Rain Barrels for Just the Tax? Yes Please!

As we all discovered yesterday we've got some challenges when it comes to fixing the downspouts so they don't pour all over the areas where we walk. But we also have some areas where they dump right into the foundation and because there isn't great drainage against the house the water sits against the foundation and that's really not good for it.

We'd planned to install some wine barrels in 2 locations in the backyard (against our neighbor's garage and along the back of the addition), but in the front yard we'd just planned to build french drains and dump them further into the yard.

The downspout we worked on yesterday will drain into a french drain that extends into the yard

We've got another downspout in the front that just dumps water right up against the house

Having water pool against your foundation is NEVER a good thing

Because this downspout is close to the other one, we'll dig a trench to connect them together

Then there's a third downspout in the "front." It's actually on the side of the house

But like the other downspout, it dumps water right against the foundation (very bad) and also dumps water all over our neighbor's driveway (not nice)

We had planned on re-doing the downspout so that it came over the top of the window, over the little wall and then we'd dig another trench and have it drain into the yard. One of the cons of this solution (aside from all the work re-routing it would take) is that the trunk of the tree that was planted here and we took down was never removed, we just grinded it down

So we weren't looking forward to having to trench for this downspout. Insert our trip to the Urban Farmer in Richmond a couple days ago. We were there to pick up a light kit (a free service they offer that allows you to take a bunch of their lights home to figure out the placement and style you like best before buying any). The woman helping us asked what city we live in and when we said Oakland she asked if we knew about the rain barrel program. No, what is this program you speak of kind woman? Ummmmmm: you get to buy rain barrels for JUST THE TAX. Holy crapola! Well, now that you mention it, sign us up for a rain barrel against the back of the house

Against our neighbor's garage (that still needs some more work too)

And maybe on the side of the house next to the laundry room too

But wait for it....we could fit a GINORMOUS one on the side of the house where the terrible re-routing, trenching into an old tree stump downspout is

(you like that super big weed? It's like 4 feet tall.) That was music to our ears: CHEAP rain barrels and less digging and downspout re-routing. Amazing. If you live in the city of Oakland, here is information on the program. It runs through the end of December.

After we went home to measure and make sure that everything fit okay, Chris stopped by Urban Farmer after work yesterday to put in our order. He ordered:

1. One 60 gallon barrel (against the addition) for $5.36 (normally $61.20)
2. Two 130 gallon barrels (against our neighbor's garage and the side of the house by the laundry room) for $30.45 (normally $687).
3. One 305 gallon barrel (side of the house towards the front where we thought we'd have to re-rout the downspout) for $40.11 (normally $995).

Alas, he was thwarted however when he found out that the maximum order is 620 gallons and ours was 625, doh! He could have filled out a bunch of paperwork detailing why we needed that many rain barrels, but we really don't need them, we just want them. So he resolved to drop the small, 60 gallon rain barrel and we'll just buy a wine barrel like we did for the downspout attached to our garage.

Our tentative total came out to $101.01, but we'll have to buy some adapters and hardware, so it'll end up being a bit over $200 with all the accessories. If we paid full price it would be $2369!!!! That is a fucking crazy good deal. And now we're quite excited to get our barrels, the only downer is that they'll take 6-8 weeks to arrive.


We'll be Needing a Jackhammer

One of the most problematic downspouts is this one that collects about 1/4 of the roof's water and dumps it right on our porch

And when we walk out of the house when it's pouring it's not fun to walk into a rushing river.

There are lots of things we'd like to improve about the little porch nook of ours. There's the semi step up onto the porch from the yard that we'd either like to make level with the yard or higher so it's actually a step

There's the first step up to the door that is the weirdest height and people trip on it all the time

Then there are also these two strange little nooks

But first on the list is fixing that downspout. There are a couple problematic downspouts all around our house (thanks to the idiots at Westco/Berkeley Roof Services) and so we're going to have to spend some time as we start the front yard work to correct the professional's mistakes. To fix this one we'll be busting out a strip of concrete in the porch...

...and then we'll run a pipe underground attached to the downspout and have it drain into a gravel pit in the front yard. We'll have to do the same thing to another downspout in the front, then we'll attach the third to a rain barrel, which I'll share about tomorrow.

But back to this first downspout. Like we did when we broke out a section of the garage's foundation, we took out the skill saw and cut into the concrete

Once we had our section cut out we figured it would be easy to break up the concrete we wanted to haul away. This plan worked really well with the garage, so we figured it would go swimmingly again. However, we noticed that the concrete pour was very thick and our cuts didn't go deep enough into them (despite going through it twice so we could get the skil saw down pretty deep)

We kept our fingers crossed that we'd still be able to bust it out with the sledge

We weren't nearly as successful as we would have liked and because our cuts didn't go deep enough we were breaking up the concrete around it as well which we weren't too happy about because that meant we would have more we needed to repair later

We decided to go through the cuts we'd made a third time with the skil saw and set it on the deepest cut it could make and hopefully that would be deep enough to alleviate the pressure and allow us to break up the concrete in the single strip we wanted to take out.

It ended up helping a
bit and Chris was able to poke the pick ax in

And we discovered brick the concrete got poured right on top of

At this point we got a little frustrated: the concrete was way thicker than we had anticipated, there was brick under it and we were having a lot harder time breaking it out than we normally do. The eventual plan was to just break out the strip for the downspout to run underground, repair the concrete, then lay bricks over the whole thing to make the porch the same level as the small first porch step so that people don't trip every time they come to our house. But we were getting frustrated with the difficulty of getting things broken up and we were starting to get concerned with how thick everything was. With apprehension we took turns on the sledge and broke away some more to try to see what we were dealing with

We were lucky to discover that the brick underneath the concrete did not make it very far

With that happy news we hoped that breaking away the rest of the concrete would be a lot easier. It wasn't. It still was so thick and slamming down the sledge wasn't really doing much at all. We brought out the roto hammer to see if that would help

But it really didn't do much at all, and we discovered more brick another foot into the conrete. Fucking A. After an hour and a half, lots of sweating and lots of annoyance with not much progress we were left with this beauty

We resolved that if we actually wanted to complete this without breaking our backs and getting it done in a reasonable amount of time without inadvertently breaking up all the other concrete we were going to have to rent a jackhammer because this just wasn't cutting it

So the weekend better treat us well: the goal is grass all ripped up, no concrete strip and trenches dug. Keep your fingers crossed for us.


Our Even More Dead Yard

Absolutely #1 on the list of re-doing our front yard is NO GRASS. Currently there is "grass" but it's not attractive at all (because we don't tend to it)

I'm not sure if our front yard can be qualified as green, but there are still bits of green that need to be killed.

Wendy and I looked through many articles and talked to a few nurseries about how to best kill the rest of the grass so that our front yard would be completely barren and ready for planting. Ultimately we decided to use Round Up. There were a variety of reasons, but the top ones were that it was a fast process and it killed things from the root. I found this article especially helpful, though I modified things a bit (mostly out of laziness and poor planning).

Here's what our weeds looked like to start

Per the instructions I gave the yard a good water

You're supposed to wait a full day before you do the first spray of Round Up, but it was really hot that day so I did it the same day. I bought a bottle of concentrate for $20 and mixed it in a spray bottle

Then I sprayed THE ENTIRE YARD. This sucked. Our yard isn't even very big and it took me nearly and hour and a half crouched over spraying all those blades of grass, man eating weeds and dandelions. And at the end my forearms were very tired from squeezing that damn spray bottle.

It's important to spray your yard when it's warm outside and spray in the beginning of the day so it has the full day to bake in the sunshine and heat. Though I did it in the middle of the day and it still worked out fine.

I sprayed the yard two Wednesdays ago and per the instructions I gave it two days to work it's magic. On that same Friday the weeds were looking like this

That Friday morning I sprayed round two. This time I spent another $20 and bought the pre-mixed spray container

While this went A LOT faster because its spray was wider than the spray bottle, it didn't cover as much area. I only used 1/3 of the concentrate bottle during round one, and the pre-mix only covered about 1/2 of the yard. While it's a lot more convenient, it costs a lot more. So I finished round two with the concentrate I'd already purchased.

Here's what it looked like after round 2 and after I'd put the stakes in our yard to flag it off for utilities to know where we'd be landscaping to mark for pipes in the yard

And here it is a day later

Again, I waited two days till round three when I sprayed anything left that was green (that same Sunday).

Just a reminder, here's where we started

And now, here's our front yard after it's been sprayed with Round Up three times and been baking in the sun for about 10 days


I'm so excited to see everything dead. I know that's a strange thing to read because normally we want front yards to be lush and beautiful, but we gotta kill the yard before we replant it.

What's up next? This weekend we're hoping to get all the dead grass ripped out and because the Round Up has killed it from the roots we're hoping that it has a harder time growing back. Not to mention we've looked into all different kinds of weed block. We've also got to dig and build a couple french drains because we're not super thrilled with how the roofers planned out our gutters (and didn't talk to us about it before they installed them, just another reason we hate Westco/Berkeley Roof Services) and we also don't have great drainage against the house. Hopefully next week we'll have great progress to share!


Lucky Ducks

It's been a busy week for me over here. I've been working LOTS of A's games, which is always nice for the bank account (especially when you see them sweep the Dodgers), but it also means less housework going on, and less blogging. We do have a nice little update to share with all of you though.

When we finished the hutch we all agreed that it would look a lot prettier with a flat screen TV mounted on the wall

And I had shared with you guys that we might be getting lucky, and, well, WE DID! My step dad told us a little while ago that he was thinking about getting a new TV and would we like the (wonderfully gorgeous, awesome) one that was currently mounted in their living room? Ummmmmm, lemme think about that. YES PLEASE!

Last weekend he came by to see the finished hutch and go out to eat with us and he dropped off our new TV, eeee!!!! Chris still had electrical work to do before we mounted it so it took us a week to get to it. (We had anticipated one day getting a wall mount TV so we put an arm on the wall, but hadn't wired for it yet because we didn't know what kind we'd be getting.)

I was hopeful that we'd get to hanging it this weekend, but Saturday we had our belated father's day with my dad and yesterday I worked all day at the A's (which was SUCH. AN. EXCITING. GAME) and so I figured Chris and I would get around to it later this week. Imagine my surprise when I walked in the house when I got home and saw this

Yup, that's a TV on the wall. I was totally surprised and asked Chris how the hell he got that thing up there without any help. His responded with a muscle flex and a smile. I was impressed. And still don't really understand how the hell he got that thing up on the arm himself and attached it with no one helping.

But either way, it looks awesome!

Our plan was to wire it through the wall (into the hall closet) and then back into the hutch to attach to all the components so we didn't have wires hanging around all over the place

And now we can see more of the awesome counter

We're also slowly realizing that this room is really close to completion. We've only got a few more tasks. There are the frames we need to build for our movie posters that will go on this wall

And this wall

And the roman shade I need to rebuild/re-sew

Which the fabric came for in the middle of last week

I got new fabric for the shade (the blue floral pattern and the neutral) and then I'm planning to build a valance as well (the geometric pattern)

You guys had really awesome suggestions when it came to re-doing this project, so I'm excited to try them out and get a new (and improved and hopefully awesome) roman shade up there by the weekend.

We were also planning on building a new coffee table (this one is 20+ years old and was my step mom's when she moved out on her own), but the one we have now is still holding up, so we decided we'd build it later on down the line. We'd like to make one with storage drawers and get all fancy, but that can always come later.

I'm looking forward to getting this room checked off the list soon!