Rockin’ Around the Clock

Last week, spring seemed to have sprung.  Temps in the high 60’s and sunshine.  So we made hay.  Not literally, but we got work done while the weather cooperates.  Landscaping the back yard.  Montana is dry and our lot is essentially a dirt pile, so we’ve decided to use rock to help cut down the dust.  Boy, our house gets dusty quickly!

Boulders from our property at the base make a natural retaining wall.


Close to the pool house, we have to build stairs to connect to the stairs to nowhere.


After lining with weed-proof plastic, we layered large crushed limestone.


And filled in the gaps with small crushed limestone, meeting up with the stream and waterfall.  Later this year, we can add plantings to soften the slope and add interest.


Over the weekend we tested the waterfall.  (More about it soon).  And love it.  The sound, the look, it’s relaxing.

Once we get rest of the rock on the hill, we hope to pour our concrete patio.  Because right now we’ve got a dirt/mud pit.


Who’s excited to spend more time outdoors?  I don’t know it I’ll want to leave the yard once we’re done.

You Didn’t Have to Cut Me Off

Sorry, Gotye, but we wanted to.  Had to.  Did.  Cut concrete, that is.  For the basement windows to pass egress in the basement bedrooms at our first house, Ben hired a concrete cutting company.  When we decided to cut this concrete, we knew who to call.  A $300-400 bid wasn’t bad at all, so we made our appointment and got started a week later.  The process was interesting, and not only to the boys.  First, a metal guide gets bolted to the concrete.

Then the giant saw gets set in the track, hooked up to hoses, and starts cutting.

Following the guide, the saw moves on its own.  The guy, Pete, adjusted it along the way and changed directions until it cut completely through.

Once the bottom was cut, he switched the guides and cut the sides.  A nice shove and the concrete fell to the ground.

Over the weekend Ben and Sammy framed out the opening for a sliding door and double hung window.

Having installed a door and several windows made this easier and they had the new window and door in before the evening.

It’s a little more finished looking than last time, right?

And certainly different than what we started with.

Now the sliding doors are at the same height.

No more climbing up three steps to get to the wet bar, then down three more to get to the patio.  The back yard is looking worse than ever, but that means we’re one step closer to rebuilding.  Just a little more excavating, cutting down a tree, and waiting for spring to get started on our plans.  Speaking of plans, I figured it was time to share the ideas we’ve been tossing around.

(not to scale, just to give a picture)

Oye, that’s a lot to take in.  Let me explain.  Because our house is built on rock, there’s no way we could drill a well to water grass.  We’re far too cheap to pay for city water for green grass.  And Montana is too dry (especially this year) to keep grass green.  So, a large concrete patio should minimize dirt/dust in the house while giving us a space to relax.    Centered on the family room sliding door will be a pergola.  I’m thinking something simple and more modern than traditional.  Perhaps we’ll have an outdoor dining table under or we could go more toward an outdoor living room.  We’ll see where we land.  The rock stairs to no where will stay.

Some of the sandstone boulders we dug out will be used as a natural retaining wall.  But we carved out a larger area for a waterfall feature and a gas fire pit.

I’m thinking something rectangular like this bordering on the patio with moveable bench seating for maximum enjoyment.

A small stream will meander down the hillside to a waterfall with hidden storage pond below.  Hidden meaning we’ll use holding tanks to recirculate and keep an open pond from looking gross/filled with rocks deposited by little boys.

In the surrounding areas, we’ll add crushed limestone to further cut down on the dirt.  Drought resistant plants are on our list to add life and greenery.  Because the back yard connects to the driveway, a wooden walking path, or boardwalk, will connect the patio to a set of stairs down to the driveway.

Of course this is all subject to change as we gather inspiration, search out materials, and take measurements.

Yep, we’re officially crazy, but it should be totally awesome when we’re done.  My pergola dreams will be fulfilled.  What do you think?  What’s your dream for an outdoor space?  Are you already planning your spring landscape duties?

It’s a Cougar! No, Wait!

It’s a bobcat.  Having a cougar in the back yard (either a real cat or a Mrs. Robinson-esque lady) would be strange.  I much prefer the four-wheeled bobcat version we have.  A week ago, Ben brought home the bobcat from his work and started digging up the back yard.  To get the bobcat up the hill, he had to gently slope the hillside.

After an hour or so, he finally got the hillside finished and came into the yard.

Digging around, pulling the sandy paver base out was easy digging and went quickly.

Over the weekend, Ben really got to work.  All the stone retaining walls are too short/unstable/easy to break and don’t have the look we’re going for.  See what I mean?

Oh, the cross hatching you see in the picture above?  Just the window screen.  The boys and I hunkered down in the house.  Because broken bits of concrete were flying, we put pieces of foam insulation over the new windows.  How much would it suck to shatter a newly installed window?!?  So, my peeping Tom vantage points were limited, hence the screen shot.

Digging sand and dirt was the easy part.  Lifting giant slabs of concrete, not so much.

Trying to break it with a sledgehammer wasn’t working, so Ben used something with a little more muscle.  Lift…

Higher, higher, still higher.

And flip.  Broken pieces were easier to hammer to more manageable pieces.

Quitting time for Friday night.

With the fountain out-of-the-way, Ben set out to destroy the patio off the pool house.  Which included moving a giant rock.  You think I’m kidding when I say giant?  Take a look.

That is only the top part of it.  Here’s the bottom.  Yes, I was cringing and hoping it would work.  Ben is tenacious with that bobcat.  Oh boys and their toys.

Now we’ve got a giant pile of dirt.

This morning, the concrete cutter came out, cut the pool house opening, and left.  More details on that next week!

Progress, but it’s so dirty now.  Sand constantly in the house.  What does your backyard look like?  Or any other large equipment?