So here are a few translations I should make for you. First off, if my wife says Slate, what she really means is Flagstone. If she uses the term Caliche, she is actually referring to Decomposed Granite. These are important notes in helping to understand some of the confusion surrounding our most recent project.
One of the features that the builder put into our front yard was this empty space between the front walkway and the porch. It was filled with colored mulch that matched the brick and I thought it looked fine. Of course, we added assorted little accoutrements to spice it up, including a huge cement heart created by Eva's grandfather for his bride. We've hauled that thing from Balboa Street on San Antonio's West side to our first house, second house and now this place. It is heavy, and I hope to never move it again.
This is an older picture taken before we put grass in the front yard. The problem with this little area, besides being filled with random gnomes, bird feeders and rocks of various sizes and shapes, was that it was growing some weird sort of mushroom and mold, and more importantly, Eva had a different vision for it.
Several weeks ago, we went by the home of our good friends Briana & Peg to see the wonderful landscaping work they had been working on and how they had transformed their front yard into a beautifully xeriscaped garden with a rock riverbed, clumps of well-thought out plants that would work year round, and a wonderful flagstone walkway and patio that allows them to sit on rockers and enjoy the view. Immediately, Eva was ready to begin demolition of our front mulch-filled area in preparation of a new "slate" patio.
This same idea has been brought up in the past, but I have always been able to send it to the back burner in favor of other less back-breaking projects. But seeing the result of B&P's beautifying project forced the patio project back to the front of the, I guess stove if that is the analogy we are going with.
Before I knew it, Eva had cleared all the odds & ends from the area and was dispatching excess mulch into other areas of the yard where presumably, mold and weird mushrooms will flourish for years to come. The cement heart would have to stay, of course, but I would end up moving it for her, just so she could prove to herself that I was still agile and fit enough to handle it. Hello Celebrex.
We started of trying to level the area while maintaining a slight downward slope for water run-off. If you have seen any of the home & garden shows on DIY or HGTV, you might see people laying a foundation of play sand or some sort of pea-gravel. I opted for going with the decomposed granite that we have used on other projects. It would certainly be easier to move heavy flagstone pieces in sand, but I wanted the base to be really solid once it was all in place.
Going to get the flagstone turned out to be a much bigger ordeal. This is where it is important to use the Internet and believe what you learn. In short, I used a calculator from one of the web pages I found that allows you to enter the area you are looking to cover, and it will give you an indication by weight of how much flagstone you need to purchase.
There was another issue. Our standard place for purchasing any kind of materials of a rock nature is the Lytle Oil Exchange - the place I get my oil changed on my truck. Yes, you can get your vehicle serviced and buy a yard of mulch all in a single trip.
When we went to look at the flagstone, they only had full pallets for sell and regardless of what the Internet was reporting, Eva concluded that we only needed a half pallet. We subsequently spent several hours driving around looking for a place that would sell less than a full pallet.
That led us to our old materials place, Fertile Gardens in NW San Antonio.
They had some half pallets that fit the measurements one of us was comfortable with, but they did not have a forklift at the moment, so we loaded the truck ourselves. In fairness, they gave us a great discount for the inconvenience.
When we got home and got started sorting out the flagstone, it was immediately obvious that the Internet does not lie, and we would need more rock. We tried to stretch things a bit by increasing the space between pieces of flagstone, but I felt it was unsafe and looked goofy. My reaction was to suggest we hire a professional to come in and do the job right.
On Monday, Eva went back to Lytle Oil Exchange and talked to Emma who runs the place. She asked about getting some slate and caliche delivered to the house. When they deconflicted that the slate in question was the flagstone, she ordered a pallet. The caliche, I would have to pick up on my way home from work. A comedy of errors ensued.
The way it works is, you go inside and tell the people what you want, pay for it, get the receipt and then drive your vehicle to the appropriate pile of material. Then after some time, a guy in a Bobcat comes out and loads your truck. I didn't have a receipt because Eva had already paid. But, she told me to just go in and say my name and they would know what I was supposed to get.
I walked in, gave my name then proceeded out to my truck, drove to the pile of decomposed granite and waited. When the guy showed up on the Bobcat to fill my truck, he looked really confused and started calling into the office to ask some questions. He asked me for my receipt but I told him that Emma had it inside. No problem. As he was just about to dump a bucket full of decomposed granite into the bed of my truck, Emma is running at a full sprint from the office trying to get the guy on the Bobcat to stop.
I got his attention and he backed off long enough for Emma to make her way with the receipt. Turns out my wife had ordered and paid for caliche. No a problem at all I said, I'll just go in and pay the difference in cost.
So I walk back into the office with Emma, we joked about how Eva may have said slate and caliche but she meant flagstone and decomposed granite. I paid the difference and went back out to have the truck loaded. The driver put in half a yard of decomposed granite then started to drive away and I got his attention and told him I needed a full yard.
It wasn't until I got home that night that evening that Eva revealed that she had only ordered a half-yard. Oops! Of course, the next morning when the flagstone was delivered, Eva paid the difference and we were squared with the materials place.
While I spent Tuesday at work, putting in a full day for The Man, Eva rounded up her sister Liz, and the two of them went to town for five hours straight, laying and leveling the flagstone into a nice little patio.
Gracie even got involved.
When I rolled into the driveway that evening, the girls had finished up and were kicking back, enjoying a refreshing beverage and admiring the work. There was still some minor clean-up to be done, but for the most part, they had knocked out this job in fine fashion, and without me having to really break my back!
This is the finished product and I must say, it looks mighty fine, especially since I did very little of the work myself.
Oh, and one final translation for conversations with Eva. Eva told Emma that she wanted to purchase the Big Peanut to put in the front yard. What we had delivered with the flagstone was a big fossil.
The garden gnomes will be finding new homes in the back yard, but they do approve of the transformation, nonetheless.