“Off the Beaten Track”

by ESP on February 9, 2013 · 10 comments

“Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water”





This was the surreal scene that greeted me at my stock tank pond the other day:

Madame Ganna Walska lily

“Squinkies” basking on the Walskas!

Little did they know of the horrors that were lurking in the depths.


They didn’t stand a chance in these gum infested waters.


look at the eye focussing on its prey.


A few survivors managed to scramble onto this passing vwessle,


out of harms way, or so they thought.


Little did they know that the notorious “chef of death” had already rustled up some deadly snacks for them in the galley.

While all this nonsense was going on I was busy sweeping and leveling out an area of decomposed granite to use up a pile of old Elgin Butler bricks that I had stockpiled over the years.


This is the solid crust that forms under decomposed granite if it is laid deep enough and replenished every once in a while. I used the loose granite to fill in and build up any low or uneven spots,


with some help from my hired hands. Hands that were immediately drawn to


the sparkling gold dust.


This whole area will get back filled with some more decomposed granite to fill in the cracks and make it all flush and stable.


I decided to incorporate this stock tank that will be full of cattails come the spring.

Now what is to be positioned in the center?






I think not.

What I really want is one of those old Austin manhole covers to reference my curved iron gate.


Moving Along:


Some more rocks are currently in nerdy progress in our tumbler, these are about halfway through the month long process.


This time we splurged on a few specimen rocks,


These have opal in them,


and should look great when fully polished…snort.


This one has already been nicknamed “Jupiter”.


Remember when our house elf dug up a goldfish that I had buried and got the remains of the upper torso stuck inside his collar?



Well I do not know what he had been rolling in this time but let me just say the smell of that rotten half fish had nothing on this new tickle-your-gag-valve aroma. It was a combination of eggs, (rotten naturally), blood and guts with a delicate but distinct upper note of advanced decomposition…Naughty STINKY Kumo. The worst thing was that he had made his way into our house smiling and panting (to ensure the stench was sufficiently “blown” into every room) before anyone could stop him.


What did you think was going to happen?

Yet another collar had to be thrown away.


I will leave you with a snippet of an install I have been working on:


The project was challenging on a number of counts:


Grade and drainage:

The surrounding grade funneled water to, and around the basement of the house, creating pooling.  The homeowners had put up this barrier and dug a trench to slow down the flow of water.


Plot shape:

Wide but skinny.  The area lacked definition and structure, clearly consolidation was required along with a better defined route in and around the space. Most of the existing grass was either struggling or dead so the decision to remove a good chunk of it was made easy.



To play off the color of the recently constructed deck I went with Oklahoma flagstone back-filled with decomposed granite.  The flagstone was to provide a landing platform at the bottom of the deck stairs, sweeping up and around the front of the deck as a pathway before creating another platform on the opposite side. A dry creek bed was introduced against the house to take care of the drainage issues.


A thin central island bed was introduced along with perimeter plantings for privatization, softening the hardscaping, creating enclosure.


An empty corner becomes a focal seating point complete with a signature cypress…must have at least one in each scheme…


…okay three!  

These two were later rejected from the design due to overhead cables.



First order of the day, grass removal and the start of the dry creek bed, ensuring that the grade sloped down away from the house.


A curve was introduced to offer a more natural look and to follow the path of the main run-off water from a neighbors yard. The 3ft wide x 1.5ft deep trench was initially filled with scrap stone as filler,


before being top-dressed with cafe river rock. The cafe compliments the Oklahoma flagstone, moss boulders, and deck color and DG. Holes were dug for some restrained future horsetail reeds.


A sweeping pathway takes you up and around

the home the future planting bed.

Inspirational Image of the Week:


Photograph: Liss Ard Estate

Located at the Liss Ard Estate Gardens in Cork County, Ireland; the James Turrell Irish Sky Garden Crater is an amazing sculptural land art installation by famed artist James Turrell. The Irish Sky Garden Crater is open from April to November and measures about 25 meters (82 ft) in length, dipping almost 13 meters (42ft) at it’s lowest depth.

The man-made hollow is accessed via a dark concrete tunnel flanked by Liscannor stone, featuring a white marble stone that reflects the light from the rim of the crater during the day. The design is based on a birthing scenario, where visitors walk through the dark tunnel into the light. “It’s about rebirth and optimism, its experiential and it nurtures the desire to walk towards the light [into the crater]. It evokes powerful reactions in people,” says Arthur Little, the manager of Liss Ard estate.

The space has been constructed to view the sky while lying on large stones placed in the centre of the crater. The crater’s edge, hovering in your peripheral vision, perfectly frames the infinite and endlessly changing sky. “The most important thing is that inside turns into outside and the other way around, in the sense that relationships between the Irish landscape and sky changes,” says artist James Turrell of his work.


Stay Tuned for:

Tortillas in the Silvermist”



All material © 2013 for eastsidepatch. Unauthorized
intergalactic reproduction strictly prohibited, and
punishable by late (and extremely unpleasant)
14th century planet Earth techniques.


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1 Cheris February 9, 2013 at 9:20 pm

Wow, that yard looks great!
Question: did you put landscape cloth under the flagstone/decomposed granite, or just the dry creek bed?
Okay… yes… I’m asking for free advice.
(hangs head)

2 ESP February 9, 2013 at 11:45 pm

Hi Cheris, yes under both. If there is an area designated for hardscape design only, I will always lay weed suppressant material as protocol.

3 Cheryl February 10, 2013 at 8:51 am

I love your new brick design with the tank. I lost sleep last night trying to figure out where I could do something similar. HARUMPF. I’ll get back to it as there are too many other projects going on at the moment…. like the new chicken coop, half built and awaiting transport from my brother’s house to mine… a mere 12 miles…..

Hi Cheryl and thanks.
Yes, that was a lot of bricks! It is amazing just how many bricks are required to cover a small area, so plan on a lot more then you think if you are going to do one of these. Congratulations on the new coop.>

4 Pam/Digging February 10, 2013 at 12:11 pm

I love your new circular brick patio too! You seem to have a circle theme going, ESP, as I do. Will the big circle be for seating, or for another stock tank?

Hi Pam.
I have more circles than I know what to do with Pam :-) Not sure what this area is destined to be, it is being allowed to form organically over time, perhaps, if I leave it long enough, it may eventually turn into the long awaited Patch Tiki bar? Definitely not another stock tank…I took one out to get the bricks in!

5 Bob Pool February 15, 2013 at 12:03 am

I’ve never forgotten about the manhole cover and am about to get one when I finish the job I am on now. It is a large one, over 3′. He has the ring as well but wants to use it for a fire ring. I should have it in a couple more weeks.

Every time my wife sees the fish sticking their heads out of the water she thinks they don’t have enough air and buys another bubbler. The gardens look so neat with extension cords laying every where.

6 ESP February 16, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Hi Bob.

Thanks so much Bob, between cedar carcasses and now manhole covers :-)
As you know I have been on the lookout for one for ages.

That is very funny on the fish / bubbler / extension cord front. My goldfish were very inquisitive when the squinkies moved onto the lily pads.

7 Charlie February 19, 2013 at 11:04 pm

I love your photos. I am always looking for ideas, innovation, and of course then inspiration. I have started to create some new sketches for my yard and have incorporated some of your concepts. Thank your for sharing.

8 ESP February 20, 2013 at 9:48 am

Hi Charlie.
Thanks, any particular concepts?
Happy sketching and thanks for the message.

9 Anonymous January 16, 2016 at 10:47 am

just found your site. love your work. you difinitely do a lot of planning in your design before you start the project. however, i seem to detect in your comments that sometimes your work just evolves. is that correct? i enjoy working with rocks in my own garden. but i believe certain rocks just belong next to certain other rocks (fits just right). i can lay out serval feet of rock borders and then look at it for a couple of weeks and decide they just don’t look right and redo it. i guess i go at it like a jigsaw puzzle. each piece has its place. my wife says i am an artist. needless to says my garden is in a constant work in progress. it’s a great way to destress. i live on a farm and have several acres behind my house. the garden keeps growing. at 65 it will be interesting to see which gives out on me first, my life or my back.

10 ESP October 28, 2016 at 7:29 pm

Hi Anonymous.
Sorry for the late reply…almost a year! This one slipped through the spamming cracks!
Yes, you are right about my work evolving, especially when it comes down to laying boulders, flagstone or pavers…every one of them certainly has its ‘right’ place, and you just know when it is visually ‘comfortable’. Some pieces of material actually fight you the whole way. If this is the case my solution is to smack the offending slab with a sledgehammer and use the smaller pieces as fillers…simple.
Good luck with your farm garden, take it easy and do not forget the Advil!

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