Thursday, May 14, 2020

Yet Another Landscape Project – or How Beth is trying to completely wear Scott out in a single weekend!

As we look back at pictures of what the yard and gardens at the Retro Ranch looked like in our first spring at the Ranch, the transformation since then is rather amazing. 

A year or so ago, Beth hired a landscape architect to help develop ideas and plans to further enhance the back yard and gardens. The plans include a fence across the back and part of the side yard along with extensive landscape changes. Unfortunately, two things are delaying implementing these designs, the first is funding the projects and the second is the pending development on the vacant lots behind us and down the hillside. There have been plans on the books for several years to put a 4-unit condo diagonally behind the Ranch. The plans include a fence and they could possibly need a grading easement so it doesn’t make much sense for us to build a fence while this is uncertain.


This has not stopped Beth from upgrading the landscaping in other parts of the yard however. Over the last year and a half, as we removed the rocks by the driveway, we refreshed those gardens and added a plethora of delightful new plants. Another thing I need to mention about Beth’s landscaping is she likes to rearrange – continually. Each year multiple plants are dug up and moved to other parts of the yard and more get added. (Beth notes that you have to put plants where they’ll be happy and, she could have worse hobbies!)


Two weekends ago, we tackled the biggest landscaping project in some time at the Ranch. Adding compost mulch to all of the gardens and landscaping a border garden where we had removed arborvitae that were long past their prime. One of our main goals was to correct the grading on the side of the house where the roots from the now extinct arborvitae had created a drainage issue.


On Friday various deliveries were arranged. Two cubic yards of mushroom compost mulch was deposited on the street and driveway and a bit later, a multitude of trees, shrubs and other delights arrived. I knew I had my work cut out for me. The plan was to spread as much of the mulch as possible on Saturday. On Sunday, we were going to rent a tiller, which also meant renting a truck, to prepare the garden for the plants and to prep the land on the side of the house to get the grade right.


On Saturday morning it looked like Mother Nature was going to have a great laugh at our expense as the skies opened up early and the mulch mountain made a perfect dam for the rain water on the street and driveway. Fortunately, after the initial deluge, it turned into a beautiful day and I /we were able to spread the mulch over all of the garden areas except where we planned to till.


Sunday Funday logistics - As you know, truck and equipment rental is based on time. We rented a pick-up truck from U-Haul and headed to The Home Depot for the tiller and ramps. We had to have the tiller back in 4 hours (cleaned and refueled) so there was no time to waste. We had the utility companies mark where the lines were so we didn’t dig up any cables or pipes. We had also consulted with our neighbor so we could till the entire area (in her yard too) to get the grade corrected.

Arriving back at the ranch the tiller was unloaded and off we went. Multiple passes were made and we uncovered more “treasures”; roots, plastic sheeting, rocks (and more rocks) and an inexplicable metal bar and companion.


After nearly 3 hours of tilling work, the tiller was washed, refueled and returned to The Home Depot, with 20 minutes to spare. The pick-up truck was returned but the fun was not done at the Ranch. Now that the ground was tilled it was time to plant. I was beat but there was rain in the forecast for Monday so the show must go on. The trees and plants were positioned and their holes dug. After the planting the rest of the compost mulch was spread (and I collapsed.) We both felt a sense of accomplishment in a job well done.


It seems like the long-legged rats with antlers (deer) also liked what Beth had selected, as Monday morning we awoke to some of the plants having been “trimmed” by hungry deer. Beth got some “Deer-Be-Gone” spray at the garden center that seems to have stopped their noshing since.


So what’s left to do? I am in the process of screening out all of the rocks along the side of the house. We will have that completed in May so we can compete the grading work and be ready for whatever Beth has in mind for there. Phew!


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Downspouts and Drain Lines and What the Heck Have We Been Doing?

I hope everyone reading this is staying safe and staying healthy. It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 9 months since we last posted an update on the Retro Ranch. Like most of you, the past few weeks and months have been like nothing we have ever experienced before. I have been working almost exclusively from my home office and Village Frame & Gallery is open by appointment only. We will survive (sing it Gloria!)


So what has been going on at the Ranch since last we posted an update? To be honest, for the past 5 months, not much. As this is the blog about the Retro Ranch and not Village Frame & Gallery, we won’t go into the painting of the showroom and taking care of a multitude of sins in Beth’s 100 year old shop. Frankly, we’ve just been enjoying living in the Ranch. 

Did we ever write about the downspouts and drain lines? There are 3 downspouts on the front of the house that connect to two drain lines that empty on the street. Whenever it rained, which in Oregon is frequently, they would overflow at their bases causing lots of puddles and swamps around the house foundation. We rented a power auger in the summer of 2018 and identified where the blockages or breaks were.

The line near the driveway was exposed as I removed more rock last summer. The break and previous repair were found and it seemed like it would be a straightforward repair with some 3” pipe, elbows, glue and a hacksaw. It became a bit more complicated for two reasons. The first was me breaking another section of the drain line as I dug for rocks, but also 3” drain line from the early 60s isn’t quite the same as currently available drain line. Fortunately with another 10’ of pipe and a snazzy rubber coupling I reconnected the downspout and it drained to the street. Huzzah!

The other two downspouts came off the ends of the garage, connected somewhere under the lawn and drained at the other edge of our property. I had identified a break or blockage near the street and started to dig. I found the break quickly and, now having experience in drain line repair, it was quick and easy. Two rubber couplings, a leftover section of pipe and we were back in business. Easy-peasy.


As our long-time reader(s) know, nothing is ever easy at the Ranch. Seems there was another break about 3 feet back. As this was near an above ground utility box I dug carefully. I exposed the break and found it was caused by whatever utility contractor had buried a line in white plastic conduit, right through our drain line. Well sh*t! I put in a call to locate the utility lines so we could determine who to go after. It wasn’t Northwest Natural as it wasn’t a gas pipe. Century Link’s lines were in back of the house, PGE’s electric lines were elsewhere and Comcast marked their’s going a different direction. So whose line was it? A supervisor for the utility marking service came out and met me and we cut a small hole in the white conduit. Turns out it was the main Comcast trunk line for the neighborhood.

If you have ever had to call the cable company to get something fixed you know my dread about trying to deal with this. Amazingly, after navigating their phone system from hell I found an intelligent and helpful human who arranged for someone to come have a look, they did. Another call a week later actually resulted in them confirming that, “Yes it was indeed their issue.” They sent out a repair contractor to fix the break, who, upon reviewing the situation decided to replace the drain line and reconnect the adjacent line all the way back to the house with minimal damage to the yard. The front of the house has drained properly since then for the first time in likely decades. Now we get to figure out the issues with the backyard drain lines. Oh joy!


We will write again soon - there are landscape projects and the last phase of the kitchen restoration begins in 7 days. Meal prep and dishes will be relegated to the patio or garage. Not sure where the coffee maker will call home for two months. First world problems to say the least.


Stay safe and stay healthy!