Sifting

Ah, spring, the time that we go from chilling on the couch or enjoying cross-country skiing, to massive amounts of work and projects in the yard. We tend to hit the ground running in the spring, trying to accomplish as many projects as we can before the desert heat hits. This often leaves us exhausted and sore before June event flips onto our calendar. This year is no exception, but we do have a bit of a plan to help us enjoy our summer and yard a little more this year.

With COVID keeping us at home last summer, we like many others ended up doing non-stop projects in our yard all summer. Although we did do some fun stuff like camping and bike-riding, it was nothing compared to the hours spent labouring in our yard. Don’t get me wrong, I am so excited and happy with what we accomplished last year, but I would like more balance this year. So, we have a few projects we are going to work on over the next month or so, then we will focus on just enjoying our garden, yard and outdoor hobbies.

The two projects we have decided on for this year are both fairly major and will take time and a lot of effort. We are replacing our two remaining fences, which is approx. 175′ of panels that we are making by hand. Pre-fabricated panels are not an option for a sloped yard, but that is ok. The panels that we built last year with our neighbour on fence #1 worked out really well and are faster to build than we originally thought it would be. While we tackle those fences over the next few weekends, we will be spending a few afternoon/evenings a week building the new walls on the undeveloped slope. As you saw with one of our last posts, Kurt has already started cutting in the Terraces, so I should be ready to start putting in posts and wiring soon.

In order to put the fences in, we have had to do a little preparation work. In 2015, when we had all the junipers removed and our adventure in this yard landscaping transformation truly began, the guy running the excavator had scraped a lot of plant debris and soil into a nice pile in the back corner of our yard. He had let us know that if we left it to break down for a few years, that the soil would be excellent growing soil. We certainly weren’t going to pass up some nice growing soil, so we have left that pile to do it’s thing for the last few years. Ellie & Basil really enjoy it as they can sit on top of it and see over the neighbours current fence, so they have a nice viewpoint. They were unfortunately disappointed when we started moving that pile so that it is out of the way when we build our fences.

We knew that there would be more than plant debris in that pile, so Kurt asked me to build a screen that he could sift the soil through to help remove the stuff we don’t want and create a pile of the good soil. We had some wire mesh leftover from our old composter, and I had some plywood strips that I had cut for a future project. We started with framing the screen with the plywood strips. I also added a middle brace for the backside since the screen was long and skinny. I didn’t want it flexing or folding inward. Once we had the screen framed, Kurt decided the angle he wanted it to stand at, and we built some legs for it. I again added braces for the legs to make sure that it could take shovels of dirt being dumped on it.

Once it was built, we carried it down to the bottom of the yard and started sifting. It worked like a charm! I was a little worried because it is lightweight, but there was very little flex, and did a great job of sifting the good soil out. Over two days, Kurt and I worked to dig down the pile, sifting it, and doing a little levelling of that corner. I was surprised at how much soil we managed to sift and keep. I thought there would be more debris in it that we would need to discard. The discard pile is quite small and includes larger branches/roots, cement pieces, rocks and a bit of garbage. That will be taken to the dump the next time we have a load to take.

Once our fences are in, we are going to start levelling the back area. Our plan is to use the nicely sifted soil as a top layer for grass-seed to grow in. We are going to cover it with a tarp to help reduce any weeds that might grow in the pile before we can section off a part of the bottom yard to start the grass. We will have to do it in sections because of the dogs. I wouldn’t change having dogs for the world, but they definitely complicate some projects that we do. Not a problem. Once it is grass down there, we won’t have the digging issues we have had while it has been dirt.

With levelling the bottom part, we may need to put up a small retaining wall at the very back by our fence as there is more of a slope than we thought. We would likely use stackstone 2-bricks high. We will have to see. I don’t mind a bit of a slope to the back grass. Our top yard also has a slight slope. That is just the fun of living on a property that is a hillside. From top to bottom of our yard is likely the equivalent of 5 stories. The only areas that we need a nice level spot for at the back is for a pallet compost bin, and where we will be putting our gazebo. Both can be cut-in with some brickwork added as needed.

Stay tuned for our fence & wall building adventures over the next month or so. I am still hoping to do a few shop projects as well, which I will also be sharing. I have a cool plywood project that I have been wanting to start, as well as a father/daughter carving project that I am just about finished.

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