This is a blog featuring my personal stories of food, gardening, yachting, photography, travel and life.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Front Yard Project Finally Underway

Starting about 10 years ago we began thinking of what we wanted the front garden to look like. It was a mass of English Ivy in an L-shaped swath that ran along the driveway, then made a sharp left (as you look down the drive) and ran along the sidewalk. Altogether, about 15 feet wide, 50 feet long and growing as deep as 4 feet in places. It was difficult to keep under control despite hacking away at its border with a heavy pair of electric shears.

There was some lawn as well and we had planted a few shrubs over the years which had done moderately well considering the quality of the soil.

Finally, about two years ago, with the rest of the house remodeled and back garden about done, we began looking seriously at doing something about the mess out front. We started by drawing up a plan and then adjusting it until it looked like our dream. Then we called a few landscape designers to have them come by and offer a bid for what we wanted done.

As the bids came in we found we needed to back off from parts of our original plan. It was just way to0 expensive. Our plans for this house have often initially been much more grandiose considering the value of the home. I mean you really do need to consider just how fancy you want things to be inside and out. If the value of the house is $300,000, will a $75,000 kitchen remodel ever be justifiable? Probably not no matter how long you live in that home. Besides, if you have that kind of money, wouldn't you be be better off buying a more expensive home?

So we adjusted our thinking, got rid of a few hardscape elements we had thought about and eventually wound up with our current plan. We're very happy with the plan and it will most definitely make a vastly improved look out front. Our neighbors will love it as it will not only improve the look of our home but increase the value of everyone else's property.

We hired Tim Singer to build the first phase of the project. He is a natural rock wall specialist. We looked at some of his projects, finished and in progress, and loved the work. His clients seemed happy with his work and best of all, his price was right.

So for the past 2 weeks Tim has been preparing the ground for his project. Moving lots of dirt, carefully checking for power, cable, phone and gas lines before going too deep with the backhoe, he is now pouring in lots of gravel, installing a 6-inch drain field and beginning to build the first rock wall. There have been a few bumps in the road like dealing with over-zealous city employees. We'd call the permit office to find out whether we needed a permit to do the project and be told that we did not. Then a guy from the permit office came out looking at where our new water meter box would go and he insisted we DID need a permit. Then Qwest came by and complained that we had cut the phone line even though no one had called them to complain about it. Turned out that we hadn't cut it and they backed off. All a little disconcerting but in the end we had some guys out from the city who were really helpful and have largely smoothed the way for us.

We are using Lummi Island stone for our walls. It is quarried from a hillside out on Lummi Island and barged over to Bellingham. A commonly used stone for walls here in the community, it is attractive and isn't real expensive. The walls should be done in the next couple of weeks. Note I said "walls." A second much shorter one will be built up higher on the hill. You can see the trench where it will be built in some of these photos. When finished there will be two terraced levels. Each will offer a brand new palette for landscaping which will begin in the Fall when the weather is cooler and plants have less tendency to go into shock as a result of the heat. Then a new lawn will be planted which will be surrounded by a decorative concrete border that will serpentine around the yard to define the lawn space and separate it from the planting beds. A low voltage lighting and drip system will run through a conduit running under the hardscape. Every plant will get just the water it needs and no water will be wasted in places where water is not needed.

So, finally, we are underway. Our home's final major project. I'll keep posting the progress as it happens.