Yesterday we received notice of our “Economic Stimulus Refund” from the good ol’ government. Now, we’re usually of the opinion that when we get a windfall, however small, that we should save it. However, this time, with the timing of our house project, it’s going to be spent within minutes of receiving it. In fact, we’ve probably already spent it. That is the scariest part of doing this kind of house project- you can spend money at rocket speed.
So far, we’ve been very good about sticking to our budget. We’ve made some tough choices-when we’ve added something, we’ve cut back on something else. But as we get towards the end of the project, we’re finding there is nothing else to cut back on and plenty to add. This week has been particularly hard (and it’s only Tuesday). We feel thoroughly beat up. We’ve had several issues with subcontractors/suppliers that have proven customer service isn’t what it used to be and will likely end up costing us additional money. We hope to work these things out, but we’re not happy about it. More on that later…..
One of the things that seemingly always gets left to the end of the project (after the budget is gone) is the landscape. This project is no different! Today, we met with our landscape architect, Matthew Fair Jones and his colleague, John Workman. Matthew is an old friend and colleague from our HGA days and now works on his own. He is in tune with our ideas about sustainability and has come up with an initial conceptual plan. One of the major challenges of our site is to deal with drainage and water. In this part of Highland Park, the slope is all towards the river and one yards typically drains into the next. Add a very active sump pump, clay soil and an alley sloping into your back yard and you can have a sloppy, soupy mess. One of the strategies we have to deal with the water is by using “rain gardens”. A rain garden is a planted depression that is designed to absorb rain water. It is planted with native plantings that are specifically chosen to tolerate either very wet or dry conditions. The rain garden is sized to absorb the excess water and allow water to soak into the ground in lieu of draining into your neighbor’s yard.
We will need to do quite a bit of re-grading in our yard in order to get positive drainage away from the house. The rule of the thumb is to get 6” of vertical drop in a distance 10’ from the house. In some areas, we’re going to have to remove quite a bit of earth in order to achieve this slope. We’re also planning on using some underground drainage piping to prevent the creation of a swamp in our backyard.
One thing we’ve manage to ignore up to this point is the existing fence. It’s a June and Ward Cleaver white picket fence that was a perfect match for the existing Cape Cod, but is not such a great fit for the new Haus. While we were thinking it would be fine to keep for awhile, the more we look at it, the less we think we can live with it. We wish one of the existing trees in the yard was a money tree that would enable us to replace the fence with one that fits better with our house. Unfortunately, we haven’t found any money trees yet, but perhaps the earthwork will uncover a buried pot of gold?