South Side Gate Replacement

Residential fencing in albuquerque and Rio Rancho used to be made of wood until the last 20 years or so. While they build fences of block now I have a older house and all of the fencing and gates are made of wood. For whatever reason a large amount of it has decomposed and fallen down mostly since I moved in.

Before new gate

The gate on the south side of the house is the worse and it’s also the primary access to the back yard with a vehicle. I decided it was time to get off my butt and replace it with not only a fence that isn’t falling but with one that has more privacy.

I didn’t go into this project with any detailed plans. I knew I wanted to bring the gate to be flush with the front of the house, the old gate sat back about 6 feet. I also wanted a short gate for people and a long gate for vehicles with a 5 foot fence section at the edge of the property.

First gate post put up

I started by adding a single post on the first day to get an idea of what I was doing. I dug a hole, leveled a 4×4 redwood post and anchored it with some quick setting cement. That was it for the day. The next day the City of Rio Rancho inspector came by and red tagged the house due to the old falling gate and “debris” they could see in my back yard.

I found the timing strange and I have to wonder if someone called or the inspector just saw the work I was doing and decided to complain.

Side fencing installed

It took another day to build the corner which consisted of the 5 foot fence section and tying into the old fence. The biggest difficultly was positioning the sections of 2x4s around a rather large yucca. The plant is nice looking but very pointy and I left quite a bit of blood on the plant.

Majority of the gate is done and I have some issues to address

The main part of the fence was completed 2 days after I started. I had to go back at least three times and redo the position slats since I screwed up the level. I know several ways not to level fence slats.

The continuation of this project will be to clean up the river rocks on the side and level the ground. I also need to continue with the 6 foot fence along the south side of the property.

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Bocce Ball Court Installation

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Sunset Magazine’s Fresh Dirt blog has and article about a couple in San Diego who replaced their pool with a Bocce Ball court. I found this interesting because the people I know who play Bocce Ball usually play on any surface they can find.

The Bocce Standards Association website has information on the international standards of a Bocce court. At 76 x 13 feet, it’s something I could fit in my back yard. I may have to try building one.

Building A Habitat For Scorpions And Trying To Keep Them

I thought I would try to turn a negative into a positive with my scorpions situation by capturing them and keeping in them in a glassed habitat in the house. Perhaps there’s money to be made selling scorpions.

The first thing I did was to clean out a 10 gallon aquarium that was being unused.

Scorpion habitat from a 10 gallon aquarium

I then added cactus from the back yard.

Adding cactus to a scorpion habitat

I then added some sandy soil (commonly referred to as dirt), also from the back yard.

Adding sandy soil to the scorpion habitat

I then added a pile of rocks, from the front yard this time.

Adding a pile of rocks to the scorpion habitat

I then added the scorpion (Vaejovis flavus). This one came from inside the house.

Possible Vaejovis flavus species of scorpion?

The first scorpion died after keeping it in the tank for about a month. This was despite providing it several crickets that it quickly ate.

Since Saturn the cat came along, I rarely get a scorpion before she kills them. Plus she is has eliminated the scorpion food supply in the house so I don’t know that I will get much more of them. The tank currently sits empty.

Three Month Update On The Back Yard Solarization Project

Solarization progress

In Mid April I started a Solarization experiment where I use solar heating to kill off everything in the soil of my back yard. So far the results have been mixed.

The weather in Rio Rancho has cycled between days of heat and days of cool with rain. The cool days help to create a greenhouse effect under the plastic that cause plants to grow and the days of heat have killed them off. This is good since it’s easier to kill plants than seeds. Hopefully everything that can sprout has sprouted and died.

Since we haven’t had enough days of heat in a row, I don’t think the ground has really baked deep into the soil. It doesn’t appear it has baked the surface enough to decompose organic matter there.

The cycle of rain and heat appear to be over and we are now we are just getting heat. Parts of dead vegetation with sharp edges along with the prolonged time in the heat has caused some of the plastic to break down and break apart. Of the two sheets I put down one has almost completely broken down. The other sheet of plastic is partly shaded and has held together, it is currently experiencing a greenhouse effect with some plants growing underneath.

All the early summer rain has caused a large amount of goat heads plants (Tribulus terrestris) to sprout outside of the solarization area. I did my best to pick the plants but I had to violate my rule of not using chemicals and apply Roundup to a most of the back yard. My concern with using Roundup is the potential of creating weeds that are resistant to Roundup. Also, Roundup is turning out to be toxic.

This will be one of the few times I used chemicals to control weeds. Depending on how much time I have for the rest of this summer, I will try to apply more plastic to the backyard to take advantage of the late summer heat.

Google Mowing With Goats

Google is mowing their large areas of vegetation with goats. This is a great idea, something I may investigate when I get the grass growing in the back yard.

At our Mountain View headquarters, we have some fields that we need to mow occasionally to clear weeds and brush to reduce fire hazard. This spring we decided to take a low-carbon approach: Instead of using noisy mowers that run on gasoline and pollute the air, we’ve rented some goats from California Grazing to do the job for us (we’re not “kidding”). A herder brings about 200 goats and they spend roughly a week with us at Google, eating the grass and fertilizing at the same time. The goats are herded with the help of Jen, a border collie. It costs us about the same as mowing, and goats are a lot cuter to watch than lawn mowers.

There's Nothing Like The Smell Of The Dump On A Warm Afternoon

Taking stuff to the dump

I’m finally hauling off a bunch of crap thats accumulated while remodeling. Most of this has been setting in a trailer in the back yard for a year or more. There’s a lot less here than I thought, but it’s good to get it out.

Some of this might have been perfectly good stuff to use for something else. Most of it requires disassembly to get to the good parts. I’d rather just get rid of it than try to store it out in the back yard. I tried recycling as many 2×4’s that I could and I’ve got a good pile of them that I’ve removed the nails from. I tried to do my part to keep stuff out of the landfill.

Im Starting To HATE Nature

I was trying to sleep in on my day off this morning only to be awaken about 10am. The noise sounded like someone was pounding on the side of my house with a hammer, WTF? After listening to it for about a minute I started to think, no, it can’t be. It can’t be what I think it is, can it?

I manage to get some clothes and shoes on. I walk out to the back yard and there are a shitload of birds all over the place. And what do I find attached to the side of my house? A wood pecker. It’s removed a large swatch of stucko from the side of my house, just under a window.

I guess it was time to get up anyways.

Update: Apparently it isn’t uncommon to have woodpeckers attack buildings in New Mexico. I found this PDF from NMSU on how to control them.