Wednesday, May 26, 2010

They don't call us puddletown for nothing

It's raining.  It's hailing. It's pouring. I feel like I should have moss growing in between my toes.

Today it rained so furiously that my gutters were overflowing. Please, someone sacrifice a virgin to the weather gods already!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Thwarted by fences

Remember this fence?  The one that defines the boundary between our properties but provides no privacy?

It was patched with chicken wire and chain link, I'm guessing to stop a dog from burrowing underneath it.

So in, oh, eleven thousand spots someone had attached the chain link with twisted bits of wire wrapped around screws in the fence.

This is a stupid way to secure a fence.

So I had to climb behind the shrubs (like the rhododendron) that had been planted *right next to the fence* and find all the places it was attached and untwist the wire so it would release.  I had this brilliant idea to cover this fence in bamboo screens to provide more privacy.  I bought one section and labored to squeeze it past the rhododendron and the bamboo.

Isn't it so private now?  I'm going to try adding a second layer of bamboo to see if that helps, but I'm not very confident it will.  WHY CAN NOTHING BE EASY?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Vegetables . . . finally!

Last summer was the first time in three years I didn't grow vegetables. It broke my heart.  I'm rebounding by planting my starts way too close together.  Pickling cucumber, tomatillo, brussels sprouts, parsley, sage, (rosemary will go in a pot), thyme, cilantro, basil, kale, and marigolds.

My roommate's classmate gave me this box.  It originally had a window on top so it could be used as a seedling greenhouse.  He neglected to mention that the window was missing so I decided to turn it into a wee planter box.

I put a double layer of window screening in the bottom . . .

I filled it with soil . . .

And I planted my lettuce. 

There was an article a couple years back, I swear it was in the NY Times though I can't find it now, that said lettuce only needs a few inches of soil.  I usually grow ten times as much lettuce as this; I love a big salad and homegrown lettuce tastes soooo much better than store-bought. If this plot thrives in the shade of the garage I may build another bed. And another one for arugula. And another one for radicchio!  Yum.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


When I moved into the house there was this red thing in the backyard.

People speculated that it was a giant candlestick or an ashtray.  Then someone guessed it was the base of a birdbath.  That makes more sense, no?

I grabbed a terracotta saucer from the hardware store and put it on top. 

It doesn't match exactly but! the night I put it out two hummingbirds came into my yard. They didn't visit the bath but hopefully they were doing a little recon, realizing that I'm putting in plants that will provide habitat and nectar, as well as some creature comforts for them.  I love hummingbirds and that funny brrrrrrrrrptttttttpth noise they make when they cruise through the yard.  The large black birds that eat pizza on my roof (I am not making this up--I found two of them fighting over a full piece of cheese pizza a few weeks back)?  Not so much.  

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I've yet to meet a maple I don't like

Seemingly overnight the vine maple has decided to bloom.

I swoon every time I see it.  Maples: is there nothing they can't do?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Fence is gone!

Well, for better or worse, we did it.

I can't stress enough how great both sets of neighbors have been throughout this process. It's makes the whole ordeal just a tiny bit less stressful.  Now we just have to wait eleven (!) days for the posts to be put in.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ode to a fig tree

When I was looking at houses I knew that I wanted to have a garden. When you talk to first time homebuyers they often speak of the appeal of being able to paint their walls any color they want.  That certainly held true for me (I've painted every wall in my house with the exception of my back hallway and living room) but the bigger draw was the possibility of a fig tree. 

I love figs. I love them raw, I love them cooked in browned butter and tossed with pasta, I love them in jam, I love them in tarts.  I can eats pounds of them in one sitting (don't do this--tummy ache).  The potential to own a piece of land where I could plant a fig tree, wherever I wanted, was so appealing to me.  It's hard to explain how powerful this was for me and it probably seems really silly.

So I bought myself a Negronne fig tree for my birthday.  It won't fruit this year and it's tiny.  But someday it will be big, it will shade the patio, and I will eat gobs of figs.  And when I figure out what the hell I'm doing in my backyard I might even put it in the ground.  That, to me, is the beauty of home ownership.

I might even take the price tag off the pot.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

It's off to the mulch store I go.

Sigh.  Can you tell where I ran out of mulch?  I was so close.

But how gorgeous are the Bloodgood maples looking?

Now I just need to get some sun-loving plants to join them in the parking strip.  Something other than perfectly edged lawn, just to thumb my nose at my neighbors.  They take lawn edging very seriously in this neighborhood and I just don't understand the appeal of that much grass.  It's only May and I'm so sick of mowing.  I watched my neighbor spend two hours edging his lawn.  But I spend my weekends moving rock from one side of the yard to the other and then back again, so what do I know?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A compromise!


We'll see if I change my mind again this weekend. I want to make sure I move these stones as many times as humanly possible.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The irony is not lost on me

Saturday was a big day.  All this concrete . . .

. . . went in here . . .

. . . and was taken to the recycling center. The load was 1900 pounds.  Then I headed to Lowe's to pick up twice as much concrete, but in a different shape: retaining wall stones.  I had to do it in two loads but it was pretty nice because they used a forklift to put it in the truck.  For some stupid reason I thought I was going to have to load them manually.  This is why I don't work for NASA, even though I have strong ideas about memory foam and super quiet pans.

The stones weigh 25 pounds each, so I could only move five at a time in the wheelbarrow.  In my personal hell I do this all day but there's also some sort of electronic beeping going off.  I hate beeping.  I got the general shape laid out and then I lost steam and had to eat all the pizza.  I'd moved 7,150 pounds and, yes, I will be telling this statistic to anyone who will listen.  They might have a tiny violin to play for me.

On Sunday I set to building, which took way longer than I expected. You have to dig out the lawn under the stones so they are level and stable.  You also have to smash your finger in between two of them, bruising the top of your ring finger.  It makes handling things with your hands extra painful!  This why I don't work with sharp things for a living.  The fact that I still have all my fingers and toes, as well as two (mostly) functioning eyeballs, almost makes me believe in miracles.

I got three rows high, 12 inches off the ground, and thought about stopping.  But the idea that I hauled an extra 1250 pounds for no reason made me crazy.  So I added the fourth layer.

It's such a BIG bed (seriously, what was I thinking?) that I think having it this high (16 inches) makes it look out of scale with the yard.  Or like I have a giant rock moat.

But I have a lot of tall friends who would be more comfortable sitting at 16 inches!

But I also have friends with kids who would likely prefer climbing on a shorter wall!

I've completely lost perspective.  Please tell me what to do:

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

In non-concrete news

Today is my grandma's 90th birthday.  She raised prize-winning African violets for years and years.  I'd like to think my love of gardening comes from her.

Happy birthday, Grandma!

Monday, May 3, 2010

F*ck concrete

I was just going to move one plant.  But because nothing can ever be EASY it turned into an excavation.  I was moving my nootka rose and I found some blackberry, so I dug it up.  And then I started clearing the brick that is littered all over the north side of my patio. 

Remember when we tore down the shed and found those bags of concrete that had gotten wet and solidified into huge heavy rocks?  I guess they had used them to extend the patio or something because there were a whole bunch set in the soil.

So I pulled out a lot of concrete.  Again.

There's so much buried rubble in this part of the yard it's almost impossible to plant without excavating it.

But! I've gained about four feet in planting space I didn't know I had before.  Excellent news!

I thought I had all the big chunks out but then I started digging the next day and found more.

And more.  And then I found a hatch.

I was pretty sure that this time I was definitely finding a dead body.  There was a plexiglass window lined with what I am guessing was the original bathroom tile (which is awesome because I wondered what it looked like), underlaid with huge chunks of concrete.  The flat side was up, so I think they may have used this as a firepit?  Or maybe they just liked burying concrete, I don't know.  The people who lived here before made weird decisions.

I was hoping to find Desmond down here (Mom, this is a reference to the TV show LOST) but I found something almost as hot: firefighters!

Or . . . a firetruck. 

Yada yada, bushywacky bushwacky, mulch mulch mulch . . .

No dead bodies, yay!