Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Light Dusting of Snow

By now, I'm sure you've all heard about Austin's excitement over a wee bit of snow on Tuesday. I was completely jaded and didn't believe any of the weathercasters that the snow would actually materialize.

And then, lo and behold, snowflakes the size of Texas fluttered down. I had to get out the camera, not just to document the snow but to take advantage of how the light dusting of snow would cover my garden's bare spots and make all the remaining plants seem that much more beautiful.See how that works? You almost don't even notice the big hole in the lower left where I planted an American beautyberry. It became the 15th or so victim of that particularly deadly spot. I think it's finally time to take Annie in Austin's advice and stick a pretty pot there.Here again see how the fluffy white stuff around the iriess distract the eye from the dead Turk's cap and presumably dead crinums to the right? (Yes, MSS, those are the crinums you gave me. They looked great for a while but the January freeze hit them hard.)These snowcapped wine bottles created a Mount Tempranillo, hiding the weeds hiding behind them. (If you look carefully, there are also a ton of poppy and larkspur seedlings. I didn't kill everything MSS of Zanthan Gardens gave me.)Here the snow distracts you from noticing that I accidentally took a picture of my dog relieving herself, or maybe the snow just distracted me.

In some areas of the yard, I think only a thick blanket of snow could beautify them, although there is something majestic about these tools accidentally left out in the snow. OK, just me?

Now here's where we'd need a snowicane or snowmageddeon to make things beautiful:But what is beautiful is that my husband has promised me that this remodeling debris will be heading to the dump this weekend.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Behold: Another Thing of Beauty

This thing of beauty requires you to see the beauty of the negative space, of what isn't there instead of what is. Those of you familiar with the story of the Beast might have an easier time with this exercise.

On a miraculous day last November, the handyman for the rental house next door knocked on our door. He didn't introduce himself; at the time I didn't who he was. He muttered his only words: "Do you want me to cut down the hedge?"

I responded, "Um, yes. How much?"

He said, "$100."

I was going to jump on that offer until he added, "Split between you and the landlord."

I struggled to hide my glee and casually said, "Sure, I guess."

I had spent four months of my life taking down the first half of the Beast. For $50, I was going to have the rest of it removed. Sometimes there is a god.

While I knew $50 or even $100 was way too low a price, I felt little to no guilt for getting that deal. This handyman is the person responsible for so many of the crap repairs/details in our house. The owner of the house used to own and rent out our house. The handyman told us that he used to do all the maintenance at our house, which means he is responsible for many of the issues in our bathroom and throughout the house.
While four workers struggled to tame the Beast (and probably would have cursed the handyman if they knew how little he had sold them out for), I hid inside taking pictures. (The pictures are a bit wonky because of the old glass in the windows and the window screens.)They filled this trailer at least twice. This section of the Beast also included some actual trees that had been hiding in the hedge. That's how tall the hedge was.Not included in the removal was digging up the roots, but I still think I got a great deal.Now I just have to figure out some privacy screens. Someday I'd like to replace the fence in the backyard and enclose most of this otherwise wasted space. Yes, I can hear you laughing and wondering, "Has she even finished the bathroom project yet?" Um, no, but remember it's not my fault; it's the neighbor's handyman's fault.

In the Beast area that I had previously cleared I planted some bamboo muhly. For these muhly it was their last stop before the compost bin. None had performed well in varying degrees in shade, but I didn't want to purposefully kill them so I put them on Death Row. For some of these plants, this move was their third or fourth. (I'm finally learning that sometimes I really not solely responsible for my plants' underperformance. There really is something to that notion of the right plant in the right place.)Shockingly they lived and thrived, so much so that I realized I had planted them too close to the neighbor's driveway. The January freeze fixed that problem and now I am just waiting to see if they'll grow back. If they do, I'll move them a little further into our yard.

For now though I'm just enjoying the breathing space that the Beast's removal has provided and being grateful that I didn't have to remove it all.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Behold: A Thing of Beauty

What? Not exactly what you were expecting? So, no, this tankless water heater isn't specifically a garden-related item, but it partially does explain my absence from my blog. And it does explain my new desire to hug shiny metal objects.

After hating our bathroom for many years, the husband and I decided the moment was nigh to do something about it. Everything in the bathroom, as in much of the house, is made of the cheapest, most mismatched materials the previous owners could find.

We'd done tons of house repairs/improvements since my husband bought the 90-year-old house 10 years ago--installed central air and heat, hardwood floors, new foundation, new porch; tiled the kitchen floor that has previously been covered in carpet (!); painted every room, painted the kitchen cabinets, replaced the stove and toilet, and built new wooden window screens and a new shed. I'm sure I'm forgetting something but I do want to point out that we crazily did much of this work ourselves.

It's no wonder we ran out of steam (no pun intended) before we'd tackled the bathroom. But we'd gradually become aware that many tiles in the shower weren't actually supported by anything behind them. Crappy grout held them in place. Then there was the plumbing issue. We'd never had anything nearing decent water pressure or hot water.

So in November we finally decided to tackle the bathroom, starting first with the shower.

First up, was a new window to replace the ugly crappy one we had. Of course, we found the window had stayed put through the grace of God. Anyone with any building experience--or common sense--would realize that the window needed some framing that actually attached it to the house. We replaced it with this beauty that's twice as wide, lets in lots of morning light, and actually has structural support: Next up was tearing out the old shower tile and replacing it with shiny new tile. Along the way we found a few friends that had made themselves as home in the walls like these salamander eggs: We hired a plumber to install the beauty at the top of this post and to redo the plumbing in the shower.Of course, as always happens on projects in our house, the scale grew. The plumber said that we had the most interesting assortment of pipes he'd ever seen in his 20+ years of plumbing. Lucky us.

So we agreed to replace the entire mish mash of galvanized, copper, and two kinds of PVC pipe in various sizes.

And then, just when we thought we had expanded the plumbing project as far as it could go, the plumber discovered that the pipe coming in from the street was narrower than recommended. If we didn't replace it, the rest of the plumbing upgrades would be moot. That's how we ended up with this:
In the end, the shower turned out beautifully. I could stand in it, under its glorious water pressure with limitless hot water, for the rest of my life.The next step is replacing all the drywall in the rest of the bathroom. In case you're eyes have glazed over, and you're wondering what the heck any of this has to do with gardening, behold what was behind the old drywall:This is either a)some old wallpaper, b)some sort of insulation, or c) some leftover crap the previous owners decided needed to be included.

I vote for c.

I kind of like this lily pad paper but don't think it's worth saving. We've replaced the old drywall with modern water- and mold-resistant drywall. Bathed in the morning light of the new window, its green hue makes the entire bathroom glow like a gardener's version of Avatar.Eventually we'll add beadboard to the bottom of the wall, paint the upper portion some shade of blue, and install a new door, vanity, sink, and lights. I'm hoping "eventually" means "before I give birth" but given how so many of our house projects proceed, I am hoping that it will be done before the child graduates from high school.

I did have a second thing of beauty to share with you, but I'll save it for a later post. This one is long enough already.