Spring yard update!

I’m sitting on the couch with wine in hand & a pillow under my achy hip, thinking, “Someday I will remember to take proper ‘before’ pictures.”

But today will not be that day. See, there’s an unhealthy intersection between ADHD hyper-focus brain & a hyper-mobile body, and I live in that intersection when I have lots of outdoor projects & only so many good spring days in which to complete them.

I keep forgetting about documentation until I am too sore, shaky-handed, and covered in muck to snap pics. Ibuprofen & hot shower always win.

ANYWAY. I do have a few pics at the bottom, if that’s what you’ve come to see.

The new yard is coming along.  All the beds I’m going to dig are dug, except…okay, all the beds I’m going to dig for a while are dug…okay SOME BEDS ARE DUG AND I HAVE PLANS, ALL RIGHT? 

Ahem. This yard wasn’t exactly a blank slate. A blank of bare soil would’ve been easier. The drainage in the back is abysmal because the soil is…not alive. It’s dead substrate.  So. I can fix it, but it isn’t easy to work with dead clay that’s been overdosed with chemicals & compacted until it’s rock-hard. Complicating matters, that clay is beneath massively root-bound turf grass or scrappy invasive plants, depending on whether I’m working in the “lawn” or the “flowerbeds.” Turning this into proper prairie loam will be A Big Project.

Good thing I love big projects.

What’s been completed so far? LOTS. All the rusty, ugly steel edging that had stopped holding in bricks years ago but hung around as a horrible tripping hazard? ALL OUT.  Mulch is down on the beds that most need it, the summer bulbs I planted have all popped up, a few seedling veggies are in (more on that later) lettuces have sprouted, & hope seeds have been scattered.

What are hope seeds, you ask? Hope seeds are packets of assorted annual flowers I buy every year because I don’t have the patience to start seeds indoors but cannot resist a seed packet display.  Every year I buy a selection, throw them into mulched perennial beds & wait to see if any sprout & survive.

Something always does. I get little midsummer happy surprises when they make their appearances long after I’ve forgotten I planted them. (No, I never mistake them for weeds. I know my plantses.)

I have also established a great big mulching zone under the back bird feeder, where the dying spruce used to be. All the dug-up bits I remove from other beds get dumped on the stump shreds & surrounding sad lawn area. It’s a big ol’ mess of hard turf hunks, chunks of uprooted hosta, bits of leftover holiday greenery, twigs & leaves that blow in from other people’s yards, potting soil sweepings, weeds pulled from the lawn… pretty much everything plantish is getting tossed there. 

In due time bugs & bacteria & sun & rain will work their wonders on it and it will become topsoil. It isn’t…pretty…but it has a wholesome “nature at work” look. Plus the birbs & squirbs love it because there’s cover & nooks & crannies full of insects for them.

And! We had a hard freeze last night, but at least one of my l’il tomatoes, two of the basils and two of the chili pepper seedlings have survived. This pleases me to pieces. I’ll wait a few days & see if any new growth sprouts from the others before giving up on them. Roots are resilient.

If not, oh, well. I knew planting early was a gamble, and I also figured this was my easy chance to evaluate this yard’s microclimes. I tested several different types of coverage in different locations, and…now I know! So that was fun.

Here be the pics. They don’t show much…but each one represents a LOT of sweaty work. (They also get bigger if you click on them.)

There are many little green things in all those shots, but they aren’t showy yet. Not like the spring bulbs up front. Those are just lovely. Here they are again:IMG_7523

 

My right wrist, elbow, & foot, AND my left leg from the lower back down to the toes all hate me with a fulsome, fierce, and all-consuming hatred today, but that is a price I am willing to pay for feeling Very Much Accomplished. Fair value. A bargain, even.

Lots yet to do. The planter tubs will move into that bed by the driveway, (and I may need new annuals for them…) I want more mulch there, I need to reset all that flagstone so it’s about level with the concrete, I have a big list of perennials & veggies to buy — I have the right kind of sunny zones to plant cucumbers here! I could let pumpkin plants nest in the back mulch zone — and then I’ll have to dig holes for all of them… So. Many Ideas!

But there it is. For now, yard update complete.

Until later!

Inside my head

  • I heard an owl the night before last, and again last night. I was indoors. The owl (need I say?) was not. The call was clearly audible for several minutes. Creepy as hell, also pretty cool. It was a Great Horned Owl, for those wondering. Yes, I looked up the call online. I resisted the urge to play back the recording outside to see if the owl would answer.
  • I’m having more trouble than usual with mistaking words for other words containing the same/similar letters. With fantasy names and geography (Nirmana versus Rimarn, to make up an example) this is merely distracting.  With regular words in non-fiction reading, the results can bring reading progress to a screeching halt as  my brain tries to process what the word “pickle” is doing in an article about city planning. (not making that one up.) Brains are weird.
  • The latest in random searches:
    • blackberry plant genus
    • plot of Pericles
    • historical men’s sock styles
  • Dream geography: I visited the beach town for the first time in a while. There’s an old-fashioned park by the door motel, and a beach hidden behind huge dunes, with huge breakers and a permanent monstrous storm about to hit, and lots of little shops always boarding up their windows. This time there I got to pet lots of cats.
  • ::deep breath:: Did a second pass on reading the editorial letter and browsing line edits, still thinking through possible changes. I feel like a kitten rolling in a large ball of string. Happy, excited…and more than a little daunted by the task of untangling it all. I can do it.  The question is, can I do it in time to release in February? Here’s hoping.
  • Must-share site of the moment –>Gods In Color  This site is packed with amazing info about historical research into Greek & Roman sculpture. Discovered it in a New Yorker article, “The Myth of Whiteness In Classical Sculpture. SO COOL.
  •  Random cat pic:

    img_8225
    Scooter is still spending his days in this spot.
  • I watch Law & Order reruns as a kind of brain-free decompression It lets me keep police/legal fiction tropes and themes readily available for writing my cozy mystery while resting the wording part of my mind. It ran so long it’s a fascinating snapshot of American social development through pop culture. It’s  freaky and painful to see the evolution of so many harmful crime myths  over that twenty-year run.
  •  Speaking of pop culture…media update!
    • Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse. My only regret: I have to wait AGES for the next one to come out.  First-person present tense. Two things I do not usually enjoy, but which worked beautifully for the protagonist and the world.
    • At last I have finished the Inheritance trilogy by N. K. Jemisin. I started it ages ago, but had to set it aside until I could embrace new characters in the second book.  I was ready, and I gobbled down the remaining two books super-fast.
    •  Night and Silence by Seanan McGuire because I knew it would be delicious and crunchy and satisfying, and it was.
  • Miracle Water infomercials disturb me on so many, many levels. From its usurpation and warping of Christian faith into commercial product (far from a new thing, always horrific in every incarnation) to its reliance on magical thinking, survivorship bias and other logical fallacies, they are sad and scary.

That’s all the all there is for now.

Writing & Gardening. It must be summer.

It’s that weeding time of year again. Questions about homemade remedies have come up on several of my social media outlets and in comments on my posts. Sounds like blog fodder to me. So.

Here’s my experience–with the caveat that this is not intended as The One True Way advice, just what’s worked for me. There are plenty of blogs that analyze organic/home herbicides in detail. (Spoiler alert: most gardening blogs point out that homemade remedies are NOT as effective as glyphosate or horticultural herbicides. Which is nothing but the truth.)

I use them anyway. My yard is small (roughly 50×100 ft) and I don’t like t use persistent chemicals where I can avoid them because (1) I often change my mind about what I want to plant where, and (2) I forget what I’ve sprayed.

For a mostly-effective easy *temporary* herbicide, I use straight vinegar + a tiny squeeze of dish soap to help the acid penetrate waxy leaf surfaces. No measuring, no cooking, just pour, shake & go. Last year I invested in a commercial product I call “vinegar on steroids” It is even more effective but it is mega-expensive & I wear my glasses + protective clothes (aka old jeans & shoes)  when I spray it because it is *very* acidic.

Pouring boiling water over plants is another simple quick kill. I see it recommended especially for patios and walkways.  I also see a lot of recipes with salt added. Here’s the thing: salt adds nothing to the effectiveness in small quantities, and in larger ones it’s a VERY bad idea on soil, concrete or brick. NaCl builds up to toxic levels shockingly fast, and unlike vinegar, it persists. High risk of permanent damage.  Victorious armies did not salt the earth of their enemies as a favor.

Also, long-term, bricks & concrete don’t appreciate the temperature stress of being boiled. ALSO-also, you have to carry around boiling water. I’m as likely to boil myself as anything else. Noooooo, thanks.

So I spray between my patio bricks with vinegar instead. It does bleach unsealed brick. I have old bricks. I do not care.

Want to be a home recipe multi-tasker? Adding 1-2 c. epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) to each gallon of vinegar makes the spray a mild fertilizer, and 1/4 c soap (which is a LOT) makes the spray lethal to any soft insects in the area too.

I do recommend whatever you spray, invest in a cheap 1 or 2 gal sprayer and use it for nothing but Killer Chemicals.

DISCLAIMERS: None of these will kill deep-rooted or established runner-rooted weeds with only one application. Not even the commercial acids are as effective as glyphosate etc. The sunnier the day and the warmer it is, however, the more effective the spray.

Have a look at the results.

And that’s that.  😀