Monday, October 20, 2014

And the lower front bed.

While the walkway to the house was being built, I covered the grass in black plastic to hasten its demise.  I tilled it in as best I could to decrease how much of it survived without resorting to chemicals.
And then the cardboard layer, with the first level of fieldstone edging to hold it in place.
After I got all the liriope and shrubs in, I added soil and some more cardboard before mulching it.  In the foreground is a dwarf crape myrtle, a plant I didn't know about until I saw one at the nursery where I'd stopped for something else.  It called to me and I walked out with it.
At the other end, I added this flat pot and put in a variety of succulents, like creeping sedum, agave, hens and chicks and that tall mother of thousands.  See the little frog under it?  That's Survivor Frog. She was one of the few things that made it through the fire that burned down the house I helped build as a kid.  Best of all, she carried the baby on her back with her to safety.  Now the color of ash, she's a reminder to me of resilience.
I made a short path out to the yard.  Like the upper bed, it has thyme tucked between the stones and ajuga on the sides.  Out in the lawn itself, I've planted crocuses and grape hyacinths.
I also made a path to the spigot for the hose.  That white rose bush was already here.  Honestly, it's not my favorite color rose and I don't like thorny things in general.  But it was healthy, so I dug out the hostas that were crowding its roots, removed the too-short trellis, and wrestled it into submission around a taller trellis.  It was a formidable opponent and I bear battle scars. That's all I'm going to say about it.
Around all the lirope clumps, I have planted daffodils, tulips and snow glories.  After they've finished blooming, their leaves can be tucked down and hidden by the liriope's foliage.  In the middle are various low-growing, spreading perennials like dianthus and candytuft and a pair of dwarf buddleia which will fill in the space.
I already had three black pots, but wanted two more for the steps.  But when I went to look, I decided they were just too expensive.  And then on the clearance rack, I found pots of fading perennials, marked down to $5 each.  I bought two of them, put the plants in the beds and used the pots on the porch.  Double score! Three now have evergreens - the very top one a dwarf white azalea, the middle a little unidentified conifer, and the bottom a rosemary plant.  The other two I'll put seasonal plants in. And yeah, that's a frog by the little pumpkin.  Have you noticed I like frogs?
I finished up the fieldstone border wall this weekend.  It's like piecing together a puzzle.
You can see the irregular swath of lawn left in the middle.  I moved the old teak chairs from the deck out into the yard so there will be a place to sit.  I'm assuming that I will have a chance to actually sit once in a while next spring.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Work in progress.

Let's start with the front, shall we?  This is the google photo, with its weird elongating perspective, of the house from 2012. It is basically as it looked when I bought it at the end of May.  As you can see, it had some azaleas at the upper far right, a bed around the dogwood on the right, and some stuff planted immediately in front of the house.  The rest was grass.
What I've changed so far.  My first goal was to reduce the area I have to mow. (And yes, I know - increase the area I have to weed.) Everything I've planted is small and spaced for its mature width so it looks spare now.
The upper bed is the first one I built, and I ended up revising it several times, moving the rock border into an increasingly serpentine shape.  I never have been a fan of straight lines. This bed encompasses the original small bed around the dogwood.  Parts of it are shaded by that tree and my neighbor's dogwood, and parts sunny, so I have planted accordingly.  Shrubs, both evergreen and deciduous, and many, many perennials. My plan is to have things in bloom most of the year.  In the first part of the bed, the center spot is awaiting a dwarf crabapple.
I put in a fieldstone path to the mailbox to avoid having to tromp through the mulch.  In between the stones are red creeping thyme, which smells wonderful when you step on it.  Dwarf mondo grass and ajuga on either side.
I planted a purple leaf sand cherry in this curve, and set a sentry frog beneath it.  A neighbor who initially kept to herself stopped to tell me that every time she walks by and looks at that frog, it makes her smile. I weed out any stray grass that pops up, but the wild violets I leave. They make a decent groundcover and you can't beat their sweet little flowers in the spring.  And when they bloom, so will the multitude of of bulbs I have planted beneath them.
I'm also working on a bee/bird/butterfly garden, with sedum, sage, Joe Pye weed, swamp milkweed and so on to bring in the beautiful flying things. I added a birdbath in the midst of it.
And a butterfly puddler, which allows butterflies to safely drink and collect nutrients from the sand. You can buy pricey versions of these on-line, but I just got a $3 plate with the requisite sloping sides and made one myself. I actually like it better than the ready-made ones.
I am not even sure what is in the original bed around the dogwood. Irises, ivy, ferns.  And still blooming now, this spiderwort.  I've added a number of shade loving plants and a couple of clematis to climb the dogwood's trunk.  I have just a few more things to plant, but mostly it's time to wait and watch as it unfolds.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Sometimes, I pick the wrong book.

And, it keeps on raining. So, in the meantime, a book review. I took the Goodreads challenge and set 50 books as my goal for the year. Well, what with selling and buying a house, moving and the indoor and outdoor projects, I am behind. So I have been trying to plow through some books. I'd thought about taking a class at the UU church based on this book, but now I'm really glad I didn't.
My review:
I really hated this book, and I so wanted to like it since I am a spiritual but nontheistic person. First, I felt the author set up strawmen (in the guise of libertarians) to attack as enemies of anything good religion might have to offer. And then proceeded to offer up a list of "shoulds" for how atheists might incorporate aspects of religious traditions. Some made sense but some were wacky - like mimicking the relic-based local shrines for physical ailments by having "psychotherapeutic travel agencies" to match various types of mental illness with the appropriate destinations. Uh, sure. He'd already stated that "atheism is prone to seem coldly impatient with our neediness," which struck me as odd given that atheists are well-represented in my own field of clinical psychology, where impatience with neediness would be downright bizarre. But his bias was made clear when he later took a jab at the non-institutionalized/non-rule based nature of psychotherapy. Unlike the strict regimentation of Catholicism, "psychotherapy as currently practised lacks any consistency of setting or even any benchmarks for such apparently small yet critical details as the wording on the therapist's answering machine, his or her dress code and the appearance of the consulting room. Patients are left to endure a run of local quirks, from encounters with their therapists' pets or children to gurgling pipework and bric-a-brac furnishings." Yes, Mr. de Botton, that's because therapists are not robots and it's the relationship that's mutative. We don't expect our patients to be automatons and we don't cede our individuality because you have a need for people to have a dress code. Nor are we likely to jump on board with your soul-killing idea of a branded chain of psychotherapists. But where he really lost me? After describing a rather grotesque Medieval church ritual called "Feast of Fools," he proclaimed the modern translation: we "should" have a day every year where we have a big feast and then "copulate" freely with any and all, with no hard feelings from your spouse who is also out fucking around. I get it - he wants to be able to cheat on his partner annually without having to feel guilty about it. Well, there is a reason why it was called the Dark Ages and a reason why the Church gave up that practice. Look, I'm all for appreciating what is good about religion (when it's working) - contemplative practices, art, ritual, charity, community. But it's a false dichotomy to suggest that those things exist within religion and not among the nonreligious. And it also doesn't make sense to emulate the things that appeal to selfishness rather than selflessness. So Mr. de Botton, kindly step down from your self-appointed role as a pseudo-Pope handing down pronouncements and allow for autonomy and flexibility. Oh, and let go of the idea that it's a good thing for you to burn off your baser desires by periodically screwing around on your wife. That doesn't make you an innovative atheist, it makes you a prick.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Nothing is as sure as change.

So ... something inevitable happened, and even though I thought I was prepared, the way it played out still caught me off-guard.  So I took a little time.  Then Thursday as I was driving home from work, a big horn sheep stepped out onto the road up ahead, hesitated and went back into the brush for a moment, and then ran across the highway ahead of me.  [Note: this photo is obviously not my own and not the ram in question - I was too startled to take a picture.] Gorgeous creature the size of a buck and I have no idea where it came from - some farm that keeps exotic animals, maybe? We don't have them here at any rate. I texted both sons about it and older son's response was "A sign from the gods."

So I looked it up and found this about the appearance of it as a totem: "Bighorn sheep’s message is that of new beginnings. If you have this animal for your power ally, have confidence in your powers to land safely on your feet, in most circumstances. The spiral horn symbolizes your creativity, energy, and endurance. You can initiate new projects and have the strength to complete them. Defend your territory and test your strength, but do not lock horns just to prove your point. Think before you act. Stay in balance with your environment by hiking, walking, or climbing. Take a class to expand your mind and use your imagination to reach new heights of achievement. Seek new opportunities in your work and relationship areas. Now is a good time to make changes. You can accomplish a lot if you are prepared."

I don't actually believe in a serious way, but I like the lovely coincidence of a message I needed to hear.  So I've been doing exactly the things recommended, which I'll get to.
In the meantime, there was this to deal with.
And this - like opening a treasure box!
And also this.  So much planting to do, in the midst of a rainy spell.
I love the names of some of the plants.  The smaller one is dragonhead, the bolder-leafed one pigsqueak.  There is quamash, hyssop, thundercloud sedum, Siberian squill, echevaria, catmint.  I've been busy, and busy is good for me.  And even though I'm able to put plants in the ground when it's raining, I can't take pictures, so updates will follow.

Monday, September 29, 2014

How do birthdays roll around so quickly?

My week started with a bunch of flowers from a friend of mine sitting on my doorstep,  which may be how all birthday weeks should start.
On Saturday night, I got taken out to dinner.  We went first to a rooftop bar I'd wanted to go to, for a glass of wine before dinner.  The tables were tiled with beer lids.  The atmosphere was a little on the hipster side, but I was glad to be there.  And enjoyed the moment when my date pulled a necklace out of his pocket that he'd picked up for me in Africa.
And enjoyed another moment even more when we went back down stairs to find a place for dinner. The rooftop bar is reached through an enclosed staircase with doors on either end, so it is private.  On our way down, I said, "Hey, check it out," and when he turned to look, hiked up my shirt to show him the lacy corset I had on underneath. His reaction was comical.  He said flatly, "Oh my God," and leaned his head back against the wall for a second with his eyes shut.  Then opened them and said, "Do that again."  I think I caught him off guard and overwhelmed him.  But only momentarily.
We had dinner at an outdoor table.  Pita bread with crawdad dip as an appetizer and a bottle of pinot grigio. I had salmon as my entree. Then home where I had a bottle of birthday champagne chilling. Very nice night.
He left after breakfast, but came back that evening for the neighborhood block party.  I am just loving this neighborhood - it's incredibly friendly.  I asked the landscape architect who organized the party to let me know if he saw me doing anything stupid with my yard and he looked pained. I could see he was debating whether to say anything.  I promised him I wouldn't be offended and he finally told me he'd seen me putting black plastic down...  I quickly assured him it had been down temporarily to kill off grass but that I'd pulled it up before layering cardboard, compost and mulch and would never leave plastic on the ground.  He was mightily relieved to hear that and apparently had been fretting about it!  He liked my inclination toward a great variety in plants and we talked some about gardening in general.
I'd also invited my friend who lives in a different part of the neighborhood, the one I walk with and who'd brought me flowers, to the block.  She made these cute (and delicious) mini chocolate cheesecakes and today I invited my younger son to come over and join us for dessert.  And then they both reluctantly sang me the birthday song when I said, "Okay, y'all have to sing 'Happy Birthday' to me." Later, yet another friend came by to have a glass of wine and talk for a while. All in all, I feel like I'm off to a good start with this year.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The fall planting begins.

Over the last two evenings, I worked in the yard from the time I got home until it was too dark to see what I was doing. I've planted an array of bulbs - 67 pink, black, and apricot tulips, 10 saffron crocuses, 24 purple, blue and pink hyacinths, 13 pink daffodils, 6 mystery rhizomes (brought from the old house but I can't remember what they are), 24 Alpine rosy bells, 20 striped crocuses, 12 nymph gladioli, 12 Oriental lilies, 40 mountain lilies, a dwarf iris, and a purple de oro daylily. In addition, I put in some coneflowers, a peony, six ajuga plants, and 5 liriope. And dug up a small dead tree and transplanted the Harry Lauder's walking stick in its spot.  And loved every minute of the work. But tomorrow I've got 12 people scheduled from 8am until 7pm, which means I'll leave here about 6:30 in the morning and get home close to 8:00 at night.  It'll likely be the weekend before I get around to blogs, but in the meantime, one of my smaller outdoor projects:
After I'd uncovered the water meter from where I'd accidentally buried it and encircled it with stones, I decided it needed a little sprucing up.  Since it is smack in the middle of my flower bed, I wanted something plant-related. I traced ivy vines onto paper and cut them out.
I used that as a stencil and spray painted the leaves and vines pattern with green Rustoleum.
Then found a silver paint pen and used it to outline and draw in veins. What? That meter cover is City property?  Well, we'll just see if I get any complaints.  I like to think the meter reader is going to think of it as a nice change of pace.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

And it may seem like all work, but it isn't.

I've been spending a fair amount of time with a man who brought me back this hand-painted runner from a trip to South Africa. (Those little carved animals around the vase are from my own trip to Tanzania several years ago.)  Although I didn't even have the table before he left for that trip, it magically fit perfectly.
One of our nights was a dinner I cooked in on a week night.  He texted before arriving to ask what he could bring.  My text back: "Just get your ass over here."  And I will say, there is something especially lovely about hearing the next morning, "I'm going to wash the dishes while you take a shower."
And a night out last night, with the chance to get dressed up a little. I'd bought this dress out of season a while back and enjoyed getting a chance to wear it.  We decided to go out for sushi, a favorite of both of ours.
This is what happens when I say, "You always pick out things I like, so why don't you go ahead and order for us."  Edamame, a bottle of pinot noir, and an absurd amount of sushi. The only one I requested before he ordered was the ones with salmon roe.  Little bursts of the ocean on your tongue. All of it was good, but the white tuna was so tender it was like butter.
I'm not ready to say much about this relationship yet, except that it feels like home.