June 26, 2017

A Garden After All

In which I get a garden planted, with the help of my children and a friendly neighbor girl.

* * * * *
All of that lovely space out there.
Going to waste.
I really just couldn't help myself.
[Signs that you are an obsessive gardener? Check.]

Luckily for me, my oldest son enjoys rototilling.
Also, a very kind 14-year-old came and helped with staking the beds, spreading compost, and planting. My two youngest kids, especially my daughter, helped plant as well.

Although there was space for long rows, I opted to make beds this time around.
So they are 4' wide by 11' long, with roughly 2.5' wide walkways between them.
I've got 8 of them.

Here's what we put in:

Bed 1
 5 tomato plants:
2 Better Bush, 1 Big Beef, 1 Roma (I think), and 1 SunSugar.

4 pepper plants, all bell peppers, but I don't remember varieties.

A handful of struggling marigolds.

Bed 2
2 cantaloupe and 1 'Sugar Baby' watermelon.
The cantaloupe leaves on the left are getting eaten by something already, but I haven't figured out what. Melons are a long shot, particularly getting them in so late, but we'll see how it goes.

Bed 3

Mostly onions, with 2 hills of Spacemaster Bush Cucumbers on the far end.

Bed 4

2 straight-neck yellow squash, plus 6 'Beauregard' sweet potatoes.
Another experiment on the sweet potatoes.
There were only so many vegetable starts available at the store.

Bed 5

Yes, it is a picture of dirt.
Lots of beans!
Yellow Wax, Royal Burgundy (purple), and Blue Lake Bush.
4 short rows of carrots on the far end.

Bed 6

 3 hills of cucumbers, plus 1 hill of mini pumpkins on the far end.

No pictures for the next two, as they are also just dirt still.

Bed 7: half and half, carrots and sunflowers

Bed 8: 3 different varieties of zinnias!

I am anxiously awaiting my seeds to sprout.
We are on day 7 now, where most are supposed to come up within 7-10 days.
There is still about 2/3 of the garden space unused.
Next year I will fill it up.

I still want to get some small-bark mulch to mark out the pathways.
If I decide to change my layout next year, the bark would till right in.
I also need a few more stakes for marking out the corners of the last few beds.
I know I am a little bit on the crazy side, doing this right before baby comes.
Hey, though. Now that it's planted, it's just a matter of keeping it watered for awhile, right?
At least until weeds rear their ugly heads.
Then it will be time for kids to help again!

June 23, 2017

We Made It! First Look at Our New Yard

Here we are in Utah!
We are slowly getting settled and figuring out how to keep the ideal temperature with a swamp cooler rather than central A/C. It has been hot most of the days since we've arrived, though we did have a pouring thunderstorm one day that was quite lovely.
I am going through lotion like you wouldn't believe!
A neighbor told me we're in the dry season now, which will probably last until August.

The brown house.
Yes, that is what we call it.

Well friends, I'm going to need more flowers.
I'm glad I took lots of pictures of all my flowerbeds back in Washington.
At least I will have something pretty to look at this summer.
I've got my work cut out for me here, that's for sure!

The lonely little tree in front there is an 'Autumn Blaze' maple.
Most of the leaves are dead, but there are still a few green leaves hanging on.
I've started to water it since we got here. I hope it makes it!

Front Yard:

I'm envisioning wide flowerbeds running along either side of this path.

Existing flowerbeds near the porch (above and below.)

I'm planning to pull these out to at least twice the current width.
The cement edging is made from large blocks, rather than poured in place, so with some muscle power, that will be moveable as well.
We're going to need a sod cutter.

Speaking of sod, the lawn--as you can see--is pretty much dead and crispy.
This weed patch is from where a different tree was taken out a few years ago.
There is a sprinkler system, which has obviously not been turned on.
We have not turned it on yet either, because I am still learning the ins and outs of secondary water (possible post on that to come), which apparently is a big deal here in the desert.

A glimmer of hope: I've got an actual full-grown lilac bush! Huzzah!
This is in the somewhat awkward grassy space between the driveway proper and a gravel second driveway, which goes around to the back of the house.

Across the driveway from the lilac bush there's this planting area.
My birdbath is finally on flat ground!
 Also, the kids have really enjoyed having a flat driveway to ride bikes and scooters on.
Notice how the road is flat, too.
I may figure out this bike thing yet! (Post-baby, that is.)

Then a similar planting area over here in this corner.
I haven't figured out what this purple-leaved bush is yet.
It might have been a tree at one point--the main branch was cut off.
Is it an ornamental plum? I should know, but I don't.
Amidst the weeds, there are a few Asiatic daylilies in this picture with buds on them.

Side Yards:

A rose bed.
Watering has commenced here, as well.
I doubt these roses are going to stay here--they will probably be spread out in the other beds at some point. This bed needs a tall bush or a small tree to anchor it, then I will fill in around that with flowers. Perhaps a flowering dogwood tree or a crabapple.

Meanwhile, despite their neglect, the roses have provided me the only blooms on the property so far!
This peachy one bloomed the other day.
Since then, I've had 2 yellow blooms and one orange.

A full-grown apple tree, with apples on it.
I have not watered this one yet, but I will.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the house...

Another narrow, empty flowerbed, dead grass, and a chain link fence.
Don't know yet on this side.
Maybe some trees or bushes along the left side?

Moving around to the back of the house now.

Back Yard, Close to House:

A covered back deck, fabulous dining room (those big windows) and a lot more dead grass.

This corner intrigues me.
When we first looked at the home, my husband talked about bumping it out to meet up with the back wall of the dining room there on the left--giving us quite a bit more living room space.
Since then, though, I think he's changed his mind.
So now that it may be in my domain, I'm thinking of making the whole space into a flowerbed (of course), perhaps with a climbing rose or clematis to go up that wall.

Turning around from that corner, is this planting area.

 Those are weeds, not anything I've planted in there.
Maybe a strawberry patch?
It is right next to the garden.

We've got some more itty-bitty beds right along the base of the deck (above and below).

This little planting area, with another unidentified bush, along with weeds.
I think this one needs to be expanded or taken out completely.

Behind it you can see the large gravel area stretching to the fence.
We are talking about making the gravel area into a play court for the kids, which would involve pouring concrete. Another option would be just expanding the grass.

Here's the far side of the [dead] grassy area, looking toward the house.
A full grown aspen tree there on the left.

Back Yard:
Garden, Orchard, Gravel, and Pasture

Fire pit (which will probably be moved)
Woodshed, on the left, and garden shed on the right.
My husband has big plans for this area.
He wants to build a combination shed/workshop here, and probably tear down the existing sheds, or at least move them. The kids want another clubhouse, so we may leave up one for them.
I am thinking about where a greenhouse and compost pile might fit in. :)

Garden spot, looking toward orchard.
Space, glorious space!
Our property stops at the green field you can see back there.
I want to put in grapes, raspberries, veggies, and rows of flowers.
You'd better believe it!

A little closer look at the mini orchard.
Here's what's in there (the previous owner left me the tree tags, but at the moment I couldn't tell you which is which):

Combination Cherry (semi-dwarf), which could include Bing, Sweetheart, Rainier, Lapins and Benton.
Rainier Cherry (Mazzard): 20-30' tall and wide, zone 5

Hardy Combination Apple (semi-dwarf), which could include Honeycrisp, Red Cortland, McIntosh, Golden Delicous, Snowsweet, and Zestar.
Honeycrisp Apple (semi-dwarf)

Cold Hardy Peach
(Large freestone. 18'x15', zone 4) 

Black Ice Plum (Japanese)
(10' x 8', Harvest Aug. Zone 4.)

American Filbert x 2
(6-8' tall and wide, zone 5)

There are 2 dead trees out there. I think one may be a cherry (but which of the cherries?) and the other I believe is one of the nut trees, assuming they were planted across from each other.
They need weeding right around the trees themselves, badly need watering, and at least 2 of the trees are so bent over that I'm worried staking may be useless at this point.
Also, if there's just the one plum tree, I'll have to get another, because they need  at least 2 for cross-pollinating purposes. Peaches are self-pollinating, so that should be okay.

I haven't noticed fruit on any of them, but perhaps I didn't look closely enough.
There is space at the end, as well.
I may add 2 more of either apricot or pear.
Also, a pie cherry somewhere in there.

 The pasture.
We are thinking of just extending the lawn all through this area.
It would be a ton of mowing (and watering), but since we don't have any animals, it would make it more useable, I think. Also, it would give my husband an excuse to buy a riding mower. :)
Although, I do want chickens.
So grass, minus space for a chicken coop.
I would love to plant an oak tree back here, as well. Plenty of room to spread.
 * * * * *
A lot of good potential.
A lot of potential projects!
One step at a time.
Seriously, though. I need more flowers, STAT!!

p.s. If you made it all the way through this extra-long post, you deserve a prize!
A gallon of water and some high-quality lotion for you!

June 20, 2017

New Baby in the House: 12 Picture Books to Share

I'm sure you can guess why I chose this theme for my booklist this month! We are getting ever closer to meeting our baby girl and we can hardly wait! Now that the move is behind us, she can come anytime. Since my babies have never come early, though, I am not expecting it to be any earlier than my scheduled C-section at the end of this month.

Most of these books are geared toward older siblings, to help ease the transition to a new baby. A few of them simply celebrate babies in general. I hope you can find some that fit your family's needs!

Arthur's Baby, by Marc Brown

When Mother and Father make a surprise announcement--that a new baby will be coming in about 6 months--D.W. is thrilled and Arthur is uncertain. His friends have all kinds of advice and warnings for him. When Baby Kate makes her appearance, it takes Arthur a little while to warm up to her, but then he discovers she's okay.

* * * * *
Many picture book series have similar titles, for everything from new baby like this one, to starting school, losing a tooth, moving, etc. For kids already familiar with the characters, it adds a layer of reassurance--like listening in on the way some good friends handle the issues they might be facing. That is, as long as you as the parent are okay with how the characters handle it!

I appreciated how this one showed 2 different perspectives--with both D.W.'s and Arthur's reactions to their new baby sister. I also liked that neither one was openly antagonistic or said mean things. D.W. was very positive, if a little bossy and over-enthusiastic, while Arthur was more just hesitant. This one gets my stamp of approval!

A Baby for Grace, by Ian Whybrow
Illustrated by Christian Birmingham

Grace wants to be big and help, but everyone correcting her and telling her "No." When her new baby brother comes home, it gets even worse. After her attempt to cut some flowers for the baby (with the super sharp shears) is curtailed, all of her hurt feelings come out. Finally, Dad gives her the little bit of help and attention she needs for her good intentions to finally get her the praise she so desires.

* * * * *
Poor little Grace! At least it ends on a reassuring note. This book made me think about my own parenting and how often I say "no" to my kids. A good reminder for the grownups reading the story that older siblings will need a little extra attention and patience when baby comes home.

The illustrations were all done in softened--almost blurred--lines. I can't tell what medium was used, but it adds a welcome gentleness to the story. The adults are not harsh or snapping at her, just giving her lots of guidance.

Hello Baby! by Mem Fox
Illustrated by Steve Jenkins

The book starts out with, "Hello, baby!...Who are you?" then shows all sorts of animal babies, one per page. At the end, we find out who the most treasured baby really is.

* * * * *
With Steve Jenkins' signature cut-paper illustrations and one short sentence per page, this one will probably be a hit with the younger crowd. As a read-aloud, expect your kids to answer on every page!

How to Rock Your Baby, by Sibley Fleming
Illustrated by John Amoss

New baby comes with an instruction book for diapering and feeding and even burping, but when it comes to rocking all it says it, "Now rock the baby to sleep." The father and the mother come up with lots of ideas for rocking the baby, including a ride in the car and a cricket lullaby, but nothing works! In the end, the mother decides to just do it herself and the baby drifts off to sleep.

* * * * *
Illustrations in sleepy blues, purples, and greens, are just right for this whimsical story. Older siblings may enjoy knowing more than the mother and father on this one!

Little Rabbit's New Baby, by Harry Horse

Little Rabbit is determined to help the new babies (triplets) eat and play, but they don't know how to do anything! Then he gets in trouble for making a mess and making them cry. All Mama and Papa think about anymore are those babies. So then he gets cranky and possessive--which of course doesn't help either. However, when the babies simply won't go to sleep no matter what the grownups try, it's Little Rabbit who saves the day.

* * * * *
Charming illustrations done in pen and ink and watercolor make life in the burrow seem to be a cozy place, just right for raising little bunnies.

Lola Reads to Leo, by Anna McQuinn
Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw

Lola loves to read stories with her Mommy. When her new little brother comes along, she finds just the right story to read to him in every situation. She's a great helper. By the end of the day, it's Lola's turn for a story!

* * * * *
I really liked that Lola accepted and was kind to her baby brother from the very beginning. Many of the books in the genre are geared for older siblings who are having a hard time with the new arrival. It's nice to come across one that does not have that as its basic premise.

Also, how can I not like one all about a big sister reading to little brother? :) This book is 3rd in a series about the book-loving Lola. If you're looking for a book with a bit of diversity, the family shown is African American.

Love Song for a Baby, by Marion Dane Bauer
Illustrated by Dan Andreasen

All about the wonder of a new baby, as told to a young child, with the repeated refrain, "...we loved you."

* * * * *
This is a sweet little book. Each 2-page spread includes one stanza of the song or poem, plus a full-page illustration on the facing page. May prove to be reassuring to an child about to become an older sibling for the first time, or just to let a little one know how much they have always been loved. Plus, if your little one loves pictures of babies, they'll be in heaven with the illustrations!

On the Night You Were Born, by Nancy Tillman

On the night you were born, all of nature rejoiced because of how special you are.

* * * * *
Short text on each page, paired with a full-page illustration conveys the sweet message that each baby is precious and unique.

Ruby's Baby Brother, by Kathryn White
Illustrated by Miriam Latimer

At first, Ruby is worried and scared when her new baby brother Leon comes home, but once she holds him she knows everything will be all right. In fact, she immediately begins to come up with all sorts of games for them to play together.

* * * * *
Ruby's imagination sparkles in this addition to the genre. She imagines changing baby brother into a bat at first, then thinks maybe he is an elf that will change her into a mouse. Once she realizes he will be a friend, she imagines up all sorts of fun scenarios for the two of them.

This is the Day! Adapted by Phillis Gershator
Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

Each day of the week is a day to give babies away to happy mothers. Some want one, two, or three. One even thinks "seven is heaven!"

* * * * *
According to the author's note at this end, the idea for this book was a popular song from the 1960's. That makes sense. It's a short read, with a catchy rhythm to it. Priceman's illustrations add a loose, flowing quality to it. Don't think too hard about the reality of adopting that many babies all at once, and it's all good! My 5-year-old enjoyed it.

What Do We Do with the Baby? by Rick Walton
Illustrations by Paige Miglio

Starting off with, "What do we do with the bunny? What do we do with the baby?" we go through moving with the baby (and bunny), feeding them, cleaning them up, and so on.

* * * * *
Illustrations show a charming family of rabbits taking care of their baby bunny, as the text first asks a question about taking care of a baby, then answers it, all in a rhythmic refrain. A gentle introduction to having a baby around, with no sibling rivalry to speak of.

Where Did That Baby Come From? by Deb Gliori

A tiger wonders where the new baby could possibly be from: the sky? A seed? The store? Or perhaps the zoo? Can we please set it free?

* * * * *
Written in rhyme, with a stanza per page. This older sibling is not impressed with the baby--it leaks, it's messy, etc., and wants it to go back wherever it came from. At least, until the baby cries; then a protective streak is awakened in bigger sibling, who gets baby to laugh.

The illustrations have a smaller picture inset showing what's happening that has prompted that page's musings, with imagined origins of the baby filling up the entire facing page.

* * * * *
Do you have a favorite book about babies? Tell me, please!

June 12, 2017

West Corner of the Backyard: Then & Now

Last but not least, let's talk about the far corner of the backyard.
When we moved in, there was a basketball hoop set in concrete on the slope, along with a rickety set of monkey bars along the fence.
What was missing was a garden shed.
As it was, all gardening implements had to be stored in the garage, which if you might recall, was down quite a steep hill from the backyard.
Pretty quickly, we decided that there had to be a shed in the backyard for functionality.

This was from 2011--so, the next summer after we moved in.
Already getting started on the shed.

Shed-raising! You can see the monkey bars there on the right.


The shed was awesome!
There's a loft that the kids used for a clubhouse, and plenty of space down below to store all the lawn and gardening stuff, including lawnmower, hoses, tools, etc.
Awhile back I wrote a whole post about the joys of the porch swing.
The flowerbed in front of the shed was the newest addition.

As for this section, we took down the unstable monkey bar set one of the first years.
Then, a few years later, we moved the raspberries over to the fence-line, into their own space.
The nice little wall enclosing the raspberry bed was put in just a few years ago.
Since we moved the berries from the back flowerbed, spread them out, and actually you know--watered them and stuff--our harvest has gone up every year.

* * * * *
Yes, I am going to miss this yard!
It was good for me to do this series and remember that it has taken several years to get to this point. For a long time we had dead weeds and dirt in the back, due to all the heavy equipment coming in and out. Planting areas and seating areas have gradually expanded as well. The actual lawn was one of the last things to go in.
I hope the next one doesn't take as long to become enjoyable. :)

* * * * *
Want to see the rest of our landscaping projects?
You can find the other posts in this series here:

June 9, 2017

Back Flowerbed & Deck: Then & Now

Reclaiming half of the slope as a vegetable garden wasn't the only change we made to the backyard.
(Ha! Are you kidding me?)

There was a flowerbed, of sorts, next to the house, along with a deck.


In need of some serious TLC.
That tree was one of the first things to come out.
It was wasp central, it was way too close to the house, it blocked the water spigot and hose reel, and I just didn't like how it looked.

Crispy irises.

Hey! A raspberry patch!
Growing out of control, blocking the fence, and producing tiny seedy berries due to lack of water, but it was something, anyway. Another project, among other things.

Other than general cleanup of this flowerbed, I knew I wanted to add some height and variety to it.
I love irises, but by mid-June they're pretty much done blooming. Then all you have are a bunch of green leaves all the same height.
This bed was definitely a progression over several years.
There's not anything left in it from the original. Everything has been pulled out completely or moved elsewhere. The irises live on out front and in the East-side terrace, and the raspberries have a dedicated patch of their own these days.


Perhaps it's not fair to compare the lushness of spring with August, so here's a couple of pictures from last fall, for a little perspective:

August 2016

September 2016

I think there's still more to do with this bed, but that's Not My Problem anymore, is it?
Also, please note the air conditioning unit in the NOW pictures.
We installed that after the first year, because we are wimps.
No regrets.

* * * * *

The back deck was another project on the list.


This was from March 2013.
I didn't get a picture of the deck when we first moved in, but this was the original.
There used to be a maple tree on the right-hand side, which came down fairly early on, as it was literally 2 feet from house, taking off shingles.
It's funny how I can date this picture mentally based on what has been done and what hasn't.
Post-lawn grading, pre-grass/sprinklers, with more wall to build (blocks in front).

Anyway, this deck was just too small to really be used.
With the big sliding glass doors there, it was all walkway.
Once we fixed the steep side slope problem, it just made sense to extend it all the way to the corner of the house. Also, my husband wasn't about to stain those boards every year either, and you can see how badly they needed it.


October 2015

Just because I'm really proud of it, one more picture:

Yes, my husband built that!

There's space to sit, space for a grill, and even a railing so the wind didn't blow things off the far side.
We used this deck just about every day in the warmer months.
For awhile, the kids really got into riding their scooters on it.
The best part? It was all Trex decking, so no maintenance required!

* * * * *

Are you having as much fun with this as I am?
Here are the earlier posts in the series, in case you missed them: