Mista Lista: They See Me Mowin’

Mista Lista’s changing things up at the ‘Zoo.  Each month, Mista Lista will be taking a closer look at one part of the ‘Zoo to see how things are shaping up. This month, Mista Lista is checking on things in the yard.

Front Yard

Our goals in the front yard were fairly simple: Take out overgrown landscaping and disintegrating edging; replace with new landscaping and new edging. We didn’t take a close up of the front flower bed when we bought the house, but it was primarily a thick row of overgrown grass with a few snake inhabitants. We tore out most of the grass and replaced it with a white climbing rose, hydrangeas, hostas, and a few flowering plants, primarily mums.  After a year, everything is thriving, and we even had to widen the bed to make room for our hostas.  I’m probably going to have to divide them next year, and my neighbor is planning to give me some of her divided hostas, too, which will mean even more hostas.  Yay! I just love hydrangeas and hostas together, though this year our hydrangeas bloomed pink instead of blue.  I love the deep purple-blue, but the pink were a nice change. I envision pink in the front near the house (near the foundation it will be a tough battle to maintain the right soil ph for blue) and blue in the back along the new white fence.  We’ll see.

Last Year                                                                                 This Year

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 Side Yard

Yes, we have two side yards, but only one is pictured.  The other one hasn’t changed much. Our west side yard was the priority, primarily because of the magnolia looming over our house (the roots were too close to the house foundation to be safe) as well as the other overgrown shrubs. We replaced them with a variety of plants including knockout roses, loropetalum, canna lilies, caladiums, purple fountain grass, and monkey grass. Everything has grown so quickly that is hard to believe it’s only been a year since these were planted. The pavers and the pine straw that our neighbors had spread on our yard have now been replaced with flourishing grass.  

                                 Last Year                                                                                 This Year

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Back Yard

The backyard has also changed dramatically.  Again, our goals were primarily to take out overgrown and ill-placed shrubs and trees, and down the road, replace the fence.  We added more flowerbeds, filled with canna lilies, lantanas, banana trees, roses, etc. We also tried a fruit/vegetable garden this year (mostly not a win), and started replacing the fence.  After buying a new outdoor area rug and some lawn furniture, we actually had people over for a cookout, with enough seats for all.  Yay!

Last Year                                                                                 This Year

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Overall, here’s what’s been accomplished thus far:

  • Moving gate latch to the inside of the backyard (Surprise! We discovered we did in fact have a gate latch already, but it was put on the outside to allow free access to our backyard to any interested parties…what-tha-what?)  We now realize how the neighbors were able to show other interested buyers the backyard while we were looking at the inside with our realtor!) (1)
  • Cut down imposing magnolia in side yard (2)
  • Trim trees, shrubs, and grasses (2)
  • Remove sago palms in the way of mowing (2)
  • Replace rotted fence board (2)
  • Test/correct sprinkler aim (2)
  • Clear easement behind fence to keep weeds out of our yard (2)
  • Remove overgrown (ugly) hedges and grasses and snakes, oh my! (2)
  • Remove scalloped landscape edging (3)
  • Add new plants, mulch, and edging (3)
  • Replace odd flower bed between entry and driveway with brick pavers so that we aren’t stepping out of our car into the flower/weed bed (2)
  • Cut down magnolias in backyard (3)
  • Paint faded mailbox (2)
  • Shadowbox wood fence (3)
  • Line fence with crape myrtles for low maintenance privacy and shade (3)
  • Add edible plants! (3)
  • Upgrade fence (4)
  • More patio furniture for people to be able to join us in our back yard (3)
  • Expand patio area (4)
  • Add gate on garage side for convenience (4)
  • Add sunporch? (4)
  • Add pool? (4)

Staying on top of things with the yard hasn’t been the easiest during our flooring project. We are constantly battling the weeds in the back, so we are brainstorming solutions for keeping them out more easily (that don’t involve lots of toxic chemicals!).  We also hope to finish the fencing and rearrange some plants in September to give them time to get established in their new homes before cooler weather arrives.  Ah, so many projects, so little time.

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Getting the Backyard Party Started

Nothing says spring like outdoor fun in the backyard, so this year we are getting the backyard party started. BackYard1Last year, we focused our landscaping efforts on the front and west side yards, filling the overgrown beds in the backyard with leftover plants from these projects and plant-gifts from my mom’s yard (mainly canna lilies).   My parents also gave us a cantilevered umbrella they were no longer using for our patio, but it didn’t see a lot of action.  Neither did the rest of our meager collection of patio furniture, despite the relatively nice weather year round. In fact, I have ZERO pictures of our backyard with the patio furniture in it, which is consistent with how much time we spent out there.

Why, you might ask, when the backyard was a major selling feature of the ‘Zoo? Well, after spending more time in the backyard, we realized that our ‘privacy fence’ wasn’t very private because whoever installed it left three inch gaps between each board. We have nice neighbors, but we still felt awkward about eating a meal on our porch and being stared down (and howled at) by the neighbors’ dogs or catching some rays in our swimsuits on days the beach was too crowded, only to realize that your neighbors could watch you snoozing in the sun, a scenario with all the makings of a creepy stalker, made-for-TV movie.  We also didn’t have enough room for entertaining with only 4 chairs and a tiny, overcrowded patio.

We’ve got big party plans for the backyard this year, though, so this spring we are hitting the ground running with a host of improvements. Here’s the plan:

  • Replace old, rotting, peeping-Tom wood fence with new vinyl (actual) privacy fence
  • New storage solution for our dilapidated deck box that takes up way too much prime real estate on the patio
  • Spruce up the patio with a new area rug to make it feel like an outdoor living space and less of a here’s-where-the-outdoor-things-sit-unused-and-collect-pollen space
  • Start a manageable (hopefully!) mini-garden with fruits and veggies for home-picked produce (not that we don’t love our farmer’s markets, but nothing tastes better than homegrown, right?)
  • More seating so we can actually have people over and not ask them to sit in the grass
  • Get creative with space to have room for more seating yet not have to spend $$$ to expand our patio
  • Make a fire pit because they are awesome for evening gatherings (and our shredder died, so there’s that)
  • Bring in more colorful flowers to brighten things up because color makes things happier
  • Up the mosquito-fighting power because two citronella candles aren’t doing the trick

First up: the peeping Tom fence.  We originally looked at the cost of shadowboxing our existing fence, coupled with replacing some of the rotted boards, but we couldn’t justify it when the cost of a nicer fence was only a little bit more.  Then my parents threw us a bone in the form of leftover posts and post caps from the white vinyl fence they had installed around their pool, and because we already have a white vinyl fence on the west side yard, we thought, What if we just do the fence replacement right now?! This led to the application for a building permit for replacing our fence (this is a  building code requirement for our city, though not many people observe it…but we are rule followers and, as HOA president and treasurer, are trying to set a good precedent for the neighborhood), and the great backyard makeover officially got started.  Nothing says party like fence demolition, right?  Oh wait, that’s just my crazy family.

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My dad and I made quick work of the old panels with a few simple tools while Chris was at work, and then the east side yard looked like this:

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Crazy, right?  I don’t think I realized how much higher our yard was than our neighbor’s.  Then we began to set posts for the new panels (different panel length of new fence meant setting new posts) and put the new panels up.

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Then the rain started.  We worked in the rain to get this side done because our neighbor on the east has a dog, and we wanted to make sure that Amelia {the dog} would be able to come out to play safely.  Chris joined us for the latter half of the fence work and for the next day of party fun  hard labor.

We managed to get the east side yard fence complete, but we’ve had some seriously bad weather the past couple of weeks that have hampered efforts to get the rest of it done.  We anticipate putting in the gates on each side next, followed by the back/south fence.  We currently only have a gate on the northeast side, which is ridiculously annoying because our garage, where all the materials and tools are stored, is on the northwest side.  Consequently, we are adding a gate on the northwest side to make things easier. Stay tuned!

Front Porch Problems

There’s nothing better than a cheerful front porch to welcome people to your home, right?  In the South, porches are quintessential elements of a home, architecturally and socially.  A cheerful front porch is the lipstick of the house. Bright pops of color can do wonders for an otherwise ordinary face entrance.  Unfortunately, our front porch (if you could even call it that) is a bit lackluster in the welcome department.

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See what I mean?

We are in the idea stages and would like to solicit some input about ways to spruce it up, so here’s the N-portant things you need to know about our front porch/entry area.

  1. Necessary.  We use our front door as our primary entry into the house because our garage is usually full of projects (see this post), which renders the garage entry to the house more inaccessible from the outside.  Consequently, the walkway and entry need to stay somewhat open and clutter-free so we don’t trip or bump into things whilst juggling ten bags of groceries to be able to unlock the door. In other words, we are not putting up a harvest display with Cinderella’s-chariot-sized-pumpkins and life-size scarecrows barring access to our home.
  2. Narrow.  When we step out of our cars, we step onto the brick pavers, so that just leaves the paved area and the trim of pavers for walk space/welcome space/whatever.  This is a very tight entry, so there isn’t enough room on either side of the door for planters, to my dismay. I had great visions of potted ferns on plant stands, but there isn’t enough room for plants and people to share the stoop. Sacrifices had to be made, and we aren’t a fan of the Aztec way of life.  Or death. You get the picture.
  3. North-facing.  The brick wall to the left blocks all of the morning light, and the elevation + pitch of our roof combine to ensure that only the front of the walk gets afternoon sun (and only March through October).  As you can see, the overhang makes the stoop very dark (and also damp), which doesn’t help matters.  This makes choosing plants tricky business because the plants must be shade-loving if they are under the overhang, or they must prefer afternoon sun during the hottest-part-of-the-day-in-the-hottest-part-of-the-year but be able to survive solely on indirect light during the cooler winter months.  We can certainly shift plants from the front/back yard seasonally, but we would prefer seasonal changes that don’t involve lugging heavy pots around/through the house.  At the same time, we don’t like to throw away money on annuals or plants that aren’t hardy enough for winter. No real pumpkin will last in this kind of dark/damp/too hot environment without breeding bacteria, fungi, and insects.  We love pumpkins, so this is especially sad for us.  
  4. Gnatty.  Yes, I realize this doesn’t actually start with the letter N.  Lots of gnats, moths, mosquitoes, etc. hang out in the dark, damp overhang part of the entry.  We’d prefer other houseguests.
  5. Nightlife.  The sole benefit of the gnattiness is the thriving tree frog and gecko population also inhabiting in our entry.  Unfortunately, members of the gecko family crawl into the rafters for daytime naps…and sometimes crawl into the house.  Nothing like watching Netflix late at night and noticing creepy-crawly shadows on the ceilings…and then having to devise ways to get baby geckos down from 13 foot plus ceilings and safely to their family outside.  Not an easy task, folks.
  6. Naked.  And I don’t mean the door.  The oval panel in the door allows for some natural light to enter the foyer (good) but also enables anyone passing by our home at night to see everyone and everything if we have any lights on at all.  The glass is not entirely frosted (including a section in the center with a ridiculously hideous floral motif resembling the worst kind of weed imaginable), so no running around naked in the house.  Not that we ever do that, but you know.  We plan to replace the door with a less revealing one, but that will have to wait, given other more pressing expenses like floors.  In the meanwhile, we’ve thought about putting up a curtain rod like these and curtain panels on the inside that we can open in the day and close at night for privacy (several of our neighbors do this, including my parents).  However, our narrow entry has an equally narrow foyer on the opposite side of the door, so the curtains will take up valuable real estate.  Le sigh.

N-y brilliant ideas?

 

 

 

 

Mista Lista: October KaZoo To Do

Mista Lista sat down with the KaZoo family this past weekend to do some planning and goal coordination of their next steps, now that most of the necessary, smaller, and easier tasks are out of the way.  Note: Painting the remaining rooms doesn’t even count as a smaller, easier task because the KaZoos will have to rent equipment to be able to reach their high ceilings and move their heavy furniture to do so.  Mista Lista does take pity on the KaZoos every once in awhile.  Mista Lista advised the KaZoos to tackle future to dos in a more time and cost-effective way than their frenzied spring/summer get-it-done-yesterday madness approach.  The new plan is to tackle one big project, one medium-sized project, and three smaller projects, plus conduct research and purchase materials necessary for forthcoming projects in November.  Here’s what Mista Lista helped the KaZoos plan for the month of October.

Projects on Deck:

The Escalade

Painting the living room, dining room, and the rest of the kitchen is the big project of the month.  If the size of these walls (over 13′ high, and running the width and length of the public spaces in the house) isn’t enough to earn the Escalade designation alone, having to rent equipment that costs money and requires logistical planning is also a big deal. Note the height of the ceiling over the height of the baby grand piano with its lid raised. Yes, that is an empty frame on the wall. It’s a placeholder.IMG_3221

The Camry

Coming in second place is putting the finishing touches on the yard, and by this we mean finish clearing the overgrown easement behind our house (note the ginormous, blooming wild shrub+ vine combo), replace broken sprinkler heads, finish edging/mulching the flower beds in the backyard, and transplanting crape myrtles to the backyard fence row for low maintenance privacy and shade.  Sounds like a pretty big job, right? It is.  This might be more like a BMW 7 series sedan instead of a Camry sized job, but all of these things can be accomplished in one long day’s work without needing extra equipment, hence the mid-size designation. You may be thinking, um, but wouldn’t a Bobcat rental help with clearing the easement? Yup, if only we could get one back there. 

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The Focus, the Fiat, and the Fit

Painting the house numbers, exterior light fixtures, and mailbox is one of our bite-sized projects for October. We plan to ORB the light fixtures, but the mailbox has to stay a standard black per HOA regulations.  We haven’t decided what color to paint the supremely faded house numbers yet (black like they were before [we think]? ORB’d to match the light fixtures?)…any preferences/suggestions? We’d really like to upgrade the numbers down the road to some of those awesome art deco-looking numbers.  All in good time, right?

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Fixing up the fireplace is also on the list.  We got a coupon in the mail for a chimney sweep, and we definitely need our fireplace inspected and cleaned.  It is supposed to be a gas fireplace, but there are no gas logs…and where they should be is a grate for actual wood.  The inside of the fireplace is all black as if the people who used to live here might have burned real wood in a fireplace not really equipped to handle it.  Although we don’t really need a fireplace down here, we would like it cleaned professionally. No time like the present, right?

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Sprucing up the front entry to the house for fall is also on the hit, er, Fit list.  Nothing says welcome like mossy bricks, a mud/dirt dauber nest, and a dirty front door, right? We know we are supposed to leave the nest because these insects rarely sting humans but do eat spiders (take them all!), but this nest looks like it has long since been abandoned.  We I  would like some fall flowers and a nice wreath for the front door, so this may involve breaking out my crafty skills.

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Right now, the pots/plants you see in the picture above no longer occupy this location, and the front looks like a barren wasteland of brick pavers and dirty concrete.  The small blue and green pots were temporary guests of the front porch while their kitchen home was filled with drywall dust, and the petunias that look so healthy were ravaged by mealybugs…along with a lot of other plants in my yard. Rage. I was able to launch a fairly effective counterattack on the mealybugs and only lost three plants, but the petunias were one of the three that didn’t make it.  The only thing I found to be effective against the mealybugs was spraying my plants with rubbing alcohol (that’s the professional recommendation–not just a stupid idea I had), and the three plants that didn’t make it were so damaged that the alcohol sent them over the edge. Mealybugs are the worst, people.  If you see little grayish-white bugs that look fuzzy on your plants, grab your rubbing alcohol, put it in a spray bottle, and spray like crazy (preferably not on a rainy day where its effect will be overly diluted and not in the sun where the effect of heat + alcohol will burn your plant up).  I thought I had eradicated them from our yard a month ago, but I recently had to launch another alcohol attack after finding them on some canna lilies that they had previously ignored.  So frustrating.  I’m now stocking up on rubbing alcohol and inspecting all my plants religiously.  Apparently they are supremely invasive, massively destructive, and highly resistant, so gardeners beware.

Other October Happenings:

Our neighborhood is also having a garage/yard sale in October, and we plan to participate.  We’ve got quite a few items to sell, and Craigslist hasn’t been our friend of late.  We’ve had several people call about pieces of furniture and set up a meet, only to not show up. Thanks for wasting our Saturday that could have been at the beach, people. You know who you are.  We’re having to post ‘serious inquiries only’ on all our listings, and even still….Anyway, we’ll see how it goes.  We’re not totally enamored with the idea of a garage sale, but if we can clear out some large clutter and make some money to go towards other purchases and projects, it might be worth it.

Project Research: Dining Area Furniture

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We would like to replace our dining table and chairs with a farmhouse table and some new chairs/benches/something.  Our current set is a hand-me-down from my parents and not really our style, even though the mahogany finish is nice.  More importantly, two of the six dining chairs are in need of a major re-upholstery job (two have sagging seats, several have batting coming out, and the fabric is stained, worn, and dated) that is beyond our skill set, and the table isn’t safe.  One of the legs snapped last year in the city (super scary!) and my dad helped repair it well enough for it to be safe for use until we could do better.  Unfortunately, two of the other legs are now cracked and threatening to do the same thing, so it’s only a matter of time before this table gives out for good.  We recently learned of a local furniture maker who does awesome solid wood, custom pieces, so we want to investigate this vs. making a table and benches ourselves using plans from Ana White.

And that’s our October.  What projects are you tackling this month?

A Shingle in Time Saves Nine

Buying a fixer upper usually means that there are some things that need fixing immediately, some that can wait a little longer, and others that can wait years until your ideas and finances blend seamlessly into masterful renovations.  When we received our home inspection prior to buying the house, the inspector said we were missing some roof flashing and some shingles that would need repairing.  He also made an offhand comment that he would probably consider replacing the roof in the semi-near future and gave us the name of a roofer he would recommend we call to do the repairs/reroof.  There was a history of past leaking, as evidenced by the ceiling stains, so we knew this was something to keep in the back of our minds.

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Once we found our new and awesome range hood, we knew we would need to cut a hole in the roof for the roof cap for its venting, so we decided to get a repair estimate  and potentially a reroof estimate for the roof so we could be saving up.  Some of our neighbors, including my parents, had some roofing repairs or reroofs done by a different company, and our insurance agent recommended a third person.

We called each of the three recommended roofers, and the first person who was able to come out to give us a quote was from the company my parents had used.  After ten minutes on our roof, the guy who came out to do the repair estimate (we’ll call him Bob) said he could not give us a repair estimate in good faith because we really needed a reroof, citing several things that were warning signs to a professional roofer that our roof was reaching the end of its short life (apparently our 15-year-old home came with only a 15-year shingle, so the math isn’t hard to do). For example, the home inspector had noted patches for leaks, but Bob mentioned that there were four different colors of shingles used, which to him was a red flag that whoever did the patching didn’t even try to get a close match of shingle, which could mean cutting corners in other ways, too.

Basically, Bob said we could sink a few thousand into quality repairs, but we’d need to reroof in a couple of years at best, so that money (at least a fifth or more of the price of a reroof) would just go down the drain.  Bob said he’d get the reroof estimator to provide us with a quote within the next couple of days.  Not that we didn’t trust Bob (he had confirmed our own mounting suspicions), but I also asked my dad to look at the roof (my dad has done roofing before, like so many other things).  I didn’t tell my dad what Bob had said, but after he came down from the roof, his report matched Bob’s report exactly.  We compared quotes with the company our home inspector had recommended, and the company for whom Bob worked came in with a slightly better quote.  The third guy never got back to us.2014-08-06 19.08.32

Even though dropping $10k for a new roof wasn’t really something we wanted to do right away, it makes more sense to have a new roof protecting all the other repairs and updates we want to do on the inside. Within a week of signing a contract, we had a brand new 30 year dimensional shingle roof.  From the front of the house, you can’t really tell much of a difference, but if you look closely, you’ll notice two things: The new roof is a slightly lighter gray color than the original, and the ridge caps are slightly more elevated because they are vented.  If you were to do a fly-by, our roof no longer looks like a patchwork quilt done by a kindergartner.2014-08-07 16.17.53

The reroofing took the crew only 5 hours (they arrived at a bleary 6:30 a.m., climbed on the roof at 6:45 a.m., and were gone by 11:45 a.m.). They were crazy efficient and did a fantastic job cleaning up, too.  A few things to keep in mind when having your roof repaired for which we were unprepared, though:

1.  Free-falling Objects Overhead
Although we didn’t know it, some of the screws in the original light fixtures and living room ceiling fan were loose, so the vibrations from the roof work loosened them up further until a few fell to the floor. The dome light over the sink actually fell completely off the ceiling, but thankfully my dad caught it mid-fall while he was in the kitchen nibbling a muffin (I ply my dad with baked goods in exchange for his handyman services).

2. Dandruff or Debris?
The vibrations also caused some of the popcorn on the remaining popcorn ceilings to come loose, showering everything from our clothes in the closet to the duvet on the bed in a fine dusting of popcorn.

3.  Off the Walls
My parents have had wall art fall during a roofing before, but thankfully ours just tilted in places.  Pieces that were propped up against walls slid down, but again, nothing fell or was damaged.  We would still recommend taking valuable pieces off the wall just in case, especially if they are near furniture that you don’t want damaged.

4.  Burned/Broken Blooms and Branches
The roofers did an excellent job of tarping the yard around the perimeter of the house so that materials (especially nails) raining down during the removal of the old roof would fall on the tarps for easy clean-up and for fewer opportunities to contract tetanus when working in the flowerbeds in the future.  However, we were getting a roof done in Florida on a sunny August morning, so I realized that the tarps were going to act like greenhouses, essentially burning up my plants.  Fortunately, they removed the tarps as quickly as they could; only then did I discover that the tarps and falling debris had broken some of the branches and blooms on my new plants.  I was able to salvage the broken basil, though; it is now growing roots and will be its own entity. Hooray for happy accidents. 🙂

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They’re supposed to be sending someone out today to cut the hole and install the roof cap for our new range hood, so hopefully we’ll have a finished and functional hood to show you soon!  We’ll also be getting a wind mitigation inspection (paid for by the roofing company we used) so that our new and improved roof will help lower our home insurance premiums, which will (over time) defray the upfront cost of the new roof.  Here’s hoping that a shingle in time saves nine.

Something Old, Something New (Again): Succulent Garden

Remember this post and this picture?

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I wasn’t sure my herb garden would really be a success, not being an expert on herb growing by any means.  In fact, I half-expected the plants to wither and die, given that I had planted  herbs together that have conflicting watering needs (rosemary likes it dry, basil and parsley like it wet).  To my surprise, my herbs thrived–to the point that they were growing out of control, despite my pinching and pruning efforts.  Quickly it became apparent that this one container would not house them all, so I harvested all I could and transplanted the herbs to separate containers that now sit happily on a window sill in our new kitchen.

Once again, the antique stoneware vessel was empty, but remember how I initially wanted to use it for a succulent garden?  While I was in FL, Chris and I made a trip to Lowe’s. It was still quite chilly at the start of March, and the garden section was not doing a booming business.  However, they had beautiful new succulents, and Chris acquiesced to my succulent request.  Since cacti need a different type of soil, I purchased a bag of cactus soil, along with five different types of succulents.  Chris made sure we included an aloe plant and was most helpful in selecting the best looking succulents for shape, color, and variety.  Once again, I filled the bowl with river rocks for drainage, followed by a layer of cactus soil, and then added the succulents.

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At present, I like them in their dark soil (provides good contrast), but I may decide to add sand or black river rock to the top. Right now, I’m just enjoying the simple fact that I finally have super succulents!  They are sitting on the round oak dining table that Chris is currently using (thanks to my parents for another cast-off so that Chris could have furniture while ours is still in the city), where they get southern exposure thanks to the dining room window.  Hopefully he remembers to forget about them so they thrive! 😉

Something Old, Something New: Herb Garden

In honor of Halloween,

SPOILER ALERT: This is not a Halloween-themed post.   Sorry, folks!  I threw caution thematic blogging to the winds and decided to post about herbs, especially now that we have had our first hard frost and people might be thinking about bringing delicate plants indoors (or mourning their brown-and-black outdoor plant life).

We have started cooking with fresh herbs and love it.  I have totally joined the fresh herbs fanatics camp. It all started when I wanted to make homemade margherita pizza using fresh basil, which resulted in buying one of those wee organic basil plants so that I could have enough leaves to cover a pizza at a reasonable price.  That was last October.  Unbelievably, I have kept an inside plant alive for an entire year.  A. Ma. Zing.

I loved landscaping back when we owned our own home (and yard!) and didn’t have HOA restrictions on the kind of plants you can put in your yard. “No, you are a Bradford pear yard, so you can’t plant a Japanese maple.”  #Renterville This pretty much dampened any enthusiasm we had for improving the curb appeal of our current location…but not our enthusiasm for plants.   Consequently, I’ve been restricted to containers. On a small deck.  In full sun. In the South.  Le sigh.  Perhaps this, rather than the pizza, is what drove me to indoor plants despite not having the best track record with remembering to water them….

Anyway, given this surprising success with a lone basil plant, I decided to risk succulents.  They don’t need much attention, right?  I love succulents, and I like that their colors tend to coordinate nicely with all the fall/winter harvesty things like pumpkins, kale, etc. but also look crisp and cool in spring/summer.   I was really hoping to put some in a set of three glass containers my mom gave me I rescued from my mom’s giveaway box and make an entire succulent garden in an antique washbowl that Chris’s grandmother gave us was also giving away.IMG_2372

So in typical fashion, Chris and I headed to our local garden center/big box home improvement store (we prefer Blue but Orange has some good things, too) to look at the discounted/end of season plant selection.     The previous year, we lucked out with some ridiculously cheap gerbera daises and other flowering plants that somehow survived dying in the winter to bloom again this spring/summer.  No such luck this year, though.  I joked that the succulents were actually “sucky-lents” (yes, Chris groaned, as I’m sure you are doing, too).  The only ones that did not look pitiful were $$$ or mixed with cacti, which should not be part of a household with curious cats who like to rub on everything with texture. Trust me.  Plucking cacti stickers from a cat’s face is not a happy experience for anyone involved. Lots of gnashing of teeth and bleeding.

We went home empty-handed and sulky.  Okay, I went home sulky.  I think Chris might have been silently cheering.  Plants are not his thing.  He says it’s because he’s allergic to grass.  I think he’s “allergic” to plants in general, seeing as how he doesn’t seem to like eating many of them either.  Iceberg lettuce, raw carrots, and canned peas and green beans = the vegetable group for most of his life. [Shudder].   Thankfully he’s expanded his horizons in the last seven years since we got married.  Now he’s even eaten collards and fennel.  Ah, the things he does we do for love.

Then I saw this soup recipe in the Williams Sonoma catalogue that I wanted to try, now that colder weather is here.  The recipe called for fresh herbs…so I decided to create an herb garden in the washbowl instead of pining for puny or pricey succulents that just “look pretty.”  Chris heartily agreed to this idea, so we bought a rosemary plant and a parsley plant to join our beloved basil.

In the washbowl, I first laid a bed of river rock to facilitate drainage around the roots.

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Then I topped the rocks with some potting mix (aka whatever was leftover in the garage…not sure this is typically what you’d typically use for herbs, but it was already purchased).

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Then I planted and watered the herbs…and ta da: herb garden!

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With regular misting, the herbs are flourishing and are making regular appearances in our meals.

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In fact, dear Basil seems to be doing better than when he was a lone ranger.  Is there such a thing as a social plant? Who knows.  The herbs sit in the microscopic “breakfast area” where they can receive enough sun but not freeze with winter approaching.

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PS: That soup recipe didn’t turn out so well (too expensive for the tastiness factor, which was lacking greatly IMO), but at least it was the catalyst for the herb garden and the subsequent tasty meals it has provided! 🙂