Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Installing Irrigation

After fixing the well and demolishing everything in the backyard, it was finally ready for some new irrigation. The Engineer had it all planned out and was more than ready to get the system installed and running.

The pump had already been relocated around the corner after we pushed the fence a few feet.

It might not seem like much, but since we were putting in new piping from the well to the pump there wasn't any reason why we shouldn't put it where we wanted it. The new location put it out of sight from the majority of the back yard and pretty much eliminated any noise from the pump from most areas of the back yard.

Then The Engineer started trenching. We could have rented a trencher, but after tilling a lot of the roots were cut or loosened. Since we were only installing irrigation in the back yard, we figured digging by hand wouldn't kill anyone. The Engineer dug two trenches along the two long sides of our yard for the main lines.

He then started piping from the pump through our manifold and along the lines to the locations of the sprinkler heads.

We have the option for two other zones in the back yard with this setup and we know we will use one for the garden once it is built. For now, we are just running one zone to irrigate the grass. *Ahem, excuse me, future grass*

At the very end of one of his trenches The Engineer hit something substantial…he called it our biggest archaeological find yet because if you have been following our progress…we have found one thousand and one pavers buried in the yard!

But this was big.

Yeah, we didn't know what it was either. It appears that it may have been the anchor from a basket ball hoop or something like that. Unfortunately, we were determined to get it out. Partly because it was really close to the surface and the new grass wouldn't have much soil below it before it hit this thing, and partly because we were invested and we wanted to get it out of the ground for the sake of getting it out of the ground. Sigh.

We ended up with a 5-6 ft. hole and a concrete mass that was much too heavy for us to lift. We took a section of the old galvanized down pipe that came out of the old irrigation welltied it to the  concrete mushroom, and used cinder blocks to make a fulcrum out of it. I knew it wasn't a good sign when I could hang on the end of the pole and it didn't move. So we tried to lift it together and bent the pipe!

Needless to say, there was no way we were getting that thing out without some serious lifting power. We decided to cut our losses and since we could wiggle it, we dug out the hole on one side and rocked it until it bent over enough for us to bury and have plenty of soil on top of it for the grass (just and FYI, that was an intense process!).

After passing that minor road block, The Engineer and his dad laid the pipes and installed the sprinkler heads.

And of course buried everything.

After a test, everything worked great! What a relief!

I then fertilized and leveled the yard because despite how it looks in pictures, it was not level at all! And I installed a new border for a path that would be much smaller than our old one!

Those were the last tasks we wanted to complete before our sod delivery and we were done about two days early! The only thing left is the easy part…laying that sod!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Creating the Dirt Pit

The back yard is definitely moving in the right direction, which really means that it is looking more and more terrible. Gulp. You really do have to make things worse before making them better. Our backyard has been going through quite the journey…we had the


Our next step was to pretty much remove, kill, or demolish anything and everything that was left. Ha! In order to get ready for our sod delivery we had to kill the existing weeds, remove the shell path (that was unnecessarily wide), till the yard, fertilize, and level it. No big deal, right?

We started with the shell path. We liked the idea of having a path to the shop and shed, but the white shell path really stood out, and it was huge! We were missing out on so much space for grass.

I can’t believe how much space that path took up looking back at these pictures! Really glad we ripped it up! First we took out the slate stepping stones that we will use later to make a patio where we will have our fire pit. We kind of have one now, but we are going to take all the slate up and pack the pieces much tighter and remove all the shell.

The slate came up very easily. All it took was a little nudge with a shovel and you could pick it right up!

We tried to be careful when taking the shell up because we were going to reuse it in two places. We planned to make a shell path on one side of the house and on the other side by the carport we wanted to make a pad out of shell for the trash cans. So we tried to take as little dirt as possible with the shell. As we moved along though, this proved to be less important. You see, the first layer was easy. We just raked the shell into piles and shoveled it into the wheel barrow.

After we picked it up it looked pretty good, a lot like dirt. 

Buuuttt, then it rained and washed all the dirt off the shell that was still there and made the path look pretty much just as it did when we started!

It took two more rounds of raking (rigorously) the path and shoveling the shell out until we were satisfied with the amount of shell left. We separated the shell from the top that didn't have much dirt in it and stockpiled that for the path on the side of the house.

The shell from the bottom layers went over to the carport since we just planned to use that under the trash cans, it didn't have to be as pretty. So that went directly down.

It looks a lot like dirt with a few pieces of shell in it, but after a spray down with the hose (or a storm, whichever came first!) all the dirt washed through and it looked like shell again!

We had a lot of shell so we were able to fill the entire area next to the carport with shell. This was great because we never planned on putting sod here and it really is just a utility area for us right now.

As all this was going on, we killed our weeds. We sprayed three times, but we only did the third application since it rained shortly after our second application. So we went from lovely weeds... dead scraggly nothingness.

One of those classic it has to get worse before it gets better steps!

With the shell gone, the border ripped up (black border from the shell path you see above), and the wonderful weeds dead, we were ready to till.

We decided to rent a tiller because we knew we had a lot of roots in our yard and doing this by hand would be nothing short of miserable and backbreaking. The money was well spent because we did all the tilling one evening after work and it made small work out of all the roots.

We also tilled the side where our new shell path would go.

Yes, we still have our massive stock pile of pavers, but no need to worry, there are plans for those :) After playing pickup sticks with the roots, the yard and the well were finally ready for the irrigation instillation.

We are moving along fast, so more posts on the yard coming your way soon!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Well Lives!

Our house had an old irrigation well when we moved in…
I realize this isn't the best picture, but I never noticed that I didn't take a good head on picture before we tore it apart. Oops! The pump was ancient, there was a large blue pressure tank, and a mess of pipes. Oh, and erm…it didn't work. 

We really wanted to use this to irrigate our lawn (yes, the one we don’t have…yet) so first thing first…we removed the pressure tank and old pump. We bought a new pump, and with not so high hopes, hooked it up and turned it on.

Nothing happened.

Not a huge surprise to us, but still disappointing.

After tinkering with it on and off for a while we enlisted the help of my dad. We had an enclosed well casing so we couldn't see down in the well. The boys ended up taking the cap off the well and finding a galvanized drop pipe in there and came to the conclusion that this pipe was clogged. So out that pipe came.

Way easier said than done! The pipe was pretty heavy (maybe 150 + pounds) and about 30 feet long! I ended up on the roof to support the weight at the top while The Engineer and my dad dead lifted it out the well a few feet at a time.

We finally walked it out and found that the check valve at the bottom was indeed crusted shut.

Ain't no water getting through there! At least we knew what the problem was and could get a move on. We roughly hooked it up to make sure the system would work and finally got water!

This gave us a green light to go full steam ahead and we started putting everything else together. We fabricated a new drop pipe out of PVC (instead of galvanized pipe) and dropped it in the same way we took the last one out...from the roof. 

The Engineer trenched to the new pump location (we moved the fence back a few feet which made room for the pump around the corner....which I talked about in this post) and glued all the piping from the well to the pump.

After a two hour stop at Home Depot we came home with a bunch of PVC pipe and fittings, sprinkler heads, timers, manifolds…you name it, we had it. We were working each evening after work so The Engineer got to work trenching and laying more pipe while I was working on moving the fence and finished digging up our shell path so we would be ready to till the yard before laying sod.

We are beyond happy that we were able to revive our old well without digging a new one for our irrigation. Next task is laying the new irrigation system!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Make Way!

The backyard is coming along. Even though forward progress at this point may look like exactly the opposite, since we have killed everything, converted our shell path to dirt, and dug numerous holes and trenches…it actually is forward progress. Our first peek at something that genuinely looks like an improvement was the fence on the side that we tore down and rebuilt a few feet forward. Not don’t get overwhelmed, this wasn't a lot of fence, only one small section and the gate…15 feet or so.

We realized (and I credit this one to The Engineer) that we had a few feet on the other side of the fence that were entirely useless. Between the fence and carport was about three feet of space that was an absolute barren wasteland.

It only made sense to move the fence up to the carport and include that extra space in our backyard where we could use it instead of keeping the barren wasteland. This enlarged the space we will have for our garden and also allowed us to relocate our irrigation pump around the corner where it would pretty much be out of sight. The relocation also cut down on the noise too. Double win!

The Engineer made quick work of the demo and I was all too happy to see the old fence go. It really was in rough shape.

Without the fence panel it is much easier to visualize where the old and new fences were/would be located. The old fence came right off the corner of the new house and we pushed the new fence all the way up to the concrete slab for the carport.

We worked late that night and set the new fence posts and screwed on 1x6 cross supports for the fence slats.

The next day I nailed up fence slats while The Engineer was working on moving the pump to its new home.

We measured for the gate and built it on the ground to make it easier and hung it pretty easily.

We then set two other posts to connect the new fence back to the old fence. We didn't reuse the old posts because we pushed the gate over just a bit to maximize on space so the old post ended up in the gate opening.

I then screwed in my horizontal 1x6’s and nailed the fence slats again. I did the short side first so the corner would look nice.

This way I could make sure there wasn't an odd gap in the corner since I butted the front slat directly to the back slat.

After nailing the rest of the slats on we were left with a much better looking fence and a little more space!

You can tell why we were excited about the fence being the first thing that looks like ‘actual’ progress because the rest of the after picture looks way worse that the before! The Engineer was working on the pump the entire time I was working on finishing the fence. I’ll be posting about our progress with the pump and irrigation soon!