Folsom's Rainbow Bridge

Folsom's Rainbow Bridge
Rainbow Bridge crossing the American River in Folsom, CA

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Old Folsom Is My Hood

Hello and welcome back to Local Fruit. Today’s blog is not about construction, but a short commentary about life in old town Folsom.

We have enjoyed old Folsom for over twenty years, and we especially appreciate the unique character that is found in an area as richly diverse as old town. There are interesting and charming residential areas that are home to some of the most appealing sites in the city, and of course there is the commercial historic district that is fertile for people watching. Since the renovation of the historic district there is a renewed vitality in the commercial district and more interest from tourists and regional residents alike.

Scott St. & Sutter St.

For the past year, while living on the outskirts of the historic district during construction of our home, we have frequently walked to the job site or to Sutter Street for dinner, a cold beer, or just to enjoy the sites in the neighborhood. We have probably passed this beautiful home on foot maybe a hundred times, and many more while driving.
Lucky Dragon

Of course the home has been under renovation for years; the grounds are gorgeous and this painted lady is one of Folsom’s finest monuments to a rich past. But look closely and you will see a dragon! And four-leaf clover! It is much fun to see creative renovation at work.

On our wanderings through the older residential areas we have seen TV antenna in trees, totem poles carved as bears wearing bikinis, wonderful arbors and incredibly gnarly fine but massive old oak trees. The alleys have as much to offer, and some alleys have wonderful homes and gardens tucked quietly off the main streets. We have yet to take a walk in the hood and not be greeted by young and old- when I smile there is almost always a smile returned and often a few kind words. There are neighborhood animals that are friendly, like “Senator” the older black lab who greets with sloppy kiss in hopes of a scratch on the head. There are animals to watch, like the lone coyote that we observed for ten minutes at Coloma and Mormon St., loping and resting on the grass. He did not seem a threat but it is unnerving to see a predator openly strolling in the neighborhood.

Over the past twenty-four years we have witnessed a renewal in the old area, and many once shabby homes are now charming and well tended. I believe that the turn around was inevitable due to the progress brought by two main influences: the growth of the suburbs sprawling in the newer developments and the arrival of light rail transit. With the attractions of the river, bike paths, the Sutter Street commercial area and the influx of restaurants, more tourists discovering Historic Folsom. But stroll a few blocks away and there are homes dating back to the late 1800’s to the 1940’s with wonderful charming porches, gardens and arbors.

A horse or ox shoe circa 1850 from Bridge St.
We love the old town, and the people who live and work here. There is character in the old town, and we are eager to finish our home so we can enjoy the hood more than before.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Final Grading in Old Folsom

Hello and welcome back to Local Fruit in Folsom, Ca. The past few weeks construction really seemed to slow down as the work in progress was interior, detailed and time consuming. The finish trim took a full two weeks to complete and was followed by a week of interior painting and prep. This blog is about grading, water permeable surfaces and the beginning of landscaping for our new home in Old Folsom.

Graded future patio and sloped side yard
Two exciting milestones occurred last Monday: final grading and the delivery of the solar panels. Quality final grading is critical to all construction projects to ensure water drainage is adequate, but even more so when dealing with a narrow and sloped lot. Our lot drops 10 ½ feet from the southeast corner to the northwest corner, which may not seem like much except the lot is only 50 feet wide so the slope is significant across a short distance. Returning the slope to the original grade is important to prevent water damage and to protect the heritage oak trees. A sloped lot also means that we should plan for the water that will come from neighbors uphill…at least we know the area well and understand where water runs in the rainy season.

The grader was a real master, a man named Martine with incredible skill. He brought equipment including a tractor that was about 25 years old and wonderfully patched up. The seat was 100% covered with red tape and there was a rag used to plug a hole in the sidewall of one the tires. To me, Martine had an uncanny resemblance to a Mexican version of Dustin Hoffman, especially when he was concentrating on the job at hand. We walked the lot to review our design-not an engineering plan but the simple design drawing from my PC home design software-a print out which is not technical enough for a grader. Martine then walked the lot with his hands out, mentally calculating and “feeling the flow” of the lot. Several hours later, I went home to pick up a few cold beers and returned to find the laser shooting the back yard. Martine said he was 1 ½” off in one corner which is amazing because we did not provide any before of after measurements. Think about it… a true master who read the slope, returned the soil perfectly to original grade (which he had never seen) and did it all using old school gear with no measurements. I think this was a challenge for Martine and he seemed to enjoy the challenge. I was honored to meet him and to watch him work; I can recommend his work without hesitation to anyone need a good grader. It is so inspiring to watch a master tradesman in action, especially a magician like Martine!

Landscape design - patio, trees, trellis, grapes (makes sense?)
It is satisfying to start laying out the landscaping, at least enough for the landscapers to bid on the project. We are hands-on owners, especially with the landscaping and landscape design. A dear friend used the term “No dry cows” which means don’t plant anything that is not productive. We hope to grow plants & trees that are edible, or at least have other household value. There will even be four raised beds so we can plant a spring/summer and a fall/winter garden. The City provided compost bin has been in use for several months, and we are beginning to haul potted plants from our little rental yard. We must be careful, or the deer will get to our plants before we can install fencing. Between the birds, dear and occasional worker, the figs have been well eaten this summer!
We originally planned to have water permeable surfaces for our hardscape, which means pavers or hard surfaces that do not create runoff. Rainwater should filter through the patio or sidewalk to the soil and become groundwater, verses draining off on the surface to the storm sewer and away from the soil. Worse yet, uncontrolled runoff causes erosion and damage to the municipal storm sewer system.

Unfortunately, our project has cost over runs in other areas, and permeable surfaces are no longer an option. The most attractive hard surface is stone, which is now out of the budget. Stamped and stained concrete may be what we end up with.  concrete provides more color and texture options and should be very attractive. The current design has a much reduced the patio area to create more planting areas for small fruit trees and ground cover. This will give us the best of both: more beds and greenery and a smaller more intimate patio for the outdoor dining area.

With a little creativity, a slope is a landscaping asset! Even a narrow lot looks better with grape vines, yes? If we put grapes on the fence, perhaps the deer will nibble on grapes and quince, and leave the roses alone.

Solar Panels on the west side of the roof
The solar panels were installed today, but are not yet hooked up. I will blog about the PV system in a week or so.