Why I built a Holz Hausen Wood Pile (A circular wood pile)

We have always stacked our wood on landscape timbers and cement blocks without any issues.  But living in the city we bought a half a cord at a time at the most.  That amount of wood would last a couple of winters, since we only used it for ambiance and not warmth.

Log-Splitter Required

We had some mulch delivered that came with “some logs” and we have had to fell a couple of trees and suddenly we had a couple of cords of wood.  I decided to buy a log-splitter to take care of it all.

Squirrels Attack

Our new fireplace is huge to look at, but actually has a very small firebox.  So the old style wood stack wasn’t working for us.  The squirrels were making the wood fall and we were afraid of the whole thing coming down.

Internet Search Begins

I started looking on the internet for some ideas and came across the Holz Hausen method that is used across Europe.  It looks so neat and tidy and quite frankly, just looks freaking awesome.  I thought I would give it try.

The advantages that I read are:

  • The logs are slanted inward, so the water runs off and keeps the wood drier.
  • It cures faster due to the chimney effect
  • Can use different lengths of wood to build
  • Will stay neat looking as you use the wood
  • It is strong and won’t fall down (I have verified that so far)
  • You can build it tall

    A Holz Hausen Wood Pile, the European style of stacking wood.

Please watch the video for more details.

 

Garden

The Garden

After gardening on a zero lot line property for over 30 years, I was very excited at the unlimited possibilities of gardening on 20 acres.

Reality

Gopher’s, Deer, Sand

The reality hit me really quick: first it was the sand.   We are talking pure sand.  Beach kind of sand.  Great for drainage.  Nutrients in the soil, not so much!  Then we can talk about the gophers.  Sometimes you can look out at the field and it looks like an old world war two practice bombing field.  Craters everywhere.  Then deer.  We love deer.  They are so sweet to look at.  People come out to visit and we tell them we have deer and and they ask if they can come shoot them.  We say sure, as long as it is with a camera.  But seriously, they can really hurt a garden.  So bad soil, gopher’s to eat the roots and deer to eat the tops.  Great garden potential.

Solution One: Gophers

So the first line of defense is raised bed garden, with a 1/2 inch hard cloth underneath..

Bottom of Raised Bed Garden

Solution Two: Sand

I am doing the hugelkultur method that I have used before.  I have topped it with compost and potting soil that I picked up on clearance at the end of the season last year.

Raised bed Huglekultur Garden

We treated the wood with the Shou Sugi Ban Method to hopefully make the plywood last a long time.

Raised Bed garden with Shou Sugi Ban Plywood

Solution Three: Deer

To keep the deer and birds at bay I will building a structure like the chicken run with deer netting.  It will be enclosed on all sides as well as the top.   It will be next to the run and they will share a wall and I will have a door from the garden to the run.  When the garden is done at the end of the year, I can let the chickens in to clean up the old plants.  Treat for them!

We have started with two raised beds, but I will be enclosing enough area for a total of 5 large beds.

Huglekultur beds are ready for planting

Video – How To: Trailer Security

Video – How To: Trailer Security

Trailer Security

 

Today we are looking at how I protect my investment in my trailers to deter would be thieves. We are looking at the different types of locks used for trailer doors, wheel locks, and the most important in my book, the Coupler Lock (other wise known as the tongue lock). We have used different locks over the years, and we have found these to be our picks.

You can pick up these locks at the links below.

 

 

Trimax Hockey Puck Locks

 

Trimax Hockey Puck Locks - Click for the link to buy

Trimax Wheel Lock

Trimax Wheel Lock - Click for the link

Proven Locks 2516 AS – All Steel – Heavy Duty Design – Anti Theft Trailer Coupler Lock

Proven Locks 2516 AS - All Steel - Heavy Duty Design - Anti Theft Trailer Coupler Lock - Click the images to buy now

Texas Heat VS Free Rocks

Texas Heat VS Free Rocks

Texas Heat vs Free Rocks

The Side Yard- The Less is Better Principle

After I finished the front yard we knew we needed to do something with the side yard. I had to deal with the shade issue but I also had to handle the situation that the yard had a steep slope that made it very difficult for the water to not just run off. I knew I couldn’t do anything about the shade, but I might be able to fix the slope.

I thought about terracing the yard but with my son’s truck and my truck in the driveway it would create a trip hazard that I didn’t want to deal with. My wife said that since it was now June and the Texas heat was quickly sneaking up on us, this was a project we would tackle in the fall.

But the Rocks are FREE!!!

Actually, they are mini boulders. And they were free. Did I mention FREE! I called my wife. She said no. She did not want me to get hurt moving them. I assured her I had a pain free plan… well I knew I would think of one!

You see, I was doing the floors on a jobsite while another contractor was excavating what looked like white Austin stone boulders. Another epiphany moment occurred. They said that the boulders were going to be hauled away and put in the landfill. NO! I paid the excavator operator $10 to put 8 boulders in the back of my truck.

These Guys Were BIG!

They ranged in weight between 200 and 600 lbs. Side note: if you have never really watched one of these guys work the machine, do it. They have an unbelievable amount of grace in using the controls. Not one of the boulders was dropped into the truck, they were moved around so that they all fit without damaging the sides of the truck.

The Rocks

Rocks still on the jobsite

The Pain Free Plan

My next issue was how do I remove the boulders from the truck? I took a tow strap, wrapped it around the boulder, backed the truck up to tree, tied the other end around tree, and drove forward. Not the best for the tailgate but job accomplished. No injures! I rolled the boulders around until they were where I wanted them.

The Project Begins…Sooner Rather Than Later

So we have boulders and no plan. We look at them daily for about 4 days. Then my friend with the playhouse, he has an oak tree, a very large oak tree that didn’t fare well during our 35” of spring rains. It ended up crushing part of his roof. It was coming down.

My wife and I headed to Pinterest for ideas. We know we have to create a small retaining wall and like what we saw using the wood upright. Since my friend doesn’t have a wood burning fireplace I asked for some of the logs for my landscaping project. I loaded up the truck a couple of times and brought home various sizes and shapes of logs.

Retaining Wall Retained

I knew I had to level the yard to begin with. My idea was to plant 2 ft. logs and back fill from there. I dugout the trench and placed the 32-2ft logs in upright. I needed to create some kind of deadman to keep logs from being pushed out. Walking around Lowes I couldn’t find anything that I thought would work. I decided to talk to the Pro desk where the solution emerged (thanks Lowes). We talked about using 20 ft long flat iron to band one side of the logs.

Retaining the Retaining Wall

Boxes are put down to keep weeds to a minimum.

I marked the iron where the gaps between the logs were. I had some 5ft lengths of rebar welded on and then concreted that in to act as deadman. I backfilled the logs and solved my first dilemma of a sloping yard.

To help keep weeds down I covered the entire area with flatten boxes. Then I covered the boxes with a layer of mulch. Now it was time to take a break and figure out what to do next.

Log Slices

Two years ago I saw on Pinterest, paths being made with log slices. We had done this on the mailbox side of our house and I really liked this look. We decided to put more of that tree to good use. I had to dig out the dirt in the easement between the sidewalk and curb on this side of the driveway. I dug down 6 inches and put the dirt in the side yard for later use. We came in at the end of the project and filled it with sand.  I also did my side of the driveway so I had a bit more room for my Ford F250.

tree slices to drive over

Log slices are cut at least 6 inches wide and buried before they are surrounded by sand to lock them in place.

No More Lost Water

Now my wife and I had to figure out what we wanted the yard to look like. While we had gotten rid of a huge hill that had let all of our irrigation water run off for 30 years, we do not like flat yards without any interest. So we created small rises and all the leftover dirt was put to use.

Now flat with no runoff

Now flat without any water runoff.  Success!

Creating Zones

We created a couple of “zones” using some long 4” dia. branches as borders and different colors of mulch. Then it was off to the garden center for a couple of plants and we were done. While our yards may not be officially Xeriscaped, the turf is all gone and we were ready for the next drought. And while we shouldn’t have been surprised, but the next drought happened this very summer. Yes, this is Texas. Two year drought, 34 inches of rain in the spring, official drought again by Oct 1st, 8 inches of rain by the end of Oct. Gotta love Texas.

Stack of Rocks

Finished Before the Heat of Summer

Luckily the summer started late this year due to all the rain we had in the spring.  In the end we turned a shady, dirt area into a shady retreat, complete with bench made from my free stones!

A place to reflect on the day

This photo was taken in a few months later when the sweet potato plant had a chance to grow in.

A 30 Year Project Is Finished!

A 30 Year Project Is Finished!

The Evolution of our Front Yard

Have you ever started a project with the intention of just completing it and getting on with life? That is what I planned to do during the spring of 2015. I live in North Texas and we had an extremely wet spring. When I bought my zero lot line house 30 years ago it was in a new development. I picked the lot that was the highest in the neighborhood as a safeguard against flooding.

Front Yard is Finished

Fast Forward 15 years

Everything was fine for about 15 years. I was talking to my then neighbor and he mentioned that water levels were getting close to the back door. I also noticed the water was taking longer to drain out of my backyard. I decided to install 4 surface drains at the low areas with a pipe to the street to move the water out faster. This took care of both of our concerns. Flooded Backyard

I don’t seem to have any photos of the flooded front yard.  But the backyard drains into the front.  I know this is a horrible photo, but it was a horrible night…..

Fast forward 13 years and I was finding that between the dogs and the chickens the drain pipes were getting clogged with dirt and not functioning well. I decided to install a French drain with gravel and landscape fabric (next to old drain) to improve the drainage. FYI, this is not inexpensive both in energy expended as well as money (we live with clay soil).

The Pile in the Driveway

I ordered 4 tons of river rock gravel which was too much, but a blessing in disguise. I think I overestimated the actual size and volume of the trough. Once the drain was in and covered with the rock (but not dirt at this point), my wife and I saw how beautiful the rock actually was as a path. By utilizing the excess gravel as a path we could create a low, low maintenance yard. Rock Pile

This photo does not do this pile justice…my back will tell you that the pile was much bigger.  I moved the rock in 5 gallon buckets in a two wheel dolly barrel.  Many buckets! 

Coming out of a severe drought, this sounded like the responsible way to go. I should point out that for 30 years I have tried many different yard styles (mostly different types of grass with NO luck) because this area is heavily shaded with oak trees. So this really solved many different issues for us.

Winter before Reno

You can see from the “before” photo that there were no elevations and not much interest in the yard.  Just lirope and the cannas during the summer. 

Two years ago I tried to cover the yard with lirope just to give the yard some life and even that failed. I got a few patches to grow, but nothing attractive. The only thing that grew well was the cannas. Time to start thinking outside the ’neighborhood’ box, everyone had some type grass yard and I wanted something different.

Digging the Trench

The very first thing we did was call 811 before we started to dig and waited for them come out and mark all of our lines. 

Lines marked by utilities

Utility Marking…different colors are for different types of lines. 

With the digging of the trench, there was a lot of dirt in piles that started to take of a life of their own. Instead of piles of dirt they created different elevations to plant on. The clumps of lirope stayed in their oasis as did the cannas.Trench with rock layer

After I dug the trench, I put down landscape cloth and a layer of the river rock.

pipe and drains added

Then I laid in the covered pipe and tied in drains where I knew the water really pooled. 

Zips Ties were used and drain covers added

I used zip ties to attach the pipes to the drains and put the covers on the keep the rocks out of the pipes. 

Covered the pipe with landscape cloth and rock

I covered the pipe with landscape cloth and covered it with the river rock.

A number of years ago we bought field stone to outline some of the paths and borders we tried to create. We had a lot that no longer defined anything and some were buried.  It became a treasure hunt to find the rocks.  We then started to move the stones around and redefined the yard.

With the drain installed I decided that the excess gravel would be used to create the path over the drain pipe thereby eliminating the need to add dirt back over the pipe and help increase the water flow into the drain.

This last weekend we had 7 inches of rain in three days and I must say that there was very little water pooling and that was only when we had an inch drop in 15 minutes. I think this can be attributed to the fact that I used flexible corrugated pipe with slits in it instead of rigid pipe with ½” holes.

The Cost Rundown

What did this cost? The biggest expense was the drain system which includes the gravel-around $300. The plants and mulch another $75. So for under $400 we now have very nice place to sit outside and enjoy our little slice of heaven.

The view from my chair