Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Leveling the backyard, part 1

As we have excavated the central back yard, we piled up the dirt on part of the Bottoms that has already been excavated.

But as we got more and more of the central back yard dug up, and particularly after lowering the main irrigation water line, it seemed we could move the dirt back to where it will eventually be.  So we took some time to dig all that dirt up out of the Bottoms

 and move it to the ditches that were the result of our digging, levelling off the back yard, more or less.

This "level" is still several inches below where the lawn level will eventually be, still leaves some substantial ditches, adjacent to where we will be continuing to dig.

But it gets things to the point that we will begin to cover up things we may eventually need to find, specifically with the underground irrigation system.

The control value for Zone 5, which controls the sprinklers for  the Iris bed and the Herb Garden beds, is just off the sidewalk.  It's about 7 inches from the sidewalk and 11 inches down from the level of the sidewalk.

The main irrigation water line  runs way down at bedrock, until it gets to the River of Rocks, where the River of Rocks terminates at the back sidewalk.  Then it comes up to a more "normal" depth and continues around the house.  It rises up to 8 inches below the level of the River of Rocks, and the sidewalk, and is 13 inches away from the sidewalk.  (It basically runs parallel to the sidewalk, 12 to 13 inches away from the sidewalk, for the entire length of the house.)

The valves for Zones 6 and 7, which will be used to water the central backyard and the Bottoms (respectively), and buried in the Bottoms, just off of the Rock Retaining wall.  One of the rocks in the Retaining wall is more or less rectangular and sticks up an inch or two above the top of the rest of the wall.  From the top of that rock, it's 21 inches down to the valve covers and 14 inches away from the Retaining wall itself.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Rebuilding the Front Porch Planters

We have three large planters on the front porch.  Linda got these years ago and has been trying to keep plants growing in them.  But they get limited sunlight -- on the North side of the house -- and limited water -- under the front porch, so no rain, they have to be hand watered.  And then in the winter, the North wind blows and everything freezes.

So Linda has decided to rebuild these.

First we took out all the existing (mostly dead) plants, and then dug out the soil to get an empty planter.

We made sure that the two drainage holes were open.  Then covered the bottom with a weed barrier, to keep the soil from leaking out, or clogging, the drainage holes.

Next, Linda made up a mixture of Perlite and Coir coconut fiber and filled the bottom half of the planter with that.

This is to provide a base that is good, permeable, soil.  The coconut coir fiber comes in these compressed blocks and has to be soaked to allow it to expand and be worked.

On top of this base, Linda put pots with the plants she wants and then put a decorative layer of moss around them.

The hope is that this will allow the plants to be easily replaced if need be, and to be brought into the garage if it gets too cold.

Repeat for all three of the planters.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Digging up the Central Backyard, Part 2

With the irrigation lines re-built, we continue digging.  The current focus is to dig up and move the Yucca plant.

As we dig to get to the Yucca plant, we mix the dirt with leaves and use it to bury the new irrigation lines.

and keep digging.

until the Yucca plant is completely isolated, and finally falls over.

It was sitting on top of a big pile of really rocky dirt.  Separate out the rocks, add in leaves, and this area is cleaned up.  Move the Yucca out of the way, and we have finished this section of the central backyard.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Lowering the Main Irrigation Water Supply Line

Back in November, 2012, we excavated the East side of the backyard.  As part of that, we exposed the main irrigation water supply line, and to make sure it was well out of the way, we lowered it all the way down to the bedrock.  We had to raise it back up to interface with the existing pipe where we were not (yet) digging.

Now we are digging back to that point, from the other direction.

And today, we dug all the way over to where the pipe drops.

The objective is to dig out all the dirt and rock under the existing pipe, down to bedrock, and then re-do the linkage to the pipe on the East side to lower this section that goes along the center of the yard.

More digging exposes not just the main irrigation supply line, but also the line for Zone 5, and an old (unused) PVC line (which we have now removed).

 Using the jack hammer to break up and remove the rock that has been exposed, we can excavate all the way down to bedrock.

Looking at the far end of the trench shows how the previous work had to "step up" to connect with the un-excavated main supply line:

The first step is to remove all the old PVC pipe.   Then we lay new PVC pipe and couple it directly into the main water supply line. ($34.38 at Home Depot for PVC pipe and pieces).

This is a new 1.5 inch Schedule 40 PVC pipe.  It runs along the ground until it gets to the valve for the Zone 5 beds.  At that point we "tee" off to a 1 inch PVC line going up.

We continue along at ground level until we get to the end of the pit, next to the end of the River of Rocks.  At this point, we must once more "step up" to connect to the rest of the (unexcavated) main water supply line as it continues around the house.

Since both ends of the pipe are fixed, we have to do something to finish the last connection.  We used an NDS 1.5 inch Pro-Span Coupling, which cost $20.65.

From the valve box for Zone 5, we ran 3/4 inch PVC back to the Iris bed and to the Herb bed.

Since this was only 3/4 inch PVC, it was more flexible and we were able to use standard couplings.

Update, May 2017.  The joint at the bottom of the vertical gave way sometime this month and leaked enormous amounts of water.  Eventually, the water worked its way to the surface and I shut the main irrigation supply line off, dug down and found the problem.  I then replaced the bottom elbow fitting (and several other adjacent pieces) to fix the problem.

But it really did a number on our water usage.  Here's the water usage for the past year, from the May bill.

Normally, our usage would be about 4000 gallons; because of the leak we used over 20,000 gallons.