Friday, May 20, 2011

It's Not Easy Being Green (4) - The Question of Grass

I have a confession. No, I didn't smoke grass in my youth. But as a girl dedicated to shrinking my carbon footprint, I have a love/hate relationship with the grass in our yard. I like having a place for my dog to play, for me to spread a blanket and enjoy the weather, and I like the color, but the hassle of the upkeep, not to mention the mowing drive me a little wild. Did you know, According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a new gas powered lawn mower produces volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides emissions air pollution in one hour of operation as 11 new cars each being driven for one hour? Yeah, gross. And the EPA also estimates that 17 million gallons of fuel (mostly gasoline) are spilled by backyard gardeners. That's more than the Exxon Valdez spill every year.

So I've made it my mission to remove as much grass in the backyard as possible. (I think our HOA would croak if we tried this with the front.) Over the last 8 summers we have put in four garden areas, planted trees, added raised beds for veggies, put in a patio, and now, I've finally laid out our garden path. I'll be the first to admit, I am hoping the grass will grow up between the stones (as you can see it has on the right side of the photo), but that can easily be taken care of with the weed-wacker, and it's electric. It's been a LOT of hard work to get the yard to this point, but for the first time, it's really shaping up the way I've envisioned it. We still have a sweet potato box to build, and mulch to put down, and plants to get in the ground and pots, but over all, I am so proud of what we have done. It's not carbon free, but our back yard is chemical-free, food producing, and low-carbon; and that is certainly a step in the right direction.

For a more detailed look, click on the photo.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Don't Be So Sure (of yourself)

There are many things about RJH being gone that don't phase me. I can get dinner on the table, get a kid to cub scouts, get a shower, keep up with the laundry, clean and make enough bottles to make it smoothly through the day. It's just not a big deal.

But there are things that shake my part-time-single-mom confidence and they always happen when he's traveling; like when the pilot light went out for the first time; or the time my oldest decided to spray the garage down with water; or all the time I spent battling with the school two years ago.

I had another moment.

Sunday RJH left for a trade show, returning on Thursday. This is some of the longest travel at one time that he does. I'm not bothered by it. Until I start hearing what sounds like a bird building a nest in the eaves above my studio. And then it starts to sound like it's in the laundry room. And finally it sounds like it's somewhere in the foyer. You know what this means. We have a critter somewhere in the duct-work. Shit. If there is one thing I absolutely hate, it's mice. And we seem to stir them up all the time. I'm sure all the digging in the yard didn't help matters.

So I call RJH, because really, I don't know what to do. We devise a plan to call the exterminator on Monday. I barely slept on Sunday night, and I don't mind admitting I brought the baby to bed with me as I had convinced myself the critter was in the kid's room.

Monday I went out to breakfast with some family that was in town and got them all packed up and on their way north. It was great to see them. In fact, I had forgotten all about the little critter. I went downstairs to retrieve my phone and call the exterminator when, I saw it. Dead on the foyer floor, as if it had fallen out of the ceiling vent, was a tiny little grey mouse. Blurg! This means I have to dispose of it (and before my whippet becomes aware that gifts of mice are falling from heaven). I poked it with the broom to be sure it was dead, praying that it wouldn't move. It didn't. It took all my courage to scoop up that carcass and toss it outside. Why do these things make me so wiggy?! But I did it. And there has been no more skittering in the ducts, which means I am able breathe and sleep again.

As RJH said, at least now I know where it is. There has to be an easier way.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Best Mother's Day Ever

So, I didn't get to sleep in - but I DID get a baby who slept for 9 straight hours. I'll take it!

And even better than that (which is hard to do right now), I got to spend most of the afternoon in the backyard gardening! I cannot begin to tell you how refreshing and nurturing it is to my soul to get out into nature again. So the revised lists look like this:

Done Today:
  1. moved formerly shaded box to new very sunny location
  2. planted 8 tomato plants (will have to wait until freshly moved box is filled to plant the rest)
  3. weeded container on side of patio (which was FULL of taproots!) and planted a dozen Peruvian Wonderflowers.
  4. planted 4 sweet pepper plants
  5. continued to enlarge shade garden under pear trees to original size
  6. chopped out scores of dandelions from the back yard (thank you Richard!) by hand so as not to contaminate our yard (and food) with chemicals
  7. weeded garden area for the asters to get planted
Yet To Do:
  1. plant the asters
  2. plant the beans, butternut squash, and cukes
  3. plant to flowering fern tubers
  4. plant the Virginia Bluebells
  5. weed garden area under the bay window
  6. fill recently moved container with dirt (to arrive by Wednesday)
  7. enlarge garden by the maple tree to include blueberry bushes
  8. weed & spread mulch in said enlarged garden
  9. divide Stella d'Oro lilies and replant around mailbox
  10. find some purple and/or orange annuals to fill our empty flower pots
Not bad for a day's work. Hoping for some more sunny days to see this list dwindle. (Ok, to see it change. There will always be more to do in the garden, and that's just the way we like it!)

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Back in the Garden

Ah Spring. This year you decided to shower us with almost 4 straight weeks of rain. You know I'm getting desperate to get in the garden when I'm out in the rain (as I was this morning). But it's time to get out there and get planting! And this year we are not just committed to having a fantastic edible garden, we are also beautifying and removing more grass. Huzzah!

So far we have:
  1. filled in the herb garden with parsley, lemon verbena (as requested by the 9-year-old), rosemary, and two types of basil, among the already thriving sage, and two types of thyme. Also noticed some wild dill and mint making it's way up!
  2. planted two bottom boxes with onions, Copra to be precise. Should make great storage onions. If you're unfamiliar with raised bed planting, I HIGHLY recommend Bountiful Container, by McGee and Stuckey.
  3. planted a whiskey barrel of beets
  4. planted a whiskey barrel of carrots
  5. planted 2 whiskey barrels with green chiles - hoping for a bountiful harvest to freeze.
  6. planted a complete shade garden under our pear trees which includes: Wild Ginger, Royal Helleborus, and Spiderwort, and removed encroaching grass, putting bed back to rightful size
  7. planted a new peony, Queen Wilhelmina, in the pink garden
  8. planted 6 azalea bushes, two in the pink garden, and the rest on the sunny side of the house
  9. transplanted briar rose from wild common area of neighborhood to our pergola.
Yet to do:
  1. put in 10 tomato plants (which arrived yesterday)
  2. plant two asters we picked up at a garden sale at the local Art Museum
  3. move one of our boxes into sunny spot as our Maple has now grown so tall it is in complete shade.
  4. plant green beans, fava beans, limas, and edamame
  5. plant butternut squash
  6. plant peruvian wonderflowers on side of patio (after that container is completely weeded)
  7. plant flowering fern in front shade garden
  8. plant Virgina Bluebells (from same Art Museum sale) in side shade garden
  9. get and plant cukes and sweet peppers
We've got our work cut out for us, but in truth, I'm just happy to be getting outside! Here's to some sunny days so the work can get done.