Monday, June 30, 2014

Bricks Begin (Another) New Life

Remember this?
I can't believe it's been 3 1/2 years since I found, dug-up, and stacked all of these bricks. We've known all along that we wanted to use them for a variety of landscaping projects - and we are finally underway! Last week during our mini vacation, Scott had 4 yards (translation:  a big ol' pile) of sand delivered then he began his a long-awaited project: adding two rows of pavers to extend the apron of the concrete driveway. Check out the progress!
Extending the driveway like this will make it easier to back out of the north garage stalls. The process began by digging out the dirt with a hoe, then layering in about 2 inches of sand.
Scott is using the heavier pavers for this project, leaving the lighter-weight bricks for a different use. The bricks were brought to noTTafarm from their former home in Omaha's Jobbers Canyon, a warehouse district torn out of downtown in the 1980s to make room for ConAgra's headquarters. These pavers would have interesting stories to tell about the early development of Omaha!
It took a little time to get started but once a few bricks were placed, it became easier to add more and keep them straight and flat.
Many of the pavers are stamped "Purington Paver," or "Purington Block" but we did discover one brick that is stamped "Des Moines" and another stamped "Buffalo."
After the bricks went down, Scott tamped down the soil on the outer edge. The leftover dirt is being used to fill some holes and trenches made from recent rain.
A dusting of sand fills the spaces between the bricks. After the rain we had Saturday night, we'll need to repeat this step.
To keep the curve neat, Scott used a more narrow paver - stamped "Capitol." Looking good so far!
Stay Tuned for More Progress!

Field Trip: Scrap Central

My folks' trip to Napa Valley afforded us a rare treat. No, not a complimentary case of California wine but the chance to use my dad's F-150 pick-up! We took advantage of the truck's availability, and loaded it up for a trip to the scrap yard. Since construction began two years ago, Scott had squirreled away wasted metal and ductwork destined for the landfill in the barn. 
Bits and pieces of the old HVAC system, unused conduit, bits of copper wire, and other odds-and-ends were loaded up.
Scott briefly considered taking this old propane tank but decided that they wouldn't take it so he would find a proper disposal site.  (For the next few years, you can find this tank back in the barn. Feel free to take it home!)
Omaha's Scrap Central is a magical place! Where else could you find outdated ATMs stacked next to cubes of crushed pop cans and air conditioner parts?
This is where old appliances come to die - but only until the Scrap Central elves disassemble them and recycle the parts.
A small dumpster was delivered to the truck . . .
. . . and we emptied the truck's contents into the bin. The forklift then took it to the scale while we anxiously awaited the outcome. Would we earn enough money to retire? Could we buy a new patio set? Not quite . . .
. . . but, hey, $51 for an hour of work isn't bad!
Stay Tuned for Our Next Adventure!

Monday, June 23, 2014

"How I Spent My Summer Vacation"

The vacation days I took last week were devoted to the flower bed near the 1972 portion of the house. As you recall, the evergreen bushes that formerly occupied this area were victims of the severe winter so we had to take them out this spring. Their loss left me with a 26' x 19' x 5' space to fill.
Here's the "before." The beds were outlined and segmented by railroad ties. One bed was full of vinca which I have since relocated.
Each of the segments contained a different type of decorative rock. I found enough river rock on the east side to make a nice bed of it on the south side of the barn. The lava rock and the tiny white rocks that were in the south side were removed and taken by the wheelbarrow-full to their new home on the north side of the barn. I should have counted how many hours I spent pulling this rock out! Exhausting!
Poor barn! We hope to turn some attention to this side sometime this summer. We need to do a better job of arranging the odds-n-ends that act as weather-proofing.
Scott thought it would be a struggle to lift out the railroad ties but their age was in our favor and they crumbled when nudged.
The Ranger hauled the old ties down to the brush pile behind the barn.
Once the beds were cleared of timbers and rocks (mostly,) Scott spent a lot of time grading the soil. It is now properly sloped away from the house.
I made two trips to Home Depot Saturday to get plants. Most of these are perennials so should produce colorful flowers each year. I also kept the colors in mind so that Kathleen can use them for the wedding.
The plants include: Wand Flower, Cosmos, Coreopsis, and Cat Mint in addition to Star Aster and Angelonia. That little picture of my legs lets you know that I wasn't messing around . . . I was working hard - and I've got the cuts, scrapes, bites, and bruises to prove it!
Finally, by 7 Sunday night, all the plants were in and a nice layer of brown mulch was in place. I'm pretty proud of all the work and I think the result will be fabulous (as long as I remember to water and the deer read the plant tags that clearly state, "deer resistant."
Stay Tuned for Our Next Adventure!

West Side Story

Who needs a trip to the beach or mountains when you can spend a few vacation days at noTTafarm? Not us! We spent last Thursday and Friday at home, working outside on several projects. Scott's first task was the creation of a new flower bed on the west side of the barn. 
Like any good project at noTTafarm, you must begin by getting out the Ranger. It also helps to have kitties nearby (in this case, Wilson and Bibbers filled the need.)
After removing the grass and weeds, and temporarily relocating the solar lights, Scott indicated the final shape of the bed.
Scott pulled the bricks from our big stockpile. It's nice to finally have some of them in use!
Kathleen and I relocated the big pots from the cottonwood garden, and she planted them with geraniums and vinca. Good job, Kathleen! I plan on relocating some of the plants from the garden under the big cottonwood to this spot soon. I have also added some purple cone flowers which were "on sale" at Home Depot.
The final chapter of this West Side Story was the addition of a brick driveway for the lean-to portion of the barn. It began with excavation-by-hoe, and was smoothed and graded and smoothed and graded until the architect was satisfied that the bricks would sit level and any water would drain away from the barn.
The graded area was covered by a couple of inches of sand, then the bricks were laid in a herringbone pattern. Scott pulled out only the "Coffeyville"-stamped bricks, and arranged them in a specific way (of course.)
Ta Da!
After a dusting of sand to fill the joints, the mower now has a snazzy new driveway. Great job, Scotty!
Stay Tuned for Our Next Adventure!

CWS Brings Overnight Guests

Omaha's most popular summer tradition, the College World Series, kicked off on Friday, June 13th. Since hotel rooms are few and far between this time of year, niece Lauren asked noTTafarm to accommodate her and a few friends for a night. Who are we to turn away visitors from foreign lands (in this case maybe only as foreign as Kearney, Nebraska and Mitchell, South Dakota)? The five of them attended two games on Saturday (the 14th) and arrived at noTTafarm at midnight, sunburned and tired. 
Lauren's guests included Vanessa (her sorority little sis), Logan, and Kyle. The boys are big baseball fans and play on the team for Dakota Wesleyan. They were also fascinated by the number of turkeys in the west yard Sunday morning, and were itching for some hunting time. (*Side note:  hunting is not allowed at noTTafarm.)
Lauren also brought along her boyfriend, Dalton! Though they've been dating for several months, this is the first time Scott and I have met him.  We were impressed by his good manners and his willingness to put up with our niece. (Ha!) Dalton plays football at UNK and is a political science major.

They were all out of the house by about 10:30 Sunday morning, heading downtown for two more games. It was fun to have the house full of twenty-somethings, even if for just 12 hours. 
We Love Visitors!

Wedding Prep: First Things First

Scott and Pat took an inventory of the stockpile of lumber in the barn and determined that the first thing to build for Pat's upcoming wedding is perhaps the most important:  the bar. Scott was inspired by Kathleen's desire for a rustic outdoor wedding and some Internet images to design a bar made of wooden pallets. Luckily, noTTafarm has a nice selection of pallets leftover from the delivery of construction material. They started working on the piece a couple of weeks ago, and the parts are nearly ready for assembly. The photos included in this post were taken during the early stages of construction.
The plank at the left will be the top of the bar from which drinks are served. This piece used to be part of the stables in the lean-to portion of the barn. The beat-up and ragged appearance of the plank only lend more charm! A single 8 ft. wide pallet will be the front of the bar. You can see this one is missing a few of its teeth . . .
. . . but no worries! Since we have additional pallets "in stock," Scott was able to cannibalize one for parts.
Pat enjoyed getting to use the Sawz-All to cut down some nails, a hammer to add the new slats, . . .
 . . . and the power washer to do a deep cleaning of all the parts. Who know what has crawled around, over, and through these things during their two years in the corn crib?
After everything was power washed, Pat and I held the pieces together for a picture. Eventually, a countertop made of the leftover tongue-and-groove great room ceiling pieces will be added. The plans also call for wheels! Stay tuned for the finished product sometime before September.
The following night, the boys began the arduous sanding-and-poly coating portion of the project. As of today, all of the parts are sanded and finished with multiple coats of poly. Great job, Pat!
Stay Tuned for More Wedding News!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Playing Catch-up

I have lots of photos to share and stories to tell - but wouldn't you know the camera battery died when I was copying over the photos? So until I can get caught up, here's a photo of one of our new plants (Coreopsis). I hope to get something posted Monday evening.
Stay Tuned for More!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Three Babies Put on a Show

Turn up the volume and take a look at these three raccoon kits! Don't these little babies look cuddly? Scott captured a video of them frolicking in the trees east of the barn.
Stay Tuned for Our Next Adventure!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Photos of Yard Work are Boring . . .

. . . but pictures of baby Bennett are not! Scott and I filled our weekend with mowing, weed pulling, and rock-scooping - not exactly the best opportunities for beautiful photos. Lucky for you, dear readers, we had a too-short visit on Saturday from The New People: Kevin, Sara, and Bennett! Photos of Bennett are much better than any of home improvement projects, wouldn't you agree?
Bennett is getting so big but not so big that his mommy can't throw him in the air and make him giggle.
I seem to have this effect on little kids; they rarely look happy to see me. Despite that, Bennett promised to come visit again soon!
Stay Tuned for More!

Big Hail but Little Damage

A major thunderstorm rolled over the Omaha area Tuesday, June 3rd. The television weather teams had the community sufficiently worked into a frenzy with dire warnings of the impending doom. As I left the office at 4 pm, the tornado sirens began to sound and the sky to the north (towards home!) grew increasingly dark.  I raced home to noTTafarm just as quick as the Mini could go, barely getting in the garage before the first hail stone slammed onto the ground. Just a few miles north of us, in Blair and Fort Calhoun, hundred of homes and vehicles were badly damaged. We were lucky to get by with just a few dings on our gutters and some broken geraniums. In addition to 2.25" diameter hail stones, Omaha had record-breaking rainfall - in fact, it was the most rain in a single day this century! Scott was stuck at his office throughout most of the fun but made it home in time to see the pouring rain and the hail stones I put in the freezer.
Looking out the northwest stoop door soon after the hail began. It was so loud! The kitties scampered - Wilson headed to the basement and Leo ran straight upstairs (isn't that the exact opposite of what you should do?) I was so concerned about taking pictures that I didn't even think to take cover.
Smaller hail stones piled up against the courtyard wall on the east side of the house. The hail came from the north and west. 
I ran outside to pick these up so I could show Scott - my scientific knowledge of hailstones gauged these at "golf-ball-sized." 
Wednesday morning, Scott took a tour around the property to assess the damage. The cottonwood tree shed quite a few leaves and small branches! 
The lone damaged window was on the north side of the barn.
Many of our downspouts and gutters sustained big "dings" but the siding and roof appear to be OK. 
Bibbers helped survey the damage Wednesday morning. It may take a few days for us to get everything back in order but we're so thankful to be safe and sound at noTTafarm.
Stay Tuned for Our Next Adventure!