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Yardwork!

Ah – Memorial Day weekend.  Aside from being a national day of remembrance, more practically speaking it is the first long weekend for me since February, and generally gives me the break from work necessary to avoid losing my tact filter entirely.

 

Even though we’re 99% certain that going to Pennsic isn’t going to happen this year, I’m hoarding my vacation time.  Just in case.

Friday something miraculous happened – we were released early.  That *never* happens in my department.  In the mindset of not looking gift horses in the mouth, I bolted.  I took that extra time to tidy up a little more around the house for Saturday. 

Saturday morning my alarm went off, but my phone didn’t.  I guess we turned off the ringer on the upstairs phone, because I never heard my parents call to say that they were running *really* early.  Luckily, I had dragged my sorry carcass out of bed and had Charlotte changed and dressed and was walking down the stairs with her as they let themselves in.  I was able to say quite truthfully that I was already up.  Only just, but it counts!  After we all had breakfast, dad and I went outside to discuss the landscape.  He’s all for cutting down all of the shrubs next to the house on the grounds that they’re not good for the foundation when they’re that close, and that it would really open up the tiny amount of yard that we have.  He’s right, but the azalea and the deutzia gracilis are just too damn pretty to pull out and too damn big to move. 

See?









It was so pretty that I couldn't stop taking pictures.

If I had a friend with a Bobcat, or the money to hire a landscaping crew, maybe we could move them.  By hand?  No way in hell.  The rhododendron, however, is probably living on borrowed time right now.  I’m trying to decide if pulling it out will result in a visual “hole” or if it will open things up some.

While we were talking, Mom came out with Charlotte, who wanted to go down the steps to the yard.  I’m not entirely sure what happened next.  Charlotte obviously lost her balance.  Mom thought she had hold of the railing, which she didn’t, Charlotte let go of mom’s hand, and mom wasn’t able to grab her fast enough.  The end result of all of this is that she fell headfirst down the stairs and landed on her face.

She was fine – she ended up with a two part scrape above and below her right eye.  I was certain that she was going to have a classic black eye, but that never developed.  It got a little puffy and discolored for a few hours, but no more than that.  There was much howling, and my Mom felt absolutely awful, but everything was fine.  I figure this is part of learning to walk – lots of blows to the head.  Just wait until she learns to run… on the asphalt driveway… in shorts…

So, having begun the day so auspiciously, they guys went in to install the bathroom fan, and I settled in to do lots and lots of laundry while talking to Mom and keeping Charlotte out from underfoot to the best of my ability.

I’m very, very glad that we asked Dad to come help us with this fan – the installation turned out to be a real bear of a job.  It’s a really nice fan – it has a built in humidity sensor that will turn itself on and off as appropriate.  I want another one for the upstairs bathroom where we actually *shower*, but for now I like having the good fan in the bathroom immediately adjacent to the room with the thousands of dollars worth of books.  I gather that it didn’t want to fit.  Dad isn’t entirely satisfied with how it got shoehorned in there, because he wanted it perfectly level, but it’s as good as it can possibly be, it will look perfect once the cowling is on, and I’m very, very appreciative.  Now I have another ceiling to patch.  Goody.

After they left, we tidied up and took Charlotte outside to play in her sandbox.  She loved it, and the mosquitoes ate all of us alive.  Poor thing – scrapes, bruises, AND bug bites.  It was a big day.

Sunday was a picnic at the home of a friend.  The plan was to head over after Charlotte woke up from her morning nap.  So while she napped, I went out to do some work around the yard.  I have to admit that I’m not entirely sure what I got done, because I was kind of flailing around without a plan.  But I know that I got a lot done… whatever it was.  I raked some of the moss up, and I started disassembling some of the stone edgings of former gardens.  I figured that I would remove the stones edging the side of the house where the boxwoods used to be before I got annoyed and chopped them down a few weeks ago.  As a stopgap, I decided to pile them along the back of the garage where the woodpile lives.

A note about this spot against the garage: this is a spot with a Plan.  It’s the only logical place for the woodpile, but the ground slopes down fairly unacceptably – it drops about twenty inches over twenty feet or so.  My plan has been to buy enough of those DIY stacking blocks to bring a small area up to level, and back fill with gravel to create a level area for the woodpile.  Naturally, the blocks that I like are $4.89/block.  I need about a hundred of them, and a lot of fill.  Hence that project not being in the cards this year.

By the time I had disassembled the edging, I had a surprisingly large pile of rocks at the low end of this area.  It is large enough that I am just about ready to discard the retaining wall plan and go with a big pile of rocks.  There are so many old stone edgings all OVER the property that I’m pretty sure that I’ll have enough.  It won’t be as neat, but it’ll be a heck of a lot cheaper.  Or maybe I still do the wall, but I backfill with free rocks instead of gravel that I have to buy.  Either way, it’s a whole bunch cheaper, and it’ll drain a whole bunch better than what I initially had in mind.

At 2:00 or so, I decided that if we were ever going to leave the house, we were going to have to take matters into our own hands, and I went up to hop in the shower.  I figured that would probably wake her up, and it did.  We got everyone cleaned up, and headed up to the picnic.  We stayed until Charlotte got on towards “done” and headed home before she got too crispy, with a stop at vynehorn’s to see her cabinet painting project.

Monday morning I slept in and awoke with a Purpose.  I was going to Accomplish Something.  Something that I could say “I did thus-and-such on Monday.”  My chosen purpose was to weed/clean up across the front of the house.  I was going to clean out those beds like I do my desk at work – start at the edge and work to the left.  I started with planting the hostas and dusty millers that my mom had brought for me.  I dropped them in down by the street – we’ll see how they do.  After that I just started cleaning.  I learned a few things:

·         Oak sprouts are a bitch to pull out.  I swear those things send down three inches of tap root before they bother to put out a leaf.

·         When trimming sucker branches off a huge oak tree, it’s best not to stand so that they fall on your head when they come down.

·         Bugleweed is astonishingly invasive.  I’m tempted to let it slug it out with the pachysandra – I’m not certain which would win.

·         Oak sprouts are a bitch to pull out.

·         Jacks in the Pulpit can get to be two feet tall!

·         There are stone edges around abandoned garden sections *everywhere.*  Back in the woods, even.

·         Oak sprouts are a bitch to pull out.

 Seriously – I pulled out an oak grove’s worth of sprouts – and that was just in the front.  I got the front weeded, raked out, did a little pruning, and moved some plants around.  I moved almost all the foxglove that was back in an unseeable corner up to a visible corner, and I discovered the yellow flowers from yesterday’s post.  I’m inclined to move those also, but I’m not sure to where.  I think they are chrysogonum – I found a website that comments “It is a highly variable species: the northern variety is taller and more upright; the southern one prostrate and creeping.”  This explains why I wasn’t sure – all the pictures I was seeing were the southern variation.

I’ve also decided that I want to move some fern from the woods to put next to the front door steps on what I think of as the “damp” side.  The other side has two astilbes that I moved last year, and they’re very happy there.  I was about to move more to fill in that area when I remembered that anything I plant against the house is subject to trampling during gutter cleaning.  Occasionally I think about laying a flagstone walk all the way along both guttered sides.

For a good chunk of time the neighbor’s cat Izzy was hanging out with me.  She’d find an active chipmunk hole and just hunker over it for a while, although at one point she went out into the woods to chase them down.  She did come back to show me her trophy before zooming off to consume it at her leisure.  I told her she was a good girl.  Later she stopped by to visit the birdbath cat watering fountain.  She shows absolutely no interest in the birds, but anything that lives in a hole in the ground had best beware.  She’s a very good girl.



 After about five hours of this fun I petered out and called it a day.  The bugs had been fierce, so I’d had to refresh the insect repellent every hour or so, and all I wanted to do was go wash the stink off.  I figured that last thing I would take the hose and clean off the front walk, since I’d been raking over it and it was hard to tell where the dirt stopped and the stones started.

Well.

Let’s just say that this exercise hasn’t been done for a while.  Like… a few years.  I dug down about a half an inch with the hose to hit stone.  Some of them had disappeared altogether beneath the accumulated dust/dirt/oak chaff/leaf bits.  It took a bit longer than anticipated, and was considerably more involved.  But when I was done, our entire stone walk had reappeared.  It’s all pretty again, but ironically it was probably much safer before I cleaned it.  That walk is an invitation to a turned ankle, but unfortunately we don’t have the money for pavers.  Maybe next year.

In the meantime, I have a plan for some of the problem greenery.  I don’t know if the rhododendron is going to go or not.  I think it probably will.  I could always plant hollyhocks in that spot, which would make me happy.  The pee-gee hydrangea is going to get pruned in a big way next spring, now that I’ve remembered to look up the correct way to do that.  The pine tree off the back corner of the deck has a temporary reprieve.  Mom asked “what will you see if it’s not there?” which is an excellent question.  Right now, the answer is “the mock lemon and the witch hazel.”  It will be a different answer in the winter time.  So this December I’m going to look out the back door and ask “what would I see if that tree wasn’t there?”  If the answer is acceptable, it’s gone in the spring.  The same is going to hold true for the Giant Solomon’s Seal by the front door.  I think that if we take it out it will make that space feel much more open, because it’s pretty confined right now.  But that thing is an evergreen, and that is the closest property line with a house just the other side.  If I look in December and it’s part of our privacy shield, it might get to stay.  If it’s not… it’ll be gone in the spring.  Maybe I’ll take it out and plant another holly bush slightly further back from the house.  I like holly.

Oh, and speaking of problem greenery?  The quince bush that I have been cursing since we moved in – the one that I finally cut down last year and did a victory dance on its bones?  Yeah – came up healthier than I had ever seen it.  We tried to dig it out gently – it was having none of that.  We tried to rip it out – it bent my garden fork.  Finally between the two of us we got it out – I think it had roots to China.  I plopped it into a hole in a spot where it won’t annoy me.  It still won’t get any light, but I won’t be cursing it.  So far it hasn’t even wilted.  Amazing.

I need to research leaf spot in mountain laurels.  I’ve got a lot of them…



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