Monday, August 8, 2016

The Back Bedroom Bed, Part 2

It's been a couple months since I was able to work in the backyard, but we left off with rocks and dirt that had been excavated, but not cleaned up.

So the first thing to do is to clean this up.  This takes a couple of days.

Then we can extend the excavation, pulling out more rocks and dirt.

At this point, we need to use the jackhammer to break up the larger rocks.

This broke out a large rock from the center of the excavated bed.

To get this out of the pit, we shaped the front edge of the bed by digging out the top part of the dirt, to fill in the bottom part, creating a dirt ramp.  This allows the rock to be rolled up the dirt ramp and out of the pit.

and then we need to dig out that ramp.

After a rain delay, we can remove those rocks,

but the dirt is really too wet to work.  But we can spend the day with the jackhammer and produce a lot of rock that needs to be be cleared out.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Cat 6 cable for the TV

Our wireless router is in the computer room, at one end of the house.  The TV is at the other end of the house.  We've tried to get wireless to extend from the router to the TV, but it's iffy, at best.  So to try Netflix, we ran a 100 foot cat5 cable from the router to the TV (actually to the Blu-ray DVD player which then connects to the TV).

But running a cable along the floor from one end of the house to the other seems to me to be a safety hazard, so given that this may be a long term issue (not just for our free trial month), we wanted a better solution.  We tried a wireless range extender, and considered some other approaches (like using our electrical power wiring), but it seems that the best approach is the cable -- lowest cost, no maintenance, highest reliable bandwidth.

So we decided to just run the cable thru the attic, instead of thru the house.

Starting in the TV room, we have a wall plug that provides the cable and a telephone plug.  Taking that off, we see that the wall is insulated (it's the wall between the TV room and the back deck).  We should be able to use the telephone wire to pull a cat6 cable down the wall, if we can find these in the attic.

 Going in the attic, we can pull back the insulation

and then we can find where the cables go thru the top plate of the wall and down into the wall.

We attach a string to the telephone wire, pull it up, connect the telephone wire and the cat6 cable to it, and pull it back down.

We bought a 100 foot yellow cat6 cable for  this purpose.

Patching the wall, repainting it and getting a new wall plate, we have a connection for the cat6, cable, and telephone.

We bought this wall plate from Fry's.  It's a Shaxon Keystone Wall Plate 3 Port, and then we got a 110-type RJ12 Keystone Jack (Cat 3) for the telephone (we had red, green, black, yellow 4-wire telephone and matched the red/green to the white/blue pair 1, and the yellow/black to the white/orange pair 2 for the RJ12), an F-type coaxial (Catv) Keystone coupler for the cable, and a RJ45 Keystone Coupler (Cat 6) for the ethernet cable.

Once the cable was set on the TV room, we ran the cable down the middle of the attic to the area over the A/C system (look for the yellow cable).

We fished the wire around the skylight housings and into the attic over the back bedroom.

In the attic over the back bedroom, the cable comes along the side of the attic,

under the catwalk, and along to the corner that goes outside the loft and back to the computer room.

The idea is to put a wall plate in the wall next to the A/C vent in the computer room.

Cutting a hole for an electrical box , we can then fish the wire back to the corner in the attic and pull the cable out into the room.

We then installed another of the Shaxon Keystone Wall Plates.  This time we only need one port for the RJ45 (Cat 6) coupler.

Running a simple 14-foot cat 5 patch cable from this outlet down to the router, we have what we need to run the TV or Blu-ray DVD player with internet connectivity.

As a side-effect of all the work in the attic, running the cable, we found areas on all 3 main work areas -- over the TV room, near the A/C system and in the back bedroom around the loft -- that were under-insulated.  So we bought 6 more rolls of R-30 unfaced fiberglass insulation (2 trips: 4 rolls of 23 inch wide $181.77 and 2 rolls of 15 inch wide $42.17; all 25 feet long, 9 inches deep) and installed that to boost the insulation in these areas.

So the wall-plates, inserts, and cable were all fairly in-expensive, the insulation was the most expensive part of this project.  Plus the three days of work in the attic.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Back Bedroom Bed

As the River of Rocks curves around the house and to the back sidewalk, it creates a bed between the River of Rocks and the back bedroom.  We want to excavate it, so that the plants will grow well, and extend the Zone 9 irrigation from the beds along the West side of the house (outside the computer room and the guest bedroom) into this additional bed.

So we start by digging a hole.

Then we expand and deepen that hole.

Notice that we are uncovering the main sprinkler water supply line, and the wiring that controls the various irrigation valves for Zones 6 to 11 (and the ground).  We have to dig carefully to avoid breaking this water supply line.

Digging on the other side of the water supply line, right up to the house, and the wall for the Iris bed.

We hit a solid layer of rock, about 16 to 20 inches down.  That seems almost deep enough.  Using the jackhammer, we create a hole near the Iris bed that goes thru this layer of rock to the next level.  That is another 12 inches.

So we could take out another 12 inches of rock to get to 32 inches deep.  But this rock is very solid limestone; it does not break easily.  And it is 12 inches thick.  And we are hemmed in by the house on one side and the River of Rocks on the other, so we can't really work freely in this narrow slice of the backyard.  Although it is 34 feet long, it is at most 80 inches wide, and most of it is half that width.  So we will just stay at the 16 to 20 inch level.

Keep digging, mixing the soil with leaves, and filling in the bottom half of what has already been dug out.

And keep digging.  We come across a big rock.

but using the jackhammer, we can break it into smaller pieces and pull it out, leaving more digging to do.

With more digging, we find more rock,

which is then broken up

and taken out.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Wooly Stemodia for the Retention Wall

It's not clear to me how the Retention Wall will look once both the upper and lower West Lawn areas are finished and all the plants are in place.  But it might be nice to soften it by some plants.  Maybe something that runs along the top of the wall, and cascades down it.

So I planted a Wooly Stemodia ($6.99 from Barton Springs Nursery) at the top of the Retention Wall.

It is perennial, semi-evergreen, low moisture.  The main issue will be that is likes full to partial sun.  In this spot, it should get sun in the morning, but in the afternoon it will be shaded by the big Oak tree, and the Jungle and Bamboo Grove.  We'll see how it does here.

Follow-up note:  Apparently it wants full sun.  Over a couple of weeks, it withered and died.

Monkey Grass for the River of Rocks

The River of Rocks is in place and had some time to settle.  We have the main upper West Lawn area filled with dirt and planted, so we should not have reason to be running the wheelbarrow over the River of Rocks much (well, except for excavating the last bed).

So we are transplanting the Monkey Grass that we kept over around the greenhouse into the spaces between the rocks in the River of Rocks.  We start with just dirt.

And after a couple of days of scraping the dirt out between the rocks, putting the Monkey grass down in and putting the dirt back, we have Monkey grass between the rocks.

We've continued this on around the house, but not on the section next to the last bed that needs excavating.

We will finish this last section after we excavate the last bed.

Friday, March 25, 2016

West Lawn Sedge

The landscape plan calls for Inland Sea Oats and Texas Sedge in the West Lawn.  We have seeds for the Inland Sea Oats and have tried planting those.  The next step is the Texas Sedge.   Texas Sedge should be drougth tolerant, shade tolerant, and low maintenance.

Linda found some Texas Sedge at McNeal Growers, in Manchaca, Texas, a short drive from Austin.  We bought 27 flats of Sedge.  Each flat is 1 foot by 2 feet, containing 18 4-inch containers.  That's 486 4-inch containers.  $742.50

Linda suggested that we put one container per square foot.  So we laid them out starting at the front edge, next to the Retaining Wall and the River of Rocks and extending West to the big Oak tree.

Since this looked okay, we spent the next day taking them out of the containers and putting them in the ground.

Once they were in the ground, we used Zone 8 of the irrigation system to water them into the ground.  Running Zone 8 for 30 minutes took 770 gallons.

Monday, March 21, 2016

More Dirt for the West Lawn

We ordered another 8 cubic yards of Professional Mix dirt from Whittlesey Landscape Supply.  $439.71 including delivery ($85) and taxes. 

This is to provide the dirt needed to level the last section of the West Lawn between the River of Rocks and the big Oak tree.

It took about 80 wheel-barrow loads to get it from the front of the house around to the back.   That area should now be ready for planting with the Texas Sedge that the landscape plan calls for.

We probably needed about 3 cubic yards for that area, so we had lots of left-over dirt.  We are going to need dirt to fill in the Bottoms, between the Rock Retaining Wall and the Jungle, so we just dumped the rest of the dirt over the Rock Retaining Wall into the Bottoms.

We will need to distribute it around and smooth it out, but it's a start on rebuilding the Bottoms.