Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    Crucial update

    Before two feet of snow took up residence in our backyard we figured out that it was a raccoon or raccoons who had been relieving themselves on our lawn. Lots of paw prints and a sighting.

    Carry on.

    Friday, October 15, 2010

    A little privacy

    Sorry about the absence of blogging for the last two months. Life got really busy with some un-fun stuff. On top of that, our projects have been pretty low-key lately (replant this thing, mow that, etc.), with one exception: a wall on our patio.

    We have a gorgeous outdoor space that we access just off our dining area. Because we're working on landscaping, decor, and finishes slowly, this space was totally exposed to the street on its east end. Part of the design of the house was always to have a wall on this end of the patio as a privacy shield to the street, so when we poured the concrete for the patio almost a year ago (!), Davido added some bolts to the pony wall in anticipation of this eventuality.

    After pricing things out and thinking of the best way to maximize our limited budgets and claim the most privacy for the house, we settled on this patio wall as the first step. (Future steps will include a fence with the neighbors, a gate for this wall, and some window coverings for the dining area. All in good time, though.)

    Tai did a couple of designs before we settled on one that would fit the horizontal cedar on the house. He grabbed the hardware to attach upright posts to the concrete wall and framed everything out in mid-August:

    All that plywood cladding was reused from our construction scrap stash -- win-win for the dump and our wallets.

    The wall sat dormant for a few weeks at this intermediate stage. It worked immediately, though, as we were able to enjoy our patio without sharing it with every passing pedestrian and driver.

    Then, Tai used some scrap tar paper for some mild water-resistance at the top of the wall, and started putting up the cedar boards Labor Day weekend. He used a few leftover cedar boards from siding the house and garage, and then filled in the rest with a trip to Sutherlands. He pre-sealed the boards with two coats to match what we did on the boards for the house.

    He did a great job spacing the ends of the boards uniformly on both sides of the wall so that there aren't any awkward joining spots. This is where it really pays to have married someone who spent his entire childhood working on house projects -- he is precise and meticulous about doing it right. He takes only a little more time, but he makes it look a hundred times better.

    My sole contribution to this project (besides replenishing the water pitcher) was to stain the cedar at the end of it all to get it the same deep beautiful color as the wood on the house. This took me all of about 20 minutes, but I still managed to dribble stain on the concrete, which you can see if you look closely at the bottom left of the wall. Oops.

    I think that spacing out the house/yard projects makes it easier for us to enjoy them along the way. We were really hoping to fence in the backyard (especially because various neighborhood animals -- please, please let it be animals -- keep using our yard to relieve themselves), but that will probably have to wait. In the meantime, it's still been great to make incremental progress where we can. Oh, and our house is still awesome.

    Monday, August 9, 2010

    Mid-summer yard update

    This is the year of the great squash experiment. Not knowing a blessed thing about the plants we were planting (as in, did you know that pumpkin vines can grow to be 35-40 feet in length? I didn't!), we have overloaded our tiny backyard garden box with two pumpkin vines, a yellow squash vine/bush, a zucchini plant, four cucumber plants and two broccoli plants.

    The overall effect:

    Up close with squash overload. Zucchini in the top right and one of the pumpkin vines in the bottom left:

    Produce! This is so far the only pumpkin we have produced for our pains. It is ripe, beautiful and lovely. So now we have a pumpkin in August.

    These pumpkin vine tendrils wrapped themselves around patches of grass in the backyard, holding on for dear life. I think they're gorgeous on their own, though.

    The broccoli...that we're hoping will turn into something edible one of these days:

    The cucumber vines and our nascent basil plant:

    Fresh cucumbers from the garden are our top delight this summer:

    Pepperoncini, for which I have my doubts, mostly due to serious overshadowing by pumpkin leaves:

    That's all in one garden box. In the other backyard box, we planted a couple of varieties of carrots (Danvers, Nantes, Little Finger and Carnival Blend -- Carnival was the least successful).

    And this is what happens when you get a radish packet from Matthew Moore at Sundance and figure, eh? Why not? But then realize that neither of you like radishes (nasty little things):

    Then, we have a third garden box (clearly in over our heads) by the kitchen. By and large it has been scorched by the heat and exposure of our site, but a few things have survived. Namely, the tomato plants that I didn't kill are now threatening to take over the house:

    And this is the end of a fight with arugala. It started out so lovely, with spring greens that we added to salads and quiches. It ended with an insane patch of flowering plants that crowded out everything else. So I hacked it back:

    ...and made room for a watermelon vine that has showed its appreciation for the extra space by doubling in size over the last few days. I'm still hoping that this will produce something before the first frost.

    In the rest of the yard, our front yard on the south side was not getting full coverage from the sprinklers. So now that Tai is a pro, he added a few extra heads to hit our borders:

    But the best thing about the summer has been slowing down and enjoying the results of all our hard work over the last 18 months. It's a bit surreal to think of where we were a year ago and where we are now. That was a lifetime ago.

    Tuesday, August 3, 2010

    New moderns

    Just a hat tip to all the folks in our area doing new modern projects -- it's great to see a swell of infill modern homes. Grassroots Modern is keeping tabs on a few, including the one we drive past every day: ul[1] on 900 East around 700 South.

    We like the lines, suspect the architect is the son of a former neighbor in our original slc202 condo building by the University of Utah, and love the privacy walls in the outdoor spaces (can you tell we still haven't built our fence yet?).

    But this was our favorite:

    "We had been looking for a lot in the up and coming neighborhood of the Salt Lake 9th and 9th area for a period of 3 years. This area is extremely competitive for vacant land and building small modern homes is beginning to be the trend. This has been going on in other metropolitan areas for years but we are seeing an increasing demand for this type of product in SLC for which there is few to choose from. I believe we are raising the standard for this building type in the area and am very excited to see it being constructed." (emphasis mine)

    We also loved this gem (in a non-sarcastic sense):

    "The house achieved Gold LEED standards but the owner opted for spending the additional 5-6 thousand in other areas instead of the LEED testing and registration fees."


    Saturday, July 17, 2010

    Cedar siding

    We knew when we agreed to this design that our cedar siding would take some upkeep if we wanted to retain its color. Without a yearly coat of sealant, the wood will fade and eventually gray, and we want to keep it looking fresh as long as possible.

    Even though the cedar was sealed with two spray coats before it was installed, we could tell that it needed a refresh after the winter weather and Utah sun.

    It took both of us about eight hours total to seal, with the majority of that time spent maneuvering very tall and heavy ladders.

    We love the red look and can tell that the wood was due for a fresh coat -- it nearly glows now. So even though it will be kind of a pain, we'll spend the time once a year to re-seal the wood.

    (Also, we were sitting in church a little while ago and noticed this Bible verse from 1 Kings 6:9: "So he built the house, and finished it; and covered the house with beams and boards of cedar." We had a good laugh.)

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010


    What do you do when you're flat broke but have an enormous living room wall that cries for art?

    You barter away an old red couch... your friends over for an evening of watching you bicker over leveling a huge sheet of painted Tyvek... your husband do death-defying stunts 13 feet off the ground...

    ...and replace the old couch with one you've spent two years saving for! (Found here.)

    Many, many thanks to our generous friend and artist Benjamin Wiemeyer for taking pity on us and doing the barter. We love the painting and the view from the sidewalk:

    (And so does the neighbor kid who just rode past and shouted, "I love your painting!")

    Saturday, July 10, 2010

    More yard

    We got the sprinklers in, got the sod down and basically stopped doing landscaping work. There are a few things we have to worry about still, though, including our parking strip:

    Those used to be full of knee-high weeds, then we spent Memorial Day digging them out. The effort was so great, evidently, that we haven't done anything since then. Eventually, we plan to put in some weed fabric, plants and maybe some mulch or gravel to top it all off.

    This is on our south side, just east of our patio. The drain runs to the gravel pit buried in our backyard. The white pipe is a stubbed sprinkler line for drip irrigation, which we hope will someday water a few trees and other plants in that spot. Our next project, though, is to put some more paving stones in that space to create a landing pad for our garbage/recycling/yard waste cans.

    And here we're hoping to place mulch and a bunch of plants down here. But for now (because we don't have the scratch for plants) we are growing a couple of pumpkin vines, which is what the flags marked.

    Wednesday, July 7, 2010

    Yard photos

    The last post was a little long on words and short on photos, so here's a few pictures to prove that we still love you all:

    Monday, July 5, 2010

    The Yard

    Wow. Where to start...

    ...perhaps the best place is with my/our massive underestimation of the time, expense and good humor our landscaping would require. Admittedly, I know nothing of these things, but I now foolishly remember saying things like, "yeah, Tai will get the sprinklers laid in a couple of days, then we'll get the sod in right after. It shouldn't take us more than a few weekends."


    With the first tease of spring in mid March we started planning and talking logistics. I think we made our first trip to the Sprinkler Supply Company in early April for a system design. And even though we are a teensy bit broke after building a house, sprinklers were something we wanted to spend the money on this year, knowing that this was really our only chance to do it well. Once we got a system designed and saw how much trenching this was going to take, we followed the company's suggestion and hired a trencher. Along the way, you realize that you really need another, different tool or you need five more of that one thing or it would be so much simpler if you had that other thing and all of a sudden all the charges on your account point to Lowe's. So it goes.

    Then, the dirt. Oh, the dirt. If we were mud flats before the trenching, we became mud topographies after -- trenches, vales, swales, sinks, mounds, and plains all made it look as though an army of burrowing rodents invaded Lincoln Street. It wouldn't have been so bad if not for the relentlessly precipitative weather this spring. It's hard to lay sprinkler pipe when the trench is under two inches of water.

    Anybody remember this incident? I remember the trauma of being 800 miles away and getting his text: "what's our insurance number?" During this sprinkler process I lived in fear (FEAR!) of getting a similar text or worse. Tai did nothing to assuage this fear.

    The first night he worked on installation I walked up to the front yard to ask him a question in time to watch a 3-foot length of pipe explode from our water supply line with a terrifying WHOP, rocket 30 feet into the air, drop onto the sidewalk across the street in front of two alarmed pedestrians, and give way to a six-foot geyser. The next night's performance featured the end cap of that same pipe exploding off into Tai's face -- without, thankfully, injury to anything other than his manly pride. The following night involved several iterations of "hey, babe, do you think you might want a little professional help?" conversations.

    But, dear readers, Tai is a total champ. These were not setbacks!, he claimed, these were learning experiences! He soldiered on in the face of my sideline skepticism. And, then, four weeks later, we had a functioning sprinkler system. Well, four weeks, many blisters, an incident involving pipe primer and eyeballs, and A LOT of bending-over back cleavage later.

    This is what we see now:

    And life is good.

    Monday, June 7, 2010


    I keep forgetting (and am frequently too exhausted) to take pictures of our yard and post them. But it's getting more awesome by the day. I promise I'll remember soon.

    Also, we dug out a bunch of weeds in our parking strip on Saturday, then immediately noticed the neighborhood cat taking a dump in our dirt. So I'm glad that someone appreciates our hard work.

    Thursday, May 27, 2010


    This is what functional sprinklers look like:

    Major tip of the hat to Tai for the weeks of work that it's taken to get to this point. Major wag of the finger to the weather for raining (or SNOWING) every third day in May.

    The front yard is already mostly put back together (holes filled). The backyard should be that way soon. Maybe there is some sod and mulch in our near future? I can't think of a better way to celebrate the unofficial start of summer than by putting in a lawn. (That was not sarcastic. I really want this project to be over.)

    Friday, May 21, 2010

    Tai wants you all to know...

    ...that his biceps are getting huge doing all this sprinkler work.

    Which is still not finished.

    Our yard looks like a war zone right now, so I refuse to post pictures until something looks a bit more done. Incremental progress doesn't translate well to pictures. If you've driven by lately, you know what I'm talking about. On the plus side, I did pick out, set, and lay 11 large stone pavers all by myself last weekend. They are lovely and don't rock a bit when you step on them (which is my personal paver pet peeve).

    And, my aspirations to be a doddering old lady with a garden are in full swing. I have already killed four strawberry seedlings and six tomato starts. Congratulate me!

    Thursday, May 13, 2010

    It's about time

    You know where to find us this weekend:

    Friday, May 7, 2010

    Last weekend

    To thumb our noses at the rain last weekend and take advantage of some momentum in the house work, we pushed through a couple of indoor projects: sealing the stairs, finishing a scrap of baseboard, and sealing a small patch of concrete we missed the first time around.

    There's nothing inherently difficult or time-consuming about these tasks. They're just a pain to do. Which is really the only reason that we hadn't done them before.

    The stairs, all taped and ready for sealer:

    Detail on the taping we had to do to protect the wall, facilitated by tiny gaps between the edge of the concrete treads and the wall.

    The stairs now have a slight sheen on them, and we're glad to have them sealed. Now we can stop worrying about long-term dirt problems on them. But you still can't wear shoes in our house.

    Our fridge saga -- our current fridge was the third one purchased -- left us with a weird patch of unsealed concrete floor right in front of the fridge, which happens to be the spot where we most often spill stuff. Dur. It is now sealed. The baseboard on the left side of the photo was also a lingering patch job from the fridge saga; it's now sanded, caulked, painted, and looking pretty again.

    Tai has been working on our sprinkler system this week all by himself. Launching pipes into the street by turning on the water cut-off all by himself. Exploding muddy, capped lines onto his face all by himself. It's been an exciting week. We'll keep you posted.

    Monday, May 3, 2010

    Rain, rain, go away

    If you're in Salt Lake this spring, you know that we've had one storm after another, including a string last week and resulted in snow on rooftops for four mornings in a row. Aside from the immediate depression of mid-spring snowfall, the wet weather has extinguished our ideas for quick and speedy landscaping.

    But there was a four-hour window without rain or snow of any kind last week, so we invited a sprinkler trencher over to do a little digging in anticipation of, someday, installing an irrigation system:

    We were a little puzzled at how he interpreted our sprinkler plan in some spots, but I suppose the solution for criticism in this case is a shovel.

    The trenches are about 6 to 8 inches deep. Among the treasures uncovered by the trencher were numerous roots from the trash trees we removed a year ago, an electrical conduit buried too shallow (we will be paying some money to get it repaired, since the trencher tore through it), and chunks of cement ranging in size from an orange to a cantaloupe.

    One rainy morning last week the sprinklers were delivered. The pipes are sitting on a patio until work begins (maybe tonight?). Also sitting on our patio? These guys:

    We didn't want to risk their health and future happiness by putting them in the ground and directly in the path of the trencher. Good choice, as it turns out. And this is what happens to your shoes if you still try to get yard work done after three weeks steady of storms:

    So here's hoping for a little luck with the yard work this week:

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    The first tree of spring


    A sign of progress. Thanks to friend Shannon for the very thoughtful and beautiful weeping snow fountain cherry tree, which has found a happy home in our front yard.

    Tuesday, April 6, 2010

    The latest punch list

    We love our house. Not a day goes by without us thinking about the morning light in our living room, the functionality of the garage, the ideal entertaining space that is our living-dining-kitchen space, our great exterior design, the tranquility of our bedroom...we love it.

    That said, it's not perfect. During the design and building process, I guess I imagined that once we moved in the house-building fairy would appear and magically make everything complete and perfect with a wave of her sparkly wand. She hasn't shown up yet, so in the meantime, this is what we're thinking about completing or improving in the next little while:

    • landscaping
    • house numbers
    • fence with neighbors to the south
    • cabinet and storage configuration in laundry nook
    • office configuration

    You've read about our landscape plans. It looks like we're tentatively planning on mimicking this design for the fence:

    Tai's been drawing up plans to make it two-sided and to take into account the fall in elevation between the east side and west side of our south property line. I'm really excited, though -- I think it's going to look great.

    When we first moved in, a fence was in a top-tier priority, but in recent weeks it had slipped a bit. It bumped back up when the neighbors expressed interest in a fence, which means that we're going to be putting off some other optional upgrades in order to work with the neighbors. A couple of things that are slipping are window coverings, more plants for the yard, a speedier timeline for the landscaping, and office furnishings.

    This is what our office looks like at the moment:

    Lovely, huh? The un-interesting story for this room is that we thought we had a design we liked for a built-in desktop and shelving, then we decided we didn't. We also decided against doing anything from Ikea in this room -- our kitchen is Ikea by choice, our bookcases upstairs are Ikea by necessity, our wardrobes and bathrooms cabinets are Ikea by expediency, and we just don't want any more Ikea. Back to square one.

    One of the smaller tasks we face is the positioning and installation of our permanent house numbers. In order to get our occupancy permit this fall, Tai spray pained some stencil numbers and tacked them up to our front post. After touring a Geoff Tice remodel, Tai spotted this line of numbers and found out they're offered at a very reasonable price at Lowe's:

    So the 1, 3, 4, and 2 have been sitting on our kitchen counter for a week or so awaiting installation on our exterior concrete wall. Tai even make a trek to Harbor Freight for a hammer-action drill to tackle the concrete. Current thinking about placement puts them horizontally, off center (to the left), just below the canopy frame.

    The last thing I wanted to share is that we are highly amused by the slow drive-bys. Watching the parade of gawkers outside our front windows has become a weekend past time -- keep 'em coming!