Landscaping

It’s Not That I Don’t Like You. Sometimes I Just Don’t Feel Like Talking To You.

Last month I started to work on the backyard landscaping now that almost all of the updates to the house have been made. The patio is getting rebuilt and the back fence run is getting replaced later this year. I didn’t want to do a full privacy fence across the back so I decided to go with a 4-foot high wood fencing system from Home Depot. Now I like my neighbors, but there are times I want to sit on my patio not have to look at them or have them look at me. The solution is this series of tall planters designed by Fabien Joly. (sorry folks the link takes you to a Flash based website.) IRF is a collection of tall planters that have rectangular shapes and thin and high profile which makes them ideal for patios or terraces where you want a bit of privacy. Each planter is constructed of fiber cement and they come in a variety of colors ranging from bright green and blue to charcoal gray. With the tallest planter coming in at just under 4 feet tall these seem like a perfect solution to have a little bit of privacy while making the patio look better.

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Three Years and Counting.

Three years and two days ago, Kristy and I left the comfort of Union Hill and moved into our Studio 804 home in Rosedale Kansas. At the time this was a rather big step considering that we had been living in Union Hill for 10 years and had invested quite a bit of time and money in making our former home truly ours. So here we are, a third of the way through the time spent in Union Hill, and Modular 4 has transitioned in some capacity to reflect us.

Over the last three years we have replaced the failing Stabiligrid driveway with concrete. A move that didn’t sit well with the KU graduate students in the Studio 804 project. Part of me agrees with them. We did alter the original green driveway solution for something more traditional. Most of me says we did the right thing though. The Stabiligrid solution had failed after just two years. The heavy rain and snow that fell in the first year we were in the house caused the Stabiligrid to sink into the earth below it creating a 12 inch deep trench at the end of the drive by the street. Other sections of the drive sank as well, although not as much. The fact that Kristy and I both drove Mini Coopers says something. The total weight of our cars combined weighed less than a full sized SUV. I can’t imagine where things would be if we had been driving full sized cars.

This year, the master bathroom was remodeled to a much higher standard. The plastic shower surrounds, and hardware were replaced with a floor to ceiling tile shower, and glass wall. All the shower hardware was replaced with Kohler’s Oblo line of fixtures. The cheap IKEA maedicine cabinets were replaced with a recessed Roburn unit. Even though this wasn’t a full remodel, the end result was amazing and raised the value of the home considerably. Small upgrades were made to the kitchen as well with a replacement of the sink, and faucet.

Over the last three years we have been doing some landscaping. What I have discovered is this. When the former homes on the block were leveled to make way for the current houses, they were literally bulldozed into the ground. When I dig in the yard to plant a tree, I remove about 50 pounds of construction debris. I have to dig a hole three times larger than normal, and back fill around the root ball if I want the tree to live. Out of the 6 trees planted in the last two years, two have died primarily because their roots were cooked as the debris retained heat during the hottest part of the summer, or because the debris impeded the root ball from spreading and taking hold. The yard and landscaping has been the toughest work. Grass won’t grow in certain areas, and as it dies Bermuda grass moves in and takes over. Trees have been difficult to get started, and the flower beds have been only about 75% established. This fall the plan is to bring in 10 yards of soil and create a berm in the front yard above the section that is so filled with brick, stone, tile, wood, and other house remnants. I’m hoping that the berm will create a barrier and allow ornamental grass, flowers, and small shrubs to take hold.

On another note, three weeks ago we were burglarized. I know the neighborhood is a bit sketchy. It’s still not as bad as Union Hill was when we first moved in, but the burglary opened our eyes to a number of things. Our house sits on a dead end street, next to a three acre field that is half covered with trees. It’s easy to stake out the house, and it was easy for them to break in. Since we didn’t have an alarm, all they had to do was throw a hammer through the sliding glass doors facing the field and walk on in. With that said, a high-end alarm is now in place, and video surveillance is going up on the outside of our home. It might not stop a break in, but it will hopefully deter one. If nothing else maybe the video system will help catch the next person that breaks into my home or one my neighbors. The cameras see up to 90 feet in the dark, and record HD video 24 hours a day.

I’m still amazed at where we are. I can sit on my back deck and catch deer sneaking into the field at dusk, and at the same time I am a 5 minute walk from the 39th street corridor and a 5 minute drive from downtown Kansas City. Our house is in many ways located in an urban oasis. I can’t say how long we will stay here, but I know we have another year to look forward to. There is another bath remodel coming, an entry railing, and front door remodel, more landscaping, a deck extension and perhaps a basement addition; all of which is being done in a way that maintains the architectural integrity of the house, and the vision that Studio 804 had when they designed and built it.

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Fold It, I Need to Haul Some Dirt.

Once again another spring weekend is almost upon us, and that means at least for me, time in the yard landscaping. Earlier this year, I made a decision that Modular 4 was going to get some much needed yard love to boost curb appeal. The thing is, landscaping requires lawn tools. Lawn tools require space. I am kind of a nut when it comes to storage and things taking up space. So when I decided I needed some kind of wheel barrow/cart I also decided I needed something space saving, well designed, rugged, and functional. This is where the “Tipke 2100 Marine Fold-It Utility Cart” comes in.

Fold-it Cart looks like one of the better options out there. The cart is large enough and sturdy enough to carry fairly heavy loads (up to 350 pounds). It features large 20 inch wheels for easy maneuvering, a drop down tailgate so you can use it as a dump cart. The best part, when it is folded it occupies less than 2 square feet of storage space. The design is utilitarian, and innovative, but this something you will pay for. Fold-It rings the bell at $230.00 bucks on Amazon. It’s not cheap, but it takes up less space than a standard wheel barrow, and hauls just as much.

 

ORE Containers.

Over the weekend I took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and began landscaping a section of my front yard. I spent a large portion of Saturday and Sunday, planning, and installing edging, moving dirt, and prepping for plants that will go in a couple of weeks from now.

While planning things out and surveying the entry to the house, I decided that I needed to add planters at key locations. I needed to anchor sections of the yard where it meets walkways and the structure of the house. I also started thinking about lighting and the roll it would play at night with the surrounding foliage. Thanks to ORE, I might be able to kill two birds with one stone.

Since 2003 ORE has focused on developing products for the garden design industry by manufacturing contemporary lines of signature containers, fire pits, benches and architectural elements in Utah. Designer Shane Larson used his expertise in sculpture and metal work to create a line of contemporary outdoor furniture that is durable, functional, and elegant. The products produced by ORE qualify for LEED points, if you are looking for ways to green your home, and yard.

I really like the metal cube containers and column containers with integrated LED lighting solutions. The simple shapes with bright color finishes, and hidden ground lighting, make a bold statement without overpowering the surrounding architecture, and landscape. All the containers are available in any of ten colors ranging from powder coated red to neutral gray.

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Sinus by Roman Vrtiška.

One of the things you discover when you start using a riding lawn mower is, you need to put a lot of mulch around your trees. A 18 inch turning radius means a 36 inch circle , which isn’t a close cut around most tree trunks. Eventually I’ll probably landscape around most of them, but it doesn’t stop me from really wanting to install Roman Vrtiška’s Sinus benches around most of them.

This is such a simple and elegant solution to the problem. The bench provides ample seating to take advantage of the shade. There is venting to allow for irrigation, and the opening is large enough to fit around even mature trees. The look is so clean, simple and flexible, and the pieces are modular so the can be combined with the linear benches to create longer ovals as well.

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The bench is formed from a perforated sheet steel that has been powder coated to resist even the toughest weather mother nature can trow at them. The modular plates can be combined to create single seat, double seat, or seat-less systems. These are available through mmcite, but since I don’t speak Czech I have no idea about what they cost or where you can buy them.

Grupo HeWi “V” Collection.

As spring approaches, I start thinking about the outdoor part of my house. About finishing the deck addition, landscaping, and creating a comfortable environment to enjoy the yard and the expansive field to the south. One of the things I am always on the look out for is decent modern outdoor furniture that is durable, and light weight. The V collection from Grupo Hewi meets those requirements with a stylish fiber wrapped, metal frame collection of chairs, loungers, and tables.

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Grupo HeWi outdoor furniture collection is produce with soft synthetic fibers and metal frame. The synthetic fibers are resistant to UV, and all kind of outdoors environments  like heavy use, pool water and sea salt. This kind of fibers is also a Non-toxic material that is 100% recyclable and friendly on the environment. Both the metal frame and the synthetic fibers can be recycled at your local recycling center.

After One Year of Use, The Final Worx Cordless Lawn Mower Review.

It has been almost 0ne year since I bought the 19 inch Worx Cordless Electric 24 volt lawn mower. Since last August I have mowed the lawn at least 50 times, and I think I have a fairly solid grasp of this mowers positives and negatives. After one year of use, with at least 2 more months of mowing to go, I am posting an updated review based on my personal experience with this product.

I want to say that this mower is a great piece of lawn equipment. The battery has never failed to last for an entire mow cycle, and I have a huge yard. If you keep the underside clean of collected clippings it does the job, and doesn’t run out of  juice. Now with that said, I am going to be upfront here and tell you straight out, this is not a mower for large yards, or yards with hills and here is why.

This thing is heavy, and it is not available as a self-propelled mower. The mower weighs in at a whopping  87 pounds, which is mostly due to the weight of the battery. I’m telling you, pushing this thing is a workout, especially up a moderate to steep incline.

Another thing that makes it less ideal for a large yard is the 19 inch cut width of the blade. I know this is going to sound trivial, but the extra 5 inches you get with a 24 inch mower makes a huge difference, especially when you are cutting dense grass areas and having to overlap the cuts in order to get the grass that is knocked down by the wheels rolling over it.

This mower does a great job, it cuts well, and has enough power to do the job. It cuts clean and never runs out of battery power. I mow almost 10,000 square feet of lawn, and I have never had the battery die on me before I was done cutting.

The handle system is one of the best I have ever used. It is ergonomically designed to reduce fatigue, and believe me you can feel the difference.

It has Mulch, SIde Discharge, and Bag options. I have used all 3, but almost always mulch. There is no performance degradation when this mower is used in much mode, and the blade does an excellent job of mulching the grass it cuts.

Another plus is, that the handle collapses for easy storage, so if you have limited space, this mower folds up into about 4 cubic feet.

I got the mower because I wanted to do something more positive for the environment, and the idea of running a gas mower just didn’t cut it (no pun intended). So at the end of the day I am happy with the Worx mower, I just wish it weighed less and was self-propelled.

At the end of the day, this is an excellent choice if you have a smaller yard that is fairly flat, or if you want to get a serious workout when mowing. On a scale of 1 to 5 I give it a 4 for performance and durability. My only real gripe is the weight, and unfortunately that is a result of current battery technology, not the Worx design team.