Putting a Little Light on the Subject

Jon 6a SE MAJuly 21, 2014

It is a hazy sunny day today.

I took a walk to see how my latest climate adjustment was coming along.

I added a ton of rocks or so to the 'Ravine'

I also cut down an old crabapple that was on its last legs and trimmed back a lot of overhanging branches.

This seems to have made a dramatic difference as things have started to perk up even after only a few days.

Ferns are flourishing

Sleeping Beauty has awakened.

After a long wait, things are filling in.

First Frost...not for a while.

Blue Angel, getting some company.

The NOIDS on the knoll....

Even they look good.

Spilling down toward the 350 year old new bench.

Please send boulders. I need a couple of tons more. Seriously I think taking down that Crabapple and trimming has given the area the shot in the arm it needed.

I hope you are not getting bored as this grows in slow motion.


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Looking great, Jon. I never noticed that low rock wall (in your first pic) Love the dark stone.

Don B.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 5:14PM
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Everything looks really good. Love the dry river bed and sitting area.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 5:20PM
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zkathy(7a NC)

"Gardening is the slowest of the performing arts." Mac Griswold
Quote submitted by Kathy

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 5:32PM
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Bored?? Us?? Oh Jon, bite your tongue. If gardening has taught us anything, it is patience. Loving the look of your river of rocks. You should now add water. hehehehe just kidding.....

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 5:37PM
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bernd ny zone5

Your landscape looks very nice. I noticed also the benefit of more light after having removed 2 trees and 2 large pines limbed up to 30 ft. I had that done without increasing the time of direct sun.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 5:38PM
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Jon 6a SE MA

Don, that was left-over stone from the wall in front of the house. I bought that 'Pennsylvania Colonial', it is easy to stack....well easier than gathering rocks.

Thanks bungalowmonkeys, the wood for the bench came from a 350 year old building; It was huge beams salvaged by a guy in Middleboro, MA that was cutting it up and making flooring out of it (expensive flooring, no doubt). The bench material was 'scrap' from his project. It was too long for a straight bench, so I came up with the angled seat arrangement. It took a little thought and a whole bunch of keep track to keep the square footings, concrete block mortared with Mexican beach stones aligned and locked together. It is VERY sturdy and well worth the effort. An original, for sure.

Kathy an insightful and very true statement.

Nista, you just have to let yourself go and you can see the water as it ripples and bubbles down the ravine. You have to believe.

Bernd, I cut a lot down when I cleared the area. The pines are trimmed up and I can go 20 feet with my pole pruner (Higher with a stepladder), but I want to keep the lower area in deep shade to prevent weeding. I keep it just high enough to walk under. I am trying to balance the fact that the area down by the bench it is pretty much covered in pine needles and needs little to no maintenance as very little of anything grows. Now that the upper portion is more open the brightness is very noticeable and maybe it is my imagination, but everything seems to be spurting.

There are smaller caliper trees that I can easily cut down and open it up more, but I like the needle cover and do not want to encourage weeds. I also planted some variegated Vinca Minor on the far bank at that is doing well and will brighten the area as it spreads in the background along with the sections of it I planted on the right bank of the ravine.

Thanks everyone, maybe it will be a lot different by season's end.


    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 8:08PM
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hostatakeover swMO(6a)

Thoroughly enjoyed your pics and accompanying remarks, Jon. What a beautiful garden you have and love all the rocks and other details you've added. Wow.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 9:52PM
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Jon 6a SE MA

Thank you takeover, glad you enjoyed it.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 6:27AM
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Would love to see a close up of it. Love projects like that. It is crazy how much that recycled wood goes for. Gladly pay it if my pockets were deep and full.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 7:26AM
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Jon 6a SE MA

OK bungalowmonkeys, ask and ye shall receive-

You don't need deep pockets for this guy, The wood was under $25.

The raw material

The joint was made with a Kreg pocket joint. Six pocket screws (sorry no picture of this). The glue is Titebond III which is a marine grade glue good for submerging.

Routed edges, sanded down, Sickens finish (the best).

Single concrete blocks (2 high). Laid out a paper template to position where the columns would go.

Set in 2 lag screws for each column. The screws are set in concrete which fills the cavity in the concrete blocks.

The concrete blocks are mortared together and Mexican beach stones are mortared all over the outside.

Make up some 2x4 footings and mark where the columns go using the paper template I made.

A four foot rebar is set into the ground. The footing is filled with concrete. The hollow core of the concrete blocks are filled and the rebar is set into the wet mortar and....

Voila, you have a one of a kind garden bench that, with a little TLC will last and last. Like any project like this I am proud of it and I am glad I did it, but it is really a good 3-4 day project (probably more waiting for mortar to dry) which requires a goodly amount of planning and tedious care in putting it all together.

I now need to work on a trellis or railings that will fit the ravine and the bench. Stone columns (veneer) with wood rails to match the angle of the bench....candle lanterns .......hmmmm. I must have rocks in my head (pun noted)


    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 7:14PM
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sandyslopes z5 n. UT

Your plants are getting bigger and seem happy in their woodland setting. I always like seeing your river rock ravine. And that bench... Thanks for showing how that all came together. That's really nice!

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 12:43AM
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josephines123 z5 ON Canada

Very nice mitred joint and the routered edges finish the bench off beautifully! Love the stain colour, very soft and warm. Something beautiful about its simplicity....I enjoyed the "details" too, Jon. Great job...no little wonder you are happy with it!

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 2:09AM
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Wow! You did a great job, looks fantastic. $25 for antique wood is a crazy price! And what a nice piece to work with. I havent used Sikkens yet on a wood project, but love the finish you acheived. It looks like a hand rubbed oil finish. Just getting into wood working and have tried tounge oil (true tounge oil) on a railing and bookcase top, but not sure im in love with it. What sikkens product did you use? Is that a stain or just sealed with the natural color? And how many coats?

Hope you post photos when you get the rest of the project done. What a great outdoor space.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 7:22AM
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Jon 6a SE MA

Thanks Sandy, next year the plants should be well established and it might be interesting / fun to look back and see how it is progressing.

Jo, the pocket screws make the joint far simpler than doweling or tenons which would never have turned out as well unless I purchased some expensive equipment. Actually, while the wood is the most interesting and the most important part of the project the stain cost me as much...then the stones specially ordered. I did a lot of research into the stain as the wood is obviously not pressure treated and it needed to have good protection. The Sikkens stain was rated and reviewed best, by far. It has stood up very well, but needs another coat this Fall. You cannot put a second coat on right away and there has to be at least a 2 year wait before you can recoat with this stain. The Titebond III glue is living up to its reputation as well, with no sign of deterioration. Its a good thing I don't cost anything though.


    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 7:30AM
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Jon 6a SE MA


It is Sikkens Cetol SRD translucent wood finish; Natural Oak 005. I actually did 2 coats which is a big mistake. They say you can put on only one coat as anything more will never cure. It worked out for me as the wood, having been in a building 350 years was very dry and the first coat soaked right in and the second dried up very well and is fine. I didn't realize that you shouldn't use more than one coat with recoating only after 2 years, and wouldn't have tried it if I had read the directions. They also don't recommend using it over any other finish without sanding it down to bare wood, so redoing the tung oil finish would be difficult or maybe disastrous if not sanded down.


    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 8:03AM
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Ill have to try this product out. The bookcase top never got connected to the actual bookcase since I hated the way it turned out. Was trying to go cheap and used the kreg jig and glue to join two 2x8x 12s together. They are slightly warped on one end and it drives me nuts. Ive got to find better wood for it since it is a focal point in the room.

Did you go off a plan for this project? Where do you go for woodworking plans?

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 8:26AM
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bernd ny zone5

I like to add that raising the canopy of my pines brought more needed light to hostas, but also turned the water in my little pond green. You can't have it all.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 12:38PM
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Jon 6a SE MA

BM, the only plans are in my head, The size was based in the wood that was available. Ask me anything you want about it and I will explain what I did. I can measure up the seat itself and get the angle; things like that. Sorry, I just made it as I went along.


No pond, but I expect that weeds will like the increased sun from my clearing efforts. Like everything, it is a trade off. I don't want to limb up the pines that give pretty solid shade in the lower area. It just takes a little 'mowing' with RoundUp every year or two. The trade off is it is ery tough and slow to grow there.


    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 1:22PM
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bernd ny zone5

I see weeds growing very well this year, actually need to go with a hoe in there to clear it up. My dry creek is growing grass this year. I do not dare to use Roundup due to hostas around there.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 5:43PM
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Jon - I'm very impressed with your landscaping and gardening talents. That bench is to die for. Do you sit on it a lot? Or is it going to be a "hosta bench."


    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 6:20PM
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Jon 6a SE MA


I have a lot of weeds as well in other places. I have used Preen previously with good success. I should have not slacked off and used more.

The rocks don't get many weeds at all. I think it's a combination of deep shade and a deep bed of rocks.

Thanks DD, it is definitely a sitting bench. It is a mandatory stop on Shasta's walks. She used to jump up and sit beside me, but now it seems there are far too many places to 'sniffestigate'. I don't get to sit long, but I enjoy it.


    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 7:25PM
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hostacats(zone 3b)

Wow Jon this is amazing...I love the progress in your yard and LOVE the bench you made.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 9:49PM
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Jon 6a SE MA

Thanks HC,

It may not be everyone's favorite taste, but I don't think that there is anyone that would not appreciate the karma of walking down the Ravine early in the morning on a misting foggy morning.


    Bookmark   July 28, 2014 at 12:27AM
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hostacats(zone 3b)

Jon the bench is awesome and your little ravine in paradise is breathtaking. I can just imagine walking to the bench on a misty morning with a hot cup of coffee, just to sit there and look at your ravine of rocks and all your hostas.


    Bookmark   July 28, 2014 at 12:36AM
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Jon 6a SE MA

I'll have to capture a picture when an opportunity knocks, Michelle.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2014 at 8:55AM
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hostacats(zone 3b)

Sweet that would be cool to see.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2014 at 7:55PM
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