Mulch Math

Monday was Memorial Day here in the USA.  Since it was a Federal holiday, and I’m a full-time worker, anymore I have the day off from work.  Which sort of screws up my scheduling for the remainder of the week, but what can you do.  I could have chosen Friday as my other day off, and then worked 4 days straight until my scheduled day off next week, OR I could have Wednesday off as I normally do, and then work 6 days.  Since my wife generally schedules her doctor’s appointments on Wednesdays, I figured that was the better choice to make, since I don’t mind working a six-day stretch at a time.

Since it was a day off, we’d decided that we were in need of a trip to either of the big box home improvement stores, Home Depot, or Lowes.  There are three in the vicinity, 20 and 40 miles away, depending on which direction we wished to travel.  If we decided on east (Home Depot), my theory was it would likely be more crowded, as it’s more of a ‘built-up’ area, and there would be more people shopping.  As it turned out, it didn’t make a difference.

A few miles after leaving the house, there was a distinct binging sound from the instrument panel.  We’d just taken the exit and were heading west when I discovered I’d forgotten to gas up the car the day before.  So we were approximately 20 miles from an empty gas tank, we were tooling down the road doing 65 mph and had the AC running full tilt.  The closest gas station was behind us and there wasn’t an exit to turn around at for another 10 miles.  Call it the perfect storm.  I shut down the AC to conserve gas and crossed my fingers that we weren’t going to run out before getting to our exit.  We do have AAA, so if worse came to worse, we could call and they’d bring us 5 gallons of gas, but no one wants to be in that situation, it’s kind of embarrassing, y’know?

As it turned out, we made it to the gas station with a smidge left in the tank.  With disaster averted, we were free to travel to Lowes and do a bit of shopping.  Only when we got to the store, the parking lot was jammed.  Looks like everyone else in the area was taking advantage of the warm weather and making the pilgrimage to get plants, home improvement options and all manner of stuff, taking it home to do whatever with it.   Oh well.

Once we got parked, we made out our game plan.  Roto-tiller hardware first, then mulch and potting soil second.  I’d already checked the website for the store before going, determining that they didn’t have much in the way of small engine repair options, so that was going to have to wait for another day.  Also before leaving, we’d gone out to the backyard and did some measuring, to see how much mulch we were going to be needing this year.  My wife had used the calculator on the Lowes website, plugged in the numbers and came up with about 21 bags, with a presumption of 2 inches of mulch in the beds (originally she went with 3 inches, but that raised the amount of bags to 30, so she went with less depth).  I used a different calculator but made an error, instead of using the measurements as separate pieces of the puzzle, I added them together, creating a huge square footage box, which translated to over 100 bags of mulch.  I only discovered my error later in the day.  Fortunately we didn’t buy the 100 bags!

Going to the hardware aisle, I found an associate, gave him the bolt that I had and informed him that I needed two more just like it.  It took him about five minutes to finally come up with them, though he insisted that the bolts were ¼”, when I used a 7/16ths wrench to remove them.  After getting two nuts to go with them and paying for them, we were about to go to the garden center when my wife decided to interact with the cashier.  She asked him about the mulch and potting soil, and he suggested that we pay for them right then and there, and pick them up at the garden center to save time.  I was ok with that, for the most part, but when my wife said “Five bags“, it stopped me short.  Instead of saying something, I just let the guy ring it up, thinking she’d changed her mind and decided to get fewer bags initially, to be sure they were the right color, or whatever else was on her mind about it. As it turned out, I should have said something, because later in the car she confirmed that she’d erred, she meant TEN bags, not five.

Going to the garden center with the receipt, I was able to find the potting soil easy enough, loaded the bags on a flatbed and rolled it towards the exit.  I talked to one of the cashiers, and asked her to confirm that they were paid for, but she pretty nonchalantly waved me through without even looking at my receipt.  Makes me wonder how much they lose in thievery per month if their employees are that lax.  Or maybe there was something else going on that I was unaware of.  Getting the mulch was a little more driving, as they had a space in the parking lot where the bags were on pallets.  Giving the receipt to one of the burly fellows, they took very little time to pile them in the Edge and we were pretty much done.

By that time both of us were pretty ready to come home.  I wanted to swing by Wal-Mart to check to see if they had anything in the way of small engine repair, but as it turned out they didn’t.  Piled into the car and headed home.

I went back to the Lowes website this evening and checked out their mulch calculator, plugging in the numbers as they were originally measured, and then as a combined total and discovered my error.  What I originally thought was my wife’s error turned out to be my own.  No harm done, but as the saying (sort of) goes ‘measure twice, order once‘.

Projects

Along with the small engine issues and the accompanying garden fun, I have other projects that I’ve been considering doing to both spruce up the place and keep busy, since when I’m doing things, I’ve discovered I’m not lying around the house and eating.

  • For many years I’ve been wanting to replace the old borders between the driveway and the small flower beds alongside the house, but could never find the right sort of lumber to do it with.  This morning, while I was scoping out information on Home Depot about the roto-tiller, I happened to look at the print ad and found ‘landscape timbers‘.  While doing a little investigating about what all they could be used for, someone had posted a review saying that they built an outside planter with them, as they’re the right size and fairly inexpensive.  Which got me thinking, and once I was thinking I started measuring.  Instead of locating a dealer or lumberyard that sells untreated cedar lumber (not easy in this area) I could utilize this instead, and build both the planter and replace the rotting timbers that are lining the driveway presently.  And at a very inexpensive price!  Not to mention, Home Depot delivers, so I don’t have to figure out how to get the [17] 8 foot timbers to the house.
  • I have a storage bin that has the accumulated items from my parent’s house, when I moved from there in 1992.  Since then, I’ve moved the items three times, and as of this writing am really not making use of much of the stuff there.  In 2022 it will have been 30 years since moving, and if I haven’t made use of anything, it seems that I probably never will.  Saving $750 a year might be a good idea, and the remainder I could couple with my wife’s storage bin.  Yes, she has one too!
  • Last year we had a local handyman fix the two Adirondack chairs that are sitting on the side patio.  We bought them when we lived in a cottage on one of the Finger Lakes, and they moved with us, and ended up being stored in the garage for 10 years.  Finally, I dragged them out and set them up on the patio, where they’ve sat ever since.  They’re made from pine, and have weathered over the years, but could definitely use a coat of paint.  The handyman offered to paint them after doing the repairs, but painting is a relatively easy thing to do, so I declined at the time.  I actually have a third chair that I’ve been meaning to build (it was an extended ‘reward’ on a Kickstarter campaign many years ago) but just haven’t gotten around to it.  Perhaps I can do that as well this summer.
  • The shutters on the house are in serious need of repair or replacing.  I’m thinking replacing, since they’re in pretty bad shape overall, and are so old, that they’re nearly all falling apart.  Too, they have antiquated hinges that I can’t seem to find replacements for, so I might have to get in touch with a contractor and get a quote on suitable ones; but I don’t want vinyl shutters, since you don’t put plastic shutters on a 180 yr old house.  That would be a little stupid, in my opinion.  (Wow, just priced wooden shutters and got sticker shock.  $550 for a pair of redwood… even pine [pine!] is $140…)

There’s more around the place, but I think that’s sufficient for now.  Just have to get the gumption up to get around and do such things.  Some are definitely easier than others, and some are going to put a serious dent in the household funds insofar as repair and replace.  But that’s part of owning your house.  As opposed to renting.  For the most part you’re keeping it up for the next people who are going to own it.

I’ll probably do a review at the end of the summer.  See how I made out.

Go, Go, Gardening!

garage-plotEven though the roto-tiller is down, that doesn’t stop the process of gardening around here.  We have a bevy of other non-powered tools to break ground, so that’s being used while I figure out the intricacies of the machinery.

Friday was my other day off for the week, and it was warm enough that we decided to do a little shopping for plants and other sundries that would be needed.  Too, I have a fledgling plan about building a raised bed off the garage.  For the last couple of years there’s been a bunch of leaves and other stuff there and it’s been a bit unsightly.  I measured the area that needs to be utilized, and it’s going to be rather narrow, but it can be anywhere from 8 to 10 feet in length, which will make up for it.  The reason it has to be narrow is that there’s a property line I have to contend with, that’s pretty close to the foundation of the garage.   When we first lived here, I had wondered why there was just a one bay garage, but quickly discovered the reason.  The property line is too close to have expanded any building outwards to accommodate more than one vehicle.  Behind the garage is the outline for what may have been a small outbuilding or barn in the past, there’s a concrete pad and what’s left of the foundation.  It appears to be rather old, certainly not cinderblock, more of an amalgamation of stone and some sort of really old mortar.  Even so, it has held up rather well over the years, and if I had access to a jack hammer, I would have gotten rid of it a while ago.

There are several places locally where we can get plants.  One we frequent more often than the others, generally because their prices are pretty reasonable.  Another one further afield has an ice cream stand attached and they sell plants on the side for the most part.  They have good prices on hanging baskets, certainly better than most of the other greenhouses and garden centers.  Our plan was hit the ice cream stand place first, then the other place on our way home.  My wife informed me that the first place opened at 2 pm, so we headed in that direction about 2:15.   Only, when we arrived, the sign outside said that they opened at three,  not two.  Oops.    Needless to say, neither of us wanted to sit around for 30 minutes, so we decided to take a little jaunt further east to another greenhouse we knew about.

They had a pretty good selection, except their prices are a little higher, and their offerings (as we found out later) were a teensy bit deceptive.  Most places sell things like marigolds in 6 packs, but this place sold them in individuals.  So instead of paying $1.99 for 6 plants, I ended up paying $1.49 for ONE plant.  Even if I had purchased 8 for their ‘discount’ price of $1.29/each, I’d still be paying more money for the plants that I wanted.  Granted their plants are very healthy looking, larger than at many of the places, but the sum total of what we spent there for what we got made my eyes water at the register.  I suppose there’s a good reason we don’t do more of our shopping there!

After spending about 45 minutes there, we returned to the ice cream place.  We had been there on Wednesday, and had spotted two very nice hanging baskets of petunias, in black and yellow that both of us had liked.  We didn’t get them at the time, figuring they’d still be there when we went back.  Except, they weren’t.  There were several others that piqued our respective fancies (I thought about getting two purple and yellow ones, but I think it was better that I didn’t, I needed a more suitable reason than the colors are the ones from my high school!) but in the end all we got was a Bougainvillea.  I had looked over the marigolds they had but they didn’t look especially healthy.  We’re going to take a trip (probably this coming Wednesday) to the greenhouse we visit most often and probably round out what we’re going to be getting for planting purposes.

The gardens are slowly starting to come together.