home, sweet (too much work to do) home

We've been wanting to take the large, flat area near the house that used to hold the kids play structure and turn it into a garden.  Today we finally got started, though didn't make as much progress as I'd have liked.  Turns out I can only do this kind of stuff for an hour before I get all weak kneed and have to sit down.  But at least we got the area laid out.  Here's what we did:
So you know what it used to look like, here's a shot (taken from the deck) from several years ago when the kids actually used the play structure:
25 of 30: sunny days

We got rid of the play structure a while back and turned the sandbox into a strawberry planter a couple months ago. Today we just had to empty out and move the small playhouse.  Then we ripped up all the artificial turf, turned it over to dump out all the sand that migrated from the kids sandbox, and freaked out about a million ants.  Here's what it looks like, ready for inspiration, a blank canvas (if you will):
I then figured out where I wanted the greenhouse to go and then traced back a three foot path all the way across the garden.
laying out the path
The greenhouse will go at the far right.
I traced a line from the path entering the garden to the back, this one closer to two feet wide.
sketching out the path
After that we dropped in a 6 foot wide circle to put a center planter in and then gave it an extra two feet circle around that for the path.
drawing out the center circle planter laying out the path
With the vertical & horizontal path outlined in and the double circle drawn in the middle, the shape of our "boxes" became obvious.  From there, we gathered up a bunch of smooth rocks and blocked out the shapes, leaving the circular planter in the middle for later.  We’re teaching a garden class at the end of the month so will have the kids attending help us lay out the center circular garden bed, but all the side ones are outlined and now just need to be built up with cobble.  You can get the basic idea of the shape by looking at this:
basic outline

Most of the pictures were taken from a lovely little spot in the shade of some trees.  I'm hoping to put a table and chairs there so we can gaze lovingly at our beautiful garden once it's done.  There is still a TON of work before we can call it done and drop the seedlings into their homes, but today marked a really good first step!

Greywater DIY

from washer, to collection

For a while now, Mark and I have wanted to find a way to reclaim some of the water that runs off to the nowhere lands after it passes through our home.  In fact, we made a stab at it over a year ago, but failed due to a missing element (hose) which we simply hadn't considered using as an instant outlet.
A fellow Mama at Lily's school is a greywater and reclamation expert and recently showed up in the local paper when the city decided to stop being asshats about the greywater rules.  Before, it could cost you more in permitting than it would cost for you to install a professional system.  People either didn't do it, or did it illegally.  Now that we're in a "level 2" water crisis, someone had the bright idea of getting the city to allow simple systems without permits, such as redirecting your laundry water to your fruit trees.
All this talk prompted me to take a look at how much water we use as a family.  The local average is 180 gallons PER DAY, which for us would work out to about 45 gallons per person, per day (/p/d).  My water bills show that we average 26/p/d when we're not watering plants all the time and 42/p/d when we are.  This is not terrible, but also not great.  I hate how much it goes up in the summer just to keep the trees alive.  If we were using our laundry water (with a greywater friendly detergent, like Seventh Generation, which we use already) then we could keep our gallons down to half of what the average resident uses.
Then someone sent a link to their own system and with one email to Mark, we were in business. It's so simple, it's ridiculous. First check out this link to get a good view of what you need.  Mark picked up all the items required in one trip to Home Depot.
Here's what we came up with:

Photos are over at Flickr if you want to get a glance at some of the stills.
To be honest, we discovered that we need a bigger trash can upon running our first load of laundry through this set-up.  It ended up overflowing.  So spend the extra $5 and get a bigger bucket if you go for it!

Planted, January '09

Planted, January 2009
Click on over to Flickr to see it larger.

The strawberries were planted last summer and most of what's on the deck is old (except the mesclun mix). But the sugar snap peas (my absolute favorite pea ever) is brand new and the second box was dug up, heightened, added to and then planted anew.  Mark also rigged up the coolest bean poles ever by heading into the canyon and harvesting some bamboo.

I still have a whole flat of seedlings to plant, but Mark needs to build another box to stick them in as we're clearly at capacity.  The mesclun mix in the pot on the deck is crowded, but I wanted to get it in some soil so just went with it on the theory that you take the leaves small, anyway!
Photos coming.


6 of 30: building raised beds

Mark's mom sent him home with about 24 strawberry plants when he and the girls visited with them last week.  The berries impending death if not planted quickly was finally the thing to get him to build our first garden box.  Just watching he and Lily water the plants the other day made me feel all warm and fuzzy.  Although constantly chasing the dog out of the box does not.  Last time we had a strawberry pot we had a bit of trouble with that dog and I'm hoping we can keep her from eating the whole crop this year.

Today he's building a few more so we can plant the rest of our garden.  We're planning two four-foot square boxes and in them are aiming for a wide variety of yummy things for the table.  My ambitious little plots shall hold (in addition to the plot purely for berries) the following:

  • winter and summer squash
  • basil
  • lavender
  • peppers
  • thyme
  • tomatoes
  • rosemary
  • catnip
  • carrots
  • sugar snap peas
  • purple beans
  • parsley
  • lettuce
  • mint
  • cilantro
  • oregano
  • beats
  • cucumbers
  • and various green leafys

I know, it's like a crazy woman plan.  But I have to believe that my black thumb, aided by the husband and eager little girls, can turn green in one year.  


Tell me it's possible. 
No seriously, SAY IT.
I'll report back.


Remember my post about my little container garden? Look what it’s done!

Basil and chives pepper pumpkin

The basil and chives are going insane, the peppers are all happy and budding like crazy and the pumpkin is going to have to be moved to a place where it can sprawl because OMG it’s going all over the place. And I caught this little dude pollinating my pumpkin, so it looks like we may actually get one! I know, my timing is totally off and all, but who knows what could happen. Seriously. What could happen? I’m ASKING here.
The garden’s not the only thing growing around here. Look who is sitting up!

Look who's sitting up!

She can’t get into that position on her own but now, if you set her down like that and walk away, she won’t fall down right away! If she lunges for a toy or sneezes or the moon goes all “woogie woogie” then she’s over in a heart beat, but for a while she’ll make you think she’s all styling with her sitting up brilliance.

Crawling comes next and won’t THAT be fun!

Lily is doing really well with the potty business. She’s had a bit of a set back this weekend but I thinking it’s because she’s been ill. Poor thing is all vomity and poopy and all “hold me, I’m a MESS!” So I guess she really shouldn’t be under a post about growth, but I didn’t want her to be left out. Even covered in her own sick she’s outrageously cute. And I love her big brown eyes.

OH, and Mark made Lily a tree swing! Which has turned her into even more of a whiny brat with the “swing swing swing swing swing swing” moan that does not stop. But at least while on it and someone is pushing her (incessantly) she’s happy.

And yes, I’m all hopped up on sugar. And I need to go to bed. Seriously.

Random things Lily learned today


  • Cookies should be sampled at every stage of making, despite Mama’s cries of, “NO, ick, Salmonella! GAH!”
  • Mama is insanely proud of her tiny container garden that has managed to live almost one whole week.
  • It’s OK to sniff Mama’s rosemary but if you rip the basil apart, Mama is scary.
  • Mama may just have a clue what she's talking about when she says, "I wouldn't eat that, jalapenos are spicy hot."
  • Mama doesn’t like big hairy spiders. Especially when she discovers she has laid the baby down on a blanket next to a really freaky one… ½ an hour ago.
  • Stomp is simultaneously scary and exhilarating. You cannot help but dance around like a freak when they get going.
  • Butternut squash is dinner yet dessert! YAY!
  • Tying your own shoes is damn near impossible.
  • There is nothing you can do when you start peeing unexpectedly. Even if you’re standing on Daddy’s favorite chair, ready to jump off of it at him.
  • Daddy is much nicer than Mama about peeing on favorite chairs.
  • Roaring at the cat won’t make her run away.
  • Unless you also flail your arms and scream, “Go ‘way, GO ‘WAY!”
  • Jerking your hand around just as Mama goes to trim a fingernail is inadvisable. Everybody cries.
  • Anya enjoys getting hugs, as long as she can still breathe.
  • When Mama allows you to take a picture, get as close as possible.
  • Mama is just slightly insane.
  • And finally, Mama will get really annoyed if you don’t click over and look at her pictures of the tiny container garden. Say nice things and complement her prowess as a gardener. If you don’t, she’ll cry and throw dirt… totally acceptable if you’re a two-year-old. Not so pretty at 30.

My container garden