Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Simon and Garfunkel???

If you will look back to my previous post about "Goals and Grills" you'll notice that I mentioned planting several herbs.  My friend Daniel tells me that it's a reference to a Simon and Garfunkel song.

Find the song and list it in the comments.  Props to those who get it correct.

And, FYI, I have potted herbs (basil, peppermint, parsley, rosemary, and thyme).  The parsley doesn't look like it's going to make it, but everything else is thriving. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Gravel Delivery from Sure Shot

Here are the pictures I promised oh so long ago.  Enjoy!

 Getting positioned...

Wait for it...

there it goes!!!


Hit that far corner!

The aftermath...

Overall, I'm pretty pleased with Sure Shot.  I may have griped earlier about not having enough gravel, but now I think I should have enough, since a portion of my yard is going to be flagstoned or covered with a veggie bed or two or three.

Check out the video here.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Lots of Posts Today...some of them may be redwood...

I was originally going to get a shade sail to cover the flagstone (that I have yet to install), but I've come up with something else even better....

....something like this...

I'll build it out of redwood or cedar.  I'm working on the actual design right now and I'm pretty excited.  Good thing two of my friends are coming into town later in July to help out (suckers!!!).

Trees and Operation Cool Shade

My friend, Sharlet, posted a comment about how I need a hammock.  She's right, and yes, I've thought of that, but I won't be able to have one until the trees I plant are strong enough to support me.  I replied to her comment (only 2 weeks later!), but I felt that I should share my tree knowledge with you.

My electric company here in Arizona (Trico Electric) has a program called Operation Cool Shade, in which utility subscribers can purchase up to three shade trees at reduced rates from Trico Electric, on the condition that the trees are planted in such a manner around the house that at maturity, they will shade and therefore cool the houses down, thus reducing electricity costs (interesting that the electric company would sponsor a program designed to reduce the consumption of it's primary service/product).  There is another program sponsored by Tucson Electric called Trees for Tucson - same thing, different company, different name.

I ordered three trees at $11 per tree.  If I attend a tree-growing workshop (I'm going to - 4 hours on a Saturday, too easy), I get $5 off per tree.  I'll therefore get three Arizona Ash trees for $18 total instead of $33 - which is significantly less than what I could get from a nursery or Home Depot.  I won't be able to pick them up until November, but that gives me an opportunity to focus on other backyard projects.  Like raking and spreading gravel  :(

Anyhooooo....if any of you are interested in planting trees, check with your local utilities - they may have a similar program.  I highly recommend it.

P.S. I know, I know...run-on sentences.  Got it.  I'll work on it.

Follow Up on Gravel

Well, the gravel was successfully delivered.  I must say that I'm a bit uncertain about coverage.  My recommendation is this - whatever minimum amount of gravel you're told to get, throw in an extra 20-40%. 

Here's why: my backyard is 3000 sq. ft.  In order to get 1" thick coverage, I needed a minimum of 14 tons to accomplish this.  However, what I failed to take into consideration was the fact that the coverage equations assumes a completely flat landscape. 

Step outside and inspect your yard.  Or just take a look at the pictures of my yard.  You'll notice that it isn't completely flat.  I have (you probably have) dips, holes, low points, points of settling, drainage channels, etc., that will absorb more gravel than what you accounted for.

And (this is not a slam against Sure Shot, however...), when Sure Shot delivered the gravel, there was a bit of spillage as the operator attempted to operate his equipment and sling the gravel over the wall, plus a bit out of the bottom of the truck.

So...lesson learned - "P" stands for "plenty" (any Army engineer or explosives guy will know what I'm talking about).  Get extra gravel.

And use Sure Shot - saved me a heck of a lot of money and time!  (pics to be posted later...when I'm not feeling lazy)

Sure Shot: 520-490-9891.  Deliveries in Tucson for $180; Vail/Corona de Tucson is $190.  Dennis is a pretty cool dude.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Gravel Delivery Today!

I ordered some 3/8" light-colored gravel for the backyard from Acme Gravel and Sand in Tucson.  Finally, the first step!

The problem I had was trying to figure out how to get the gravel delivered to my house.  First of all, I no longer have the F-150 (or it's $650/month fuel bill).  Not that I would want to make 10 trips to the gravel yard and then shovel the gravel out of the back of the pickup.  A lot of gravel companies will deliver to your house, but they simply dump it in a pile on your driveway or on your street, then it's up to you to cart 14 TONS OF GRAVEL on your own to your backyard. 

As stated in an earlier post, physical labor is not my strong point.  So I called a few "Gravel Delivery Specialists,"  "Landscapers," "Three Guys and a Wheelbarrow," etc. etc. etc. from Craigslist.  The cheapest wanted $700 to spread the gravel in the backyard. 

Believe it or not, I actually considered it.  I'd rather pay than spend an entire weekend hauling 14 TONS OF GRAVEL to my backyard in a wheelbarrow rated to carry 300 lbs. per load (93-94 loads from the backyard.  Definitely not my idea of fun.

However, I discovered a gravel delivery company - Sure Shot.

Sure Shot picks up the gravel, drives to your house, then unloads the gravel via some sort of slingshot-conveyor belt-gravel shooter mechanism.  Since the gravel is literally being shot into the yard, the downside is that I am risking some stucco chipping and broken windows.  You can see below the defensive mechanism that I commissioned NASA engineers to design in order to prevent a broken sliding glass door.

                                                          ghetto blocking device

We'll see how it works.  I will post pictures of Sure Shot slinging gravel into my yard.  Stay tuned!

Quick edit: you'll notice the black trash can at the left of the sliding glass door.  Yes...that is my compost bin.  I am now composting.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fires in Arizona

If you know of anybody in southern Arizona that is being evacuated and needs temporary lodging, please let them know that I have space.  I have two spare bedrooms, two full bathrooms, and a sofabed, so I figure that I can accomodate up to 6 people - couples, childrens, pets, etc. 

Contact me at kenneth.g.albrecht@gmail.com, or my cell phone at 678-773-5218.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Goals and Grills

My backyard is going to be long-term project.  Perhaps if I had the time and $30,000 to burn through, I could make it happen by the end of the month.  But that's not the case, plus I want the satisfaction of "creating something with my own hands." 

I've decided that since this is going to be a project that involves a significant amount of physical labor (something that Kenneth Albrecht is definitely not very well acquainted with), I'm going to need to provide appropriate incentives once certain benchmarks are reached.

The following is an explanation of a medium-term goal...

Here is a picture of my sad, sad, worn, overly-used, under-cared for grill.

As you can see, it's nothing fancy.  Many moons ago, during the summer of 2005, I was a poor, humble, lowly little sergeant who had just arrived at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA, to study a foreign language.  I rented an apartment on the 2nd floor that had a balcony overlooking Monterey.  Being young and foolish, I decided that I couldn't have a balcony without having a grill even if it violated fire codes!!!  I found this grill for sale in a July 4th special circular for the low, low price of $89.  Anyway, I invited my friends over, we grilled out and had a bountiful feast of burgers, steaks, brats, and beer (of course the starter stopped working almost immediately), and it's served me faithfully ever since. 

But...let's face it...a backyard oasis needs a monster grill.  You know, the kind whose cooking area is measured in square feet, not inches - the kind with room to sear steaks on one side, boil beans on the other side, and still have room to hold your beer and utensils.  The kind that needs two propane tanks.  The kind that makes you know you're king. 

So here's the benchmark.  No new grill until the following 5 conditions are met:
1) two fruit trees are planted,
2) three citrus shrubs are planted,
3) one 4'x8' raised veggie bed is installed and operational,
4) at least three herbs successfully growing in containers (basil, rosemary, thyme),
and then the hard part,
5) flagstone patio is successfully laid.

Ladies and gentleman...I ain't getting a grill for a loooooooooong time!!!

Pictures of the Yard

Here are pics of the (soon to be) backyard oasis of "Casa Ken Albrecht."  As you can see, it's a bit rough.  Nothing but hard-packed desert dirt with some rocks mixed in.  My yard actually has quite a lot of weeds - you'll noticed that many of them have been chopped down.  This is because just prior to starting this blog, I purchased a weedeater (more to follow about the weedeater) and wacked them all down. 

Since I want to turn my yard into an oasis, complete with shade trees, fruit trees, citrus shrubs/trees, raised vegetable gardens and a potted herb collection, I don't want to turn my yard into a toxic environment.  I plan on organically growing my veggies/fruits/citrus/herbs, so I'm researching ways to kill weeds without harming the environment and without creating a harmful backyard environment.

I'm finding highly-concentrated vinegar - does anybody have any suggestions?

This is the view facing south.  The patch of land the grill is on is going to become flagstone, extending from the wall (the one you're looking at) to the edge of the patio (where the pillar is), and from the edge of the patio to the west side (your right) of the house.

This is the view to the east.  You can see the ladder for neighbors pool.  In the corner of the yard (your left) is where I plan on having citrus shrubs, along that wall between me and my neighbor.  Then, two raised vegetable gardens, about 4' x 8' along the northern wall (the one on your left).  Then, underneath the windows you can see on my house, that's where I'll probably have my potted herb garden.

The view to the north.  I'm going to plan two fruit trees along that wall - one apple, the other I haven't decided yet.  They'll also provide a bit of privacy since my neighbors to the north built a monstrous two-story house (you can see the edge of it on the left side), and some shade for the veggie garden.

This is the beautiful wash to my west.  My pictures do not do it justice.  No nosy neighbors there!

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Beginning

Hi, I'm Kenneth G. Albrecht.  I'm a teacher of sorts, and a constant student.  Perhaps one day I'll start my own business.  But that's not what this blog is about. 

This is my first post on what will end up being my backyard oasis. 

I bought my house in 2010, taking advantage of the homebuyer's tax credit.  I was one of the first houses on the street, and I definitely got the best plot in the subdivision!  I have a natural wash to my west and across the street to the south, and my plot is elevated, thus overlooking the plots behind me, to my north.  I have great views in almost every direction - of desert landscape, hardy cacti, shrubs, and trees, and of the several "Sky Island" mountain ranges that surround my small community of Corona de Tucson aka Vail.

I will post pictures of my backyard.  What I am starting with, and what it will eventually become.  I'm open to any suggestions, especially for a southwest garden.

Here's what I'm thinking - definitely gravel.  Then shade trees (Arizona Ash, perhaps?).  Then fruit trees.  Citrus shrubs, raised vegetable gardens, potted herbs and containers, a shade sail, a flagstone patio, then...perhaps...even a swimspa. 

Stay posted, and stay tuned!  Help is definitely appreciated!!!