Thursday, June 28, 2012

Framing Update

June 26

We have stairs!

No more running around the outside of the house to get upstairs or downstairs.
This simplifies life for everyone.

Rob's been a little disappointed in the lack of clean-up every night at the job site.

When we had our bathroom remodeled back in Illinois the crew that did the work there left their work cleaned and spotless every night and Rob was expecting that here.

Then we walked through the house at the bottom of the hill and he saw the mess the subs left there.  I don't think he feels better about the mess, but he understands our subs aren't the only messy ones. 

It DOES look like a house once they get the walls up and the roof on.
This picture is taken from 1600 East (the main road to our subdivision)

This picture is taken just as you enter our subdivision
And this is our picture of the day.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Rocks Rock

June 27

When we lived in Illinois I had a thing for rocks.   I'd see a rock and ask if we could take it home. Most people do that for puppies...Not Me.   I wanted rocks.  I even picked up a couple of stray rocks from fields (if I could lift them into the truck - or once, because it was easier, onto the floor of the passenger side of our car) and brought them ceremoniously home to the hill in our backyard.

I'm happy to say that desire for a rock garden is going to be fulfilled. 

We got a text from Jesse this morning saying the excavator was up at the lot starting on the rock wall behind our house.  He said I was welcome to go up and watch and make suggestions regarding the layout.

When I got there, the first two boulders were already placed.  Mark, the backhoe operator, jumped out and we chatted for a couple of minutes about how we envisioned the space being used.  He said he would straighten out the rocks that were already in place and I reassured him that he didn't need to as I actually don't believe nature ever creates in straight lines.  I said we wanted the wall strong, but not perfectly straight. 

I got a huge kick out of watching him operate his hoe.  He had such finesse and really used the boom and the shovel as an extension of his arm. 

He picked up the boulders like we pick up dinner rolls. 

He carved out each level, filling it with extra soil here and there as needed and using the bucket to tamp the soil down.

He nudged the rocks into place, controlling them an inch at a time.  It was almost like he was using the shovel to flick them into their final spot.

It was fascinating to watch him dig a little here, fill a little there, pick up a rock, drop it and only have to make minor adjustments as he created the wall.
I'm glad that whoever chose our boulders picked out these colors.  I've seen some rocks around here that are quite red.  I think those are lovely in Southern Utah, but I didn't really want them in our yard and I don't think I would have been brave enough to send them back if they'd delivered red rocks.

Just before it was time for me to leave, and for Mark to take lunch he invited me to step into the cab for a quick lesson on how to operate a backhoe.  It was SO COOL!  I practiced swinging the cab around, raising and lowering the boom, opening and closing ("Curling") the shovel and moving the "Crowd" (that makes the boom move towards or away from the cab).  After a few minutes of practice he actually had me me dig out and dump two buckets of soil.  My first attempt was a little rocky because I had the boom too high and it threw the balance off.  The machine jumped and jerked a bit and I QUICKLY let go of all the controls.  Mark laughed and said that was the perfect response.  He talked me through the concept of letting the boom and the shovel be an extension of your arms and the second dig went much smoother.  I'm still not ready to be a hoe operator, but after trying it out I have an even greater appreciation for his skill as an operator. 

I've never uploaded a video before so let's see if this works. 

I Love a Parade

While we were at the house, Thursday evening, with Grandma and Granddad H, we were discussing the view when we saw a fire truck turn the corner.
Then another one came down the road, and another one and another -- until there were five in a row.

Some of the firefighters saw us and waved.  I felt badly that Noah had already left for the evening, but he was so tired from our fun day in the sun and the water that I don't think even seeing five fire trucks would have cheered him up.
We watched them circle the neighborhood and drive off; except for the rogue pumper truck who came back up the hill past our house again instead of following the other trucks onto the gravel road on the high side of the neighborhood.

They showed up again in the neighborhood south of us so we figured they were getting acquainted with all the roads leading up to the foothills.  With so many wildfires occuring in our state this early in the summer I'm very glad they know how to get up here.

It's amazing to see how quickly the hills turn brown after a couple of really hot, windy days.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Framing Day 2

June 21

Rob went up in the morning to snap a couple of pictures while I was at Bear Lake with Mark, Emily and Noah. 

The framing crew had been hard at work and had most of the basement room walls up and had started on the subfloor.

Granddad and Grandma H wanted to see the progress so we met them up at the lot that evening. 
Look how much can change over the course of one day.
It amazes me that these few braces will keep the walls standing square and in place.
The small windows are in our bathroom, the long rectangular window is in our closet (it will look different once the window is actually installed).
The view from our closet. 
The view from my Situation Room.  (I think James came up with the winning name - we'll see if it sticks)

Disclaimer:  this is zoomed in.  I will not be able to see USU, the Logan Temple or the valley this clearly unless I keep binoculars on the window.

Okay, it looks a LITTLE bit more like a house here....

Framing Begins

June 20
Once the crew came in and started framing it was amazing how quickly things changed.  They build the walls flat on the concrete floor and then lift them into place.  Rob and I were having a weekly meeting with Jesse when they finished this wall and started lifting it into place.  He has a video of it (if anyone is interested let me know in a comment and I'll put it up on the blog).  Jesse and Justin (the owner of Visionary, who happened to show up during our chat) ran down and gave them a couple of extra hands to lift this massive wall.  This is our main load bearing wall in the house so it was very heavy.
This view is from the single car garage looking down.  Our staircase will run from the top corner of the double car garage down to the basement.  You can see the opening for the sliding door from Rob's office out to the backyard in the top right corner.

They needed to trench for utilities and also dig some holes for the deck and front porch footings so they brought this big Cat in.  I was standing in the garage watching it turn and swing.  It came within inches of the wall that had just been built but amazingly it didn't even come close to hitting the wall.  Can you imagine how much trouble the operator would be in if he knocked down a hard day's work.
We had our back turned when they drove this machine down the hill and when we turned around it was long gone.  Even though they are so big, these machines can move quickly when they want to.

Is it starting to look more like a house yet?
Nah, not really (in this picture at least)...but it is in real life.

I just need to get caught up on my posts again.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Floor Plan

We had a friend ask to see our floorplan so we checked with our builder and got permission to post it online.

Rob and I have been looking at houses for fun, for years.  We like to visit the Parade of Homes, as they are known in Utah, or the Cavalcade of Homes, as they are known in Illinois.  We've been talking about what we like, what we want, and what we need.  I will be honest.  This house goes way beyond what we need, but meets most (if not all) of our wants.  Every other day I feel greedy and wonder if we shouldn't have settled for a smaller house that would have met our needs, but then we get up to the lot and start walking around and planning things and I get excited for the possibilities. 

We had such a lovely home in Aurora and when we first started planning and designing this house we didn't want to lose any of the facets of our previous house that we really loved. 

I enjoyed collaborating with Curtis, the draftsman at Visionary.  He listened to my suggestions and ideas and found ways to make them work.  We had several good meetings as we worked to customize one of their basic floorplans and tweak it to fit our wants.

Every other day I get a little freaked out about the size of the great room.  It seems REALLY BIG to me.  But, as Rob reminds me, when it is time to host the entire family for holidays and celebrations, we will all fit.  And that was one of our wants.  Room for dinner for two (most of the time), dinner for five to ten (a couple of times a month), dinner for up to twenty (once every other month, or even a little more often), dinner for forty plus (once or twice a year, or more).    

I am excited to see how the piano is going to fit in the niche we created for it.  The fun thing about the niche is that it also created a nice little sitting area in our bedroom.  Once upon a time we were going to extend the deck all the way across the back of the house and have a sliding door from our bedroom out to the deck, but common sense prevailed and we decided that was a very good place to save some money and simplify.

The laundry room is really my project room, my work room, my "do" room.  I'm still looking for the right name.  I'll craft, sew and scrapbook in there, work on my computer, do laundry and iron.  By the way - we'd love some suggestions on a good name for that room so please leave a comment with your name ideas.  (of course, you can leave a comment any time you'd like - it lets me know people are actually reading this)

Downstairs is Rob's office.  He is excited to have such a nice place to work in and nice views out back.  I'm a little worried that he is going to get lonely being downstairs all by himself.  He's so used to being able to pop in and out of his little room here in the duplex.  Or maybe I should be worried that he'll enjoy having that room (and the rest of the basement) to himself and I'll never see him again.  We may have to get an intercom system.  Oh that's right - we text now.

What I like about the way the family room design worked out is the tv viewing area will be in the dark corner.  Rob asked me to hang dark wooden blinds in our last family room so he could get the best picture on the tv.  He was right, but it was a hassle to open and close the blinds.  Since there are no windows in this corner of the room that will no longer be an issue.

Our thinking with the two bedrooms is that one will be a dedicated guest room and one will be more of a bunk room & play room for the grandkids.  Over the last few days I've been wishing we added one more small room that we could use for our exercise equipment.  Rob thinks there will be plenty of room for it in the family room.  He's right, the room is big enough, but I'm not so sure I want that equipment out there.  I don't want to worry about little children playing on it and getting hurt.  I don't want the lingering ODOR haunting the family room (although I don't know why I am worrying about that - the odor won't bother me, but I do worry that it will bother our guests and I'll be clueless). ... ... ...  Maybe I'll have done such a good job purging and downsizing that we can turn the storage room into our exercise room. (HAHAHAHAH - I really shouldn't blog when I'm tired - I get SILLY)

I got the idea for a second laundry room from Brian and the bathroom layout is very similar to the bathroom the kids shared in our home in Naperville.  With the two separate rooms someone could easily be taking care of business, and leave the sink open for washing hands or brushing teeth. 

I've never had a cold storage before.  I'm intrigued to see how we end up using it.  Maybe I'll start canning.  It would be a great tornado shelter, IF we still lived in Illinois!  Rob says it would be a great safe room!  (yeah, IF we lived in a movie)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Concrete Floors

June 18

I headed up to the lot about 9:30am and arrived just in time to see the cement truck pulling away.  As I got to the basement I saw that 7/8 of the basement floor was poured and leveled. 

The sub told me that because our footings were a little deeper than they are used to (because of the radiant heat) they ran out of concrete and were waiting for a second load to come.  He also said he'd have to pour the garage in two separate pours because of the raised area in the larger garage.
You can see how deep the concrete floor is going to be.  This was a great relief to us because now we are not worried that the framers will puncture a tube when they install the sill plates for the walls.

When we came back later in the afternoon it was all finished.  The landing area in the garage looks great.  This is where we will keep our extra freezer.  We will eventually install a sink here too.  This raised level should help keep the leaves and garage debris down in the garage and out of the house.

One more overhead shot.  When we came back the next morning we saw a large crack running across the entire floor.  Luckily, it will be covered up by carpeting so we don't really care. 
Soon we'll have walls up in the garage and we won't be able to take these overhead pictures.  Which, for Noah's safety, is a very good thing.  He is way too brave and we worry about him stepping right off the garage floor and falling.
Just in case you wondered, the pressure in the PEX held up just fine.  In fact, the pressure went up just a little bit while the concrete was curing which we thought was interesting. 

While we were there the first load of our lumber arrived!  Noah loved watching the driver maneuver his fork lift and when he stopped to talk to us for a minute Noah was ready to jump up in the cab and drive.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Faux Manifold

June 13
Wednesday morning, Mark and Emily met us at the lot to help us finish up the last four zones.  We had to reconfigure the last zone in the family room area a bit so we didn't run out of PEX tubing.  In the guest bedroom we tried to deviate from my design, but realized that it needed to go down exactly as planned.  Rob and I actually got out our Sharpie and measuring tape and drew out several quick lines and arrows so we'd know where to lay the tube.  We were surprised at how much more quickly we were able to finish the layout doing it that way.  Too bad we waited to figure that out until we only had one and a half zones left to finish.

Mark and I went back over the whole floor with the stapler to make sure there were staples about every two feet.  There were some stretches of tubing where the staples were close to five feet apart and because the tube is full of air it would have floated to the top of the concrete while it was curing.

While we did that, Rob and Emily finished up the details on the manifold.  The sub who is going to create the real manifold and connect all our tubing to the boiler asked us to make sure the tubes were labeled with the zone and the loop.  Emily colored the supply side of the loop red to indicate that it was the hotter water.  The return side of the loop was colored blue to indicate cooler water.  The water doesn't really change temperature that significantly but it does make it easier to tell the tubes that belong together in the loop.  If I'd been able to create a "perfect" design the tubes would have gone red blue red blue red blue and so on. 
We needed to fit all the tubing into a two foot space.  Unfortunately, part of that space was right on top of a monolithic footing so that gave Rob about a foot and a half to work in.  He could have started the first loop an inch or two closer to the footing but as it turned out he ended the last loop at exactly the two foot mark.  He used the conduit to line the tubing up in order and hold them in place for the concrete pour.

This is the back side of Rob's design.  Dad suggested that we run the loop for the little bedroom straight back through the manifold and under the wall.  Doing this kept the two tubes out of the mechanical room, out of the doorway (that was already crowded) and out of the hallway that was already going to be super warm due to all the other loops running through there.  It also gave the tubing a straight shot from the boiler to the room instead of turning three corners before it started heating the room.  Our builder said if we wanted to do that we should run the tube through a metal conduit to offer protection from any nails that might go through the stud wall into the concrete floor.

Here is Rob standing proudly next to his creation.  The outer pieces of rebar hold up the 2"x4"s.  The bottom 2"x4" has holes drilled through it for the tubing to run through which keeps it from flopping around and ending up in the concrete.  The top piece of wood is for stability.  There are two short pieces of rebar holding the conduit tightly together and the rebar tied crosswise behind the conduit helps everything stay up.  I was impressed!

Mark and Emily were standing next to the manifold while we were starting to clean up.  For fun, Mark blew into one tube to see if he could blow on Emily.  The air came through (just as it should have).  Rob decided this was a good way to do a basic pressure test so he capped off one end with his thumb and blew into the other end.  He had done about three loops when he realized we were paying the heating contractor to do this and he didn't need to become lightheaded trying to prove we did a good job.

The next day the heating contractor capped off one end of all the tubes, hooked the other ends together and installed a pressure valve.  Basically, this will stay on until the boiler is installed.  We can watch this valve as the basement is finished to make sure none of the tubes are damaged.  It's reassuring to know that we will be able to see immediately if there is any damage that will need to be repaired so our heating will work as it is meant to.

Next up, Concrete!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Six Updates! WHEW

I was getting way behind on posting and wanted to remember the order of things that had happened on our build so I put six quick posts up with just their titles and a very, very short sentence.  They have all been filled in with pictures and explanations. 

I thought it might be helpful to let you know in case your want to go back and reread them.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

All in a Day's Work

June 12
After being rescheduled twice it was finally time to get our radiant heat installed in the basement.  Monday evening (after FHE ended), Rob and I went up to the lot and moved most of the bundles of XPS right next to the foundation so we would be ready to start the next morning.  Rob and I picked up Granddad around 8:00 am, borrowed a couple of tools from Laurie and Bryce and were working by 8:30.  We couldn't have had more perfect weather.  My sister, Karen, showed up about an hour later.  That ended up being the perfect crew for our first full day of work.

We started in the northwest corner of Rob's office and dropped full sheets of XPS insulation.  By the way - the printing on the foamboard is not permanent and it will stain your fingers, or your clothes, or your hat if it is even the slightest bit wet.  We discovered that putting a board on our head and balancing it was the easiest way to move them.  They weren't a bit heavy, just a little bulky as they were 4'x8' (by 2")

The first part went down super quickly and according to plan. 

Once we had all the full size boards down we went back and filled in the gaps.  We wanted to leave as few as possible without excess waste of the boards. 

We were glad to have Dad supervising because of his knowledge in this area.  If it had been up to me, I would have rearranged the boards so we could cut larger pieces and have fewer smaller pieces to fit in.  He convinced us it would be just fine to fit the puzzle pieces together and that it would do as well a job insulating.  Doing it his way allowed us to have enough foam board left to insulate our cold storage room.  (disclaimer - it still bothered me to see the little bits and pieces fit in here and there, but I tried to remind myself it was good enough and I'd never know the difference once the concrete was poured)

We had to leave the foam board off the monolithic footings and we also had to leave it off the area where the footings still needed to be poured to connect with the foundation.  It was odd to step on that area as the gravel base sloped away at that point and the foam board was definitely bouncy.  It also made it difficult to staple the tubing down as the board flexed when we pushed the stapler down.

We had all the insulation down around lunch time so we texted Jesse.  He wanted to help us lay out the walls.  His spray paint is orange.  Ours is green.  I'd been working on this for so long that I wanted to paint the lines for the walls and doorways.  This is important so we know where to run the PEX.

We had the spray paint out and were joking about tagging the walls (kind of like we did the cement) since it was going to be all covered over with insulation and sheetrock anyway.  Karen talked me out of doing it, but I was able to convince Grandad to do a little tag.  Isn't it cute!  Now we'll always have a little bit of Granddad & Grandma's love in our home.

Once we had all the walls and doors marked it was time to lay out the PEX.  Maybe someday I'll do another post extolling all the virtues of this tubing but for now I'll just say I'm glad someone invented it because we wouldn't have been able to make this work without it.

We started in the study and then worked our way into the family room before we finished for the day.  We were able to get four loops down our first day which left four loops for the second day.

Rob built a nifty little fake manifold to support and organize the tubes as they come into the mechanical room.  This was one impressive piece of work!
In the picture above you can see the three loops (six tubes) going through the doorway into Rob's office.  This is the door that will open to the audio-video rack.  He's doing a great job on that design and will hopefully put together a post with those details.
This is how our basement looked at the end of the first day.  We were so pleased with all we had been able to accomplish and were so grateful that Granddad and Karen came to help. 

The insulation works because it was definitely warmer standing on it then it was standing in the backyard area.  Rob thought ahead and brought our little 10'x10' shelter which was perfect as it gave us a shady place to take a break every once in awhile and to eat the lunch that Grandma so graciously picked up for us.

At one point, Karen looked up and saw a sundog (a rainbow circling the sun).  That was pretty amazing to see, but then we realized that it was a double sundog.  Granddad started talking about ice crystals in the sky, but I preferred to consider it a blessing on our day and on our home.

Hydronics Layout

This is part of what I've been spending my time designing. 
First, Rob and I had to figure out how many zones we wanted in the basement.  Each zone is controlled by a thermostat, so all the rooms or areas in that zone would be consistently heated. 

We decided we wanted the office to be one zone, the family room and bathroom would be a second zone and the bedrooms would be a third zone.

Then, Ray (over at Peterson Plumbing Supply) worked up our heat loss calculation.  This is determined by several factors including the size of the room, how many exterior walls there are, and the number and size of windows and doors.  I know there is more than that, but that's the simple version.

He determined how many loops of PEX we need for each zone, how long each of those loops need to be and the distance they need to be laid from each other. Then I took those calculations and started to design the best way to fit the linear feet of tubing into each room - from the boiler - through the room - back to the boiler in one continuous loop without crossing the lines.  Each colored line in my drawing represents one loop.  We had two loops in zone 1, two loops in zone 2 and four loops in zone 3.
If we had an exterior wall that wasn't covered by earth (which is two and one half walls of our basement) we needed to run the PEX closer to the exterior wall (two lines of PEX at 6" centers) and that tubing needed to be the line that came directly out of the boiler so it would be the hottest.  As we moved into the interior of the room we were able to space the tubing at 12" centers.  I couldn't run the PEX too close to the walls.  I needed to run it through doorways and not under walls.  I had to avoid the areas where cabinets were going to be installed.  All of those factors played into how the design came together.

Some of the rooms were easier to configure than others and some of the areas I got too fussy about trying to make it perfect.  Also, you can't bend PEX too tightly or it will kink so all those square corners are really rounded corners but VISIO doesn't do curves too well (at least not in a way that makes it easy for me to caluclate linear feet). 

It was nice to have the design laid out ahead of time.  We had to make a few adjustments as we worked but overall we stayed pretty true to the design. 

Gravel and Grading

June 11
Today was another exciting day where we could really start to see the house take shape and get a feel for how we will be able to use and utilize our lot.  I'm still in "Goldilocks" mode...
The house is too big ...
The house is just right.
The lot is too big ...
The lot will be just right.

I went up first thing in the morning and they were just starting to grade the lot and bring in the gravel.  The guys from Savage were super friendly.  They introduced themselves and answered the two quick questions I had.  Then we chatted for awhile about what was happening.  I could tell they really liked their work.  I like that the people who are building our home take pride in their work.  It makes us feel good about the quality of work they bring to this job and I believe it leaves good vibes in our home too.

Watching these big trucks maneuver is pretty amazing.  I don't even like to back up in our little truck and have never backed up a trailer in my life.  I also realized that I'm glad we were the first house built on our corner of the street.  I don't know how many times these trucks drove up onto the lot next door, but that can't be good for their soil compaction.  (remind me I said that when the trucks and machines are working next door making noise and dust)

I wasn't able to stay long enough to watch them throw the gravel into the basement.  They use a big truck that basically is a super conveyor belt and the driver has such good control of the flow and the direction that the guy in the pit just has to do a little raking.  We had a crazy busy day, our lights were being delivered, I had to run to Sam's Club to get dessert for our FHE group (which meant I also had to make time to clean the house before they arrived) so I had to leave just as they were getting the conveyor truck loaded up.

But, the light delivery went easier then expected (except for the damaged lights - but that's another post),  the trip to Sam's was successful and living in a small apartment means we can get it spic and span in almost no time (hmmm....back to "the house is tooo big"?). 

So, Rob & I headed back up to see the progress.  When we got to the lot there were only two men left with their front loaders working on the grade.  (hah - I had to google to find out the difference between bulldozers and front loaders - these have wheels, not tracks so they are loaders)

I had so much fun watching these guys work.  They know exactly how close to get to the edge of the foundation before turning.  They can dump their load with precision.  They work at an area for a while and when they are finished we have a lovely, useable space.

This first picture is the loader that was working at the bottom of the lot.  Here you can see he is just starting to create the pile that will be on our property line.  He'll move the dirt piled up by our gully.  He'll move the dirt piled up behind Rob's office and will attack the pile behind the family room from the bottom.

This guy is moving the dirt from the top of the lot.  He's taking the dirt and putting it near our property line and a little bit onto the lot next door. You can see he's already moved the pile behind the garage and is starting to work on the pile behind the family room.

The loader working on the bottom of the lot again.  You can get a better idea of the soil he has to relocate.  Once he had the pile near the gully area moved he started to work towards the house.  He kept the dirt out of the gully, he didn't break any of our tree branches off AND he didn't fall in the gully.  Somehow, even when he was backing up he knew exactly where he was.  I didn't see him turn around once.  He just kept moving (except when he stopped to take a phone call).  The pile closest to the family room is partially carried away and partially knocked down into the gap.  They really want to fill most of that gap with gravel so he was pretty deliberate about how much soil he allowed down in that gap.  Again, the control of these operators is astounding.  If I were responsible for moving that dirt it would be in the gap, covering the nice level gravel in the family room, or I would have backed up into the gully and fallen in. 

I thought these two pictures were fun because you can see the grade change from the garage level to the walk-out basement level. 

And, Look! 
We have our own little Alp.
Of course it didn't last long.

Here you get a nice overview of the basement floor.  With the gravel down we had a much better idea of what we needed to do when it was time to lay down the XPS insulation.  We will have to fit it around all of those monolithic footings and the plumbing stacks.  I am standing in the single car garage, looking over the wall where the tv will be.  You can see the corner of the double car garage and the outline of our cold cellar. 

This is a quick picture of the thermostatically controlled vent that will go into our cold storage room.  It will automatically close when the temperature drops below a certain level (we still have to find out what that is).  I forgot to ask if it runs on batteries.  There will be no power in that room so it must.  I am so new to the idea of having a cold storage room that I didn't even realize we had to open and close the vent depending on the weather.

Here we have a nice shot of the front of the house with the preliminary grade finished.  The horizontal black line is the approximate level of the sidewalk from the driveway to the front porch.  There will be one or two steps from the sidewalk to the porch.  (Jesse promised!)  I didn't want to have to climb a bunch of steps to get into our house and I didn't want to have to worry about shoveling them in the winter either.
The arrows indicate the slope.  The yellow rectangle is about where our front door will be.  We'll have a nice rock retaining wall where the yellow blobs are.  Hooray!  My desire for a rock garden is going to be more than adquately satisfied with this yard.  In fact, we'll have to add some rocks in the back too, next to the deck area.  I want to be smart when we landscape this yard.  I want it to be water wise and practical. 

Jesse asked us some very specific questions about the final grade we want on the lot and since we didn't realize we had control over that Rob and I were both a little caught off guard.  Oh boy!  Another thing to study and imagine and plan.  Luckily, he said we have a little bit of time to think about it. 

Anyone know a landscape architect who works for free?  Or for really good cheesecake?

Isn't this pretty?  Just a nice view of our garages, dropping down to our basement and look how lovely the valley is this spring.