Tales From The Money Pit

The embarrassingly long stretch of time between new posts recently has been a result of the arrival of spring weather and its attendant garden chores, but also to a series of “events” at The Money Pit.  I’m not quite sure how to describe them other than to say that it’s been less like being nibbled to death by ducks and more like feeling battered from pillar to post! A quick rundown in chronological order since the beginning of this year:

early January: The waterproofing work described in House vs. Water, Round One.

mid-January: Finally found someone to swap out a defective glass shower door whose replacement had been sitting in the garage for months in a gigantic box that effectively blocked the use of 30% of same. (The full story will eventually be told in an upcoming post.) You would think that such a relatively simple thing would be easy to find someone willing and able to do. Nope.

mid-February: Massive underground excavation project required, which will be described in my next post (House vs. Water, Round Two) before this current month is out. I promise!

mid-March: The long-awaited (since July of last year) front walkway/new paver area project. Now, I must explain that normally I am rather OCD when it comes to any home improvement activity and will spend weeks locating and choosing exactly what color, shape, etc. of whatever materials are required. But this one time I decided to give myself a break and let the brick mason choose the new pavers that would most closely approximate the color of the existing front paver walkway. I figured that he probably has access to more options that I do, or at least could do so more easily.

The first two days of work were taken up with re-doing the entire front walkway using the old pavers, and it looked great. About 40% of this walkway had been ripped up for the Big Dig (cesspool installation) and had remained that way all winter. Another section was starting to sink a bit and so the entire thing needed to be re-done with the correct sort of base.

The new brick front steps were done last year by the company who replaced the house siding and removed the existing wood front porch and steps.

On Day Three the masonry yard delivered covered pallets of the pavers for the new side patio and rear walkway. Only the pavers’ sides were visible and they looked a bit redder than I was expecting but I told myself to wait and see what the top surface looked like. When I looked again, a couple of hours later, I had serious qualms about the color. But what could I do? Call a halt halfway through the job? There was brick dust, sand and dirt over much of the area, so perhaps the color would look different once the pavers were installed and cleaned up.

Yep, they sure did look different. The color looked even worse. Especially since the final section to be placed was the one that butted right up against the existing front walkway. There was just no way to ‘spin’ this as the new pavers even remotely matching. In short, I absolutely hated it. And after they washed the new pavers down, I went from hate to pure unadulterated loathing because water turned their pinkish-brick-red-and-gray into a screaming, eye-watering fire-engine-red and jet black!

These photos show the juncture of the front walkway with the new-pavers section, when dry (top) and wet. I will spare anyone’s eyes the trauma of more photos of these areas for now!

I asked myself whether I might eventually get used to it, given that I will literally be spending the rest of my life looking at these pavers. Honest answer: No. A thousand times No, actually. So I plucked up my courage to ask the mason how much it would cost to swap out the new pavers for a color which – had I bestirred myself months ago as normal – I had now located in the Cambridge Pavers line in a fantastic, stunning match for my milk-chocolate-brown house siding and far better color coordination with the existing front walkway. Turns out his crew questioned his original color choice after they did the job and long story short, the mason will be swapping them out for the new ones sometime this fall; my only cost will be the labor. It seems that one of his other customers actually wants a walkway of these pavers (Nicolok ‘Fire Island Blend’ if anyone is curious or wants to avoid them) and so they won’t be a total write-off. At least now when I look at them and shudder I can also look forward to how the area will eventually appear…. at which time I will show all the gory before-and-after details in its own post.

early April: Okay, back to the Tales. For the past six months most of my front yard had been nothing but muddy clay subsoil and rocks of various sizes. After getting estimates from several landscape contractors, Steve (why are most landscape contractor owners usually named Steve or Mike??) brought in 16 yards of topsoil after re-grading the entire area. In addition, several shrubs were dug out and black aluminum edging was installed along the south backyard side border and a section of the rear border where a previous owner had only partially edged it. The original plan was to also seed the lawn areas but thunderstorms in the forecast for the next three days caused that to be postponed “until better weather.” I also gave Steve a list of five trees that I wanted a quote for him to obtain and plant because physically I can’t manage to dig more than a 2- or 3-gallon container sized hole in this dense, rocky clay soil.

mid-April: Installation of a new safety rail around the stairwell entrance to the basement, which had been lacking one since last July. My end-of-job inspection showed that two of the four baluster caps had been damaged during the install. Of course, replacements are on back order but at least now that area is “legal” and safer. No answer from Steve on the tree list.

late April: They finally seeded the new topsoil and also installed new edging around three of the six front yard planting beds (which is all my budget would allow for.) No answer yet on my tree list because Steve “has been too busy to check.”

early May: Ordered 1 cubic yard of Timberlite rock mulch to add to several areas that had been already done by Steve’s crew but skimpily. Clearly, I forgot how much one yard of rocks actually is (hint: a lot), and to make it worse, the supplier sent me more than I asked for. So now there is a large pile of rock mulch in the driveway and guess who will have to move it to where it’s supposed to go?

mid May: No sign of any grass seed germinating. At all. Not even a single solitary blade. But something green was emerging…which turned out to be ragweed seedlings, the ONE weed that I did not already have within the Money Pit’s property. And they were everywhere, along with a thick-bladed grass seedling that I suspected might be either crabgrass or Johnson grass. Reminded Steve yet AGAIN about the trees after paring the list down to only the two that I really really would like to get planted this year (Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’ and Cupressus arizonica ‘Blue Ice’ … both would be focal points in the front yard.) Of course all the retail nurseries are now sold out of the magnolia and nobody seems to be selling ‘Blue Ice.’

I absolutely do recall having moved rock mulch before; trouble is, “before” was fifteen years ago and clearly ‘Things Have Changed.’ Also, a two-wheeled garden cart is not the ideal vehicle for this particular job.


I now discovered that the reason the bedroom is the coldest room in the house in winter is because a prior owner extended the room by 24” directly under the original house eaves, without changing the roofline as should have been done in order to provide insulation above the new interior ceiling area. And here I’d thought that the quirky slanted ceiling along that wall was a “character thing.” Nope. Merely an idiot homeowner having done things on the cheap. I am waiting to hear the cost of upgrading the heating baseboard along that wall to a high-output version, because I can’t bear the thought of the mess (and the major cost) of ripping out and re-doing the roof and the ceiling.

late May: Grass finally germinating (more or less, mostly less) after three weeks of coddling. Unfortunately, the weeds had a huge head start. Sudden warmer weather prompted an invasion of ants from somewhere in the walls or the attic. And even though I have no plant material within 2-3 feet of the foundation anymore, clover mites also arrived en masse. The fact that those die within a couple of days indoors does not comfort me.

My son brought over an old wheelbarrow that he’d been given a few years ago from someone who no longer needed it, but he didn’t have time to help me move the rock mulch. I discovered that the wheelbarrow tire was not merely flat; it had come entirely off the rim, thus useless. So, onto my to-do list went “buy replacement tire for wheelbarrow” whilst the Timberlite mulch continued to sit on my driveway and mock me.


These early-June photos show the ratio of weeds to grass that came up EVERYWHERE that any of the new topsoil was placed.

Unfortunately, I also put the extra bits in several planting beds which are now (but were not before) totally infested with weeds from said topsoil. Please excuse the tacky temporary ‘edging’ which was placed there to let the crew know where NOT to put grass seed. Not that it mattered much, as it turns out……….!

Emailed these photos to Steve almost two weeks ago and followed up with a text and voice mail; as of today, no response. I’m now waiting for a different lawn service to get back to me with an appointment for an estimate on a “renovation program” which I never intended to ever do but things are now totally out of control.

Bought a replacement tire for the old wheelbarrow, only to discover that the axle is part of the old wheel and cannot be removed from it. I’d never seen one like that before. Naturally, one can’t find a replacement wheel like that anywhere, probably because said wheelbarrow dates from the 1950s or 60s. Truth be told, it was so heavy even when empty that I probably could not have budged the thing if any rocks were loaded into it. My son doesn’t want the wheelbarrow back, so out with the trash pickup it went. I am seriously thinking of offering the rock mulch to a couple of the neighbors for free (or at least in consideration of them moving just a couple wheelbarrow loads of it to where it’s needed most.)

There are only three (possibly four) remaining things at the Money Pit to address between now and the end of this year… that I am aware of, anyway! In the meanwhile, this post illustrates my new theory that having too many “blank slate” planting areas is not necessarily a good thing….

More Tales from The Money Pit

  8 comments for “Tales From The Money Pit

  1. Don
    June 14, 2019 at 4:44 pm


    • June 14, 2019 at 8:36 pm

      LOL, that is a very concise but accurate summation! LOL (oh, the myriad joys of home ownership)

  2. June 15, 2019 at 3:06 am

    I would guess that most who read this know both how this time of year is, and how much work such projects can be.

  3. June 17, 2019 at 8:14 am

    I was thinking to myself that the pavers don’t look bad at all, actually I liked the color and thought it matched the steps perfectly…. then I realized those were the old pavers 🙂
    All I can say is good luck. The grass should be fine, I would put down some fertilizer and just mow it for a season and the weeds should give up. Unless that’s nut grass coming up as well. Everything else sounds do-able but nut grass might be an actual reason to get out the for sale sign.
    I hope you put up a photo of the new steps, they look great with the walk coming up now. It’s all going to look so good finished, even if your trees are a year late in coming!

    • June 17, 2019 at 2:09 pm

      Luckily there’s no nutsedge (*knock wood*!) which I know from having to deal with that in my previous garden. I have found a random one or two in one backyard bed a couple of years ago but I think/hope I got rid of it. Probably was a chance seedling. The thick bladed “topsoil weed” is probably Johnson Grass because although similar in construction to crabgrass, it is not as flat to the ground. It also germinated a couple of weeks before the crabgrass (which I did/do have in other areas of the backyard) appears. I will definitely be doing a post after the “remedial masonry” work is done. At this point I’m supposedly on the list for early September but Murphy’s Law will no doubt move that back a few weeks…asit always does…!

  4. Betty McC
    June 17, 2019 at 1:26 pm

    The weeds were probably in the top soil which we also found new, never before weeds when we spread “new topsoil”. I liked the 2 colors in the 1st photos and the design but agree, the 2nd ones would be hard to live with. I owe you a return email and will get to it soon. I’m having full days with projects going in every direction plus big problems with Etsy. Keep pushing forward and one day, you will be able to sit back with your ice tea (or stronger) and enjoy your labors, and beautiful landscape.

    Did your peonies make a nice showing this spring?
    I love reading your posts..

    • June 17, 2019 at 2:14 pm

      Definitely the new lawn weeds were an unwanted ‘bonus’ with the topsoil, which is no doubt why I’ve gotten radio silence from Steve. I have been meaning to post on update on the baby tree peonies but keep forgetting. It’s on my list for this week now though! 😉 My older tree peony (Kamata Fuji) did not bloom at all this year, possibly sulking either because (a) it went from growbag to soil last fall, or (b) it doesn’t like its current location. It will be sulking even more next year because this fall I will need to transplant it to its final location which will probably be more to its liking. So I’ve accepted the fact that I probably won’t see any more flowers from that one until May 2021!

  5. June 17, 2019 at 9:13 pm

    Well, good on you for speaking up about the pavers. That, at least, had a happy ending. But Lord, what a lot to go through. We’re looking at a bunch of stuff starting September: new sewer line, new driveway, new walk to front door, new windows, repair chimney. I shudder to think of it.

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