Sunday, March 23, 2008


There was quite the confabulation of grackles in the backyard this afternoon, but now that they have vacated the premises, the sparrows are taking their turn at the feeders. It was another excellent poop-scooping day, and per my usual MO, once I got outside, I found a few other things to take care of, like trimming back the ornamental grasses. And I have the blisters to show for my efforts.

It is that time of the year when, despite the calendar, spring has not quite sprung yet. While the lilies and iris have been joined by the daffodils in creating a bit of green, for the most part everything else is still brown and gray, and the north side of the house still holds a bit of snow. Walking around the nabe, most yards look a little worse for wear, especially those with xmas decorations still hanging about. Winter caught us unawares last fall, but the city is determined to pick up the leaves it couldn't get to before the weather turned.

Besides outdoor activities, I have been doing a little indoor work as well. When you live in a small house, you have to be disciplined about not accumulating too much junk. My house has gotten to the point where I can't bring in anything new unless some of the old goes. So this past week, I donated the old water softener plus a like-new window AC and like-new dehumidifier to the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. I called first, and the woman I spoke with was surprised about the water softener, so I explained that I went from well water to city water and had no more use for it. She didn't ask about the AC or the dehumidifier, but they have stories as well.

Both were experiments. I like my bedroom really cold in the summer, and it occurred to me that instead of cooling the whole house at night, I would use a window air conditioner to make the bedroom cooler than the rest of the house. It seemed like a good idea, but the cheap unit I purchased was so noisy and made the lights dim that I never ran it. Similarly, the dehumidifier was my attempt to save on AC costs, by dehumidifying the house when it was damp but too cool to run the AC. The only problem was the dehumidifier also heated up the house when it ran. I replaced my whole-house AC last summer, one that will dehumidify without cooling, and now my house is more comfortable and the summer electric bill is much more reasonable, so bye-bye to the experiments.

Today I also moved the rabbit to the Florida room, which frees up some space in the family room. Sometimes I feel like I am just shuffling things around, but I think Hip Hop will like getting a little sun. I know the other pets do. For that matter, so do I.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bluebirds of Happiness (Maybe)

I was shocked - shocked and stunned - Saturday morning when I saw a pair of bluebirds in my backyard. While I am becoming profligate with the wren houses, I dismissed the idea of adding a bluebird nesting box to the landscape because I thought my backyard habitat was too suburban. But no, here were a pair of bluebirds trying to set up housekeeping in one of the wren houses. I needed a bluebird box right now.

Life intervened, though, so I was not able to get the box until Sunday, and as soon as I got home, it went up on the post where the wren house had been (since moved to the front yard). And, of course, I have not seen the bluebirds since.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

One Thing Leads to Another

Even though there is still some snow on the ground and the temps are still a bit chilly, the outdoors beckon.

The weather has been so crappy this winter, the dog and I have not made many circuits about the nabe. In the summer, we will walk every morning, but right now (post DST) it is still dark when we arise, and cold. So we are getting in walking shape by circling the block in the afternoons.

But this afternoon Betsy is busy tracking rabbit scents in the backyard, so I decide to feed the birds even though I know the only visitor the sunflower seed feeder will get in the next hour or two will be one fat squirrel who is getting braver and braver because Betsy cannot see the squirrel and when it is downwind, can't smell it, either.

Walking across the yard in my boots, I spot the usual dog turds, freed from the snow, and I realize it is a good poop scooping day. (You other poop scoopers out there will know what I mean.) In the summer, I usually scoop right before mowing or, if it is dry like last year, once a week or so. Winter clean-up depends on the weather, especially snowfall. My main goal is to keep the turd population to a low enough level that Betsy is not stepping in her own shit and dragging it into the house.

Last fall I did not get the yard cleaned up like I like it, so after the poop I tackle the flower bed on the south side of the house. This is the mostly-pink bed, where grape hyacinth, white iris, pink peony, red climbing rose, and pink painted daisy and chrysanthemum grow. There are also a few freebie lilies I stuck in here and there, that I want to replace with magic lilies so I will have pink in August. These lilies are actually peeking up above the mulch this day.

I take a few pix of the emerging lilies, then walk around the front of the house where the ornamental grasses sag. Next time I will tackle them and the other perennials on the east side. Today, I finish my outdoor chores by pushing the remaining snow off the deck and picking up sticks and such.

Now the dog is ready for a walk. And so am I.

Monday, March 10, 2008


A couple of weeks ago, I tricked myself into vacuuming the livingroom by rearranging the furniture. I used the same strategy yesterday on the Florida room. This is the room I am thinking about replacing. I have an idea of what it should look like, so I rearranged the existing furniture to approximate my vision.

The room is about 18' wide and 12' deep, with 5 west-facing windows, 2 to the south, and 2 plus a door to the north. I placed the couch smack-dab in the middle of the room, facing west, the coffee table in front of it, a side table to the side (of course), and stood back. Hmmm. My vision must have involved a deeper room. A deeper room would require the removal of those damn silver maples. A deeper room would also involve more concrete and a possible collision with the gas line. A deeper room would also be more expensive. Hmmm.

On a completely different topic, the bird population is beginning to shift. The suet is gone and I don't want to buy more, but I have some really old dog food, leftover from a previous dog, in the garage. I scattered some of that in a snow-free spot and waited to see who would show up. Well, starlings, of course, but also blue jays. That is interesting.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Status Quo

The view out my windows has not changed much in the past few days, despite dire weather forecasts. FW seems to be in some kind of weather Bermuda Triangle where many storms just disappear or veer north or south before they reach us. Or maybe those sensationalizing, the-sky-is-falling weather forecasters need to get a grip.

Anyway, the driveway and streets are still clear, the grass is still snow-covered, but the birdsong is definitely taking on a different tone, almost a (do I dare say it?) springlike sound. The wind has quieted for the time being, too, so maybe today would be a good day to walk the dog.

Still no sign of the tree service people (I've been checking for footprints in the snow) and the mower is still in the garage, still unprepared for the first blades of spring.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

I Stand Corrected (Almost)

Yesterday I complained about the snow. Today the chairman of Burpee says a good snow cover is beneficial for the garden and yard. He describes the ideal as a "heavy blanket of snow" topped with a "thin duvet cover of ice" and declares this the perfect protection for perennials and shrubs from winter's drying winds.

But rarely do we in northeast Indiana get a snowfall that stays around all winter. Instead, it snows, then melts, then snows, then rains, then sleets, then melts, etc. with the wind blowing almost all the time. And it seems to be getting worse, especially the wind.

Actually, what seems to have the biggest negative affect on spring beauty in my yard are late frosts. And my biggest summer problem the last few years has been lack of rain. In 2005 and 2007 I watered more than I mowed. This year I am contemplating an irrigation system to ease the burden of watering, but I guess I will just have to tolerate the erratic frost patterns.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Let It Snow (NOT!)

I haven't been very good about keeping up this blog. But then, it has been winter. A long miserable winter. And it ain't over yet.

Between snows, I managed to get my lawn mower from the shed to the garage. Now all I need to do is get it into the car and to the service guy. Someday (and I truly believe this) the snow will melt and the grass will grow. It's just hard to think that mower maintenance is a priority with four inches of fresh snow on the ground.

Ordering seeds and/or plants does not seem to be much of a priority, either. I just can't get my mind wrapped around the idea that someday - sooner than I think - it will be time to dig in the dirt once again. Of course, I don't have to order seeds and plants - I can just wait for the local nurseries to open and buy them there. The selection is somewhat limited, but hey, any fresh tomato beats any store-bought tomato any day.

Besides, my yard and garden are a process. Every year is an experiment. Something I am thinking of experimenting with this year is removing some or all of the silver maples in my back yard. I did not plant them - they came with the house. The shade they provide is lovely. But their shallow roots are causing drainage problems around my Florida room, the almost annual release of the whirlybirds stain my deck and block my gutters, and that lovely shade is limiting what I can grow where. A tree service is scheduled to come take a look. I don't like removing trees and am open to alternatives, but I am also willing to just whack 'em.

Another idea I have been obsessing over playing with lately is replacing the Florida room with a real room, one that does not have a cement patio slab for a floor and does not have a flat roof and does not have rusty outlets and does not have particle board for walls. Since repainting and refurnishing the livingroom and family room, I have leftover furniture that would look great in a light-filled, wood-floored, knotty pine-walled room overlooking what-will-someday-be-a-lovely backyard. I would not even mind it when that backyard became snow-filled because, unlike the Florida room, this room would also be snug and cozy and warm. At least, in my fantasy world.

Think spring!