50 Shades of Red

With not too much left to do in the front yard, it feels nice making progress on something we've been wanting to do for over a year: fix the weird bottom step

We had thought about working on it last year when our house was getting painted and we wanted to install our gate, alas we resolved that it would be better to put off. So now we're getting to it :)

Of course, this post could also be titled "The $75 Mistake" because we were idiots and completely spaced when we had the jackhammer when we were busting up the porch for the downspout/drainage work, so we had to rent it again this past weekend to bust out the step. Damnit.

We thought for a second the sledgehammer might be able to do something


So it was off to HD for another jackhammer rental

And then there's a big pile of ruble

With the step all cleared out Chris painted on a bonding agent to the area that got busted out so that when we attached the mortar to fill in the gap it adhered well

Then the mortar got mixed

And Chris filled in the gap

The top 3/8th's of an inch or so of that new mortar will be visible when the porch is done, so we made sure it looked all nice and pretty. The plan will be to do a mud job on the entire porch area to even things out and raise it a tiny bit, and then lay bricks out over the whole thing. With the height of the thin mud job + the height of the bricks, we should have our new step at a correct height into the step above it, instead of the tripping hazard the old tiny step was (and believe me, people tripped on it ALL THE TIME).

In order for us to get to the brick laying part I wanted to get the stairs clean, scraped and painted. Sure, I could do this step after the brick work, but I figured it would be easier and a better use of time to do it first so that the bricks went right up against the painted stairs instead of me being really careful with my painted line once they were in.

First off though I had to scrape off a lot of peeling paint

Normally I use a painter's tool when I do this, but I couldn't find it, so instead I used a drywall knife and scraped and scraped and scraped.

I also tried to use the drill attachment we got when we striped the wrought iron off the gate

I thought that would work well, but it didn't really do much at all, so it was back to the drywall knife

Our stairs have apparently been repainted red about 17 times over the life of our house because I just seemed to uncover layers and layers of it. I never really understood why people like red porches and stairs so much, it's like the go to stair color. Whatever floats your boat. Our stairs will not be red, because red does not float my boat.

The last step was getting the sander. After I scraped and scraped as much as I could (and spent nearly 90 minutes doing so) I went into the garage and got the palm sander and slapped some 60 grit on it and went to town trying to feather all the edges of everything I had scraped off

And after about 20-30 minutes spent sanding I hosed everything down

There are still some spots I wish I had scraped better

But getting in that angle was really difficult, so I'll take what I can get, and the rest of it is pretty good

I wanted to prime and paint it today before work, but we'll let the mortar cure a few more days till I get to that. In the meantime, don't our stairs look so inviting?


A Planter Tower

Now that most of the planting in the front yard is done (we still need to do the sidewalk strip), there is one spot that stands out to me as plain and sad

The area immediately to the right of the hose where we took the downspout into the ground when we worked on drainage and is now just a small rock garden. I had pinned a photo on pinterest a while ago to make a planter tower right smack dab in that spot

(image found here)

On Sunday I got to it.

Chris and I headed to HD to get a couple supplies for various projects and I wandered through the planters and picked 4 that I thought would work well together. Initially I wanted them to be a bright color or I would spray them a bright color, but I found a neutral set that I liked and the yard is so colorful anyway I thought it would work good

I was initially thinking I'd plant annuals inside, but I got perennials instead so I don't have to replant each year (because I'm lazy).

At first I needed followed the directions exactly to make sure I stacked everything correctly. So I bought a saucer to stick inside each bottom planter to stick the next planter on top of. But as I started I realized that step was completely unnecessary because DUH you can just stack the next planter on the dirt you put inside

This was a good modification for 3 reasons: I could use more dirt (we have SO MUCH LEFTOVER still), it allowed for deeper roots for the plants, and it was cheaper (yay for $15 returned on unused saucers).

So I poured dirt inside, popped in the next planter when I hit the desired height, planted a flower in the bottom planter, filled around with dirt, then moved on to the above planter

For some reason in my head I thought it was going to be a much more complicated project, but it was super easy and only took about 45 minutes.

And ta da! All done

And now that nook's got a little something in it and doesn't look blank compared to the rest of our full and colorful yard

I planted penstemons in the top because we have those in our mosaic planters and the bees LOVE them. They go all the way inside the flower, it's pretty cool to see

Not too shabby of a project for $60 (for planters and flowers, I reused dirt we dug up from our yard)


Do-dading a Bench

Our porch is a weird little space

It's really nice that we've got a porch area, but it's a really strange shape with little nooks and crannies. Chris and I still need to jackhammer out the bottom weird step so people don't trip on it. After it's busted out we'll lay bricks down on the ground

Wendy and I have a couple of ideas of how to spruce things up and #1 was that we wanted a bench. We thought it was going to be hard to find a curved one, but Wendy found one at Lowe's and snatched it up

Although I think we can all agree, it's not going to make anyone double take at its beauty. Wendy had the brilliant idea of doing a mosaic on the top and I thought it would be fun to paint it a fun color. That would take it from kinda ugly to definitely wonderful.

I took it apart (3 easy pieces) and sprayed it "Warm yellow"

I went with yellow because I thought it would be fun to tie it into our yellow door

After 3 coats of spray paint I hauled it over to where I was working on the mosaic planters and got to work doing the mosaic on the top

And after Chris grouted the planters he grouted the top

While cleaning it up some grout got in the cracks of the egg and dart detail of the bench so Chris made sure to keep it pretty

When the grout had dried we put the bench back together. All this Made in China stuff is never built well, so the bench didn't really stay together. Any time you moved it slightly it got all off balance and fell apart. So we put it together with PL Premium to actually make it stay together

And of course the joints still didn't line up properly so we had to put a little more on to make sure the legs attached properly to the top

After we attached the legs we put a walkway paver on the top of each leg to make sure it adhered well

After leaving it alone for a day we moved it over to the porch and popped it in place. Hooray!

When I first told Chris that Wendy and I wanted to put a bench there he wasn't too thrilled because he thought it would really crowd the space, which is a total valid worry because the porch isn't super big. But because the bench is pretty small it doesn't crowd the space at all and Chris is a happy camper. It actually looks a little wimpy in there now because the rest of the area is so empty, but I'm hoping after we add a container plant and spruce up the rest of the porch it won't look so Lilliputian

Spending about 90 minutes on spray painting, doing the mosaic, grouting and putting it together is worth the improvement

Looking snazzy! :) Now we just have to clean up the rest of the porch...


Those Mosaic Planters and Other Things

With the big planting on Saturday we have nearly all the big stuff done, now it's just a matter of the little bits of finishing touches until we can call the front yard DONE!

I had work on Sunday and had the pleasure of seeing the A's sweep the Yankees and hit their Major League leading 11th walk off of the year - it has been AMAZING. Chris worked here and there on the yard and cleaned up the house a bit while I was away. Both of us find it a bit harder to be as productive while the other is gone, but he still got some great stuff done.

Since Sunday the yard is steadily getting complete.

There was this area that needed to be mulched

Now it looks spiffy

We got some more stepping stones for our walkway and Chris set them in place

We still need two more small stones for the right side of the "T" over by the hose, and then the walkway will be done.

The front of the raised bed needed to be planted

Originally we were going to plant ground cover here, but the thought of cutting about 40 holes into the cardboard and planting them did not interest anyone, so we bought 5 more emerald carpet manzanitas (what's in front of the rock raised bed on the other side of the yard) and planted those

But the most exciting thing we've completed in the last few days are our mosaic planters! Remember those?

Well on Monday I FINALLY finished them and yesterday Chris finished grouting them

While he grouted, I planted

We painted the inside with Henry's to waterproof

No dirt will actually go inside the planter, which is why we built it out of plywood. We bought cheap planter containers from HD that we designed to fit right inside. That way when we want to replant we can just pop out the planter container for an easy switcheroo

Once they were all grouted we moved them to the front yard

We shifted them around a bit to get them nice and level

Once they were level we threw in some of the broken down, unused, old stepping stones to give some weight to the bottom so they wouldn't topple over when we put the planters on top

And then.......the planters got put in!

And man oh man oh man oh man do I love the walkway up to the house

The planters look so fucking awesome

I love them

And the rest of our yard is looking pretty damn awesome too

I'm glad that our neighbors have a nice view now because they were patient and understanding and encouraging with our 1/2 covered black tarp yard for 6 months

Now to call the front COMPLETE we just have to get to the yucky sidewalk strip

And then tend to the porch as well, which is a nice area, but it's got some strange little nooks

We've got plans though! :)