Rocks Rock!

pioneer sand demoWe’d been working hard all week, moving slowly but determinedly through our list of move-in chores. It was time for a break. So… being the romantic sort (on occasion), my husband asked me if I’d like to go out for the evening—to look at rocks.

Sure, I answered. While not a huge fan of gravel and mulch, going out, even to look at rock piles, sounded tons better than another night spent discussing the placement of dressers and hanging pictures.

Pete came home early, we jumped in the car, and off we went to the rock and sand company. Surprisingly, it was kind of interesting.

gorilla-hair-mulchI was imagining a large space filled with dump trucks, piles of gravel, and smelly manure. And sure, there were all those things. But there were also piles of finished compost, manna for a soil-deprived gardener. Bark mulches came as chunks or “gorilla hair” shreds (right) in a variety of colors, some natural, some obviously dyed. (Seriously, red mulch?) If you prefer gravel spread around your yard, there were dozens of options.

The white quartz reminded me of desert zero-scapes, especially as it was paired with red pumice stones. It looks neat, if not inspired, for all of an hour. Then the red rocks end up on the white side of the edging, and vice versa, and it’s all downhill from there.

If you prefer a more natural look, there were piles and piles of locally quarried stones, from huge (expensive!) boulders to pea gravel and sand. Would you prefer your flagstone in Arizona buff, Colorado red, or onyx? How about rose quartz, river rock, or grey granite boulders? Gravel, too, came in various shades of red, gold, or gray.

You could buy concrete sand, mason sand, or a sand and rock mix. Do you want your top soil sifted or not sifted? Or maybe you only need fill dirt. Then there was the wall block, 21 different kinds of it.

Pete caught me before I could wander over to the pond supplies and fire pit accessories. (He knows me well.) It was time to pick out what would go in our new yard.

First we decided on compost—the Biocomp, made from brewer’s waste (yay Coors), wood waste, biosolids, and treatment plant residuals, will go a long way to improving our soil. I don’t intend to use it in my veggie beds, as there’s a very slight, but real, chance of heavy metal contamination from the treatment plant residuals. Maybe I’ll hunt down someone with alpacas, instead—their aged droppings are an outstanding amendment!

siloam stoneWe picked out some Siloam stone (right), taken from the Siloam quarry in Cañon City (90 minutes south of us), for our retaining walls, and matching rip rap to hold a narrow but steep slope beside our house. A couple of good-sized granite boulders will lend our front yard a mountain-y feel and give the manzanitas something to spill over. After much dithering, we settled on gray “breeze” to be tamped into place for our paths and to surround our boxed veggie beds. Gray pea gravel, left loose on the soil surface, will provide a fecund seed bed for some wildflowers next spring.

Since bare soil invites weeds, compaction, and run-off, the rest of the yard would either be covered with plants (such as our small lawn) or the shredded bark illustrated above. Shredding helps hold the mulch in place even when the wind gusts up to 70 mph—a common event here along the Front Range.

I suffered a bit of sticker shock when we totaled up our selections—and we hadn’t even gotten to the plants yet! Still, in a region prone to raindrops like hammers, severe temperature fluctuations, and devastating hail storms, I have to admit that there was a comfortable confidence to buying something indestructible. The trees may get sick and die, the perennials may be pummeled into slush, but the rocks will endure.

Looking at rocks turned out to be a fun date, but I appreciated even more the offer to go out for dinner afterward. There’s nothing like dining on sumptuous fajitas to make a wife appreciate her husband!

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