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Returning the Nutrients

Photo of a lavender plant with leaves around the base

Part II: Putting the Garden to Bed

There is no better garden than next year’s garden.

Unknown quote, but it’s my favorite saying

But First, a Snack

Before putting the garden to bed, it’s always a good idea to give the soil and any perennial plants a snack before bed. They might not “eat” during the winter, but they will be awfully hungry upon waking and it saves you time and effort when you do it now.

Photo of the garden bed and my rake

For the garden beds, I give everything a good rake and add some all-purpose fertilizer. The soil put in a lot of hard work this summer, giving everything it had to my plants, so I make sure to mix in some fertilizer and compost at this stage. This gives ample time for the fertilizer to absorb and compost to decompose. I’ll do this part again in the spring, too.

The Perfect Comforter

After putting down some fertilizer and compost (don’t forget the compost around the base of your perennial plants like the lavender and hydrangeas!), I get ready to put down a thick layer of leaves. We have a ridiculous number of trees on our property and they don’t all lose their leaves at the same time. This means I am moving leaves for the better part of a month. When I get tired of blowing the leaves and bagging I take the opportunity to create the most perfect comforter for my garden. I like to use put the bag attachment on my push-mower and chop up the leaves before dumping them on the beds – but you don’t have to do that if you can’t.

Why Leaves?

First of all, they are bountiful – at least in the part of the country where I live. I find there is no point in buying anything expensive or fancy when Mother Nature is providing me with the best all-natural and organic mulch.

Second, as these leaves decompose over time, they prevent weeds from sprouting up and unwanted seeds from landing on the soil to sprout down.

Third, like any store-bought mulch, they do a great job of maintaining soil moisture and temperature.

Fourth, the leaves ultimately breakdown and add to the nutrients in the soil as another form of compost.

And just like that, you’ve put the garden to bed for the winter. Remember to turn off and unhook any hoses you have out and tidy up any trash. I’ll see you in the spring when we help the garden to wake up!

<<Part I: Planting the Garlic

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Say Goodnight and Sleep Tight

garlic and cloves on white surface

Part I: Garlic Planting

It’s November and getting quite cold in upstate New York, so it’s time to put the garden to bed. It was plentiful this past summer and the best gift I can give it is to give it a good rest and a treat.

But First, the Garlic

I’m still learning to be a better gardener every year. I make sure to jot down my notes in my garden notebook so I can implement changes in next year’s garden. Some veggies always do well and others, never. Some, like carrots, I am convinced can do well, I just haven’t found the right method or technique. Garlic is one of those plants for me.

Fresh garlic scapes from the summer

I am obsessed with garlic. I put it in everything, I make garlic confit and garlic olive oil. Next to salt and pepper, garlic is a guarantee in every dish I make. It was a logical next step when it came to expanding my garden. The summer of 2022 was my third season growing garlic. To date, the only thing I have successfully harvested and used has been the scapes. But I know I can figure this one out. I feel confident that this year would have been a success, if it were not for the extreme heat and drought of July and the fact that we were away on vacation during one of the hottest weeks, thus cooking my garlic to a crisp.

How to Plant Garlic

Garlic is a bulb, obviously, and like any flower bulb, they are planted in the fall. This is because bulbs need vernalization in order to root properly and develop bulbs come spring. Basically they need the cool temps to start growing roots before going dormant in the winter. This gives them the best chance to grow and be ready in late summer. Garlic takes a long time to grow.

Map of USA Hardiness Zones.

I live in Zone 5b, but you should take a look at your zone and decide the best time to plant. According to the USDA Hardiness Zone map, I should be planting garlic around mid- to late-October. However, I’ve noticed in the last couple of years I’ve had to push that back into November because of warm falls. I don’t want my garlic to prematurely sprout and, ultimately, rot or not develop properly. It’s become harder to guess when the ground will freeze, but my goal is to get the garlic in the ground 4-6 weeks before then. Typically this means the daytime temperatures are now in the 40s or 50s and the nighttime temps get close to or just barely dip below freezing.

What Kind of Bulbs Should I Use?

There is no law against using garlic from the grocery store, but you will probably be disappointed. I did that my first time growing garlic and, while the garlic did sprout, I didn’t get much in the way of scapes and the bulbs were microscopic. These garlic bulbs tend to be of poorer quality for growing and may be designed to stay small or not grow much at all. Think about it – the last thing you want to buy in the grocery store is garlic with green shoots coming out.

garlic and cloves on white surface
Choosing the right garlic can sometimes come down to trial and error

I’ve taken a couple of approaches. In the fall of 2021, I planted some garlic that had been gifted to me from friends who grew their own garlic. This was the garlic I was most excited about but then died in the drought. I did get some fantastic garlic scapes, however, so it wasn’t a bust.

This year I am trying out two types of garlic bulbs: one from the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds collection (German Extra-Hardy) and one from my local farm store, which specifically sells seed garlic. Both types are hardneck varieties.

When planting garlic, or anything in my garden for that matter, I don’t follow the rules of keeping everything far apart. Sometimes it works (like with potatoes or carrots) and sometimes it doesn’t (like zucchini). I absolutely take the approach of “well plants in nature don’t follow this rule and they turn out alright.”

Photo of a garden bed with leaves as a preparation for winter.

In this case I buried the garlic bulbs, points up, about 2 inches into the ground and a few inches apart, mostly in rows. This bed is entirely dedicated to the garlic, so I didn’t feel that organizing them was necessary. What’s awesome about garlic is that you don’t need a bed or formal garden to grow it – just a big pot, soil, and sun. You will want well draining soil to keep the bulbs from rotting. My natural soil in the ground is sand, but over the years I have added some garden soil and compost, so it’s a good mix.

Missed the timing for this year?

Don’t sweat it! Get ahold of some garlic bulbs ASAP and get a big pot. You can plant some garlic in the pot and keep it in the house or in your garage for a couple of weeks so it can get established, then put it outside to freeze.

Part II: Returning the Nutrients >>

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DIY Fabric Softener

plastic bottle of detergent in studio

I hate waste. In my household, we try to live by the three R’s; Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. There is a reason that Reduce and Reuse come first in the three R’s, too. And if you’ve been seeing the news over the past few years, less and less of our recycling is actually being recycled. This is where my DIY fabric softener comes in.

If you’re like me, you never run out of shampoo and conditioner at the same time. If you do – you need to tell me how because I can never line those up! I also get bored with my shampoos and conditioners and tend to change out the scents or the brands with some regularity. So what to do with all this extra conditioner? Make fabric softener!

Fabric Softener vs Dryer Sheets

There are so many arguments in favor of one or the other. But once again, I am trying to reduce waste and constantly having to throw away used dryer sheets just wasn’t in the cards anymore. Plus, dryer sheets can coat the inside of your dryer and reduce the efficacy of your lint trap. They also make your towels less absorbent.

Fabric softener from the store also has it’s problems, don’t get me wrong. It keeps your clothes static-free, but can affect the fire-resistant qualities of some children’s clothes. And there’s usually that big plastic bottle to recycle.

DIY Fabric Softener

I guarantee you have all of these ingredients in your home, so you can throw this together at any time. I also had a large drink pitcher that I wasn’t really using anymore, so I keep my softener in there. But you can always reuse an old fabric softener jug.

Ingredients:

DIY Fabric Softener
  • 1 cup of hair conditioner
  • 3 cups of white vinegar
  • 5 cups of hot water

The water absolutely MUST be boiled before you start this project. It’s not specifically required for the assembly part – rather, you need distilled water to kill off any bacteria in the water. This allows you to make a large quantity without it “going bad”. If you think you won’t go through the softener fast enough (as in a couple of months), you can always add phenonip to prevent mold and bacteria growth.

I toss all of these ingredients into the giant pitcher, give it a shake and BOOM – instant fabric softener. You will notice that the fabric softener will separate when left alone for a little while. Just give your container a quick shake and add to the machine.


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Strip that down for me

Stairs Update

I hate the stairs in my house. Like nearly every bit of wood trim in the house, they were stained a very dark, very dated brown. It’s hard enough to bring natural light into our home, living at the bottom of a hill in the woods. When we first moved in, I attacked nearly every bit of dark brown trim with off white paint (Swiss coffee). As we’ve remodeled, all of the new trim starts out as this color. Doors are painted (campfire ash) before they are even hung. But now I am ready for a DIY stair remodel.

The way before

I wasted no time painting the side trim of the stairs, but everything looked dark and dingy. While the sellers were aiming to do some quick and cheap improvements, most of them were superficial and just looked awful. I figured a little paint certainly wouldn’t make it look worse.

For some strange reason, the upper half of the stairs had been poly’ed. I have no idea if that was new or old, but in addition to being ridiculously unsafe (duh) it made the lower stairs look particularly like garbage.

The semi improvement

Painting the risers and the handrail spindles certainly improved matters. Whenever anyone is looking for a nice, dramatic improvement, painting the risers and spindles always looks great. This served us well for 6 years.

My current mess

The cheap carpet that was put down right before we moved in. In the past 6 years it has quickly become matted, stained, and no longer truly cleanable. I am counting down the days to a new floor. Before we did that, I decided it was time to attack the treads on the stairs. If I couldn’t rip them out and replace them, I was going to do my best to make them look completely different.

The lower stairs were fairly easily stripped. I bought this varnish remover from Home Depot. This stuff is no joke, so be sure to wear gloves, glasses, and ventilate your space. It probably helped that there was no finish on top of the stain. The second set of stairs proved to be much more difficult and it is an on-going saga. I was able to successfully remove the poly, but not much of the stain. That will be the next “step” (haha) in the project. So stay tuned!

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A Kitchen Spruce Up

The Backstory

The kitchen hasn’t been touched yet – but it was time for a kitchen spruce up. When we moved into our home in 2015, it was from a very tiny apartment and so the kitchen felt enormous to me. The new kitchen had about 5 times the counter space (I may have about 6 usable feet right now, so don’t be too impressed). We bought an island from Bed Bath & Beyond and we had a bookshelf that had been used as a pantry from two apartments ago.

The bookshelf was helpful; it housed some pantry items, but also cookbooks and other non-food items. When our daughter was born, we had to stop using the bottom shelf for storage for obvious reasons.

I thought it was finally tie to up the ante and make some floating shelves for the kitchen for storage.

DIY Kitchen Shelves

I ordered brackets on Amazon that look like pipes – I thought it would be an interesting aesthetic to bring into the kitchen. Plus all of the fixtures in the kitchen are a dark, bronze-y color. I purchased these.

I then went down to my favorite lumber yard, Hankle’s, out in East Nassau, NY. Last time I was there I saw these maple boards and I knew I wanted them for something. 2 x 12’s were ideal for my needs and they were kind enough to cut them down to size for me.

After bringing them home I sanded the heck out of them; I purposely chose rough cut because, well, I didn’t want to pay an arm and a leg while lumber prices were soaring. If you decide to save yourself the effort, definitely go for a more finished board.

Making sure everything is square and fitting properly.

Because of the width of board that I chose and the brackets I picked out, I did have to run it on the table saw to make sure it fit properly in the bracket.

After sanding, I conditioned the wood and then went with my favorite Danish Oil as a stain. I took extra care on these and let them dry out for a few days before applying my clear wax. I’ve become a huge fan of the clear wax finish this past summer. As time goes on, it hardens and protects.

Install time

When it was time to install everything, I had to double and triple check every measurement. I did NOT want my shelves to be crooked or out of level. I drew all over the walls. This was an instance where my 4 foot level really came in handy. I also made sure to drill right into the studs. This was going to hold quite a but of weight and I wasn’t going to mess around. As a result, it is a touch off center, but as time has gone on, it’s not even noticeable now.

I started out by finding my studs and marking the center of the first two. Then I repeated the process down the stud at each desired shelf location.

Moment of truth

I confirmed each pair of markings was level by using the 4 foot level and drawing right on the wall. Then, I grabbed the flange piece of the bracket and lined up the holes onto the stud and marked those. Some of the holes did go beyond the stud, so I drilled those out and installed anchors; but I made sure that as many holes as possible were lined up on the stud. I checked for level one more time!

Then the fun part – I screwed on the “pipes” and plopped the board on top, making sure everything fit properly. I checked for level again. Once all of my boards were loosely on the brackets, I took my 4 foot level and made sure they all lined up together. They may not be centered on my small stretch of wall as a whole, but I was absolutely going to make sure they were off-center together!

The final product!

After securing the boards to the pipes with the included under-mount hardware, I took a step back and admired my hard work. Good luck and have fun!

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DIY Room Renovation

Utility Room Makeover Edition

How it Began

We bought our 1977 raised ranch back in 2015. At the time of purchase, some of the rooms had been spruced up, but others not so much. Being a raised ranch, there is no dedicated basement space (the whole lower level is considered a “basement”). Thus began our DIY room renovation experience!

Now, when we moved in, we were just barely 30 and had spent the previous 5 years moving on an almost annual basis. We owned the bare minimum of stuff. But we also made the assumption that this would be our forever home and if our parents were any indication, we’d begin amassing “stuff” sooner rather than later. Thus, the need for a dedicated utility space. The junk drawer of the house, if you will.

This was our very first reno job. B had worked in home construction for a small contracting company in the summers from late high school through college, so he had some basic knowledge of putting together a room. My experience involved watching episodes of Ask this Old House and other home improvement tv shows.

The Before

This room had the least updating to it. Just a little bit of new carpet. That’s it.

I get the cheap white carpet and the disgusting brown trim – the owners were looking to sell the house quickly with a minimum of $$$ spent on a little facelift.

The photo above may look like a nice little room with some wood paneling, but you would be wrong. That “paneling” was glorified cardboard on the wall. And it was glued, stapled, and nailed to the drywall. Effectively destroying the drywall behind it.

The During

I really had no idea what I was getting into here.

Safety first! With hardly the right tools, we took to demolishing the room in mid-January 2016. I foolishly thought this might only take a few weeks. It was just us back in those days, so I also didn’t feel like I had to get it done quickly either.

The aftermath of the wood paneling take down
A complete gut
Replacing hoses and such

We took this bad boy right down to the studs. Good thing, too, as we found evidence of mold (which would continue to haunt us for the next few years as we renovated more and more of the downstairs).

Pro tip: when taking apart the baseboard heater, or anything that you may have to put back together, take photos of the process. You’ll thank me (and yourself!) later.

These heaters are tricky to take apart and those fins are very touchy

Our raised ranch has an exposed foundation half wall all throughout the downstairs. I think keeping it exposed was a stylistic preference of the 1970s and 1980s because I see it in other homes like this. At the time of this project, we decided to keep the wall exposed, as it does indeed make a good shelf. In our den, however, we covered over it.

Drylock for the win!

With every renovation downstairs, though, we’ve make sure to pay special attention to this feature. Each time we took the time to paint over the cinder blocks with Drylock. This helps prevent moisture and seals everything up. Vapor barrier and insulation was also added.

In fact, we insulated the heck out of this room. Both on the outside walls upping the R-value and also on internal walls. Eventually we started using the green, sound-deadening insulation in future renovations. Highly recommend!

The regular pink stuff. Works fine for sound-proofing, but the green stuff is better!

When it came to choosing paint, I knew I wanted a bright utility room. It was so dark in there; back of the house, one window looking out under the deck, on a piece of property without much light to begin with. I went with Behr “Bit of Sugar” and “Hidden Sea Glass”

I also recommend always taking a picture of the can top for reference

Pro Tip: When choosing paint colors, grab a lot of the paint chips and take them home. Hang them up in the room in different places and check the paint color over a period of a few days. Lighting will change in your room throughout the day and it’s a great way to see how the light in your space interacts with the paint chip. This method has never steered me wrong! It takes some extra time, but you won’t regret it.

The After

Eventually, time caught up with us and I was expecting; All the stuff that had been in the utility room originally had been moved into the downstairs spare bedroom. The upstairs room was the office/spare bedroom and everhting in there needed to go downstairs. I was due in December and by October I called in for reinforcements.

Vapor barrier and insulation. We were able to save a lot of the framing on this side of the wall, but we had to build all new framing on the other side.

My parents came and helped moved the furniture downstairs and helped to paint the utility room.

We turned the far wall into a workbench space

One of te very final steps was painting the floor. We didn’t see any point in replacing the carpet, especially if the room was going to be our basement room. We picked up some garage floor paint and it turned out great! Pretty stinky, though, so make sure to open up all the windows and wear safety gear.

It’s also easy to clean, too!

We finished with a month to spare. Whew! I’d say it was a successful first attempt at a DIY room renovation.

Voila!

Check out my other home improvement projects here!

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DIY Garden Bed

Looking to up your gardening game this summer? Cedar garden beds are the way to go – and they can be easy to create and pretty affordable. Step away from the fancy kit and build your own in a day – for a lot less. Let’s DIY a garden bed!

Up close image of the garden dirt
Watch out for surprise roots!

Our backyard is a pretty steep hill. But it’s also the sunniest spot in the summer and our veggies grow best up there. I discovered this by accident last summer when a mystery squash started growing like crazy on the hill. I already planted some potatoes and carrots before I had the idea to build a terraced cedar garden bed into the hill.

Supplies

Head over to your local home store and pick up some cedar fence pickets. There is a reason why people use cedar for fences – they are durable, last a long time, and are rot-resistant. Thus making them ideal for garden beds.

Grab some wooden garden stakes while you are there, too.

In terms of tools, you’ll need a shovel, mallet, circular saw, tape measure, level, and nail gun (or any tool that can join two pieces of wood, e.g, screwdriver, drill, or hammer)

Prep

I wasn’t looking to make anything particularly fancy. It was a Sunday morning and I had a lot of other jobs to do. Cedar fence pickets are ideal also because they come in 6 foot lengths. That seemed like a reasonable width to my garden bed.

I started out by deciding where my very first board would go. Keeping things simple, I went with a 3 foot depth for the beds. Gearing up to dig, I measured out 3 feet up hill and started digging until I was close to level with my starting point. Once I had dug out most of the soil, I started to check for level. I wasn’t looking for a perfect level, but I also didn’t want to have any major sloping.

Then, I repeated this step for the next tier until I had a rough area to work in. Next, I stacked two boards and checked to make sure they lined up with the next tier. This became the rear retaining wall of the bed.

Build

Here’s where I started to work with the wood. I took the two retaining wall boards and placed them on my work surface. Using the nail gun, I affixed two garden stakes to the back of the boards. This was to join them together and give the wall something to grab the earth below it.

Two boards joined together
The back retaining wall

I then proceeded to hammer them into the ground and checked for level.

Checking for level.
Love it when it finally levels.

It was a quick job to measure out the halfway mark on the board to cut the sides of the bed. For the sides of the beds, I only used one row of boards. I cut the additional garden stakes down into shorter lengths and nailed one to each end of the 3 foot board.

When I installed the 3 foot boards, I hammered them level and then nailed the front board to the garden stake that was already nailed to the 3 foot board.

Attaching the boards to each other
This adds stability and keeps everything together.

And just like that I had made two tiered garden beds before lunch! Make sure that you line the bottom with weed barrier and bring in some compost and soil for your beds. Enjoy your beautiful garden and impress your friends with a DIY garden bed.

Almost finished product
Just about finished

Because I use our own compost, I will be letting this bed do it’s own thing this season. I am sure some mystery plants will pop up!

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Building the Fire Pit, the Fire Pit Adventure Part 5

We are finally at the pièce de résistance, time to build the DIY fire pit. While the patio might require more skill and patience than the average homeowner may posses (although everyone is capable!) the fire pit itself is easily achievable by anyone.

The Stones

I chose these stones from Home Depot. I am a fan of the tumbled look and because of the shape, they easily form a circle. These were also an affordable option; if you are looking to just make a pit, these stones are a good option to make a professional-looking fire pit for under $100.

If you recall, early on in the project I dug down about a shovel’s depth into the ground. I added gravel to help with drainage. If you find that you have a more dense soil, such as clay, I recommend a few inches of gravel to help with drainage.

Fill the pit with gravel for drainage

In addition to your choice of stone for the pit, you’ll need to grab some construction adhesive. I bought this Loctite brand, but after I ran out I found some more in the house, but actually in the right color this time. Make sure you pay attention to the color listed on the bottle; I didn’t and I bought white – and the stones are gray.

The Build

Start out by laying out your first row; take the time to level the stones out as best you can. If you are using even bricks, this will help keep everything level as you work up. Tumbled bricks will make it a little more of a challenge to be perfectly level, but it works well enough.

Level out the bottom row

After laying out your first row, dry fit your next row. Lay each brick on the joint between two bricks of the row below. This helps to keep the wall of bricks strong. Dry fitting the bricks is a good way to be sure that you have enough bricks (hint: I didn’t do this on my last row and I was short 4 bricks).

This is the color I should have gotten the first time around.

Use a healthy amount of the construction adhesive and let the bricks sit for a bit before poking at the bricks. Once everything has set, you will find that the bricks are pretty immovable.

Dry fitting the next row

The Liner

I decided to line the inside of my fire pit with a galvanized fire pit ring. For some reason these are ridiculously expensive at most home improvement stores. I did a quick Google search and I found this one at Ocean State Job Lot for about a third of the price.

My DIY fire pit is a bit of an odd size and not a perfect circle, either. A second lesson I learned in this part of the process: perhaps use the liner as a template for your circle. To be honest, I didn’t think I was going to use a liner, so it was a last minute decision. To make the liner fit, I assembled the four pieces together, but I overlapped the final joint.

Happy campfire season!

I decided to fancy it up a bit with 6 bags of black river rocks and boom, hot dogs for dinner tonight!

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Set in Stone – the Fire Pit Adventure, Part 4

Creating a diy paver patio is the newest learning experience for me as a Weekend Warrior. I’ve seen it enough times on Ask This Old House and YouTube, but this was the final exam. And let me share with you what I did right and what I did wrong.

Close up view of the paver joints in a diy paver patio.
The concrete sand base came up too high in some sections. Lesson number one.Close

Lesson One

Choosing the stones and laying them out was the easy part. But there is one thing I wish I paid a little more attention to during this stage – keep the joints free and clear and at least half an inch to an inch deep. This would be important to the success of my paver set. More on that in a minute.

After making sure everything is nice and level, I brought out my polymeric sand. This is key in a diy paver patio. I was pretty intimidated by this product at first. It’s basically designed to act like a grout, joining the pavers together and binding them in place. Short of masonry mud, this is going to keep everything together – so no pressure.

I went with the gray to blend in, but it comes in other colors.

Lesson Two

I initially started out with just two 40-pound boxes, but four were ultimately necessary. And in all honesty, here is the second lesson: don’t skimp on the polymeric sand. Having some depth in the joints is key to a good, solid set.

The instructions are simple enough, clean the work space, dump the sand, push broom it into place, tidy it up, and water it like your lawn. The water is what jump starts the binding agent. It takes about a day or two to set. It’s important to follow the instructions specific to the brand you buy.

Using a push broom to get the paver set into the joints between the stones.
Pushing the sand into the joints.
Applying water to set the polymeric sand
Growing a patio this spring.

Lesson Three

And here is lesson number three; the instructions on my brand specified using a leaf blower to clear out dust and debris in the work space. I wish I had been a little more aggressive with the leaf blower to help clear out those joints.

Up close of the broken sand joint. The lessons of a diy patio.
In the places where the sand was too thin, it flaked right up.

I ultimately had to go through some spots, dig out the paver set that was too thin and re-do some sections. I made sure to have at least an inch of depth between those joints and I filled them generously. To be as efficient as possible, I recommend using a funnel to get the sand right into the joints, where needed.

If you have the ability to rent or buy a compactor to vibrate the sand into the crevices, definitely use that. Otherwise, plan to tap on every paver to make sure that the sand gets into every area around the stone.

It was really exciting to water the stones and check the progress the next day. Even with a few mistakes, it’s coming together really well! I’m thrilled that I am done with the diy paver patio portion. Come back next week for the final part of my adventure with the fire pit. See you soon!

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Bringing in the Flagstones – The Fire Pit Adventure, Part 3

This was the exciting week – the patio pavers arrive! There was a lot of hand-wringing on my part when it came to picking the patio materials. I am the type of person that must love an item before purchasing, no matter what.

As you recall, last week I wrote about making an un-level patch of land level-ish. It was exhausting. But figuring out exactly what I could buy that met my expectations was a bit of a challenge.

I went back and forth in my mind between going for a rustic, natural look or a crisp, polished look. In the end, I knew that the outdoorsy, natural look was the way to go. And that meant flagstones over brick.

I was quite sore after this particular day.

If money were no object, I would have gladly purchased a few pallets of the gigantic flagstones at my local Ace Hardware. But I didn’t think spending $2,100 on a patio was a good idea. So, plan B.

The first batch of flagstones were decent-sized, about 2 feet at max length. Some were pretty heavy. The ultimate challenge with flagstones is making the space level. While I did a fairly decent job of leveling out my surface beforehand, it basically meant nothing because each and every flagstone is of varying thickness and texture. As a result, one corner of the area (near the hole, of course) required quite a LOT of pavers base (upwards of 6″), while the opposite corner required the bare minimum of 1″.

My three tools were a one-foot level, a four-foot level, and a rubber mallet. Each tool had a specific use; when installing the pavers, not long did I have to make sure that the entire surface area was level, but each stone was level in multiple directions.

Levels come in a lot of sizes, the most important is to have a fairly long and short level for this project.

To make things a little easier, I started with the largest stones around the circle where the fire pit will be. Making these all level to one stone set me up for the rest of the pavers.

This was the last easy part.

Definitely a painstaking process; picking a stone, leveling the stone to the nearest level stone, and then confirming that the whole piece was level.

Rain put me off for a few days, and either because of the rain or because I just didn’t notice before, but one whole section was completely sloping and I had to pull out great pieces of the patio to repair it. The sooner I can get the paver set in, the better!

You can see the larger pavers in their places in the background.

After setting the largest stones, I had another batch of pavers brought in by a friend and started filling in the gaps to try and bring the spaces down to no more than 1.25″.

Up close view of the paver design
My daughter was able to contribute to this part, looking for smaller stones.

Hopefully the ground will be dry-ish by Sunday so I can begin the paver set process. Stay tuned!