Backyard progress: adding the landscape cloth and edging

Memorial Day!  What a great day to get up early and put down the landscape cloth and edging!  And that’s what I did. (This picture also nicely shows off the asparagus.)

I love how tidy it looks! It’s so tidy looking that I’m a little sad it will be covered soon. And of course, it won’t stay that tidy forever, so it’s probably good I’m putting other stuff down.

I’m also a fan of the edging. That is the edging I wanted for the side yard project, but Lowes didn’t have enough last fall and wasn’t going to be getting more in until spring.

Backyard progress: the end of grading

When we finished the side yard, I had the happy thought that we wouldn’t have to do all the dreadful digging when we renovated the backyard. That wasn’t entirely true. The four inches of dirt we excavated from the side yard ended up in a pile in the backyard, and so we did dig for the back yard project. In this case, it was digging to move dirt around, which is slightly less taxing than excavating.

Here’s what things looked like early on. You can see the dirt mound at the apex of the yard. That had to be smoothed out. In grading the yard, we ended up adding dirt to the part of the yard nearest the house and taking it away from the part farthest from the house. The added dirt came from the mound. Plus, there was the excavating of asparagus roots. That was full-on hard digging.

But look!  We have finished. Matt stands where the mound used to be!

From the other end of the yard. You can see how we had to pile up the dirt near the point of our triangle in order to excavate it to the proper depth. You can also see the piece of plywood that served as our tamper. Plywood and body weight does the trick.

You can also see that the asparagus crowns have taken hold.

Here is our “mothership” stake. That was the stake most likely to not be disturbed, so we measured from it to find our proper grade.

I’m happy to have gotten through this phase of the project.

Progress on the backyard project

In two hours, we got some good work done on our backyard. Here you can see Matt smoothing out dirt we’ve moved to bring the grade up. We put strings on our stakes and made things level. Also, this is the widest part of the yard we have to grade, so that means that the work from here on out will go even more quickly.

I couldn’t bear to kill off the asparagus that has performed so well for me for so many years. So my job was digging up the old crowns and putting them in the trench I dug to plant the new crowns.

The old crowns are huge, especially in comparison to the spindly new crowns.
Here you can see one of the new stalks poking its head above the ground.

Once again the rain part of the day started after we finished our work. Good job, weather.

Backyard Rehab Report: 4/22/18

We started by weeding the side yard.  No weeds are happening in the path we put in last fall, but a lot of weeds were happening between the path and the house, where things need to be planted.

Next we put up our stakes.  We have stakes about four feet apart and then rows about five feet apart.  This way, as we level we can slope the dirt 1/2″ every row. We learned that the sledgehammer is the fastest at getting those stakes in the ground.

We even had time to move some dirt from the mound to a shallow depression in the yard.  This meant moving the chunks of concrete into a yellow recycling bin. We will need to discard the concrete chunks. Perhaps by slowly adding them to the garbage.

Excavating the dirt mound also involved digging up the asparagus crowns that have grown in the raised bed since 2009 or so.  They were originally planted in Leo’s yard in 2008. It physically hurt to dig up one of those crowns and discard it.

Still, it’s good to get started on the mound going away.  I’m looking forward to having a nice backyard to hang out in.

Also!  The rhubarb has returned! Both plants.  The one on the right side of the yard, closer to the shorter fence, emerged about three weeks after the one on the left next to the taller fence.  Guess which side gets the most sun.

Dishcloths: Arrow Point & Bachelor’s Puzzle

There are some good points on this Arrow Point dishcloth

I’ve just spent 15 minutes trying to figure out why the Bachelor’s Puzzle is called that, and have come to no conclusions, other than one quilter being amused that the Bachelor’s Puzzle makes a ring.

By making the ends four rows shorter on the top and bottom I can now easily get two dishcloths out of one skien of yarn.

Backyard redo: establishing shots

I’m taking classes to obtain a Copyediting certificate, and my course is four quarters long. After the first quarter, I decided to finish the course using an every-other-quarter approach. This turned out to be brilliant, because it means that I spend three months doing schoolwork and then have three months to complete a house project. Projects that would normally be started and then put off get done because I’ve only got three months until homework takes over my free time.

The side yard was the project between Grammar Lab and Copyediting I. Now we will redo the back yard as a bridge between Copyediting I and Copyediting II.

Here’s what we have to work with. In the fall I gave away the espaliered apple trees and we made a mound of dirt in the back corner because we had to excavate dirt from the side yard in order to put in the path. In the late winter I took down all the poles where the espaliered apple trees were and I also took down the bat box. We also disassembled the raised beds and the boards are still sitting there. Plus, the wheat I didn’t mean to grow last year has spread.

In short, the backyard needs some cleaning up before we start on the project.

A view from the edge of the new side yard path. On the left will be new plantings of asparagus, doubling the asparagus production for the yard. (!!!)  In the middle will be hardscaping of some sort.  Maybe flagstone?  We shall see what the budget allows.

From the back corner.  The right side will be the aforementioned asparagus. The left side will have something planted that is yet to be determined.  The already existing raspberry bush, blueberry bushes and contorted quince will stay.

I might be overly optimistic, but I think this might be an easier project than the side yard.  It’s a smaller space, for one.  Also, we know better what we are doing when laying stone.

Payoff! April report

While February was a very doldrums sort of month, for this project, March was awesome. And that was because I met my goal.

That’s right.

I paid off my student loans!!!!!!

You might recall that at the end of last month I was tempted to use my emergency fund to pay off the rest. But I did not deplete the rest of my emergency fund. That was because I knew I hadn’t yet done my taxes.

I’ve read a lot of financial advice that says that you should try to break even with your tax withholding. That if you are getting large tax refunds, you should adjust your withholding to get a larger paycheck monthly.

I can see the wisdom in that. But I also know that I love windfalls. And my tax refund–even though it’s my money the government has been holding for me and I haven’t even been earning paltry interest on it–my refund is a very fun windfall. Before the combination of YNAB and a higher salary meant that my monthly budget more or less met all my needs, my tax refund was a time of year to say, “oh good, I can replace my old shoes.” And I always used it for some sort of “treat,” sometimes a smaller treat in the one hundred dollar range, sometimes a large treat, like the computer I’m typing this entry on; which took up a big chunk of my 2009 tax return.

And this year, I knew that my tax return was going to go in full towards paying off my student loan.

So here’s what happened. Mid-March, my usual payment of $103.67 was withdrawn. I got an alert that my April payment will be $112. Due to the graduated nature of my loan, the payment gets slightly higher every two years. But I’m thinking, “If things work out, I’m not going to have to make that $112 payment.

At the end of March I make a good overpayment of $566.17. My initial budgeted amount was $498.67 and then I did not keep track of where the rest came from. Probably Matt paying me for food. That is usually in the $70 range. At this point, the amount left on my loan was $1,378.13.

But I’d done my taxes by that time and I knew my refund was coming. It arrived from both state and federal governments (thank you electronic transfer) and I turned right around and made a payment of $1,190.93 on 3/31. That left a balance of $187.29.

But what else happens on 3/31?  (Actually on 3/30 because 3/31 was a Saturday.)  That’s right!  I get paid. And when I’m slapping my money into my budget categories, I have more than $187.29 in my Goals: Loan Paid by 2020 category. Not to mention the amount I’d already budgeted in my monthly payment category.

So I did the thing that I’ve been longing to do for years. I clicked on the link that said, “estimate payoff amount.”  The amount, due to interest, was $187.36 and so I authorized that payment.

By April 2 my balance was zero.

I love that death squiggle at the end. Take that, loan balance!

I’m so very glad to have achieved this goal. And I’m quite proud of my progress. Since August 26, I have paid $13,537.68 towards this goal. And while $5852 was from my emergency savings, paying $7685.68 in seven months is nothing to sniff at.

Achieving this goal (and so quickly, as I had forecast June or July as the complete date) has given my confidence to go for my next goal which is to rebuild my emergency fund. And I have a yearly financial goal of saving 45% of my net pay. I think I can hit that goal, too.

Mr. Money Mustache says that when it’s time to reward yourself, to buy yourself a burrito, give yourself a pat on the back and set your next goal. I’m going to buy myself something a little bigger: a new computer. Of the list of things not bought in service of this goal (list: New computer,  Instapot, poetry post, reverse loft, emergency savings, tap dance, new slippers) it’s the thing I would like to do first. My computer is nine years old and while it’s a workhorse, it’s starting to falter. I don’t want to be without a computer.

After that, I’m going to set milestone goals on the path to rebuilding my emergency fund.

While all that is happening, I’m going to enjoy being a person only carrying one debt: her half of the mortgage.