Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Breaking Ground on Our New Fence

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When we started planning our fence, we had no idea how long it would take to build one. Here in Colorado, the ground freezes in mid-November, and we usually experience the first frost during the first week of October. As soon as we are back home from our separated trips, we started working.

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Over the weekend, we decided on the fence plan, obtained the permit, and brought all the lumber home.

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The new fence will be 6′ tall and made of cedar. We decided to run pickets horizontally, using a mixed 2″, 4″ and 6″ pickets, sort of like this:

Day 1: Demoing the southern chainlink and Setting up temporary fencing

The new fence on the south side will be built exactly where the old chain link is. So we started our first day of work by removing the chain link on this side.

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Slav uncoupled the top rail from the vertical posts. These posts were set in concrete under the ground and had to be cut off below the ground.

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To keep the two yards separated during the fence build, we ran a line of T-posts a few feet into our neighbor’s yard, and tied the chain link to the T-posts.

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By pushing the chain link into our neighbor’s yard and keeping the front portion for now, we still have a fully fenced yard to work in.

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The situation at the back corner is a bit complicated. Our existing chain link ran down into another neighbor’s yard, so removing the chain link and the wood panel here would expose our yard to the neighbor’s dogs.

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Before removing the chain link fence at the back, we built a temporary wall with T posts and plywood to keep neighbor’s dogs out of our working area.

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Look what we found during the demo:

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Taking down the wood panel also gave us an opportunity to inspect the retaining wall below. Without proper care, the sleepers supporting the wooden panel were in rough shape.

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We removed the sleepers and started to clean around the retaining wall. There are lots of leaves and trash accumulated here.

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The most interesting found is this McDonald take-out box for burgers. It was used in the late 80’s and has two layers. It was designed to keep the burger patty and lettuce/tomato separated for ideal temperatures.

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The retaining wall behind was in a pretty decent shape. But not so much for the posts of the wooden panel.

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Slav cut the old posts off just above the ground. We will be burying new posts along this retaining wall for the new fence.

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Day 2: Measuring for the new posts

It took us a solid day to demo and move the chain link. The next morning, Slav cut all the metal posts off their concrete support, and I worked on measuring for the new fence post locations.

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I marked the location of the new posts with flags. Fortunately, none of the new posts overlap with the old ones, so we can just cover the old concrete and remaining metal posts with soil.

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A string perpendicular to the house was used to determine the new front corner. It sits 18 feet from the back of the house, aligning with our neighbor’s fence (also our new ones) on the other side.

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Day 3 and Day 4: Dig holes for concrete

After Marking the post location, we had two solid days of rain. Although it delayed our plan to dig holes for concrete, rain also helps with digging by making the ground softer. As soon as the rain stopped, we were anxious to dig the holes for the fence posts.

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We will be using 8′ post, which need to be set in 2′ into the ground in concrete. We knew in advance that we have very compacted and rocky clay soil, so instead of digging by hand, we decided to rent a hydraulic auger to make the job easier. This auger can be paired with different sizes of drill head. We opted for 12″ bit for 12″ holes that are recommended for 4″ x 4″ posts.

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Even with the help of the auger, it still took two of us a whole day to dig about 20 holes. Our soil is sooo solid and heavy. Every a few inches, Slav had to use a digging bar to break the soil for the auger to work. And when it was in action, Slav held it in place and I put all the weight on top of the bit.

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A post digger was used to remove the soil. Slav cleaned up the bottom by scooping loose soil out with his hands.

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We are building a 10′ drive gate in the front, with a 4′ walk gate next to the house. So on this side we only have two post holes.

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The front fence on other side of the house has five posts. One post will be set next the foundation, and the last post will be right next to the neighbor’s corner post:

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The ground slopes down significantly here. We will be doing step-down style here to keep the horizontal fencing look neat.

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The entire South side consists 16 posts. We spaced them 5’10” on center so we can cut the dog ear portion off the 6′ cedar pickets.

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We decided to use 4″ x 6″ post at the corners and for the gate to attach to. The next day, Slav manually enlarged the corner post holes (needs to be 18″ wide instead of 12″) and worked on a couple more that the auger could not reach. We are now ready for concrete!

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Let’s Talk About Fence

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Our house came with a fully fenced backyard, which we are grateful for. We have two strong and easily excitable dogs, and all they want is to lick the faces of people and dogs passing by our house. They especially love small children, who are low to the ground that they can easily knock down and love unconditionally. Needless to say, a fence is a must.

Although functional, none of the four sides of our fence is aesthetically pleasing:

The front fences:

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Side fence on the southern side:

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Side fence on the northern side:

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And this was how the backyard looked when we moved in:

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We’ve been planning to address the fence situation since day one. One of the challenges is how to handle the different types of fencing we have. We could never find a perfect solution without burning a big hole in our pocket, and there was more urgent and structure fixes in line (roof! I am looking at you). Therefore, the fence project waited.

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This summer, we pledged to get the fence upgraded. It is hard to spend money on replacing things that are still functional – we cannot help but feeling a little guilty whining about our first world problems. But we both want the fence to be upgraded. The dislike to the chain link kept bothering us, especially after we have put all the effort into landscaping the front yard. We knew in our heart that the key upgrade to our curb appeal is still going to be a brand new wooden fence.

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And not just any wooden fence. It needs to be a statement fence. A fence calls attention to itself. Our house is rather unimpressive (aka ugly), so we really need a fab fence with modern  feels to make the whole property look up-to-date.

Inspiration

interior design ideas brooklyn fending horizontal bluestar gardens

To make this fab fence, we decided to take the following steps:

1. Replacing the front chain link with 6′ cedar fence

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As you can see from the pictures, our current front fences are aligned with the back of the house. It resulted in two side yards that are largely useless. All we ever do with them is mowing.

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To increase the usage of the side yards, we plan to build the new fence more forward to the street, indicated by the spray paint line in the picture below:

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The exact location of the new front fence was an easy decision. Our neighbor on the North already has a wooden fence, so we will line up our front fences with theirs to make the street view look more uniform.

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The new fence line sits about 2/3 towards the front of the house, approximately 18′ forward from the original chain link. It will not only provide us over 600 sqft of new “backyard” space, but also includes our HVAC unit and one basement bedroom window into the “backyard”.

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The new fence line will meet the house just behind the other bedroom window. We could not move the fence to the front of the window due to the location of our gas meter. Luckily this window is tucked behind an evergreen and hard to see from the street, we feel pretty good about taking the views of easy targets off the street.

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One the other side of the house, a more forwarded front fence will provide a landing pad for unsightly trash cans and clothing line. It can also be used as a parking spot for Slav’s trailer. We will be building a 10′ wide driving gate here.

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2. Replacing the southern side fence – Another chain link

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On the lot line between us and our neighbor to the South, we have another section of chain link. It joins with a panel of wooden fence at the very back, which connects to the back fence.

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The back of our property significantly slopes down at the last 20 feet. The back fence is actually built on top of a 5′ tall retaining wall, but the chain link on the side follows the slope and runs downward. It ends in the yard of another neighbor, who shares this corner with us. This property just changed hands and the new owner has three really reactive and barky dogs. As a precaution, we blocked this corner with a sheet of plywood, because we are fancy like that.

This is the view from the back of the plywood. You can see neighbor’s house in distance.

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To replace the chain link here, we will remove its entire length as well as the wooden panel above, and build a new 6′ privacy fence on this side. It is difficult to decide on the height because we are pretty close to our neighbor on this side, and their dog plays with our dogs along the fence. We need to find a way for the dogs to continue playing. Design challenge accepted.

3. De-chain link-ing the un-neighborly double fence

This next situation made us scratching our heads a bit: the front yard chain link wraps around the northern side of the yard and directly against another wooden fence, which I assume belongs to our neighbor to the North:

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This chain link fence does not provide much function except being a very effective trash trap. See the elm trees coming in between the two fences? They were not planted intentionally. They came up like weeds and because of the chain link, there is no way of removing them.

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The chain link also runs down into the yard of north side neighbor’s towards the back. And the way it joins neighbor’s fence? I have no words…

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Why is the chain link even there? We dug into the permit history for both our property and neighbor’s. Apparently our chain link was built first. Then when comes to the time our neighbor to the North constructed their fence, it was put up against the chain link. It is not uncommon, but to me and Slav, who grew up in villages where neighbor’s were close, this type of situation is just so bizarre.

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But hot mess no more. We will remove the chain link on this side and repair our neighbor’s fence at our expense. As soon as the chain link is gone, trash (Elm) trees, your days are numbered.

4. The back fence stays put

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We are lucky to have at least some wooden fence in the back. It was built in the 80’s and still have some life in them. They are not pretty by any means, but there is a retaining wall right behind it and it is just better to let the sleeping dogs lie.

This is the back fence when we bought the house:

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We trimmed the dead trees around it, power washed it, and refinished it. We also planted fruit trees and climbing roses in front of it. So it stays.

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The overall scale…

Based on our current plan, we have 130 feet of 6′ cedar fence to construct and 200 feet of chain link to take down. This is gonna be our last outdoor project for 2018. And we are rushing to finish it before the ground freezes. This post has gone longer than I planned, so I will leave the actual design of our fence to the next post. There is no shortage of challenges with building a fence for the first time. And we are welcome any advice/suggestions you might have. Also, if you are in the Greater Denver Area and know anyone who could use 200 feet of chain link, let us know!

 

Front Yard Video Tour – A Year Long Transformation of Our Curb Appeal

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Thank you for all your kind support through our front yard overhaul. We could not be happier with the newly mulched flower bed in front of our house. It is such an improvement of our curb appeal, and many neighbors stopped by to tell us how much they love and appreciate what we did. 🙂

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Adding curb appeal has been a goal of ours from day one. It is not just about changing the appearance, but also to improve the function. The unsightly are often not maintained, which means they do not perform well or even cause issues to the house.

When we moved into our ranch last summer, the front of our house looked like this:

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Immediately we could see three water issues: the flower bed right against the foundation, the sinking patio that directs rain water towards the house, and several rusty window wells failing to protect basement windows.

So, soon after we moved in, the foundation planting bed was removed. Last fall, we replaced old window wells, and graded around the foundation with drainage rocks.

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To address the sinking patio issue, we had to remove the front patio completely. The rusty awning went with it, which might be our biggest curb appeal improvement yet!

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Before winter hits, we also replaced the leaky roof and gutter, painted the soffit and fascia, and restored the front doors (1, 2, 3)

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All these actions not only made the house water-tight, but also improved its appearance from the street. We went into out first winter with the front of the house looking like this:

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And this is what the front entry looks like today. The glass storm door has been the pups’ favorite spot to look out:

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Not too shabby, especially when compared to the Before:

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This summer, we decided to give our front yard a large overhaul, consisting of the removal of >600 sqft turf, planting a privacy hedge, and adding a retaining wall and a dry creek.

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And today, our front yard look like this:

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Instead of this:

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We packed 64 perennials in this 600 sqft space during the last 6 weeks. It is nice to see all of them started taking roots and showing growth. Here is a short video walk-through of the garden area:

The mulched flower beds and evergreens not only improve the curb appeal, but also save irrigation water and are more inviting to native wild life. We want our house to be a safe haven not only for us and our two dogs, but also for native insects, birds, and small mammals that need a home they deserve.

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These arborvitaes were planted at the peak of the summer in 95 degree heat. They definitely struggled a bit during the first a few weeks. But most of them bounced back nicely and have put on an inch or more new growth.

The mock orange we planted last weekend:

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The winter berries were planted a month ago. They did not grow taller, but are definitely getting denser around the base.

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This dwarf pine was also planted in the middle of summer, but has been growing fiercely.

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This sandcherry was the last one planted, just five days ago. It is still recovering but I have high hopes for some delicious berries next Summer.

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Of course we had to have Colorado’s state grass – the Blue Grama grass – in our yard:

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And the Shenandoah switch grasses have already started coloring up for Fall. So pretty.

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These larkspur and bubblemint hyssop were planted last weekend. And guess what – they bloomed!

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More hyssop – they bloom red and have a more low-mount form.

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Isn’t this silver brocade sage gorgeous?

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Penstemon, butterfly weed, and sedums. Love the colors!

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So GORG:

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We also planted lots ground covers, including prairie winecups, creeping phlox, and veronica:

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To make the garden more inviting to wild life, we put in a bird feeders and bird bath. We also installed drip irrigation and a new hose reel to make watering easier.

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This area under the mailbox did not get as much attention this year, but the plants we put in have done very well.

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Here we have two rosemary plants, one lavender, a red hot poker, and a rose bush:

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Here is another short video in which I talk you though the additional upgrades in the front yard, including the under-the-mailbox planting:

I hope you enjoy to see our “new” front yard in these videos. They are filmed just yesterday so this is truly what our yard looks like now. We are proud of this little corner garden in the making, and hope you like it too. Please consider to start a pollinator garden, put out a bird feeder, or add a bee house too! I just learned that native pollinators feed up to three-story high, so even you are living in an apartment, they can benefit from your flowers too!

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