Friday, April 1, 2011

Well, here they come

That's the end of my alley.  I dog walked down there via the street, and here's what's behind that equipment:

They have already made one pass through the alley -- there goes my weed stop fabric...

I am trying to be grown up about it, and to remember that it is an asset to my house to have new sewer pipes and drainage pipes, even though I have no idea what they are draining...  but it's challenging.  I was out doing yoga in the back this morning and my solitude was abruptly interrupted with that loud beeping noise that trucks make when they back up, and that was accompanied by a lot of men's voices.  Ah.  Time to pack it up and go inside.

Last evening I dug up about a dozen little yellow wildflower plants out of the alley and transplanted them into a flower bed near the fence.  It looked like I got all of the main tap roots without damage, but I'm not sure they will make it.  But gosh if they came up from last year in mostly crummy soil with almost no water, they surely ought to thrive in their new location!

I had a big piece of flagstone outside my gate in the alley, and I moved that to inside the gate as well.  Sort of like pulling in your welcome mat... 

In the spirit of optimism, I am day dreaming about what to do/plant in the alley this Fall when they are done.  I may or may not put weed stop fabric down again.  Scattering seed would be the most economical, but what type of seed?  (Just had a horrid thought -- certainly they won't PAVE the alley when they are done, will they?!)  I would love a big field of mint, but it would get expensive pretty fast.  I wonder if mint grows from seed....?  Hmmmm...

New Corner

I really wanted to rent a tiller yesterday, but since my car is still in the shop for routine maintenance and I have a loan car, I didn't have a way to get it home.  It actually turned out to be good, because it forced me to do some things around the backyard in preparation for the weekend work.

I started unearthing the garden shed (har har, see what I did there?)  Over the dark times cold snap it had become a dumping ground for things that were just in the way and it desperately needs some organization.  So I did a little of that, which resulted in a trip to Goodwill and a trip to my local (behind the shed) recycling center. 

Then I decided I would tackle the spigots on my rain barrels.  Some of them just have the hoses attached with a clamp, which likes to fall off and rinse your shoes.  Handy, and yet...  I had marginal success there.  I need to measure the spout on the rain barrel before I can finish it.  I knew that going into the project, but I forgot, and remembered after I had left the house.  I tried to wing it but failed.

I was out zipping around town in my 2011 loan car (which has the super-charged engine, unlike mine -- oh my) and decided I would try to find an outdoor nylon-y rug to go under my chairs.  I wanted something I could just hose off when it got dirty, that would dry fast.

I looked at Home Depot -- mostly just because I was there -- and Big Lots.  I was bracing myself for WalMart or Garden Ridge if necessary, but wheeled into a favorite store, Cost Plus World Market.  I struck gold:

They had several to choose from in this 6' x 8' size.  I almost got the more conservative brown toned one, but opted to be bold (BE BOLD!  LOL)  instead.  It was reasonably priced and made of the exact material I was looking for.  When I first unrolled it, I was worried that it was too beach-y.  But in the end, I decided I like it.  The green stripe matches the sprouts on the yoga platforms* perfectly, and the blue matches the two blue rain barrels I have -- unless I opt to paint them.  I think I need to scoot it back some, so there isn't such a landing pad in front of it.  And obviously I need to even out the ground below and then use landscape staples to smooth it out and tack it down.  Blissfully the photo is taken from far enough away that (I hope) you can't tell how badly those chairs need some sandpaper and a teak protectant.  And then there's my pot of cilantro on the table, all happy in the sun.

*  Love.   I have been using them for yoga and star gazing.  In the evenings I start out doing yoga, and end up star gazing.  Do you have the Skyscape ap on your iPhone for constellations?? OMG!  Fab.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Gutters and Chains

My gutter company came out today to add a downspout for the barrel that was moved from my porch to my sideyard, and to shorten a downspout that was a hair too long when the steel table was inserted below it.  Here's the new downspout:

And then when I'd put up the copper rain chain on my porch, I had to shorten it -- it was much longer than I needed.  I had the extra piece... what to do with it?  I asked the gutter guy if I could incorporate it anywhere.  He looked around and suggested I take down one of the carport downspouts that goes all the way to the ground, not into a barrel, and put it up there.  Stellar:

I think it looks beautiful there, and it gives me several options -- another rain barrel, a basin at ground level, a rock "field" to prevent a muddy hole, or, if I am johnny-on-the-spot when it rains, throw a bucket under it. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Owl Houses

I am laughing even as I type this -- partly because it's just like me to come up with another mildly nutty idea, and partly because I truly have no time to take on a new project, however small.

That being said, my lastest plan is to build one or two owl houses.  Uh huh.  Owls.  Specifically, Eastern Screech Owl houses, because I think that is the type of owls we have in our neighborhood.

I mean, how cute is this guy?  I'd love to count him as a resident in my yard!

When I had my lake property, one of the first things I did was put up a bat house.  Do you know how many flying bugs they eat an hour?  It's insane.  But I've moved on from bats -- I'm on to owls.  Rodent catching owls.  Ohhh yes, my pretty!

I've looked up owl house construction plans online (you've gotta love the internet) and they look unbelievably simple.  I mean, it will probably just take about 5 minutes.  Looking at the plans, it appears that all I need is an 8 foot 1"x 10", a hinge, some wire, and some cedar shavings.  I have all of that...well wait, I guess cedar mulch probably doesn't count... 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Another potting table option...

I've contacted the seller of this one -- asking about a reduced price. 

I also asked if the legs were bolted on, as I would need to lengthen the legs and swapping them out I think would be the easiest route.  This is a coffee table and it's only 21" tall.  But it is nice and long, with great drawers, and it's 30" deep!  

With some planks on top/back, and a coat of paint to distress... could be just the thing...

image 2271073105-0

UPDATE:  Ha.  The seller responded to my inquiry about taking a reduced price -- she sounded rather indignant about it all, how the table is "worth every penny."  Er, so, maybe you shouldn't put "OBO" in your ad... IJS.  Onward and upward.  My table is out there somewhere! 

I saw a really fab one in a store as a display table at Farmer's Market -- but it wasn't for sale, and I am sure, even if it was, that it would have cost a fortune.  I'm dabbling with the idea of building one out of reclaimed wood... could be cool.  Of course I don't actually have any reclaimed wood... small detail.


It's supposed to rain today... we'll see if it really does.  I am anxious to see how well my new porch rain chain and rain barrel work!  I may have to tweak how the chain is attached to the roof opening.  The barrel I use to water my raspberries is getting low, so it would be nice to get at least a partial refill...

It's a shame that my new downspout hasn't been installed yet -- I reminded the gutter company yesterday that I am still waiting for them.  I'll be short one rain barrel today.

I did get my yoga platforms water sealed last night, so that's good...

Potting table hunt

I went to look at this table from Craig's List today, thinking with some re-work it would work for my potting table:

Meh.  I didn't really like it.  The design of it was good, but I think I want something longer, and more rustic looking.  I considering cutting it in half and lengthening it, and it would have worked, but I didn't just love it on sight, so I passed.

The first caterpillars are here!

I spent five hours yesterday, weeding and edging and mowing my front lawn.  If you know how tiny my front yard is, the number of hours probably surprises you.  It was the first time this year that I did all of those things, and it always takes longer the first time.  I also spent a considerable amount of time hand weeding huge patches of weeds out of my parkway.  With rubber palmed garden gloves, the weeds pull up easily, root and all.  You know how I hate pesticides... and although it was tedious, (theoretically) the weeds are gone for good.  My St. Augustine grass was happy to have its own share of the sunshine again.

This morning after my dog walk I stood in the front, admiring my hard work yesterday.  Some of my butterfly seeds that I planted last week are poking out -- excellent.  And then I did a double take at one of my bronze fennel plants -- caterpillars!  Four of them! 

There are 2 caterpillars in the photo - can you spot them both?
The photo is a little blurry because the dog on the leash was pulling on my arm; it was past her usual breakfast hour and she had other priorities...

At first I thought there were five on my little 6 inch plant, but I think one of them is a skin that one of the caterpillars had shed.  But also I think actually now that I look, I think there are two types of caterpillars -- I'll have to look again when I get home tonight.

I got out the book I bought at the Dallas Botanical Gardens Butterfly House last year, "The Life Cycles of Butterflies," by Judy Burris and Wayne Richards which is chock full of photos of all the various butterflies in all stages of their lives, and this caterpillar will become an Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly.  It says that it likes fennel and dill -- and indeed they are on my fennel plant.  Go figure...

They will eat for a few weeks. "The more it eats, the faster it will grow, but a caterpillar's skin can stretch only a small amount.  Once it reaches its limit, stretch detectors in the joints between the body segments send signals to the brain to trigger the growth of a new, bigger skin underneath the old one.  This process is called molting.  A caterpillar may molt up to five times..."

"The coloration of some caterpillars allows them to avoid hungry predators:  The greens and browns blend in with the environment....Some caterpillars are brightly colored, as if to warn potential predators against eating them... Swallowtail caterpillars have a special defense organ called an osmeterium.  This is an orange or red forked gland that is hidden under the skin behind the head.  When the caterpillar feels threatened, it can shoot out the gland like a snake tongue and touch the predator with it.  If the sudden whiplash movement doesn't spook the intruder, the foul-smelling substance that the grand secretes will offend even a human nose at close range."

"Most caterpillars are solitary eaters, but a few species dine together in groups.  When they feel threatened, all the caterpillars may twitch at the same time, perhaps as a way to scare predators.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Garden Boxes Planted

I got my garden boxes planted yesterday.  Since I did all the hard work of box prep last year, this year the planting went really fast.  I cleared out all the dead leaves and other debris.  I used a pitchfork and loosened the soil, turning it and mixing it up.  Then I turned in a few inches of fresh compost, smoothed it out and dropped in seeds.  Fast and fun.

Box 1 contains basil, tomatoes, (great companion plants!) and jalapeno peppers.  I bought seedlings for all three of those. 

Box 2 has green bell peppers (seedlings), zucchini and beets.

Box 3 has yellow squash, eggplant and radish

Box 4 has cucumbers and kale.

And all four boxes have marigold borders for natural pest control.

I feel as though I got my boxes planted sort of late this year -- especially for the kale -- but I should be okay.

I learned last week that my asparagus crowns won't ship until April due to the suppliers fields still being covered in snow, but it's all good because I don't have the area for them chosen and ready yet anyway!

Alley Flowers

The wildflower seeds I scattered along the edge of the alley last year have come up, and are starting to bloom!

As I peered through the fence this morning to take photos, I also noticed new additional spray paint marking in the alley.  They are yellow this time, which I believe are AT&T line markings.  Hmmmm.  I'm watching for heavy equipment to show up at either end of my alley.  (At which time I will throw myself in front of the backhoe.  KIDDING.  I promise.)

My Little Lotus Blossoms

This post is tardy... but I got my new rain barrel for my back steps, and I got the copper rain chain installed:

 I still need to get hose to connect to the bottom spigot, but at least the barrel is sealed and ready for rain.

 The copper rain chain was very long -- longer than I could use -- so I have an extra piece leftover.  I am hoping to use it for the barrel that is being moved to the sideyard.

Come on, rain!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Potting table

I have two compost tumblers in my yard.  I love them, and I do use them, but they aren't the prettiest things to look at.  Maybe you've seen them in photos I've posted -- looking as though they don't really belong...

I was brainstorming with a neighbor in my backyard this weekend, and I came up with an idea that I am really excited about.  (So unusual for me, right?  HA.) 

I have a cement slab behind my carport/shed.  Right now it has some plastic shelving on it, which holds all my clay plant pots.  I realized I'd rather look at the pots than the tumblers, so I decided I would move all the pots out, and put the two tumblers back there.  They do best in the sun, and I do think they would get enough sun there.  Here's where my pots currently live:

So then, where to put the pots?  Enter my friend Jamie Durie and his great Outdoor Room ideas.  One of the recent episodes I watched featured this potting table made from a re-purposed piece of furniture:


He took a table (you could also use an old dresser) and put some planks on top and a one up the back to create a shelf.  My neighbor schemed that I could also cut a whole in the top and drop in an old sink.  Yes!  And where to put the table?  I propose here, under the bedroom window (and see?  A compost tumbler!)

This is unused space that obviously needs some love. The utility piping going up the house makes it particularly unsightly.  (I've yet to rent a tiller and smooth that whole area out -- I need an entire weekend set aside and so far I haven't had an open one...)  I also have a hose spigot right there, so I could actually use the sink (it would just drain into the ground below) for rinsing pots etc.  And wouldn't the nearby rain barrel be handy for those newly potted plants?

I've long said that I want to build a wooden screen out of 1"x2"s to cover that (leaving the gauge visible for the utility company).  I had seen something similar in San Antonio on a sister weekend.  And then Jamie had these screens on the same episode!

I could totally blend that into the potting table and give that whole space a makeover.

I'm going to start watching thrift stores and I've already made some inquiries on Craig's List for some old piece of furniture I can re-purpose.  SO excited.