blk: (Default)
First ripe raspberry of the year was today, June 18, one day later than last year.

May flowers were purple and pink. The last week of May and the first week of June I have almost no flowers. Then starting in June I have orange and yellow from the daylilies and coreopsis. There's been a ton of rain lately which the gardens have loved. The weeds have also loved it, too. Yesterday I weeded some places that had gotten a little out of hand, including the painted sidewalk. I'd thought that the paver base and sand was supposed to keep stuff from growing there, but I guess some weeds don't need much.

I planted some chard plants late and just transplanted some teeny squash plants from the compost. They've gotten a late start but are still alive. I'll see if they're still around next month.

Orange lilies half blooming.
blk: (Default)
Today was a weekend day with no big plans and dry weather, which we haven't had in over a week, which means it was past time to mow the lawn.

I had a nice relaxing morning tea, then when the first of my neighbors started their power tools, I decided it was time. Changed into work clothes, slapped on some sunscreen, went outside. Here's about how it went:

If I'm going to mow the lawn, I might as well get some weeding done first. I touch on the herb and veg gardens (where nothing is growing yet except some potatoes and green onion from last year), then wander around to the side and front and get some other random weeds, including a couple large bunches of garlic mustard.

I note that there's a mulberry sapling that is aggressively growing into the peonies, and it needs to get taken out, but it's been there a long time and it's far too big to pull. So I get the loppers and cut it down. While I'm there, the dogwood really needs to get its dead branches hacked out, so I clear a bunch of that and also clean up some of the head-level branches. Then as long as I have the loppers, I also clean up some of the maple tree sapling weeds that are invading the hedges, and take out an apple branch that's hanging too low for my taste and also some roots that are poking up and being annoying.

Take a break for a bit of food and drink and more sunscreen, and I note that the bush next to our back porch is way too bushy for my taste. So next step is the hedge trimmers to aggressively cut back that one, then hack at the forsythia which is trying to invade the trampoline. Pause to clean up a bunch of the weeded and cut stuff into piles for the yard waste bags or for the chipper, then take the trimmers to the front hedge while Jim mulches up some of the branches.

The hedge clippings get put into a second bag with more weeds and the fresh mulch gets spread into the side hedges. I note that there are a lot of spaces where dead hedges have been cleared out, so I grab a shovel and dig up a few pieces of extraneous front hedge and transplant them into the spaces. Then on a whim I grab the weedwacker and refresh the edge on the sidewalks.

Finally it's time to mow the lawn! Whew.

I'm exhausted but not done until everything is cleaned up, so I pack up the last of the yard waste bag, put the last of the wood through the chipper, and sweep up all the various detritus and tree schmutz from the sidewalk and driveway. Then come inside, clean up, discover a strip of sunburn where my shirt didn't quite cover my waist when I leaned over, and collapse with a beer.

And that's how I spent 6 hours mowing the lawn.

Here are some pictures of the progress (afters only).

Front yard. Visible flowers, clockwise from lower right are: white azaleas, purple azaleas, columbine, a faint bit of pink phlox, more columbine (bluish) and a lone purple iris. Not visible, some spanish bluebells which appeared for the first time this year (I vaguely remember planting some mystery bulbs last year...) and red azaleas on the other side of the porch steps. The hedge is vaguely neat and the tree stump is half gone.

Back yard. No flowers currently back here, but the chives and the row of irises are about to bloom, and the raspberry bushes are preparing to fruit. This bush next to the porch bench is the one I trimmed back.

Side yard. Also no flowers currently here, but the lower left is the giant peony bush which has buds, a row of happy hostas, and the dogwood which I trimmed which will eventually get removed. Also a patch of spare irises and a bunch of weeds.
blk: (Default)
SOTY Apr 2017

OK Not actually on fire, but it definitely seems like everything is happening all at once around here. Spring jump-started in February (first crocuses in my yard, Feb 24!), then went back and hibernated for another month. Daffodils have been going at it for a while (and there are still some left!); hyacinth bloomed briefly (but poorly; these bulbs aren't happen) and I planted some more pink ones; muscari and phlox and apple blossoms were in full force last weekend; tulips are now blooming for the first time in years (previous years they get chomped by deer); pink azaleas just opened their first blossoms, and columbine looks to be nearly ready to open. Whew.

- First lawn (chive) mowing was Apr 9, and it needs it again already.
- Garden rosemary looks to have not survived last winter (surprising), so I took winter potted rosemary and put it into the ground in several sections, with one stalk going back into the pot for next winter.
- Dandelions and bittercress weed sections have been halfheartedly swiped at. Wasn't so bad this year. Totally ignoring the goutweed in the strawberries again.
- With the help of a friend and his chainsaw, Jim cut down the front apple tree, the one that's given us nothing but rotten apples the whole time I've lived here. Tree guy said it would not last another 5 years, so we decided to take it out now and hopefully give the other one a better chance. Maybe I'll actually try to grow some grass there now.
- Finished cutting down the shed maple which Jim did part of last year, and another corner sapling which was growing in a really bad spot. Then the three of us processed all the wood into manageable chunks or chips. This week I'm working on clearing all that stuff out of here.

Here's the front view of the house sans tree. There are also pink smudges of phlox, purple smudges of muscari (grape hyacinth), a few purple azalea flowers, and white apple blossom petals all over the ground.
blk: (flower)
It's only technically halfway through summer, but it feels like it's much further. I thought I wouldn't get tired of it until later in the month, but maybe the excess heat we've been getting is making it harder.

Raspberries lasted through about July 8, giving me multiple handfuls every other day for about three weeks straight. It was a tough job, but I managed to eat them all. Next year I supposed I should think about pie or something. The potato plants all fell over, which probably means they are ready to be dug up. I'll probably wait until fall, though. Cilantro all turned to coriander, and I pulled it up. Parsley is fully bolted but seeds haven't dropped yet. Last year's brussels sprouts have seeded and I'm hoping they'll give me some plants next year. This year's sprout plants really never took off.

I'm eating regularly from the kale, chard, and basil. The tomatoes are doing really poorly. Half of them are basically dead, and the other half have some green fruits which drop before they are ripe. I'm not sure if it's lack of regular water, not enough sun (backyard maple is shadowing the garden), too much tomato in that plot recently, critters, or bad luck. The only one I've gotten fruit from is the one cherry plant I let go. But not many fruit from there either. The mystery squash in the garden is growing quite happily over the tomato cages, but I haven't looked hard for fruit yet, so it's still a mystery. All the other places I planted squash plants never really took off, although most of them are still alive.

I gave in and mowed the lawn for the first time in about a month, although it was mostly just mowing weeds. The grass hasn't been growing that much, probably due to heat. I've loaded up two yard bags full of clippings, weeds, and dead stuff, and will probably get another before taking it to recycling.

The apple trees are dropping good-sized apples, but still green. I suspect I have about another month before I have to do something with them besides throw them in the compost. Still on my todo list: get an arborist back out here to trim them some more.

That's about it. I'm having a lazy summer.
blk: (avatar)
I have been diligently daily sweeping the raspberry bushes for the past week and making sure none of the ripe berries go to waste. It's a tough job but someone's gotta do it. If I had been gone for 5 days this past weekend I cringe to think how many would have gone unused.

These bushes are only 3 years old. Next year I may have to find Something to do with these berries other than snack on them. Maybe I could bribe out this job to a neighbor. Also next year maybe I will actually weigh them rather than simply have them go straight into my mouth. I'm pretty sure I've eaten several lbs so far, but that's just a guess.
blk: (avatar)
I ate my second ripe raspberry today! (First one was yesterday, June 17th, one day later than last year).

First lily opened up at the beginning of this week, so I'm calling it June 12. Strawberries have been supplementing smoothies nicely. The second year of kale has plenty of edible bits for snacking, and the chard is just about ready to start peeling off leaves.

As far as tasks done, I did some sporadic weeding here and there in the gardens (and in the yard, where I found an impressive infestation of what I think is horseweed), mowed, and did a little wacky edging. Then I picked up a few hundred little tiny applets. Guess it's time (past time, really) to put that on the regular rotation.

Need to do: Call tree guy and get apple trees trimmed more. Put my spare potatoes in a bigger pot. Fix the rope handles on the buckets, since all of them are falling apart (but the buckets are still fine). I'm thinking I'll do that with some braided paracord, although I still need to figure out a good sturdy knot for the end to keep it in place.
blk: (flower2)
SOTY, June.

I did basically nothing in the yard since the previous SOTY, but things have happened. The irises bloomed from May 8 until about a week ago. Chives bloomed until last weekend, then faded. Columbine still have a few flowers left, so they've lasted basically all of May. The first of the lupin flowers came into full bloom absolutely beautifully over Memorial Day weekend, i.e., when I was gone and couldn't appreciate it fully. Then when I came back, the younger teen had mowed the lawn (badly) and all the flowerstems had been bent in half and were mostly gone Sigh. Fortunately, I just saw a few additionally flowerstems starting up, so I may get a few more soon. Peonies just started blooming a few days ago and are lovely and heavily scented. Potatoes are flowering, as are the kale and brussels sprouts from last year, which I should probably pull up. But they're kinda pretty.

In edible things, strawberries are ripe! I found some edible ones yesterday, although bugs are really busy getting to them first. Boo. This may be a problem. Cilantro has shot up ridiculously and started bolting, and I never ate much of this batch. I guess that means it's time to sow another. Parsley is also huge and I think starting to flower? This is only the second year I've had parsley so I don't actually know what it does. Basil is not thriving but is still alive so I'll keep waiting and hoping. Raspberries are still green fuzzy things but they are healthy and it looks like there will be enough to satisfy daily snacking desires when they ripen. Blueberries have a few green berries, but not many. I suspect they are not getting enough sun, which means I need another round of apple tree trimming. Lilies are just showing teeny buds, but are still a bit small to be edible. All the tomatoes I planted in early May are growing happily, and one of them has flowers. The brussels sprouts seedlings are unfortunately extremely tasty to something and may not survive. I have squash volunteers GALORE. Still will be a while before I know what they are, though.

Continuing the war against the bindweed, as it continues to strangle all my flowery plants. Goutweed is very annoying in the garden but isn't taking over in the other places, so I mostly let it be. Saw some thistles out that I need to dig out soon.

Thing we have done:
  • Bought a small vertical storage shed that we found on sale at Lowes and just exactly fits on our porch and around the shelves we were using, so now we can have things on shelves but also dry. Maybe I'll be more likely to put away tools properly now. At least some of them aren't rusted to hell yet.

Yeah, that's about it. Nice month. Gotta keep it up and try not to kill anything.
blk: (flower2)
SOTY: Spring.

I had a free weekend all to myself this week and really nice weather, so I decided to work on the yard. My decision on what to do was primarily driven by looking at the calendar and noting that next weekend is the bi-annual city yard waste pickup, so I figured I may as well make the most use of that as possible (given how near-useless it is already).

blurry house pic

So on Saturday morning, I picked one of my dead bushes to cut down and dig up. This one was a decent effort, given that it was only about 95% dead, and so the roots were still pretty firmly in place. After I got it up, I went ahead and cleared out the space where it was, spread down mulch, re-planted a few bulbs that I had put aside while massacring that section, added a few more, and now it looks a lot nicer. Then I had to bag everything up, which was nearly as much work.

After that I decided it would be a great time to muck out the compost pile and pull a bunch of compost for the garden. This was super annoyingly difficult as a) it had been overful since last summer and overdue for this, b) thanks to spring thaw and a lot of rain it was all pretty soaked and mucky, and c) there's a pretty good system of roots that have grown through the bottom of the pile, which makes it a challenge to dig out the good stuff. I'm also a little worried parts of the bin are going to collapse soon, being made of half-rotted wood that has taken a bit of a beating. I really don't want to deal with replacing it, but that might be on the list for eventually. It was a pretty filthy job, although fortunately (since it's a healthy compost pile) not a terribly smelly one, as far as dealing with decomposing things goes (I only fell into it once). The garden got a nice layer of muck, and the rest of it fit back in the bin much better.

After THAT I showered and changed, had a nice lunch at Pittonkatonk, rode into Squill and got myself a well-earned massage, then went late to the seedling swap party and got plants for my garden. I slept extremely well.

Sunday I planted all the seedlings I got. Main garden has tomatoes (four different kinds), jalopenos, brussels sprouts, as well as the existing potatoes, peas, bolting brussels sprout, and a squash that was really eager to get started. Herb has huge swaths of cilantro which is looking lovely, several basillings which I hope to not kill, a small rosemary which hasn't done much yet, and oregano, chives, and parsley from last year.

After that, I figured I had hedges to trim, but as I was getting out the trimmers I noted that another of the dead bushes in the backyard was actually 100% dead (being held together by vines and weeds), and would be super easy to pull up (and it was). And once I had the loppers out, I could just go ahead and trim all the deadwood off a couple other bushes out there, and THEN get the electric trimmers and trim the living stuff. Bagging up all of THAT ran me out of yard waste bags, so I declared myself DONE with that crap and mowed the lawn to finish (because grass). I now have 9 yard waste bags ready for pickup next Saturday, and some nice empty space where dead bushes used to be. And hopefully I will sleep very well tonight as well, as I tried and failed to nap today.

Current flowering: the first iris bloomed today! Chives are poofy, columbine is fully open, phlox is still hanging on. Pink azaleas are finishing up, red is still going, white is just starting in earnest. In the blurry house pic above, you can kinda sorta see all of the above except for the chives (although the phlox is pretty hidden). In the side yard, the peonies have a ton of buds out. Those should be nice, soon.

Things I have done:
  • Took down 2/3 dead bushes. Feeling particularly accomplished about this one. The last one is only about 85% dead, and tiny, so I may let it go for a while more.
  • Tossed and spread compost. That was awful but I'm glad it's done. Should probably happen again in late summer so I don't overflow the heap again. Note to self: don't do it right after a lot of rain. I pulled out several chunks of squashlings; gave some away and planted some in various places. We'll see if any of it survives.
  • Trimmed hedges. That should last another couple months.
  • Mowed. Yawn. This was at least the easiest part this week, after the rest of it.
  • Planted things! Now I need to remember to not kill them.

Things to do:
  • Watch out for volunteers, now that the compost is turned and spread. Figure out which ones I want to keep and which to kill.
  • Figure out what my living shrubs are and how I'm actually supposed to maintain them, since doing nothing is probably not actually very good for them, but basic maintenance is probably less work than ripping out dead stuff.
  • Plant grass? Am I going to try this yet again? Maybe.
blk: (house)

fuzzy shot of fuzzy bee in the azalea

Bad blk, waiting a whole month in the springtime between SOTY posts, when so much changes in this month.

We've already gone through the daffodils, hyacinths, muscari, apple blossoms, and tulips. Pink and red azaleas are out, and white is just starting. Creeping phlox is still in bloom, and my flower garden is just starting the columbine. I see buds for the chives and the irises, for next month, as well as buds for raspberries and blueberries for later. All the trees have leaves again and look so much bigger.

Things I have done: (mostly maintenance)
  • Weeded - various things, at least the parts of my yard that have nice things growing where weeds are disruptive and/or invasive. Unfortunately it's a losing battle against bindweed (which wants to choke everything else) and goutweed (which takes over my strawberries) and the bittercress (of which I found huge swaths of in the grass, some of which was already spraying seed everywhere). I still prefer to get rid of various things in the flower gardens, or thistle wherever, and a few others which I don't know what they are but I know they are annoying.
  • Mowed - a couple times, actually, including making a teen mow, which may be more difficult than doing it myself. The first mowing of the front yard is pretty much just wild allium. Scents the air quite nicely. At least there are more green things growing in the front yard, although very little of it appears to be grass that I actually like. Sigh. My seeding efforts last year all failed, and I don't know if I care enough to keep trying.
  • Planted - just a few things, like basillings in the herb garden and an onion that was already half growing. I'm going to a plant party next week where hopefully I'll come home with a bunch more unwanted (by other people) seedlings. Very few of the seeds I planted have done anything. Quite likely they were spoiled seeds.
  • Mulched, with more wood chips that Xuth created by chopping down more of the tree behind our shed. All that's left now is the main trunk(s).

Things to do:
  • Toss and spread compost. I discovered a huge clump of volunteer squash seedlings in there the other day. I'll probably kill most of them when I toss it, but it needs to happen soon.
  • Get rid of (mostly) dead bushes. This one might take all summer for me to get up the motivation to do it. Ugh.
  • Trim hedges. Darn things just keep growing.
blk: (house)
... or [ profile] xuth does, at least.

I've been doing these SOTY posts enough that I'm starting to be able to look back and compare to previous years. It tells me that this is definitely an early spring, and also that I should get better about posting actual dates for important events like flowers appearing.

Croci are gone now, but the mini-daffodils opened up the day after the last post (March 14), with the big daffodils slowly following. Hyacinths look kinda sick, but they eventually put out flowers. The tulips, although blunt cut, appear to be growing again, so I have hopes that I'll get flowers from them eventually. Little dicots are appearing in the herb garden which are probably cilantro.

The big ticket job was mostly done by Xuth, in that we are taking out a tree that is growing really awkwardly in the space between three of our sheds. He already took off one big trunk last year, that was actually growing into (and slowly ruining) the shed roof, but the rest of it should probably come down, too. So he climbed the tree and carefully sawed down branches, while I caught them with a rope he rigged up so they didn't do any more roof damage. Today he is turning the large piles of branches into mulch or firewood. Which I should go help with.

before and after pics )

Things I have done:
  • Cleared a little more brush, shoved that and all the piles of apple branches into the car and sent them off to recycling last weekend.
  • Filled up another two bags of yard waste this weekend by clearing off the garden of dead things and weeds, and piles of leaves from where they collect in that corner. Found a potato while weeding that was not only not dead, but starting to sprout. So I re-planted it.
  • Planted things! It's been such lovely weather that it's sometimes hard to remember that it's only barely spring and definitely not summer. So I really shouldn't be planting warm-weather things. But I'm taking my chances on some things. Potatoes and peas in the garden. Basil in the herb garden. Some wild flower mix in a pot. Radishes in a pot. Chard by the back porch. What I think is primrose in a little space near the mint. More flowers in the front. Half my seeds are old or questionable, so I'm less sure they'll come up, but it'd be nice if some did.
  • Found a large patch of bittercress in the backyard. Sighed. Made a lame attempt at yanking some of it. There's nothing else growing there that I really care about so I might just not give it up.

Things to do:
  • Plant more things! Although I should really wait until after it doesn't get so cold at night.
  • Continue removing goutweed from the garden. Since I can't get to the edges of it, it's totally a losing battle, but maybe I can at least keep it from strangling my strawberries.
  • Work the compost pile and spread a bunch of it. I've needed to do this since the end of last summer, as it's been near overflowing all winter. I think I'll acquire a wheelbarrow first.
blk: (flower)
Holy crap I can't believe it's already time to do another State of the Yard post. But spring has basically suddenly sprung itself upon us and my yard is telling me that I can't ignore it any longer. So here is SOTY 2016, #1.

I had a tree person come by last week and trim my much neglected apple trees. He was really careful and seemed to know his stuff and I'm pretty sure he didn't charge me nearly enough for the amount of time he spent on them. He says they could use another trim in another 6 months, which I'm happy to agree to. He pointed out that one of the trees is sick/diseased and should be looked at by a bigger arborist company, so that'll happen this week.

before (kindof, closeup of croci) and after cleaning the front flower garden

Tons of green things are sprouting, and the crocuses are blooming! The flowers appeared at least a week ago, and I have patches of lovely purple all over my gardens. And one (just one) white. No yellow. Maybe I should invest in some variety? Their appearance and the really nice weather on Fri/Sat inspired me to do a whole bunch of cleaning up of dead things and weeding and some trimming. I was going to do more today, but the rain un-inspired me. Well, thanks to DST I have plenty more time after work this week, so I can afford to space it out a little. No point in getting myself burnt out on yardwork when we technically aren't even done with winter yet. I also discovered that SOMEONE has been nibbling at my tulips, which were chopped down right to ground level. I'm blaming rabbits. Maybe sprinkling some cayenne will deter them?

Mini daffodils look like they're going to bloom any day now, and hyacinths maybe not far behind. I <3 flower season!

Things I have done:
  • Filled a bag and a half of yard waste from clearing out dead leaves and brush and dead stuff from flower garden, mint patch, side yard patches, and herb garden.
  • Got apple trees and blueberries trimmed, and trimmed back my raspberries and perennial herbs. Parsley and rosemary (and maybe kale?) look to be not dead. Oregano and chives are growing again.
  • Weeded random bittercress (not much) and wild alliums (tons) from front flower gardens. I suspect weeding the alliums is a losing prospect, but it at least makes things look nice for a week or so.
  • Transplanted a few random yard crocuses to bare patches in the front garden.
  • Transplanted my potted rosemary to the herb garden, since it looks like the rest of the month will be fairly mild. Hey, I kept a plant alive inside for ~3 months! Woohoo! (This is a new victory)

Things to do:
  • Clear the rest of the dead stuff from the side yard, tie up the loose sticks, and take all of it to the yard waste recycling.
  • Take out the rest of whatever bush I have in the front yard that is almost totally dead. Maybe replace it with something else pretty.
  • Start planting things.
blk: (braids)
This week, having finished projects, costumes, college application, and the time of daylight saving, I briefly reached a point of feeling Caught Up On Life. It was glorious. Ways I used up my fleeting free time included:

- braiding my hair! I've been craving yarn braids for several months now, but I wanted to wait until after the super sweaty season and also until I had a full day or two to spare, as although I've gotten the process fairly efficient through practice, it was still about 8-9 hours of work. But I love having them, it's so much fun. I have so much hair! Well, "hair." I used the variegated color "Artist Print" and I like how the colors look. I suppose it's more spring than autumn, but oh well. I did have the very odd experience of going into work with it newly braided and getting zero reactions on it. None. No comments, no raised eyebrows, no nods of acknowledgement that something was different, nothing. I guess I have enough of a reputation of doing weird hair stuff that nobody thinks it's anything out of the ordinary now?

- biking! Beyond my enjoyable expanded daily commute, I also went on my first Weekend Hills ride since, oh, sometime last year when I almost swore off it forever because I was so frustrated. Specifically, since before I made some big diet improvements, so this was a reasonable comparison. Biiiiig difference. I could actually mostly keep up with the group, which meant it was finally the socially enjoyable experience I kept hoping for instead of just an exercise in managing anxiety (along with being a tiring workout). I also ran errands on bike yesterday, which made it really easy to stop by a bike shop and see if the techs could figure out an annoying tinking noise that just started (probably bad wheel bearings. grn).

- cooking! My officemate gifted me with a few frozen deer shoulders that he didn't want, so I put in my first attempt at making venison stew. Turned out very nice, got compliments from guests, leftovers are still tasty. Will make again.

- yardwork! In the last few weekends I've managed to collect 10 bags worth of (mostly) dead leaves. The city yard waste pickup is next Saturday, and thanks to the end of DST no more after work yardwork is happening so I'm considering myself done. Of course next week when the other half of the leaves fall everything will be covered again, but maybe slightly less so. And I can put the family to work clearing off more in a few weeks.

- reading! I've started a habit that whenever I see someone whose opinions I respect recommend a book, I check the library to see if it's available in ebook format, then check it out (or put myself on the hold list). Eventually I read it. This year, I've finished Lilith's Brood (trilogy) by Octavia Butler, The Inheritance (trilogy) by N. K. Jemisin, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, and am currently working on Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. (I also reread the three main B5 trilogies, just because.) I thoroughly enjoyed all of the above. I have another dozen books in my queue, which should keep me busy for quite a while (since I sometimes go for weeks without picking up my book). I plan to get to several over the next few months of darkness.

My week of peace and quiet ended tonight when younger kid showed me an infected abscess on his leg, so I elected to have it seen at the just-opened, conveniently-located emergency clinic down the road. Sigh. Seems like it should be fine in a few days, at least. And the front counter staff person had a nice sense of humor and agreed that I could sell them my kid in lieu of payment for services.

Then for the next couple weeks I get to bear down and attempt to do some serious house cleaning and meal planning in preparation for at invasion of thanksgiving week turkeys, ah, I mean visitors, as well as replace our apparently missing car registration. But first, a bit more reading.
blk: (flower)
The sidewalk is finished! (1)

(Yes, there will be pictures; I'm waiting for a day when I'm home and have time during high sunlight to take some nicer ones, so probably this weekend.)

I'm feeling a lot of relief, and suddenly everything else on my todo list is feeling more manageable. I'm kinda looking forward to being able to accept a few more of my social invites instead of feeling like I have to reject 95% of them or nothing would get done. And maybe I can plan my own social outings!

I've learned about myself while doing this thing. First off is that I undervalue my own work. I note that in just the way I refer to this, both externally and internally, and hesitate to call it a Big Project, because, well, I _only_ spent about 1 month of time doing actual physical labor. But I spent many hours in the couple months leading up to it in discussion, planning, research, shopping, and sketches. And we've been talking about wanting to do this for, um, at least 6 months. Maybe a year. And that one month of work involved me spending large quantities of available daylight hours (2) working on it. So yeah, it's big, at least for me. And that's really what counts.

Another thing, although this is mostly not new, is that interesting project like this really push the buttons of my existing perfectionist/completionist tendencies, possibly to an unhealthy extent if this were any bigger. I frequently worked all day, regularly through mealtimes, redoing bits multiple times that were flawed in my eyes, a couple times finishing something up after sunset with a headlamp on (not ideal). It became most of what I was planning my life around for a while. Now I did this in part because I had a limited time to actually finish it (needed daylight, dry, non-freezing weather), but also because I hate unfinished things. If not for the latter I probably could have allotted three times the time (and started earlier) and not been stressing out about it so much or pushing myself as hard.

On an upside, I also learned that I do, in fact, have an "artistic" streak. Creativity doesn't have to be about doing something that's never been done before anywhere, it can be copying things from everywhere, putting old pieces together into a different product, and sometimes just following instructions well. I also reinforced that I'm a badass, as I physically moved well over a ton of materials over the course of the project, including much of it once in a single day when I installed the blocks.

Now onto the next thing(s)...

(1) Well, finished except for cleaning up tools and extra pieces, returning the tamper, dispersing the rest of the extra dirt somewhere, and doing a few more sweeps of sand over the block edges between rains. But that's pretty much done.
(2) Maybe 50-60 hours total? I kinda lost track after the first few big chunks and it involved a lot of smaller bits of time here and there.
blk: (avatar)
SotY: Apples and Sidewalk.

OK, there are actually more things from the last two weeks. Mostly harvesting. I dug up several handfuls of potatoes. I didn't look very hard, so I suspect I missed a few. That's ok, that just means they'll grow more potato plants next year, right? I continue to harvest tomatoes, although a week without rain, then a day where we had our 6th wettest 24 hour period in Pittsburgh record-keeping history, then two days where temps dropped down pretty hard, was not great for them. Every one I brought in today was either split or had fallen (but still sufficient for salsa). Still several more ripening. Three pepper plants are producing, although one was crushed for a while under a fallen brussels sprout plant, and might not make it. I propped the brussels plant back upright this week, so now it's got a few funny curves in the stalk.

After getting this week's CSA box from Penn's Corner, I determined that the unknown mystery squash in my gardens is probably tiny striped spaghetti squash. I haven't tried cooking one yet (the one I accidentally picked turned out to have been rotted due to lying on the ground too long), but I predict experiments in the future. I'm happy to keep ignoring all the squashes for now, though, while I deal with more imminent stuff, like apples.

Apples actually have turned out to be a huge disappointment this year. We've got a huge amount dropping, but the vast majority are smaller than usual and not actually good enough to eat. I'm glad I didn't make plans with anybody to pick our apples, because I'd be embarrassed by the poor quality. My compost pile is overflowing from unusable apples. I have definite records from several years ago at about this time of much larger quantities of edible apples, so I assume it's just this year's weather. Oh well. Before you feel too sorry for me, though, I still got about 15 lbs of good apples from the past couple weeks of windfall, most of which has gone into sauce. I should probably get the boys up in the tree to pick the rest of them soon.

Things I have done:
  • Weeded and mowed. I started just doing a bit of the garden, and that turned into the entire garden plus strawberries plus herb garden plus some random baby trees throughout the yard and bushes while Xuth did some edging with the weedwacker. Everything looks much nicer now.
  • Apples. Sadly, most of this was picking them up and tossing them instead of making tasty things.
  • Sidewalk. The sidewalk project is actually progressing, although it's taking a lot longer than I'd hoped/planned/expected/wanted. I spent most of a couple weeks spending all my daylight hours painting stuff, and that part is all done. We'd made some progress on the digging, but ditch digging is hard and not at all fun AND it's been raining an awful lot, so there's still more to do. I really want this to be done. It will be finished this month.

This to do:
  • Moar apples. It's probably about time to send up the boys to the treetops and try to actually get the rest down.
  • Moar sidewalk. Um. Next weekend? I hope? Maybe? There will be pictures, I promise.
  • Pot herbs. I have this grand idea of transplanting some of my garden herbs to pots and then bringing them inside to overwinter so they don't die.
  • Trim bushes. Raspberry and blueberry, specifically.
  • Trim apple trees. It's been a long time and they're overhanging the neighbor's yard and touching the house and being overall too big. I'm nervous because last time I got them trimmed, the company I called at random just came by and severely topped them, which completely took out fruit production for the next several years, and then the re-growth basically exploded out from the ends. So I'd like to get them trimmed more properly but I'm not sure how.
  • Harvest/Eat some of the brassica plants in my gardens because I've been ignoring them all summer. Maybe try planting that winter kale again and see if it takes.
  • Are we done yet? I want to be done.
blk: (house)
Due to laziness plus vacation I skimped on making any State of the Yard posts for the last month and a half, but now we're totally back in business. Today's SOTY edition: ALL APPLES ALL THE TIME.

In the last two months, everything grew, and about half the things died. Tomatoes started ripening RIGHT BEFORE I went on vacation, which is kind of annoying, so I brought them around to gatherings and made several plates of tomato-mozzarella-basil stacks, which are delicious. Squash plants are delightfully happy and continuing to grow at the ends, while drying up and wilting from the base. This makes them look like a very slowly moving rootless squash vine, and it's hilarious. Of the 8 mystery squash i planted, it looks like I have two pumpkin vines (with three small pumpkins), 4 butternet squash vines (with about 10 squashes), and 2 some unknown variety (with about 6 squashes). The fruits are yellow with green stripes, and about the size/shape of my fist. Delicata is still my first guess. Eventually I will cut one open and see if that helps clarify things. Potato plants all fell over, like they do, which means I need to go and dig up a bunch of potatoes.

Most of our grass died because of late-season dry spells, which happens every year. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted. The all the weed-grass types started growing great, so our lawn, despite not actually needing mowing, looks extra messy.

Things I have done:
  • APPLES. Last weekend I made the whole house pick up two week's worth of windfall apples, to their great complaint. It took about 30 minutes, and I got maybe 100 lbs of composted stuff and 10 lbs of usable apple out of it. Those went into crockpot sauce, muffins, and a cake. I have about 6 more lbs ready to be chopped tonight, which might be another cake.
  • SIDEWALK. I finally picked a period of time to work on this project (the next two weeks), did all my research, bought materials, made people vote on designs, started digging up the lawn, and tonight I'm hoping to put in a good start.
  • Weeded/cleaned out the lily patches, partially in prep for digging up half of that area and partially because I could. It looks much better now, and can be mostly ignored until spring, now.

Things to do:
  • APPLES. Time to explore more recipes, maybe borrow a dehydrator, can up a bunch of sauce, and invite people over to pick what they want. Last week I saw an old guy I'd never seen before wandering around my front yard picking up apples off the ground. I stepped outside and told him to take all he wanted and showed where I thought the best selection was. Maybe he'll come back.
  • SIDEWALK. Yeah, this is intimidating but hopefully will be fun. Last night while shopping I ran into a neighbor-down-the-street, and she commented on our house lights, saying "I love our street because of YOUR HOUSE!" which was super awwww. Hopefully the new sidewalk will get similar compliments.
  • Trim blueberries bushes because they are way overgrown and annoying.
  • Harvest all the things including maybe drying some herbs or possibly trying to move some of them indoors before it freezes. Some of it will just die, though. Anybody want an avocado tree (or five)?
blk: (house)
The thing most worth noting in this SoTY post is that it hasn't noticeably rained in over two weeks, a major departure from last month. I attempted to remember to water things that needed watering, but I'm not very good at that, and I think some of my patches of baby grass are now dead, and none of the seeds I planted last month have done anything.

Not much is blooming currently, except for the neighbor's Rose of Sharon, which just serves to remind me that I want to cultivate it somewhere instead of just letting it grow as a weed. For food things: applets are approaching apple size and color. By the end of this month we should get something edible. I'm just barely keeping up with the kale, and it is tasty. The cherry tomato plant has ripe tomatoes, and the other ones have large green ones. The mystery squash plants are doing fabulously, and I count 11 fruits so far, of 3 different varieties. I think one is a pumpkin, 6 are probably butternut squash, and 4 more look kind of like delicata. I see the beginnings of the inevitable powerdery mildew, so I don't know how much more I'll get, but this is far more than any squash I've planted in the past, so it's kind of fun. Weirdly, this past week has seen a couple ripe strawberries and a few bunches of blueberries that look just about to finish ripening, a month past when I'd usually expect it.

Things I have done:
  • Trimmed some branches. I did a few in the front and Jim did a whole bunch in the back. Now I have to go figure out what to do with the mulch.
  • Yeah, that's pretty much it. I did make a little time in the hammock. I should do more tomorrow.

Things to do:
  • Almost time to start the fall cleanup. Namely trimming back bushes and cleaning out the lilies which are done blooming and are starting to brown and die back. Next month will be busy with apples.
  • That sidewalk thing.
blk: (flower)
I keep meaning to post other things but that keeps not happening. At least SOTY posts are keeping me writing, even if this one is late.

The orange lilies flared for weeks and are now done. At least they finished before the bindweed crawled all over and strangled them. The yellow lilies are still finishing up. The hostas have cute little purple flowers on a few stems. Coreopsis is still blooming. Herbs are starting to flower, although I've been successfully keeping the basil from bolting too seriously yet.

The garden has three squash-like fruits of various types from the squash plants which are TAKING OVER. One looks like a pumpkin and the other two are some double-bulb type of squash. Tomatoes are still ripening. With my luck they will all come ready when I leave town at the end of August. Raspberry bush was a delightful snack but I think I finished them a few days ago. Never did get any blueberries. Phooey. Apples are falling and it's hugely annoying. Hopefully this means we'll get a crop this year.

The last few weeks have involved a very cluttered house which I couldn't do anything about, so I took out my stress by cleaning the yard instead.

Things I have done:
  • Weeded out gardens, strawberry patch, squash patch, side patio full of weeds, and other places where weeds were annoying me. Actually sprayed chemicals on a small area of the really irritating ones (the ones with huge taproots stuck under bricks or sidewalk that I can't dig out). Also cleared out the dead columbine husks from the front, and now i have a big space there I should do something with.
  • Trimmed hedges, including front sidewalk (again), azaleas, and side bushes that I didn't do last month, and forsythia which was about to attack the trampoline, then turned trimmings + grass into mulch for gardens. Xuth additionally cut down a bunch of branches from trees that were overgrowing into neighbor's yard and made me another box of mulch that I need to spread soon.
  • Edged, after the teenager mowed. Not carefully, just enough to make things look kinda neat and pretty.
  • Picked up all the applets. There were a lot. I didn't keep track, but maybe half of an 18 gallon bucket total? 5 days later and the ground is partially covered again. I wish it didn't annoy me so much to just leave them where they fall but I like walking around my yard and not stepping on bumpy rotten things.
  • Planted things: second seeding of cilantro to herb garden, ornamental kale for the front to fill some empty space, radish just because, spare iris rhizomes into a spot where dead hedge used to be, and clover/grass onto more bare patches. I've killed off some of the previous stuff I planted, so this time I mixed it up with compost and am hoping for better results.

Things to do:
  • Sidewalk still needs to happen, probably next month.
  • Trimming more low-hanging branches from our trees so as to not annoy neighbor too much, and also possible to let more light into the garden. Possibly remove the awkward dogwood tree. Ongoing but probably more next month as well.
  • Mow lawn. Because we just lost half our free labor to his own apt.
  • Put up the hammock and take a nap. Forgot to do that last weekend.
blk: (flower)
June was a month of rain, rain, rain, and more rain. I'm pretty sure there was some precipitation every single day. I looked up official numbers and it appears Pittsburgh got 7.35" rain total. That's a lot. On the upside, everything is growing like mad, I got to spend some time on indoor projects, and when I did do some outdoor work, the dirt was soft and very easy to dig. On the downside, I put off more things, and the lawn failed to get mowed a couple times. It's not scary yet, at least.

Of course, I leave town for 5 days and the forecast for the entire weekend is sunny and nice. Hmph.

Anyways, in plant news, the lilies are a sea of orange with a couple yellow specks here and there. The hostas have put up a couple flower stalks, which is excellent for being only their first year of transplant. The baby raspberry is also in its second year, is actually somewhat bush-like now, and has been giving me a good handful of ripe berries every day or few for the last couple weeks. Maybe next year I'll get enough to collect and do something other than stand there and snack on them. Coreopsis is a big bush of yellow faces.

In the garden, the mystery squash is the happiest I have ever grown squash, and is huge. I ended up trying to herd it out into the lawn, because it was shadowing too many nearby plants, although the peppers still seem pretty happy. I saw a couple bulbs growing so maybe next update I will be able to report what they are. Tomatoes have tiny green fruit, and I think I succeeded in only getting one cherry tomato plant. Apple trees are dropping applets like mad, and I need to go pick them up because they annoy me when they rot in places I want to walk. Blueberry bush has a tiny few unripe berries but almost none. I don't know what's up with that.

Things I have done:
  • Transplanted irises. The rain made the dirt nice and soft so digging up the irises as well as the row of grass/weed lawn where I wanted to put them was pretty easy. I now have a row of irises along the full length of the retaining wall, which looks nice and also should help make mowing the edge of the yard easier. As these things go, the irises multipled like fishes or loaves, and I ended up with a bucketful of extra rhizomes, which I've been distributing to friends. I love how easy it is to give plants away.
  • Um. That was it. As I said, rain.

Things to do:
  • Plant sidewalk. I am determined this will happen this year. Xuth and I did at least do more talking for it, made plans and are mostly in agreement of details, and I think now just need to a) acquire materials, b) set aside a weekend, and c) do it.
  • Dig out some more drainage for the shed pavers? One effect of so much rain is I got to observe how well the shed paver project succeeded in providing adequate drainage, and I'm not sure. It definitely puddles there while it's raining, which is not surprising considering how much lower that spot is than surrounding yard, but the puddles go away fairly quickly when it stops, which I think means it's decent. But I think I could reduce the puddling even more by giving it a little extra space of rocks or a tiny ditch around it. I may wait on this until I see how it fares over the winter.
  • Turn compost, continue weeding things, plant edible things in the space left now that the expanding iris patch is shrunk, and hopefully soon, harvest food things.
blk: (flower)
I found a single ripe raspberry yesterday on the new bush. Delicious!

Several more are green, despite it only being in its second year. Strawberries have been fruiting, although not super heavily, but enough for a snack every other day and a supplement to smoothies. I think my patch doesn't get enough sun anymore. Made a kale salad that was delicious, and it's almost ready for round two. Blueberries are not ripe yet. The mystery squash in the garden are growing huge and shadowing out other plants, oops. Applets are falling in the front lawn and should start getting collected soon.

In flowery things, the daylilies on the side and back started flowering a few days ago, and the front ones look only days away. Alas, I did have almost an entire two weeks with no flowers in my front yard. I may have to remedy this. Hostas are starting to put up stalks which should be flowers soon. Peonies are done blooming. Spirea has some tiny white and purple flowers.

In weather things, we have had ALL THE RAIN in the past two weeks. Our May precipitation was under average, and currently in June we are over or at average in just the first 15 days (4.26 in; avg is around 4, depending on where you look). It's meant no yardwork for a couple weekends, which is OK with me because I got a lot done two weeks ago.

Things I have done:
  • Planted pavers. Yay, this project got done! I researched the right way to plant pavers, spent an afternoon digging a hole, filled it with rocks, leveled it, and put pavers on. A couple weeks and a whole bunch of rain later and it's looking like one of them is a teeny bit lower than the others and collects some water in heavy rains, but mostly it seems to be working. I suppose I'll figure out when the ground freezes if I actually did it right. Doing this project gives me a lot more confidence for the sidewalk planting I plan for later in the summer. Added a picture post for this here.
  • Planted plants. Put some clover by the pavers so hopefully the dirt will not just wash onto them. Also some more clover in the front yard to replace the stuff that died (oops, seedlings really don't like to be dry) and moved more mystery squash from the compost to some spare earth.
  • Dug up dead bushes. Well, yanked them slightly. It turns out dead bushes don't have much in the way of a grip on the ground. Those places look much better now.

Things to do:
  • Turn compost. That hasn't happened yet because of SO MUCH RAIN so it is currently soggy. Going to wait until we have a break in the wet.
  • Transplant irises. Probably next free weekend. That will look so much nicer. And free up some garden space to grow something edible.
  • Plant a sidewalk. I can do this thing! But probably not until next month.
    blk: (house)
    The peonies are in bloom!

    That's actually the only thing blooming right now, although I can see plenty of small buds on the lilies, and the coreopsis should be out soon.. The lupin, columbines, last year's brussels sprouts, and ancient green onion are all putting out seed pods. The strawberries just became edible, and the other fruits are showing baby fruit.

    Everything else is growing really well, including the weeds. Kale is big enough that I need to chop some off and make a salad really soon. I'm keeping the cilantro from bolting so far, but only barely. Probably time to sow another batch.

    Things I have done:
    • Trimmed hedges. Front row of boxwood, back spirea and whatever is next to it by deck, and hacked a bit at gigantor bush at corner of front porch. It's currently too tall for me to trim it all. Maybe next month I'll break out a ladder. I also transplanted another stalk of boxwood into the front row, and it's looking much less spacey now.
    • Mowed. I usually make the kids mow but I did a bit to test out the mulching and collection abilities of the new mower to spread stuff on the gardens post-weeding, and I'm really happy with it. It mulches into really fine, unrecognizeable stuff, which may help with stunting weed regrowth. I also discovered that it made really quick work of cutting the power cable. Sigh.
    • Weeded. Mostly just keeping up with garden areas. Also ripped up a tiny (armful) section of oregano to make room for other plans.
    • Mulched. Mulched the gardens with basic yard clippings, and the flower rows with wood mulch, in hopes that I can ignore it for the next good long while.
    • Planted things. Seeded a bit more clover, finished putting all my potted things into gardens, and also took a few plants from the compost and transplanted them over, to give them a chance at life. Currently have 8 mystery tomatoes and 3 mystery squashes. I have approximately infinity more young seedlings that will be destroyed with the next compost turn, in case anybody wants to raise a rescue.

    Things to do:
    • Turn compost pile. The first turning done early was a great idea, and started all the things in it growing and composting much better. Second turn is to get more good dirt and just clean it out some. Est: this weekend
    • Plant pavers by shed. I actually took the first step and acquired all the materials. Well, except for a tamper. Still figuring out if I can find one to borrow or just hack it. Est: this weekend?
    • Dig up dead bushes. Doing a bunch of trimming reminded me that I have these. Dead hedge by driveway (technically on neighbor's side, but it should come up easy), mostly dead bush by porch corner. Est: June
    • Transplant irises from patch to row. I did half of it last year and it looks nice. Plus doing this means I don't have to bother with cutting the grass that grows up against the wall there. And irises are pretty resilient to getting stepped on when neighbor kids come over to play on the trampoline. Est: July
    • Trim blueberries. Est: July
    • Sidewalk. I can't even right now. Est: Later.


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