lush that year; not quite sure what happened.  Of course they get tons of chemicals at the sod farms, so that probably had something to do with it.


First forays into gardening in 2008.  Oh how very sad that little bed looks. 


Construction begins on the pergola in fall of 2008.  Major milestone!!


In 2009 kids’ play equipment comes to the backyard, and they love it! 

Structurally everything in the backyard remains mostly unchanged until I have a bright idea in October of 2010.  Then, lightbulb!  Why should grilling be confined to that tiny builder’s slab?  Why should I have to sit on a picnic bench to be outside?  We have that whole empty flower bed by the house!  I didn’t know enough about gardening when we first did our design to realize that that area is almost completely shaded.  Why waste it on a few flowers that probably won’t do well?  What we need is a patio!  And so it began.


First we had to move the sprinklers.  And the dog.  Farewell Lando and yellow pee spots in the grass!  So long, poop pickup!  You will not be missed.


Then we needed to order fill dirt to even out our very uneven east side.  Next came the demolition of the slab and the south concrete border.  The demolition was accounted for in our plans; the removal of the debris was not.  Did you know that the city of Albuquerque does not accept concrete, rock or gravel at their landfills?  No wonder people just dump it in the fields.  Fortunately we found a materials company that took it for free to make recycled aggregate.  Unfortunately, their hours of operation did not coincide well with Aaron’s work schedule.  Getting rid of all the concrete took quite some time.


Since the slab was no longer there, the grill and grill cart needed a new temporary home. 


Then we marked out the shape of our patio with hose, staked it with lovely pink flags, and removed excess sod.  Then the dirt needed to come out.  My poor husband.  Then seven and a half tons of crusher fine had to be wheeled from the driveway to the back, poured, spread, and leveled.


Then it was time for the plate compactor.  We weren’t sure that this thing was even working after the first few passes, but then we figured out that we needed to wet it down quite a bit, and then it worked great.  The crusher fine compacted very nicely, which made us very glad we decided to stick it out.


Then FINALLY the laying!!  I cannot tell you how time consuming it is to level each one of these stones.  You constantly are having to remove dirt, spread dirt, add a little more, and then just a little more, and then remove some, and then add just a teeny bit in and then….all the while checking how level the individual stone is and how it compares with the rest so that your slope is right.  I can definitely see why the labor for a project like this is four times the cost of the materials.  And the materials aren’t cheap.  You’d better believe that my 26-week-pregnant self was down there laying flagstone as well.  We Barnes girls are hardy stock.  We’ve still got a TON of laying to do.  We’ve got a deadline coming up, and we’re going to work really hard to be done by then.  We’ll see!  It’s going to be a long week…


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Garden and project updates – May 14

So the garden is coming along.  Things are looking much less gloomy produce-wise than they were in April, and it looks like we may actually harvest something sometime.  Maybe.


Here’s a picture of the north bed.  I just planted some pepper plants (a jalapeño and a bell), and we’ve got some spinach, romaine, and a few other lettuces growing.  The radishes are doing fantastic.  Remember how I only had a few random sprouts in there last month?  Well, I don’t know what I was thinking, because they’re not radishes AT ALL.  Now that those are growing, I don’t know how I could have ever mistaken the one for the other.  Obviously I’m still a noob at this sort of thing.  I think they must be green onions that never sprouted last year, but they got a new lease on life when I turned the soil to prepare for this year.  It will be fun to find out!  Some things are taking longer to sprout than others because they just weren’t getting enough water.  I spent part of yesterday afternoon doing some very technical work on the soaker hose—also know as “sticking a needle in the soaker hose to make more holes to make it soak just a bit more.”  It seemed to work pretty well and it looks like all of the squares are getting saturated now. 

And here’s the east bed:


The oregano is TAKING OFF.  Seriously.  Does anyone need oregano?  It’s yummy!  I’ve got beets, sage, arugula, chard, green onions (that I actually planted), carrots and basil growing in this bed.  I’ve also planted beans and watermelon, but I forgot to put a mesh cover on them, so I hope the birds don’t get them before I can get around to doing that.

Flowers are doing great.  Here’s the north flower bed:


And the other angle:


Someone’s adorable kid wanted to be in the picture.  The salvias have already gone through their first bloom, but they’re still attracting tons of bees.  I only have one Jupiter’s beard blooming at the moment.  I lost 2 due to the freeze, and the others were divided to get me free plants, so I have to wait until they get a little bigger.  It’s too bad, because they’re my favorite.  I moved all the penstemons around since they weren’t performing very well, and I’m pretty sure it’s because they were too crowded.  Sure enough, as soon as they got a little space, they took off:


The guy on the top left is one of the penstemons.  He’s about twice as big as he was a few weeks ago.  Also in the picture are daylilies (newly divided), a mum, and a few other new guys to fill things out a bit.  Should look really good next year.  Question: at what point do you pinch back mums?  Mine are already budding.  Is it too late to do it now?

Here are a few more detail shots of the north bed.  Everything is xeric, which makes me want to give myself a pat on the back since we’re in the middle of a MAJOR drought.  If we have to cut off water, we shouldn’t lose too many of these plants.  Lawn, yes.  Plants, no.  And that’s good, because it’s a lot easier to reseed a lawn than plant forty thousand perennials.


Yarrows, catmint (love this filler plant and it attracts TONS of bees), and artemesia.


Jupiter’s beard, daylily, blanket flower, hummingbird trumpet, echinacea, and sedum “Autumn Joy.”  You can see the post of our bird feeder.  We get millions of birds and this thing is empty in a day.  I’m going to have to start buying bird seed at Costco.


A bird of paradise that I think might be dead (even if it’s not, it’s coming out because it takes way to long to leaf and flower), agastache (in the background), artemesia, mum, tickseed, and hummingbird trumpet.  Obviously most of these are not blooming yet, but they will.  Oh yes they will!


Forsythia, catmint, salvias, daylilies, and tickseed.

Our grapes seem to be taking off this year.  We even have tiny little grapes growing!!  I’m so excited for the pergola to be covered in gorgeous grape leaves and juicy fruit.


The east flower bed finally got some plants this year, thanks in part to a Groupon for High Country Gardens.


Drip lines are all installed, and the mulching is waiting on cucumber plants to be planted.  You can see the charcoal remains of a near disaster on the right.  Aaron used hickory while his was smoking the ribs, and then forgot about them the next day when he grilled steaks (gotta love the grill in the summer time!).  It’s precarious, because you’ll remember that right now our grill in situated like this:


Except now there’s even more stuff on the cement: a slide, a teeter totter, a sand and water table, four bags of mulch and all the kid toys.  So, yes, it was a fire hazard.  The kids came screaming into the kitchen that the grill was on fire, and there were huge flames coming out of the back of the grill.  We were afraid that the grill cart (the blue thing on the table, which is where grill carts are obviously supposed to go) had caught on fire.  Fortunately not, but it did provide a lot of excitement for our otherwise lazy Sunday afternoon.

I don’t have a picture of the west bed, since there really isn’t much to see yet.  The rasberries and blackberries are leafing out, and I’m hoping that we’ll have a huge delicious crop this year.

So there’s the garden.  Patio updates will be forthcoming, since I’m taking a break from the patio, and Aaron is out there working all by his lonesome.  So back out I go…

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


I just had two little things I wanted to post so I didn’t forget them later…

1.  Most kids say “nummy” instead of “yummy.”  Not Averi.  Things are LUMMY.  As in, “Mom, thank you for this lummy dinner.”  We all giggle every time she says it.

2.  Today she was getting ready for bed and came across one of her blankets in the hall.  She turned to me and said, “Mom!  I gotfor this blanket!”  Um, do you mean forgot?  Cause even if you didn’t, it’s adorable.


She spends all day like this.  She wears clothes for about half an hour before they’re ditched for dress-ups for the rest of the day.  Sleeping Beauty is definitely her favorite.  The dress-ups are Katie’s, so they’re quite long on her.  She’s learned how to hold them up properly and walks around all day like a princess.  When she isn’t walking, she’s twirling.  The shiny stuff is from Katie’s makeup.  It makes me break out just looking at it, but she thinks she’s quite beautiful.  And she is, isn’t she.