We are all creatures of habit, whether those habits include leaving piles of dirty socks in odd places all over the house or hitting the snooze button 10 times before we actually get out of bed. Oftentimes our habits do nothing but annoy our spouses or make us as round as bowling balls but occasionally they can be of good use.
Jason and I are far from lazy but between working hard and working hard at having fun there aren’t enough hours in the day for everything we need to get done. Hence, it’s often proven difficult for us to keep up with our housework even when we have the best of intentions. We used to clean in massive clumps because we couldn’t find time to do so otherwise but a few months ago I decided to put an end to this manic straightening. I devised a plan to encourage housework to become as much a part of our regular routine as brushing our teeth or putting on a fresh pair of underwear each morning. (Jason often overlooks applying daily deodorant so I won’t use that as an example of an established habit.)
Now that's a face no scum can resist.
I instituted “cleaning night” and now Jason and I spend an evening every week attacking our house with dusters and mops from top to bottom. Cleaning night has proven quite effective. Our house stays pretty tidy these days and if it does grow unruly putting it back in order isn’t an insurmountable task. I’ll admit that all the summer yard work and vacations have made it considerably harder to keep the cleaning constant but we’ve managed to stay on top of it reasonably well because I’m too obstinate to give up on any of my cockeyed ideas.
Now that our house doesn’t suffer from dust neglect I’m preparing to implement phase II of my habitual ploy. You know all those deep cleaning projects that you never ever have time for: the cupboards, the pantry, vacuuming under the bed, etc? Well, I have schemed up a way to get them all completed regularly. I have compiled a list of all these never-dones and Jason and I are going to take one of them on every week until they’re finished, at which point we’ll begin cycling through the list once again. These deep projects will be tackled in addition to our regular cleaning night. Yes, our lives are going to be even more packed, which doesn’t seem possible, but at least our cupboards will be tidy. Sadly, time is always a casualty in the war for neatness.
Between yard work and house work and regular work, life doesn’t give one much of a break. Jason and I sometimes lose whole weeks without anything to show for it except sparkly bathtubs and a happy yard. This seems to be an all too common complaint among the chronically busy. Regardless, I think cleaning night is a keeper. I would recommend a straightening ritual to anyone. Why should date night have the monopoly on breaking a sweat?
This post is all about bragging. That’s right, I’m writing this just so I can sing my own praises. And, since I am longwinded, my boasting is sure to be lengthy.
Last spring Jason and I planted a garden. We have just one 8×4 garden box in our yard but it’s big enough to provide more fresh deliciousness than two people could possibly consume: squash, cucumbers, onions, peppers, and, of course, tomatoes. Although all of our garden plants did well this year, our tomato vines were extraordinarily productive. From two tomato plants we harvest at least 429 tomatoes over the course of the summer. I tried to diligently keep track of how many we pulled off expressly for the purpose of rubbing it in everyone’s faces but I forgot to count my bounty now and then so 429 is a low estimate. And don’t you be thinking that that quantity was only possible because our pickings were pathetically small; no way, these were big juicy babies. Yum!
This is just one of the many pretty perfect tomatoes our plants supplied.
So what’s our secret? Did we spray our tomatoes nightly with mutant growth hormone? Make sacrifices to the great tomato gods? No and no. Though maybe we should have tried one of those proactive approaches so we could take credit for our tomatoes being awesome because, honestly, they pretty much did it on their own. We filled our entire garden box with a special soil blend from Olson’s Nursery specifically formulated to make garden box plants happy. It was well worth the $100 or so it cost us. We also, purposefully, built our garden box in the perfect sunny spot on the south side of our house. And that is pretty much the extent of our gardening labors. Sounds like a lot of work, right? Sunshine + nutritious soil = more tomatoes than we know what to do with.
So what has become of those nearly 500 tomatoes? Salsa, salsa, salsa, salsa, some pasta sauce, salsa, salsa, salsa. And, now that the weather has gotten cooler, tomato soup has become our new favorite way to use up lots of tomatoes. (I would highly recommend Tyler Florence’s recipe.)
That brings me to the sad part of this post; the part where I whine instead of brag. It is now time to pull up those hardy tomato plants that have provided their fruits so faithfully for months. Goodbye good fellows and thanks for all the fish…I mean veggies. I will morn your loss forever, or for about 7 months, whichever comes first. After said time I reserve the right to forget all about you and pursue my latest vegetable fling; I’m so fickle.
Evergreens stay green all winter, thus their name and appeal. However, last year I discovered that there are no guarantees on that whole green through the winter bit. Evergreens often undergo negative changes during the winter known as winterkill. When winterkill occurs the leaves or needles on certain parts of the plant turn yellow or brown, this is especially common for branches that get the full brunt of the wind.
I’ve never heard of an Everyellow or an Everbrown, but I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t be big sellers, which is why I wasn’t pleased when parts of several of my evergreens turned brown over last winter. The poor things looked pretty pathetic come spring with their dead pieces, like the plant versions of balding men. Hence, I decided that this winter will be different. There will be no winterkill! Extremely spoiled plants, such as mine, should never have to suffer that humiliation and discomfort!
Here I am giving a euonymous some lovely mulch.
However, before I could attempt to halt winterkill I had to figure out exactly what caused it. Here’s what I found out: Although evergreens don’t really enjoy the freezing temperatures of winter, what they really can’t stand is how thirsty they become during that frigid season. Yes, evergreen winterkill is primarily caused by plants drying out, cold dry wind intensifies this problem, and therefore the sides of plants facing the wind typically have more issues. My skin’s so dry it could be mistaken for a snake’s during winter; it makes sense that plants have similar problems.
It was a cold day for mulching. Jason turned on the patio heater to warm me up.
The solution? Mulching and monthly watering through the frosty season. I honestly had no idea what “mulch” was until I bought some for this purpose. Evidentially there are different types of mulch but the kind I bought was basically just little pieces of bark. To “mulch” you place a 2 or 3 inch thick ring of mulching material around your plant. (Don’t put mulch right next to the bark of a plant; they don’t like that.) The mulch helps keep the soil temperature more constant and retains water, kind of like a nice wet blanket. Now doesn’t that sound comfy? As for watering monthly during winter…yeah…that seems like it will be a really fun task but I am going to give it a try. I hope my efforts will make a big difference. I will report on my success this spring. Here’s to some snug, moist, and happy plants! Bring on the green!
Tada! Our yard is finished! At least in the planting, rock rearranging, and trench digging sense. I think it is safe to say that we will never be done weeding or up keeping our fine landscape.
Although our little plot of land is precisely that – little, I love it! It’s hard to explain the serenity I feel while sitting out on our patio surrounded by all the lovely growing things that I planted with my own two hands. Our backyard has become one of my favorite places to read, eat, or chill – if I could live out there I would. Did I mention that I love it? Our tiny plot didn’t become a peaceful spot overnight though. We moved into our house almost exactly two years ago and have been working relentlessly on perfecting our yard ever since.
Every spring, summer, and fall we’ve made noticeable yard enhancements. This summer our outdoor projects have included: installing a garden box and planting veggies in that box, laying down flagstone in the area around our garden, and filling the few remaining barren regions of our yard with an abundance of plants.
Many of you, our friends, have expressed curiosity about the current state of our yard. So, now that our “putting in the yard” work is officially done, here is my show and tell. It’s probably more show than tell but I hope it faithfully illustrates how our yard has progressed over the last couple years.
This is how our backyard looked when we moved in. Sad isn't it? Planting grass may seem logically like what came next but before laying sod we had to: remove wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of rocks, install sprinklers, and amend our soil by tilling in more than a whole dump truck full of compost.
A stamped concrete patio was one of our projects last summer. Jason's cousin, Scott, was the mastermind behind this affair. We tore out the small cement pad that came with our house and turned into a beautiful functioning patio.
This is what our patio looks like now.
This is what one of our back corners looked like a few months ago. We hadn't finished that section of our fence yet.
This is that same corner now. We planted some Ivory Halo Dogwoods and a Purple Fountain Beech tree. They are still adjusting to their new home but by next year I'm sure they will be thriving.
This is how our garden box started earlier this summer.
After our box was installed the next step was filling it with dirt. We chose a special soil blend from a nursery; our plants love it!
After our dirt, veggie plants, and drip lines were all in place we moved on to installing our flagstone. This was a lot like playing a really hard, long, boring game of Tetris. It took what seemed like forever to get all the stones to piece together right.
This is our garden area now. It turned out fabulously! Our plants are extremely happy, especially our tomatoes. We had to cut them back, they were becoming huge! We called them the "tomato jungle". Trying to find the ripe tomatoes was like going on an expedition.
These are my Hybrid Pink Pixie Lilies. Aren't they lovely?
These darling little guys are Violas. They are only supposed to bloom in early spring but mine kept blooming until mid-July.
This is the north back corner of our yard. In the spring this corner is filled with tulips and daffodils. We planted a Flowering Pear tree, Fountain Grass, St. John' Wort, Linaria, Sandwort, Royal Candles, Harebell, Waterperry Blue Veronica, and Gold Tide Forsythia.
This beauty is a Clematis.
These are my Hostas and Japanese Maple tree. The Hostas my mother-in-law, Sue, kindly gave me as transplants. The Japanese Maple I've lovingly named "The Little Guy". The black border is a new addition this year. We decided to put them around all our flowerbeds. You can see the grass hasn't quite grown back yet where it was ripped out for the trenching.
This is one of my favorite plants in our yard. It's a Sweet Almond bush. It's covered with these gorgeous blooms in the spring.
This elegant tree is a Weeping Mulberry.
I love these cheery flowers! They're called Tickseed. They are extremely hardy; great for our harsh Utah weather.
Our backyard: my haven. We planted Lilacs, Daisies, Corsican Violets, Goldflame Spiraea, Dwarf Columbine, Gold Spot Euonymous, Midnight Wine Weigela, Queen Victoria Lobelia, Gaillardia, and my favorite, a dappled Willow. The dappled Willow looks so graceful when it's wispy branches sway in the wind; it's mesmerizing to watch. Our grass looks a little dry in this picture, due to it being an arid August. But don't let that fool you. It's extremely healthy and in the spring it's a beautiful lush green.
And who said women are hard to please? I’m not picky. Just give me some dirt I can call my own, plenty of flora I can foster, and a sprawling piece of sky over my head; then I will be one extremely content woman. *
*Disclaimer: Happiness based off the specified parameters is not guaranteed.
The arrival of spring meant it was time for me and Jason to dive back into yard work. We worked very hard last fall to get our sprinkler system in and our sod laid down. It was altogether a pretty miserable experience because we were in such a mad rush. We worked what seemed like endless hours but we made it before winter hit. We laid our sod on November 17th, about a week and half before it started snowing. Quite a few people questioned the intelligence of laying down sod so late in the season. However, we had done our research and found that late fall was supposed to be a great time to lay sod because heat is much more detrimental than the cold to its root system. I am happy to report that our grass is doing wonderfully. Its roots have taken and it looks healthier than most of the more established grass in our neighborhood. This was accomplished without doing some crazy watering schedule to keep it alive. Because it had months of cool wet weather to adjust to its new home it didn’t require any special attention. Jason took out his new John Deere for the first time a couple weeks ago and mowed it. Our first lawn mowing ever! Yeah!
Jason and his Deere
We have been planting trees, bushes, and flowers this spring. This is much more enjoyable work than putting in sprinklers! I really love plants and have quite liked planting things in our yard. Jason laughs a little at me though because I have a tendency to talk to the plants while I am planting them.
Me and My Plants
The only thing that has made this planting not quite as fun is the weather. The incredibly cold weather has caused havoc with our planting plans. We have planted through snow and freezing temperatures (snow at the end of April-that’s just not right). While these conditions didn’t bother the plants, most of them have taken very well, they did bother the planters. But we have persevered and now have a few trees, over 30 bushes, and a plethora of other plants in our yard. Wow! What a difference they have made. Our yard now has its own personality. We still have a lot more work to do to get the rest of our plants in before it gets too hot, but I am actually looking forward to some more planting!
This is May 12th not March
I know a lot of people complain about having to put a yard in and they just want to buy a house with the yard already finished or hire the work out to some landscaping company. I admit there are times throughout our yard endeavors that I have questioned the sanity of doing everything ourselves, but there is something exhilarating about seeing a project you have put so much time, effort, and thought into finally come together. Jason and I are so excited to see the plants that we picked and planted ourselves grow and flourish. We walk around our yard regularly just to see how much they have grown.
Jas and the Notorious Driplines
BTW plants are expensive, especially when you are buying them in large quantities. Jason is still in sticker shock from our trips to the nursery. One trip, in which we bought about 20 bushes and a tree, cost us roughly $800. He thought that was outrageous. Apparently he thinks plants should be cheap, but unfortunately they are not.