Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sigh of relief...

Well, I saw the thunderstorms coming yesterday evening and went to bed around 10:30 because I had a feeling I'd be getting up. The storms woke me up around midnight, and some of the bomb-like lightning strikes spooked the dog. So I had to go down to the living room to ease his fears and try to catch a glimpse of radar.

I have DirecTV, and I have no complaints...I expect that it will go out during a severe storm, and it does. OK. But, from about 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. yesterday, I think the Weather Channel showed a closeup of the Chicagoland radar maybe once. All they did was talk about stupid tropical depression Bonnie.

I digress. I happened to notice the insane amount of water in my backyard. I began to get nervous about the basement flooding again. Fortunately, the sandbags are a near-permanent part of the landscape around the stairs by now. But I was worried about the sewers backing up into the house. The street in front looked fine -- no flooding. But we just dropped a pretty penny to have our sewer line power-rodded and scoped, and the city had replaced several lengths of damaged sewer line in the street that may have contributed to our last sewer backup.

So I waited "in between" storms to go out, check the catch basin (no backup!) and drop my pump down it, just in case.

Thankfully, for once, we got only a minor bit of seepage in the laundry room, which I knew about from last year's not-so-epic-anymore flood. That flowed into the drain and out of the house. Same with the little bit of water that seeped under the sandbags.

So, even though we had more water in our backyard than I've ever seen (O'Hare airport, which is due west of us, recorded 6-7" of rain in 24 hours), the basement survived this round. It's nice when investments pay off, particularly in the realm of mental sanity.

Several bloggers I follow weren't so lucky, and my condolences go out to you...and, even though I didn't suffer any damage, I will be heading down to my buddy's house in Elmwood Park to help him tear tons of stuff out of the basement. He had about a foot or more of water throughout. So my thoughts are with all of you...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Vegetable raised beds retrofitted and extended...

In order to lay patio pavers around my raised veggie beds in the back (and once and for all end the flooding back there!), I had to make some modifications to make life easier -- in other words, limit cutting of pavers as much as possible. I'm not looking for "perfect" or "beautiful" here, I'm just trying to get the pavers down right, but easy.

Anyway, to refresh your memory, here is a photo of the four raised veggie beds as they originally appeared (this is actually a picture of three of them...the fourth wasn't finished yet in this photo, in the back).
3 garden beds

So, I had to pull out all the blocks and bricks and replace them with more permanent cedar boards. I also took the closest bed to you in the picture and doubled its size to 8 feet long (toward the camera). So now it sticks out past the garage (see the corner of the garage in the lower left). My plan is to "build" a sandbox for my son (and second kid too, obviously), to the left of the long raised bed, in the new corner created by the bed and the garage. That would give them some shade when they're playing. But that's a project for another time.

So, today I finally finished replacing all the blocks with wood, and that means I can move on to starting the paver process. I will try to take pictures next time I'm out there, because I should mention that I did all this replacement and adjustments without digging out any of the veggies I had planted. :)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

It took roughly 3 summers...

...but the east fence is down (with an assist from Mother Nature) and the entire length of it is more lawn. You can see way in the back of this picture the hedge-row I planted.
I had to raise the ground up next to the sidewalk, so I had to build a half raised bed type of thing to level off the ground. It's part of why the back floods. The sidewalk is a good six to nine inches below the alley and the neighbor's yard.
Since the neighbor (as evidenced in this photo) doesn't have a garage, I wanted to create a little bit of privacy without the privacy fence. Plus, my neighbor's garden is beautiful and quite large, and blends really nicely with my thin garden here. You almost miss entirely the chain-link fence in between.
So, in the back, there are five shrubs -- two varieties. I needed something that wouldn't get much wider than about 5 feet (and that would need to be pruned, likely), but would grow 6 feet or higher.
I went to Lurvey's nursery in Des Plaines after researching my brains out in books and online. I had two plants in mind...and thought -- with the help of the helpful consultant there, that getting both would lend some variety to the row.
I did not want a plain-old boring privet-type hedge, and definitely didn't want evergreens. I wanted to have multi-season interest, and was hoping to be of assistance to the birds, even.
So I bought three Red Chokeberry bushes and flanked them with two Blue Muffin Viburnum bushes.
In the fall, I should have a burgundy and red leaf show. In the winter, red and blue berries, and in the spring, plenty of white flowers.
As for the rest of the garden here, this year (knock on wood) has been the best year so far for my perennials (which is, actually everything you see here). This photo is a little older, so I'll try to take an updated one sooner than later. But things are just blooming, growing and staying "under control" pretty darned well.
I'm really pleased, and wishing I had more space now! :)