i was in belmont early because i was thinking about borrowing the car and driving down to newton to see the boston marathon. but i've already seen the marathon 5 times in my life so it wasn't anything new. it would also take at least a few hours, and i had better things to do (besides, the live television broadcast is just as good, as it follows the lead runners all the way though). my sister said something about taking the dog to the beach, but hailey got a small scratch on her paw so my sister postponed the trip for possibly next weekend. that left me plenty of time to work in the backyard, where raised beds and rain barrels still needed to be finished.
no DIY project is complete without a visit to home depot, which was where my father and i were going to pick up more supplies. we needed more angled segments for diverting the gutters to our rain barrels. we were also thinking about building another smaller raised bed with the unusual dimension of 3-1/2'x4-1/2'. unfortunately when we got to the store we both realized neither of us had any money. so we ended up going back so my father could grab his wallet before returning to home depot.
while my father was resanding the picnic table (so he could apply a new coat of sealant), i was applying linseed oil on the small raised bed boards. hailey, who is normally terrified of power tools (which is good thing, because the farther she is from spinning blades or rotating drills the better), was mesmerized by the belt sander. i think she thought the sawdust was snow and wanted my father to toss it to her so she could catch it. when he ignored her, she circled the picnic table barking.
when i went inside briefly to eat some pan-fried chinese raviolis, my father continued with the linseed oil treatment. when i came back outside i saw that he'd also coated the newly-sanded picnic table as well. we were supposed to use australian timber oil on the table, but now it was too late. linseed oil will work, but since the table doesn't need to be food grade, the timber oil is a better choice. we can always sand it again next year!
how we arrived at that unusual 3-1/2'x4-1/2' is this: we originally wanted a small 4'x4' bed, but it wouldn't fit where we wanted to put it. what we needed was something more rectangular, so my father suggested skewing the dimensions. that way, we could purchase a 16ft long plank and cut it into two 3-1/2' and two 4-1/2' boards.
once this small raised bed is assembled, we will have 5 raised beds in total. i'm still not sure about the location of the 4th bed, the one on the western side of the house. 4'x8' is a bit large and it looks out of place. it would've been nicer if it was just a square 4'x4', and i've been toying with the idea of just chopping the 4'x8' bed in half to make two smaller beds. on the other hand, it's always better to have more growing space than less.
we finally "embedded" one of the raised beds (designated as the 1st bed), sinking it into the ground and adding dirt to the inside. since the frame had been sitting outside for more than a week, it'd already left an impression in the dirt and grass, which made were to dig much easier. once we cleared out the proper rectangular space, we put the frame inside. next came the leveling, making sure the raised bed had at least some semblance of being balanced.
making the raised beds is one thing; having enough soil to fill them is another. according to my calculations, each 4'x8' box would require a cubic yard of dirt. at around $30 per cubic yard (bulk delivery price), i was looking at an additional cost of $120. but just the dirt from digging out the space was enough to add a few inches to the bed. and since it's stil dirt underneath, it's not necessary to completely fill the box with soil before we start planting. the plan is the dirt level will gradually increase year by year, but for our inaugural raised bed garden, between 4-6" is good enough. at this rate, we won't need to have any soil delivered since we have enough (which also saves money). into the mix we added two more 40 lbs. bag of generic top soil ($1.50/bag from home depot) along with some homemade compost. we also picked out any rocks we saw and i crushed any grubs i encountered. the raised bed overlapped a section of grass, which we dug up and saved, hoping to use it to patch up the dead areas in the lawn (due to dog urine).
the final thing we did was to set up the downspouts for the blue rain barrel. we already set up the double terracotta rain barrels yesterday. now the only one left is the one by the southwestern corner of the house, near the dong quai plants which will need to be moved.
after dinner, while using the bathroom, i heard my sister talking exciting in the living room. when i got out i asked what was going on. apparently while my sister was "walking" hailey in the backyard, a thirty-something neighbor from a house diagonally across from us complained to her that our backyard was an eyesore. apparently from her upstairs room she can look down into our backyard and doesn't like what she sees, specifically how we pruned our maple tree, and the stacks of branches we have leaning against said tree. my sister was pretty incensed and when i heard what happened i was pretty angry as well. there's all sorts of wrong going on there, and if anything, it makes us purposely want to maintain our "eyesores" just to piss off that neighbor. what business is it of hers what we do in our own backyard? her property (a two-family condo, i think she just rents) isn't even actually next to ours. it's also a little creepy to think a neighbor is taking such a critical interest in what what we do at home.
i rode the motorcycle back to cambridge. i was afraid i forgot how to ride, but it all came back to me. the bike ran like it didn't miss a beat from the time i put it away in storage back in november. i was also afraid it'd be freezing because i didn't bring my bike jacket, but the temperature was pretty mild, actually a good evening for biking. it's nice to get back home for a change and not be entirely winded from a 20-minute bicycle ride. a little bit later i put the rain cover on the motorcycle.