When You Have a Huge Pile of Dirt in Your Yard

There's this big huge pile of dirt in our front yard

We didn't think digging out the driveway would make this much dirt. Whoopsie. But we came up with a pretty good idea (at least I think so). It's not as awesome as the beds in the back

But it's the same sort of idea.

The front yard has a decent pitch towards the sidewalk (about an 18" difference from the back to the front), so our idea is to build a raised bed on this side of the front yard to both reuse some of the dirt and create some height interest in our otherwise boring front yard.

We started planning things out to determine how big we could make the bed (we knew there would still be dirt we'd have to get rid of). We figured out how wide we wanted the eventual walkway up to the house (5-5 1/2 feet wide)

We wanted our neighbor to have enough room to get out in and out of her car and a little room off of the sidewalk to make things a bit balanced. We determine 3 1/2 feet for the neighbor, and 3 feet from the sidewalk and sprayed our outline

With things laid out and me working on the pavers, Chris and his cousin got to work digging out a trench

We needed a trench dug because the raised bed will be built with retaining wall stones...

...and the first row of stones needs to be below ground to ensure that things don't shift and fall

Chris and Sean were working hard...

...and were getting started on pouring in a layer of pack and sand for a nice bed for the retaining wall stones to sit on when Chris realized they made a boo boo. The two sides of the trench need to be dug so that they are on the same plane as the first stones in front. And they didn't dig the trench deep enough in the back

The green line represents the pitch of the yard and the red lines are the rows of the retaining wall stones. The wall will always be the same height, but because the front of the yard is lower in the front than it is in the back, you will see more of the stones in the front. In order to have the strongest walls, each row needs to be constructed on the same level, so the trench needs to be dug deeper towards the back. And as the wall creeps closer and closer to the street you'll begin to see more and more of the stones.

After Chris realized the boo boo, they shoveled out the pack they had already set in and began digging the trench deeper on the sides. But like me being tired of the pavers, it was also getting late and so they had to call it a day

For the time being we still have a huge pile of dirt on the lawn. And a trench. Ugg.


My 500th Post

Holy moly. I've been blogging for 2 1/2 years and reached my 500th post. It's kind of exciting. For me at least :) I thought I'd have a little fun with this post and do 5 fun facts about us.

Here we go!

1. Chris and I are 6+ years apart and he was my boss when we got together, tehehehe

Mr. Christopher and I met when I was 19 and he was 25. He interviewed me at Tower Records in Davis, CA with the other manager, Justin. Chris was wearing a Giants shirt (the nerve) and when I left the interview I shook his hand and said, "By the way, I'm an A's fan." Despite that stupid (but necessary) comment, I got the job (and Chris still makes fun of me about it to this day). He had a girlfriend at the time and I thought he was totally awesome, so I quietly fell in love with his amazingness. Fast forward about 6 months later and Chris and his girlfriend were no longer together, we had become really good friends from working together so much and I built up the nerve and invited him to an A's game. We weren't allowed to date because I was a clerk and he was my boss, so I didn't want Chris to think I was crossing the line. But we started hanging out more and more and Chris realized how awesome I was too :) So we silently dated until I left Tower Records a couple months later and the rest is history!

2. One time, long ago, I went to an *N SYNC concert

(yup, that's me in high school before our senior Winter Ball, and yes I have long hair and am wearing make-up.)

My freshman year in high school I, Meryl Rose Phillips went to an *N SYNC concert. I was embarrassed to admit it for a long time, but now, I can finally come to terms with it. I went with a bunch of my girlfriends (the two lovely ladies in the middle). It was pretty fun, I have to admit.

3. I used to go to farm camp

Now, some of you may read that and think, "Whaaaaaat." But hey, I grew up in the city and my parents thought it would be lots and lots of fun for a city kid. And HOLY LORD it was. I LOVED it! It was called Plantation and I went for 4 years from 11-14 and it was the most amazing time ever. I made awesome friends, did chores on a working farm, learned to horseback ride bareback (and went allllllll the time) and even adopted a little kitten (still called Baby Kitty or Gray Kitty 15 years later). I even thought about being a counselor there, but timing wise it didn't work out. I love those memories.

4. Chris and I have lived in a lot of different places

(if you click to enlarge the pic you can see Chris and his friend's tiny campsite at the foot of that glacier).

Chris has lived in a lot of different places:
- LA (grew up there)
- Davis, California (went to college there)
- Austin, Texas (went to live with me there)
- Cuyahoga Valley, Ohio (where he was a national park ranger)
- West Washmawapta Glacier, Canada (his friend Johnny was doing research for his PhD in glaciology and Chris traveled with him to help do research. Johnny has done amazing things for the study of cirque evolution and alpine geomorphology - yeah, he's really smart)
- Oakland, California (where we are now!)

I have lived in a lot of different houses, apartments, dorms, etc. (but nowhere near as many fun places as Chris). How many you ask? 15. All by the age of 24. The longest I've lived in one house is like 5-6 years.

Oh yeah, and we both lived in a car for 3 months when we took a cross-country road trip across the United States (and Canada) to visit all 30 Major League Ballparks and see a game at 28 of them

5. Chris has gone on a ton of road trips (many with me, a few with his previous girlfriend and a few by himself), and the one that mesmerizes me the most: a hitchhiking road trip!

Yes, how fucking crazy is that? He went with his friend Vern when they were in college

The story still amazes me. They napped on the side of the road

Hopped on a train that eventually derailed

They got into a car with a bunch of crazies who took a detour off the freeway to smoke weed and one of the passengers peeled his apple with a knife while talking to them . FUCKING BANANAS. They also got a ride with some chick who was about their age that asked if one of them could drive a her car (Chris did) and she fell asleep. Crazy again. And got stopped by a few cops (3 I think). What a crazy 5 day adventure.

That boy Chris, he still amazes me.

Alright, so there's 5 fun facts! Here's to 500 more posts! :)


I Guess 4,112 Pavers Just isn't Enough

This past weekend while Chris' cousin was here we worked on tackling the pavers and trying to tame the dirt in the front yard. While Chris and Sean attempted to tame the dirt, I set about running the pavers down the driveway

Screeding was definitely a two person job

But once the screed was done I was left to my own devices

Once the pavers make it to the driveway on the right side there is a step out to accommodate a car actually being able to cruise up the driveway (still obviously need to address the missing pavers in the middle)

And we'll need to make some cuts to make the pavers flush with our neighbor's house

But after those angles it was smooth sailing

That is, until we ran out of pavers less than 10ft. short from the end of the driveway

We thought about going out to get more pavers, but it was late in the day and my arms were tired so we figured we'd get it finished another time. And sure enough, when I got home from work the next day the boys had finished it off (after purchasing another 350 pavers)

It looks awesome! That pitch looks super great.

Now just comes the finishing touches: edging, concrete, cuts, brick transitions, poly sand...I'm really looking forward to the end of this project, especially my back.


Not 1, 2, 3, or 4 Times...

...but FIVE. We had to go over the driveway with pack and the plate compactor 5 times.

When we worked on laying the pack in the backyard portion of the patio we had to go over it 3 times. We were hoping for only 2, but we went the safe route and did some touch ups here and there to make things nice and even.

We figured we might have to go over the driveway pack 4 times (because we'd dug out and extra 2 inches to accommodate a car sitting on top of it), but we were really shooting for 3. What a pipe dream.

Last Wednesday after we got all the dirt dug out...

...and even the first layer of pack in...

...Chris got really excited at about 3:45 or 4 o'clock to go to HD and rent a plate compactor and get all the layers done that day. Exhausted, I put the kibosh on those plans and made us wait until this weekend.

Saturday morning rolled around and Chris' dad and cousin were to arrive at about 1 o'clock (Chris' cousin comes to stay with us for a weekend every 3-4 months and his dad always drops him off). We figured if we got the plate compactor home at 9 we could get all the work done by about 12 or 12:30 because the other layers in the back never took too long to compact and we were dealing with much less sq. ft. So off we went on our plate compacting adventure!

Our plans were first thwarted when we had to spend nearly 45 minutes at HD just waiting to get the plate compactor rented. There was a ginormous line, and in typical HD fashion no employee is in any sort of hurry to serve waiting customers.

When we finally got home we got the plate compactor out and started making the rounds

Then it was time for the second layer

And then round three

And then our plans were dashed again: each layer was going on way thinner than we thought - we were using new pack from another place so we didn't know if it was compacting more or what - but it was making a lot more work. And then, Chris' dad and cousin pulled up an hour earlier than we had expected. Doh. His dad was going to be leaving for the afternoon to visit some family in SF and then return in the evening to watch the USC football game, so we figured in the meantime we'd put Sean to work

We laid the 2x4 down across the driveway to see about how much more pack we'd need in certain places for that 4th layer. And after we laid all the pack out, ran over it again with the place compactor, we were still way too deep in many places :( and out of pack :(

So while Chris and Sean went to the local landscape yard to get more pack I brought out the marking spray paint and measured all over the place about how much pack we'd need to get the driveway to the correct height (minus and plus signs in front of numbers meant either a little under or over that amount)

Once the boys came back with the pack we shoveled it out all over the place and tried to follow the markings to make the driveway level and pitch correct (it pitched both towards the street and towards our neighbor).

After the 5th go round we figured it was close enough

You can tell there are some dips and lumps here and there

But we really worked hard to get the slope to the street correct

There were still some areas that needed improvement, but by this time it was about 3:30 (so much for getting it done around noon...thank goodness we didn't rent it Wednesday afternoon/evening) and we'd gone over it 5 times and we were out of pack again, so we just said screw it, it's good enough.


Thank You Neighbors

We seriously have the best neighbors. On our street people are always out and about - taking walks with their dogs, working on their houses, playing outside with their kids or just hanging out - so we get a lot of foot traffic by our house. And can I just say how absolutely wonderful it feels to have all your neighbors be so encouraging whenever they've walked by and seen us working on our paver project? They say things like, "working hard!" or "it's looking great!" and "you're almost there!" It's awesome to hear and it totally motivates me to work harder.

And they absolutely get extra amazing bonus points on top of the already there totally awesome bonus points because on Saturday afternoon our front yard was looking like this

And they were STILL so encouraging!

A huge pile of dirt on the yard. Our truck top precariously placed on said dirt. Garbage containers strewn here and there. A huge pile of tarp covered pavers. HD buckets everywhere. A big ol' pile of base sand sitting in the street.

And still: "it's looking great!"

I mean really, who could ask for better neighbors?


The Scope of Projects Always Expands

Last night I got some nice, deep sleep. Which is great because now I know my name again and I'm not struggling staying awake at the wheel. And even better, I can show you all the digging we did :)

And some extra digging.

You see, there was this downspout

We didn't think it was great that it ran off from the roof and dumped water so tight on our foundation. Not to mention next to our PG&E meter, an electrical line in the dog house, and on the edge of our (soon to be there) pavers. So Chris thought, hey, let's dig a trench and run the downspout underground.

More digging.


I have to admit, it was a good idea, but I wasn't looking forward to the extra digging it would take to lay a perf pipe underground. But, extra digging we did (thank goodness it wasn't really too much extra)

We debated if we should just dig a long trench and lay the perforated pipe in it and let the water seep out as it flowed down the trench, or if we should dig a dry well where the water would dump out like on the side of our house. Eventually we decided against the dry well idea for 2 reasons: 1) laziness and 2) there really isn't too much water that dumps out of this downspout because most of it runs off the downspout at the front of the house.

Thankfully then we only had to work on digging a trench that would run the length of the driveway. We encountered old sprinkler lines

But overall things went well

Once the trench was dug, instead of purchasing gravel to line it with we used the last little bits of gravel-y pieces of concrete

Once the lining was done we put the sock on the perf pipe

And we laid the pipe in the trench, wrapped it in filter fabric and put another layer of gravel on top

Then it was time to dig again. The plan was to dig out the entire driveway about 11 inches. This would be 3 inches lower than the rest of the patio in the back, but it's necessary to dig deeper when a car will be sitting on top so that the pavers don't get out of place and start popping up in different places. I was not looking forward to it because if you didn't already know, I am really sick of digging. But dig away we did

That first day we didn't get too much digging in the driveway done because we had spent the earlier part of the day working on the trench and laying the perf pipe.

The second day I worked for a little while before I had to go to work and my 74 year old neighbor from down the street came to help, oh, just for some exercise (seriously, what a rockstar is he???)

On Wednesday our goal was to get it all dug out and leveled. And we knew that leveling part sucked really bad

By lunchtime/early afternoon we were finished (and I was supremely happy I didn't have to curse and call the dirt names in my exhaustion of digging anymore)

Oh, but the fun wasn't done. Chris had a Dr. appointment and I did some work for my brother, but by late afternoon we got some pack delivered...

...and started shoveling

Chris got excited and wanted to rent the plate compactor and get all 3 layers of pack done that day. I looked at him like he was crazy and said, "uhhhh, no." That would be left for another day. Because I felt like falling over.

Why did I feel like falling over? Would you be interested in seeing the ginormous pile of dirt on our yard?

Anyone interested in some dirt?