Monday, November 28, 2011

How was your Thanksgiving?

Mine was lovely. We hosted and I brined my first turkey. It was just about perfect. We had centerpieces on the table made of rosemary, sage, and rose hips, as that's what's available in the yard right now.

I wanted to create a nightmare tablescape that would make Sandra Lee proud, but ultimately it wasn't grand enough. We needed more stuff. Pumpkins covered in glitter or flaming pinecones, something like that.

Photo by Bill

But I did incorporate Greg's squirrel. He stared at Ryan while he ate dinner.

Photo by Bill

Everyone was forced to eat a sprig of rosemary before they were served dinner. 

I kid. Nobody ate rosemary. Photo by Bill.

Then Greg and I spent a gorgeous lazy Friday making turkey stock, taking a walk, and finishing this jigsaw puzzle.

Our friend's toddler stole the center piece, DRAT.

We finally got more mulch to cover the rain garden too. It looks kind of silly to me right now, as though it's gift-wrapped or something.

I hope you had a wonderful holiday!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mighty life list: there will be nacho cheese

Consider this Mighty Life List item done: unlimited fried shrimp at The Sizzler.

I didn't actually get the unlimited option because that comes with steak but no salad bar. And the salad bar at The Sizzler includes nacho cheese, so not getting it wasn't an option. Also in the salad bar: onion rings and chicken wings. It turns out I had more than enough fried shrimp.

Jess and I were joined by the post-church supper set, for the most part. For a while there we were the only guests in the restaurant under the age of 70. They ate baked potatoes and ranted audibly about Obama while I whispered, "I'm worried this will give me E. coli." But really The Sizzler was clean and cozy and I would totally be down with spending my twilight years that way. And guys, the service there is GREAT. If you've eaten out much in Portland then you know that our collective waitstaff are surly and slow and they often act as if they are doing you a great favor just by showing up. As someone who used to wait tables, this makes me crazy. So mega-points to The Sizzler for that. Your lettuce is iceberg and your fried shrimp are just okay but your staff get gold stars.

There's a taco bar! And a sundae bar! But no sprinkles, FOR SHAME, SIZZLER. I made Jess this silly pillow as a thank you for fulfilling my childhood dream.

Jess is the only person I know who likes this silly video as much as I do. This came out before the honeybadger video and I find it way funnier. What a great way to let everyone know how much you like tigers!

So thank you, Jess, for helping me fulfill a childhood dream. I had a blast. Next up: tap dancing lessons!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The rain garden in action

Here's a quick video of the rain garden in action.The excitement, I can barely stand it.

The basin is maybe a third full. I'm not sure now if I'd want to direct more gutters here. We'll just have to see how it performs throughout the winter. Sometimes I remember that scene from the end of Poltergeist where Craig T. Nelson is running around the backyard and everything is flooding, including the half-dug swimming pool, and all the bodies start popping up. I don't want that to happen.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Like they never existed

A dude came out this week with one of those fancy earth-moving machines that make me so nervous. He dug out the rhody stumps, including the one located over our water main. I was working from home that day, ironing out a presentation while the windows rattled and the floor vibrated. It wasn't stressful at all.

As the guy left he yelled, "Enjoy your clean slate!" It amazes me; in about an hour he was able to make it like the rhododendron and azalea never existed. I feel extra stupid for ever trying to remove a stump myself. He also ground out the rhododendron in the backyard, nicking the berm on my rain garden a little.

How funny is that perfect square of sod in the middle of the yard? I broadcast seed around that area, trying to soften the square, but our lawn is rejecting it. I'm just going to start telling people that it's a modern grass installation. "Eames totally did that in his yard."

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Can you see the finish line?

Greg and I hustled back from the coast this weekend to pick up plants from the last sale of the year from the Audubon Society. When you let hippies run things it can get a little confused. When I got there they didn't have all my plants because someone had miscounted and maybe people took too many plants? And then we had this conversation:

Me: I ordered five gallon-sized Juncus but there's only three here.
Him: Just take more of the pint-sized plants instead.
Me: But don't those plants belong to someone else?
Me: So it's just anarchy at this point?
Him: (smiles)

In their defense this was the biggest sale they've ever had, with over 4000 plants ordered. That's a LOT of natives to keep track of. I ordered a combination of soft rush (Juncus effusus) and tufted hair grass (Deschampsia cespitosa) and a few penstemon and stream violets to round things out. I also ordered kinnikinnick for the drier edges, which will hopefully cover the berm after a few years.

I hindsight I wish I had ordered a vine maple and incorporated some ferns but who am I kidding? I'm going to end up digging up and rearranging half of these anyway. It's what gardeners do, even gardeners who really know what they're doing. Greg raked up the leaves from the dogwood in the front yard and I deposited them into the beds around the yard as mulch. I don't have compost bins built yet but I couldn't bear to give up my leaves to the city compost. They'll just have to compost in place and I'll have to deal with the fact that I'm now a hoarder of leaves, in addition to everything else.

I ran out of fine bark mulch for the rain garden but once I get that covering everything this baby will be DONE. And then I've promised Greg I'm done with garden projects until next spring.

And I think I actually mean it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Our little box is a naked box.

Today the tree trimmers came to prune up the dogwood in front and the cedar in back. I think I've established that I don't know what I'm doing when I prune, so I hired out. While they were here they took away the rhodies and the azalea.




Oh shit.

I had a moment of panic when I saw the cedar (so naked! where are her petticoats!?) but I'm getting used to it now. The plants underneath are all shade-loving plants but I think they'll be okay. They'll get a little more water this winter and the fence should get a little more sun, which means it might not rot as quickly.

The guy pruned up the andromeda (Pieris japonica, just to the right of the bamboo) after I told him I wanted to rip it out. He basically told me that I was crazy and that it just needed to be prettified. And I think maybe that silly hippy was right.

I guess we should get rid of that huge dirt pile (which I call "the neighborhood cat toilet") that formed while I was digging the rain garden. Next week the guys come to grind out the stumps and I will officially have a clean slate out front. Hooray!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

And then we built a swimming pool

So I decided to rain garden. And I have to apologize to my friend Sue because I missed meeting her sister and drinking martinis to dig this stupid thing.

I followed the recommendations for sizing my rain garden, which is 10% of the area of roof feeding it. Roughly 500 square feet of roof dumps water into the rain barrel, so my rain garden needed to be about 50 square feet. That's freaking HUGE but I'd rather have too large a rain garden than overflowing water heading toward my house.

So I removed all the sod from the area.

And then I started digging.

And then I got tired and the ground was sort of hard so I decided to leave it for a week so the rain could percolate down.

This didn't help. The ground didn't really soften all that much and yet my yard was now extraordinarily muddy. Then I discovered that the hose that is supposed to drain my rain barrel during the winter wasn't doing that, so instead my rain barrel was dripping water out of the overflow in the side, which meant water was dumping next to the house. I honestly wish I had never put in this stupid rain barrel. It seemed like a good idea at the time but I can't get enough water pressure out of it to actually water anything (I think it needs to be elevated) and I didn't have an overflow system in place, so it's a worthless hunk of wood that dumps water next to my house. Me and rain barrel are totally in a fight.

So I took it out. We will figure out a way to use it somewhere else but we're going to figure out a way to make the overflow work to our advantage. And it's going to be elevated, damn it. But first I had to drain it, so I let it drain into the hole I had going so far. That softened everything up really nicely but I have NEVER been so muddy before.

Once I got the rain barrel moved out from behind the garage I had to hook up this stupid looking contraption because it was raining and the gutter was now hooked up to nothing. No time like the present to test the rain garden.

Then I had to rush and get prettified to go to a work party so I had to finish up the next day. Luckily the rain had stopped and it was freaking beautiful out. More of that, Portland! PLEASE. Greg installed a proper gutter and I rolled the rain barrel off to a corner so it could think about what it did.

We pick up the plants from the Audubon Society next Sunday. I ordered way too many plants or not nearly enough, I can't decide which. It really feels like this rain garden is going to be way too big. If that's the case we're going to re-route some other gutters to here, so they aren't dumping in stupid places (like the walkway next to trashcans WHY, GUTTER INSTALLERS?).

I have to tip my hat to those guys who bury bodies in the woods in the movies, using a solitary shovel by the headlights of an Edsel. That's hard work. I'm super pooped and sore everywhere.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Working around an oil tank

We presumably have an oil tank buried alongside our driveway. I say presumably because this is there.

It is located in the place where I'd most like to have an herb garden, as it's right across from the kitchen. Sadly, oil tanks tend to leak and deposit toxic substances, so planting edibles there doesn't seem like the best idea. My herbs currently live in the backyard in the raised beds. Every time I need rosemary for our potatoes or sage for our squash I have to trudge out in the dark backyard and get it. It's as far from the kitchen as you can get.

Guys, I'm a little embarrassed to say that it took me two years to figure out that I could throw a planter here, plant it with herbs, and have my kitchen garden close at hand. No oil residue required!

I think it softens the entrance a little, which I like a lot. A Korean lilac will flank it in the foreground and then I'm thinking of a sweet low evergreen groundcover. And then maybe a Marjorie clematis to climb the fence, since the hops have a hard time with it. And then the jasmine will climb that trellis and soften the left side. And then . . . and then . . . and then . . .

Guess which Simon & Garfunkel song is stuck in my head?
Side note: do you have any idea how hard it is to find a wine barrel planter in November? I finally found this one at Bamboo Craftsman, where they only had two left. The guy even rolled it out to the truck for me. I probably should have bought the other one too; I'll want it eventually.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Home Depot does me a solid.

Cracked sink wants to hug you.

Remember when I listened to the Internet and poured very hot water down my bathroom sink and cracked it? I called two sink refinishers in town and asked about repairing the crack and refinishing the sink. They both told me that the cracking would only continue to get worse and that repairing it "wasn't worth it."

I visited Home Depot yesterday to ask for their help in locating a replacement sink. I bought the sink as a combination; it included the vanity, the sink, and the mirror. A very nice guy called and found out that it's a Home Depot brand, which means they manufacture it. And my only option is to buy the whole kit again. The kit is $399.00.

I emailed Frank Black, the CEO of Home Depot (contact info here), and Craig Menear, their VP of Merchandising and told them how frustrated I was that I can't purchase a replacement sink. I asked for help in locating a sink, since they manufacture it and all. I got a phone call within five minutes from Greg Stanford who told me they were shipping me a new combination.

I'm still shocked that they can't hunt down a sink for me, as I don't need a new vanity or mirror, but I'm very happy with the customer service. I have always gone to Home Depot over Lowe's (which is closer to my house) because their customer service is better and their return policy is fantastic. I think their associates are totally hit-or-miss. I've had some amazing bend-over-backwards help in the lighting and electrical departments . . . and then there was Gary in equipment who suggested I use a pressure-washer on my kitchen floor. To remove thinset. And then he was a dick about it.

Man, I am still mad at Gary.

But I love you again, Home Depot. Thanks for doing me a solid, even though I'm not excited about putting together another sink.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Things I learned while I was planting 160 tulip bulbs last night

  • An hour and a half before sundown is not an early enough start time, especially when we're still in huge-ass-spiders-in-the-garden season. Digging in the near-dark is scary.What was that? Did I just walk through a web? Do I feel something on my neck?
  • Laying them out first, based on color and height is a better approach than what I did last year, where I dug as I went and ended up with clumps of colors and bald spots galore.
  • I tried to sprinkle the bulbs like Jacqueline van der Kloet recommends (so everything looks more natural) but I suspect the whole thing will look kind of stiff anyway.

  • You have to wear gloves when you plant hyacinths because they will irritate your skin. Thanks for the heads up, Brett and Becky's!
  • It doesn't matter how perfect I think my angle is, I will end up tossing the bulb in top-down or on its side.
  • Somehow I didn't run into any of the 75 bulbs I planted last year, which is impossible, right? I must have bulb-stealing critters.
  • Being really hungry while you plant does not make things go faster. 
  • Elizabeth over at Garden Rant says that the process of planting the bulbs is the best part--I'm not so sure I agree. I *do* love the anticipation of waiting for them to come up. It's exciting when they start to emerge from the ground and again when they actually open. I wanted to be more zen about the whole process but the sun was sinking so fast.
  • Man, doing anything 160 times right in a row is boring.
  • Goddamn it, I didn't order any crocuses. Again. Someone remind me next year?
  • I'm going to have to spend some time getting to know this new camera--the colors and white balance in my photos are all off.
I finally bought Rosalie bulbs in honor of my grandma on my mom's side; now I'd like to find a Marjorie flower for my dad's mom. It looks like there's a variety of clematis (C. montana var. rubens 'Marjorie') that might fit the bill. It's pretty and pink and I'm obsessed with incorporating vines into my garden right now, so everyone wins!

In addition to getting the bulbs in the ground I also replaced (FOR THE THIRD TIME) the birdbath top. You'd think I'd get smart and glue it to the top, but it was cold and I didn't feel like it. I went for a red one this time.

I'm totally tempting fate to knock it over again, aren't I?