Saturday, August 30, 2008

No Rain!

Ordinarily, I decry dry weather, but now that construction has begun, I want it to stay rainfree until the roof is on and the room "dried in". Then it can pour.

Dry weather means watering plants, which I did this morning before the sun grew brutal. One good thing about hand watering is it gives the gardener a chance to inspect the plants up close and personal. The big surprise: bagworms on the miniature apple trees and rhododendruns. I took care of them post haste.

More (and better) pictures of the new room in progress:

My backyard fence has an 8-foot gate on the south side and a 4-foot gate on the north. I assumed the 8-foot gate would satisfy the construction crew's needs, but apparently not. They removed the 4-foot gate and its accompanying fencing.

It looked like they had destroyed the old fashioned bleeding heart planted near the gate, but today I found the plant tossed onto the hostas. I transplanted it elsewhere, out of harm's way. Hopefully, it will survive.

They were supposed to preserve a section of deck that ran under the electic meter, but they either forgot or it was too difficult. No matter. I was ambivialent about that anyway. I'll just make me a little shade garden right there, with stepping stones for the meter reader.

The laundry room is between the garage and the deck, and is a step down from the kitchen. One of my goals for this project is to have the whole house on the same level - no steps - so in my dotage I can maneuver around with my walker. This means raising the floor of the laundry as well as making sure the floor of the new room is the same height.

The rest of my house is on a nice crawl space, and I wanted the new room to have the same foundation. That meant digging. And digging means creating a small mountain of dirt.

Now I am especially glad I did not build any lasagna beds prematurely.

An added bonus to the digging was the complete removal of the subteranian portion of the silver maple that used to overshadow the deck. I won't have to worry about working around all those damn roots.

I am amazed at the amount of equipment that has traversed my yard in the past two days. The south side of the house looks like a two-wheel country lane. I doubted they would leave ruts because my soil is such a heavy clay, but I was wrong. Another reason to wish for NO RAIN is to keep those ruts from getting deeper.

While all this has been going on, I have been rethinking my tree planting strategy. Originally, I wanted a row of trees running north-south along the house, similar to where the silver maples were but further out in the yard. Now I am leaning toward putting a couple of trees east-west toward the north end of the yard, preserving the open sunny places for garden.

All of the pix above show what was accomplished Thursday. Below are Friday's results.

When I left for work Friday morning, the skies were overcast and trying to sprinkle. It rained where I work but apparently not where I live. When I arrived home, a concrete truck was blocking the street. I peeked out the kitchen window and was happy to see the forms were up and the concrete poured.

The insulation up against the house is hiding a hole the concrete guys created, to link the new room crawl with the rest of the house, providing access for the ductwork. Theoretically, a human being will be able to get under the house, should that ever be necessary, but it will have to be one small person.

Since my house was built, the bulding codes have changed, and one change is the requirement that the new crawl have a sump pit. It doesn't need a pump, but it does need a pit. As far as I know, the rest of the house does not have a sump pit, but it has never been a problem. I have never found my clean-out, so I am hoping that turns up by the end of this project.

It is amazing just how visually jarring all this mess is. Trying to get a little gardening done is like working in a construction zone... because right now, my yard IS a construction zone. And yet, I am sleeping better these past few days. I guess having the work finally underway is a psychic relief.

In gardening news, here is proof that I still have one daylily that will not give up. I'm impressed. Maybe someday I will conduct an experiment and divide this clump, transplanting part of it to another spot, to see if its longevity is due to the variety of daylily or its unique location by the front porch.

The blush of this sedum continues to deepen. It is a favorite amongst the nectar and pollen loving insects.

The weather is supposed to continue to be hot and dry. While some of August's days held a definite hint of autumn, September is coming in like a blast furnace.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

C Is for Change

And S is for stress and second-guessing and sleeplessness. Anytime I do something major to the house, I suffer. Sometimes the suffering is short-lived; sometimes it goes on for years. Hopefully, I will get over this episode quickly.

What has really set me off is the discovery by the concrete guys that the patio slab under the Florida room extended under the deck as well. My first thought when they told me that was, Maybe, if I had known, I would have done something different. And CHEAPER. Even though it is too late now, I am chewing fiercely on that missed opportunity.

Just take deep breaths.


In progress...

Sorry for the weird photos. My camera is doing something strange (or maybe I am doing something strange with my camera) that is causing dark areas.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

C is for Concrete

Tomorrow (!!!) the concrete guys are going to start their thing. I plan to be far away while they work. Watching them tear out and crush the deck sounds too painful. Then there will be much backhoe work. Finally comes the concrete. Theoretically, all this will take two, maybe three days. It's hard to believe the time has finally arrived. Let the remodeling begin!

I meant to move the columbine and blue hosta out of harm's way last weekend, but it was too freakin' hot. I took a half-day of vacation this morning to attend to that task. Still worked up a healthy sweat, even though it was only 70 degrees.

A couple of these kept me company while I worked.

I don't know my butterflies or I would supply you with a name. Several of these were hanging around the butterfly bush, but this one picked the Queen Anne's lace for a resting spot.

Apparently, I don't know my insects in general - the name of this bug is a mystery as well, but it likes the hardy asters.

The detail on this volunteer hollyhock is just stunning.

Oop - another sign that fall is coming - the chrysanthemum is blooming. I love this color.

The cotoneasters look kind of peaked this year, but have produced a bumper crop of fruit. The birds will enjoy these... if the rabbits don't eat them first.

And here are my late summer blooming hostas. I planted them last year, to augment the other hostas that are all done now.

See the little yellow flag in the lower left hand corner? The utility people were out today, marking where the electricity and gas lines cross my yard. I took some "before" pictures of the back of the house, but I'll save those for tomorrow, when I should have some "in progress" pictures for you to compare and contrast.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Another Farmers Market

The farmer's market I mentioned in my last post was at Salomon Farm and was almost all food. In contrast, the Barr Street Market is more of a street market, complete with music. I had never been, so we toddled on down there today and made some purchases, including fresh bread, handmade skin lotion, produce (tomatoes, watermelon, red potatoes, green pepper).

Of the two, I think I favor Salomon Farm, which is fortunate for me because that's the side of town I live on.

I have been in search of a good peach for some time now. Earlier this year, Kroger tricked me into buying some of their peaches. They smelled so good! And tasted horrible! Then I tried some frozen organic peaches from the Food Co-op. Tasteless. But today I bought fresh peaches at the Co-op. Success! Thank goodness someone is still growing peaches for flavor and not just shippability.

This is the time of year when there are still things outside that need my attention, but the heat and humidity drive me indoors. We really need some rain. Meanwhile, there are indoor things that I could do, to get ready for the new room that I have dubbed the Sanctuary. My intention is not to have just another junked up room, but to preserve this space for meditation, yoga, writing, and communing with nature.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What's Better than Home Grown?

Home grown by somebody else.

I went to the farmer's market this afternoon and was shocked, shocked I say, by how many people were there. I have been to this particular venue before, but really early and really late in the season, when there are few vendors and even fewer customers. Today was much different.

What did I buy? Mostly stuff that ordinarily I would have grown in my own garden - green beans, potatoes, onions, peppers - and some things I have grown in the past - kohlrabi, baby watermelon - plus something I have never eaten, let alone grown - ground cherries. They are quite good, too.

I also treated myself to these:

I love gladiolas.

Look what I found yesterday at Joann's:

A garden Buddha, at 70% off. It was the last one in the store, although ironically I dreamed last night that there were more in the next aisle over.

And here is another hawk, smaller than the one I showed in my last post, and in my own backyard.

I took this pic through the storm door. As soon as I stepped outside, he was off.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Go! Sort Of

Today a new patio door was installed, to replace the old, broken-down wooden one. I forgot to take a "before" picture, but here is the "after":

Unlike my old door, this door requires no maintenance, glides easily, and locks.

Besides the patio door installer, the contractor came to visit as well. We ironed out a few more details, we each signed on the dotted line, and I wrote a big fat check for one-third down. Gulp! Next week we will work out the schedule for the coming weeks. Everything is supposed to be done by the first week of October. (fingers crossed)

You know how you never seem to have your camera on you when a photo op occurs? But if you go get your camera, by the time you are ready to take a picture, the subject of the picture is gone? That almost happened to me the other day. While walking the dog, a hawk landed on a neighborhood spruce. And it sat there, in spite of us strolling within 20 feet of the tree. And it sat there, while Betsy checked her pee-mail at the corner rock. And it sat there, as we continued on our way. And it sat there when the neighbor girl ran past, on her way to the bus stop. And it sat there, while I fetched my camera and walked back to the corner. And it sat there while I took several pictures, none of which turned out very good.

I kept stepping closer to the tree, until the bird flew off. I think I know where he was going. The people at the house next door to the yard with the spruce keep birds, and they keep the birds outside in the summer. I'm sure he was hoping for an easy breakfast, if he could just figure out the cage door mechanism.

Look who finally decided to bloom!

It's the Rose of Sharon!

The hummingbirds will be happy, maybe even happier than me.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Up Close and Personal

Yesterday I plucked bagworms off the arborvitae, then picked up dog poop, depositing it in the same plastic grocery bag, on top of the bagworms. Then I set the bucket aside while I mowed front and back. Later, when I picked up the bucket to dispose of its contents, some of the bagworms were trying to escape. I tapped them back in, tied the sack closed, and threw it into the trash can.

Today I noticed this fellow climbing up the door jamb of the Florida room:

Ewww! But fascinating. You can see how these things go unnoticed until it is too late. I'm not seeing much evidence of these boogers elsewhere in the neighborhood, so I'm beginning to wonder if they arrived in my yard courtesy of the cypress mulch.

Other achievements this weekend were some watering (we received 0.5" the other day, but some plants, like the lace leaf Japanese maple, are just water hogs), the emptying of the Florida room (only the couch remains), the relocation of the Avant Garde clematis (hope it survives the trauma - not the best time of year to move it), relocation of the reverse osmosis thingamajig (thanks to my son-in-law), and a valient but useless attempt to remove the planks from the deck. I wanted to reuse the wood in my landscaping, but gave up after two hours. The majority of the screws were not unscrewable, even with power screwdrivers, drills, WD40, and the brute strength of my SO. Oh, well. It was a nice idea.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Step One

The first step of the remodeling is to replace the patio door between the family room and the Florida room. The current one does not lock and was installed backwards so I can't even secure it with a broom handle. The house needs to be secure, so the new patio door is necessary. The installation is scheduled for next Tuesday afternoon. Cool.

Thursday afternoon I met three of the sub-contractors: the heating/AC guy, the concrete guy, and the roofing/framing guy. Later on there will be the flooring gal and the painting guy and the electrician guy. Anyone else?

Meanwhile, I need to get some things done in preparation of all these people doing their things. The Florida room needs to be emptied, the cabinets in the laundry room cleared out, the reverse osmosis system moved. Outside, there are a few plants that need to be relocated, at least for the duration, and I am taking up the deck myself, as I want to reuse the wood plus give the rabbits a chance to find a new place to hang out.

Weatherwise, it is a perfect day to be outside, so I'd better get to it. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Tomorrow the contractor (formerly known as the "estimator guy") is coming and this time bringing all his friends, a.k.a. the sub-contractors. One of them is going to crawl under the house to make sure what I want to do is doable without too much hassle. Keep your fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, here is one of the first signs that fall is approaching:

The sedum is blushing, as is the burning bush. Even though it is still August, there is something about the change in light that precedes the change in seasons.

And even though it is August, my electric bill is a fraction of what it has been in previous years. My new AC is paying off!

I wish I could remember/find the name of this plant.

I think it is a gaura of some kind, probably something that attracts butterflies and/or hummingbirds.

Most years all it attracts are rabbits, but I accidentally included it in the chicken wire enclosure I erected for the tickseed and brown eyed susan. Now I know what it is supposed to look like, I need to find its name.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Drum Roll Please

The winner of the contest to celebrate my 100th post is... Debbie! To receive your prize, send your address in an email to suburbanhomesteadATyahooDOTcom. And thank you all for participating.

Not much garden action this weekend. My least favorite months are February (will winter ever end?!?) and August (no more heat and humidity!) Despite the regular rain (another 0.25" yesterday), my tomatoes-in-pots are brownish. I'm not very good about watering plants in pots - just ask my houseplants - so I don't know what I was thinking when the few tomato plants I decided to entertain went into pots. At least I won't have this problem this year.

Instead or working outside, I am trying to prepare for the new room. Which means doing something with all the junk in my Florida room and in the closet in the laundry room. Yesterday I moved some of the bigger stuff, but it's the little crap that bedevils me. If I only had a basement... something I (jokingly!) mentioned to the estimator guy Friday afternoon. I thought he was going to pass out on the spot. He has provided me with "only" three separate estimates so far, to accommodate my shifting requirements. Now it is time to fish or cut bait.

Have you ever come across a plant in your garden that you don't remember planting? I mean, besides volunteer tomatoes and sunflowers?

I'm not sure where this white coneflower came from, but I think I'll keep it.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Hurry Up and Wait

No signing of contracts, no transfer of funds yet. The estimator guy, the interior decorator, my daughter, and I all sat down at my dining room table and went over the details of The Plan. This is good. It will all be written down. THEN comes the signing of contracts and the transfer of funds. I'm psyched!

The rain the other day? 0.25" - that makes a whole inch for the week. This is good.

Today is the last day to enter the contest. Tomorrow (or sometime this weekend) I'll do the names-in-a-hat thing and pick a winner. But, just like the lottery, you have to play to win.

Speaking of lottery, there is a billboard I pass everyday that advertises our state lottery. It says, "Scratching makes everything snappier." For the life of me, I cannot figure out what this means. Anybody? Anybody?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

On Your Mark, Get Set...

The estimator guy is coming over Friday. He is bringing the interior decorator. Feeling outnumbered, I asked my daughter to join us, to make sure I don't agree to something I shouldn't. Unless something completely unexpected happens between now and then, I will be signing on the dotted line and the construction of the new room will begin.

One ever present complication is whether I will have a job in the near future. Per usual, my department is undergoing a reorganization. It is progressing top-down, and most of the top boxes on the org chart have been filled. All that remains is finding a slot for all the little peons, aka "human capital". Our corner of the big picture is already running rather lean and mean, so no job reductions are expected... but you never know.

If I do lose my job, it will introduce complications into my life that would be easier to do without, but I won't be destitute, I won't be scrambling (at least, not initially), the room can still be completed without driving me to the poor house. I may even be doing a little happy dance because, quite frankly, despite the salary and benefits and perks, I hate my job. I could even start drawing on my pension, such as it is. If I put my life on hold every time I thought I was going to be downsized, rightsized, or "made redundant", I'd never do anything.

Meanwhile, we did get some rain this week, 0.75" a few days ago, more today that I have not measured yet. It is cool enough tonight to turn off the AC and open the windows. Good sleeping weather.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Post Number One Hundred!

Last Friday morning, while I was having my car serviced, it poured... at the dealer's. It is only three miles (as the crow flies) from my house, but nary a drop fell in my backyard. When I arrived home from work that evening, the rain gauge was bone dry. I ran the dog to the vet for a nail trim and butt squeeze (she is the only dog I have ever owned that needs to have her anal sacs emptied periodically), and while we were on the road, it rained again, big fat rain drops that could easily have turned to hail. This time we were luckier - the rain gauge registered a whole inch. Who-hoo!

That meant my heavy clay soil would be softened up, so Saturday I dug up Queen Anne's lace and pulled thistle until my hands hurt. And today (Sunday) I pulled more weeds, in the front of the house. I had mowed the front yard last Wednesday (against my will, but the neighbors on either side were making my lawn look scraggly), so I mowed the back today. I'm not a lawn and weed fanatic, but I have to admit the yard looks nicer after a trim.

I carried my camera in my pocket while weeding, hoping for some photo ops, but the butterflies and hummingbirds just would not cooperate. This fat bee was all I could snap, and he's hard to see on the Brown-eyed Susan:

The daylilies are winding down, except for this freebie by the front porch. The flowers are very fragrant.

And I noticed that the 'Hamelin' dwarf fountain grass is sending out its first seed heads.

Reminder: Don't forget to enter the contest to celebrate my 100th post!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Yes, A Contest!

When I started this blog, it was with the intention of simply keeping track of my backyard habitat. In the beginning, I was not very disciplined about posting, but this summer I made up for that, even if it has mostly been with photos of daylilies.

My next goal for this blog is to generate more interest and attract more readers, but I want to reward the few of you who have been regular visitors. So, yes, we are having a contest.

All you have to do is leave a comment naming your favorite vegetable. Then I will randomly select a winner. The big prize? Your very own copy of Farmer John's Cookbook.

If you don't know, John Peterson owns Angelic Organics, a farm that provides 1200 Chicago-area shareholding families with boxes of fresh produce by following a community-supported agriculture (CSA) model. The cookbook was derived from the newsletters they provide with the produce, and besides recipes, provides a glimpse into farming, the people who farm, and those who participate in CSA's. For more information, rent "The Real Dirt on Farmer John" from Netflix. He is not your average farmer!

So comment now! Comment today! The contest will be open until August 8, 2008.

Thank you for your support.