Monday, April 05, 2004

more rain delays back yard work

As told, we have been in LV for almost a year now - April 6 marks the one year aniversary of being in this house. We have been doing a lot of things here. One of the most obvious has been to change most of the grass over to 'low water landscape' usually referred to as Xeriscape. There are three main reasons for this.
When we initially were looking to buy houses we looked at this one over Thanksgiving weekend a year and a half ago. It was a nice house, with a huge yard (.62 acres - big for Las Vegas). Our house in SD had over a half acre also, but mostly in varied landscaping and partway down a canyon. This house here had a flat yard that was all grass. It looked like a football field out back. That intimidated us. But when we finally sold our house in February and the one we wanted here was already sold we came back looking. After thirty or so houses, we looked at this one again, and decided it was the best of the bunch - and we were used to changing yards. My wife and I are both UCSD Master Gardeners, and so we usually have dirt under our fingernails. (yes, we wash, but it's the reference not the literal interpretation). Well, on to the 3 reasons:
1. It is a hugh yard to push a lawn mower around. And with watering grass in LV grows during the summer (actually, all year) and must be mowed weekly. Lots of non productive work.
2. We got our water bill for last June (the first hot month) - over $400!!!!! Needless to say, that was when the grass stopped being watered.
3. The water authority has a conversion program, pull out grass and put in Xeriscape, according to their directions, and they pay you $1 per square foot.
Well, reducing our water bill (July's was $130) and being reimbursed sounded great. The $1 per foot payment usually amounts to half of what it costs to converty your yard, if you have a landscape company do it. Doing it ourselves would result in a lot lower cost.
So, we proceeded to spray the yard with Roundup in order to kill the Bermuda - which grows in hot weather and thus must be killed in hot weather. We filled out the Water Department forms, and had our yard inspected prior to conversion (to prove that we had grass 'before'). Waiting until it cooled off after Thanksgiving, we proceeded to dig out the high water trees and shrubs, and cover the dead grass with mulch. Most people use gravel, which is available here in over twenty colors just for this purpose. We wanted more of a desert look, and so went for small crushed rock and 'fines', which looks like dirt but is the same color as the other stuff and costs about the same. 100 tons of this stuff later, two days of a backhoe for digging and a Bobcat for spreading the stuff, and we had a desert in our yard. We put in thirty trees and about fifty shrubs, all on the low water approved plant list. We then had an 'official' after inspection, and they measured what we did. It came out to over 10,000 square feet of grass removed. Having spent about $3500 so far, the rebate (paid in cash) showed up and we then planned a concrete patio for the back, just behind the house. Considered 'hardscape', patios and walks can be part of the conversion, as long as at least 50% of converted area is shade covered by plants on the approved list. Our 30 trees will give about 120% coverage when fully grown, so we are OK here.
Our journey through contractors to put up the patio has been interesting. We had three bid eventually. We picked one. Told (after we signed the contract, of course) that they were tremendously overloaded with work and it would be a few weeks. Two days later we awoke to find a tractor and six guys tearing up our back yard. Unanounced, they showed up as they pleased and didn't show up when promised.
Concrete was supposed to go down last Friday, but we woke to an unexpected event,

It was raining, and water dripping off the roof onto the patio location was splashing up a new ditch. It rained all day, and no one showed up or called.
Hoping that the crew would show up this morning at 6:45, the scheduled start time Friday, we set alarm clocks for 6:30. Again, lots of noise out back at 6:15, of course it was the concrete crew preparing the yard. So today was spent watching them pour 18 yards of concrete, and finish it up. It looks pretty good - but a 1200 sq foot concrete patio and walk really looks big - like room for a tennis court. We are planning on a shade cover, more measurements for that to come.
Not putting up anything for a few days - here's some random images.
We went to Costco last week. There is a Sam's Club right near our house, and Costco is a ways away from us. But I have an aversion to Wall Mart, and how it reduces small town businesses and strangles all of their employees, so I refuse to go there and go to Costco instead.
Right across from Costco is the local Cox Cable office. They are the television cable supplier in the valley, and I use them for my internet access also. But their building looks like this:

I call it the mushroom building. At least it looks like the roof is full of mushrooms to me.
And we had a beautiful sunny day last Thursday - before the weekend of rain.

I like to look at the sky full of stripes - planes going from LA to wherever back east. The laft/right ones are to LA, the two from the top are San Francisco towards Phoenix and Texas.

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