Updates

I have a gazillion things to do, but being the structured procrastinator that I am, I thought I’d use a blog post to help me organize my thoughts and photos.  Or continue to put off what I really need to be doing…
First up, the chickens.

They are almost full size hens.

Ozzy has gotten even more bizarre looking.

Although she is beautiful, isn’t she?
We love our funky chicken.

Butters may very well be a he. 
But he’s well mannered and as long as he stays that way, he is welcome in the coop.
The first time he gets mean to anyone, he’s chicken pot pie.  I’ve explained this to him/her and I think he/she gets it.

Harriet and Cuddles.  Cuddles is still the fluffiest chicken around. 
Brian named Harriet in honor of the old show ‘Ozzie and Harriet’, trying to balance out the fact that we named a chicken after a bat-eating heavy metal rock star.  At least someone around here has family values.
Remember last spring when I was all about ripping up the back yard by hand and I was on a mission to find a metal table and chairs for back there?

Well, I found one.  When Edie’s bff and family moved to Guatemala,  I offered to save them the trouble of shipping their table and chairs by letting them store it in my back yard.  We plan on painting it at some point, but in the meantime, it’s getting alot of good use.
And the butterfly bush that I thought I killed not only made a come back, but it bloomed this year!  A small one and only one, but it’s a bloom. 

The patchouli plant has taken off too. 
I’ve been playing around with a nice camera these days and I just happened to snap this as I was wandering around the back yard.  I sort of like how it turned out.

All that time spent digging weeds up by hand, we still have lots of weeds back there.  Sigh.  Every time I think I make headway, it rains and things grow back.  Still, it’s getting there.  I do like the lush, overgrown look.

Although this zebra grass by the side of the road needs to go.  I seriously thinned it this spring and look at it.  Anyone want some zebra grass?  I’m hacking it back to a tiny amount and I hate to throw out living plants, but I have no other place for it.  Drop me a line if you want some ornamental grasses.

Another view of my new table and chairs.  Don’t they look sweet back there?  What color should we paint them?  Definitely something to hide the gunk that seems to collect on outdoor furniture.  Chocolate brown?  I know white is classic and I’d love, LOVE to paint them white, but they will show so much dirt and I’ll have to repaint them every year and I’m way too lazy for that.
The weather has finally cooled down, the humidity has gone away and after I tackle this deadline this week, I’ve got some house reorganization plans I’m a little excited about.  It’s never a dull moment here.

Although, I do wonder how many more moments like this we have left – where she drags her kitchen set and babydolls outside for a picnic while Pat paints the boat.  She yelled at me for taking pictures “WHY DO YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO TAKE PICTURES?” but someday, she’s going to look back and be happy I did.
At least I hope she is.

Scenes from the week.

 It’s been a busy week around here.  Here’s some of the highlights.
Playing around with the settings on my camera, I finally figured out the b&w one.  
The Planting Seeds Festival

held at the Buford Garden, had a fantastic turnout and was a success

despite the fact that Mother Nature didn’t fully cooperate.

The whole shebang was moved into the cafeteria at Buford when the skies opened up and the children took over the face painting stand. 
Face painting became full body painting.
Apparently this is what a gang of girls will do when left with a stand full of face paint.
When the headliner, Dar Williams, took the stage
there was dancing and sing-a-longs.  A good time was had by all.

Anniversary dinner of shrimp and grits.

This bug paced the top of my monitor literally all day Wednesday, back and forth, for hours. 
Please ignore the dust.  He did.
My Mother’s Day gift to myself.
A variegated leaf geranium. 
There’s practically a rainbow on every leaf!
My winning streak lately has not been limited to just new fly rods
I won a seed giveaway thanks to the Eco Women.
That’s a cosmos popping up from seed.
I also won some apron patterns from Lesa , but I’ve used my rainy days to clean around here, instead of sewing, despite what that picture of the top of my monitor tells you.  Sewing when your hands are covered in poison ivy is not ideal anyway. Neither is cleaning really.
While I was at the nursery, I spied a tag for Becky Mix. 
Of course it came home with me.  They are now planted in the back yard.

Near my new patchouli plant.
Who knew it was a plant?
It has a much softer scent than what you  remember.  There’s no second note of uhm, well, you know.
I was listening to the Dead as I ran errands that day and as I’d already bought and planted my scarlet begonias for the year, I thought why not?

One of the roots of that pesky muscadine vine I’ve been digging up from all over the back yard. 
It’s huge.  I need to take an ax to it.  It’s the size of my foot, maybe bigger and
I wear women’s size 10 shoes.   
I may have underestimated it’s ability to not die.  It’s the energizer bunny of invasive plants.
I threw the hibiscus in a spot of dirt a few weeks ago and despite the neglect, it’s thriving.
I guess it’s earned a weeding and mulching session, hasn’t it?
Just as soon as I dust off that computer monitor and finish hacking away at that muscadine root.
I finally found myself some new canvas gardening gloves so I am going to try to stop ripping roots out of the ground with my bare hands.  Wish me luck.

Patience pays off.

The butterfly bush is showing signs of life. 

I hacked it back and left it alone for a bit.  I looked at it the other day and saw little green nubs.  They are small, but they are there.

I have not completely killed it yet.  Yay!

Meanwhile, the fig has new growth too.  Happy, Happy fig.

The front shady bed is all abloom as well. 
From left to right, wild geraniums, may apples, trillium and lillies of the valley.
Lillies of the valley are the best smelling flower ever.  Not only were they in my bouquet when we got married, I wore a crown made of them and hellebore.  (Perhaps why both are in my garden today?).  The entire front yard has such a nice smell right now, especially the front porch, adjacent to that bed.  That bed has taken years to fill in. There really was not a coherent plan to it, we just kept dumping shade loving plants and I kept hoping the lillies would fill in, which they finally did, after I don’t know how many years. 
Gardening takes such patience
I think patience is one of those over-rated virtues.  I don’t have patience, but gardening requires it.
I think gardening is in cahoots with motherhood to make me a better person.

The latest of the pink trees on the corner is blooming. 
It’s a horse chestnut buckeye tree Pat planted a few years back to replace a rather large, dead evergreen tree.  It’s not quite big enough to be as glorious as the magnolia or the dogwood, but it will get there.
Again, patience.

And it’s pink.  How much do I love that he willingly picked another pink tree for the corner?
These blooms have a touch of yellow.  They are quite lovely.  I’m sure I will be spending more time standing at that tree in the next few days, staring at it, trying to capture just the right shot of those blooms.

The oakleaf hydrangeas are showing buds too.  We have two of them, both planted two summers ago and this is the first bloom for both. 
This one was literally a stem and two tiny leaves when I plopped it in the dirt.  Nothing like a little compost, love and patience to make a plant grow.

My rose bush has buds on it as well. 
That plant was a house warming gift, 13 years ago.  It has gotten moved more than anything else in my garden.  Other people rearrange their furniture, I rearrange my yard.  I put the rose bush in the ground, the trees near it grow bigger, it stops doing anything, I move it.  Repeat.  The last move, two years ago, I put it in a location where we do not intend to plant any more trees, it is a dedicated sunny spot.  And finally, two years later, the rose bush has realized I mean it and has a few buds.  I’m so excited.  The flowers from this plant are incredibly fragrant.  It’s just outside the living room window, so I’m hoping it makes the house smell sweet.

We have a neighborhood fox.  It had some sort of altercation with a cat in our back yard the other night at 3:45 am and howled for a good half hour after that.  It woke up every dog in the neighborhood who then all had to bark. So much for sleep that night.  Yesterday, I turned around and out of the corner of my eye, saw out the back door, the fox, hanging out in the back yard by one of the canoes.  It’s big.  I later happened to notice there was fresh scat (what those naturalist types call animal poop) right there in the middle of our front entrance.  After a family viewing and discussion, Pat, who knows about these things, said that yes, it was most likely that of a fox. I do have some close ups of it, but really, do you want to see up close shots of fresh fox poop?  Clearly this creature is circling our house and making itself at home. Suddenly, I’m a little worried about the arrival of the chickens.  Does the fox know we are getting chickens and is making himself(herself) comfortable in our yards in anticipation?  I guess we’ll have to wait and see, won’t we?
It’s really all about being patient.

Progress made.

I have no idea what that plant is, but it was all over my backyard.  And I spent the better part of my weekend digging it out by hand.
 I also ripped out oodles of muscadine plants that were popping up all over the place.  Pat had chopped the original plant down, painted the stump with plant killer and still, that stuff just refused to die.  It’s like the terminator of vines.  In order to get all the plants sitting in various containers around my house into the ground,  I had to clear spots for beds. As I ripped out vines by the root, next thing I knew, I had cleared most of the back yard.  That overflowing galvanized tin is probably a third of what I dug up.
After digging up so many weeds that I couldn’t stop seeing them as I drifted off to sleep, I got the fig in the ground, finally, after all these years.  It looks insanely happy.  All the plants sitting on my kitchen counter, save one, made it into the ground this weekend and that one, a basil plant, is sitting on the back porch as I contemplate putting a tomato in to keep it company.  I know it’s early, but what if I just plop a big Early Girl in somewhere?  Tomatoes in June are a tempting idea. 
Edie’s tiki hut got some landscaping – I moved some very delicate looking wild geraniums to one side and put some Virginia Bluebells on the other.  I am considering moving some ferns and hostas in around it as well.  I have this thin bed by the road along the very back edge of the property that gets sun that I call the ‘by the side of the road garden’.  Every sun-loving non-vegetable plant that is given to me by a friend goes there to live.  There is very little rhyme or reason to that garden, but this weekend with things just popping up, I was able to rip some stuff out (bee balm, which if you want some, come and get it), rearrange things (purple and yellow cone flowers & daisies, also available if you so desire) and otherwise just get a handle on that bed. 
 I wished I had remembered earlier in the weekend where my good gardening gloves were (in the pocket of the overalls I wore to work in last weekend, in the laundry), and also that I had worn them once I did find them, as my hands are shredded.  Pat pointed out that perhaps I just need to invest some newer, nicer ones.  He might have a point.  I’m also investing in band aids and all manner of heavy duty hand salves in the meantime.
We got so much of the back yard ripped out that we are at the point of being able to plant not just little island beds, but ground cover, in big wide chunks. Pat wants clover in lieu of grass, so that it requires little mowing and maintenance. I’m totally on board with that. I also have been envisioning some furniture groupings back there and spent some time driving around the county to all my favorite junk shops in search of metal outdoor furniture. No luck, so if you hear of something, let me know.  I’m thinking a little table & chairs between those hollies would be nice.  By the ferns.  Or a bench there and the table just under a tree outside of that shot. 
About the butterfly bush – I realized that I should have cut the butterfly bush back before I moved it. I also realized I overwatered AND overfertilized it. The only downside of this happening is that it’s not likely to bloom this year, which is good, as that means I didn’t kill it. Yet.
The weather was just insanely beautiful this weekend, we were wide open for the first and last time in quite a while, it was good to get so much done.  I was actually too tired to drink a glass of wine several evenings in a row.  Pat & Brian made some progress on the chicken coop and we set a deadline by which we will have chicks ordered.  Brian wants to see if we can’t find someone to split an assortment from Murray McMurray – either Rainbow or Ornamental Layers.  We’ve put word out about that, but haven’t found anyone yet that I know of. So, if you or someone you know is looking for some chickens this spring, let’s chat.

Long Term Reality

Can we talk about my back yard?
That’s the current state of it, as seen from the back edge of the property. Well, overlooking the back edge, which is the creek that runs though all the back yards on this side of the street and is then diverted into a pipe under the road.
I don’t have any pictures of what the yard looked like when we bought the house 13 years ago June. 
It was, for lack of a better word, overgrown.  My nephew, who was a wee one at the time, called it ‘a jungle’.  For about 10 years or so before we bought the house, it was a rental.  The interior was maintained, the yard not so much.  Before that, a woman lived here who was apparently quite the gardener who had a fondness for pink, but the last few years she lived in the house, her health was declining and her yard suffered.  What we’ve figured out from neighbors is that the yard, specifically the back yard, was ignored and just left to run wild for oh, a good 15 years or so.   
That’s the view standing at the back of the house. 
We have a large lot – .33 of an acre. Our first priority when we bought the house was to get rid the ivy growing up the sides onto the roof and then cut down the trees growing into the house. The back yard could wait.
13 years ago, we started by taking a lawnmower and a weed wacker to cut a path through the jungle. We laid down newspaper, covered it in mulch and over time, grass grew and it became a path.  When Pat mowed the yard, he’d cut in closer to the jungle every time, so that every year, we claimed a few more inches. We’d walk through, dig up big stuff, cut down smaller trees we didn’t want, pull weeds.  For years, I had a constant patch of poison ivy somewhere on my body between March and November.  There were times it would become a full blown nasty case that required steroids.  Pat spent a lot of time pulling all the poison ivy out by hand (He’s not nearly as allergic as I am.  Also, he knows what it looks like.  Me?  Ha!)
When the sandbox got installed and the tiki hut built, he cleared those areas to be used, but by and large, big parts of the back yard were left untouched.  For a few years, he mowed it all down early, we covered the yard in straw and if anyone asked what the plan was, he’d refer them to me and I, him.  “Oh, Pat’s got something going on down there, you’ll have to ask him.”  It actually did help us get a handle on what was going on back there.

I did some small landscaping around the tiki hut, per Edie’s request, by moving some wild geraniums back there.  I have some more I will move back there.  Another work in progress.
During the microbusts a few summers ago, we lost some big limbs as well as some smaller trees back there on the side that had been previously still jungle.  I started noticing that maybe there was a new sunny spot to plant sunloving plants.  We only have so much sun in our yard and most of that is dedicated to tomatoes and basil.  Any sunloving flowers I have are in a thin strip ‘down by the side of the road’, along the edge of the back yard.  They are running out of room.  I have a lilac and butterfly bush that really could use some space to spread out. 
I have a fig that has lived in a bucket since before we had Edie because we can’t decide where we want to plant it.  We want to give it space to spread out and with sunny real estate at a premium around here, we just haven’t been able to agree to a spot.
The other day it dawned on me that we could start moving into the space of the back yard that had yet to be fully tamed.  We could actually start making inroads to the master plan of what we eventually want the back yard to be.  This was pretty revolutionary. 
Pat and I walked around there the other day, pulling up the first signs of weed life, and put out markers for what is going to go where.  I’m excited to have new holes to dig and super excited to finally feel like we have a plan and a vision to move forward with the back yard.  It has taken us 13 years to get to this part.
It was that or start terracing the hill next to the house into the most macdaddy vegetable garden in the city.  It’s a steep slope, it’s going to take retaining walls and alot of work.  Every winter I consider it, every spring I stand out there and think about it…..and bag it.
This year though, the back yard is finally happening. 
Stay tuned for updates.