Variety Pack: Outdoor Version, Part Two.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Okey dokey, last we left off on our outdoor Variety Pack, I had finished staining the deck and was dismayed at the outcome.

What came next was a whole lot o' nothin'.  I pretty well could not get outdoors for one reason or another so fast forward to late summer-ish into early fall.

In the big move out of my parents, Mike and I inherited a pair of their garden art pieces with a couple more to come.  We got a cute little bug and a tall triangular piece.

planters with rusty VW Bug
Cute bug.  Not sure if it will stay here or move to another area yet.  Orange deck.....sigh....
Mike was bright (ah ha, pun) and put a lit torch inside the triangle so it was glowing and throwing cool shadows everywhere and keeping mosquitoes away.  Smart guy!

rusty sculpture
Triangle piece.  Some of my planters did not do so great this year.
We were planning the tall piece in the front yard but Mike's worried someone will steal it.  Fair worry.  It'd be nice out there so we'll see.

Next docket item was trying to improve our grass situation.  Insert head shaking chuckles here.  Constant weed struggle insanity we have plus I am entirely too sick of the yard looking crappy.  It's come a long way, wow, yeah, but not long enough.

backyard grass before
Here's the back yard before I gave this project a whirl.
Wow, check out the comparison of the plants to last year, holy cow!  Boy, they really really took off though in the photo above, they're past their big summer prime.  Nice!

Now look, I know grass is not the most sustainably environmentally popular thing these days but we are midwesterners and Mike likes his grass.  Plus he won't let me plant up the whole scape and Finn needs uh, rest areas, so it's gotta be something.  Grass it is.

As you may recall, in the spring I threw down a bunch of corn gluten meal.  And while it helped somewhat, it's clear the amount going down needs to increase dramatically.  On the to do list for spring '18 already.

But now that it's fall, I'm seeing all these things about "Seed Now!" and "Fall, Best Lawn Time!" and "Now!"  Dammit, I should give it a real shot this year, or at least a better shot, in an effort to have good lookin' grass for the future.  Right?  Right.

So I researched.  As I do.  This on overseeding was helpful and I had read that that technique helps to choke out weeds.  Score.  Plus it's easy to do.  Double score.

One site suggested strewing seed then mushroom compost over it then fertilize.  Be forewarned my friends, I read up on mushroom compost and after digging (ah ha, a yard pun) discovered that some brands contain cocoa shells, aka potential dog killers.

I emailed one company, Markman Peat, inquiring of their mushroom compost ingredient list, if there were any bits of cocoa related items but they never responded.  Needless to say, I did not buy their stuff nor any mushroom compost.

Instead I headed over to Home Depot and bought six bags of Miracle Gro Nature's Care Really Good Compost.*

bag of Scott's compost
Weeds.  Weeds.  Weeds.  And more weeds.
I know, if I were a good girl I'd be making my own but we don't have a decent spot to give that a spin (ah, another pun!  What a day!) plus the city has a major rat problem.  The bugs and the flies, ugh no thanks so instead, lame urban chick:  buying it.

Real sucky?  It's stacked outside at the store without any cover above, hence the compost was drenched.  That equated to heavy heavy bags and spreading-evenly-throughout impossibilities.

I ended up ripping open the bags in an effort to dry them out over the course of several days.  That helped.  Sorta.  More days would have been ideal but drizzle was in the forecast, I wanted to take advantage of the free water.

So the process went as follows.... mid-September, spewing of grass seed about, our usual favorite winner guaranteed-to-work seed, Midwest Master.

Grass is highly regional, I learned:  cool climate or warm climate and by type of grass that grows best in your area.  So our winner, while not an inexpensive seed, hits all the right notes and works every time which is priceless.

After the seed, the compost went down as best I could considering its soaked state.  And I have to say, it looked like Finn took big ol' dumps everywhere.  I mean, yeah.  Kinda obscene.

front yard with clumps of compost
Poopy bombs ahead oh wait no that's just soppy compost clumps.
And because it was still mostly wet, iiiccckkk, it got smushed into his feeties too.  Gross.

backyard with clumps of compost
Yep, towel at the ready there to clean dog feet.  Ew.
Bonus:  it has uh, cow poop in it so he uh, was quite attracted to it with his uh, mouth.  Blurp....Yuck.  As a result, Finn is watched like a hawk and wiped down even more so than usual.  If that's possible, heh, poor guy!

Regardless, moving on, yuck, the compost will act as a soil amender, improving drainage and ground nutrients.  Very good.

After the compost, I launched Milorgranite Organic Nitrogen lawn fertilizer* around (find it locally -- whooie, cha-ching, too pricey on Amazon) as it's pet safe.  But no, I don't have a spreader;* I wear gloves and scatter by hand.  Surely any spreader would broadcast larger than our yard, heh.

Once the fertilizer was down out front I reused the bird netting, another guaranteed winner product.  Sadly I could not use netting* out back as Finn needs a potty somewhere.

My current full time job therefore, and Finn's, is constantly shooing lil' wrens outta the yard.  I did not spend all this oodles of cash to plump their wee tummies with tasty grass seed.  Sorry.

A month later, another bag of seed for good measure, more wren shooing and sweet, improvements duly noted.  Green and grass and grass and grass! So, pat on back, so far so good.  Whew!

front yard after
Yes, it needs cutting.  For these after shots I swear up and down I did not pump up the photo saturation at all.  Our neighbors must think I'm whack-a-doo nuts taking photos outside so much.  "What is her deal....?"
The real true test of my hard fought efforts will be what pops up next spring.  Penciling in being showered with accolades by Mike hahahahahahaha.

backyard after
It's the Milorgranite, the nitrogen, that amps the green.  Nice!
I think I read I'm supposed to throw down another round of fertilizer but I'll double check that first as killing off this hard work is extremely undesirable.

Finn sniffing the yard
Oh hey big boy!  Watch that mouth!!  Yeah wow, improved grass and I am quite proud considering I'm more of a plant murderer than enabler.
As I was hanging out near the spiffy plants, I snipped off a healthy handful of the seeded coneflower heads, rawr I'm so cruel, and buried whole heads alongside our east fence and out front out front around the big tree.  We shall see how that pans out next year.

I should plant more.  Why not, right?  They are stellar butterfly and bee attractors.  Not to mention super pretty.  Maybe the more I put out front, the more the bees will stay out front and not in the back where Finn is always trying to eat them.  Just like Hailey used to, eye roll.  Talk about scary.

Oh right, speaking of the fence out front though.  I painted the whole thing.  Yep, the whole thing.  The entire stretch took easily ten hours to do, split over three runs at it.  I'd been dreading it for, well, years, since we moved in.

Especially as spots here and there were rusting so I had to scrub the rust off which I did using wire brushes.*  Next came this Rustoleum Rust Reformer* liquid stuff and then paint over it.  Seems to be working pretty well so far.  We'll see what a cold and snowy Chicago winter does to it.

But man, whew, that's a lot of freakin' iron fence to paint.  And oh yes, I was head to toe covered in black oil based paint.  Under my nails, in my hair, the back of my arm, on my cheek, up and down my legs -- I, I don't know how this happens.

Pete the sweeper stopped over, I got to hear several arguments walk by, some heavily perfumed people as well as some very stinky people meandered across, saw neighbors quietly mocking my task at hand, even saw neighbors who are never spotted outdoors so, heh, it was quite interesting.

Though I must admit, once I got rolling the painting became kinda zen.  Messy but zen-ny.

I'd show you photos of before and after but hey guess what, it looks exactly the same.  Mike didn't-even-remotely-notice exactly the same.  "Oh you painted the fence?  The whole thing?  Oh."  Soul crushing.

But all right, circle back around, if anyone wants seeded coneflower heads, lemme know, I got a slew and I'm happy to share!

Right, I mentioned the rat issue in these parts.  All along I've known we have two dryer vents on the east side of the house but never paid much attention to them.  Do I know which one is in use?  Nope.

One day I decided to peer under the hooded one (the other is a shutter type) and saw that it's just a big giant hole.  The flap wasn't closing.  While there's no evidence that any special friends have made attempts to enter the house this way, why not ensure it doesn't become an invitation.

dryer vent outside before
I got this and I got this.*  The latter is freakin' huge.  Ha!  The former doesn't show the short circular vent part on the back in the photos.

Out I trundled to the gangway, unscrewed the vent cover, and attempted to skooch it out.  It appeared to be of the type that has the long end* and since I know zero about dryer ducting and venting connections, I crammed it back in lest I screw everything up badly.  Because I would.

sliding dryer vent out
I'm sure that hole in the side there is um probably not good.
Always know your limits, my friends.

Since the half round holes on the cage type did not line up with the holes of the existing vent cover, of course why would they, I drilled some new ones through the plastic.  Of course too, the cage type cover was so large, only one side could screw-align.

Hence I used two existing screws then drilled out a hole into the brick and tacked down the opposite end with a Tapcon.*  Though the screw didn't go entirely in, it's 'sall-right, the darn thing is sturdy as nobody's business.

Tapcon screws
Hey, Tapcoms, all right!  This photo share is mostly to reinforce the Finn as constant underfoot assistant aspect of my life.
No guests welcome here.  Yeah.  So there.  Ok, done!

dryer vent cover attached
Not earth shattering but a check mark off the list nonetheless.
One of these days we need to ask our neighbors to the west to let us down the gangway on that side.  They lock their gate.  We've never been.  We really ought.

While I was out front seeding, I noticed my lil' patch job of concrete gaps cracked to bits.  Well that sucked.  I mixed up some concrete and took care of the gaps around front and a few in back.

patching gaps in concrete out front
Bottom left is refilled, an empty middle area there, then the cracked stuff at the top.
Later I read a Bob Vila thing about patching concrete, "don't use concrete."  Ah well.  In a few years when it all busts apart again, I'll use something else.  Although these aren't cracks per se....well whatever, we'll see what happens and I will research then.

Oh yeah, we had a huge gigantic torrential rain onslaught around these parts after going I dunno, what, like months without rain.  And whoooooie it came down in sheets and barrels.  Turns out it was a record breaker.

Anywhoooo, yes the yard flooded.

backyard in rain
Yeah, that's pretty mmm, not great.  This is late afternoon after a full day of falling water, the halfway point of the weather, the yard at its worst for the event.
It didn't seem as bad as it should have been considering the quantity of non-stop all day all night heavy rain.  Ok, it is bad but I've seen worse with less rain.  So, go gravel pit!  The best part though?  Our basement did not flood and we did not get a knock on the door from our neighbor to the east.

Whhhhheeeeewwwww!  Yes.

Got another Variety Pack ridiculously awesome cake recipe for you:  Mexican Chocolate Cake with Mascarpone Frosting.  OOOH-mg was this cake good.  OOh-mg.  The only change I made was less cayenne as I was making it for my mom's birthday and I didn't want to toast my parent's taste buds.

If you have nine inch pans (this calls for eight), no worries, use them and drop the time by ten minutes as I did.

It was another Mike "this is good" several times out loud cake so yeah, winner.

Ok!  Catch you real soon!

*The Milorgranite fertilizer, broadcast spreaders, bird netting, wire brushes, Rustoleum Rust Reformer, dryer vent cover, the long end dryer vent cover, and Tapcons are Amazon affiliate links.  The compost-y stuff is a Home Depot affiliate link.  Mwah, thanks!  Please see the "boring stuff" tab for more info.

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