Monday, May 20, 2013

The Garbage Depot

My garbage depot is not much different than a train depot.  There's different containers inside my garbage depot and different items go in those containers, like glass, aluminum, paper, refuse etc.  When they get full I put them in my truck and take them to an even bigger depot, where they get tossed into even bigger containers and so on.

And so forth.

The only major differences are that humans, or usable cargo go in the different containers at a train depot.  Well, then the containers mostly go to different locations.  And then I guess they run on a much more specific schedule.   Which is probably a good thing.  Otherwise it'd take forever to get to Kansas, or Nome, Alaska.  If you really wanted to go there and had to wait for your container to fill up, for instance.

All aboard!

When we first moved into this place, I discovered there was no convenient and out of the way place to stage the garbage can and recycle box extravaganza.  We don't really have a utility side to this house, and the only out of the way place I could have put it all was on the other side of the house, to hell and gone from the parking area.  It would have been out of the way, but I'd have to hike four miles just to throw anything out.  And then I'd have to carry the can five miles back the other way just to get it to a vehicle to go to the dump.

Speaking of which, the county dump, or transfer station is only about three miles away.  Instead of opting for monthly garbage service, I have just taken the recycle and garbage to the dump every 4-6 weeks, or when we have filled up three standard size garbage cans with refuse.   By that time we usually have overflowing recycle, so the entire fiasco starts getting wild.

It saves money.  It's only $6.50 for three cans, $6.00 for two.  I'm definitely getting a steal with that third can!  It's probably just as easy as having monthly service, maybe easier.  I'd have to get those dang cans down our Lombard Street drive every week, and that would surely be a bigger pain in the patoot than what I am currently doing.

Anyway, when you first come up the drive to the house this is what you see.  Well, not really anymore.  This shot was taken when we were first considering buying this work in progress.  The entire parking area is now asphalt, the entire roof is new black comp, there's lilacs under those two lower facing windows, the shutters are black, not brown, there's Leafguard gutters up, there's a rose arbor on the right, something else or other on the left and my fabulous sister in law is only here once in a while.  I'm just too lazy to run down and take another photo right now, and, all those improvements have already been covered or will be covered in other posts. 

To the right is the front yard. I certainly could not place the garbage along the front walk way.  Even if it was strategically placed, it would still look pretty tacky.

So I placed them on the left, "back" side of the house, which is still a point of entry for the back yard deck area, but not as tacky as if we placed them along the front.  As you can see, I took landscape design from Fred Sanford.

They were also all right underneath one of our guest room windows.  Sure, come on down for a visit.  We'll sleep ya six inches away from garbage world.  Don't open that window, you'll get a snoot full!

But it was right out the utility door as you can see, and about ten feet away from the parking area.  Convenient, but quite unsightly.

I have had a plan for a garbage "depot" sort of affair for quite a while.  I have wanted to kind of displace it into the hillside and make all the junk disappear, at a quite convenient location of course.  It was all about the timing, and as it turns out, the timing was just a few weeks ago.  Actually, moving the garbage location was just the beginning of major BIG doins.

But first, let's get those nasty cans out of the way.  I just wanted a very simple screen, 4x8 and about 4 feet high, which will easily accommodate that menagerie above.  I dug the footings for the five, 4x4 posts back in February.  Homeboy, the previous owner, conveniently gifted me this wonderful trenching shovel.  I found it alone and abandoned when I was weed whacking the front forty the first year I was here.  Poor thing spent a season or two in the elements.

Now rescued, it is quite happy and has been a work horse for me over these last couple years.  It has a long, thin blade and can really slice nicely into all types of soil.  It's in the second photo above, next to the downspout.  Which is close to the ceramic ear our daughter made back in high school.

Ear's looking at you.

I was quite happily flabbergasted with my digging efforts.  Ordinarily you need a post hole digger or some C-4 to get any distance into this rock hard clay around here.   But the secret is to slice in sometime in February, when the ground (and clay) are still saturated with rains.  I felt like I was slicing into butter, and had all five holes dug 2 feet deep within thirty minutes.  I didn't even break a sweat!

Once the holes were dug, I planted the posts, leveled them out and let the concrete dry.  Then I sliced the tops off at a level 4 feet and hammered a couple treated two by whatevers along the back side.  The back will be subject to a little cliff side soil erosion until the Hypericum takes over, so I wanted to make sure it was solid.

 I tossed some rock down at the bottom to allow for drainage along the sides, and then added more treated lumber along the bottom run all around.

Once the frame was complete, I tacked up some siding, made me a gate and splashed on our outbuilding, blend-in paint, "Old Vine".

I'll eventually get a bush on either side, and the hill in back will eventually be fully green.   Blend, blend, blend.  Why is the gate not solid?  I want a breeze to be able to get in and blow any odors away.   It will also help keep flies away.

I'm also not concerned about critters.  As long as I keep the lids on tight I have kept raccoon invasions minimal.  And bears will get into anything they darn well please.  It was never about that.  It was about getting all the crap out of sight.  That height will also cover the large recycle containers you see in most cities these days.   The interior currently boasts four 32 gallon garbage cans as well as 6 recycle boxes, with a little room to move..

Now that all those nasty cans are contained, the back walk looks a little bit cleaner, although the ear is still there. 

I have a goal.  I want to be able to walk around the entire house barefoot without having to look like I'm hopping on hot coals half the time.  A lot of the territory is covered, but several key gaps remain.

There's a big gap around the back of the house where the Sun Room and Hammock Land is located, but that area is not traveled as much as the one above.  Working that back portion of the yard is still a couple years away, but it will remain a key point of landscape reflection, lazily swinging back and forth along with the light summer breeze.

Then there's the gap I am currently contending with.  Along with that gap goeth some necessary landscape improvements.  Big doins. Let's start with the walk.

Wait a minute!  Before I can do the walk, I have to address one current electrical issue as well as the potential for the future.  If you'll notice in the walk photo above, the circuit breaker panel for the house is on the wall by the downspout.  That entire portion of the house, from the panel to the utility door, is on a slab foundation.

What does this mean?  Well, if I ever need to run some wire from the kitchen or other areas of the house to the panel I'm going to have to break some concrete.  Or break my back.  Probably both.

I already need to have some wire run, so, before I can pour some concrete to maybe have to break later, I'm going to simply to break some now, run pvc conduit and then forget about it.

The portion of the house that is on a foundation ends right at the stamped concrete above.  In order to run wire right now, I would either have to cut a conduit size slice thru the smooth pad above or just bust it all out.  I have opted to bust it all out so that there will only be one concrete transition instead of two.

Once that pad is busted out, I will run 3/4" pvc conduit from that molding corner all the way to the panel box, about twenty feet.  Then I can go ahead and hand grade and begin framing for the concrete pour, which will cover the pvc conduit.

The new walk will run just outside the above pillars, with a break the bubble down grade heading towards this convoluted mess:

That right thar is almost like the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers.  Almost.  It's the meeting place for several layers of flow.  At the very top of the photo, blasted by sunlight, is our asphalt parking area.  As a matter of fact, that's the uppermost corner of the parking area, and water flows down and away from there.  That asphalt corner is also going to be about 12 inches above the top of the walk once it gets there.

The walk is also going to make a hard left, heading over towards the garage.

That's about a four foot gravel gap.  Right now I plan on having concrete three feet wide running back from the asphalt drive to the corner.  The concrete will be poured next to the brick, leaving about a 12 inch gap between the asphalt drive and the new concrete.  Somewhere along the line I'm going to have to change level directions on the walk, and the walk itself will start trending downhill.  I'm just making this up as I go along, by the way, so if it all sounds confusing it probably is. 

I should be able to make the drive-walk elevation change within that twelve inch gap.  I will be throwing some form of small hedge in there which will hide the elevation change as well as add some definition between the parking area and the house.

Once the walk is complete, then it will be time to address the back side terrain, which currently resembles Iraq.

The loose plan is to initially doll up the cliff side terrain.  This will include actually dialing in the steep steps my son and I cut into the cliff wall the first year we were here.  I knew it would be a while before I got back around to them, so we did lay down concrete stepping stones to keep the cuts intact.

I had also been toying with an idea of making a manzanita stair rail, but have recently jettisoned that.  Although it would look quite arty and cool, I fear it would require too much maintenance down the line.  One of my primary objectives with everything I'm doing here is to make it all as maintenance free as possible.   I got enough to do without having to revisit things every couple of years.  So, the rail will be strong, sturdy and some form of arty type metal.  I'm currently researching ideas as I write. 

I will also be dolling up Spicelandia.  We currently have Tarragon, Parsley, Thyme, Purple Sage, Oregano and Rosemary, along with a little Lavender strategically planted along the bottom of the cliff.  The plants are all tenacious, will help keep the cliff intact, are quite conveniently located near the kitchen and are deer resilient.  They have all wintered over and are doing quite well. 


About this time you may be wondering what the heck our intentions are for that hideous looking chin-up bar that has one half of our clothes line attached to it.  Maybe not.  Maybe aesthetics is not your middle name.  Maybe you still drink Buckhorn beer.

For all you youngsters out there, Buckhorn beer was an off-brand that you could buy in the late 1960's and early 1970's for 99 cents a six pack.  Yup.  There were several brands out there that you could purchase for under a dollar.  They all tasted like watered down possum pee, but contained alcohol and could still deliver a beer buzz. 

Some musician friends of ours had a rent party one time.  It cost everyone three bucks each to enter, but then you could drink all the possum pee you wanted.  They figured one could only drink two six packs of possum pee, so they'd be making at least a buck a head.  It didn't work.  All the money went to another possum pee run.  Ah yes, the early days of who would eventually become The Cornell Hurd Band.

My lovely wife and I are strange creatures.  We love hanging up laundry.  Besides the energy savings, we like the smell and feel of nature dried laundry.  The actual act of hanging laundry is very Zen like for me.  It slows me down.  Makes me feel like dancing to All Day Music

That hideous looking chin-up bar has served a purpose though, and will continue to serve a purpose up until the day it's gone.  Right now it holds one end of the clothes line, the other end of the line is attached to one post of our master bedroom deck.  Aesthetically gruesome, awesomely functional.  However,

Once the new concrete walk has cured and the frame has been removed, I am going to dig up and add soil amendments to this flat patch of the Sahara.  Then I'm going to bring in a few yards of top soil, pat and pummel it down until it's within just the right amount of height so that a layer of sod is level with the concrete.

Once we have a carpet of green, which will run right along that shadow line, more or less, we will get an actual stand alone clothes line and park it in the middle of the lawn near the utility door, which is out of view in this shot. That way the clothes line will be fifteen feet away from the washing machine, and guests in our breakfast nook or on our back deck won't have to look at our underwear.  It'll be a win-win.

Once the new stand alone clothes line is in, I will get Mr. Reciprocating Saw and slice that chin up bar off a couple inches below the surface.  With Grandkids running around this place from time to time I may be able to find another place to plant that thing.  And then, Buckhorn be damned!  This side of the house will be visually appealing.

Fowl Update

The Rooster and chickens are fine.  Since they've been confined to their universe there have been no further hawk incursions.  The Guineas are also out of their cardboard brooder now.  They have been in a companion cage next to the poultry cage for a few weeks, which is actually the subject of my next post.

We've been enjoying an actual spring here in the Sierra Nevada Foothills in Northern California this year.  Last year at this time a big hail storm seared off many fruit tree blossoms.  Two years ago it snowed in June.

This year we have apples on a tree the previous owner planted, as well as a peach on one of the trees I planted this last January.  We also have what look like nectarines on our other Perez Peach tree.  I'll keep you posted on that likely mix-up.  Happy Spring!