Saturday, December 22, 2012

Photo Essay: Tree Irrigation Installation

John-Paul and Krissy from Urban Farmer volunteered to install the irrigation we purchased from them.  They even volunteered to come in before they went into work for the day. How nice is that? Very nice!!!

John, tireless innovator, with new mulch carrying device.  Also allows you to make mulch sandcastles, not that we'd do that...

Always doing a great job with a sunny attitude, even in the wind and rain, it's Carlin! Now all 23 trees have a drip-line emitter system in place.   

Thursday, December 20, 2012

North End Phase 1 Done

Let's take a little inventory of what was delivered today before I go into all the work that went on:

25 tons of Sunset Gold Path Fines
8 boulders; size 18"x18"x18"
2 tons of 1.5" Lin Creek Pebbles
1.23 tons of 3"x 8" Lin Creek Cobble
14 CY of soil special for the rain garden
4 persimmon-pecan-ginger muffins*

*Ok these were for Kessel and Mauricio. Everything else was for the park. I guess everything was for them (to move!), but at least the muffins are edible.

Special 3 Compartment Truck - Nice!
I was at the park at 8am to receive the first delivery and the guys were already there ready to go. Love it. Truck was even on-time. Even better! I went over the diagram and notes from Andrea, our landscape architect, and they were ready to go, so I was free to leave. Which really meant I went across the street and bought some paint and supplies from Fregosi & Co. to fix the recent graffiti on our fence. I talked with the guys there and was quickly setup with all I needed. Thanks guys! Always helpful and nice.

Almost done
Everything was humming along until the DG didn't show up, so after a few phone calls things were sorted and it arrived by 1pm. I showed up around 3:30pm to check on progress, and purchase a tarp to cover the extra soil, a special item blended just for the rain garden. Buying the tarp meant taking a walk to see everyone at Center Hardware - which is also a group of the nicest, helpful people. How fortunate are we to have them in the neighborhood, and located adjacent to the park for easy purchasing? Only if a native plant nursery was next door.. but that could be dangerous!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Preparations for the North End

Annie's new plan for the north end
This afternoon I stopped by to put up a few flyers announcing the new street park and to say hello to Kessel and Mauricio who have been busy preparing the north end for a revised DG pathway and installation of the rain garden. When I arrived they were just packing up for the day, so it was a good moment to take a photo of their work for the day.

Ready to go for tomorrow!
Last Saturday the L-extension of the DG pathway was finished, which was no small feat by a group of dedicated volunteers. However, changes to the design plan necessitated that it be removed - see Annie's new drawing. I was sad to see it go, but tomorrow morning another load of DG will be arriving and a better configuration of the pathway that allows for people to continue walking down the street will be created. We are also installing the hardscape for the rain garden tomorrow, which basically means creating a specialized depression that allows water to be slowed, filtered, and drained away from the site. After the hardscape is in we will be able to plant it out with species that are happy existing in a sandy, rocky, environment where their feet occasionally get wet.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Gone daffy

Daffs at home in Wales
I have often talked about my love for daffodils. How I should probably not buy too many more of these cheerful winter-flowering bulbs that need zero summer water and come back better every year. And how I somehow can't resist them, for full price or more commonly on sale, forlornly trying to sprout in their stifling plastic bags stuffed in the back of a shelf when Home Despot clears out their garden area and fills it with Christmas trees.

Well you know what? The definition of addiction is knowing you shouldn't, saying you won't, and doing it anyway. So I am here to tell you I'm addicted to daffs. I was in HD today, where I get my kicks sniffing down my nose at their beat-up succulent collection, when I spied the rack of left over alliums and tulips and daft Martha Stewart collection bulb sets and voila: loads of daffs at about 75% off.

It's like a red rag to a bull, I tell you. My eyes just glaze over. The spoils:

Trumpet Mix: 76
Tahiti: 24
Thalia: 12
Dutch Master: 36
Golden Ducat: 12
King Alfred type: 114
Barrett Browning: 12
Mystery daff bulbs with the tag ripped off: 76
Total bulbs: 362

Financial damage: $37

Cost per ray of winter light: about 10 cents.  You can't beat it people. Daffodils make the world a better place.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Another fine workday in the rain

Before the madness started...
Today started out clear but cold and as Matt and I surveyed the street at 8am we noticed that the mulch had been dumped right on the area where we wanted to build the last section of the path. Ugh!

Lyngso truck arrives
We went to get coffee and came back in time to meet the guy from Lyngso at 8.20am. He was delivering our 72 fine Sonoma field stone boulders, handpicked by Matt and I last weekend.

He got them off the truck, and put the pallets along the street while I unwrapped them and put the trash in bins.

Matt rolled up all the orange plastic fencing that has been protecting the street, and piled up the signboards too.

Rocks are ready
At 9am Kessel and Mauricio arrived and started operating the bobcat, moving rocks to their final places. Then all the other volunteers started arriving and it got busy!

Everyone split into groups and tackled various jobs. One group worked on the remaining pathway, where loads of dirt had to be moved to backfill the pathway, get raked flat and have decomposed granite compacted on top. The dirt down there is heavy and hard to move!

We had 9 tons of decomposed granite delivered and we still need 4 more yards - argh! We had more bender board delivered and Matt cut it to the right length and everyone pounded in the stakes to hold it.

Team hard at work
Another group was busy moving mulch out of the way at the same time. Pitchforks, rakes, wheelbarrows and bucket-loads were spread along the street - amazing how much better that makes it all look!

Another group rearranged rocks, placing them flat side down, every 9' along the street.We had just enough, but when we order more for the bio-retention cells we might intersperse a few large ones in among the current ones.

Work in progress

Lastly Matt headed up a crew removing all the yuccas and cacti from the Regent's Cab lot. Everyone was getting tired, and then it started raining... could we hold out and finish the job?

Emily and Debbie went to get pizzas from Goat Hill Pizza and sadly Emily had to go home as she was feeling sick. The rest of us plowed onwards, stopping for a pizza break. One last push in the rain though and yes - we planted ALL the plants! We cleaned up all the trash, got all the tools back to Sean the DPW guy

Ta dah!

Our first guests
There are still two mounds of mulch and that's going to be work for another day... but while I was contemplating that the very first people to officially walk down our newly opened path passed me, and I had to stop and take their photo - left. Yay!

Matt, Emily, Ryan, Debbie, Tony, Nate, Tristan, Jessica, Chris, Gennie, Gina, Carlin, Leslie, Bruce, Eliot, Bill, Maulik, Steve, Max, Carl, Kessel, Mauricio, the 7 teenagers from Millbrae, and all the people whose names I forgot (sorry - so tired!) all worked SO HARD today and made it happen - thank you all so much for contributing to this community project. You should feel very proud.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Rocking out

Today Matt and I got up early to head down to Redwood City to shop for rocks. We needed to pick out boulders to line the street and prevent cars from getting up on the nice new pathway. We went out and surveyed the myriad types of rock at rock purveyor Lyngso, and chose Sonoma Field Stone, a nice cheap option that come sin lovely colors and shapes, with a dusting of moss and lichen to boot.

We picked out 72 boulders in the 2'- 3' across range, and each one had to have two strips of plastic ribbon and a pink tag attached to mark it as ours. Lots of scrambling around a huge pile of rocks - total health & safety nightmare!

We will have them delivered next Friday for the last of our three-series let's-get-most-of-this-work-done-quickly volunteer day events.  I also ordered 8 more tons of decomposed granite, and 4 more bender boards. That should do it!

Later on we went out and pulled three large Yuccas from the Regent's Cab lot and planted them on the site. We need to get that area in front of the fence planted up quickly, as it's a prime target for taggers. Lots to do!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Care to take a walk?

Well I just walked in from today's volunteer day #2 of 3, which started for me at 7.30am this morning when Lyngso delivered 800' of benderboard and 400 stakes about an hour and a half early... good job Emily texted me because I was still in bed. Ahem!

At 9am Kessel and Mauricio showed up to start operating the bobcat and the vibrating plate machines, and around 9.45am volunteers started showing up.

Happily Mike our contractor had carved a pathway 5' wide and 400' long for us, but we needed to bury our 6" wide benderboard in 3" of dirt on either side of the path, stake it in place, then 3" of decomposed granite.

Burying benderboard isn't easy when there's asphalt or rocks in the way, so at times we resorted to raising the middle of the path instead. And man, that was some heavy work...

Everyone plugged on cheerfully though - even Alejandro and his wife who drove up from Tijuana yesterday (!) and oh, just on their weekend getaway decided to spend several backbreaking hours working on a street park project run by people they don't know (!!!)  I was completely astounded by that when I found out. Who does things like that? You people are amazing.

I went to Center Hardware as we needed hammers, and they loaned us three. Then later on Paloma and her adorable baby went and got pizzas for us all to eat from Goat Hill Pizza - yay!  Great to get support from the neighboring businesses. DPW also loaned us loads of tools which was really helpful.

However, happily we ran out of decomposed granite and had to stop with about 140' of path still to make. I say "happily" because I for one am shattered!

The path ended up being quite curvy in places - at first I was disappointed but when the rocks go in as wheel stops, and the bio-retention cells are in (four parking-spot sized areas that poke into the street to catch storm water and slow traffic) you won't notice the irregularities, and anyway - straight lines are boring.

My deepest thanks to everyone who worked on this today: Matt, Rob, Paloma, Jim, Brittany, Jordan, Eddy, Miley, Jackie, Steve, Andrea, Alyssa, Bruce, Jerad, Bryce, Kenia, Gillian, Eliot, Justin, Jordan, Jessica, Maulik, Quinton, Kyle, Jonathan, Jeffrey, Ernest, Stanley, Leslie, Alejandro, Gina, Raymond, Kessel, Mauricio, James, Bruce, Rick, and anyone else I forgot: you are amazing!

P.S. Three things got left at the site - are they yours? Describe them and I'll get them back to you. A music player, a burgundy top, and a croissant. Actually, I ate the croissant so sorry if that was yours.  ;)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Preparation for Saturday

As preparation for our big Saturday workday at the new street park  (now known as the Pennsylvania Railroad Garden) I had a full day scheduled of garden activities for Friday. This was my plan*

9-10am meet mulch delivery truck (~60 yards)
10-12pm Do some weeding, pruning and trash pickup
12-2pm Lunch, work on a grant opportunity for the new street park (!)
2-5pm  Brittany, her boyfriend Ryan, and Carlin at garden for the following:
          - Pot up Agave pups for new street park
          - Clean dead leaves off Yuccas 
          - Move barricade to indicate piles of mulch and DG
          - 3pm meet DG delivery truck (~25 tons)
          - Sweep pathways, turn compost
* this is not actually what happened
Proud pile of decomposed granite (DG)
Brittany and her Ryan potting Agaves
What actually happened was very different. Mulch delivery was way early, so my dog Bentley missed his morning walk. This meant that after the mulch was delivered, I ran home to walk him.

Little did I know that while on my walk, my longtime boyfriend, Ryan, had snuck back home from work to arrange things in our house... so that he could propose to marry me! Luckily we didn't cross paths and I was still walking our dog. I of course accepted his marriage proposal, and he informed me that I was being whisked away on a 4-day vacation with our best friends as of 4pm that day. Also luckily, he is a smart man, and had told Annie that I'd be gone the entire weekend.

However, this meant that all of the work I had planned for the rest of the day was shot and I was leaving Annie with literally 3 truckloads worth of work and volunteers on Saturday. In tears of happiness and confusion I called Annie and double checked it was OK for me to be gone, and as she is a great friend and one of the smartest and most capable people ever, she was fine with it. I owe you Annie!
Star volunteer Carlin

In the end everything was delivered, I left the garden at 3:30pm with Carlin in charge, and the big workday on Saturday was a success by many measures.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Fencing and gravelling

Alan and Paul 'aving a laff.
Today I went for a peep at the work site and saw two of Richie and Eamonn's men working away at the fence they framed up yesterday. Alan and Paul said the job would be done by end of day - super speedy work!

Similarly, Mike has gone right ahead and placed a few tons of recycled asphalt and concrete grindings on the corner, to level the area where asphalt was removed. This should make a good solid base and be permeable for rainwater to run off and infiltrate well.

Recycled materials in action.
And today Heidi from FuF will be out to plant the two remaining trees on the site. It's all coming along so well - every day brings fantastic improvements to the site.

Emily and I are working away to get ready for the volunteer day on Saturday. We have 25 tons of decomposed granite and something like 60 yards of mulch being delivered on Friday. Hope you can make it out to help us shift all this stuff - going to be a lovely day and yep, we will have PIZZA!

UPDATE: This just in from our Richie! The boys are almost done with the new fence and doesn't it look splendid?

As Richie says, the challenge will now be to prevent graffiti on it, but I hope within a day or two we can start planting yuccas, agaves and all sorts of spiky and youth-repellant plants in front of that fence. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

All sorts of beginnings

Mauricio and Kessler at work
I stopped by today to map out where the DG and mulch would be delivered on Friday- really just an excuse to walk my dog and check out the progress on site. I was not disappointed either!

5' pathway foundation
Mauricio and Kessler were hard at work leveling out the new dirt at he north end. They had  already finished all of the prep work for the 5ft wide x 400ft long  DG pathway that a small army of volunteers will build this Saturday.

Another new beginning on site is the initial framing of the fence on top of the retaining wall. So many great things are bubbling away, soon to be completed!
Initial framing of the fence

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Goings on down the street

If you came to our workday yesterday and wondered where we were, you haven't been reading your emails from us closely enough - we were one block away on the 100 block of Pennsylvania Ave (now known as the Pennsylvania Railroad Garden) planting 23 trees.

When the rain lets up head on out and see what's going on in that long-neglected area of our city.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Our forest is installed!

Today was tree planting day. At 8am we met Heidi and her gang from Friends of the Urban Forest on the street and started moving the trees out of the Regent's Cab lot, where they had been stored, in the pouring rain. Oh yeah - it was really raining. Sigh. Thank goodness for GoreTex...

At 9am our energetic volunteers started arriving, the rain kept raining, and we worked in groups from both ends of the street to insert trees. Each tree had a team of 4-6 people working on it, each with a ladder, a bucket of tools and a team leader showing them how to do the job.

About a dozen trees went off to other neighborhood spots as well, to be planted in front of various houses.

I had to work it out on wet paper in the rain, trying to figure exactly which tree should go where, but we now have 5 species interspersed evenly down the street by leaf color, growth habit (upright or weeping) and leaf size. Tricky! For some reason an extra Acacia baileyana "Purpurea" was delivered but hey presto: we had a spare hole for it!

Here is the list of trees we planted:

1.  Olea europea (Olive tree)
2.  Agonis flexuosa "Jervis Bay Afterdark" (Purple Peppermint Tree)
3.  Acacia stenophylla (Shoestring Acacia)
4.  Tristaniopsis laurina "Elegant" (Small-Leafed Tristania)
5.  Acacia baileyana "Purpurea" (Purple Fernleaf Acacia)

Each tree had the following work done to get it settled:

1.  Dig out the hole to the right depth.
2.  Remove from pot, trim roots and insert in hole.
3.  Back fill hole.
4.  Pound in 3 stakes while standing on a ladder.
5.  Nail on 3 joists to hold the stakes together.
6.  Remove the original tree stake it came with.
7.  Tie and then nail on three supports.
8.  Add a wire mesh cage to protect the tree.
9.  Water in well. Hahaha. No, not really. These trees weren't so much planted as drowned in the sodden dirt!

The rain kept pounding down in waves, but people kept on working. Finally we got a break and a little sun was visible through the clouds, and the end of the work was in sight.

By 2pm all 23 trees were in. Matt went to pick up pizzas donated in part by Goat Hill Pizza and drinks, and we stopped work, and chatted and exchanged scary tree stories, then finally called it a day. Phew!

Join us at 10am next week, Saturday December 8th, for part 2 - the sidewalk. We really need extra volunteers for that day, and the 15th too - can you make it?

Thank you to everyone who worked so hard today - the street is already transformed by the trees. Damn, it looks good! More photos to come soon.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Our trees arrived!

Heidi waits in the rain....
This morning I met Heidi and her crew from Friends of the Urban Forest (FuF) onsite at 7am. It was light outside, but raining, and as the commute traffic whizzed by us on 17th we waited... and waited! The nursery truck delivering our 22 trees and the contractor with the augering machine were both delayed. Annie came out and chatted with us before leaving for work, and having good company made it much more pleasant.
Annie & Matt watch the trees arrive

Eventually the trees and augering machine did show up. The mad-max style jeep augering machine set to work digging out the holes Annie and Matt had laid out the night before, and the small crew of FuF helpers helped guide truck with our trees into Regent's Cab lot. They have been super nice to let us store some Yuccas there for months, and are letting us store the trees there overnight as well.

Once the truck was backed in we began unloading in the rain, a splattering of mud coming from off the trees/truck as we unloaded the large, wet, heavy trees and stakes. All worth it! Needless to say I was also getting covered in mud, so no photos of this part of the operation. After I was clean enough to operate my cell phone I was able to snap a photo of one of the boxed trees on site for perspective, and an example of one of the augered holes.

Tomorrow we will meetup with FuF and their crew of volunteers to install the trees - so stay tuned for some great photos. Maybe drop by with a warm cup of tea?
Tree onsite
Exemplary Hole

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tree positions marked

It rained all day, in case you didn't notice, or are vacationing in Hawaii! I went and checked the street at 6pm to mark spots for the tree augur guy to come drill holes for them tomorrow morning. It was raining and several cars were parked in tree planting spots. Gah.

I went and did some more work for a few hours, and just now at about 10.50pm Matt and I returned from marking the spots in the rain. Only one piece of machinery is blocking a tree spot now and hopefully Mike the contractor will move it tomorrow.

We are wet and cold but that part of the job is done. We had to measure each spot twice to be accurate: 19' from the roadway, another 5' for the sidewalk, and then halfway between the fence and that point for each tree. Oh, and 20' apart. Our measuring tape got very muddy, and we went through a couple cans of paint. I have to say the new area looks amazing though!

Tomorrow morning Friends of the Urban Forest are meeting Emily at 7am to drop off the trees. Emily thinks I am getting up at 6am to meet her at 7. Haha. Hah!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Best thing to do after it rains

An honor: first daff of the season
Given the rather wimpy storms we get here in San Francisco, I knew in between rain showers I could get to the garden today and get some work done. I was not wrong! The best thing to do right after a good rain is to pull out weeds, they will be much easier to remove. I weeded the brights bed, pruned back the old parts of the Glaucium grandiflora there that is one of my favorite plants, took off the dead bits on the Echinacea and tidied up the Iris by removing dead leaves. I also took a walk throughout the entire garden admiring how lovely the plantings are right now and pulling out offending weeds as necessary. I highly recommend taking a quick walk through the garden before it rains again, and you can spot the first daffodil of the season blooming. The Salvia and Yarrow next to it are blooming are well, we are so lucky here throughout the winter to have so much color!

A favorite: Echeveria 'Fred Ives'

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Aerial views and more!

Maybe it looks even better from above!
Annie and I received two great emails this morning from neighbors Jason and Nataly. Not only did they tell us how happy they were about the new street park, they sent over aerial photos of the site. A double whammy of happiness! I hope they continue to take aerial shots of the street park as it progresses. If you have photos of the site you'd like to share, please email them to me at

Yea, heavy equipment!
Just as it was getting dark I was able to take my dog Bentley on a walk and check out the day's progress. A good portion of the street has been roped off so that the asphalt can be safely removed. We are still maintaining two-way traffic and perpendicular parking on both sides, so don't worry! The area between the parking and the fence has a bunch of rock, asphalt, and unmentionables dumped over the years by countless people of questionable morals, so it all has to be dug up and safely removed. No more dumping allowed in our street park!

Bentley checks out the BRC to be
In addition to the area being removed along the fence, there some additional features that will have the asphalt removed from them as well - these are labeled 'BRCs' for bio-retention cell. It is basically a fancy way of saying a planted area that acts to slow down and filter rainwater. There are 4 of these located along the parking zone to slow and filter water as it travels down the street. You'll love them, we promise.

Beautiful, level park
The site was originally quite sloped, so much so that if you stood at the bottom by the fence you could not be seen from the street level. Now with the retaining wall finished and the area back-filled with dirt, the site is almost level. I am honestly overjoyed to see things at this stage of completion - so many meetings about the retaining wall,  grading of the site, the eventual redwood fence that will top the structure... endless.

Night-time Agaves at P garden
After walking through the new street park Bentley and I headed up to Pennsylvania Garden to dispose of his doggy waste and enjoy night-time at the garden. With the new street park we may incorporate some features that are not found at Pennsylvania Garden - like a larger seating area with lighting - but for now we're just dreaming up the possibilities.

page counter
Free Hit Counter