the value of dirt

Most of the work on the pond was done but I still had this big pile of dirt.  I had used some of my dirt building up a low area on the south side of my house.  I used a little more building the terraces by my waterfall.  And my neighbor took a little to fix his own low lying area.  But it wasn’t enough and I still had a pile of dirt that I wasn’t sure what to do with.

I was pretty much resigned to having to pay someone to haul it away.  Sandy thought I should put up a ad for “free dirt” on craigslist to see if anyone would come get it.  I thought that was nuts… it wasn’t enough for any serious construction project… no one could possible want our pile.  Boy was I wrong!  We had one guy show up and take three-fourths of our pile for a patio he was building.  This was great, but the one downside was we still had dirt to get rid of and now our pile was really too small for anyone to bother with.  Or so I thought…
Another fellow called asking for dirt, I let him know we didn’t have much left and he still wanted to come.  He said he needed fill dirt for a flooding problem he was having (everybody floods around here!)  He showed up in a minivan and I wondered how he was planning on taking the dirt home.  He began pulling all of these 5 gallon buckets out of his car.  He had stacks and stacks of them.. maybe 30 or 40 total.  I filled the buckets and he would carry them, two at a time to his car, until we’d filled all the buckets.  When we’d filled up all the buckets, he drove home, emptied them, and came back for more.  After we filled his buckets a second time, our pile was gone.
I made one final trip to home depot for the season (right… that’s what I thought last time!) and returned with many bags of top soil, (hold your nose) manure, and mulch as well as three or four hundred bulbs (wow!  I can’t believe it was that many).  I started cutting away some of the excess liner and I saw something I couldn’t believe what I found…. I yelled for sandy to come quick and bring my camera (she’s such a good sport)… this time I found two salamanders…
After their photo session, I put the salamanders down on some wet rocks and watched them crawl to safety, hiding themselves in between the rocks.  Then I put the dirt, mulch, and bulbs into place and decided I was dirty enough to call it a day.

Car free

One of the things that we hated about Falls Church was that you felt like you were locked in by roads.  If we wanted to go anywhere we’d have to get in a car and drive.  It’s not that you couldn’t walk to some places, it’s just that it seemed that all the pedestrian routes were afterthoughts completely subservient to the automobile.  Ugh!

Arlington is completely different!  Yesterday we biked for the first time from out house down to Old Town Alexandria.  It was fantastic!  We biked through south Arlington Forest and hopped on the WO&D trail.  We took that down to Shirlington where we picked up the Four Mile Run Trail which in turn took us to the Potomac and the Mt Vernon Trail which goes right into Alexandria.  We locked our bikes up in Old Town and got a little snack before heading back home.  Total travel time was a leisurely 3 hours (although if you tried you could do it much quicker)
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I was having such a great time, I didn’t want it to end so I told Sandy I’d take her out to eat… but the condition was we couldn’t drive anywhere.  There’s a restaurant in Georgetown that we’ve been to one before call Mie N Yu.  I thought that would be a fun place to go… but how would we get there?

Fortunately, the metro rail goes right through Arlington with stops at Ballston, Virginia Square, Clarendon, Court House and Rosslyn.  Originally they were supposed to put a metro stop in Georgetown… but Georgetown didn’t want it (I guess they were afraid it would bring in the riff-raff from the suburbs).  That’s how Rosslyn got it’s stop… they took the money for the Georgetown stop and gave it to Rosslyn.

I estimated it would take us about an hour to get there.  We decided to bar hop our way to Georgetown… after a 20 min walk, our first stop was the Front Page in Ballston.  It was around 6:30pm and quite a few people were walking around.  There’s definitely a city feel to the area (okay… a small city!)  That’s one of the things we love about the area… living in the suburbs but just steps away from the city.  After a quick drink there, we descended into the Ballston Metro station and only had to wait 2 minutes before catching a train to Rosslyn.

   We got off the train and went to the escalator… I looked up and couldn’t believe how long it was… the escalator went on and on and on.  According to wikipedia it’s the third longest escalator in the world.  It was quite a hike but I walked up the entire way!

We got out of the metro station and started looking for our next stop.  Unfortunately there wasn’t a lot around where we were.  It seemed to be all office buildings and sandwich shops.  The streets were dead, quite a contrast to the bustle of the work week.  We began walking toward the Key Bridge.  My cousin works right on the edge of Rosslyn before you cross over into DC and I knew there was a hotel next to his office so I figured if nothing else we could stop there.

   After a few minutes, we arrived at the hotel Palomar.  From the outside it looked pretty impressive… a tall structure of steel and glass overlooking the Potomac and Washington, dc.
Hmmm… was it all just a facade?  From the outside the building looked tall… but where were all the other floors?  

Okay, maybe the hotel wasn’t as big as it appeared, but what they had looked good…. the lobby outside the bar was very modern and beautiful.  Still… even two floors in this area must be expensive judging by how much our drinks cost.  Good thing we’re just having one each…

   Now it’s on to Georgetown… we left the hotel and had only a short walk before we arrived at the Key Bridge which traverses the Potomac and brings us to DC.  That’s Georgetown on the left and the Washington Monument in the background.
 And looking back over our shoulder we can see Rosslyn behind us.  The building with blue lights is where my cousin works.  He used to have a window office overlooking the Potomac and DC until the bastards took it away from him  

Georgetown was crowded with cars and people out shopping, going to restaurants, and getting an early start on a night out.  We finally made it to Mie N Yu.  It was about 8pm… 2 hours after we had started out, but with our stops along the way, I don’t think that was too bad.  We’d been to this restaurant once before and really enjoyed it.  They’re definitely a theme restaurant, with Moroccan tents and belly dancers.  Unfortunately they’d changed the menu since last we were here and the options weren’t as interesting as they had been before.  It was a bit of a let down but we still enjoyed it.  Instead of ordering entree’s we tried a couple of different appetizer platters which each had a variety of foods.  Tasty and not too filling.

 Mina entertained us with her belly dancing

After we were done, it was time to reverse course and head back home.  Our day had been very busy and we were both ready to catch some sleep.

if you build it… they will come…

I’ve done a couple of additional things with the pond lately, first off the sound we were getting from the waterfall sounded an awful lot like someone taking a leak after drinking several gallons of water.  Not exactly the sound I wanted.

So I did a couple of things, first I added a stone at the bottom of the waterfall.  Instead of the water going straight into the small pool, it now hit this stone and splattered everywhere.  Fortunately, most of it stays in the pond so I’m not losing much water.  I also inserted a small stone into the wall to interrupt the water as it fell, splashing it off in a different direction and changing the sound.
I also got this spray foam for waterfalls.  Most of the water flowing down my stream was actually going behind the river jack (small stones) that I had laid down.  I took the spray foam and sprayed it into the crevices of my stream bed.  This has two effects, first it fills up the space behind the stones forcing the water to flow over the stones rather than behind them.  Second, it sticks to the stones and helps hold them in place (at least I hope it will help hold them in place).
Despite my best efforts I got some of this foam on my fingers.  I immediately tried to wash it off but that didn’t work.  I read the side of the bottle and it said if the foam gets on your skin, DO NOT USE WATER!  Oops!  It says to use acetone but that didn’t really work either (maybe because I already used water?)  Oh well… it’s supposed to wear off in time.
The foam worked perfectly.  My stream looks and sounds much better than it did before.
I’ve also finished placing stones around the perimeter of the pond and since I have left over stones and dirt I thought I’d build a series of terraces on the side of the hill.  You can see the first one that I started.
Also today while digging around, I found my first volunteer pond critter… I doubt I’ve seen more than half a dozen salamanders in the wild in my life.  So I was pretty excited to have one living in my back yard.