Sticker shock

So, I got more trees (five huge 30 gal. October Glory maples) in place a couple weeks ago. This will probably be enough around the house, I think. I don’t get more than I can handle at once, because they require a consistent watering schedule that the dealer, TreeLand, requires you follow under his 18 month guarantee. We installed plenty of faucets around the house, and I invested in hoses for each faucet. In Texas, I read that it’s a good idea to have a hose at every faucet anyway due to threats of grass fires. It’s a little unsettling to smell smoke and not know how close it is. At our other house, 300 acres burned just down the road from us, and a change in wind direction or intensity can mean it will just take off out of control. Last fall, we saw the red flames over the hill next to us as our neighbor’s hay stack burned and the volunteer firemen stayed out there all night to make sure it was out. I have hoses going out to each tree and I just turn the water on every few days for about 20 minutes according to the schedule.

Next, my yard improvement plan (my list is long) included getting estimates for sodding just around the house, out the distance of a normal city yard, as a starting point. We built at the top of a hill in a 26 acre pasture, so pasture grasses come in and our neighbor cuts and bales the pasture for his livestock use, but around the house where they moved dirt it was all disturbed and now weeds are coming in instead. It’s not a pretty picture. We’ve never had a lawn installed; the houses we lived in already had good lawns, and the other house we built on three acres, we just kind of worked with what we had and I would overseed and fertilize around the house every year to keep improving it. It was never a pretty yard, but I did landscape up around the house myself and keeping it regularly mowed it looked fine.

The landscaper I called was recommended by our builder, and in checking around locally this landscaper has a bit of a monopoly. I went on Angie’s List to see who else is around, but my choices are….none. I do see this company is recommended and as long as I do my own homework on what I want, they should be able to meet my requirements.

It’s been so wet this winter and spring, we’ve had very little chance of the ground drying out between cloudbursts. The estimator came out on a day that it was just pouring and we stood on the porch as I outlined what I envisioned and we discussed what the yard probably needed. I emailed him our overall house layout and he took measurements from it to design the sprinkler and sod layout and work up an estimate for me.

I had no clue on how much square footage I was dealing with. The landscaper shows 22,000 sf. We talked over the plan for sod, which needs to include killing all the weeds first, hauling in some dirt for surface leveling, preparing the surface and then placing sod and fertilizing. It needs to have regular moisture to get started. I also am tired of hauling hoses, and this house is a nice house so I included an irrigation system in the estimate. Additionally, away from the sod edge towards the barbed wire fence line, all the soil was disturbed in building, and the weeds are taking over and I don’t see much pasture grass coming in for that area. It is the extended “front yard” and visible from the kitchen, dining and bedrooms. We are near the road so our whole house is visible and needs to look presentable. They estimated hydromulching that area with low growing native grass seeds to fill in and maintain the area. It would not require regular watering and fertilizing to establish, the mulching takes care of that.

I had three parts to my estimate, the sod and preparation, the irrigation system to reach all the sodded areas with drip irrigation in the flower beds, and the hydromulched area.

A week later I got my estimate. After reading the bottom line, I picked myself up off the floor, and I broke out the estimate into the three parts: sod, irrigation and hydromulch. Individually, it did not seem out of line, it’s just a lot of moola to shell out in one haul. Just under 18K for 22,000 sf., so 81 cents a square foot which is including all labor costs and taxes plus materials. I can’t really do any of it in phases, because one affects the other and they all need to be in place together. I could hydromulch that area later, but it just makes sense to do it all at once and be done.

I plan to call the guys and have someone come out to go over the estimate carefully to make sure everything is in it that I expect, and to also understand all the irrigation layout and maintenance schedule, and what additional costs are necessary down the road.

I have always envisioned a perfect lawn to enjoy here, and our grandson to play on. I will probably bite the bullet on this and say “go”. I am not very good with chunking money out like that, but overall, for my convenience, adding to the beauty of the house and also future resale value, it will be worth it.


More trees

During one of the really nice warm February days, before all the nasty and cold, freezing weather hit us, I ventured over to our favorite tree farm over in Gunter, TX (Treeland) and picked out five October Glory maples to be installed near the house.  My husband and I went over last year about the same time when he was all through with his first treatments, and got some then for the new house.  We really liked how tall they were and the visual impact they gave to make the new house more grounded.

The installation of these five trees has been delayed twice because we have had such horrible weather.  And yesterday, it started raining early in the morning and there were puddles and mud pits all around the house by the time they arrived because the ground is so drenched from all the rain we have had the past couple weeks.   It was a great crew and installed them all in no time.  We have lots of trees away from the house, but having some close will cast some needed shade in the summer, and the birds have already started visiting them, maybe for spring nesting sites.

My next project is hiring a landscaper and getting sod installed around the house.  In the summer, the meadow and pasture grasses come in just fine to fill in, but the winter it’s just a mess, so sodding will give me much needed groundcover.

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What Happens When You Blow Soap Bubbles in Freezing Cold Weather

This is quite amazing


If you blow soap bubbles in freezing cold weather, amazing crystals of ice form on their surface (actually in the middle as the water is between two thin layers of soapy film); starting at the bottom and expanding upwards until the entire bubble is covered. Each bubble and pattern created is unique making for some terrific photo opportunities.

Artist and photographer Cheryl Johnson has been experimenting with different sized soap bubbles, getting beautiful close-ups of the crystallizing soap bubbles. Johnson has been sharing her updates on Facebook where you can find an entire album of the beautiful bubbles.

Johnson is also an accomplished, self-taught watercolor painter and you can see many of her paintings at


Blowing Soap Bubbles in Cold Weather by cheryl johnson (4)

Photograph by CHERYL JOHNSON
Website | Facebook | Facebook page


Blowing Soap Bubbles in Cold Weather by cheryl johnson (3)

Photograph by CHERYL JOHNSON
Website | Facebook | Facebook page


Blowing Soap Bubbles in Cold Weather by cheryl johnson (5)

Photograph by CHERYL JOHNSON
Website | Facebook | Facebook page

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