Backyard progress

With the interior of the house settling down as we continue settling in, we're prioritizing work on the landscape.  Dozens of transplanted azaleas, peonies, hydrangeas and other plants are finding new homes, and the basic work on the backyard is nearing completion.  Things that will be completed in the spring include digging out and properly layering materials in to the rain garden, replacing the one likely dead ornamental tree hydrangea, laying a paver walkway, and adding more small plant materials in key spots.

The backyard as of last Friday.  Unlike most developer-built new homes on typical south Minneapolis lots (40' x 129' is common), our house design is compact enough to allow a 25' x 40' backyard.  Turf is used mainly to minimize erosion as water from the south side of the house flows across the backyard to the rain garden.  From there, an overflow pipe drains off excess to the alley via the north side of the garage, and the rest slowly percolates down into the soil.

The backyard as of last Friday.  Unlike most developer-built new homes on typical south Minneapolis lots (40' x 129' is common), our house design is compact enough to allow a 25' x 40' backyard.  Turf is used mainly to minimize erosion as water from the south side of the house flows across the backyard to the rain garden.  From there, an overflow pipe drains off excess to the alley via the north side of the garage, and the rest slowly percolates down into the soil.

The City of Minneapolis requires that new homes have a total combined tree diameter proportional to the lot size.  We need at least 16", and the one and only tree on the property is only 2" diameter.  We've added 9 trees so far, and the final major specimen will be planted on Wednesday.

Homes By Architects Tour

The weekend's Homes By Architects Tour (the 10th annual!) was a great success.  We had over 875 visitors, the weather cooperated, and I think that the house showed pretty well.  All the work over the past weeks was worth it and although we have a long ways ago until everything is really, truly "complete", we're in a good place at the moment.

Thank you again to all of our volunteers, and thank you to all of the wonderful tour guests who came through and introduced themselves or offered comments!

Prepping for Show

The house's big "coming out party" is this weekend, as we participate in the AIA Minnesota "Homes By Architects Tour".  The tour is on Saturday and Sunday, 10-5 each day.  Because deadlines are such effective motivators, we are diligently working on completing the basic landscaping, washing windows, and generally decluttering and doing some modest staging to present the house at its "beta best".

091217 mulch part 1.jpg

Mulching, part 1: This afternoon's show, showing 6 out of 16 bags so far of Minnesota hardwood mulch.  I'm pleased with the red-orange color and its relationship to the cedar details on the entry.  We have more ground cover plants to put in, but for the show we'll stop at what we have.  What you see in the mulch is a combination of "Fireglow" Sedum and Calgary Carpet Juniper, both from Gertens.  The azaleas and other plants in front of the porch itself were salvaged from the house that ours replaced, so they're now back "home" in a somewhat reconfigured landscape.  Maybe they'll recognize their home soil and grow well for us!

"Moat"

With 17 days until the Homes By Architects Tour, we are working hard to get to a presentable point.  Today, I finished the front yard sod and completed the landscape-free zone in front of the basement windows.

The stone is from Landscape & Concrete Center in Minneapolis: ¾" Dresser Trap, laid over filter fabric.

The stone is from Landscape & Concrete Center in Minneapolis: ¾" Dresser Trap, laid over filter fabric.

The cobblestone edging was from the old house; salvaged from a fence base that we removed many years ago.  Note the newspapers on the picture window.  This is our son's way of telling us that he wants blinds on his bedroom windows and wants them soon.  Yes, we know...

Deck planter inauguration

The south side of the roof deck features a railing / planter box.  Its main purpose - once filled with tall plant material - is to provide a sense of spatial enclosure as some shade (and privacy).  Yesterday and today I installed the false "floor" inside the planter, and today I set the initial array of pots with tall grasses.

(click on the images to advance others)

The initial collection of grasses features a former single clump, located in a backyard in Edina.  We divided it into four sections and transported them over to our house.  Like the trees we transported from the property, time will tell if they survive.  It's likely that we'll rotate in other tall grasses such as Karl Forester to give more density and variety.

The Future Garden of Eden

The backyard of the house remains very much a work in progress, but we took a few steps forward today.  We transplanted the third tree from a property in Edina (a "limelight tree hydrangea" - one of three) to a spot between the future rain garden and the garage.  The rain garden will be dug down, and surrounded by more native landscaping and mulch.  This is starting to sound like a Laurie Anderson song (turn left where they're thinking of putting in the native grasses.... you can't miss it).

JoAnn can be seen separating tall grasses into pots.  These will go up on the roof garden's south planter box, providing a sense of spatial definition as well as some shade.

As to the transplanted trees, the arborvitae in the front yard is looking good.  The new backyard cherry tree looked droopy yesterday, perked up this morning, and looked droopy again by late afternoon today.  Who knows if it will survive or not.  Late summer is one of the worst times for transplanting trees, but we don't have much choice.  Will the hydrangea make it?  If not, it might make more sense to buy new from a nursery and abandon the other trees two miles away.

Transplanting trees

This is a small cherry tree that will be moving from a front yard in Edina to our backyard.  It's a frustrating process to try to free the "tree ball" from the tangle of roots that seems to be intertwined with roots from other trees in the yard.  We hope to free the tree this evening and make the move.  There are 4 more trees from the same yard to transplant after that, including another cherry and some limelight hydrangeas.

Anniversary

One year ago today, the old house was demolished.  This took place after months of work to salvage what we could from the house, landscape and garage.

Now, we are working on the landscape.  We are establishing a sod perimeter, planning on a mixed-species "infield", and starting to relocate a half dozen trees from another property about 2 miles away.

Stones and returning children

The move-in continues as we unbox more stuff and put the stuff where it's meant to go.  We completed the stone "moat" around the screened porch.  And, our oldest child returned home today after graduating from college and cleaning out the apartment that he and his roommates were in for two years.  The construction project is becoming a home.

Published

Initiated by our builder, we jointly pitched the house to the editor of Spaces magazine.  It was selected as a joint-project article and today we received the published issue.  The article (pp. 72-87), which also features an urban infill house in St. Paul, was written by Heidi Raschke.

I took the photos for the article in late June.  At that time, several things were not yet done (like the roof trim around the flat roof; easily visible in the photo included) and we had not closed on the house.  But, we had moved in just enough furniture so that I could PhotoShop additional items in and make the interior look done.  I even had to digitally add grass to the main exterior shot!

Now, by the way, the roof trim is done but the interior is nowhere near ready for final photography!  All room are strewn with boxes from the move-in and we're about halfway through the long sorting and putting-away process.

Thanks amidst the consolidation

After a hectic, trying week, and a weekend spent on the North Shore, we are starting the Grand Consolidation.  This is the somewhat novel process (to us) of gathering our stuff from scattered locations and finding places for all of it in our new abode.  It's going to take some time, but there are clear priorities: the cat's needs, of course, followed by some essentials in the new 'fridge, and then of course a fast, secure internet connection.  Check, check, and check.

For his gracious and comfortable hospitality up near Schroeder, we thank "Chuckles", the long-standing family friend who knew my father before Dad met Mom.  Thanks for the eats, the rocks, the stories, and the memories, Charlie Crocker!

For everything else over the last 7 weeks, we are in debt to old friends M. & J. for more than we care to list here.  You two saved us, and let us live (and for me to work) in comfort and in the company of good and generous souls.  We'll always remember.

Closing!

Big day today, as we emptied the storage pod into the house and then closed on the new mortgage.  The transition into our new home is underway.  But one big question remains:

Will the cat like it?

The foreground will be mostly green before long...

The foreground will be mostly green before long...