September 12, 2012
And bigger than ever.
Posted by jodi on September 12, 2012 at 7.46am
July 3, 2011
Here is our backyard’s temporary, partial patio area all dug out and filled with limestone screenings. It took about five hours to get this far (digging down to a depth of about 10cm/4″, hauling screenings from the pile in the driveway and smoothing it all out), in addition to about two hours digging and moving plants the night before, and a couple more hours on previous days moving plants (because OF COURSE the area where we wanted a patio was all full of garden, while the area around it, which will all be garden, was grass).
Laying the first stones.
This was the point at which we pooped out and quit for the day; a lot of these stones were moved around two days later as we fine tuned everything and laid more stones. This is looking from the other direction, towards the house, across my little bed of herbs and rhubarb:
About 80% of the stones are now laid (not shown). Only the central portion of the patio has been put in here, just enough to be able to start using it this summer. Eventually the flagstone will continue all the way back to the house, right up against our new porch, and the blobby area that curls around the herb bed will extend up and join into the new concrete sidewalk, which will sit just to the left of the existing sidewalk. Which will come out and be replaced with garden. No more knocking my wrist on the neighbours’ fence as I carry groceries down our too-narrow path! If you look back to the top image and imagine the width of the current area extending towards the lower left, and the blobby extension that’s like a mitten thumb extending out of the right side of the frame, then you’ll have in your head a sort of map of Michigan with a super long thumb. Yep, that’s about right.
The little circular area of heaped earth and stones within the patio is Cleo’s grave, and later this summer we’ll plant it with some of those big purple irises she loved to sleep in amongst. The graves of my other two cats lie just beyond hers, now safely hidden beneath the patio so I never have to worry about their bones being disturbed by subsequent owners of our house.
All that’s left to do, for now, is lay the remaining stones, fill up the gaps between them with topsoil, and decide which ground covers to plant there (blue star creeper if I can find any, and lots and lots of moss, but maybe also some moneywort or ajuga, both of which are abundant in the front garden, and therefore free!).
It was a brutally hot and sweaty day, and I had to resort to holding my prescription sunglasses (which are made for lounging at poolside, not for breaking rocks in the hot sun) on my head with a combination of elastic bands (saved from broccoli bunches because I am a hippie) and skate laces. Also note the McClain’s Live To Print bandanna, a conference giveaway from a couple of years ago. They always have the best swag.
Before all the digging, when I was still ripping out my yarrow and euphorbia by great handfuls (don’t worry, we kept and moved lots of it all), we found some wee baby praying mantises (mantes?) chilling in the yarrows (fingers for scale):
Wee little buggies. I hope they liked their move to the other side of the yard.
Posted by jodi on July 3, 2011 at 2.36pm
June 1, 2011
Posted by jodi on June 1, 2011 at 11.17am
May 24, 2011
Monday May 16
Couch to 5K week 8, day 1: should have been a 28 minute run but I was tired from taking a couple of days off so I did 14 minutes running, 4 minutes walking, 10 minutes running.
After repeating week 4 of the push ups programme I didn’t feel ready to go back and try week 5 again, so I planned a “week 4.5″ that was in between the two. So: 5 sets of push ups with 60s of rest in between, 15, 17, 13, 13, 20 (min. 18 for the last set) for a total of 78 push ups.
Tuesday May 17
Warm up: 20 minutes on the bike, random hill programme at level 13 (up from level 12 last week).
Free weights grab bag, should have been 3x through the following exercises but I was exhausted and only made it through 2 (I have pernicious anemia and my energy crashes when I’m due for a B12 shot, which I was getting later in the afternoon):
-10 wide front pull downs, 130lb
-10 lunges, front and back, with 2x 20lb dumbbells
-biceps 21s, 2x15lbs (had to go down from 20 to get through it today)
-12 barbell rows, 60lb
-15 squats with 2x 15lb weights (again, down from 20)
-10 hammer curls, 2x 15lb
10 military press, 2x 15lb
Cool-down: 10 minutes on the treadmill.
On Tuesday afternoon I saw the doctor, who’s sending me for x-rays and ultrasound even though he’s fairly certain the problem is rotator cuff tendinitis (not a big surprise, there) and not anything more serious like a tear. And he told me not to do any more push ups or upper body work until I see the physiotherapist (which means, in turn, dropping out of the push ups fundraiser). This pretty much threw off the workout plan completely, and since it was a long weekend and I had to stay home on Friday to wait for the tree people to cut down all of our trees, the rest of the week went like this:
Wednesday May 18
Couch to 5K week 8, day two: a 28 minute run. Which I got through no problem and even felt I could have done more, thanks to that vitamin B12 injection on Tuesday and the surge of energy that always follows.
Thursday May 19
20 minutes on the bike, random hill programme at level 13. Followed by a session with the massage therapist and my first ever acupuncture, which was weird.
The rest of the weekend was spent doing yard work that was far worse on the shoulder than the gym would have been, but that’s the way she goes, boys. On Friday, in the aftermath of total tree removal (the backyard is so naked now!) I scraped up the layer of tree droppings and compost and topsoil that, since before we bought the house, has covered 2/3 of our three-car parking space that comes off the alley at the back of the property (five inches deep in a few places, and chock full of excellent earthworms, too). Then after that dried up I raked and swept the rest, right down to the concrete which I had actually never laid eyes on in the 8 years we’ve owned this house. Seriously, y’all, I SWEPT the DRIVEWAY. And would have washed it with the hose afterwards but stopped myself because this driveway is crumbling concrete and comes in off an untended alley and will never be clean and besides, OCD much?
On Saturday I cleared sod off an area roughly 1 x 1.5 metres in order to put in a little garden bed to which I could move all of the herbs from various parts of the backyard so that they can finally be near to the kitchen door, as a proper kitchen garden should be. No pictures yet as I’m still waiting for the rhubarb (I know, not an herb but it’s there anyway, whatever) to perk up and look photogenic again. The placement and shape of the bed looks completely haphazard at the moment as it’s just sort of floating in the otherwise unkempt mess of a yard, but we’ve got a plan all laid out with string and stakes for patio, paths, a wall, new trees, garden shed and who knows what other wonders. Imagine the mitten shaped map of Michigan in the middle of a yard, wrist against house, with an elongated thumb going straight up, that’s the path to the gate and the space around Michigan (currently grass and Creeping Charlie) will all be garden and the space inside Michigan (currently plants, yep we got that totally backwards) will be flagstone and the new herb bed is nestled right in the crook of the thumb and extends about a third of the way down where the index finger would be. In the mitten. Confused? Yep, that’s pretty much what it looks like, utterly confused. Right now I’m just counting on the lady next door to continue not to mow her property, so that her solid patch of two-foot-high dandelions keeps us from being “those people”. Because y’all know how much I care about appearances.
Posted by jodi on May 24, 2011 at 7.58am
May 21, 2011
Goodbye and good riddance to you, mulberry, box elder and that tree that smells like garlic. The backyard feels naked without you, but we are looking to the future when there will be redbuds and dogwood in your place. And we are avoiding doing anything sexy in front of the dining room window, now that the people going down Lincoln Street on the #8 bus can see.
Posted by jodi on May 21, 2011 at 4.40pm
May 7, 2011
Outside the dining room window, on the ground next to the porch, there is a solid concrete pad. Next to this, in a space roughly 1.5 by 2 metres in between the concrete pad and the fence dividing the property from that of the neighbour, there were six square concrete patio stones, the kind with a pattern embedded in them of diamond mesh, spaced roughly 10cm (4″) apart with white marble chips in between them. Also, a border twice this wide of white marble chips surrounded the whole thing. Beneath the patio stones was a layer of plastic, and beneath that good topsoil and the roots of the box elders that used to crowd out the wires and whose branches pulled eavestroughing from this roof and the roof next door; these trees, before we had them cut down, made it unlikely that anyone ever used this concrete-and-white-gravel area as a patio. Until now it’s just been one of those useless spaces, too much trouble to renovate, in a corner of the property you hardly ever venture into.
I thought about taking a picture of how ugly it was before, but I’m tired of making fun of Barb (former owner of the house and originator of all Barbage) and anyway, Barb was a single mother of 5 with a lot on her plate and it’s not like she ever did anything to the house other than live in it; it’s the people before her who are to blame for the white marble chips, the awkwardly placed trees, the basement bathroom floor of salvaged marble chunks which were cemented right over the base of a toilet so that the toilet had to be smashed to be removed, the upstairs window that was covered over on the inside but left on the outside inaccessible but with the blind still in, and did I ever tell you about the wood stove for which, had we wanted to keep it, we would have had to apply for a building permit before we could get an inspection in order to have insurance because of course there had never been a permit when it was installed? Who knows what was in the minds of the people who did these half assed jobs. All I know is every new homeowner everywhere thinks they have better taste than whoever owned the house before, and I mutter a futile curse on the heads of the children and grandchildren of those people with every white marble chip I pick up and toss angrily aside.
So today I dug up a bunch of patio stones and raked up a bunch of white marble chips and turned eleventy thousand more of them down under the soil and planted a garden in a corner that was probably a low priority, garden wise, but. Now there are hollyhocks, and perennial bachelor’s button (how great is that name? even though I know it’s a hardy form of a plant called bachelor’s button, which grows as a perennial in our zone, I imagine it as the flower worn in the buttonhole of someone who is a perennial bachelor) and one hosta who was in an awkward spot elsewhere in the yard. And just so that someone can come along someday after buying this house from us and wonder how we could ever be so half assed, I mended the sagging chain link fence (not all of it, mind you, just the part next to my new hollyhock bed) with zip ties.
A few hours in the sun moving rocks and hauling bucket after bucket of topsoil from one end of the property to the other has produced a mental fog; I made coffee, wandered off to spray paint something and then came back and was surprised and delighted to find that there was coffee. This is what old age will be like around here, I reckon. But that’s okay, I’ve got a front porch with a couch on it, and a cup of coffee. And flowers where there used to be rocks. It’s progress.
Posted by jodi on May 7, 2011 at 2.50pm
April 18, 2011
Snow in April is hardly unheard of in Southwestern Ontario, but way down here in the Sun Parlour we’re usually the only ones not getting it. So this is a nice surprise so long as it goes away quickly, right? I may have spoken too soon this morning when I told somebody I’d rather have half a metre of fresh new snow than one more day of those 65km/hr winds. It seems some of this snow is sticking.
On the forsythia:
On the rhubarb, garlic and chives (yes, they’re too close together, I KNOW; that rhubarb is moving this year, I promise):
On the tulips!
On the irises:
Posted by jodi on April 18, 2011 at 12.09pm
April 10, 2011
Spring is here and it’s time to clear away all of the dead house plants that didn’t make it through the dim winter on the dining room windowsill (so long dead avocado tree; I’m sorry I didn’t eat you sooner, dried up basil!). Now that the gardening efforts will be concentrated outdoors (we have an entire backyard to overhaul before June), here’s a way to have a little bit of lower maintenance greenery in the house. I used tips from these tutorials at Life Hacker and Boing Boing, but didn’t follow either to the letter; moss isn’t likely to up and die on you if you don’t do things just right.
What you’ll need:
-glass jars with lids. I used a gallon pickle jar that my friend Jenn gave me (and painted the lid flat black), and a smaller storage jar with a sealer lid that I picked up at Value Village.
-soil (optional, actually, but if your jar is tall, like my pickle jar, soil will help to bring up the height of your moss garden without having to use as many rocks).
-charcoal-activated water (again, probably optional but I figured it couldn’t hurt. I broke open a Brita filter and mixed a bit of the charcoal grains with water; they didn’t really mix in but I’m sure it’ll all work out).
-one of the tutorials I looked at suggested Spanish moss, which I didn’t use because I didn’t have any. It’s another way to get some depth if you don’t want to use soil.
-plastic dinosaurs, gnomes, lego toys, ceramic figurines, plastic flowers, fish tank decorations or whatever other doo dads and frippery you want to include.
-chopsticks for placing items if the mouth of your container is too small to get your hand into.
-moss! I brought a bit of moss back with me from my visit to Georgia in February, even though the varieties probably aren’t any different than what grows here. If you want to bring home some moss from a trip, it will survive in a Ziploc bag for a good long while; mine sat around for a month before I got around to planting it. Otherwise, go out and find yourself some moss and gently peel up just a small amount (don’t go decimating a single population!) with some of the dirt attached to the bottom. I supplemented my Georgia moss with two different kinds I found in my backyard, one low and clumpy and one more luxurious and long. I also had a bit of lichen covered tree bark that I picked up in Georgia (RUH-ROH, lichen in a mossarium, I’m already DOING IT WRONG). We’ll see how that fares in there, as I’m not sure it wants to be as moist as the moss does. I don’t recommend going out and collecting lichens in the wild unless you find a piece of bark already lying on the sidewalk off the tree like I did; lichen colonies can take a hundred years to establish themselves and that’s not something I really want to go messing with.
To assemble the mossarium:
Fill the bottom of your jar with rocks or soil or Spanish moss. Sprinkle in a small amount of your charcoal activated water if you’re using that, or regular water. You don’t want it to be TOO wet or the glass will just fog up. Then place your decorative rocks and the larger of your doo dads: in my large jar I used one large-ish rock and a statue of a bowling friar, which I placed before planting the moss, but in the smaller jar I just placed the rocks and then waited to decorate it until after the moss was planted.
Now break off small sections of your moss and place them on and around the rocks, using the chopsticks to wedge the moss into any smaller spaces. You don’t have to carpet the whole thing, as the moss will spread on its own, but if you’re impatient you might like to fill up a lot of the gaps between the rocks right away. I placed most of my moss directly on the soil around the base of the rocks and shoved a bit into the narrow spaces between the rocks and the glass, then put a few clumps right on top of the rocks just to see how they’ll fare there. Then put in any of your smaller decorations. If they’re lightweight like my little plastic dinosaurs you’ll want to press them down into the moss bed a bit so they’re secure.
Place your mossarium in a location where it’s protected from direct sunlight and wait for your moss to grow! You won’t have to water it very often but when you do, just take the lid off the jar and sprinkle in a few tablespoons of water. If the glass becomes foggy just open the lid for an hour or two to let the steam off (but don’t forget to put the lid back on; your mossarium wants to stay moist).
Posted by jodi on April 10, 2011 at 9.38am