Category Archives: yard work

And then, we can, do anything, we want…*

*Lyrics from something Anything We Want by Fiona Apple off her latest album. Only her fourth album in 16 years, I think it’s worth a listen. She’s an actual musical artist (unlike so many in the business of making and selling music), and you might like her work. Or you might not. I do. 

BEFORE: Recently, we took some exterior photos while the peonies were still in bloom. The side fence was then just raw, untreated wood left in its natural, weathered state.

Months ago, when we had our side porch and rear porch stairs redone it was too cold outside to finish coating the decking and new railings with exterior paint and stain. So we waited for the weather to warm up. Which it did. But then it rained. Like, a lot. For weeks and weeks, every time it would just about get dry enough to do something outside it would rain again. For enough days to warrant a dry-out period. So we waited. And waited some more.

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I want to show you what love’s all about…*

*Lyrics from Hungry Eyes from the movie Dirty Dancing. Partly this song is inspired by my previous post about the tree we planted for Bec, where I used another song from Dirty Dancing. Partly it works because I wish both she and Patrick Swayze were still here with us. Partly I couldn’t think of another song that could accompany a post about compost. Can you?

At the risk of boring you all to death with pictures of the yard, I have another update to share with you. And it’s even more boring: it’s the compost area. Ugh, I know, who cares? But, you might care since it looks so nice.

AFTER: There's now about an inch or two of crushed bluestone over most of the area 5' x 15' area.

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Is this what I deserve, a mouthful of dirt?…*

*Lyrics from Say Something by Sucré off the album A Minor Bird. Horns, floaty voices, modern and nostalgic. You should always have a soundtrack to your own life. Or you can borrow mine. Either way, sing and dance your way through your life. You’ll be happier. I promise.

The vista from behind the tree looking toward the yard - we used to stand on this area of the yard to throw the ball, and just generally be with our girl.

Letting go of an idea is probably one of the hardest things to do. I learned that the hard way – the hard, embarrassing, crying in public for hours uncontrollably way – while I was in school taking an intensive 10-week Interior Design program at Suffolk University in Boston. I was living here, in Western Massachusetts, when I enrolled in the program. I was a married (still am, happily!), older student trying to embark on a (yet another) career change. Of course, mere days before I was to leave for mini-college-camp (I actually roomed with an undergrad, who, thankfully was mature, sweet and totally easy to share space with) my mom moved in with us due to some major health issues she was facing (she’s doing fine now, again, thankfully). So, in addition to the normal stress of the actual program, I had to live apart from my husband for 10 weeks (I came home on weekends), and live with (and care for) my mom who was (at that time) ailing, and recovering from some life-threatening health stuff. Needless to say, my emotions were running high, and I didn’t exactly come out of the experience unscathed.

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I’ve learned my lesson, it left a scar, now I see how you really are…*

*Lyrics from You’re No Good, as sung by Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers. Their van sessions have been making their way around the interwebs, and for good reason. They’re good. I expect we’ll be seeing/hearing more from them in the not too distant future.

With this kind you really only need to trim off the dead heads. The plants are less mysterious. No growth = not gonna grow there. You just have to be patient and wait for them to begin to grow.

Every year, around this time, I start the process of waking up the yard from its long winter’s slumber. Now, this particular winter has been unusually mild, so the cleaning up post-winter, post-nothing has been mostly effortless (I should reveal that we have our lawn cared for by our local organic yard care guru, so we don’t have to seed, fertilize, aerate, de-thatch or de-grub). The only real task at hand was to cut back the dead bits of hydrangea to make way for the new blooms. I’ve read many a conflicting report about when to do this – some say fall pruning is best, after the summer blooms have faded, while others say never to prune them – but I’ve found that the two-fold benefits of pruning in early spring, just after the leaves begin to sprout, works best for me. The fact that I can remove dead stems, dead heads and give the plant fewer areas to focus its energy on (and therefore send all its energy to producing blooms and leaves) is a win-win in my book.

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Time after time you’ll hear me say that I’m so lucky to be loving you…*

*Lyrics from Chet Baker’s Time After Time. Not to be confused with Cindi Lauper’s Time After Time. That’s a whole different song.

We now take a break from our (ir)regularly scheduled, interiors focused blog posts to breathe, and thank the nature gods that our house survived the 8″ of heavy, wet snow that was dumped on us last weekend. That’s the weekend before Halloween. All plans I had to get pumpkins and mums during the weekend (since I’ve had nary a chance to do anything for my own house due to moving my mom into her condo), to carve up some scary scenes to light up in the lovely fall night to beckon small children to the door, to simply go grocery shopping (!) were dashed by lingering details that needed doing at my mom’s old place, and the enormous storm that left nearly everyone I know without power.

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It’s a low, low road you’ve gotta roll down before you find your way…*

*Lyrics from Grace Potter & the Nocturnals’ Low Road from their self-titled album.

I’ve said it before, and it’s still true: there is something inspiring about having teams of people at your house doing work that always makes me want to do more things. After Candy and the ladies (and gents) of Ladies Landscaping came to refresh our yard we determined that if we were ever going to stain the fence, now would be the time. Before any more plantings get put to bed, before the weather turned, while we had the vicarious energy boost from the Ladies’ day and a half microburst of yard beautification. It was time, and we got to it.

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She’s like the wind, through my tree…*

*Lyrics from, well, if I have to tell you then you didn’t watch Dirty Dancing for three weeks straight when it played at the Calvin Theater in 1987. In which case, I can’t help you.

When we lost our beloved pup, Bec, we knew we wanted to bury her in the yard. It was where she was happiest, where she longed to be during all hours of the day, all times of the year, and where she took her last breath. She belongs to this place, if for no other reason than that she loved it, and we wanted her to remain here, even if we don’t. Of course I couldn’t stand the thought of actually digging a giant hole and chucking her into it, so we had her individually cremated. We also knew that we wanted to give her some sort of marked spot, so we’d know where she was, and be able to know she wouldn’t be accidentally dug up by any future owners. So we decided to plant a tree. A dogwood, because she was a dog, and one with pink blossoms because she was a girl. (My 8 year-old niece figured that rationale in seconds, so we knew it was the right choice.)

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And my head told my heart “let love grow”…*


*Lyrics from Mumford & Sons’ song Winter Winds, from their album Sigh No More.

Spring has finally, and truly, begun here in the northeast and I couldn’t be happier. It’s that wonderful time of year, before the allergies really kick in, and before the mosquitoes take over (though I confess to already having two bites from one walk sans socks). Before you realize that soon you’ll be showing your legs to the world (by hook or by crook, shorts are an evil necessity in summer), soon you’ll be wishing you can have a third shower every day, and that soon you’ll be exhausted at the thought of turning on a single burner to cook (and you can forget baking). For now, we can remain blissful in the awakening of our landscape, our newfound bird and squirrel population (a point driven home by a surge in roadkill being picked clean by crows), our ability to occasionally open the windows to let a fresh, slightly warm breeze into the house. It is a joyous time, made especially joyous by the bountiful buds and blooms that begin to emerge as if gifts (as our neighbors like to say) from Mother Nature herself. Gifts they are, slowly unwrapping, slowly and carefully making us stop dead in our tracks as we see yet another hit of color in our formerly brown-gray, seemingly lifeless vistas.

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The book of love has music in it, in fact that’s where music comes from…*

*Version by The Airborne Toxic Event, lyrics by Magnetic Fields.

As the last bits of winter melt away (though we are expecting another winter storm this Friday), and as my efforts to recover from dentist-induced injuries continue, I find myself reflecting on the changes that have occurred in the past year, and the past ten years, really. In the past year we’ve: met our contractors for the first time; signed contracts and pulled permits; spent more money than we knew we had/had to; renovated our kitchen and three bathrooms (almost done with the last bathroom); had our entire house rewired; painted every inch of trim and walls in the first floor (except the ceiling and crown moldings), and half of the second; and started friendships that will (hopefully) last the rest of our days.

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You may ask yourself, what is that beautiful house?…*

And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?

While enjoying some retro tunes (rocking the David Bowie & Talking Heads station on Pandora) with Jonas working in the background (making excellent headway on the family bath built-in unit), I started poking around in my photo archives. I was looking for inspirational spring images, you know, to get a burst of color, an inkling of growth, anything that could lift up the winter doldrums that have settled pretty heavily this year. Instead of flowers, or other springtime imagery, I found old pictures of the house, from right after we purchased it in the end of 2006. This house is rapidly becoming the place where I’ve lived the longest, and will probably be the place I think of as home for many years to come (whether or not we still live here).

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