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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Our very own Chupacabra

We have had a long tumultuous history with animals of all kinds in this house. Over the years, it has gotten more and more challenging.

Summer of 2011, we had to deal with mysterious cracks in the ground. These ruined the look of the landscape, but was not causing much trouble.

A couple of props were added to the landscape, knowing fully well that they wouldn't be helpful ;). But a girls got to have her retail therapy.

Then came the attack on the vegetables. This we suspect was the squirrels that had inhabited this place all along but had mysteriously developed a love for vegetables.

Then some nasty things started happening over the fall. Squirrels (or racoons) started chewing up our drip irrigation heads and the elbows in random spots. We ended up with 350$ water bills and the slugs having a party !

But the worst was yet to come. Over the winter of 2011 the cracks in the garden became more rampant, the soil would just cave in beneath your foot and the mounds started appearing everywhere

We are still trying to do damage control and figure out a longer term fix to this issue

The indoor Chayote story

Sometime in October 2011, our trusted garden handyman Anthonio brought us a couple of Chayote Squashes he grew in his garden. These were not edible, i.e they had over matured and had extremely long thorns. I decided that they would be a good choice to hold on to and grow in our yard. So they sat by the fireplace all along and have grown to over 6 ft in length with tendrils and what not.

Another couple of weeks and I will put them out in the garden. Apparently the plant dies in winter (like all plants do) but automatically comes back to life in Spring. Wouldn't anyone love a low maintenance plant like this !

More raised beds

You would think we are crazy to be building more planter beds. Well, maybe we are !

Four massive 12*3 foot beds are replacing 3 of the Gen1 raised beds we had here and expanding the planting area.

It is proving to be a really massive project. Just leveling the boxes took almost a full day. Then the hardware cloth that had to be custom fit took away another entire day. We still have not gotten to filling up these boxes with our miracle soil+compost combo, which we assume will take 2 full days for our trusted garden handyman Anthonio.

This has also become a pretty expensive project with the lumber costing over $300, the 10 cubic yards of compost costing around $300 as well, the hardware cloth, the lag screws and the rest adding up to around $500 and the many days of labor. Now there goes the budget for a Hawaii vacation !

Good neighbours make good fences

A piece of news from the San Mateo county caught my attention (link). Over the past couple of months we have been involved in a futile argument about the fence we share.

The  newer fence you see is the one in question and is our neighbor's front yard fence. Our city fence guidelines mandate a 4 foot fence in the front yard and for the first 15 feet on the side yard.

We pointed that out to them, but without the least bit of care that it violates city guidelines, they went ahead and put up the 6 foot structure. As much as I support privacy because we are on a main street, the blatant violation bothers me because we are now forced to match his 6foot fence on the common side we share. But we have decided to sit tight and not complain to the city (after a lot of thought and discussion and considering that we don't want to pay for the fence all by ourselves).

The next post will be all about the new fence, just have not gotten around to  taking pictures.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Weed crack down

We had to engage in an intervention and a major crackdown on the weeds ;) 

The winter of 2011 was fairly mild, very little rains, temperatures in the 60's in December I did not expect weeds to be a big problem. (Hey I also invested a lot of time in putting down close to 4 inches of mulch). I wish my plants are half as resilient as the weeds out here.

Not stepping out into the garden for a month was a big mistake, the weeds had literally taken over the yard. Over a half day and some sore hamstrings later, the weeds are all out for now.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

More bad news

Just when we were thinking that we had this place all figured out, we got this interesting piece of news. (Interestingly, calling PG&E was on the "honey do" list for a while, but it never happened)

This weird fixture you see here is about 3 ft tall and 3 ft wide and is in our front yard by the fence. I have never seen anything remotely similar in anybody else's house in the area (We are special people for who nothing comes easy).

When the San Bruno incident happened a few years back and when PG&E got around to publishing maps of supply lines, this caught my attention again and it went up higher on the "honey do" list. (the main supply line runs along the road you see right there). 

Interestingly, a few weeks back we had a guy from PG&E knocking on our front door wanting to talk about this thing. Turns out this is a pressure control valve for the main supply line (did I miss out on an opportunity to charge rent from PG&E) and it should not be here to begin with. And our house is apparently connected directly to the main supply line instead of a service line like every other house. Turns out that we have to get a brand new gas connection from the service line and they would remove this fixture and close the existing line. But this process may involve ripping out the driveway. We are waiting for more news and next steps.

A timely fix

Over the past week we finally decided to fix some issues with one of the irrigation pipes that was not laid down properly. It was a lot of work, but we are glad that we got it done.

Projects like this one are what we want to focus on this year. The veggie garden is getting a break in 2012 as we refocus.