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Showing posts with the label 2024 projects

DIY Wood-Fired Pizza Oven Construction - Initial Excavation For Foundation - February 2024

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This past weekend, I posted a list of 'early potential priorities' out in the yard and garden for the upcoming 2024 growing season .  That list featured a number of projects/ideas/areas that *could* be something that I'm going to prioritize in 2024.  But, it also featured one item that has certainty when it comes to being a priority:  the backyard wood-fired pizza oven construction. The location/site of the oven has been an open question for me ever since we moved in back in 2017.  I wrote about a couple of final options in the backyard in early January where I narrowed it down to two locations :  built into the berm/closer to the patio vs. down on the drywell, lower-elevation. With the run of warmer temperatures this week, I got out one night after work and just got busy:  digging the foundation.   I went with the drywell location.  Further from the house, but anchoring a secondary, lower-tiered patio.  Below is a look at the site - annotated to show the outline of the fou

Parkway Tulip Tips Shoot Up - February 2024

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We've had a VERY mild Winter.  There was a span of about three weeks when it was brutally cold and it seemed like it snowed every.single.day.  But, overall...it was mild.  And that's likely turned a number of gardening variables on their ears.  Emergence.  Bloom time.  Exposure to late Frosts.  And, more, I'm sure. One of the 'mild Winter' related change that I saw VERY early in January was that the tulip bulbs that I had planted around the parkway tree had ALREADY come up, out of the mulch.  By January 5th.   J A N U A R Y. That seems VERY early.  It was BEFORE that three-week spell of 'brutally cold' weather that I mentioned above.  But, tulips being tulips, the foliage didn't mind the weather.  (or...the snow blanket was sufficient insulation.) I'm *very* aware of mulch volcanoes around trees and worry that every year - when we add another layer of mulch - that I'm burying things and creating problems.  Everyone says that you're supposed t

An Early Look At Some Potential 2024 Priorities - February 2024

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I've organized my approach to the yard and garden season a few ways the past couple of years.  First, I think about some of the potential options for where/how I want to prioritize.  In terms of effort, budget, time and thinking.   Then, I narrow those down to create some focus.  What falls out of those initial priorities is my annual to-do list that helps keep me honest in terms of what I am trying to accomplish.  Last year - I did an early look at some priorities as a way to organize my thoughts .  A few days ago, I marked 20 years of Blogging and in that post, I referenced Paul Graham; and how he has said the act of writing generates ideas.  That's what is at play here.  I need to sketch out an approach and with it, will come some clarity. This is different than my annual to-do list.  Here's last year's scorecard - which is informative in terms of what worked/what didn't work/what's left remaining.  But, this is more about sketching out a list of priorities.

Imagining A Front Yard Conifer Garden With Miegakaure - February 2024

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A couple of weeks ago, I posted a pretty lengthy garden diary post that outlined some of the inspiration and design ideas that I've been cataloging for the front yard .  I also posted this conifer inspo of three blue junipers (upright) in a mixed perennial bed .  What would it look like?  Ideally... something like this house .  But, that's not realistic - just yet.   In that post, I talked about doing a 'phase 1', but doing it with an eye for the entire design.  What's the key, defining characteristic of the 'entire design'?  I think it is centered on three things: 1. A path. 2. A bern. 3. ...and some miegakure. I was out front - taking the garbage cans out - this past week and because there was some frost on the front lawn, I thought I could (sort-of) shuffle my feet through the grass and leave a mark of what feels natural in terms of a front-yard path.  See below for my winding, curved (potential) garden path.  It starts closer to the driveway, winds *b

2024 Project: Bee Hotel Renovation - February 2024

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We've had a bee hotel (or Mason Bee House, if you will) for a number of years, but the past two it has been sort-of 'out of service'.  It fell from the its perch and has been laying on the ground.  For 2024, I'm going to push myself to renovate this thing.  It needs a new bottom and some replacement bamboo pieces. Why did I suddenly think of my Bee Hotel?  Because the University of Illinois is (right now...) conducting a " Bee Hotel Project " where they're calling for people to donate their Bee Hotels to science.  Check out the details here and sign-up to donate your Bee Hotel here .  U of I researcher Timo Wayman (an Entomology graduate student at University of Illinois ) is looking to help better understand native bees. I'm not sure our Bee Hotel will be of any value as it has been sitting on the ground for two seasons, but I'm going to fill out the form and see if they'd like to take a look.

Roof Inspiration - Backyard Pizza Oven - January 2024

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Yesterday, I posted a photo of the 'drywell exploration' that I conducted to find the edges and depth of the drywell to discover if it would serve as a suitable subsurface for my diy backyard wood-fired pizza oven.   I've also recently posted about some brickwork inspiration here .    When thinking about the oven, the facade is a big part of the 'looks', but so too is the roofline.  I recently came across this Tiktok from RustyVanRanch  - embedded below - that shows a barn roof that has an extended peak out front at the top of the gable: @rustyvanranch ♬ original sound - Rusty Van Ranch Here's a screenshot of the roof in question: A little digging revealed that those are called " Hay Hoods ".  Some call them "Crow's Beaks".  It serves a purpose of providing a little bit more shelter over the hay loft door.  For my pizza oven, there's appeal in a little bit of protection WITHOUT creating a huge, overhead roof.   Filing this awa

Digging To Find Drywell For Backyard Wood-Fired Oven - January 2024

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A few weeks ago, I posted a couple of items related to my 2024 goal of building a wood-fired pizza oven in our backyard including a look at a couple of locations , some brickwork inspiration and how I could build the stand out of cinder blocks - including corners .   With the snow melting away this week, I went out to look at one of the locations and remembered...that ahead of the snow, I was digging around trying to find the 'edges' of the drywell.   Below is a photo showing a number of locations that I dug down to see 'how deep' the drywell is located and how I was probing to find the 'edge' of the well.   The drop from grade to drywell is variable across this six-foot-by-six-foot section.  Surprisingly so.  I also found (I think) two of the 'edges' of the drywell.  Which...if I sited the oven where I *wanted* to, would have a small portion of the foundation OVERHANGING the drywell.  That would mean that I'd have to bring in some gravel - which i

Front Yard Conifer Combo Inspiration - Blue Needles and Purple Perennials - January 2024

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Yesterday, I created and published a lengthy - and winding - post about a potential front-yard garden transformation that is anchored in conifers and contains a potential 'path' through the middle.  In that post, I talked about using a berm in part to create some elevation change and I also sort-of came to the conclusion that I would certainly NEED to start in phases as the project is a multi-year planting (at least for me).  In that post, I concluded that based on some inspiration, I could (in theory) start down by the sidewalk with a small bed and expand from there.   One of the dependencies is the creation of the berm and the location for said berm.  My current thinking is that the berm is created if-and-only-if, I do some excavation for the pizza oven.  I would haul the material that I excavated from the back out to the front and build up a little berm on the driveway side of the front yard, down near the sidewalk.  I bring this all up, because I recently came across a pho

Front Yard Garden Design - Inspiration, Ideas and A Starting Point - January 2024

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Beyond the pizza-oven build, my mind has been thinking about the front yard for 2024.  I went ham on the IB2DWs extended bed last Fall with my new conifer garden , but I've been reading and watching things on the Web that have me thinking about the rest of our yard.   If I'm being honest, our front yard isn't bad. Not at all.  It is, however...traditional.  It is what everybody in the suburbs has: a foundation bed with a corner tree and a stretch of front lawn from that bed down to the sidewalk.  Followed by a turf parkway between the sidewalk and street.  Over the years, I've done a few things:  planned for some tree planting .  Tucked a Saratoga Ginkgo , some Stachys Hummelo and Sesleria Greenlees into the small island bed by the driveway.  And extended the front porch bed a bit this past year .   The rest is a blank canvas.   Some of the things that I've come across/influenced me a bit include this piece from Garden Design focused on curb appeal  that talks thr

Using L-Shaped Cinder Blocks For Corners of Backyard Pizza Oven Stand - January 2024

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Earlier this week, I posted my 3-D model using LEGO bricks of my proposed wood-fired pizza oven stand that would be built from a couple different sizes of standard cinder blocks - 16x8x8 and 8x8x8.  In that post (and using the model), I determined that I needed 4.5 blocks deep (from front-to-back) and 4 blocks wide (side-to-side).  That gave me a 74" deep by 64" wide block stand.  Or 6'2" deep and 5'4" wide. But...there's a new development.  At least...new to me, the novice bricklayer.  Turns out, there are 'corner' cinder blocks.   I discovered this fact when I was at Menards looking over the block inventory.  Here's a few photos showing these L-shaped corner-forming cinder blocks  below and how they work together with normal blocks.  These are 12" block compatible. Below is a drawing from Menards that shows the dimensions of these L-shaped corner cinder blocks in 10" width: There are so many variables that I still need to work out

Lego Model For Wood-Burning Pizza Oven Stand - January 2024

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I've been busy getting to know Sketchup - in an attempt to create a true, accurate model of my (hopefully to-be-built-in-2024) backyard wood-fired pizza oven .  But, I also figured out a different, three-dimensional approach that will work (at least for me).  The stand of the oven is built from typical cinder blocks:  16x8x8 (16" long, 8" tall, 8" deep) and half-blocks of 8x8x8 (8" long, 8" tall, 8" deep) that are commonly available from any big-box hardware store.   I was playing around with sketchup one afternoon when I realized that I could build out a model using some common bricks.   I wanted to get a sense for how the stand would come together and also begin to build out a parts-list for the blocks.   I went up to the kids lego bins and quickly figured out how to build this: Part 3001 (2x4 brick)  has 8 studs on top and is the typical rectangle brick that you think of when you think of LEGO bricks.   Using a one-stud for 4" each direction, t

Gabion Pillars In The Garden - Inspiration from Garden Tour - January 2024

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I was watching this garden tour on YouTube from Garden Gate Magazine and just about totally fell in love.  What a garden.   There is SO MUCH to appreciate in this one video in this one garden that I'll probably post a few things about it that struck me.  The first of which...is related to gabion-style walls.  Below is a screenshot of the garden tour - at the 9:53 mark ( here's a link to that 9:53 mark in the video ) that shows off a set of pillars that are done gabion-style.  See below: The garden-owner talks about framing and how they use these gabion-style pillars as a way to frame the entrance for visitor's experience.  The gardener saw these in a local garden and decided to replicate them and included putting pots on top.   I've posted about gabion walls back in 2019 when I saw them in an annual garden trend post .   I also posted a few other posts about various walls over the years including this stone wall at Disney's Aulani resort , a timber wall in our neig

Illinois Should Bring Back the Blue Line License Plates - December 2023

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We popped down to Wally's Gas Station (our version of Buc-ee's on I-55 near Bloomington) and I nocied this magnet display that included a Wally's-branded magnet in the design of our old, blue-topped State of Illinois license plates.  These were the plates that I grew-up with and feel quite a bit more iconic that the ones we currently have in Illinois. This is what we have now - below.  It has half-an-Abe on the left, shows the Sears Tower and the State of Illinois Capitol dome.  There appears to be a windmill in the middle to represent our agricultural base.   But, they stink.   Why can't we have the blue-topped ones back?  There are literally DOZENS of special plates you see on the road.  University ones.  Charity ones.   Why not a vintage Illinois one?  Come on, Alexi .  Stop trying to put points on the board with the silly book-banning stuff and focus on the job that matters most as the Secretary of State:  Drivers licenses and license plates.   Look at that Wally