Renovations Vs New Construction-The Ultimate Cosmetic

45 Which do I prefer? Renovating an existing place or working with new homes, set on earth and nothing else? In landscaping, it’s almost a tossup. Going in and facing this totally blank tableau of dust and flat or steeply-angled dirt has much appeal. So much appeals immediately – images form based on one’s experience and garden design logic based on the past. The very idea of wrestling something civilized and becoming out of simple bare earth has a rare fascination. (enlarge all pictures by left-clicking the image) part9rI have always depicted landscaping itself as an “Ultimate Cosmetic”. There are very few trades indeed who literally “finish” the expanses we deal with on a daily basis. I was told by the owner of this home, below, to “do what I wanted”. It was 10 acres.  😉  Sure enough, we did and he paid happily for the service. We began, more or less, right here:

212 And we ended up with these two views – for a microcosmic look at progress:


Crystal Springs March 3 09 259

Panning out – we have this oft-cited photo from here: (big job on lots and lots and lots of dust)


This has always been a favorite of mine..under the new construction theme:

With an interesting result:

And yet, we also have undertaken projects such as the one below by crashing our way back into the thickets of forestation and undergrowth, rendering it something else entirely.

bo-020What you see on the periphery of this pond and patio was what was at the exact spot that pond now lies. To even call this a renovation is almost funny because it involved such epic change and deconstruction first.


Other types of renovations include the epic “Get my broken cement outta here!” Such as this one:


Ending with this and a far happier client:


And on and on it goes………. Truth is, they all have many moments of pure constructive joy, along with injury and accidental failures and successes. Landscaping itself is creating something from either nothing or recreating Nature with our own intervention.

Face it. It can get pretty wild going from this:


To this:


As for renovations, this is almost not fair. From this humble beginning:

We achieved this result:

And this:

Became this guy:

And this:

Before and After – Eye Candy Revisited

Everybody loves a change! Once again we go with the changes wrought inside landscapes as provided by either the erstwhile landscaper, moving dirt from one place to another – or by Time itself, letting things be what they become.

First the dirt and a landscaper, rendering sense out of this mess –

(click on any image to enlarge)


Looking backwards, I think it cleaned up real nice:

Doug and Ed 021

This one had an intimidating beginning –


And got even weirder – whew – lots of work!


But it also came out OK, I think –

Doug and Ed 188

It’s amazing what a little grass and a few plants can do:

Doug and Ed 020

Or some pavers, for that matter. Here’s the rather “raw” look:


And now for something a bit more finished:

Doug and Ed 103

Same deal, different day:

From this:


To this: (handsome photographer, no extra charge!) 😉

Doug and Ed 096

At times, especially at the beginning of projects – and especially so for smaller crews – the work seems endless……….one goes home at night, knowing darn good and well where one will be the next day. (This, I might add, serves as an understatement!)


Face it, it’s a long way from the above to this:


But interesting!


Many More Before and After Pictures – Misery Beautified

Why not? My oft-stated and not-so-secret love affair with dirt, rocks, machinery and design reflects my equal regard for the one Greatest Human Quality Known To Man:  Occasional Silence.

These sorts of things don’t talk back. They don’t criticize or try and take my Pot of Gold. They sit and wait for my touch in a way that is most yielding and totally compliant. I can pick them up, drop them – in place or on the way – and they’ll just wait to get picked up. I swear, if “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend”, then large rocks, lots of dirt, a piece of blank paper and a gorgeous mini-excavator are this Man’s Best Friends.

OK, my bad.

And this guy:

Alenababy and lobo

(click any image to enlarge)

Let us proceed…………….

My reminiscences about all these projects are filled with a definite sense of accomplishment, I readily admit. Probably compensatory at that, so yes, there is an egotistical sucker underneath all this nice guy persona. But I still enjoy sharing!!

Let me take this moment to remember as well those guys and the gals who worked along beside me, doing stuff I am almost positive I could not have done at my best. Patient, long-suffering and dedicated work mates made my trade (and still make it so) my own version of pleasure in the most wholesome and healthy ways. Every day there were huge laughs – great explosions following someone’s screw-up or a joke told at an incredibly poor time.  Ironies and lying were often featured, carrying monstrous weight as elements of the day. Patient and hilarious, one often waited for the “catch”. Hiding among trees or behind machinery was great sport for a sneaky physical attack. A true phantasmagorical experience, working with dirt and mud among people who just knew they should know better. There is a farmer with a sense of humor in all of us. We got to exercise that homely Beast. And, hey – Hardly a day passed when I did not bless my good fortune at sharing all this – no matter how brutally grim and dismal it sometimes seemed. In fact – all the more so at those times. I have always felt richest in the people with whom I have shared the labor than in any other category. Driving home at the end of a day – endorphins irradiating all my available and very exposed pleasure centers – I often wondered if life got any better.

The accomplishment of a team working towards a goal has few equals in terms of pure social pleasure.

To me, there have been dismal days in the field. Good Lord, working in the North West of the US of A is a constant reminder to me that I have probably forgotten more about mud than anyone I know will ever learn. I have added sod on top of liquid dirt many times. I’ll never forget my first day working in Portland, during a complete 8 hour day trenching for irrigation while the area collected 2 inches of rainfall. The next day was worse! And, yes, to answer an obvious question – I asked myself: “I’m doing this for what?” Those are pretty stunning working conditions, fit for the remaining amphibious gene in all of us. It was a wake-up call for all you kids who make bad grades and think not getting a degree is smart!!  😉

Here is a perfect example. We made this nice-looking water feature for a genuinely cool older Italian couple in Portland, Oregon. I always enjoyed the outcome and it won a State Award to cement its status as ‘pretty well done’. Let’s admire the “After” pictures because it’s going to get ugly showing how we got there.

Here’s the view from the deck above –


These gorgeous “Full Spring” shots obscure some pain which led to the accomplishment. This:


Came from this:


Here’s how we got there………


We began dry enough. It was with bawdy optimism, in fact, that we undertook a challenging and well-drawn chore of rendering a waterfall and 3 levels of ponds down this hillside and which is also featured in the “Pages” section of this very blog under “Construction Of A Waterfall”. In that bit, I neglected to mention a few – um – impediments behind the gig.  Anyway, here was our very sunny beginnings, dry, sunny, unseasonably warm October days –


Whilst I scratched around, digging holes and relocating existing stones, the guys went and grabbed the rocks delivered by evil, stinking truck drivers with a penchant for loads of rocks which were too big too handle. By using a ball cart for huge plants, Leo and Samuel were able to huff them all – and we are speaking about pretty much 40 tons of materials – to the rear by the fashion shown below. Dry, it was not that challenging, in the end. Rain of course presented another set of problems altogether. Here’s a dry look at our most modern technology!

150 feet of “carting”, down a hill and not all paved makes a strong guy. I’ll leave that there.


Down the hill……….


I mean, we were incredibly diligent! Never took a minute off – well……….except once. 😉


We did our thing, shaping dirt, getting ready for liner and then the business end of Finishing:


We added the liner –

Picture11Note the nice and rather dry conditions!  We were STYLIN’!!


So there were we were – ready to roll – and then it got nasty outside:


It had all seemed so smooth – until it wasn’t. And it got cold – almost forgot to mention. 😉


The cleanup’s at the end of each day were tons of fun!


Well, it finally cleared but not before making things rather dismal, in today’s understatement of the week. We applied our level best to it all – and got very detailed:


Even a sudden and random outbreak of “Male Pattern Baldness” did not deter us from inspecting each and every little rock we inserted into this edifice.


Still working…………


Finally, it led to a semblance of order – one could see it taking shape in a much more physical way (and here we have added compost to the surrounding soil, yet to be tilled in):


I believe the attention to detail really paid off well and is a large part of why it was so critically well-received:


In the end, it looked darn good – and we were proud of what we’d accomplished – in spite of our liquid impediments. 😉