Showing posts with label garden assistants. Show all posts
Showing posts with label garden assistants. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Two months go by fast

It's not like we haven't been here all along. There was that one weekend in Boston, but otherwise Mulch and I have been right here. Only we've not been gardening at all other than mowing the lawn (Mulch) and plucking weeds here and there (me, and not enough).

Alas, am I a legitimate garden blogger if I don't have something to say or do about the garden all the time? Right now all I've got on my gardening plate is crabgrass, pokeweed, and a million billion cherry tomatoes. Does anybody want to read about that? Everyone else is posting their bloom-day pictures and describing the gardens they've visited and the new plants they're tending, and I feel like a poser.

I think I have to consider allowing myself to write about non-gardeny things when I'm not actually out there getting dirty and chewed up by mosquitoes. So I hope you'll forgive me if things get movie-centric or dog-centric while I wait for the weather to become more palatable to yard work.

"Sounds good to us."

"Dog-centric, please."

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Just an everyday special day

After the raging storms this last Friday, we had a gloriously beautiful weekend here in Northern Virginia. The weather was sunny and mild, with temperatures peaking in the 70s. I took the opportunity to finally take some pictures of the completely finished dry creek bed, with flower beds mulched and planted.

The creek's "source."

Running in front of the porch (just finished mulching).

Making the turn to the side of the house.

The crowning jewel.
The Orca, now under attack. "We're going to need a bigger boat."
Our turtle Oliver Grendel Holmes, at home among the flowers.
Looking back from the gate. Who's that watching back there?
Charlie stops by for a chat in the sun with Oliver. Anybody recognize that
fern behind them? It and several others like it showed up out of nowhere.

Mulch and I had a wonderful weekend, and not just because it was beautiful or because of our delight that the basement didn't flood. And not because anything exciting happened, or we hit the lottery or won a pony. In fact, the height of the weekend's excitement was possibly our Saturday morning trip to Wegman's supermarket.

Our activities over Saturday and Sunday went something like this: grocery shopping, watching The Lord of the Rings, housecleaning and laundry (me) and kitchen-cleaning and cooking (Mulch), lying in the sun reading and listening to music, eating dinner on the porch with good friends.

And it was just wonderful.

It's hard to articulate why. But upon reflection, I believe Gus McCrae of Lonesome Dove describes why this ordinary, uneventful weekend was so special.
"The only healthy way to live life as I see it, is to learn to like all the little everyday things. Like a sip of good whiskey of an evening, or a soft bed, or a glass of buttermilk, or say a feisty gentleman like myself."
That was our weekend in a nutshell: enjoying the little everyday things. Warm sun and cool breeze. No schedule. Dogs warm from the sun. Wegman's garlic loaf. Cheese and salami. Pudding cups and popsicles. Cleaned floor. Favorite books. Favorite movies. Washed laundry. Cleaned kitchen. Smoked ribs. Corn on the cob. Good friends. Good times.

"And then I says to Mabel, I says..."

Friday, May 18, 2012

I was going to write something nice about the dogs

I mean, look at them. Aren't they adorable? And look at how they decided to pose so attractively in the new flower bed created by the dry creek bed. I've never seen them lie together in the sun, ever, and yet I turned around last weekend and there they were, ready for their closeup. Thank goodness Mulch Boy had his iPad there so we could capture the moment.


It's important to remember these moments so that I won't kill the dogs when they're not being so adorable. Like, for instance, the other day when I saw them rolling purposefully on the ground at a very specific spot in the backyard, taking turns at it. This is not unusual behavior, and so far this spring it's been harmless, resulting in grass-scented pups.

However, I did not anticipate that, with the accelerated spring we've had, Dead Baby Bird Season* might also be ahead of schedule. I got schooled to that fact when Charlie and Rosie came joyfully into the house and OMG THE SMELL OF DEATH. If you've never experienced it, count yourself blessed. If you've never experienced it on your beloved pets who just want to hug you and kiss you and share their good fortune, count yourself exponentially blessed.

Luckily, I had them cornered in the kitchen, and everybody got a good (albeit highly resented) washing. I then went out back to collect the corpse that caused the trouble. However, it was gone, I suspect down Rosie's gullet. But the stench was strong enough that the ground itself still reeked.

Back inside, the culprits were all "Why can't we go back out? Why did you have to use soap and water on us when we hate that? We are totally telling Dad." And I was all "Go ahead and tell him, he'll be on my side. And don't you DARE kiss me with that mouth, young lady!"

Luckily, they really are adorable, and by the time Mulch Boy got home from work, I'd forgiven them. I did tell Mulch if they did it again, it would be his turn to deal with the consequences.

*Dead Baby Bird Season: when all baby birds come to die in our backyard.

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Cunning Scheme: Day 1

With the completion of Mulch Madness and the Yard Reclamation Project, I turned my royal attention to a new scheme. A cunning scheme! And like the best of schemes, this one started out at the local quarry.

Quarry in the middle of town. Why not?

Ah, Sislers Stone, I am totally shilling for you. How can I not, what with my rock fetish and all? And how many people are lucky enough to have a stone yard not a mile from their suburban house? Especially when their newest hare-brained... I mean, cunning scheme is to build their very own dry creek bed full of rocks?

Yes, Mulch Boy and I have decided to build our very own dry creek bed. It will be (hopefully) ornamental (and of course rocktastic), but more importantly it will (hopefully) serve as a drain to channel water away from our house and basement (completely flooded the last two summers, causing our insurance company to drop us like a hot potato).

As with so many things these days, the Internet is largely responsible for our decision to attempt this grandiose (for us, at least) project. Go ahead, Google "dry creek bed" and check out all the nifty step-by-step instructions--with photos!--that make building a dry creek bed look easily doable even for two rank amateurs making it up as they go along. (For anyone who actually IS interested, I can post the specific articles I've found most useful so far.)

We began The Dry Creek Project (TDCP), as I mentioned above, with Step 1: a visit to our local quarry and stone yard. Using a crazy new strategy of common sense and taking things one step at a time, we went with a single purpose, and that was to hand-select some bigger rocks to serve as focal points at various locations along the stream-to-be. All the instructions I read emphasize that spacing larger stones along the creek bed's borders creates a more natural look, while also helping to channel the water, especially at bends in the creek bed. Thus an hour or so was spent among the West Virginia boulder pile picking out these lovelies.

Oh rocks. You are so great.

Step 2 is where things started getting... a little difficult. None of which was the fault of the fine folks at the local tool rental place, conveniently located right next door to Sislers.

I'm shilling for Ace Tool Rental, too, because even though they don't sell rocks, they are incredibly nice and helpful, and I like to support our local businesses. This is where we rented the sodbuster those times, and now where we rented this:

Rototiller of EVIL.
No doubt in the right hands and in the right conditions, a rototiller is a wonderful tool, making short work of long, tedious tasks. We certainly had high hopes that it would do half the job for us in terms of loosening all the dirt and clay in our creek-bed-to-be so that it would simply be a matter of us blithely and easily removing the loose dirt with our shovels.

What we didn't take into account was that the ground where we want to dig is alternately hard clay and sticky mud (kind of the reason we need the creek bed). Thus the rototiller alternated between struggling to bite into the hard clay and sinking helplessly into the mire.

(Mulch Boy sharing some colorul language
with the rototiller not pictured.)

After an hour of struggle, Mulch Boy had had enough, and we carted the rototiller back up to Ace. (No, I didn't try to use it myself; the Queen is afraid of gas-powered tools.) While we were disappointed in the thing, the rototiller did loosen up some of the soil, better in some spots than others, so it wasn't a completely wasted effort.


We got out Forky III and Forky Jr. and started loosening. And once done with that, we started The Digging. We decided to start on opposite ends of the trench, with the goal to meet in the middle a la the Transcontinental Railway.

I started on this end, sitting on the ground
and digging with my favorite trowel.
About six feet so far!
Mulch Boy unearths a railroad tie.
Charlie and Rosie provide their usual assistance.

At the end of the day (and total three hours labor), we were surprised to find that we had finished about a third of the trench--2 feet wide and 5 to 8 inches deep!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Full Disclosure: More "Before"

I believe I've mentioned previously how bad I am at remembering to take "before" pictures. Well , not this time, bub! Here I present The Backyard... BEFORE.

These first three pictures give you the panoramic view:

Well, that's not SO bad, is it? Oh yes it is. And here are the closeups to prove it. I'll be walking you around the entire back, starting at the left beside the deck.

Ah, the pile of leaves that's gathered in the corner,
burying the old recycle bin we no longer use. That giant
plastic container of paint and ancient fire extinguisher
were left by the former owners in the shed. Five years later,
we're only now getting rid of them.

Check it out up close to see all the weeds.
See that darkish line down the center of the picture?
That WAS the border of the bed.

Enough weeds to make a salad.

Actual would-be vegetable garden, with the one and only vegetable
I planted and that lived last year. I have no idea what it even was.
Charlie with his "Who, me?" face pretends that he does not routinely
sneak through the fence to graze in this "garden."

"Seriously, how can you think that of me?"
The hydrangeas: the glory of the backyard. Normally I clip all
of last year's dead flowers, but I think there are more pressing
tasks this year if the back is to be reclaimed.

Our patio. So inviting.

Behind the patio. Looking AWESOME by comparison.

This here's a favorite spot because of my climbing rose and,
more importantly, my boulders! When it's looking nice, it's
oh so nice. Today... not so much.

When we moved in five years ago, this hydrangea was literally
a stick in the ground.

Unhappy hellebore, beautiful dogwood, sour cherry tree, and
the magnolia that someone planted WAY too close to the fence line.

Volunteer butterfly bush on the left; mahonia, heather, nandina,
and in the very corner a volunteer shrub whose identity I've
forgotten. Behind the gate is the vegetable garden. In the right
foreground is the little compost pile

The smoker, sitting in what should be a completely non-green,
mulched area.

Front of the porch, with Rosie. Chicken wire, stones, and various
pavers are all there to prevent Charlie from going on adventures
under the porch.

After? We haven't made it to "after" yet. But with the completion of the front yard (posting about that tomorrow), Reclamation Phase B: The Backyard will begin this week.

Friday, February 24, 2012

No Gardening on Account of Dogs

Although it was fully my intent to start weeding yesterday, it was not to be.

It’s the dogs’ fault. Charlie and Rosie spent the day at the vet, getting their teeth scaled. For those unfamiliar with the process, it requires knocking out your pet so the vet can scrape all those coffee and tobacco stains (well, that’s what they look like) off your pup’s teeth.

My plan was to pick up the dogs from their ordeal right after work, then start in with The Weeding in the front yard. But the vet told me that I should try to keep the pups quiet when we got home as they recovered from their ordeal.

Well, there’s no possibility of my weeding in the front yard without Charlie and Rosie absolutely losing their minds at being excluded, and standing in the living room barking and barking and barking for me to COME IN NOW. Thus, in spite of the balmy almost-70-degree weather and soft sunshine, I found myself planted on the couch in the living room instead with my pups.

Rosie was happy to nap in the recliner, nursing her sorrow at having a lower incisor pulled (I’m pretty sure it was her favorite one). But it was Charlie who provided the entertainment that made up for missing out on a perfect gardening day.

Poor little guy was exhausted, no doubt from the residual effects of the anesthesia but also from the excitement and drama of the day. But like a three-year-old who does NOT want to go to bed, Beagle was fighting tooth and nail to stay awake, refusing to lie down. As a result, I watched him sit on the opposite side of the couch, his eyes slowly drooping and drooping until they were closed, his little body swaying slightly until he nearly tipped over before jerking awake. And then the cycle would begin again.

He did this all evening.

Only when we took him up to bed with us did he finally allow himself to lie down and then OUT he was in an instant, Rosie curled up beside him on our bed. Normally we let the pups snooze on the bed until we turn out the lights. This time, however, we didn’t have the heart. Thus, Mulch and I clung to the edges of our respective sides of the bed while Charlie and Rosie slept comfortably in the middle, recovering from the stresses of the day.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Five, six, pick up sticks

Sunday was warm and sunny here, so when MB asked what I wanted to do, I naturally replied, "Get out in the yard." So while he spent the afternoon making gallons and gallons of gravy, I raked and played clean-up in the backyard with my two garden assistants.

We've had a lot of strong winds lately, so pick-up sticks was the first task, much to Assistant Charlie's disappointment. Then there was trimming last year's blooms off the hydrangeas and trimming the branches down to the first live leaf bud. I don't know if this is a necessary chore (anyone?), but for some reason I enjoy it. I especially love how tidy the shrubs look when I'm done, and how the new green buds, previously hidden by old dried blossoms--stand out and announce "Spring's a-coming." After that came the raking of the trimmings and of the piles of sodden leaves blown into all the corners of the yard last November, which I completely lost to bronchitis.

After three hours, I was physcially exhausted (did I mention we spent 1.5 hours at the gym before this?) but feeling so good. I continue to be astonished at how garden labors improve my mood and get me all excited to do MORE. I wisely stuck to cleanup on Sunday, but I was sorely tempted to dig up a hydrangea and a bunch of perennials and move them from back yard to front (the front needs a shrubbery, and the perennials need to escape the ravages of the garden assistants and their racing).