Friday, May 13, 2022

Wildflower birthday - part 2

As I wrote in yesterday's post we went camping at Cedar Hill State Park over my birthday. 

The trail we hiked on my birthday is called the Talala trail. It's rated moderately difficult and is 2.3 miles. The trail guide says it takes two hours. But it took us a lot longer. And we didn't even do the whole 2.3 miles. There were so many wildflowers I could hardly walk a meter without stopping to take pictures. What I lacked in steps, I made up for in squats!

I noticed that a majority of the wildflowers seemed to be either yellow or purple.  Even our iconic Texas blue bonnet has a hint of purple in it so it seemed to fit. There were a few others too. 

There were so many wildflowers that I thought I would post photos of them in small batches. (See yesterday's post for the first part.)

Stay tuned for the next collection.

Please let me know in the comments if you prefer these short posts with small numbers of photos or if you like my usual longer posts with more photos.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Wildflower birthday - part 1

For my birthday this year we went camping at nearby Cedar Hill State Park. It was a delightful week. The weather was mostly very cooperative. There was one night when it rained hard and we had to wait a day or two until the trails were open again. 

But we had perfect hiking weather for my birthday. We didn't actually walk very far though because it was also great wildflower photographing weather. 

I was planning to write a thoroughly detailed post but after going through my photos this morning I thought I would share them in batches. 

Texas bluebonnet. State flower.

I got to see two of my favorite things: lady bugs and later on in the walk a male cardinal (picture to come). It felt like little extra birthday gifts.

Stay tuned for the next batch of birthday wildflowers.

Friday, May 6, 2022

New roof

Another big-ish thing that happened this Spring is that we got a new roof. We weren't planning to and didn't even know we needed to until a few days before we did. 

A couple of months ago someone came around after a mild hail storm and offered to look at our roof. Our roof was rated "class 4 impact resistant." But even if it hadn't been that hail storm was so slight it didn't seem worth worrying about. We also have a roofer friend whom we trust so we were not planning to use some random stranger who was canvassing the neighborhood looking for roofing business. We told them that (not in those words of course) but they still wanted to look at it. So we let them. 

They said the roof had some "delamination" and algae and I think something else that I can't remember and that we should have our roofer friend look at it. We said we would. I looked up delamination and it didn't seem very worrying, but I wrote John a note and put it at his place at the table to remind him to call Larry*, our roofer friend. The note sat there for a while... and then sat there some more. It turns out that it is probably a good thing we waited as long as we did. But more on that.

Then early last week John said that Larry was coming that day to look at our roof. John didn't think there was anything really wrong with it but he has been thinking about putting solar panels on the roof and he wanted to make sure it was in good enough condition before we did that. We wouldn't want to have to replace the roof soon after installing solar panels! 

It was a bit of a shock when Larry discovered that not only was it not in good enough condition to put solar panels on, but that it really needed to be replaced right away whether we put solar panels on it or not! 

It had several problems. The worst and most surprising problem was water damage and rot in some of the decking. (In case you're not familiar with the term "decking," it is the layer of wood that the shingles are nailed to.) Apparently when John and another friend, not a roofer, installed it over 20 years ago they didn't put "starters" around the edges. That allowed water to seep under the shingles around the edges. There were only a few place where that happened but any amount of water damage and rot in a roof is too much. There were several other problems that were less surprising given its age and our climate--heat stress, blistering, cracking, delamination, degranulation. 

Larry said they could come that Saturday. They worked amazingly fast.

They started early and were on the roof before I woke up just after 7:00, which is when I woke up!

Tear off phase. You can see the old white shingles in the bottom left photo.
Larry sent us these and most of the following photos. 

From inside--Stuff was raining down. I definitely wasn't going to go outside at that point! Notice the shadow of one of the workers on the side of the RV. 

Repairing one of the areas of water damage and rot.

They discovered a lot of ants there after they removed the damaged wood. The white powder is ant poison. We hoped it would be the end of the ant problems in the kitchen which is just below here.
But, alas, it wasn't. 

We actually have two layers of decking on our roof. When John and the other friend replaced the roof 20 years ago the special impact resistant roof needed a thicker layer than was on it. So they added a second layer on top of the original decking. The water damage was mostly on the top layer. I say mostly. Apparently it was starting to affect a little of the bottom layer in one place but Larry thought it wasn't bad enough to replace the bottom layer. 

The three places where they replaced the damaged decking.

They completed the tear off phase and were starting to get really noisy by the time we left for our church's weekly prayer meeting at 10:00 a.m. I was starting to feel a little loopy from the racket above our heads so was happy to get away!

As we were leaving.

We took a picnic lunch and intended to have a day out.

New shingles going on.

Larry also cleaned out as much lint from our dryer vent stack as he could reach when he replaced the pipe vent covers. He suggested I have someone come out soon to clean out the whole thing. I had been meaning to do that for a while but kept putting it off. So I took his suggestion and it has helped our clothes dryer work much better!

Installing new ridge vent cover

After prayer time, John dropped me off at for a bit of clothes shopping while he went swimming. Then he returned to the store to pick me up and did a little shopping himself. Then we found a park and had our lunch.

After lunch we went back home to get some things, thinking that we would have a few more hours to kill before they finished the roof. But they were already finished and cleaning up when we got back.  

John went up on the roof to look at it while Larry was still here.

See top of this photo for name of roof we got, if you're interested.
But this is not intended to be an advertisement!

The weather was heating up by the time they were done. John apologized that they had to work in such weather, but Larry said it was good roofing weather. 

Later I was reading the warranty from the manufacturer of our new shingles and I noticed that they need several days of strong sun and heat for the shingles to cure enough to really be as wind resistant as they are meant to be. We have had some unusually high winds this spring and quite a lot of cold weather too. So if we had replaced it a couple of months ago it likely would not have cured before the wind storms and might have been damaged. (A neighbor a couple of houses down did have wind damage to his roof from recent winds.) This new roof's warranty does not cover wind damage if the roof has not had a chance to cure properly due to weather or too much shade. So it is a good thing we waited after that other roofing company came around a couple of months ago.

* Larry Martin with Shalom Roofing

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

How does my garden grow?

Our new plants are growing! And flowering too!!

Now if I can just not kill them. Knowing when to water is challenging. We got a couple of good rains since planting in the planting bed. But this week the weather is not cooperating. I was hoping we would go on getting a good solid rain once a week. I heard a storm was expected yesterday, but we only got a few drops. 

So I just went and watered the plants a little and gave the maple its weekly deep watering.

I also took some photos. It is a little windy so I wasn't able to get good close ups of the flowers:

Yesterday I also noticed that the maple is leafing out. Here is a close up of some of the new leaves. 

It is still so tiny that it doesn't show up very well in photos as a whole tree. But here is one from my office window this morning:

The next morning: 

We had a lot of rain this morning since I wrote the above (my rain gauge said 3/4"). So now the maple has had two deep watering's. Oh dear. At least I only gave the planting bed a little sip yesterday so the big drink it got this morning should be ok. Meanwhile the maple is due for it's monthly "Seamist Root Stimulator" treatment. It is a liquid concentrate that I am supposed to dilute in a gallon of water. So that means more water... But one gallon isn't really very much... is it?

Several days later:

I haven't seen any butterflies around the garden yet. The main wildlife we get are squirrels and neighborhood cats.

He seems to be surveying his domain.
It's better than some things he could be doing!

Other news is that we got a new roof. We weren't planning to and didn't even know it was needed until last week. That's what the sign in the yard is about. I'll try to post about it next time. I was going to do that with this post but it was taking too long so I decided to finish this to let you know how things are growing while it is still fresh and exciting! The irises are about to bloom too. So next time I'll try to include some of those.

Here are some better photos of the flowers: 

Salvia Greggii

Gulf Coast Penstemon

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Planting in the planting bed

The plants are in! We finally planted in our new planting bed. 

I use the term "we" somewhat loosely. I sprained my ankle a few days before, so my main contribution was supervising from a lounge chair. John and Roger, a coworker from John's office, did most of the work. 

It was a mild sprain so I did sometimes get up to get things for them (and to take a few photos!). That is until the sun and heat were too much for me. Then I went inside. This spring seems like winter and summer are fighting it out to see which will win. One day winter is on top and the next it feels like summer is winning. 

It was a big job. It would have been a much bigger job without Roger's help. So in case you read this, Roger, thanks again!

We started gathering plants several days before. All but the desert willow came from Val's nursery, Motherherbs Garden, in Cedar Hill. 

We got the desert willow a week before
from Weston Gardens, in Fort Worth. It was a lovely spring day.

A few days later on Tuesday afternoon we got the other plants from Val's nursery. It was so cold that day I didn't think of taking photos while we were there. It felt like winter was back for sure. I was seriously tempted to just hide in her green house where it was warm and let Val and John collect the plants. This photo is when we were unloading them at home onto our patio.

The first job was to dig a hole for the desert willow and do a perk test. John did it the night before planting. It took about two and half hours to drain. Val said anything over two hours is considered poor drainage. It means we won't need to water as often though, so that at least, seems like a plus. 

Hole for perk test

Saturday morning he removed the mulch from the bed temporarily and put it in bags to reapply after the plants were in.

Then he took separate photos of each kind of plant together in their pots with the label showing so we would have a record of what's what. I'll try to do another post soon with a close up of each kind of plant and tell what they are.

Then he put everything in place according to Val's design (below). 

The checkerboard is where the dead stump from the old ash tree is. It is a few inches below the surface. We had the stump ground down when the tree was removed. But it only went several inches down. John removed what he could of the smaller roots around it when he was building the bed, but this part was too massive to remove. He inserted molasses into it (see previous post) so hopefully that will help it break down. The bigger black square is where Val suggested we could put a bird bath or something. But now that we have planted everything it doesn't look like there is room for it there after all.

John and Roger planted the desert willow first (that is the W in the diagram above).

Roger planting native yarrow around the desert willow. (After planting I pruned the desert willow per Val's instructions by removing the bottom two branches and a little of each of the top branches as well.)

Val said to water the plants just before planting them. He watered the planting bed the night before.

All done but the mulch

John and Roger taking a celebratory drink of water :-) after a job well done. 

John putting the mulch on.

It's been twelve days since we finished planting. I feel happy with the way it looks and I look forward to seeing how the plants grow and flower. 

The desert willow after removing the bottom two branches and pruning some off the top branches: 

It's the taller twiggy thing. The shadows are from our neighbor's oak tree. It gets a brief period of shade in the morning. Most of the day it's in full sun. 

View from my office window.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Landscaping - Installing the Sitting area

As I mentioned in my last post, the next step after making the planting bed was creating the sitting area.

We covered the area with decomposed granite (DG for short). It is cheaper than concrete and allows rain to percolate through so it is better for the soil. It is supposed to pack down and solidify. That is still a work in progress. But I am getting ahead of myself.

To prep the ground for the DG, John cut the grass down almost to the dirt. Here he is using the weed eater on it. He also removed some of the dirt where the ground was too high.

 I realized after I posted last time that I neglected to put a picture of the finished planting bed. So you can see that here too.

After cutting the grass down he checked for low or high places and added and/or removed dirt as needed.  

There used to be a strip of white rock next to the house. I didn't want that there anymore so he removed it. That's why there's no grass along there. The large black pipe in the trench next to the house connects our drip irrigation system on the side of the house with the faucet at the front. If you look closely you can also see a small brown tube laying next to the black pipe. That's an irrigation tube to water the foundation. 

It may sound crazy but "watering the foundation" is a thing here. It is actually watering the soil around the foundation to keep it evenly moist. The soil in this area is a type of clay that expands and contracts easily with changes in moisture levels. Our weather varies a lot from drought to floods, and freezing to heat. The frequent changes in the soil puts stress on foundations here and can even make them crack. So watering the soil around the foundation helps keep it and the foundation from cracking. 

The grooves in the grass on the right side of the photo are where there were irrigation tubes to water the grass. Those aren't needed for the sitting area so John removed them. Val, our landscape designer, said not to put any on the planting bed either since the plants she chose for that are drought tolerant and won't appreciate regular watering. We generally only water the grass once a week but she said they wouldn't tolerate even that much. 

Once the ground was smooth and level, accept for a slight slope away from the house, he covered it with heavy duty weed barrier cloth. 

The wind didn't help, but it makes for a more interesting photo.

It was nearly dark and the streetlight beside our house was already on by the time it was done and ready for the the DG.

The DG on the right in the photo below is the one that is most common in our area and was what Val recommended. But we discovered the large kind, on the left, at Earthtones Greenery in Midlothian, about 30 minutes from us. We thought it would be less likely to track into the house on our shoes so we got it instead. They had large a sitting area of it at Earthtones. It looked quite nice and was well packed down and solid. They said we would need three inches of it which was more than what Val had said we would need of the other kind. But that seemed reasonable and it made it more even with our front entry way.

We were thrilled to learn that Earthtones offered delivery--saving us multiple trips with our little car and lots of loading and unloading. We were also able to borrow a wheelbarrow from a coworker of John's. 

They Earthtones Greenery delivery man dumped the DG onto a tarp we put out on the curb in our front yard. 

John dumping the first load of DG onto the prepared sitting area.

The n95 mask was great protection against the DG dust. It didn't look like it was generating much dust but after helping John for a few minutes I could feel it lodging in my sinuses so I put one on and insisted John use one too. 

Spreading DG with the back of a rake.

Starting the seemingly endless process of packing and leveling. The hand tool John is using here doesn't seem too heavy the first few times you pick it up and drop it but after the first several hundred, or so, times I suspect the weight starts to add up!

Watering DG is supposed to help it solidify. We'll see. So far it is still fairly loose. Hopefully my friend Susan is right and it will pack down more as the weather warms up. It keeps getting churned up though and we have to keep releveling it. I hope it doesn't suddenly decide to solidify on a day while it is churned up before we've gotten around to re-leveling it again. 

The finished sitting area. 

So that is the the sitting area installed. We hope to add more color to it and other things--like things to sit on for example. But that will come later. Next up: plants in the planting bed!