Thursday, May 10, 2018

The little pond

I had always wanted some sort of small water feature for our yard and I often mentioned to Susan the idea of digging a small pond.  Four years ago she told me to go for it.  It took about two weeks.  That was when I found out how difficult our soil is for digging, hard red clay and rocks.  It was a back-breaking pick and shovel operation.  I finally had enough and declared the hole large enough. 

Because the pond is on sloping ground I had to make a low retaining wall on the downhill side.  When the pond was complete we got a lot of enjoyment out of it.  The water lilies really took  hold, it was a complete ecosystem for dragonflies from egg to adult, and every year frogs would spontaneously show up and spend the summer.  It was also a nightly watering hole for the neighborhood feral cats, birds, possums, skunks, families of raccoons, deer, and even the occasional fox.  It was a fun place to sit and just "be in the moment"

One thing, though, always nagged at me about the pond; I hadn't made that retaining wall high enough.  While the downhill end would be filled to the top the uphill end had ten inches of liner showing.  This, and the fact that the liner had developed a very slow leak prompted me to action.  Exactly four years after starting the first pond, I began its replacement.

This photo was taken about five years ago.  The pea-gravel paths were not yet complete.  The empty space to the right of the raised flower bed was the chosen spot for the pond.

This is the pond at the beginning of its restoration last month. By now the pea gravel pathway connects to the toy soldier studio.  All of the rocks that surrounded the pond have been removed as has the black vinyl liner. At this point I took pick and shovel and deepened and widened the hole.  It's about a five by seven-foot hole with a depth of a little over two feet.  One of the main pieces of work was to make the retaining wall twice as high to make each end level.

With uphill and downhill ends now at the same height I lined the hole whith old carpeting that I had been saving just for this purpose.  The rugs provide protection from stones below.

Then I dragged the 10x13 vinyl liner into place and started filling.  I just let the weight of the water gradually cause the liner to conform to the hole's dimensions and contours.

The water was free, all 140 gallons came from my rainbarrels.

With the pond full, I started placing the surrounding stones.  In this improved version of the pond I used much larger stones, as the smaller ones from the previous pond were often kicked in by deer. In the foreground you can see a part of the retaining wall.  When all of the surrounding stones were in place I trimmed the excess carpet and liner.  Then I covered the soil with shredded bark.

Although larger than it appears in this photo, the pond has two new waterlilies and a little solar-powered fountain.   Just add frogs!

Come visit some time.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

April Flowers

 Every time colleagues ask me why I'm willing to commute six hours a day...

I think of this

The yard of our Boonsboro home is full of color right now.

Buttery looking tulips on their way out,

grape hyacinth

lavender hyacinth,

lilac (my favorite),

red bud, 


some kind of flowering tree (any help here?),

(every flower gets its due), 

cherry blossom,

bleeding heart.

I think about this on the long train ride home.

Spring, glorious Spring.

Friday, September 23, 2011


This year Susan took our flower beds in hand and made them beautiful.  Shortly after I moved into this house I started building stone-bordered flowerbeds in the back yard, but didn't really do much with them.
They got kind of jungle-ly

Susan transformed them from jungles into delightful tourist attractions for hummingbirds, butterflies and bumblebees.  I'd rip out the old stuff and she'd plan and plant the new stuff with a keen eye to what really works well and looks nice.

Of the three beds I saved the most difficult one for last.  I had to deal with an enormous amount of elephant grass as well as two tree stumps.  It took quite some time, but I finally got that bed cleared and laid out a terminus for the pea-gravel paths that run throughout our garden.  Susan suggested a little destination with a rustic bench.  I got my shovel, rake, and wheelbarrow and started working.

I staked out the shape of the  trail and dug and raked it level and smooth.

Then I laid down a poly tarp as a weed barrier with a discarded area rug over that.

This rug, though only a couple of years old, developed a "smell" and was banished for the house this past spring.  I saved it with this sort of project in mind.

Then I started hauling rocks to make the wall and anchor the weed barrier.

Today, the pea gravel was delivered, about a third of a yard of gravel filled the path to a depth of about two inches.

Next, came the bench.

I can't wait to see what Susan has in mind for plantings in this new space.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Another Arts and Crafts Library Step

This one with a Civil War motif for a friend's library:

This "Arts and Crafts" movement design is really well-suited to a shop like mine.  The pieces tend to be elegant (in their simplicity), very straight forward with  evident joinery.  I was influenced by this style of design as it was the spell my father was under in his high school vocational arts classes of the 1930s.

I love the whole Roycrofter thing.

I wonder,  what will be next?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A good book is always within reach

When you live with a delightfully diminutive person, and have a very well stocked, floor-to-ceiling library those upper shelves can be just out of reach.

Enter the latest project from the wood shop, the two step library step.

Cut out of a pine board, seven pieces went into this simple little project.

Going for an Arts and Crafts look, I opted for pegged construction and a mortise and tenon stringer across the bottom of the lower step.

Here, I'm sanding the tenon...

and with my scroll saw,  cutting the mortise.

The fit was nice and snug.  The opening above is one of the carrying holes on each side of the bench.

Glued and clamped for a couple of hours, followed by a nice dark walnut Danish oil finish.  After a three day dry and rub-down...

the appropriate steps were being taken in the library.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My 5 (and a half) board benches

The bench-building continues at a brisk pace.  I'm taking advantage of my last free week before returning to taking classes to knock out some knockout projects.

After recently seeing a delightful documentary on old-school tattoo artist Norman Collins, better known as "Sailor Jerry" I was inspired to bring a little more color to my bench project.

I've already made five of these classic American benches, the first batch finished very plainly and the second (gifts for my sweetie) were decorated with routing, woodburning, and color.

I wanted to bring a little more design to the five-board benches I'd been making.  

On this latest batch of four the relief cuts on the legs are valentine hearts rather than simple holes.  I used a hole saw on my drill press followed by a band saw operation to make these little hearts.

The second variation was the brace between the legs, what I'm calling the 1/2 board in my "five and a half board benches".  These are the fully assembled benches awaiting staining, decoration, and varnishing.

This bench is a gift for two very good friends who raise chickens - as pets, so I thought I'd start with a very generic hen outline and then spruce it up a little.

Using a wide range of Prismacolor pencils I came up with this fanciful creation which I call...

the Chilean Goldenback.  Needless to say, It was very well received by my friends this afternoon.

Then next one was for me, very much a tattoo and very much a nod to my time (tattooless time) in the U.S. Navy.   

This is a faithful copy of a classic Sailor Jerry design.
The Prismacolors are remarkably vivid on wood and I'm really pleased with the result.

The next bench, or "tattoo bench" as I'm calling them, is also based upon a Sailor Jerry design though with my own variations.  That's my little mountain home in the center of the valentine with the Cumberland Valley in the background.  Sunset around these parts looks remarkably like the drawing.

I think the bench reflects the happiness of the couple who live in that little house.

After two coats of spar varnish the image is locked in and smudge proof.  Again, I'm really pleased with the effect of the colored pencils on stained wood.

What a satisfying way to close out the summer.  Now I have all winter to plan new projects for the springtime.

Check in again,


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cooking Night at Mannie's

Cook for two nights:

Eat for three weeks:

Wouldn't June be proud of me?

Bon Appetit from my side of South Mountain!