Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Yard Project

This spring and summer was the year of our yard!  Last year was our first spring in the new house.  We knew the yard potentially needed a lot of work, but our focus last year was unpacking and getting organized inside.  While we knew it was a daunting tasks (aren't all lawn projects somewhat daunting?), we were anxious to get started so we could enjoy a new lawn this summer.

We started in late March by ripping out these bushes in the front yard.  We are not big bush people.  We prefer plants that bloom with some sort of colorful flower.  And the landscaping in the front yard was making the actual lawn portion look tiny.  We prefer more grass to boring landscaping.

The lawn itself was a mess- patchy and just yuck.

Aunt Bethany was in town that weekend and willingly helped us rip out those big ol' bushes.  Thanks Beth!

Livy (6 months old) hung out in her exersaucer that day, watching all the commotion.

This picture shows our smaller chunk of front lawn.  When we moved in, that dirt pile on the right had a tree planted there.  The tree died shortly after we moved in, so we dug it out.  Again, we prefer more grass, so our plan was to take out the dirt hill and plant grass seed there.

The next weekend, Ben power washed our terribly dirty and mossy front porch and driveway.  And it was pouring rain that day.

He left me a sweet little message that stayed on the driveway for months.

Mid April, the next step was to install a French drain in our front yard.  The water that collects in our driveway needs a way to escape, or it just pools up an never goes away.  Ben had to tear up a strip of the grass, put gravel underneath and relaid the grass over top.  Putting the gravel underneath the grass allowed for water to drain out.  With just mud and grass, it would get clogged and wouldn't flow at all.

Leah was a great helper!

Testing it out before he relaid the sod- it worked!

Next up was getting top soil delivered.  Our plan was to completely cover all the existing grass (the sparse, spotty mess that it was) with top soil, then reseed the entire lawn areas. 

Our first mistake was not asking around for a reputable company that sold quality top soil.  We will never make that mistake again.

At the end of April, we had 5 yards of top soil delivered.  When Ben inspected it, he could tell immediately that it was not good.  It had so much gravel in it- it was terrible.  We didn't want to go through all the work to redo our yard and have it not work due to bad soil.  We called the company back to tell them we were not satisfied and were pretty much told there wasn't a whole lot they could do about it.  They told us that with the weather conditions this year, that was just how top soil was being made.  They wouldn't give us a refund, but told us we could come and get a yard or two of fertilizer to put on top of the soil and that would make it all perfect.  We were super bummed (out a chunk of money), but didn't dare use this on our lawn.  

Ben found a solution in the end.  Our back yard was tiered- a few random levels all over the yard (so, so weird).  We decided to use the bad soil to fill in the lower spots to level out the entire yard.  The previous owners had made the section that Ben is standing in sunken down/lower by quite a bit.  And they had used cinder blocks right through the middle of the yard.  I think it was their previous dog kennel area (they had several dogs). 

Ben also made use of the dirt by showing the kids how to bike down it.  Yikes!

Ben spent hours and hours and hours shoveling dirt into a wheelbarrow and hauling it to the back yard.  The kids loved to help him.  Leah and Chloe were the best, long-winded helpers. 

The down side to so much dirt in the driveway?  The kids loved playing in it.  And every time they played with it, they tracked it all over the house.  My floors were so dirty!  Their pockets were full of dirt and when they'd take them off, that dirt became one with the floors.  I was sweeping constantly and had to mop the floor way more often than I normally do.  It was yucky.  Ben had to power wash the driveway many times over to rid all of the dirt/mud residue.

At the beginning of May, we were ready to plant our garden!  We met Ben at Lowe's one evening after work to shop for seeds to plant.

Livy got to ride in the car cart for the first time.  She loved it.

While the rest of the kids looked for stuff to grow, Livy worked on growing her immune system by sucking on what I'm sure was a germ infested seat belt. 

Dad, explaining the rules on what to pick out.

The kid each got to pick two things they wanted to plant.

Lexi: carrots and cantaloupe.

Leah: green beans and cucumbers

Chloe: snow peas and watermelon

Mitch: corn and cucumbers

Back at home, Ben had finally gotten the bad top soil all hauled to the back yard and leveled out the yard (minus the portion in the back where the dog kennel is.  Leveling that portion off will be for another year!)  It took the entire 5 yards to fill in that area.  We would love a bigger yard someday but when a yard this small takes so much work, the thought of anything bigger seems overwhelming!

With the seeds bought, it was time to build some garden boxes!  Ben spent countless hours buying supplies, building and painting these garden boxes, inspired by a good friend in our ward who is a master gardener.  Thanks for the tips, Jared!  He even installed a drip system underneath the boxes for easy watering.  He put copper tape around the edges to keep the slugs out.

The kids were so excited to help him plant all of the seeds we had bought.

Round two of top soil: we asked our master gardener friend where to get the best top soil, and then we took his advice.  The difference between the two sets of soil was like night and day.  Once again, I had another massive dirt pile in my driveway, which meant more dirt all over the house and loads and loads of dirt-stained clothes to wash. 

Next step was to lay all the dirt all over the front and back yard.  Ben spent hours and hours again doing this.  I wished I would have kept track of all the hours he put into this project.  He would go to work early so he could come home early and put in 7-8 hours outside working.  We used the better soil to fill the garden boxes.

Next was flattening out the dirt to make sure it was level.

Then he raked it all so that it would be conducive to planting seed.  He then planted seed all over the yard and then came the tricky part- keeping that grass wet constantly.  Of course when we want it to rain, it doesn't!  On days when it wouldn't rain, we had to water the yard 2 times a day.  We don't have sprinklers, either.  Darn.

After the seed was planted, we told the kids they had to stay off the lawn.  Ben showed them how to walk around the cinder blocks in the backyard to get to the garden.

Our garden started sprouting quickly.  The kids were always so excited to go and check in its progress.

Ben later built some trellises to help the tomatoes and peas grow upward.

Seed started sprouting up just one week after it was planted.  It was so exciting!

The bad part about it coming up was that the places where the old grass already existed starting pushing through and we had a mismatched, spotty looking lawn.  We couldn't mow it for a few weeks, so it looked very run down and untidy for quite some time.

With time, it thickened up and with some fresh bark for the landscaping, we finally had a front yard we could enjoy and actually use!

We never used the back yard last year.  It was so uninviting and with no grass- it was practically just dirt and garbage.  Now there is room to run around on soft grass and our garden has been so fun!  With no sprinkler system, we are still having to water with sprinklers a few times a week.  But it is worth it to have a yard that is beautiful and useable.  I can't take credit for any of it.  Ben did 95% of it all by himself.  From start to finish, it took over 3 months of sometimes intermittent work, sometimes steady work.  Thank you Ben!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Idaho Trip, Finale

On Wednesday, July 2nd, we packed up our gear and headed up to Thompson Flat to go camping for a night.

After Ben got our tent set up, the first order of business was to put this tired little girl down for a nap. It was a hot day and I tried my best to make it as comfortable in the tent as possible.  She fussed for a minute or two, then went right to sleep.  She didn't sleep for very long- probably not even an hour, but it was better than nothing.

Ben brought up one of his hammocks and it was a hit with everyone.  Jackie and I had a few cuddles in there.

It's also the perfect place to take a nap! (Until a child comes over and interrupts it!)

Before we started dinner, we drove up to the Mt. Harrison summit to see a beautiful overlook of Cassia County.

Papa, Grandma and the grandkids!

After, we drove off roads to play in some of the remaining snow.  I tell you, the way to play in snow is during the summer.  No snow clothes required and it feels good to get wet and chilled!

The kids had races sliding/skiing down the hill.

Getting up was a bit trickier!

Livy enjoyed eating an ice clump.

Back to camp for dinner- tin foil dinners- my favorite camping meal!  Nap time and meals were the only time I could keep this busy girl contained.  Taking a mobile, non-walking baby camping is tricky, tricky. 

She doesn't like just to sit and be held anymore, which only leaves one option- putting her down on the dirty ground.  She tried eating lots and lots of dirt.

And crawled around and got really dirty.  She was ready for bed at 6:00 p.m. We moved her pack and play to the back of our van and she slept in there the entire night.

After dinner, it was time for the ever anticipated s'more roasting. 

Kids love fire!  They should change the saying "Like a moth to flame" to "Like a child to a flame."

This son of mine was counted as eating at least 6 s'mores.  Soon after this picture was taken, he exploded.  :)

The next day we made, ate and cleaned up breakfast, then broke camp and loaded everything up in the vehicles, then drove over to our favorite spot in Mt. Harrison: Lake Cleveland. When Ben and I were first married, we used to come up to Lake Cleveland every summer when we'd come to visit my parents, for a number of years in a row.  

It is so, so gorgeous.  This shot does not do it justice completely.  There are camping spots on one side of the lake.  The lake is good for fishing and swimming.

We thought we were going to have to hike in to the lake (about a mile or so from the entrance) as the road to it was closed just the day before when we drove by.  But it was open that morning!  We were able to drive all the way down, but still put a very tired Livy in the backpack to walk around the lake. She was exhausted and ready for her morning nap.  She likes the backpack just fine, until her pack horse stops walking.

The kids had a blast playing in a little stream. 

Soon enough, they all put their swim suits on and got into the FREEZING cold lake.  Go Team Andros!

Livy hung out with Papa while her siblings swam!

The little stream also had a nice mud pit that all of the cousins took full advantage of.  We had to inspect everyone before they got into the vehicles.

The next day was the Fourth of July!  It had been HOT all week and that day was no exception.  We started off the morning by going to an annual ward breakfast held at a neighbor's house.  It is the house that neighbors my parents, so we all were able to walk.  Livy was a cranky mess that morning and she only lasted 15 minutes there before I had to bring her home and put her down for a nap.

She was still asleep when it was time to leave for the Albion Parade, so Ben stayed home with her.

There was some delay, which had us sitting in the baking hot sun for a good 45 minutes until the parade started.  

Most of the candy was typical parade candy.  But this parade threw frozen otter pop/popsicles- genius on a blazing hot day!  That was something even the adults could get excited about!

They also threw nerds, or "Trophies" as Jax randomly calls them.  He can't eat very much sugar, so nerds, being small and easy to give him just a few of them, are one of his go-to, favorite treats.  He was so excited!

The rest of our fourth was super low-key and relaxing.  The men went golfing and the women stayed home and napped all the kids.  All 5 of my children were asleep at the same time during the day- and I got a nap in too!  A miracle if I've ever seen one.

While we waited for the BBQ dinner, the kids found lots to keep themselves busy.

Mitch and Carter played an intense game of battle ship.

Leah gave Livy a ride on the wiggle car.

Aunt Courtney sure wanted to hold Livy, who was having a rough week of "stranger danger."

There was lots of swimming on that hot day!  The 3 little girls in their patriotic swimsuits!

Lexi wanted me to take a picture of her mad swimming skills

I grabbed this shot as she shot up out of the water!

Livy and Jax loved the baby pool.

The toy water snake that grandma put in the pool was a hit!  She started becoming danger baby when she wouldn't sit down at all, so our pool fun was cut short.

Flashback to July 2009:  Livy's swimsuit is an original Leah/Lexi suit.  She has worn lots of their hand-me-down clothes and it's fun to go back and look at pictures of the twins when they originally wore them.

Not pictured that day was the yummy BBQ dinner we had and the pie and homemade ice cream we had for dessert.  We also played a number of different baseball games over the course of the day and previous day.  It was fun enjoyed by both adults and kids.  We are a baseball loving family!

The next day, Saturday, July 5th, was the end to our fun in Idaho and Utah.  We were able to get up and leisurely pack and not rush too much.

Before leaving, Cath tried one of her old baby dresses on Olivia.  Livy didn't think it was funny at all!  She did not appreciate looking like a 90's baby.  :)

On our way out of town, my siblings (who were still in town) and my parents and I all went out for lunch and said our final goodbyes there.  Then back home to Seattle we went!  We had a fantastic visit and I was so glad to have been able to see all of my siblings (though not all at the same time, due to work schedules).