Val’s Garden Bootcamp

Val’s Garden Bootcamp

I’m talking to the bushes now.
Could be that the blazing sun and scorching heat are getting to me.
Or maybe this is just who I am as a gardener.
I know I shouldn’t be out there in the heat of the day.
Given my druthers,
Hard labor in the garden should be taking place before breakfast.
But we still have a week and change to go before we move in.
In the meantime,
I’m hanging out at an empty house every afternoon;
Waiting on workers to finish a seemingly endless list of tasks.
Learning things like:
How to turn water, gas and power lines off and on.
How to reroute irrigation lines.
Why a tankless hot water heater is the way to go.
And so on.
Thankful to all the guys for explaining things to me.
But I can’t follow them around all day.
Nor do I like just sitting there.
I find myself wandering laps around the yard.
Giant straw hat slapped on my head.
Big red pruning shears tucked under my left arm.
Clipping here.
Pruning there.
Piling debris into my wheelbarrow.
All the while muttering to the shrubbery:
“Y’all are a mess.”
“Look at you.  There should be six of you bushes.  But you’ve all grown together.”
“Well.  That won’t do.  Not anymore.”
“There’s a new sheriff in town, boys.  And I expect you all to behave.”
This week I’ve tackled:
A half dozen rosebushes with vicious thorns.
At least eight out-of-control jasmine bushes.
Two enormous hydrangeas being strangled by ivy.
Another half dozen ugly unknown shrubs.
If I had an saw, I would have cut those last ones down.
But alas, the pruning shears can do only so much.
I’m kicking my overgrown garden in line.
One weed.
One bush.
One branch at a time.
The garden is slowly but surely looking better kept.
Like someone cares about it again.
To my pleasant surprise,
I’m whipping myself into shape too.
I’m calling it:
“Val’s Garden Bootcamp.”
 Where you can
Haul, dig, weed and sweat your way back to fitness…
It rather amuses me to think of this.
And then I wonder…
Maybe I have had a little too much sun.
Rock Garden Markers

Rock Garden Markers


Hurray!  I’m pulling out of the crafting funk I complained about last month.  For the most part, our move from NYC to Charlotte has been quite smooth.  However, it has still knocked me off my making groove.  I’m trying to not worry about it.  But in truth, not having any crafty projects in the pipeline upsets me.

I’ve been spending all sorts of time in garden.  Mostly on clean up.  Lawn guys and I have cleared six big loads of dirty pine straw and trimmings off the property.  They’ve started laying in my preferred mulch of bark medallions.  And remember that pallet of pavers?  Well, 90 pavers weren’t enough.  I had a second pallet delivered today… can’t wait to show you what I’m doing with them…

I’m pretty sure I’ll be clearing, weeding and clipping til Kingdom Comes.  But I’m thrilled to say I’ve made a noticeable dent in our jungle of a backyard and I’m even happier that my first project to break the crafting block is for the garden.

My boy and I wanted garden markers for the kitchen garden we’re creating.  We wanted something big and heavy enough to match the scale of the garden.  We wanted our markers to blend with the garden yet still stand out enough that we could easily read what each plant was.  We didn’t want anything cutesy or flimsy or cheap looking.  Oh, and I didn’t want to spend any money if we could help it.  Gardening is turning out to be quite an expensive hobby!
So what to do?
Inspiration came in the form of the many rocks we found under various overgrown bushes behind the house.

We picked out the bigger, flatter rocks that had good writing surfaces.  E washed the dirt off the rocks and lined them up in the sun to dry.  We took some time out for a swimming break…

When I tired of swimming, the rocks were all dry and ready to be labeled.
I decided simple was better.  And bright colors in the garden should be from the plants, flours and vegetables.  So I used only a black sharpie to write on each rock.

I love the look of these .  Clean.  Simple.  Functional.  Yet, they add a little something to the garden.  Best of all?  I didn’t spend a cent!

Ceiling Fans and Shade

Ceiling Fans and Shade

Our first summer living in the south.
My goodness, it’s hot here.
It’s not just the high temperatures.
(98 degrees in the shade this morning)
The sun feels so much more intense.
Just a few minutes exposed to its direct rays
My skin starts to tingle and sizzle.
Kinda like a pan full of frying bacon….
We’re quickly picking up tricks
On how to keep cool
Yet still continue about our day.
We’ve slowed down.
Way down.
There’s no need to weave through crowds of tourists here.
No counting how many blocks more to speed walk to our next destination.
No daily NYC rush of adrenaline.
We don’t seem to be in any hurry here.
Good thing, because meandering slowly and steadily is cooler than rushing about.
I wonder if I’m talking slower as well?
We’re sticking to the shade.
Forget the summer tan.
I’m all about covered terraces and shade these days.
We still have a few weeks to go before we move into our home,
but I’m already out in the garden every day 
The best place to take a breather is in a rocking chair on a covered porch.
Ceiling fans are our friends.
Afternoon siestas are awesome too.
Given a choice in the daily schedule,
I try to retreat indoors in the afternoons.
Read with the kids.
Play a game or two.
Or just veg out with some screen time.
We’re digging the sweet ice tea.
Not just to feel more “southern.”
But because
It’s delicious.
And surprisingly thirst quenching.
We’ve all been drinking loads of water,
But on the really scorching days,
it’s that tall cool glass of homemade sweet tea that does the trick.
These are our standard “stay cool” strategies so far.
Would love to hear more if you have any suggestions.
This past weekend, the AC keeled over in our temporary residence.
Talk about being roasted.
The one fun thing from that miserable experience was making and wearing frozen towel hats.
How to make one?
Wet a hand towel & wring it out.
Shape around a round plastic container
(or any round freezer safe bowl).
Place in freezer til towel is frozen.
Then wear it like a hat and enjoy the refreshingly cool moment.
Just keep in mind things may get a little messy as the “hat” melts.
Thanks, Lawn Guy.

Thanks, Lawn Guy.

It’s been a challenging week for me.
Nothing really bad.
Just antsy to get properly settled.
And feeling frustrated because so many things are out of my control.
Waiting on emails.
Waiting to close on the NY apartment.
Waiting for different crews to finish their jobs on the house.
Waiting on relocation coordinators.
Waiting to move into our new home.
Waiting to get all our stuff back from storage
All this waiting is making me kinda twitchy.
Thank goodness for my garden.
And my shovel.
And my wheelbarrow. 
Last week’s crazy rainstorms meant this week the ground was soft enough for me to dig up some of those hostas I told you about.
It was still dripping-sweat-hard-work.
But it sure felt good to sink the shovel into the earth and feel for the hosta roots.
Buried drip irrigation lines made pulling the hosta up extra tricky.
But I managed to work a wheelbarrow’s worth of hostas free.
I also managed to work off some of my angst.
You’ve probably realized I’m an uber-type-A kind of gal.
With more than a few OC tendencies tossed into the mix.
It’s nails across the chalkboard for me to have to depend on so many people.
To have to wait on so many different fronts at once.
To be so not in control.
That’s why I’m especially needing to be in the garden right now.
Don’t like those weeds?  Then I can pull them out myself.
I can also 
my way out of little frustrations.
And put a little DIY back into my day.
Lest you get the wrong idea,
I’ve got help with that giant yard of mine.
Pest guys to handle pests.
Lawn guys to handle lawn and big jobs.
Today, both pest and lawn guys were there.
Pest guy to handle the ant nest I’d bumbled into.
Lawn guy to handle the lawn & mulch
…and to help me identify whether or not I was trying to weed poison ivy…
(Luckily, they were just weeds).
As I was dragging lawn guy over to identify the possible-poison-ivy,
I made a crack about how I didn’t seem to be able to do anything independently these days.
He was quiet for a moment,
then pointed across the yard at the little row of hostas along the back fence.
“You managed to transplant those hostas on your own,”
he said.
Oh, right.
You’re right.
Thanks lawn-guy.
One Step at a Time

One Step at a Time

Another week spent in our backyard.
Partially because renovations in the house mean we don’t move in til the end of the month.
Partially because I just love futzing around back there.
But as much as I love the garden,
I’m a complete rookie.
Plenty of enthusiasm.
Lots of ideas.
But short on actual experience.
I suppose I could hire a team of landscapers and a team of gardeners 
to figure it all out
and do it all.
But that would take the fun out of everything…
Instead, I’ve hired two guys for mowing, trimming and hauling.
They’re good guys.
But boy, did I learn a hard lesson this week.
Keep instructions specific and simple.
Leave nothing open to interpretation.
I wanted some bushes trimmed.
And a pathway cleared from back to front of house.
I also asked for “access” to a panel of controls on the side of the house.
They interpreted that as chopping down half of a mature hedge shielding AC units from view.
This week I also learned how extreme NC weather can be.
It’d been scorching hot for two weeks.
Exposed soil dried out in an instant.
So I planted three flats of hen and chicks in a gravelly parched spot in the back yard.
Less than an hour after I planted the last succulent,
The clouds rushed in and unleashed a crazy wild thunderstorm.
And the next day, we got flooded again.
 Guess the next thing I’ll learn is how resilient those Hen & Chicks are.
There have been days I’ve wondered what the heck we’ve gotten ourselves into.
A whole house and giant yard is worlds away from our full service condo lives in NYC.
But I have to remember to take it one step at a time.
To have patience.
To pace myself.
To see the sillier sides of my garden snafus.
Yesterday, my order of ninety concrete pavers were delivered.
Ninety pavers plastic wrapped together on a wooden pallet
that had to be fork lifted onto my driveway.
In a fit of industry,
I used every single one of them to create paths around the house and yard.
Since each paver weighed about 28 pounds, I could lift and carry only one at a time.
I estimate I walked some 5 miles in circles around the property.
 Did I really drag 90 x 28 pounds = 2,520 pounds worth of concrete around in day?
What am I?
But hey,
I did it one step at a time.