Sunday, May 30, 2010

Photos of the Yard: Things are coming together at last

Pictures of some of the areas of the yard now.  Most of the flower beds are planted, as well as pots.  Perennials are growing at last.  All the cleanup is done and new sprinklers are working great.  In the bright morning sun, some of these photos are too yellow, but I'm not going to take time to photoshop them.  Still things to be done.  I'm going to straighten the patio blocks that make my checkerboard thyme section, and then put together that arbor.  I think we have baby scrub jays and baby chickadees.  What a racket they are all making this morning.

This is a new flower bed next to my covered patio.  A very shady area.  Also my patio pots that are clustered on the thyme checkerboard but will find new homes around the yard in the coming couple of weeks.

This is the corner flower bed.  Highly visible to all who drive by and a hot location in the summer.  I removed a lot of day lilies to make room for other things here.

Here is what's left of myrtle hill.  It was full of grass and had to go.  Little by little I'll introduce other things here.  May plant some bushes along the sidewalk to give the backyard more privacy.

This is the xeriscaped area.  All the perennials are late but are looking good.  The pink chintz is actually a strong lavendar color, though you can't tell it by this picture.

The front phlox is so pretty, the color in this photo does not do it justice.  You can't see the impatiens, but they're there.

My newly reclaimed upper level where I will place tables and chairs for our party.

And one of my favorite things in this outdoor remodel - the railroad tie steps that go all the way to the sidewalk.  No more risking broken bones to climb up that hill.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ok, trees today

My excitement is replaced with exhaustion.  They have done an incredible job and have pretty much finished everything -- except planting the trees and testing the sprinklers.  I had them extend the railroad tie steps on the east side all the way to the sidewalk and also provide an easier access to the other end of my new patio area.  They worked 14 hours yesterday.  I put in a good day of work at the computer - not so physical, so why am I feeling so exhausted?  I think I'm ready for them to be finished.

I think I know what it is.

I feel a little sense of trepidation while they are working.  They do things BIG.  They use power tools, they dig deep trenches, they cut things way back, and they sometimes remove my intentional plantings - my perennials that have a sort of weedy look.  I know what they are, I planted them.  I use much more finesse in my approach to yardwork.  They get in, work hard, fast, and get it done.  I could not have accomplished all they have done if I worked at it every day for a year.  And I am so glad that all those troublesome areas are now weeded, covered in fabric and mulched.  I can plant to my heart's content.  I am sad at losing some plants, but it hasn't been many and it's part of the process, especially with the new pipe for the sprinklers.  It will all be good.  But I'm ready for them to be finished.

The trees are definitely supposed to go in today and that will cheer me greatly, I know.

 I seriously appreciate the hard work and long days - not to mention long weeks - these guys put in.  I don't know how they can do it.  Every day I set out a tray of pastries for them on my patio table.  In the cooler weather I also made coffee for them.  Yesterday I printed up a note to put with the pastries: "Gracias!" in big bold letters.  Because I do appreciate what it must take to do their job.

My next concern is with the gas company.  When will the orange cones and yellow pipes and torn up pavement be gone from my street?  I can't even get a pretty "after" photo of the yard while it's all perfect because of the street construction.  *Sigh.*  Of course, a bigger concern is whether they will be finished in two weeks so our guests will be able to park on the street.  If not, we'd better have a Plan B in place.

UPDATE:  Well, the job is entirely and completely finished.  I've inspected everything and had a complete walk through of the sprinkling system.  It's excellent -- really well done.  I may hire this guys to do the mowing and edging during the summer.  They are fast and do great work.

The trees are so lovely.  Here they are, the Colorado Blue Spruce, and Flowering Plum.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Trees Today

Today the landscapers are back.  Temps are in the 50's this morning but will be in the 70's by afternoon.  They have already power-raked and edged the front lawn.  Big piles of dry brown thatch are now lying on top of the perky green lawn.  They will be doing more work on the sprinkling system today, too.

But most exciting, I'm getting two new trees planted.  A Colorado Blue Spruce (inexplicably Utah's state tree) will go somewhere in the area where all the myrtle once resided.  And a flowering plum will go in the apple tree's old spot.  I wanted something to attract the birds, but decided not to get a messy fruit tree next to the patio.  The flowering plum only produces token tiny plums that really make very little mess.

I spent an hour and a half and wore out three different workers at the nursery talking about trees.  A tree is a long-term decision and I wanted to make the right one.  The blue spruce was easy - I knew exactly what I wanted.  There were a number to choose from there -- some with the true silvery blue color and some with a more green color.  I wanted the silvery blue.  There was one that so appealed to me, I wanted it the second I saw it.  I perfunctorily looked at all the other options and came back to the same one.  I just loved it.  I am thrilled it will be in my yard.

The tree by the patio was harder.  A friend had suggested a crab apple or hawthorn if I wanted to attract birds.  I strongly considered those, but decided against the hawthorn due to the nasty thorns, and against the crab apple as I didn't want that much mess right by my patio and deck.  I will still consider a crab apple somewhere else in the yard.  Later.  After the big party is over.  And maybe a couple of fruit trees too.

The flowering plum was a surprise decision to me.  It has those purplish brown leaves throughout the growing season.  I never really considered a tree with such color.  But then one of the workers at the nursery reminded me of something that has made me wish for one of these trees:  It is the first tree of the spring to bloom and it is gloriously covered with pink blossoms.  I remembered how delightful it is when you first see those trees at the end of the gray winter.  It does give you new excitement and hope for the change in season.  I knew then I really wanted that tree.

If the trees are actually put into the ground today, pictures will follow.  Yes, I'm a tree hugger.

Monday, May 24, 2010

May 24, 2010 - Snow!

Might as well post the pictures.

UPDATE: At 4 p.m. the sun is shining, the sky is blue, snow is melting. The weatherman says it's a record: the latest ever measurable snow in Salt Lake.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Update on things in the yard

The landscaper arrived on Saturday morning to start phase II which entails an entirely new sprinkling system as well as digging up most of my myrtle patch and putting down landscape fabric and bark mulch like the other areas.  Luckily I was away much of the day and did not have to witness the devastation as it was happening.  I arrived home about 5 p.m. to find my yard a maze of trenches, piles of dirth, rolls of sod, and pipes and fittings.  I went inside and just ignored it.  When I went back out about 8:30 as they were wrapping up for the day, I was pleasantly surprised to see all the trenches filled and all the grass and plants back in place.

I planted annuals in the big patio pots on Friday evening by the light of my patio lights. We had extreme cold temps and rain on Friday night and into Saturday with snow fairly low on the mountain benches.  The only plants that don't look well are the sweet potato vine.  I hope to nurse them back to help in the coming warmer days.

The chickadees seem to have babies.  I've seen the parents bringing little bugs and worms into the birdhouse.  This morning I could tiny little chirpings.

I dug up weeds in flowers beds 3 and 4 (of 5) today.  One was easy, but the other was was very hard.  I had been encouraging a volunteer plant called Myrtle Spurge which turns out to be a noxious weed that will suck the water away from all your other plants.  It's all gone now, but I'll have to be diligent with young plants in the coming months as it is very persistent.  I finished digging the grass out along the top of the rock wall and then weeded throughout the rock wall and especially that troublesome place between my wall and my neighbor's rock wall.  There is some erosion there as well as some spreading sedum.  After digging out all the weeds and more spurge, I took clumps of the sedum and transplanted here and there to help it to fill the area.  I also have a wisteria vine that wandered down there and I think it might just be a nice place to encourage the wisteria too.

So I'm exhausted as I write, but have accomplished so much.  Now I need to shop for more patio pots and plants.  I'm not going to add annuals and mulch to the latest flower beds now until the landscapers are funished with phase II.  Another couple of days or so and then more planting.  I love the planting part.  It's tiring, but things look so pretty when you're finished.  So rest time is almost over - time to move on to pots.  It's only 3:15.  With the sunlight now lasting to 8:30, it's possible to get a lot done in the late afternoon and evening.  Off I go. . .

Monday, May 17, 2010

Chickadee Update

The little chickadees are still coming and going from the birdhouse.  No signs of babies yet, but I'm keeping a watch from a distance.  I'll try to catch a photo at some point.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The weekend agenda

I had a lot planned this weekend and it was all in the yard.  And I got a lot of it done.  I am now sitting collapsed on the couch barely able to make my fingers type, but happy that I got so much done.  In a nutshell I weeded and mulched two flower beds and mowed most of the lawn.

I started with the new flower bed by the patio.  I had planted hostas there last year which the deer ate right down to the ground.  But amazingly, they are back and flourishing.  The iris I also planted last year from starts donated by a friend are doing fairly well considering the shady cool spot they are in.  I filled in all around with dianthas and snapdragons (these were the large size just to give the garden some color now), marigolds, zinnias, dusty miller, and a row of pink begonias.  Everything got fertilized, mulched, sprayed with deer repellent.  The begonias were quite risky and we'll see if the deer really stay away.  I dug up a lot of ivy and mytle that had strayed where it didn't belong.  I'm half tempted to dig it all out and plant something new.  But we'll see.

Today I weeded and mulched the flower bed directly in front of the house.  This one is harder because it's a hill and quite steep.  I always wear my hiking boots when working in the yard.  I can't afford another injury.  The mulching was particularly hard here as the bags are so heavy.  I added manure (seed-free, it says) top soil, and bark mulch.  The top soil was particularly heavy because it was bagged wet and remained wet.  I didn't plant any annuals in this bed yet.  I will wait until the new sprinkling system is in before planting any more as there's a risk the workers will dig up my new plants.  I do think I'll plant all the pots, though.

After the front bed was done, I was doubtful I had the strength to mow the lawn.  But I decided to try it.  I removed the bagging attachment and just mulched and left the clippings on the lawn.  The mower started on the first pull.  I considered that a good sign, and proceeded to mow down to the rock wall.  The lower part of the hill that gets all the drainage has the longest wettest grass.  I'll probably go out and rake it up later so the grass doesn't burn up under it tomorrow in the sun.  I stopped at the rock wall - falling down exhausted.

After several glasses of water and one very cold shower, and sitting here blogging for a few minutes, I'm beginning to think I may live.  This is good because there are three more flower beds to do.  Actually four more, I forgot about the lasagna garden from last year.  And the rock wall itself is full of weeds.  I'm wondering if the landscaper crew will help me with that when they come this week.    But the yard is looking very nice.  Things are growing and even blooming.

After the sprinkling system is in, I will plant more annuals.  I want color everywhere this year for our party in June for Jenn and Zach. 

If I'm up to it, I'll get some photos later to show the progress made.

Okay, here are photos.  Above, is the steep front flower bed - phlox just coming on.  Below, half of the back gardenn (I couldn't get a good shot of the whole thing), wisteria in bloom and making the whole neighborhood fragrant, and the xeriscaped section of the yard, doing its own thing - coming along.  The bright afternoon sun doesn't show these at their best. but it'll do.

Monday, May 10, 2010

More landscaping

I am so delighted, the landscaper will be back next week to start on the new sprinkling system.  The bid came in well below what I thought it might be (far below another quote I had gotten a few years ago).  Once that is done, the yard care will become so much more enjoyable and manageable for me.  It eases my mind a bit.  And Jenn and Zach spent a couple of hours yesterday with me planning their marriage party (we are not calling it a wedding reception - it's a party!).  It will be casual food, mostly catered, and should be lots of fun.  We are going to do some hand chopping of some veggies.  And we want to do the chocolate-dipped fruit ouselves.  I hope we can manage it.

I am thinking in terms of BP and AP -- before party and after party.  It's just a month away.  I feel we have plenty of time to be ready.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Blogging from bed

I should be sleeping, it's after 11.  But the mind just won't shut off.  It's been a Monday.  Not a horrible one, but a somewhat overwhelming one.  My workload has increased exponentially in the last few months.  And now I'm frankly not sure if projects will get done on time for the first time since I've worked there.  This month is my eight-year anniversary there.  When I started we had three testers and one writer.  Now we have 16 or so (I've lost count) testers and one writer.  They tell me they've put in the budget for another writer come July but there's no telling if the position will be approved.  So I told my boss we'll just have to start deciding which projects won't get their needed documents.  I'm keeping my sense of humor about it, though.  There's much to laugh about.  One day I will devote an entire post to acronyms - the IT world loves them.

My problem today was all my good plans got shot to hell.  I prioritize my work carefully.  I keep copious notes on my projects and where I am at any given time as there are too many of them to keep in my head.  Many things need to keep moving forward simultaneously, and I have to change gears constantly.  We have a number of deadlines hitting in the next couple of weeks and I have been finishing off several and turning loose from them.  Unfortunately, it seems they don't stay finished.  We're going to change just one more thing.  Oh, by the way, the same thing will apply on this other project, too.  Or, can we add some explanation here about this thing.  Or we're changing the look of this one little thing on the screen which just happens to appear in a dozen screen shots, so you'lll need to set up all the scenarios to grab those again.  And of course write up all the changes for that.  And so it goes.  And yet another says, Becky, have you started on my project yet?  And today was the day and I feel badly because it didn't happen -- because all the finished projects weren't finished after all.  I ended the work day by writing down what I needed to do to finish two projects that have now been finished a half dozen times each.  Will it stick?  I don't know, but I need to move on.

After work I met with the landscaper and we walked around the yard and talked about what I need done next.  The sprinkling system I have is a disaster and I've limped along with it for four years now fixing it as best I can on my own.  Alberto said we can just fix it or we can replace it.  I'm going to get the bid on the full replacement and then decide if the budget can stand it.  He talked about heavy duty pipe that won't break so I don't have to worry about shutting off the water supply all the time.  And a drip system to the trees and bushes so as not to waste water.  Sprinkling grass and the consolidated areas of flowers.  Still water-wise.  Good quality sprinkler heads that won't leak or break and set low enough in the ground I won't run over them with the mower (the mower - another issue I need to deal with).  New valves and a timer to manage the watering for me.  It will seem like heaven if it all really happens like that.  But I have a lot of confidence in Alberto since the first work he did for me.  I'm hoping the bid is something I can manage.

Oh he's going to do more clean up and bring in more bark.  And will plant a couple of trees for me too.  Last year's lasagne gardening experiment in the myrtle is a failure as the grasses have invaded throughout and there is no hope of saving the myrtle.  Well half of it will be saved.  But the other half will go to bark like the rest of the yard.  So that I'm doing for sure. 

All these things are rolling around in my head now instead of allowing me some peaceful sleep.  So here I am blogging in bed and approaching midnight with the alarm set to go off at 5 a.m.  But it feels better to have just put some words down, however disjointed they may be. 

In closing I just want to mock that phrase management is so foud of throwing around: Work smarter, not harder.  Hah!  If I work much smarter, my brain just might explode!