Friday, April 8, 2011

Ah, choices

It's Friday!  I've been thinking about what things I'd like to do outside this weekend.  It's always good to have a list of goals, right?  Here are the things I'll be choosing from this weekend, in no particular order.

1)  Figure out what the major malfunction is with the rain barrel in the sideyard.

2)  Build a few more raised garden boxes.  They will help define my space, and help me track where I've planted seeds!

3)  Plant remaining flower seeds, and gourd seeds. (Clearly the boxes will need to happen first...)

4)  Plant herb seedlings in front and back.

5)  Transplant sunflowers that I started indoors.  They need more root space!

6)  Build owl houses -- I heard the owls last night -- so cool.

7)  Build an outdoor row of hooks for back steps -- just saw this idea online -- and I have an old wooden pallet that the river stone was delivered on that I could dismantle.  I'm sure I have some hooks... Perfect!

8)  Give in, and lay down a few squares of sod for the dog... she is so confused with all the grass gone!

Potting Table Progress

I wrote about my dreams for a potting table area in this post:

I've made a small bit of progress -- I at least got things moved into their new locations.

New organization behind the shed

Pots relocated...

Goal is to find/build something similar to this!
I haven't had any luck finding what I like on Craig's List.  I think I may look into getting some relcaimed lumber and just building one.  There really isn't much to it...  The store in FW where I bought my dining room table had a zillion old sinks.  I didn't price any of them -- who knew I'd want one of those -- but I can't imagine they would be very expensive.  I don't want it to be all that pretty... rustic would be better.  I'll know it when I see it...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Raised Beds Sprouting

I planted some vegetables in my raised beds back on March 28th -- a little over a week ago.  A few days ago I noticed that I had sprouts!  That's pretty rapid germination.  Yay!  Unfortunately when my backyard dream team was here, they got overly enthusiastic and topped off all my raised beds with additional organic compost.  I had just turned my back for a moment... and everything was buried.  I sort of freaked out.  My poor little sprouts!

Today I saw that they had stretched their little necks up through the new layer of soil:

I know, they are tiny.  They will grow fast, though.  The marigold borders have started coming up too.  Considering that in the last two nights I ate an entire bunch of kale (yes, 2 nights, 2 bunches) I am supremely excited about the kale coming up.  I make a raw kale salad recipe from Wholefoods:

Raw kale, de-ribbed
Olive oil
Fresh lemon juice
Sea salt (I used an herbed sea salt with chiles that Santa brought me)
Red pepper flakes - a lot of them
Fresh minced garlic

You just mix up the dressing and coat the kale pieces in it.  I seriously sit on the couch and eat it with my fingers like it is a bag of chips. No guilt there.  I read recently that kale has the highest vitamin content of any leafy vegetable.  I have no idea if that is true...


I bought a flat of herbs yesterday afternoon at my local organic nursery.  I had so much fun wandering around their shelves of herbs, tasting herbs and brushing their leaves for aroma!

You can see my basil and the tips of my tomato plants in the box behind these.

I picked up two types of lavender, several kinds of thyme (great for along borders and in between stepping stones not to mention cooking!)  a few varieties of oregano, 3 kinds of sage.... oh and the verbena I wrote about earlier, and 3 more salvia.  Most of these I plan to put out front in the area that I would like to become my new herb garden... A few will go in the back.  Meanwhile, they are just so fresh and beautiful all gathered together in the flat!  They smell heavenly.

Back Steps Resolution

You may recall that when the steps were installed we hit a snafu... the bottom step was below grade.  A design whoopsie... followed by footings that matched... and, well, my steps seemed to lead to either a wine cellar or a nuclear fall out shelter.  (Certainly someone thinks to put wine in nuclear fall out shelters, right?  I mean...)

Anyway, it's been the topic of speculation to the point of ad nausem.  Perhaps even to the point of making me cranky.  I didn't know what I was going to do to fix it, and if I did know, wouldn't I be doing it?  I'm the type that in scenarios such as this I need to let the change settle and then re-evaluate.  I need some time and space, please.

Ultimately I did choose the path of least resistance, which was to bury the bottom step.  I tried it tentatively at first, not really loving the idea of burying one of the beautiful steel steps, but smart enough to realize that if I didn't go that route, the other options were much much more labor intensive and spendy.  No harm in trying...  Blissfully it turned out that I liked it.  Here is the initial re-work:  (Be nice.)

Now, before you say anything (I suspect I'm not fast enough to stop your initial mental impressions) a few disclaimers: 

One -- obviously the weed stop fabric along the path needs some detail work done.  I'll tuck it under and re-staple it, and it will be hidden with mondo grass or thyme or something. 

Two, the two rows of 3 cement pavers are not permanent.  At least I don't think they are.   I needed something to do a bit of terracing to prevent a mudslide and I had those on hand.  I suspect they will be replaced with flagstone, or timbers, or.. I don't know.  Something more aesthetically pleasing than those rectangular pavers.  But for the time being, they work.  I must admit to prancing when I walk to my car in the morning and my shoes don't get muddy.  And I do love love love the steps and canopy.

That larger green plant to the right of the steps was between my car port and my neighbor's fence -- truly neglected and sort of pretty.  Also the only living thing on that little stretch of dirt.  So I decided to give it some love and move it out to where I can see it and heck maybe even water it occasionally.  So far it seems happy.  It's sort of an unusual plant; I should have snapped a close up photo of it to show you.  I don't know if it blooms or anything; time will tell.

I may plant a couple Japanese Yew behind those chairs against the railing to give a soft screen... and the pansies were hand-me-downs from my neighbor; she was replacing them.  They may not thrive, but at the moment they are better there than mud, and again... free.  I'm all over free.


World English Dictionary trifecta (traɪˈfɛktə)

— n

1. a form of betting in which the punter selects the first three place-winners in a horse race in the correct order

2. any achievement involving three successful outcomes

Ladies and Gentlemen: 

We have a perennial trifecta!  I give you three very healthy perennials that have come back and are positively thriving:

Hydrangea:  Now as tall as my elbows and covered in blossom buds!

Natchez Mock Orange - hopefully will blossom this year

American Beauty Berry
These are all perennials that I planted last year from my landscaping master plan.  The main layout of the landscaping plan has largely gone to the wind, but the types of plants to plant is still intact.  Of these three, I was most worried about the Natchez Mock Orange.  I had mail ordered it -- and it was very hard to find -- and last year it did not blossom at all.  When it does blossom, it should get abundant white blossoms that smell like... orange.  Mmmmm I can hardly wait.

I'm considering staking the American Beauty Berry; I'll be watching it to see how long the branches get.  Last year they were probably 3-4 feet long on either side.  Could be pretty great staked up.  I've seen it both ways...

So far this corner is my most successful!  My next door neighbors are replacing the fence that runs behind these plants... I hope their contractor is careful of my babies.

This morning I tucked in this Homestead Verbena in front of these plants, and nestled between two yoga platforms:

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Beginning...

Here's a happy patch of Sweet Lavender, in the corner between two of the yoga platforms.  It should grow to be about 2 feet tall with fragrant blossoms.

Here is some purple Phlox that I planted tucked under a broken pot.  There is another one using the other half of the pot in another part of the yard.  It will grow into mounds, looking like it spilled out of the pot.

This morning I put in seeds in front of the two front yoga platforms.  On the left I put in a butterfly mix of seeds, and on the right I did a huge spread of orange California Poppy seeds.  I threw a light layer of mulch over it to help me remember where I have planted, and to help retain some moisture.  (I could take a photo for you, but it would be pretty boring:  "Here is the left patch of dirt, and here is the right patch of dirt!  Isn't it exciting?!"  The sad part of that is, I really do think it's exciting... LOL)

I also planted seeds on the back side of my raised garden beds:  a mix of butterfly attracting plants, (Compass Plant, Gaura, Fleabane) and then an entire packet of Mammoth Sunflower seeds.  It's fun to have space to sow entire packets of seeds and hope for huge patches of color.  It's also free fun, as they are all seeds that I had saved from last year.  Bonus.

We had quite storm on Monday night -- the day after all the backyard work was done -- and I was worried about how it would all hold up in its temporary state.  It was mostly fine -- a little mud slid over one of the pieces of flagstone, but I knew that was an area that would need more help.  I couldn't do it yet because I still have one more day of work coming on my wooden steps.  That's happening either Thursday or Friday.

The good news is, my rain barrels were replenished.  Once again they are all too heavy to rock on their stands -- yay!  In particular the one by my raspberries was getting low, so I am grateful for a free refill.  Even the smaller barrel on my porch that only collects via the rain chain from my porch roof has a fair amount of water in it.  What is really strange, however, is that the barrel that was relocated to my sideyard, and got the new downspout?  Totally empty.  I haven't had a chance to investigate that yet, but I need to.  So mysterious... 

So in the coming weeks I'll be choosing plants and shrubs and tucking them in here and there.  I went to buy some last night, but somehow I didn't see anything that I just had to have, and came home empty.  I secretly didn't really want to be out planting last night anyway -- it was SO windy!  I stayed in and did laundry instead.  I know -- I am a wild child.

I have several caterpillars on my fennel out front -- I'm actually worried that there isn't going to be enough fennel to feed them since the plants are not very mature yet... Not sure what I can do about that -- nothing I guess.  I have other fennel plants, guess I will just hope that they find them.

What is this?

If you know what this is, please -- enlighten me.  It's the second one like this that I have found in my yard.  It's obviously some type of seed... and apparently has a rather efficient method of transporting itself for multiplying in new locations... I just don't know what in the heck it is.

The skin "gives" pretty easily and it weighs nothing.  It's like a green bubble of air.

Sure I could plant it and see what happens, but my luck it would hatch instead of sprout, and who knows what I would have on my hands!  "Are you my mother?"

So if you know -- please tell me in the comments... Thank you!

Backyard Makeover Team

Friday night I rented a rototiller from my local big box home improvement store.

Saturday I tilled up my entire backyard, sans where the yoga platforms are, and where my raised garden beds are.  Twice.

Sunday I hired day labor.  I truly thought I could do all of the work myself, but it just was too much, and the soil was rather uncooperative, even after having been tilled...

Meet Manuel ("I am Manuel. But when I call you, my phone will say Jose'...") and his team. They totally rocked. Manual is the third guy, who, when I asked to take their photo, shot out of his chair and wanted to pose by the wheelbarrow. Totally funny.

They abolished my yard of grass roots and weed roots, smoothed it all out, laid in some paths, and cleaned the leaves and twigs from my gutters and roof. And when at 4 p.m. I said everything I had to do was done, they wanted more work.  They were machines. 

I'm not ready to show you photos of the whole yard overview -- it isn't quite ready for photos -- (and it certainly isn't any where near completed!) but I have a few snapshots of areas that I'll post soon.  All the super hard work is done now, and I have my big ticket hardscape items in, so now I get to start planting!  I'm very excited.  Now I have some decisions to make! 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Happy Henna Feet

Major things happened in my backyard this weekend!   I was too beat to take photos last night, and I didn't have time to snap any this morning -- tomorrow!  In the mean time, here's one of my all time favorite photographs -- totally unrelated to anything....