Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Admitting defeat and moving forward anyway

Avoiding the parking strip today; apparently I have a very short attention span, at least when it comes to back-spasm-triggering hard work.

So my grand plan when I first starting thinking about the yard was to strip out all existing grass and weeds before planting clover seeds to replace the "lawn." Turns out that lacking a tractor, that's really hard. I was reading different accounts of starting a clover lawn online, and the consensus seems to be that starting a clover-only lawn from scratch is really hard. So I decided to cheat, and just over-seed the existing lawn with clover seeds.

Everything I've read about the clover seeds says that because the seeds are tiny, they should be mixed with some other medium. Since this was a spur of the moment seeding experiment, I just mixed the seeds in with some potting soil I had in the shed. The seeds are tiny; when I scooped up a handful, I ended up with little lines of seeds under each fingernail. My first plan was to put the soil-seed combo in the little hand-held, crank-operated seed spreader thing that the previous owners left behind, but it didn't like the texture of the soil. So I dug up a little trowel (also left behind by the previous owners) and just scattered soil-seeds. I focused mainly on the spots of bare dirt, but also threw some in amongst the grass that's coming back. I followed nothing resembling a logical patterns, and probably missed huge swatches of the yard, but oh well. Haphazard, right? Then I went over most of the spots with scattered seeds with a little more soil and gently showered it all with a little water.

My big concerns are that the bare spots are part of Pace's frequent laps around the yard, and that he'll just tear the seeds up, or that the blue jays that hang out will eat all the seeds. But since this is more or less an experiment, I'm not really that concerned. And if it seems like it works, I'll go over the area a couple more times to thicken up the clover patches. Maybe I'll take it out on the parking strip too. For beneath the thyme.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Guess October is gone. So much for yard clean up month.

Too warm weather combined with feeling absolutely wretched for the last several weeks have seriously stymied my yardening endeavors. There's been some rain in the last few weeks - yay! Except now my big brown yard is turning green with things that I don't want growing. The mint is back, not at all frustrated by the goats. The oxalis is taking over huge chunks of the yard. I actually don't mind the oxalis - it looks clovery and puts up pretty yellow flowers. But the city has cited us a couple times for having out of control oxalis in our front yard and along our parking strip. Really? Have they ever tried to get rid of it? Its impossible. And besides, its pretty. Sigh.

Anyway, since the ground is slightly damp from Saturday's rain, and since our parking strip is turning alarmingly green already, and, um, since I hid in my house and listened to the street cleaning guy take a shovel to the green stuff growing in the street along side our house (that's not our responsibility, right? If the street is in bad enough repair that green stuff can grow on the asphalt, surely that's the city's problem. Right?), I decided to take a stab at the parking strip this morning. I have long had plans for this evil strip, involving creeping thyme on the street side, and lavender and rosemary on the fence side. But today, I was just going to focus on getting rid of the green stuff coming up.

Armed with my handy new toy, the Garden Weasel , I set out with very great intentions. And discovered that my suspicions that yardening and morning sickness are not remotely compatible were completely correct. I knew this, but still I tried. With lots of little breaks and frequent reminders to myself not to pass out and/or throw up, I actually cleared about a quarter of the street side of the parking strip down to dirt - about 30 feet. Have I mentioned that the parking strip is half a block long? I also had the nice gentleman across the street doing a little happy dance as he described how excited he is to have recently gotten into growing things and had my local postal worker suggest just paving it over. Tempting.

Anyway, I guess I'll go out and try again tomorrow. I might run to the nursery this afternoon and pick up a few plugs of thyme - I cleared up enough to plant four or five plants, I think. Which when you think about it, is pretty cool.

Monday, September 29, 2008

One hour in the yard = 2.5 full yard bins


This is what discourages me about improving the yard. The clean up process is so much work, and so little fun; I'm remembering why I've never gotten very far in the past. I just spent less than an hour in the back yard, cleaning up stray blackberry vines and raking up dried up grass and weeds. We have three big yard waste bins that get picked up weekly - I filled up three of them, and at a glance, there's absolutely no difference. At this rate, I won't get to do any actual renovation in yard renovation month...

But, fortunately, the bins get picked up on Wednesday and the "lawn" rake up materials are much more compressible than the brambles. So tomorrow, I'll fill up the last bin, and start again after trash pick-up on Wednesday.

On the plus side, today is a very good day to not work for a bank anymore... That's worth celebrating.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

I have a plan for that.

I am not domestic. I don't clean, I don't craft. I am not nurturing. I don't think I've ever planted anything and had it thrive. And yet. I have this yard.

Around three thousand square feet of yard, to be precise. When I moved into this house, there appeared to be something resembling a lawn in the back yard. And a bed of irises, a couple rose bushes, a cherry tree, and a fig tree. A hammock. Cool, I thought. I'll get a dog. I'll get some patio furniture. I'll sit back here with friends and family and my dog and bask in this spot of suburban eden.

Pretty, huh?

Turns out grass needs to be mowed. And what looks like lawn isn't always grass; it can grow up into nasty weeks like foxtails. And blackberry brambles can lurk beneath dense iris foliage, and, in fact, eventually overtake everything else. And don't get me started on the red valerian - people cultivate this stuff? They must, because the google search "kill red valerian" yields very disappointing results.

So three years later, I have a dog whose paws and fur I regularly pick over to make sure he's not packing any foxtails (only one trip to the emergency vet so far, after he snorted one). I have patio furniture that is surrounded by weeds taller than it is. I have blackberry vines that sprout up in every corner of the yard.

But. I have a plan.

Thanks to the increasing unstable financial industry, my job answering angry customer letters at the bank has been cut. While I am actively (fervently) job hunting, my severance package is generous enough to allow me to not panic quite yet about not being gainfully employed. So I'm going to spend some time on ungainful employment. Therefore, October 2008 is yard renovation month.

I have no plans for a garden. Tidy beds of color coordinated perennials (or worse, annuals) aren't especially interesting to me. No, this is a yardening project. I do plan on some raised beds that will hopefully house veggies later in the fall and next springs. And I'll happily plant bushels of those hardy plants that thrive in this Mediterranean-esque climate - lavender, sage, rosemary. But primarily, I am going to reclaim that horrible mass of weeds and make it into the outdoor living room I envisioned when I moved in three years ago.

I already got started, sort of, back in July, when I rented a pair of pygmy goats to take on the worst of the problems. They did in most of the blackberries, chowed down on the evil red valerian, and ate up lots of dried out oxalis. Sadly, they barely touched the foxtails, though they did leave lots of little piles of fertilizer behind.

Little Mummy. That's the dread red valerian behind her.


But now I'm left with a very brown yard, the remains of a substantial blackberry patch, and lots of ideas. Know-how? Not so much. But, I am determined. I have time on my hands and the internet to guide me. My plans?

  • Kill what's left of the "lawn" and sow white dwarf clover instead. Its drought resistant, needs minimal mowing, and improves the quality of the soil.
  • Build a shaded patio. One of my biggest problems with the yard is the lack of shade, so I am going to lay a patio with concrete pavers and rig a way of hanging the three shade sails I've already bought. I think I might need help for this one...
  • Tear down the old rusty shed, move the dog run to where it used to be, move the silly gazebo frame I bought before I even moved in to where the dog run used to be, and grow vines up it. Wisteria maybe. Or bougainvillea, considering I know they thrive in my yard. Oh, and probably lay a second patio under that. Sigh.
  • Build raised beds for vegetables and those hardy med perennials.
  • I also have plans for the front yard and the parking strip (hellstrip), but I'll get to that later...

And finally, some pictures to prove that the yard is just as bad as I describe it...

That's the same view as above, taken in September as opposed to April.

Remember the iris picture above? Same cement wall.


At least there aren't any rusted out cars back here.