Sunday, June 29, 2008

Murphy's Law of procrastination

Of course the weekend before I turn in my thesis for final comments would be when one of the library's main servers is down for maintenance. How silly of me to assume I could access the papers I need to finish when I most desperately need them. Bleah.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Help! I need second, third and fourth opinions...

There is a big patio sale at a local store that just started today, so I snuck by on my lunch break. The cushions I found are, A. obnoxious lime green, and B. a tiny bit too big for the chair. Do you think it matters? If we decide the size doesn't matter I have one more green one and will go back for a pair of navy ones to tone it down (I would have bought 4 green ones if they had them but they didn't).
Assuming I ever get to borrow my father-in-law's pressure washer and get the green paint off of the concrete, what do you think? Four navy ones would just have been too boring (and more expensive, these were the most on sale and I love lime green). I need alternate opinions before my color-blind husband gets home...

Also, they're very comfy. Big points for that. I think two green and two navy will look cute and revitalize this patio set (left here by prior owners, cushions really suck). Because a new patio set is totally not in the budget.

Monday, June 23, 2008

What I Did On My Summer Vacation (another quick one before I run off again)

We went to visit some friends in Penn Valley this weekend (beautiful foothills in central CA). Their parents run a raptor rescue. This is a golden eagle.
This was last summer, I just finally got the pictures now. I look slightly bleary because it was early and that was how I felt, coupled with the fact that I was kind of in shock because there was a GIANT BIRD ON MY ARM and man, was he heavy. They also saved me the article about his release, which I might try and scan because it is COOOL.

Also, I had no idea how hard it is to hold something this heavy this far out on your forearm and keep it above eye level. Because you really want his head above yours so he doesn't look you in the eye.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Quick post for Alana (I get my Canadians confused sometimes)

This is my particularly happy and currently aphid-free dogwood. I can't positively say that is is Cornus alba and not Cornus sericea but it is a red-twig dogwood and they don't exactly have a compact, neat form like you have pictured. And the way the dogwood shrubs I have seen seem to grow, I wouldn't want to try and trim it into a more uniform shape, I think it would look odd.

That said, I have been slacking and need to post new photos, I will try and take some tomorrow. I found the trim paint that we used to repaint either the eaves or the fascia, I'm not sure which, but we had a whole spare bucket of it so I am using it on the beams etc. in the little porch area. I am realizing that I will probably end up painting the porch ceiling next weekend since if I do the rest of the posts and beams and things they will all look nice and the ceiling will look even more gross. So I am trying to make a proper To Do list so I stop falling into random projects like that.

Also, the patio door is supposed to come next week, so I REALLY need to take some before pictures of my horrible sliding glass door ASAP.

And catch up on some darn memes, too. Soon!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Busy busy busy

Let's just do a quick recap.
  • First, went to work in a.m.
  • At lunch, ran to the mall to grab some desperately needed jeans and black dress pants, on sale for $20 and $25, respectively. Then came home to bring in plants that shipped here today so they didn't fry in the afternoon sun, locked myself out, had to climb in kitchen window and hop over sink. So, a bit of an unexpectedly long lunch there.
  • After work, went to the gym, then came home to plant new plants and make a pot of vegetarian chili.
  • THEN had to go to the store as we are attending a party tomorrow night where we have to bring a finger food to share, and then going to a weekend camping barbecue thing where we will probably end up sharing food with Matt's band as he may have forgotten to tell them they need to bring their own food. Also known as pawning off the leftovers on the less picky. (It's one of those "we provide the drinks and sides, bring your own meat" kind of barbecue and they have 5 acres so we will be camping somewhere out by horses. And then cooking breakfast the next morning. I think I may be too accommodating.)
I will post pics of the plants when they have grown in a little bit, they came tightly packed but look ok, just small and trimmed back pretty far. So they should go crazy now that they are allowed to, their roots were pretty squished. And they will bring a little spice to my purple and green backyard!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Vegetarian recipe coup

So this was a screaming success, I loved it so much I want to go eat all the leftovers right now. It was modified from a recipe on AT: The Kitchen based on what I had in my fridge and what I felt like bothering with and it came out GREAT.

3/4 pound shrimp
4 teaspoons oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1 pkg. soba noodles
1 cucumber
1 carrot

For the sauce:
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon curry powder (for lack of another spice source, it worked ok)
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook the garlic and ginger for about 2 minutes, then add the shrimp, lightly salt and pepper them and cook for 3-4 minutes.

In a large pot bring water to boil and boil soba for 3-4 minutes. Do not overcook. Peel and slice cucumber and carrot in thin strips while the noodles cook.

Whisk together sauce ingredients. Drain and rinse noodles, then toss with sauce, carrots, cucumber and shrimp.

Yet another of those "wish I took a picture before I gorged myself" moments. We seem to be eating a lot more pasta now that I am trying to cook without a meat-type main dish. It's sort of working so far, it's definitely making me plan meals much farther in advance, that's for sure. I think it's a good thing, this recipe is DEFINITELY a good thing.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

boom dada Beans?

Remember I mentioned that I wanted height in my perennial border since all of my shrubs are growing so slowly there (they'll get as high as the fence, I swear, I just don't know when)? Enter helpful brother-in-law again. He called last night and said, "I'm inoculating beans, want some?" and while this may sound like gibberish, I now have a pair of six-foot tall "teepees" made of bamboo stakes in my perennial border, hopefully to be covered in leafy vines full of beans by the end of the summer. We shall see. Right now they look mostly silly or I would have posted a picture of them. Maybe once they sprout.

And not to rub it in, but Alana has totally made me realize how glad I am that for the last couple of years I have spent money on the shrubs, so now I can have fun with the perennials and veggies! I know I will have to do the same thing around the flagstone patio eventually but that is still low on the list (fall plant sales, don't fail me).

I also FINALLY got myself a new pair of supposedly heavy-duty "landscaping" gloves (less padded than work gloves but much sturdier than plain old gardening gloves) to replace my old sad ones with the fingers all holey. They were not cheap but with any luck they will last as well as the last pair did (+5 years and that was with some real work going on). And these actually even came in my size. Which is apparently Men's XXL. I never explained that I really am a BIG girl, did I. Size 12 shoes, not so bad. Cute gloves that fit? Not so much. But damn if I don't have some really nice manly-looking gardening gloves now.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Boom Dada BOOM

It's on.

Bread Round 2 was a complete success. I was worried because it was so much stickier than the last batch (the brick-like whole wheat) but I think that was fine since I was supposed to add 2-3 Tablespoons more water to adjust for altitude. Matt and his bass player just got home and between the three of us we ate half of the focaccia already. I might just try the brick recipe again and see if I can make the adjustments all work on it too.

Also, here's a couple of pics of the plants I ordered for the garden. I've got a tendency towards the same shades of blue and purple so I wanted some color accents.
Baby steps: this is a much pinker purple than the rest, also it will be tall and spiky in a clumpier way than the catmint and salvias, if that makes any sense.This is the awesomeness. It is a variety of Achillea, or yarrow, called "Paprika". As such, it has feathery fern-like deep green foliage and will supposedly bloom continuously if I can keep it deadheaded. It will add a couple of focal points to the garden, as it is compact and obnoxious, where everything else is bigger and fluffier and less of an attention-hog. It also (hopefully) naturalizes and forms big ferny clumps. I have high hopes but I am trying to tone them down as it was in the sale section and it is the end of planting season so they may come looking straggly and take a long time to settle in. But I am nothing if not patient with this yard, as it has taken more than two years to get it this far and there is still SO much more to do. It's a start.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Boom dada boom (or, the patio is finally done and I am SO tired)

So this is where we began.

This is now the back view towards the gate. These will be the raised beds or the greenhouse someday, right now it is six reasonably happy tomato plants, one extremely happy zucchini plant, and a couple of unhappy peppers and eggplants. It's a work in progress, that part. But the point is the gravel in front of it. It's much less bright in person.
As you come around the corner this is the widest part, where I want a firepit and a couple of lounge-y chairs (come on Craigslist, don't fail me now). The catmint is huge but the shrubs will eventually be taller than it is. Height is what this border needs and it will only come from patience.
This is the part that you see more from the patio. I put in a variety of herbs here and am thinking about sticking some vines on the fence since there won't be any shrubs getting tall in front (the maroon/burgundy thing slightly to the left is the only thing that will get tall in this section, the rest is sage and bee balm and that kind of stuff. So maybe a trellis in the back here...
This is the path next to the patio. It may get some flagstone pavers dotted along it if I end up with a few extras.
This is the REST of the path, past the patio. This is where some of the plants I bravely ordered last night will get planted, by the roseand this is also where I have to finish the river rock edging on the sides of the gravel. Bleah. Talk about opening a can of worms, the patio area edging is done and now the path looks SO LONG and I am tired of hauling river rocks back here. However, the end of this path is where the free paver patio will go, Matt is already calling it the Smoking Section and given how many of his friends go outside to smoke when we have parties, that is fine by me. So it will need some chairs and an ashtray. And I still want a hanging lounge chair thing for the tree.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Well, it almost begins.

Helpful b-i-l did not make it by with the compactor until almost 7:30 this evening. He did show me how to use it, and egged me on when I was talking about getting some nice xeric perennials from here :

So they should arrive sometime this week for planting next weekend. The compactor really does seem easy to use, so it will be just running it over my sand a bit, then wheeling wheelbarrows of gravel back there and raking it all flat and compacting some more. It will be nice and walkable, and then I can go lie down and do nothing for the rest of the weekend. OR I can go help mister helpful, who, it turns out, is not available to help me shovel gravel tomorrow a.m. He did, however, call his (large and athletic) brother who totally owes me a favor and might come help out...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

It begins (and let's start with a fuzzy picture!)

Tomorrow the gravel gets delivered, and my helpful brother-in-law drops off the compactor. I have to compact the sand before I can lay the gravel on it, and then compact the gravel so it doesn't all run away from me. The helpful b-i-l also called today to say he found someone on Craigslist getting rid of a bunch of flagstone and did I want any. For FREE.

So now I need to compact the sand on the other side of the yard too so I can stick some flagstone over there. It is worth my while to get it done, he dropped off a slab of it today and it is a very interesting light gray with hints of gold. Like shiny gold. I am hoping it will tone down a little over time and be less shiny, but the price was definitely right. I'm also looking at my plants some more. On the flagstone side I want to just stick in some lavenders with some sagebrush and juniper, stuff that's fragrant, low-water and ignorable. On the gravel patio side where I want a firepit someday (hence the above picture), my shrubs are doing well but there is a tendency to purple and spiky (lavender, catmint, salvia, smoke bush kind of), so I want to either stick in some tall fluffy grasses in back, or intermix some bright colors of rudbeckia and echinacea.This just gives me ideas for composition. It won't be quite this lush and full right now as I am trying to plant stuff that will all fill in and get bigger over time. But I love the colors in here. I am on a purple overload and some of these would be just the thing right now. AND I have a coupon that I need to take to the nursery since I am saving all this $$ on my hardscaping...

Love me some LOLcats.

Too awesome. I like my LOLs with a side of Greek myths.

I want this cat so bad. Or possibly to be this cat.

I think this might be my sister's dog. Or at least his attitude.

We will return to your regularly scheduled home and garden-based posting at a future time. Probably this evening.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Another reason to be a vegetarian

I am just barely starting on this whole vegetarian thing, but farmed salmon, at this point, doesn't sound much better than beef to me. I try and verify my seafood choices on here now:

since so much seafood is now horribly unsustainably farmed and causes so much damage to the environment, OR has unhealthily high mercury levels. This may be a little weirdness of mine, though - I have a blind spot for sushi. I will only buy wild Alaskan salmon if at all, but I never ask the sushi chef where his fish comes from.

I'm trying to ease up on the fish now too though, has anyone got any good recommendations for a tasty brand of veggie burgers? We grilled portabella mushrooms last night and they were tasty but I am still looking for more options, this vegetarian thing is complicated!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Drama. And useful stuff too.

So my new old couch project has moved on to be someone else's new old couch project. All it needed was some cleaning and a slipcover and it was a super nice comfy couch. But it wasn't Matt's couch. So even though he was so helpful in getting it over here before I even asked him about it, he decided he didn't want it. And he was in a terrible mood so I called my helpful brother-in-law who has a nice big truck and we got the couch out of here. It is going to be well loved where it is but I don't know what I am going to tell the people who gave it to us in the first place (I was all excited and they were saying how nice it would be that they could still come and visit it).

On the upside, my helpful brother-in-law/owner of the truck that carried away my new old couch to its new home also carried away my bike to fix my back tire. And tune it up. And whatever else bikes need.

And this weekend we are renting a compactor so we can put in our respective gravel patios. We're doing it as a team - we split the cost of it and each help one another use it on each of our respective projects. Which is an awesome deal as my gravel area is 50% more of a project than his (he has one yard of base to lay and one yard of gravel - I have no base but three yards of gravel). So it's a good deal for me. But I have helped him with a lot of projects in the past. And I also babysit his kid for free.

And thus, the money that was to be spent on cleaning and slipcovering the new old couch can now go to purchasing the gravel and renting the compactor. ASAP. My backyard is going to be so awesome.

Monday, June 9, 2008

More distractions (or, why I didn't work in the garden yesterday)

We have a new couch. But it's a new old couch. So we had to organize a friend with a truck to get it for us and I had to vacuum the living room, move the old couch and vacuum under it, and also vacuum both the old and new couches. And also feed the couch-movers lunch. It is green and shabby, at the moment, but I am looking at slipcovers in darker, more olive-y greens.
This is the old couch in its waiting-to-get-posted-on-Craigslist glory. It was a Dania closeout so it is respectable quality, but the back pillows were too big so Matt took out some of the stuffing. So now when you sit in it it sucks you in and it is hard to get out. It is easy to fall asleep on but kills your neck. The new old couch is from a buddy who had dogs so it still needs a bit of a shampoo job (next weekend, perhaps) as it has a slight eau de pug. However, it is so much more comfortable while still being deep enough to sleep on - the back pillows are way more functional. So I have ordered slipcover swatches and hopefully they show up soon! Also, if the slipcover works out, I will be getting another one for that hideous ottoman that Matt loves so much. Ugh.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Oh yeah,

and the first round of bread was only a partial success. I will possibly post the recipe and see if anyone else has better luck with it. It's tasty, it just came out very dense and heavy. I am wondering if I need to adjust the recipe for altitude. We are at about 4800 feet here.
I just found this and now I totally want to make another test batch tomorrow to see if it makes a difference:
  • Whole wheat and other "dark" flours require more liquid than white flour. To compensate for the higher evaporation rate, increase liquid content by 1 to 2 tablespoons at 3,000 feet, more for higher altitudes.
  • It is essential to use the finest quality flour when making bread -especially at high altitude. When choosing white flour, look for unbleached, unbromated flour that has at least 12 grams of protein per cup. This amount of protein will give you about the right amount of gluten to form an elastic dough. Whole grain flours (typically lower in protein) should be used in combination with good quality white flour.
  • At altitudes higher than 3500 feet reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees, but keep the baking time the same. Bread is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 190-200 degrees (use an instant read thermometer). Try to prevent overbaking as this will contribute to dryness.
  • Increase salt by 25%. The bread will rise slower and have less of a tendency to sink.
So: next try, more salt, more H2O, mix my flours and cook slightly cooler. And that's just for starters.

Back to work in the backyard!

I went to a very cool plant sale this morning at the Arboretum. It was put on by the local plant society (for which I need to renew my membership and become an active member of, it's on the to-do list) and it was predominantly native and water-wise plants for our high desert environment. There was a very interesting selection, some people brought their own wheelbarrows and loaded them up with plants, I just used one of the cardboard boxes they had available. When you walked in they gave you a catalogue so you could read all about the plants, and they were displayed as they were listed - alphabetically by scientific name. So if you're looking for something specific, you'd better not just know the common name. I didn't go too crazy as I didn't bring much cash, but I got some cool little plants (the better to entice more birds and bees to my yard). They are a bit small to post pics of now, I will put some up when they are a little bit more established.

I also hit the Farmer's Market, which FINALLY started (my fault for living somewhere that still gets snow in May) and got strawberries, cherries, peaches, green beans, corn and these awesome garlic tortillas. Yet again, I didn't bring much cash since I didn't need to go on a bender (yes, fruit-buying sprees are a problem). Then tonight we had dinner at a friend's house - she made this amazing salade nicoise from the Barefoot Contessa cookbook - I found a picture that almost does it justice, she also added asparagus, there were green beans, olives, tomatoes and this amazing potato salad with no dairy - it was in some sort of vinaigrette. Also huge chunks of lightly grilled ahi (I always overcook ahi, so I was taking notes on this one) just barely drizzled with the vinaigrette.
Totally inspiring, especially since we're trying to eat healthier. I keep saying we're going veggie, but technically we're doing the ovo-lacto-pesco-vegetarian deal. I don't do vegan, as I am allergic to soy (weird, I know), and if I had to give up all that other stuff I would probably starve to death. So it has been about a week and I'm working on it. Tomorrow I am making a lasagna, because I can stuff it so full of veggies that you would never know there's no meat. Also using provolone gives it a nice smoky flavor. AND the noodles are whole-wheat. Go me!

On the other side of the veggie report, I have now seen actual blooming flowers on my cherry tomato (and aphids on all the other tomatoes). I am going to hit Home Despot and get more insecticidal soap as it worked so well on the aphids on my dogwoods, and also I spotted a ladybug in my yard! I'd be more excited if that didn't just mean there were lots of aphids for them to eat. Chow down, little guy! My peppers and eggplant are looking a little peaked, I am wondering if they are getting too much sun. Because if they think this is too much sun, then I am screwed in August. However, my zucchini is going nuts! At least some of my stuff is happy, I've never tried to grow most of these things before, so most of my knowledge is theoretical or secondhand. I transplanted the sage that was being encroached on by the zucchini so now they will both have more room.That pepper may be going in to a pot. It is looking very peaky right now, as is it's sibling pepper in the other bed. Also I am assuming the zucchini will be taking over. At least something is doing well!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Distractions (AKA not a garden post)

We were over at a friend's a few weeks ago. One of her friends was also there, and was complaining that her KitchenAid mixer made a funny noise and that it was broken. I did have to ask - broken didn't mean non-functional. It just meant making a funny noise (well actually a very loud grinding noise). She mostly just wanted an excuse to buy a bigger fancier model.

I now have a KitchenAid mixer.

There is a commercial repair place in Sparks (Reno's only suburb). It cost me $60 to get the thing repaired. It is a monster. They are convinced she actually dropped it on the ground in order to damage it at all. I just stuck it on my scale and it weighs nearly 22 lbs. The repair place said they have seen KitchenAids in there that are +50 years old. I am beyond excited to have gotten such a cheap one that is now basically in perfect shape.

Now look at the picture. I don't have a silly splash shield thing for the bowl, but the repair place also sold accessories so I have all the little whisk-y things in the picture. The Captain Hook bit there, that is the problem. It is for dough. I have spent possibly the entire evening looking for bread recipes...

Thursday, June 5, 2008

GT Week 1- Bones

1. Make a complete list of areas which need repair, weeding, improvement or movement. Make a list of possible solutions.
  • concrete patio needs cleaning, new pillows for chairs, and more plants in the new planting beds around the edges. I need to decide if I will be ripping out the "benches" on the house side made from fake brick (they hide pipes so I would need some different, proper benches to replace them).
  • area just outside concrete patio needs leveling, and I need to finish the rock edging so I can put gravel down for the new path and patio areas. Also this area needs a bit of maintenance weeding every week or two to keep the last of the grass at bay. I am tempted to use something chemical here but it is too close to the raised beds for my peace of mind.
  • raised beds might need some kind of wooden frame (they're kind of sloppy right now and a little bit overcrowded which could be a problem when my tomatoes get bigger). Ideally I would build four 4x4 squares about 6" high and transplant stuff into them. This also requires leveling and might be a project for next summer.
  • I need to decide if I will be addressing both potential new patio areas this summer or just the one I have been working around (the one visible from the concrete patio). I might just wait and do the other side of the garden later on.
2. Make a list of tools needed.
Got everything except for when I will be putting the gravel down I think I need some sort of compactor (will be renting this form Home Despot or somewhere similar, most likely). Also If I can't borrow a pressure washer for cleaning the concrete from the in-laws (f-in-law has two but they may both be broken) I may be renting one of these as well.

3. Find a garden center you love.
Moana Nursery has a rewards program and sends me coupons so they get points, but Dry Creek gets points for carrying plants proven to survive in Nevada (they're cooler, but farther away). Home Despot gets points for being five minutes from my house, but loses points for being giant, evil and stupid. Thus, HD for stuff like rentals, hoses and gloves, Moana for expensive shrubs (love those coupons) and Dry Creek for everything else.

4. Set a budget.
Like Susie, I have no available large chunk of $$ to set aside. That said, I can swap plants with people, get cuttings of things, and hit the Arboretum sale this weekend. The rock edging will be coming from the crappy river rock landscaping in the front yard (there's plenty), so the only big expenditure coming up will be the gravel (hopefully I will only need a couple of yards) which I am planning on pricing this weekend. There are several rock/landscape supply places so with any luck I can find a good deal.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Here we go...

1. What is the problem with your yard/balcony/potted plant?

It is big and empty. We like to use the concrete patio but the mulch I put down blows onto the patio. I believe someone called it "a clean slate". No kidding. It is way too much wasted space that I want to use.

2. What would your garden say?

I'm booored. You have barbecues, and your guests never see anything because I'm so barren! I want to party too!

3. What is lacking that you would like to do?

Separate zones - multiple areas where one would like to hang out in my yard instead of huddling on the patio. This could include a hammock or a fire pit area... we've got the space. And I'm not super worried about fire safety as it's mostly sand (and soon to be gravel!).

4. How would you like your garden/landscape to be described?

Tidy and interesting. Just a little less part of the desert and more part of my home.

Also, might get me in trouble. How wide of a branch do you think I would need to hang one of these from the maple tree? I might have to plant something to hide the compost pile...

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Context (sort of)

This might help, no guarantees. Paths would connect the two patio areas and go past the veggie bit to the gate. The black blob is the A/C unit on the little strip of sidewalk. This is the whole fenced area behind and on either side of the house. You seem to be able to click to see this at a legible size, as well.

The state of things to come (with pictures!)

This is the patio that needs some love. It is fully functional and frequently used, but it used to have AstroTurf all over it so at this point it is covered with adhesive and green paint and is highly unattractive. This is the view out the sliding glass door. I am wondering if it will be too dim to have pots of plants in the left-hand corner (not in the picture) as there is roof over this area.

This is the view from the right of the patio. And this was today's project: I am trying to outline the potential gravel paths and patios with a rock border. The front yard has an excess of river rocks so I am just swiping them from there (that is also why they look a bit on the small side). On the left are the plants I added today, some penstemon and salvia for the birds and a honeysuckle to start covering up that little iron fence thing. I have been advised that the little iron fences are nice because they separate that part of the patio from the rest of the yard, so I am planning on covering them with vines. I want to make a second little zone in front of the nearer section of iron fence but that backs up to the barbecue so I worry it would get too hot. But the lone tiny sagebrush seems to be doing just fine.
This is the view off of the corner of the patio. Shrubs are doing well, catmint is going bananas (the lighter purple stuff). The soaker hose will eventually be disentangled and run through here so I don't have to water these by hand.This is around the corner (you see a bit of it from the patio but not most of it, you can barely see the end of the patio in the bottom left corner of this picture). There is a short sidewalk off the other corner of the patio that leads to the gate, but for some reason the A/C unit is in the middle of the sidewalk. So the path will go around the A/C and connect to the little bit of sidewalk on the other side. The only question is should the gravel patio go all the way to the concrete patio on this side? Or should there be another little perennial bed in between (against the last little section of iron fence)? In the center, in front of the wheelbarrow, are my tiny raised beds. I am thinking now I should have built real ones instead of using the "pile of dirt" method, but so far everything seems relatively happy...This is looking in the opposite direction - taking a right when you come off of the patio. This will probably be a continuation of that path, I'd like to stick a tree in on the left as it would improve the view out those windows immensely, but that's not in the budget right now. Also, there's that nice maple. And some ivy and roses that are surviving on their own so I am ignoring them. They will eventually get cleaned up so they can look like they're part of the side-of-path flowerbed area. Same with the right side, if I can solve the hose issue.This is where the theoretical second gravel patio would go. Buckets are from the freak week of rain we had - I've been watering the plants with rainwater for a week or so now, I'm finally running out so they will disappear soon. This is also the water dilemma - in the right hand corner (of course I cut it out of the picture) is the only hose bib FOR THE ENTIRE BACKYARD. I will be discussing this with a plumber to see if he can hook into the pipe under the house and add one on the side by the A/C unit or somewhere in that vicinity. Right now the hose must run through three potential flowerbed-type areas in order to reach the veggies (clever, that, lot of forethought there). This will be secondary gravel patio area with more seating and eventually something shrubby to soften the lines of all that brick (junipers or something evergreen that won't need water, most likely interspersed with some prettier stuff someday).And that's a better view of the maple. I want a hammock under that tree. I'm not worried about much else past that, the left side will probably get more junipers since the neighbor's (hanging over the fence) seems to be very happy and there are always lots of birds in it. They also love to pick through the stuff that the juniper sheds (left side, on the ground) so the gravel won't be going over there. The middle area is basically sand and is reasonably level so it won't be too bad to just cover it with some gravel and edge it with rocks, I don't have to put down a sand layer and compact it because it's already there :)

Also, around the corner is the compost pile, but it's not doing much right now because Matt filled it with juniper when he pruned the shrubs in the front. I have been systematically removing it.

Garden Therapy - this just applies to everything, doesn't it?

I can't deal with both the front and back yards right now so this is for the backyard only. We spend way more time there and it just needs some affection, not huge amounts of $$$$ thrown at it.

: The hardscaping. Paths, structures, fencing, and necessary bits (like sheds and composters).

Ailments: The sandy soil is not bad, per se, but I want to put in gravel paths and a gravel patio area next to the raised beds. The fencing is in fine shape and the compost pile is back around the other side of the house where nobody sees it.

Breath: The positioning of the objects as well as the plants should encourage health. Weeds and pests are akin to clutter. Things should be arranged so that these are kept to a minimum.

Ailments: Weeds are fairly under control. Mulch that was supposed to keep the weeds down blows all over and needs to be raked up and disposed of (I have gotten most of it, I just need to get the last little bits). Far side of the garden is completely unused. I want to make a path that goes to the far side of the garden and stick a gravel patio there too so it will encourage us to spend time out there (we have a very nice maple on that side that I like to look at, I just need a reason to go over there). Eventually I'd like some xeriscaping around this theoretical patio, so not too much more to water, but a little more to see.

Heart: This is defined as "style." Colour, texture, materials. Will the landscape be welcoming? Will it be peaceful? Will it be interesting and full of something interesting each season?

Ailments: Plants are still pretty small, in the area I have started on. I want more perennials - flowering stuff that will attract more of our neighbors (bees, hummingbirds, mourning doves, quail). There should be more color. The shrubs can fill in on their own time, they'll get nice and huge someday. I need to accessorize! Also the current concrete patio area is functional but ugly, I would like to find out a non-horribly-chemical-oriented way to clean off the paint and adhesive so it can just be functional and ignored. Possibly some potted plants here, too.

Head: What is the purpose of the landscape? Does it support all the activities you want to do in it? Is it a living, welcoming part of your home? Does it welcome wildlife (if that's a goal)?

Ailments: People clump on the concrete patio area. A gravel patio and paths would extend the useable areas and still allow drainage (and not break the budget, optimally). Also it would be cool to have a firepit on one of the gravel patios for long summer evenings. I want my garden to be more sociable for more of the year. Right now we get plenty of use out of the concrete patio, and none out of the rest of the backyard. That is a lot of wasted space. It's mostly sand.

I am trying to repress the urge to go to the nursery right now. I have a shopping list, but I am waiting on it. I need tomato stakes and a soaker hose for my existing plants, but I'd like to make my yard more friendly to the local wildlife so I am looking at: penstemon, echinacea, another honeysuckle, some salvias and rudbeckias. Eventually. Also I want to collect some excess river rocks from the front "landscaping" (which is another story) and use them to outline the gravel patio/path areas. Oddly enough, right after I first got the gravel patio idea, I found a whole section on gravel as hardscaping on the Sunset magazine website.,20633,1623709,00.html