Wop, Wop

I haven’t posted a gardening update in awhile. Actually, I think it was this post in late July. So, over a month. But guess what.

You’re not missing much.

The joint looks exactly the same (didn’t even take a final picture), except that I’ve completely neglected it. On purpose.

Know why? The outside cats that hang in our yard. They totally planned a jail break…INTO the garden.

Now, I don’t know about you, but the thought of eating food that has officially been “fertilized” with cat droppings (seriously, head back there and you smell it instantly…sigh) is a bit of a turn-off. And the fact that the Dorky Daddy ate some of the tomatoes and developed a weird infection (possibly impetigo, possibly some other freaky thing) makes us wonder, seriously, if it could have come from this. Maybe. Just maybe.

Luckily, I hate tomatoes and Hadley only ate stuff from the garden when it was perfectly secure and safe from cat crap. Whew. Poor Dave, though. :-\

So, I would call this year a complete bust. Hugest. Sigh. Ever. The cost and energy that goes into creating a garden is so damn frustrating when you think of how little you reap when something like this happens. We did get a small amount of good stuff early in the season, but not enough to call it even, I don’t think.

Let’s just say that since we don’t know where we’ll be laying our heads come next spring, and since our garden has been so hit-and-miss over the years, I’m a tad gun-shy to start planning. I know that an enclosed space is necessary, with rows and paths. But I’m ultimately determined to be successful and learn from our mistakes, even if EVERY SINGLE YEAR we get slammed with a different one.

And the only thing I can say as far as perspective goes is that I’m incredibly lucky. My grandfather’s family relied greatly upon the bounty that their tiny backyard garden provided them (as did many). Everything got canned. Everything got used. Today, we at least have the opportunity to obtain fresh, nutritious fruits and veg all winter long without blinking an eye. In her worst days, she had to scrape for her family’s survival.

So, one literally crappy growing season can’t outweigh the fact that this is just a hobby. One day, I hope to provide more for my own family, not for myself, but for the memory of my great-grandmother. 

And you’d better believe that I’ll be trying out one or two of your recipes when I do, Clara. 

Being Kinda Productive For Once

I finally kickstarted my “get some $%&# done around the house” engine. Maybe the guilt of not doing stuff was hanging over my head. Maybe the fact that I purchased paint weeks ago and it was sitting, unused, on our deck. Maybe I finally got enough energy (or overcame the mental demons). Maybe I wanted to find “bursts”(remember those?)  of easier-to-manage tasks (or chunked-up tasks) to make it seem simpler.

Whatever it was, I got to work. And, slowly but surely, the trend continues. It even spilled into the nearest vicinity like a nasty plague (not to the neighbors; to Dave!).

I had already wire brushed a majority of the formerly invasive ivy plants which had attacked the side of our foundation. Seriously, the left caterpillar-esque tendrils of plant veins clinging with what looked like millions of legs ON the cement. There were areas that I just painted over them (uncool, I know), but for the most part those buggers were gone.

So a few quick tips for painting a foundation…

Use a crappy brush. This is actually one of my FAVORITE short rubber-handled angle brushes, but it had seen its day. Your brush will be ruined and will no longer be able to follow a straight line. It’s a drunk brush, but it works for this purpose.


Use horrible posture and wear the least supportive shoes on earth. Seriously. I know you want to take several minutes to get up then walk like you’re 90 when you’re done, right? Follow this example:

Show your toddler-toting guns. Seriously, I didn’t know I had those. Thanks for the awesome picture-taking, Dorky Daddy!

My actual advice is to use an old newspaper to not only catch drips but use as a guard. Yes, it’ll keep paint from getting onto your garden beds/driveway/etc (it actually works; the stuff you see is actually junk from when they put in our new window) BUT it keeps your brush from getting dirt/gravel/mulch/randomness stuck in its bristles.

Nothing to see here, really. Just enjoying the picture. I look badass. Painting. With a “Life is Good” (“Half Full” glass) hat and my too-big cast t-shirt from our high school production of “Once Upon a Mattress”. It’s my go-to painting shirt and has splatters from every set I’ve ever painted on it. It’s getting buried with me. But, of course.

 

The perfectionist-without-perfection will admit right here, right now, for all the world to read: I’m not a fan of the paint color. I’m not sure what I was thinking. I know I wanted a more charcoal color, and admittedly this one looked darker on the swatch (and in the can, which tells me it’s not mixed wrong). I’m positive it’s the combination of a super bright summer sun and the angle with which it hits the foundation. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

It also dries dark…er. Darker. Kinda.


Either way, it looks cleaner and brighter, so it’s fine. I’m not going to nitpick. S’all good.

I started the project late last week, then spent time with family on Saturday and got back to business on Sunday during naptime. Since there’s a chance of rain today, I’m not expecting to finish today (I’m about 2/3 done), but if I do, I do. And I kind of hope I do.

No worries, though. I’ve got another project halfway finished that will grab my attention if the “rain rain rain comes down down down…”

This. Damn. Ceiling. Okay. So…ahem. This spot had a super budget style light fixture installed…but it had been placed where the angled ceiling meets the straight part of the ceiling in our upstairs hallway. Like, a half circle was cut out of the angled ceiling. Crazy town.

 

(This is actually after I patched it for the LAST TIME.)

We’ve patched and sanded sporadically over the years, always putting it off longer. There were times we had thin little sheets of crappy patchwork hanging precariously. The cats had grown to ignore them, so used to the crapfest were they.

So, Sunday morning after we went out to breakfast (and I had discovered that my favorite antique center nearby wouldn’t open for another hour, egad), we returned home with one foul-moody, high-strung mama on board. I felt like I was spinning my wheels, so I checked my short list of house to-do’s, grabbed my sander and step stool and started the a-gypsum a-flyin’. (Not sure if it’s really gypsum in drywall…or whatever our house is made of…but work with me here.)

Of course, since I threw myself headlong into the project (happens. every. time.), I had failed to check on our spackle supply. D’oh. Very little, and all dried out.

Sooooo, Dave was good enough to watch Hadman while I ran to Lowe’s. Of course, $100-something later I also came home with a few super cheap window blinds and a handful of other do-dads for other projects…and my beloved Dap goes-on-pink/dries-white stuff.

I applied, then had lunch, put the munchkin down for a nap, and hit the outdoors (see: foundation painting). After Dave had gone inside and got the little guy up, I finished my painting for the day and headed indoors to sand, yet again.

I’m sure you already know this, but start with the lower grit number (it’s rougher); the higher, the gentler (finish with the gentler stuff).

Oh, and another word of advice. Don’t take selfies. Seriously, just don’t. But, if you MUST take a selfie, be sure to do it ONLY when you can embarrass yourself royally with it. 


And don’t lick your lips after sanding. Stupid idea.

So, today I hope to slap on a coat of ceiling paint (how do I have two gallons of THAT in the basement but am incessantly out of what I usually need?)

Oh, and I also took the cat tower’s rope scratching post from annihilated (spelled that on first try, woo to the hoo!) to looks-like-new —

RIP Monty Mouse. He squealed. #beardsleesourgodfather #jaspersourmuscle

Complete with massive amounts of help and support from Beardslee along the way. #notreally #heslept  He made some headway on reupholstering Daddy’s computer chair completely in cat fur, though.


And I thought I’d share a few pics of how the garden’s doing, along with its fashionable tulle attire (to keep cat poop out of our food…how’s THAT for fabulous?).

Last I knew, those things (to the left, to the left) weren’t trees. Too bad they turned into trees this summer ‘cuz they’re bogarting all the sun for my garden, man.

Oh, and the trellis near the garden in that picture? History. (It was being eaten by ants.) That was Dave’s huge project this weekend, and it’s awesome to finally have the thing down. Plus, a farmer helping neighbors move asked if he could take the posts and everything (ants and all), so it all got a second life. *warm fuzzies*

Summer squash lookin’ all growy and stuff…

Can you see what I see? Look closely…little neon green cuteness. (I don’t mind that they’re cute. I just mind the taste when they turn red and, y’know, “edible.” Ew. I love my husband enough to grow him two tomato plants, guys. That’s mad huge love.)

Right after I picked one handful of lettuce, right before I picked the rough-around-the-edges leaves. Keeping it real.

Our first “bounty.” Just a teensy strawberry (I moved those near the front of the garage and they’re doing “eh, okay”) that Hadley ate immediately, a couple of cherry tomaters and jalapenos, and a fistful of lettuce.

Whew! So! I know it’s a long one, but that’s how we’ve been productive lately. How about you? Getting anything checked off any lists — even if your list includes sitting on a sandy beach with something cold to drink? (I’d like to live vicariously.) Go ahead, tell! Or just post some horrific selfies in the comments to make me feel better about my lack of selfie skillz.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

We’re at just over a month since we planted the veggie garden, so I thought I’d give you an update on the situation out there.

Truth be told, this set of pictures was actually taken last week, and they’ve grown an incredible amount even since then. We’ve got some serious growth goin’ on. The squash has bloomed, several tomatoes and peppers have flowered, the lettuce is doing great, and nothing seems to have died. Sooo, we’ve got that goin’ for us (she says as if she wishes Bill Murray would crash HER bachelor party).

On the “are you KIDDING me?!” front, however, our love of animals has bitten us in the heiny. Dave has taken to putting food out for some of the neighborhood cats (I know, I know…but…), and while they’ve never been an issue with the garden in the past, they decided to get down and dirty this year. I’m talkin’ potty.

So, of course after attempting to dig out the problem *ahem, ahem* and hope and pray that we don’t end up dead-by-cat, we tried a couple of things.

Straight vinegar sprayed around the perimeter.

Nada.

We discussed a plethora of options, from sticking a million plastic forks in (um…no) to sprinkling hot pepper around (I read that it’s toxic; I don’t want to hurt/kill them, for crying out loud), and finally, one that we’re testing now…

Netting.

Dave’s mom gave it to us, and I can’t believe he used ALL of it. I haven’t grabbed any shots, but just envision white netting and barely being able to envision a garden underneath.

I guess it doesn’t really matter, since a) it seems to be working (it didn’t even collapse when one of the kittens decided to attack what I’m hoping was just a butterfly that had landed atop it), b) it’s the best way to still allow light and water in without allowing, y’know, the nastiness in, and c) the garden ain’t there to be purdy. Well. I mean, I enjoy looking at it, but ultimately, it’s not the point.

Harvest time should be interesting, though. 😉 Of course, we will keep you posted!

Oh, and speaking of gardens, I’m finally getting to work in the front foundation bed. I know it’s late in the season, but I’ve been super sick of the look of weeds, spent tulips, and general depressed landscaping. Besides, in our area, a hardy plant will last well into fall (barring any early frosts).

I’m kind of thinking that, in the fall, I’d like to divide and transplant the insanely huge hosta (I’ve never been able to keep one on the other side of the house to give it some symmetry, this one just gets too much sun) to the side other side of our front porch, near a boxwood bush. That way, that area’s pretty much “planted”…for keeps. No matter what I do (well…except for tomato plants…ahem), it always seems sparse over there, so this’ll kill feed two birds with one stone hamburger. One, get the obnoxious hosta out of the way. Two, fill in this tricky spot.

Look at that brain. Always a-clickin’.

Then, I can plant some ornamental grass and other lower-growing stuff in the front. Picture me Googling and pinning a buttloat of “small foundation garden” ideas. Truth be told, not finding much, but there’s time.

So, what’re you growing this summer? Anything good? Or are you hitting up the farmers’ markets? I can’t wait for the veggies to start coming in. With the new cholesterol fighting game we’re playing, the organic store veg is starting to break the bank!

Digging In

So, the day that I shared this garden plan with you, I happened to be busy at work lugging picking up supplies, prepping the soil, and planting the darn thing. While I still have some more outdoor chores to tackle (*ahem*flowerbeds*ahem*), I’m ecstatic to have this checked off the list. After all, it can’t grow until it’s in the ground…or, in this case, the raised beds.

The drawing I showed you Monday, of course, got changed a little bit. As with all things, life seems subject to availability, doesn’t it? So, I grabbed 8 (9, although I didn’t end up using the last one; will keep it for next year) bags of organic dirt and some peat moss (as my mother calls it “poor man’s fertilizer” — although I always assumed that’d be manure), then headed out to get plants.

First, I ventured to a local joint, T&J’s, to see what they had. I got a handful of marigolds (wish I’d gotten a second tray, but whatevs) and two types of lettuce, then headed to Lowe’s. I would’ve hit up a couple of other local places, but I was on a time crunch and trying to avoid Memorial Day parades, so this was my last stop. This is where I had to hit the brakes on a couple of the veggies we were hoping for.

So, due to lack of supply, we cut out the peas (we were late planting those, anyway) and added a couple of squash plants and cucumbers (my husband’s new favorite water flavoring). I grabbed six bell pepper plants rather than, um, a ton (two red, two yellow, two green…like a stoplight) and juggled around the arrangements a bit. I also didn’t get any potatoes, but since those wouldn’t be ready until the fall I’m still considering them.

Here’s a pictorial play-by-play of how it all went down. (And feel free to use my example as a guide, but remember that I’m a trial and error type of gardener, so don’t blame me if something goes wrong!)If you already have raised beds, weed ’em. If not, build ’em. (This is the closest to how we did ours, although in hind sight we would have build them taller. Ya live, ya learn.) Yup, those are weeds, not veggies…

Then, rough up the bed and spread that dirt. We add a few bags every year to each bed; this year, we added FOUR bags each.

Oh, and that peat moss. Mix that in.

Sexy Band-Aid, lady.

 



Then, I like to take the plants out of their containers (unless they’re biodegradable) and place them where I may like them in the beds. This way, I can move them around and adjust accordingly BEFORE they’re in the ground. I also try to take into account what the packaging/tags say regarding distance from other plants and so forth.  


Then, dig your spot, plunk the plant in, and cover that business with dirt. I gently tamp it to ensure that any larger stalks are able to stand straight. It’s really pretty self-explanatory and simple.

Pretty cool, huh? So, in each of the four corners, I planted three different types of jalapenos. (Must say with inappropriate accent.) In the middles I planted four marigolds, but kind of wish I’d doubled up on both types of plants to evade cat and bug attacks.

Since the back bed is full sun (but still gets less of that super hot afternoon sunshine with a fence and tall bush/tree thingies behind it), I planted my romaine and “mixed” salad greens on the left, a cucumber in the middle, and two tomato plants (which will take over the planet if given the chance) on the right.

In the front, I planted the three types of sweet bell peppers on the left, some carrot seeds in the middle (hence lookin’ all empty), and the two squash plants on the right. And, in all honesty, I thought I was grabbing a squash and a zucchini, so this pissed me off royally.

I’ll be sure to provide some updates (weekly? Bi-weekly? Monthly? Does anyone caaaaare?? ;-)) to let you know a) how it’s growin’ (see what I did there?) and b) if the neighborhood cats win the battle. You know what I’m saying, right?

Right??

Oh, and it’s SO silly easy to plant plants that, of course, we made a video. I mean, how could you not?

Garden Drawing

It was a casual Saturday afternoon while the baby slept and it rained depressingly cold outside. I was sick of the immobility of winter, the constant laziness, so I picked up a pad and pen and insisted, “What do you want to eat this summer?”

Pulling poor Dave from his own restful thoughts, he gave me a list. “Well, tomatoes. We don’t really eat cucumbers. Maybe peppers?” Before too long, I jotted down the items we’d be growing. On the top of the page, I drew two rectangles — the main event (raised garden beds) — and a few smaller circles — potted plants to be located at a later date. Maybe near our garage, maybe one our deck.

This is what we came up with…

Hard to look at a bit, I know. Sorry! The asterisks are for marigolds or oregano (funny, we don’t each much oregano)…or maybe thyme, which are all good for keeping pests at bay and adding nutrients for the other plants. Oh, and pretty. They’re pretty. The jalapenos are for eatin’ but also to keep pests (namely, the neighborhood kitties) away. The numbers of the other plants are up for debate, but they’re a good starting point. The bell peppers are so “plentiful” because I’m hoping to have a few kinds.

Oh, and I’m also thinking of putting up some sort of short fencing to keep things looking orderly (and, yes, keep pests at bay).  

Last year, we tried to grow all of our raised bed plants and herbs from seed with middling success. (We also had a couple of hand-me-down tomato plants that took over our front porch.) If I had the space/capability of starting my seeds indoor without risk of cat interference, I’d be all over it. But, a few years ago (we’re talking pre-Jasper), Winston took matters into his own hands…and we remain a “let’s just buy the plants” family. Maybe some day.

I think half the battle when gardening (whether your gardens are massive fields of food or a tiny container set-up) is admitting your boundaries. Don’t over-buy, but don’t underestimate how much you can grow in a small area. Bringing this sketch along will help me to remember approximately what will fit where. It’s all in the planning.

While sketching, I also brought up a chart similar to this one on my phone to determine what plants work well together. This way, I knew that carrots and tomatoes could be in the same bed without fighting each other off. I also took into consideration that the tomatoes like to take things over, and since they’re a high-growing plant I put them in the back so that the carrots will *hopefully* still get enough sun. I’m also going to try to be obsessive about caging them this year. Good stuff to think about.

So, as I write this, I’m anxious to get my hands dirty. In Upstate NY, it’s wise to wait until the end of May to plant anything (frost abound), and I’m jealous of folks I know who have already been out working. We’ve had some crazy arse weekends that have left us with minimal time and/or energy to get much done. I mean, dude, I haven’t even weeded yet. It’s jungle city over here.

I’ll keep you posted on our garden journeys (anyone ever hear that phrase before? Our local news station has a segment called “garden journeys” and I always wonder if that’s a “thing” or if they pulled it out of their you-know-whats), and do tell — what are you growing this year? Anything?  

Summer Plans

Howdy! Now that the snow has sufficiently melted and we’re experiencing an honest-to-goodness springtime, I feel it’s safe to let my mind wander to the wonder that is S-U-M-M-E-R! Last year, I laid out a whole plan of what I hoped to accomplish and a few little “first timer” milestones I hoped to have fun with Hadley with. This year is really no different, although a lot of the stuff we’ll do isn’t a milestone; just “for fun.”

The biggest difference this year is Hadley. He’s so different, guys, it’s crazy. Last year, he was afraid of grass, wasn’t walking (hardly mobile at all, comparatively speaking), and couldn’t communicate. This year, he’s got a couple dozen (probably more) words and several gestures he uses to get his point across, walks/runs/trips/falls down/gets up/runs again, and enjoys dirt and grass and picking flowers (ie picking the heads of flowers off) and generally discovering the world around him with zeal. It’s exhaustingly fun.

So, you’ll notice some repeats from last year’s list. However, I think the actual experiences will be insanely different — for us AND for Hadman. Should be fun!

A touch more streamlined than last year, but still with a bit of an explanation (I’ll try to keep it concise):

1. We’ve all (adults, that is) got a lil’ family winter pudge going on. I need to be less vampirey/anti-social. Hadley loves bugs and dogs and dirt and saying “hi!!!” to big kids and attempting to run into the road. All ideal reasons to walk. A hike or two would be awesome, too.

2. T-2 1/2 months and counting until the monkey turns 2 years old (sniff, sniff). It looks like we’ve landed on a theme, which I’ll share soon. Our ultimate goal is to keep it low-key yet fun (I can’t NOT decorate, and I can’t NOT have a theme…it’s just not me. And he’s just too darn special.) It’s important for me to remember that we’ll have varied ages, and only a couple of little ones, so it’s not like we need much entertainment or giveaways or games. If you’re interested in seeing what I’m thinking, check out my Pinterest board for what I’m thinking. (Some are from last year, too. Speaking of which, here’s a link to how last year’s turned out!)

3. We went last year, and it was a blast. This year, Hadley recognizes animals, can point them out, makes tons of cool noises, and is generally a funner version of Hadley 1.0, so unless a crazy meltdown occurs, this should be awesomesauce.

4. Vague, no? We’re nailing it down, but Mama gets the itch to move every now and again. This could be one place far away. It could be several close-to-home trips. Who knows?

5. I’ve started bringing home some books for Hadley from my school library lately, but I thought it’d be fun to see if there are some family-related library events at our local book haven. If not, it’s cool. I’d just like to get there with him more often so he realizes there’s more than the overstuffed bookshelf in his bedroom. Plus, Mama can do a little more reading, too.

6. The sooner, the better! Maybe two!!

7. To simplify things, we’re not growing from seed this year. I’ve already made a garden plan, so at least I know what we need to go and buy. The Easter Bunny DID get the munchkin a little kit to grow one’s own basil plant, along with a cool little metal watering can and a mini trowel and cultivator, so he’ll hopefully be digging around, too. Yay, wormies! Oh, and I live in upstate NY, so it’s not really advisable to plant much pre-Memorial Day.

8. I’m not making any grandiose “I’m going to finish this monstrous project!!!” statements. Instead, I’m going to take a few of Hadley’s naptimes a week to get outside (or in the basement) to work on some organizing…and cleaning…and maybe painting…and stuff. My grandpa was a putterer, so it’s important to me to try to connect with that and have a hand in the care of the house.

9. Grilling, yes. Setting up and USING the outside table to eat, yes. Getting away from the TV set (regardless of how awesome Dick Van Dyke reruns may be), yes. I’m also hoping that our gate will fit at the top of our deck, so munchkin can eat up there with us and it’ll be a low-stress environment for all involved. Oh, and I’d also love to have a picnic. With pickles. ‘Cuz monkey loves a good pickle.

10. Don’t care where, this just must happen. We may have a picnicking day at a state park with my sis and her little one, so that may be our chance.

11. Last year, I mentioned writing a children’s book. I’ve got the ideas behind several simmering (and even outlined), but getting any of it on paper has remained elusive. This summer, I hope to change that. All I need is the focus…um, and an incredible artist to illustrate it. (I’m also mulling over chapter book. Loves me a good historical fiction.)

What’re you looking forward to most about summertime, summertime, sum sum summertime, summertime? Am I jumping the gun thinking about summer when it’s not even June yet? I think this school year has blown by so quickly (and Hadley has grown so much, so fast) that I’d rather take all the time that we can to hold on!

Food Revolution Day — Again

It’s that time again! Rollin’ right around the corner, May 16th is Food Revolution Day (#frd2014), hooray!!

What’s this? Well, simply, it’s a way to engage with food in a public way. This can mean a bunch of things and can be achieved a kazillion ways, but in essence it’s meant to bring attention to the fact that eating responsibly-grown and -raised foods is a) healthier, b) more beneficial to the local economy, and c) way better for the environment. All awesome things. It’s also about learning how to cook from scratch, which tends to be a bit cheaper and healthier for all of us.

(Side note: Clearly, hittin’ up McDonald’s and calling it a day won’t cut it. Sorry!)

Last year, I had high hopes of making an awesome meal, but the fact that Dave was out of town and I was feeling crappy took it down a peg. Luckily, I still found my own way to celebrate — even if in a pretty private way.

This year, I’m hoping to celebrate a little more as a family since, well, Hadley eats regular food now and Dave should be home. So, while we may just do one or two of these things, it may help you get your mental juices flowing (ew) if you decide to take part, too. Here are a few ideas I’ve got for our family (there are a ton more to check out here, and I’m sure you could come up with a ton more far better than mine):

Go out for a lovely dinner. I know what you’re thinking: “Isn’t this all about making your own food?” Yes, and I know what you mean. However, we have a handful of kick-arse locavore joints that we’re dying to try out. It’d be nice to have a date night with the hubby and know that the food we’re eating is Besides, we hardly ever get formal dates, so when we do we tend to try new places or old favorites (which, ahem, tend to be slightly more expensive places; we don’t eat out much normally, so we put more value in what we’re eating when it’s locally-grown and well-prepared).

Try something new. I’m thinking it’d be fun to trek out to the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market, buy a new ingredient (plus any other “needs” we might have), then try a new recipe. My meals lately have been pretty one-note, so this might help kick-start me into getting back into the swing of preparing summer-type meals (which tend to be more creative…or to me, at least).

Plant our garden. We’ve already drawn out (literally) a simple plan for our veggies (and one fruit), and one of my biggest issues is usually not planting early enough. Given that our frosts are gone for the season — which they may NOT be, given our crazy weather patterns — this would be the perfect weekend to buy our plants (I don’t think I’m growing anything from seed this year; I’m taking the lazy mama’s way out) and get ’em in the ground.

You may notice that these ideas are ones you really can’t complete in one day…er, at least, not at our house! I tend to look at Food Revolution Day as more of a weekend celebration than a one-day thing, especially since it generally lands on a Friday (a work day). It’s kind of like how some celebrate the whole weekend of Memorial Day, y’know?

So, you’ve got a little over a month. Are you planning on doing anything for FRD? (Or FRD weekend, as it were?) If so, what? I’d love to hear! 

Black Thumb

I love green. It means so many things: eco-friendliness, newness, fresh living plants. It’s my favorite color, and in fact it’s my eye color. What’s not to love about green? Well, for the plants I haven’t had luck with, apparently lots.

When we moved into our house a few years ago, vegetation was the last thing on my mind. I was much more focused on the interior “let’s make it ours” aspect of being a new homeowner. Don’t get me wrong – I’m still concerned about our view around the joint. And, we’ve had two years of quasi-successful (our first year was definitely better) herb and vegetable growth. But, I’m dying to create an exterior space to be proud of – while keeping it, hopefully, relatively low-maintenance. Since, y’know, I’m all about making things easier (a new take on simplification) as life gets a tad more complicated around here.

Last summer, we said a sad goodbye to the honkin’, troublesome, older-than-God tree that made it near impossible to grow much in the front border around our house. Some deep roots are still underground (and, at times, viewable at the surface), but we feel a lot safer when strong storms hit the area.

Let’s just say that I’m pretty ignorant about all this stuff. I’ve discovered that we’ve got plenty of early-season bulb flowers (daffodils, tulips) that pop up this time of year, but the organization of it all is pretty haphazard and not attractive in the least (and half of them don’t bloom – the biggest challenge here is the angle of the house; our east side gets an okay amount of sun (I’d say partial) while our west gets damn near nothin’). I’ve tried adding some annuals each year, getting rid of the hostas (after we had success with one and major failure with two others), putting in some ferns (also haven’t done very well), and a couple of boxwoods and a hydrangea – which I’m clearly not advanced enough to master. *sigh*

So, while it seems that I can handle growing edibles, my green thumb ends there. I’m going to do some more research and find some blogspiration, and ask that anyone reading who may have a bright green thumb (I know some of you must!) for any low-maintenance plantings that work well in Upstate New York, feel free to blurt it out! The biggest challenge, ultimately, is the fact that we don’t have much (or equal) sunshine, so it’s difficult to keep things symmetrical. Here are some pictures from a) FOREVER ago and b) the best the space has ever looked (after I transplanted hostas, added solar lights and mulched)

The ivy below the windows on each side of the foundation has started causing some problems, so I’ve been working on digging it out for good over the past year – ‘cuz goodness knows it keeps coming back. Some opinions that I need:

– Paint the foundation a deep tan (and the shutters glossy black)? The roof is hunter green and I hate it, but hey, it’s a roof…and our front door is a bright, cheery red. The porch needs some paint to let it blend in more, but I’ve gotta have “the men” in the family take a look at its stability first.
– Red cedar or plain ol’ chocolate brown mulch? Or none of the above?
– Ditch the stone border? We’ve got lots of brick floating around (that I’m considering Craigslisting) but I feel that it would probably also look kinda ghetto. So, just go “sans stone” or work with it?
– What plants have you had luck with, or do you think might work for this space? I’d like to add a few different levels for the eye to look at, but of course the ultimate goal is just to have a space that CAN grow. 🙂 I’m up for greenery like bushes or dwarf trees OR a variety of perennials. Any ideas would be great!

On a side note, another “just need the money first” project that I’m dying to take care of before we ever try to sell this place is having the driveway done (it’s been decades), which would include amending our sidewalk situation. Seriously, if you look down the street (a very long street, at that), the only “break” in the sidewalk is where our driveway takes it over. Silliness! It drives me crazy. Plus, the unevenness of our driveway can’t possibly be good for our cars. Every time a visitor comes, I feel ashamed that they have to pull into this crappy “whatchya think of me now?” first impression. So, clearly we won’t be DIYing that undertaking – but, man, will I be a happy camper when it’s done!

Holy Herbage!

I’ve been feeling guilty about my garden lately. I shouldn’t. It was meant to be an enjoyable project to help us eat “locally” (how much more local can you GET?!) and a little cheaper. We learned a lot about gardening this year — like what products go gang-busters in our well-lit little yard and what we actually WANT to grow. I’m excited to plant FEWER tomatoes on their own, in planters, next year. In case you didn’t know, I’m NOT a tomato person, so we’ve been giving lots away. The space that we used as a garden this year will inevitably house more herbs and veggies that we’ll actually eat and use (and possibly more space and plantings for different seasonal items), while a separate crate for potatoes will *hopefully* avoid the blight, proving my true Irish heritage. 😉

So, why all the guilt? The frost. I knew it had hit, and I diligently turned my eyes away from the garden, presuming all we had lovingly planted and plucked to be dead — and how sad is that to see wilted plants? But, to my surprise, when I finally bit the bullet and flip-flopped back to the leaf-ridden garden box, what did I see? HOLY PARSLEY AND ROSEMARY, BATMAN!

*OUR* herbs in a huge pot. The house is permeated with the smell.

(Anyone got some sage or thyme on hand? We could sing some Simon and Garfunkel. BTW, those are on the docket for next year’s garden.)

I’ve got an idea for the rosemary right now, aside from freezing some and handing a bit over to some deserving folks…but you’ll have to wait to see what my rosemary plan is.

Is anyone else as excited about autumn as I am? And not just because it’s my “marryin’ season”??

Inspiration to Plant

Last weekend, Dave and I went to our good friends’, Breelynd and Brandon, house for a surprise-ish birthday party for Bree. While we had a blast eating incredible food, enjoying a local keg, and sucking at a very fun lawn game (what was it, German?), what I left excited about (other than how we somehow are ALWAYS excited and chatty after leaving Bree and Brandon — everyone should have friends like that in their lives) was the inspiration I gleaned from Bree’s extraordinary landscaping.

I didn’t take any pictures, since I thought it might be creepy and more than weird to be snapping shots of her, um, plants, in the midst of such a cool shindig. However, I will show you some of the goodies I was stirred into buying.

Until this point in my life, I have intermittent experience with flowers. As a child, my mother always encouraged us to help her with weeding and planting, so many of the flowers and plants that she bought hold a solid, unwavering place in my heart. I see them and I’m brought back to simplicity and fun and love; it’s wonderful. So, several of these plants elicit similar feelings. As I grew older, I became selfish with my time and my thoughts and wouldn’t consider such things as plants; college, bills, friends, love, jobs all came first. But, now I have Dave, who makes me feel as secure as, somehow, the plants do, and a house that may need a lot more time and energy but that we love, and it deserves some landscaping that shows we love it. And let it be known that I know very little about the plants themselves, beyond the simple task of actually digging and covering and watering.

In a weird way, some of the plants accomplish giving me that wonderful feeling along with a somber clouded feeling. While I love the Silver Mound Artemisia that I recall my grandmother lovingly tending and my young feet always wanting to gently graze, it also reminds me of her last days as, essentially, a shut-in within a sterile assisted living facility, unable to tend a garden or even go to the bathroom on her own. It reminds me that she’s gone, and it hurts. Planting it seemed like saying a prayer, although I’m not a “prayer person” – or perhaps more like acknowledging that I still think of her daily and carry her lessons (and, at times, her attitude and stubbornness) with me.

It looks spiky, but I SWEAR it’s soooo soft!

Similarly, the Dusty Miller brings me great joy paired with serious sadness. Mom used them a lot at the house and, while it’s never been said, I assume they were one of Dad’s favorites. It could have been just a budget that we had or the fact that Mom liked them, but we always used the extras, along with a few geraniums to brighten up his headstone. To see them alive is like seeing his spirit, which I don’t remember much at all, still well and alive around us.


Then there are just the fun ones that were either inspired by Bree’s gardens and foundation plantings and even her hanging planters, or by the heirloom gardens that I see at the Cooperstown Farmers Museum or other living history locales (Gen. Herkimer Home, Upper Canada Village, Orchard House, etc). The romantic timelessness leaves you feeling relaxed and ready to create. Anything. It’s like stepping into Jane Austen or Louisa May Alcott’s timeless shoes.

Oh, and we can’t forget the front of the house! Our house is north-facing, so with the addition of a huge old tree right in front of it, it’s hard to grow much around the foundation. When we first arrived, I added a hydrangea plant (‘cuz I loves ’em!) on the opposite side of the tree so that it gets sun, a partial shade bush, and a few chicks-and-hens that my mother gave me. Otherwise, we’ve got a hosta trio which doesn’t work since the East side gets some sun…aaaaand that’s about it. They look like “Papa Bear, Mama Bear, Baby Bear.”

So, hopefully it works — I transplanted the baby and the mama together to appear to be one larger plant (still not as huge as the papa, but it’s better) with three fern plants in between. When they grow more, it should create a much more pleasing ground cover. I’m excited to see what next year brings!

The east side of the house gets some good morning sun, but a little shade from the porch. Last year, I just threw a few annuals there. THIS time, I decided to FINALLY put in a boxwood bush along with a few dramatic friends.

Mind you, I haven’t finished buying (I know, it’s already July, I’m behind) — I still have some potted planting that I’d like to do. But, for now, I can feel better about some of my surroundings. My goal for next year is to continue this trend, including some more old-fashioned type plants (thinkin’ phlox) to our side of the garage and more planter groupings on/near the porch.

And, while we’re at it, I thought I’d give an update on our garden and my beautiful rose plant. As you can see, the left side of the garden gets the most sun, and clearly the tomatoes are taking over. I staked them not too long ago (they had already gotten naughtily overgrown, or else I’d have used trellises or cages) so that the lettuces could keep going strong. By the way, we haven’t bought bagged lettuce in a couple of weeks, they’ve been doing that well! (We eat salad with pretty much every dinner, so that’s saying something.) The romaine is perfect and incredible, and the mesculin mix is delish! Obviously, the basil has been flowering and I haven’t done a good enough job to keep it short and squat with large leaves, but we’re using it and its taste hasn’t been changed — gotta work on those better next year.

Oh! Here’s a cheesecake shot of some gorgeous bulbous growths (that sounds disgusting) that our pepper and tomato plants are showing. Awesome! I’m just glad we’ve grown ANYTHING since our neighbor insisted that her three attempts failed. 🙂 Whew!

Here’s my yellow rose plant, which I didn’t think would do much of anything this year — but, as you can see, it bloomed! (Actually, we’ve seen a few blooms — this was quite a hot day, so it’s a little wilted, but happy nonetheless.)