Terrific Broth

Beijinger in Denver | 北京人在丹佛

Category: Gardening (Page 1 of 4)

Ranch House Tour – Our Yard

Ladies and gentlemen, it is house tour time!

Since moving in mid-June, we have been working very hard on our ranch. It has been 7 weeks today! I am happy to report that we had just reached a sweet spot yesterday, where all the major eyesores of the house were gotten rid of, and our main living area was cleaned up. That means we can sleep and cook in a clean house like a normal family, instead of just creating more dust and more chaos each day. I am sure that the pups appreciate it! Charlie and Roxie were really not fans of loud noises and sharp tools.

Our timing could not be better – I will be starting a new full-time job tomorrow, and Slav is picking up the pace of his business. For the next month and half, we will focus 95% of the energy on our work – the work actually brings in money rather than burning holes in our pockets! We also cannot wait to experience our neighborhood – shop at our neighborhood farmer’s market, start doing yoga again (for me), subscribe to local newspapers, and have Sunday brunches. You know, like actually live in our home, not just working on it.

But do not get me wrong, the projects are still happening. There has been so much we’ve done and I’ve still not told you yet! To be clear, I am not holding any information back intentionally, it is just that we’ve done so much and so quickly, and this one-person blog could not keep up.

Now the ranch house no longer offends people’s eyes, I think it will be fun to shoot some video tours and show you what it looks like now. This is the “after” to the “destructive” part of our renovations, but a real “before” to any of the “constructive” renovations we will be doing. I will show you our yard and exterior of the house today, our main floor living space tomorrow, and our basement and garage through the rest of the week. I will also share with you our plans for each space. So get cozy, grab a cup of coffee, and read along – it will be a fun week!

Without further ado, this is our back yard:

I made a mistake around 1:15 in this video calling the chain link fence “east side”, it is actually facing west (the front of our house). You can see our site plan (and floor plan) here:

Ranch Site Plan

The back patio has changed since I made the site plan. Here is what the site looks like now:

Ranch Site_2017 Summer

Since move-in, we have

  1. trimmed the dead trees and random bushes and gotten rid of weeds;
  2. power-washed the back fence;
  3. gottten rid of the satellite dish on the roof;
  4. installed a new back storm door with a doggy door on it;
  5. Installed new electrical panel at the back and raised the electrical pole on the roof;
  6. demo-ed the old patio and the metal awning;
  7. replaced an old window well; and
  8. built a new concrete patio and brought in a new grill and patio seating.

Slav also started to refresh the shed we inherited, which was badly rotten and used as a construction trash dump:


And this is the backyard now:



Yesterday, after the video was filmed, I spent 12 hours weeding in the backyard and probably got rid of 1/4 of the ground coverage there:


See all the weeds on along the fence? All gone!


The northern side of the yard were taken over  by little tree sprouts:


And it gets really bad near the shed:


After 12 hours of work:



It was not cool to see bare dirt, but not all the green plants are good and some of them just had to go.

Roxie does not seem to care about the dirt – this girl just needs her sunbath:


Besides finishing shed, our plan for the back yard this year is to replace the chain link fence. Here is our foreseeable backyard to-do list:

1. Mowing and weeding the yard to maintain the sod we have;
2. Renovating the garden shed;
3. Replacing the chain link fence;
4. Fixing the wooden fence on northern neighbor’s side so we can take off the chain link fence there;
5. Starting composting;
6. Fixing faucet leaks;
7. Grading along the back of the house;
8. Finding an outdoor sectional and a fire pit for the patio;
9. Landscaping and gardening next spring.

We have also done a lot to the front of the house and front yard. Shortly after we moved in, we trimmed the pine tree so it stopped scraping the roof, weeded the yard, and got rid of a problematic flower bed.  More recently, we improved our curb appeal by cleaning up our porch, taking off the metal awning and demoing the old patio. Just last week, we refreshed our front entrance, which really made a difference of our curb appeal! And here is what the front of the house look like today:

I totally choked on words towards the end of this video, because we really did not have a clear plan for side and front yard. We knew that we would like to bring in evergreen shrubs – arborvitae and red berry holly would be lovely. I would also love to have climbing roses on trellis as well.

After the fence is complete, the side yard next to the garage will be enclosed into the backyard. We will put in a big gate in the front and potentially make a side patio next to the garage for Slav to park his trailer. We also tossed around the idea of a trellis roof for growing grape vines:


The northern side of the yard slopes down significantly to our neighbor’s driveway. It would be nice to plant a line of arborvitae along our property line to add some height.


This side of the foundation are exposed due to the yard slope, providing an opportunity to carve out a private entrance to the basement suite or installing egress windows:


We constantly walk around this tree at the corner and you can already see our footprints on the lawn. It is a natural choice to build a stepping stone path here:


We love holly trees and the red berries they put out in winter. It would be nice to have them as a low hedge along the sidewalk.


As far as flower goes, I love the simplicity and elegance of an English garden. One thing Slav and I both want is climbing roses on window trellis and potentially above the garage doors. It will soften the long straight lines of the ranch as well as bringing some colors to the front yard.

The whole landscaping thing is really new to me. Fortunately, Slav’s mom has a magical green thumb and our neighbors all have lovely landscaping and free plants to offer. If you guys have good ideas and suggestions, help me out!

Here you have it, our yard tour and garden to-do list. Come back tomorrow for our main floor living space!

Water, Water, Go away

Frontbed demo

Hi friends! I’ve told you what is in store for our ranch, which included a list of things we need to do to protect our foundation from water:

1. Replace the leaky roof and gutter
2. Extend the downspouts
3. Getting rid of the front flower bed
4. Correct the sloping issues of the front and back porch
5. Seal the corner foundation cracks
6.Fix faucet leaks
7. Grading around the house

This is THE list we have to cross off before winter. The roof, gutter, and porch work will be handed to the experts, and we have started working on the rest ourselves.

1. Removing front flower bed

You’ve seen our front flower bed before. Here is a closer look:



Landscaping right against houses is such a bad idea for any foundation, but lots of people do it for curb appeals. Our flower bed is a classic example – it is right next to the foundation of the house (the grey concrete part at the bottom of the house), and there is a vertical crack at this corner of the foundation:


You can see we have extended the downspout here (and at other corners of the house). But water issue from the bed itself persists.

Not surprisingly, the window well is badly rusted:


We enjoyed our morning roses for a couple weeks, but for the foundation, the plants had to go:




The roses developed very long and deep roots. We had to cut off the main root under two feet to move them. Not sure if they could make it. On the other hand, the irises were so hardy that they may stand a move in the middle of the summer. So I dug them all up and put them in pots with some soil.


I have nowhere to transplant them now, so I put them next to the curb with a “free plant” sign and they were gone in an hour!


The wood planks holding the flower bed have become rotten. It took Slav probably five minutes to take them down bu just some kicks. With little force, they crumbled into mulch:



While Slav is transporting the soil, I weeded around the corner. After an hour, this corner of the house changed from this:


to this:



Now our foundation can breath!


2. Grading around the house

We then moved onto grading around the house. The goal was to create a 3~4 ft barrier around the house with a slop of ~1 inch per foot, so any surface water can flow away from the house instead of sipping down.

Sloping is pretty straight forward – you pile soil near the foundation, compact them down and make sure that there is a good slop, then cover the dirt with 6-mil poly layer. To improve the looks you can put gravel, mulch, or even replant sod on top of the poly layer. Instead of purchasing dirt, we decided to slowly building the slop around the foundation using free dirt generated from other yard projects.

I marked the area three feet from the foundation, all around the northern and western (front) side of the house:


The northern side – there are two bedrooms on ground level and the two windows are basement bedroom windows.


The west side (front) of the house, next to the front porch.


When Slav removed the front flower bed, he dumped the soil along the northern wall, where I marked.



Rest of the foundations (site plan here) are mostly surrounded by concrete patio, driveway, or walkway. With the front bed taken care off, our next task on the “water” list is to repair the concrete porches. it is happening this weekend, and we should have new patio next week!

Now our to-do list looks like this:

1. Replace the leaky roof and gutter
2. Extend the downspouts
3. Getting rid of the front flower bed
4. Correct the sloping issues of the front and back porch (in progress!)
5. Seal the corner foundation cracks
6. Fix faucet leaks
7. Grading around the house (in slow progress) 

Things are moving along!

Let Us Take It Outside

One of the things that drew us to this house is the yard. Being a small ranch on 1/4 acre, the house is surrounded by large pieces of green lawn.



Shortly after we moved in, we did a walk-through around the yard and discussed what action we need to take. The yard is simple – there is not much landscaping except a couple trees and a flower bed. However, there was definitely some trimming and weeding ahead of us.

First, the pine tree in the front is scraping the porch cover and the roof. Our roof is already on its last leg. We really do not want to put more stress on it until we are ready to replace it. So the lower branches of the pine tree needed to go.


The backyard has a pretty healthy apple tree in the middle. However, the perimeter of the yard was aligned with dead trees and random bushes. they were either next to the electrical line or sandwiched between neighbors fence and our chain link fence, so they needed to go as well.






There was also a pile of old fencing and old branches on the side of the shed.


Last, there were so many weeds! The Sloniowskies have no tolerant for weeds.


Trimming and weeding sound easy, just like removing carpets. But it is actually pretty labor intensive and generates tons of trash. We were blessed with a cool (cold for me!) weekend in the middle of the mid-west heatwave. And you bet we totally took advantage of it to work outside.

Slav oiled up (his chainsaw) and got to work:




He cut down three completely dead trees, and a bunch of lower branches from the living ones. Look how much he cut off!


And the backyard suddenly looked bigger and much greener after all the brown branches were gone:



While Slav was waving his chainsaw in the backyard, I tackled the weeds. They were everywhere, like one every step. And we had some problem areas along the fence, under the tree, and around the mailbox.



Aside from the mianbox area, the right side of the front yard looks pretty decent. However, the left side yard did not look so hot. The grass near the fence was completely taken over by the weeds, creating a perfect trap for loose trash over the years.



After 6 hours of weeding, things started looking up:


And these was how much weeds I dug out of the yard! Two big yard waste bags!


After cutting all the dead trees and branches in the backyard, Slav started to trim the pine tree in front of the house.


The needles and pine cones from the tree covered a good portion of the roof and filled up the front gutter. Slav jumped on the roof and hosed everything clean.



Look how much needles came out of the gutter just below the tree! We plan to buy a gutter protector for the portion directly underneath the tree branches when we replace the roof and get new gutters.

Much. Better.


Believe or not, all the branches filled our 5′ x 10′ trailer, twice. Slav spent a whole day just to dump trash – one trip to a landfill for the carpet and other loose pieces we pulled off the house, and two trips to a yard waste center. But by the end of a three-day overhaul, we owned a weed-free and open yard!


It also made squirrel-watching a lot more fun for Roxie and Charlie. The pups are so on it! Sadly the two squirrels living in our yard are a lot quicker and smarter. I am pretty sure that they tease the dogs on purpose.


Did you do any summer cleaning around the yard? When Slav went to the landfill, he also got rid of the old grill left behind by the previous owner. We are getting a brand new grill – for the first time in our life time! And when we do, it is not too shabby to have a clean yard to look over!

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