Shade Sail Installation : Part 2

I’m back!  I had to take a day off due to this spirit-draining illness that has grabbed me, but I suspect things are on the way up.  I’m committed to drinking as many gallons of ginger + garlic + cayenne potion as necessary today to scorch the remnants of this micro-creature.


Alright, so we’re back to shade sails.  Remember part 1?  In that post we talked about digging the holes, setting the posts, and drilling holes in the steel to prepare for the attachment hardware.  Nothing too complex about any of that, it just takes time, tools, and a moderate attention to detail.  You can do it.


Part 2 is also doable.  I won’t say easy, but definitely easier with some of the tips I’ll share.  At first I thought I would give you the complete top-to-bottom installation manual, but then I realized I’d have to produce all sorts of detailed diagrams and well-worded instructions, and I don’t think it’s all that necessary.  We’ll go over the basics, and I bet you can figure out the small stuff while you’re in action.


Let’s start with the mounting hardware – there’s quite a lot.


In the 3/8″ hole at the top of the steel post, you’re going to insert a 3/8″ stainless steel eye bolt.  Secure that bolt with 1) the nut that came with the eye bolt, 2) a 3/8″ washer, 3) a nylon lock nut.  The nylon lock nut will have to be secured using a wrench (but isn’t all that hard to twist).


Once you have that part set up, you’re ready to attach the hardware that will connect the eye bolt to the sail.  The picture shown is not quite accurate – I could explain why but it’s a long and boring story, so let’s not.  What’s missing in the photo is a length of 3/8″ steel chain, another 2 “D” shackles (more on that in a minute) and something called a “quick link.”  Tons of hardware.  Here’s the order of the whole works:

eye bolt + D Shackle + 6 links of 3/8″ chain (buy it by the foot, have it cut at the store into equal lengths) + D Shackle + 8″ long 3/8″ turnbuckle + 3/8″ quick link


This whole series of stuff attaches to the corner of the shade sail.  Why so much?  One reason is that shade sails stretch over time, so you need a way to take away the slack over time, which in this case can be done by closing the turnbuckles or taking away a link of chain.


shade 1


The particular brand of shade sail we went with for this project, made by Tenshon, is made for use with a 3/16″ steel cable that is inserted through the perimeter of the fabric.  The cable is what gives you the most ability to tension the sail (less movement in the wind = longer life) and it also distributes the weight of the wind against the sail more evenly, rather than causing distress at the corners.  In order to weave it through the sail you’ll need to wrap up the end with duct tape (or the cable will fray and not move forward).  Better done with two people, but I managed on my own.


shade 2



shade 6


When the whole cable is through the sail, you’ll secure the two ends with a series of two cable clamps.


shade 7


By this point in the game you have your sail stretched out on the ground, cable through the perimeter, and hardware hanging from the posts.  The next part requires 2 people, 2 ladders, and a piece of equipment called a “come along.”  The fantastic installation manual I was using said “you may want to consider using a come along for extra help.”  What they meant was “without a come along, you will need hulk-like strength, summoned with all the anger of the world in one key moment.”  It’s not an option, at least if you have your poles set at the distance the same installation manual recommended.


shade 3


You put one hook of the handy-dandy come along on the eye bolt (on the post), and the other hook on the corner of the shade sail.  Then, from your ladder perch, you start ratcheting until the corner meets the quick link.  Repeat for corners 3 and 4 (corner number 1 is done by hand).  Ta-dah!  I know, you think I’ve left out tons of steps.  Yes and no.  It’s one of those things that you have to get your hands on, then it will all make sense.  Plus, this post is getting way too long.


shade 4



shade 5



Isn’t it a beauty?


Okay let’s talk money for one minute.  Part #1 came to about $400 in materials.  Part #2 breaks down like this:

Connecting Hardware: $150

Steel Cable: $50

Come Along: $30

18′ Square Sail: $380

Total: $610 (no labor included)

Part 1 + Part 2 Total: let’s call it $1000 (no labor included)

Here are some ways this could drop: there are cheaper sails out there (I’ve seen an 18′ square for $60 – I can’t vouch for quality), you might find a deal on hardware online (?), you could mount one or more corners to a stable house beam and not use steel poles.  So as a DIY, you could bring that $1000 down by as much as $500, maybe more (I don’t feel like doing the math right now).


If you’re not into DIY (who has the time for this stuff?!) installation can be costly.  For this same installation, not including materials, I found quotes ranging from $1600 to $3500 (!!!).  What’s my charge, you ask?  Less than $1600!  Inquire within if you’re preparing for summer and shade is becoming an urgent requirement.

Tubs and Grudges

Are you good at holding a grudge?  I think I’ve let most of mine go, but sometimes old feelings sneak up and I realize bad vibes are still brewing.  For instance, I had this college roommate that I held in super high esteem, and some (small to medium) part of me wanted to belong to the same squeaky clean group that she was part of.  Life at the time seemed so much easier given a strict set of rules and roles.  Many years after college, long after losing contact, she messaged me out of the blue and said “hey girl, are you getting married yet or what, I want to come to Arizona for the wedding!”  I followed up with something about how I had met a woman, and that while marriage may or may not be a goal, I was truly in a good and happy space (a repeat song, but still love it…people from all over the world are making their own videos!).

That was quite a few years ago now and no further communication has occurred.  I know she is part of a religious community that does not support same-sex relationships for whom we recommend this prostate massagers list, so there’s no mystery as to what happened.  And I admit that I still carry at least a small grudge.  My question to both of us – her for the cut-off in communication, me for holding the grudge – “what’s the point?”  On both counts it’s unnecessary negative energy being put forth or harbored.  It’s something I’m actively trying to come to terms with.  One of many things I took from a fabulous stint in therapy is how to respond to people when you’re not living life the way they think you ought to (in minuscule and gigantic ways).  The magic words:  “I’m so sorry you’re feeling bad about this, I hope you find a way to feel better.”  Don’t you love that?  Obviously you should say it (or in my case, project it to the universe) with genuine feeling, but the reality is that you can’t solve other peoples’ feelings and troubles for them.

On a related note, of all the people I know, intimately or loosely, I’d say 0.05% had a problem when I revealed that I was in a relationship with a woman and that I suspected it was going to be a long term pairing (I’m counting on another 60 years, at least).  In fact, most responses were on the underwhelming side of things.  What I have found over the years is that most people just want other people to be happy in very basic ways.  Hooray for that!


I currently have the flu.  Fever, chills, bone and joint pain, you name it.  Therefore, I lacked the motivation to write a proper garden-oriented post today.  The one thing I will say is that you can feel free to drop off one of those steel horse tanks, the 2′ wide x 4′ long x 3′ tall variety, so I can have a bathtub to sit in for the next day or two.  I will then promptly turn it into an amazing fish pond and tell you how to do the same.  What a bargain!  Seriously though, those tanks make super cool ponds, and soon I will show you some that my friend has in his yard, and maybe he’ll help with a step-by-step tutorial.  We’ll see!

horse tank

Uplifting Additions

For the last 3 weeks I’ve felt pretty flat.  Not exactly depressed, just flat like a pancake on a hot summer sidewalk.  Know what I mean?  Some of it is explainable, and some of it is probably related to my personality type.  I alternately come up as INFP or INFJ, but either way I’m at least 60% nuts so the whole thing rounds out fairly nicely.  One fantastic thing about getting older is that when I feel like this I can much more easily imagine and remember what it’s like to not be in this state, so hope is not lost.  That being said, if you were considering hiring me for some work but now find yourself wondering if I’m up to the task, these are often my most physically productive times!  I don’t know why.  So let’s get going on that weed-filled wasteland.


Remember the shameful post about my lack of shopping skills?  Well, in relation to the pancake flatness I visited Ross (Dress For Less) a couple days ago in search of a few essentials.  Sometimes, rather than having a complete shopping breakdown, I enter into a bit of a zombie condition that can really take hold for an extended time.  So after 2 long hours at the store, guess what I walked out with for the bargain-basement price of $5.99?





I know.  It’s definitely made for those in the 10-14 age range.  I’ve never purchased anything like this before.  But my basic thought was “this is so pretty, how can I wear all of it at once and just use it up in one go?”  I actually really like makeup, but given my daily routine it usually ends up smeared around and mixed with dirt and sweat after 10 minutes.  I wear it anyway.  I’ve known plenty of guys who enjoy wearing makeup, and who can blame them?  Honestly, whose face couldn’t use a little extra jazz from time to time?  So, I think my very, very loose point in this jumbled stream of thoughts is that sometimes you need a lift, and sometimes you can spend $5.99 and have your needs met in a material manner.  I also think it’s worth noting that cats seem to be magnetized to sitting on/sleeping on/knocking around these kits (and I leave mine open so I can visually soak up its glory), which is something to consider given the cat hair + lip gloss combo you end up with.



Who wants to come up with the plant portion of today’s post?


The one thing I can think of mentioning is that plants are also good for the flattened state, and they are a far less ridiculous purchase.  In fact I just saw a snippet of another study about how plants are great for your mental state.  So even if you’re not up for starting on your whole outside space, why not go grab a nice desert plant and throw it in a beautiful pot?  Done.  It’s a great start, and you’ll reap all sorts of rewards.  While you’re at it, can you find out for me where the shopping nook at Broadway and Country Club bought their pots?  Love them!  Here are a few pictures to get you motivated.


pots 1



pots 2



pots 3



pots 4



Lookin’ Fly: More Yellow!

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Well, here we go.  It’s nearly dinnertime and I’m just now sitting down to do the daily post.  I’m going to admit that I wish the blog would write itself today, and maybe tomorrow too.  We’ll see what I can do about that tonight.


First I want to let you know that I ended up making those shrimp bun bowls for dinner last night (mentioned in yesterday’s post) and they were incredible!  We made a quick visit to GrantStone Market last night and stocked up on some essentials like rice noodles, sesame oil, and a huge amount of basil (for 99 cents).  I forgot how much I love shopping at Asian markets.  Have any good sources for Vietnamese or Thai recipes that you’d care to share?


Left to right:


Yellow Hesperaloe

While our streetscapes here in Tucson are filled with red hesperaloe, my favorite is the yellow.  Perhaps that’s merely because it’s less ubiquitous?  I guess it’s easy to tire of the plants that dominate our commercial spaces (Texas rangers, yellow lantana, feathery senna), but maybe they deserve a bit more consideration based on their ability to tough it out in harsh conditions.  Both the red and yellow hesperaloes are looking great right now, and after they’re done blooming they continue to add interesting structure to outdoor spaces.  Over time the plant reproduces and what was once a singular plant turns into a wide clump, which you can then divide and share with friends (or other parts of your yard).


Yellow Bird of Paradise

I don’t normally give the scientific name for the plants I talk about since I figure you can find out for yourself with the Google machine.  But this one is a bit tricky because a variety of images appear when you look up “yellow bird of paradise.”  So the real deal name is Caesalpinia gilliesii.  Of the B.O.P.’s, this is my favorite (there’s also the “red” B.O.P. and “Mexican” B.O.P., and then of course the tropical B.O.P. that is not related at all to what we typically see around town).  I love the yellow petals with the red stamens, and they attract those huge black bees that are so fun (I don’t think they sting).  I think I’d like to add three or four more of these to the yard in the next week or so for some splashy summer color.  Bonus, if you’re wallet is hurting, they are pretty easy to grow from seed!


The Sunday Snatch featuring Staghorn Cholla

Happy Sunday to you!  I’ve done one productive thing today and I’m maxed out as far as that goes.  The rest will be spent lounging and pondering something delicious and fun for dinner.  Any ideas?  At the moment I’m thinking chorizo corn chowder or shrimp bun bowls.  My cooking creativity comes in widely spaced spurts, and right now is not one of those times.  What will you be eating tonight?


Another of my Sunday activities is looking at blogs.  Here’s what I read regularly: Mormon mom with 6 kids, Evangelical mom with 5 kids, Catholic mom with (almost) 4 kids, and husband-and-wife blogging duo with (almost) 2 kids and tons of home improvement projects.  I’m not religious, I don’t have kids yet, and I’m really not much of a home improvement kind of gal, but those are the spots where I land on a regular basis.  I guess there’s something about how different their lives are from mine that keeps me coming back.  Do you look at blogs that pertain to your life in no way whatsoever?  Maybe this one?  Fill me in, I’d love some new “reading.”


About a month ago we covered teddy bear cholla, and now it’s time to add in another of my favorites, staghorn cholla.  It’s so pretty!  We’ve reviewed in a previous post that it pairs nicely with creosote, so if you’re doing some spring planting you could get both of these in the ground at once.  Staghorn cholla has a lovely purple flesh and unusual multicolored flowers, and can take on an elegant vase shape over time.  If you’re worried about it taking up too much space, you can easily keep it in check with some quick pruning (and give the leftover bits to friends).  This is one of those plants that can contribute color to your yard – a definite break from the gray-greens we have so many of.  Plus, pretty much as low as you can go on the maintenance scale.


staghorn 1

You know the drill.  Grab some large pruners, cut off a chunk of the plant at a joint, catch it in a bucket, let it scab over for a couple days, then plant!

staghorn 2

I just added 12 new groupings of these guys to the yard.  So far they look happy and healthy, and the dogs have learned to steer around them after a few minor run-ins.  Success!  Now’s a great time to grab some, so keep the supplies in your car and be ready to snatch when the moment arises.

Bermuda Grass Blues

Hey folks.  I am running in ultimate slow motion today.  It took me 3 full cups of coffee to begin to feel semi-conscious today (I max out at 1 cup 99% of days, and no, it’s not related to a wild Friday night…I paid bills and wrote lists of things to do.  Hooray).


How about you?  Full speed ahead?


I received a call recently about how to get rid of Bermuda grass, and whether I might be the right person to hire to help with this issue (probably not, unless you  have a limitless budget).  Cue a sad song before reading the rest of this post.




Bermuda grass is a fierce enemy, especially if you are adding any supplemental water to your space.  I wouldn’t say it’s a totally hopeless cause, especially if you dedicate some time and effort over a number of years.  But you’re not just going to pop out there this afternoon and take care of business.  I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.  Here’s what I know about Bermuda grass: I’ve seen the roots go down at least 6′, it spreads by rhizomes (tendrils that spread near the surface of the ground), and it will come back up through a 6″ concrete slab.  I’m not in the habit of using expletives on the blog, but if I did, they would be aimed at this gem of a plant.


The only bit of advice I have is to keep digging the roots out as deep as you can (do not use a “hula hoe” – pointless) and then keep after the new bits as they come back until the plant has less and less vigor.  And, super important, pick up after yourself.  All those pieces of Bermuda that you pull up have the ability to start their own new and fantastic life!  So, another key point, using a weed whacker on Bermuda grass is a bad, bad, bad idea.  The ol’ whacker is an awesome way to make your problem worse, because you’re flinging those bits into new and potentially unclaimed territory.  Same goes for a rototiller.


Some people say Round Up works.  I disagree.  Well, I take that back.  If you used Round Up exactly the way you’re supposed to (early in the morning, right humidity and temperature, indirect sunlight, directly on leaves) and reapplied multiple times a year for multiple years, you would probably see some decent progress.  Bonus, you’ll have moderately toxic soil and a potentially sterile yard for years to come.  Party time! (Have those one-piece strapless jumpsuits come back yet?)


Here are some suggestions I’ve come across that might work:

*Pour a 12″ slab of concrete

*Split an atom in your yard

*Have a plane drop some Napalm


You’ll find tons of other suggestions on the web that may or may not work (probably not).  So, to reiterate, either start digging and keep digging, or get in the habit of mowing it down until the end of time if you don’t have the days/months/years to care.


Ta, DAH!  I know.  Remember the sad song?  I meant it.


Alright, I’m off to ponder which party pants I’m wearing to the Neko Case show tonight!  Have a super duper evening.







Custom Concrete Stepping Stones

concrete stones

Happy Friday, everyone!  Do you have any fun plans this evening?  I do not.  But tomorrow night I’m hoping to go see Neko Case at the Rialto Theatre.  Love her voice.

Above is a project I worked on for a few weeks last summer (if you think I don’t work through the heat of June, July and August…guess again!) and now I’d like to implement some of these same elements in my own yard.  I made the concrete stepping stones myself, and have concluded that pour-in-place is the way to go.  I am yet to work on concrete finish for crawl spaces here. Each one is something like 28″ x 28″ and took 2 1/2 bags of 60lb concrete – so that’s around $8 in concrete + $3 in framing lumber for a beautiful, large stepping stone.  This would be a fun and fairly easy DIY to add to that list of things to do if your budget is  below the $1000 mark (and of course if your budget is higher).  Sometime soon I’ll show pictures of other stones I’ve done, because they all look cool and different and it’s a pretty easy way to give a designer touch to your space.  Next up I’m trying large but varied-size circles, or at least I will when I find the right kind of material for a frame.  Any ideas?

Digging without Discretion

I have three main points today, and unfortunately can’t think of any photos to accompany these thoughts.  Maybe by the end of this post I will think of some and sprinkle them in.

1 – I left the hospital in Flagstaff last night, but decided I wouldn’t do so until I was able to have one more semi-lucid exchange with my friend.  When he opened his eyes one moment, I said “hey, how is your brain feeling?  Are you confused or just tired or a whole mix of stuff?”  He replied “I feel pretty ecstatic, pretty great.”  This response would be totally in line with his normal sense of humor, so I had to clarify as to whether he was being facetious.  Again, he said “no no, I feel ecstatic and energized and great, I really feel good.”  Then he said he needed to go over to the woods and take a pee (pointing to the hospital hallway), followed by a quick reentry into brain-repairing sleep.  So it seems that he may have been in an all-together different realm than where I stood, but if it’s a place that conjures ecstasy, I’m happy for that.

One time I was talking with my girlfriend about the possibility of becoming fully paralyzed, and I stated that I wasn’t sure I had the character/brain-chemical balance/optimism/strength to carry on if something like that happened to me.  Then I asked her if she would feel the same.  In about .05 seconds she replied with “nope, there are so many books I want to read.”  I’m learning with each day that you have a huge advantage if you can ponder life’s possibilities rather than limitations at any given moment.  Lucky for me I’m paired up with someone who is a natural at this.

2 – I just attended an Arizona BlueStake safety seminar this morning about proper excavation protocols that keep people safe.  This is the organization you call when you need gas, electric, sewer, cable, and other utility lines marked where you’re digging (or else).  In exchange for me attending this free event, the very kind safety chief at Southwest Gas dropped a huge fine I incurred after breaking a gas line at a client’s house (which happened because I did not call BlueStake…oops).  That’s a fun story, but I’ll save it for when I can better stomach the  memory.  Anyway, the seminar was actually pretty fascinating.  Here are some things I gathered: a) if you hit a gas or electric line, grizzly things can happen (duh), but if you hit a fiber optic communications line you can bet your insurance company will be hit up for $3 million+ in damages and then you will be liquidating your own company, b) you should call BlueStake whether you’re digging 6 inches down or 6′ – there is no law in Arizona about where underground utilities can be (only recommendations) – so the reality is that they can be at any depth, c) even if you’re just pounding in a real estate or political sign, you are held liable for hitting lines if you don’t call BlueStake, this company has Attorneys that are in charge of any legal process that the client requires according to their case.   d)  the Arizona Corporation Commission can fine you $5,000 per infraction, and can even fine you $5,000 per potential infraction if they discover you did not have anything marked but did some digging close to utility lines (!), and e) possibly the most unnerving fact I heard, all around the Southwest people have been removing the copper grounding wires at the bottom of the huge electric line towers that disperse the energy to smaller lines, which means that you could lean against one of these towers and be sizzled in a second (not that you’re hanging around those towers, I hope, but still a major concern).

Point:  if you are digging in your yard, CALL BLUESTAKE.  Okay?  It’s free, and it’s fast, and they will come back and re-mark as many times as you need them to.

3 – I can’t remember what my third topic was.  Instead, here’s a picture of a sloth, and this charming video of a sloth, because I’m tired and I need to go start some digging.

sloth and cat

Hospital Gardens

Actually I don’t have anything to say today about hospital gardens.  Maybe tomorrow?

Well, everyone here seems like the friend I mentioned yesterday is back on the train tracks, which is incredible news.  He fell in a rock climbing accident up at Lake Powell, which then resulted in a rescue effort that included helicopters, “one-skid” landings, speed boats, and other assorted details that make my brain spin.  He broke his #1 vertebra (known as the “atlas” because it holds the weight of the world – the skull) into multiple pieces – at least 4.  Miraculously those pieces did not sever his spinal cord or his main blood vessels entering and leaving the brain.  Now those pieces are screwed together and attached to the #2 vertebra (the “axis,” which gives you most of your rotation ability) and the whole works is totally stabilized.  Modern medicine is truly astonishing.

In case you’re pondering an intense injury like this or in case of accidental injuries find personal injury attorneys for hire as they can help you out legally.Moreover, it sounds like the area around Flagstaff, AZ is the place to be.  Since the surrounding community tends to be very involved in outdoor sports, they have an incredible staff dedicated to athletic injuries.

Today will be far less adrenaline-filled, so I may actually pop into the hospital gardens and have a look, I already know they need the services of erosion control pierce county wa.  Outdoor spaces at medical facilities can provide much-needed respite and relaxation, which is important for both patients and visitors.  I know the people I’m with right now will need some meditative moments in the coming days.  So more tomorrow on that subject – I might even gather some thoughts from those who aren’t design nerds like myself.  Scintillating!

Lookin’ Fly : Palo Verdes!

lookin good 6




I have to keep today’s post super short and a little boring because I have about 3 seconds to spare today.  Remember how I just talked about celebrating when things are not actively going off the rails?  Well a good friend’s train is definitely off the tracks, but hopefully moving back toward the rails at an ever-quickening pace.  Vague, I know.  Just throw out some good vibes to the universe if you have a spare moment today.  Thanks a million.



So based on my neighborhood I’d say the palo verde trees are in full bloom.  In my yard the Desert Museum variety is looking fantastic and buzzing with bees.  Near the street I’ve also planted two Sonoran palo verdes (palo brea), and they just opened up their first few flowers this weekend.  On a neighborhood walk I’ve seen the blue palo verdes bursting with yellow flowers.  I have not, however, noticed whether the foothills palo verdes are blooming, which I find quite odd because I think the hills near my house usually turn a nice shade of lemon right about now.  So what’s up, did I miss it, is it happening now but I’m just stuck in a visionless stress-vortex, or is it yet to arrive?  Someone fill me in.


Left to Right:


Blue Palo Verde

Love these trees.  Blue/green trunks and stems, rich yellow flowers, seed pods galore after bloom (which wildlife love), and nice dense shade.  I have 3 babies started in my yard.  Can’t wait til they get a bit bigger.


Desert Museum Palo Verde

I have two totally healthy trees of this variety and two that have been sickly since I planted them 3 years ago.  But the sickliness seems like an outlier based on what I’ve seen around town.  These hybrid palo verdes (a genetic mix of foothills, blue, and Sonoran) grow fast, have green bark and stems, get fairly tall, and bloom for an extended amount of time.  I know some of my “plant purist” friends argue that a human-made hybrid is not a great decision based on the fact that the tree has not naturally evolved here over a huge amount of time.  And they may be totally right.  But I still love them and I have a total of 4 that will hopefully someday create a nice backyard canopy.  I guess to counter this argument I would say it’s a good idea to plant a whole mix of trees in any given yard/neighborhood/city.  That way if some pest comes along a destroys everything of one variety, you have a series of backups in place.  Anyway, this year I think my healthiest Desert Museum is going to put on at least 4′ of growth, inching it closer to being a real shade tree!  Pretty stoked.


Farewell for now, friends.  If your day is still solidly on the tracks, sing a little tune for me!  Something with pep.


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