Saturday, September 27, 2014

Fall Cleanup 2014 -- Some nice updates

I had Alberto's crew in here for a major cleanup and some revisions to my yard.  A crew of 8 for three days, including a backhoe for one day.  They completely tore down and rebuilt my rock retaining wall in the front.  And they built some sturdy access steps, retaining walls and pathway on the west of the house to replace a very dangerous stair I had built myself out of concrete blocks.  I had them cut down some perennials but leave others that were still blooming or offering texture and color in the yard.

The yard has truly never looked more beautiful.  And, in fact, I realized this is the first time in the 35 years I've lived here that every corner of this large, steep yard was completely cleaned up and landscaped.  What a great feeling it was to see it.  Here are some pics.

The rock wall was completely torn down and rebuilt adding about a ton of dirt to the support base.  They used only the large and medium boulders and not the smaller rocks.  Grass was removed from between the wall and sidewalk and replaced with some nice grasses and other water-tolerant plants.  At the top, new ground cover vines.  The wall looks lovely.  And the gopher infestation is gone, too.

 The steps the crew added on the west side were a surprise.  This is a narrow and unusable strip that I haven't really done anything with in the past.  I had built my own stairway out of concrete blocks. But they slid and were unstable in the sandy soil.  But I wanted this access from front to back yard without having to go the long way around.  I never worried much about aesthetics as it's not seen from the street and borders unkempt neighbor yards.  But I love what the guys built for me this time.  It's not just functional, but also beautiful and blends with my rustic, park-like yard.
 Frankie gets ready to try out the new steps.
 My yard extends just to where the dark bark mulch is here.  The workers used my blocks and patio bricks along with some new railroad ties cut to make a nice wide and solid stairway.  I'll no longer need my hiking boots to get up this steep hill.
 A couple of new retaining walls and some staggered patio tiles made for a nice flat pathway along the base of the deck, above.
 With all the weeds and excess ground cover replaced by wonderfully fragrant bark mulch, the area is pretty to look at, too.  I will keep it this way, as the Virginia Creeper that used to be here was a big draw to rodents and pests like skunks and raccoons.
 Frankie practices his beam routine on the retaining wall.
 Russian Sage, hummingbird trumpet and other flowers are putting on one final color show.  Some of these plants will not get cut down until I have the crew back to rake up autumn leaves.
 The wisteria bush we are working on developing into a tree.  Alberto is going to build a metal arch for us to train the tree and allow the branches to drape down from higher up.
 The corner front flower bed gained some new space with the changes in the rock wall.  More plantings in the spring here.
 Gardens along the driveway.  Color, texture, height.  My haphazard method of planting somehow looks pretty to my eye.  Maybe not everyone's cup of tea, but it sure pleases me.
 Backyard all weeded and tidy.  I need to remove dead plants from the pots now.
 The shade garden's first year was a success.  A few more plants here next year.
 More shade garden.  I'll remove the remaining iris here and move them to a sunnier spot where they will bloom again.
 Some sedum puts on a late bloom.
 The upper corner garden had a serious gopher infestation.  I cut down day lilies and other plants some weeks ago to conduct all out war.  Sadly, I lost one of my trees to the gophers.  They ate the roots completely away and chewed through the irrigation drip tubing.  Two other trees appear to be compromised, but we think we saved them.  New plants were added here and I still have more plans for adding plantings in the spring.  Trying to get to the point where I have no annuals in these corner beds, but have color blooming from spring through fall.
 Recent new small plants added along the east sidewalk.  I hope they live and add some new variety next year.
 More new plants.  So far, so good.
 One of several patches of asters that are the last bloomers of the season.
 Front garden.  A little more sedate and tame than the rest of the yard.
The seldom-used upper level up the steep hill from my backyard.  A few years ago Alberto made this pretty round patio which has served as a nice overflow area for a couple of large gatherings.  But most of the time, I just want it to be weed-free and still attractive. Another steep hill from here goes up to the sidewalk and street at the very back of my property.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Much Better

That was one wicked virus that hit me on Sunday.  I ran a fever and was pretty much down flat for two days.  That's not long, I know.  But I always think of myself as having such great immunity, so two days of aches and congestion seemed hard to bear.  I took stupid Dayquil, which did nothing for me.  Last night I took two ibuprofen before bed.  Slept well, and sometime in the middle of the night the fever broke and I awoke feeling so much better.  Today I will finally be able to get back to my normal routine.

When I'm sick, I try to remember what it must be like for a friend of mine who has been living with stage 4 cancer for six years.  Yes, that's right, he has beat the odds in longevity.  But he has paid a terrible toll in the ravages both the treatments and the disease have had on his body.  He is a young husband and father of two children.  An amazingly strong, articulate and humorous person, he has devoted these years to not only documenting his experiences, but also speaking openly and honestly about it and about facing death.  He writes profound poetry and prose, sometimes ethereal and sometimes brutally real describing the suffering, pain and emotion he feels.  He provides much help and support for other patients.  Regularly organizes large events to entertain hospitalized patients bringing treats and hilarious costumed friends.  He has participated in various runs and athletic competitions, even right after chemo treatments.  He is a much sought after public speaker.  He recently told us new tumors had formed and were not responding to treatment. There is little chance he will survive this episode more than a few months, and he and his family are preparing.

I thought about my friend while I was sick and wondered how it would be to suffer like that day in and day out for the majority of the time over a period of years.  It puts my own little cold and fever in perspective.  I tried not to whine.  Not even to myself.  And when I felt that great relief after the fever broke, I again remembered my friend, and thousands of others, who never get that relief.  They learn to live with suffering. 

I am lucky, I know.  And grateful.  And I'm glad to be feeling much, much better.

Monday, September 15, 2014


At Bear River Bird Refuge.  Not a terribly birdy day at the refuge on Sunday. Saw pelicans, cormorants, coots, grebes (Western and Clark's), terns, gulls, Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons (a couple standing on the roadway), avocets, stilts, other shorebirds I can't name, hawks, but no ducks. Most of the birds were too far out to photograph, although I got a few good shots. The refuge was still and serene and I'm reminded that blam-blam season is not far off. Feeling under the weather with a cold coming on, I probably should have stayed home. But it was still nice to see a few birds out there.

I had planned to work in the yard, of course, with two or three tasks I wanted to accomplish, but I just felt so unmotivated.  And I asked myself why I am always driving myself so hard and forgetting to take a break for some fun now and then.  Well, that sounds a little more pathetic than it should.  After all, I had a family dinner party on Friday at my house.  I had my monthly movie club and luncheon on Saturday.  So, Sunday should certainly have been a back-to-the-yard day.  But honestly, the sore throat and developing head cold discouraged me and I felt more like driving than digging in the dirt. 

And good thing, too.  As it turned out, I developed a full-blown cold like I haven't had in a couple of years. The self-indulgence continued into today.  I still needed to get the kids off to school as usual.  But when I arrived back home at 9, I immediately had a nap and then watched a movie with a late breakfast.  Well, why not?  I can't remember when I last was able to really rest and take care of myself when under the weather.  Now this is a real advantage of retirement!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Fall Planting

What is more predictable than me buying more flowers and sticking them in the ground.  I have found the most wonderful nursery in Salt Lake that sells only perennials and only those that are proven to be drought-tolerant and hardy for our area.  On top of that, the prices are much less than nurseries closer to home, and the plants are so healthy.  It is located quite far west of the city actually, but is an easy drive by freeway about 20 minutes each way.  Well worth going out of your way for such bargains and beauty.  I got a little crazy yesterday and bought 31 plants.  So now I must get to planting.  Plus, I have a number of things I want to transplant -- something is too tall here or too short there, or not thriving in this heat or shade, or encroaching on other plants, that sort of thing.  This is not a one day project.  I have to pace myself.  If I work too hard, I'm crippled up the next day with pain.  Slow and steady.  It may take me all week to get the planting done, but I'm excited to start.  Just as soon as this little rain flurry passes over.

31 pots ready for planting.
My late summer yard this year.

And a little popup rainstorm this morning with a surprise rainbow and hint of a double rainbow, accompanied by thunder and lightning which is serving to keep me indoors for awhile until it passes.  And giving me a moment to blog.

This will soon pass.  Showers are predicted off and on today.  It will keep temperatures comfortable and will force me to come inside and rest periodically.  A very lovely day, really.