Monday, June 25, 2012

Sometimes jealousy IS a pretty thing

It should come as no surprise that, after the success of The Dry Creek Bed project, Mulch Boy would become jealous of my 5.5 tons of rocks and want his own. And so it was that he decided to build his very own patio with his very own rocks.

You may recall this spot in front of our back porch. Here is where MB had his smoker and big bin of charcoal, resting on a little platform of concrete blocks that we found randomly scattered in the back yard when we moved in.

Shown pre-dry creek bed for extra before-and-after impact.

Mulch Boy's scheme: to convert this weedy little corner into an attractive patio for the smoker and for sittin' around. Organized fellow that he is, MB actually measured the space and then marked it with posts and string. I KNOW! Then, he dug between the lines a hole, a big 6'x10'x6" hole with a flat bottom and sides. It was a thing to behold.

It begins.
It's so precise!
Almost there...

Next step: gravel. We started with four bags. Four bags looks like this.

Almost enough!

You'd think after the dry creek bed, we'd know better, wouldn't you? Two additional trips to Sisler's stone yard later, we ultimately used 28 bags of gravel to fill in the patio-shaped hole. After that, eight bags of stone dust (recommended to us instead of sand because it's heavier and stays put better). Weigh all that, and you've got another ton of rocks and rock-related product. That's 6.5 tons for the year!

Now comes the gap in the photo record, because on Sunday we went from spreading the gravel to spreading the stone dust to laying the flagstones all in one go, over the course of a couple of hours. It's that last step that was the hardest: laying the stones in the dust and trying to get them all even and level with each other. There was a lot of tweaking done to get it just right.

And eventually it WAS just right. Behold! Well done, Mulch Boy!

Larger view, showing the grand scheme of things.
Come set a spell!

Filling in the blanks

After killing all those black-eyed Susans, I found myself with some wide-open spaces in The Big Bed in the front.  So last week, I made a little trip to my local nursery and walked out with, uh, a little more than I intended. As usual, of course, I can't tell you what all my purchases are specifically since I don't have the handy little plastic cards with me. Forgive the weird spacing; Blogger is not cooperating with me today.

Some aster things. The blooms are so beautiful and unusual, and as soon
as I got it in the ground, I had a dragonfly and bees checking them out.

These guys. They are very droopy and I think I need to stake them or
something.  Also, they are very very sensitive to the droughty weather.

This is hard to see, but I put in three lavenders here, enclosing
my yellow rose in a triangle, hoping the lavender will create
a natural mulch and prevent the million billion weeds that show
up under the rose every couple of weeks.

Three new geraniums to go with the old feller on the right.

Two new barrenwort to go with my old guy on the left.

The big picture. Hopefully the new guys will fill in these blanks and stave off
another black-eyed Susan takeover.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Black-eyed Susans, I thought we had an understanding

Like Captain America, I don't want to kill anybody. I just don't like bullies. And it turns out that black-eyed Susans are the biggest bully on the block. You may recall that this spring, I cleaned out The Big Bed in front and all was tidy and nice.

Three months later, it looked like this.
Are you kidding, black-eyed Susans?

And so last week, I was back on a killing rampage, two hours a day for three days after work, just me and Weedy. Behold the carnage. 


I filled four giant garden bags full of black-eyed Susans, and still left two little patches alive. Whether that is a dreadful mistake, only time will tell. Meantime, I'm looking for some perennials to fill in the new gaps (and hopefully help prevent another black-eyed Susan takeover in the future. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pokeweed, get your own place.

Pokeweed is like the uninvited guest who knocks on your door, throws himself on your sofa, eats all your Doritos, drinks all your baby Cokes, adjusts your thermostat, and then has the nerve to ask what's for dinner.

Truly there is not hyperbole enough to express how unwelcome is an invasion of pokeweed. While I am disheartened by how the black-eyed Susans have magically renewed themselves after I just purged them not three months ago (that's a rant for another post), it is the pokeweed that has me seeing spots before my eyes. What is UP with this stuff?

Who invited you?

For those of you lucky enough to not be in the know, American pokeweed is an evil succulent perennial weed that goes from sprout to 6 feet tall in about an hour and a half. (Possibly I'm exaggerating, but check out the details on Wikipedia; I'm not that far off.) When the weed is still small (i.e., under 2 feet tall), it can be pretty easily pulled out of the ground, root and all.

But once it gets bigger, fuggedabowdit. The root goes DEEP and it does NOT want to leave. You may yank at the monster and snap off the plant, but the root remains to torment you another day.

I never had a problem with pokeweed until last year. Last year, you may recall, was The Lost Summer, in which the yard and garden were left to fend for themselves while we dealt with various family issues/personal illness/etc. Pokeweed, ever looking for an opportunity to expand its territory, quietly invaded when we weren't looking. And now I fear we'll be paying the price for years to come.

If only pokeweed had some practical use! If only it were edible. Frankly, it looks delicious: succulent green and pink stems, beautiful black berries--pokeweed looks like it was made for being baked into yummy pies.

Alas, the entire thing is poison poison poison. Some folks DO eat the very young leaves, but to do so safely you have to boil them three times to leach out the poison (no, really), and who wants to go to that sort of trouble and then possibly still poison themselves?

I guess you can let the nice folks at Allen do all
that prep for you.

I can't deny that pokeweed is pretty. In the park land across the street from us, it sprouts up every summer with its colorful stems and beautiful berries. Before it took up residence in my yard, I was actually an admirer.

But what's pretty in the woods is not so pretty in the middle of my vegetable garden, or muscling in on my flower beds. Thus I find myself laboring to stem the spread of this insidious interloper before it completely takes over. If you don't hear from me in a week, please alert the authorities.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Just an everyday special day

After the raging storms this last Friday, we had a gloriously beautiful weekend here in Northern Virginia. The weather was sunny and mild, with temperatures peaking in the 70s. I took the opportunity to finally take some pictures of the completely finished dry creek bed, with flower beds mulched and planted.

The creek's "source."

Running in front of the porch (just finished mulching).

Making the turn to the side of the house.

The crowning jewel.
The Orca, now under attack. "We're going to need a bigger boat."
Our turtle Oliver Grendel Holmes, at home among the flowers.
Looking back from the gate. Who's that watching back there?
Charlie stops by for a chat in the sun with Oliver. Anybody recognize that
fern behind them? It and several others like it showed up out of nowhere.

Mulch and I had a wonderful weekend, and not just because it was beautiful or because of our delight that the basement didn't flood. And not because anything exciting happened, or we hit the lottery or won a pony. In fact, the height of the weekend's excitement was possibly our Saturday morning trip to Wegman's supermarket.

Our activities over Saturday and Sunday went something like this: grocery shopping, watching The Lord of the Rings, housecleaning and laundry (me) and kitchen-cleaning and cooking (Mulch), lying in the sun reading and listening to music, eating dinner on the porch with good friends.

And it was just wonderful.

It's hard to articulate why. But upon reflection, I believe Gus McCrae of Lonesome Dove describes why this ordinary, uneventful weekend was so special.
"The only healthy way to live life as I see it, is to learn to like all the little everyday things. Like a sip of good whiskey of an evening, or a soft bed, or a glass of buttermilk, or say a feisty gentleman like myself."
That was our weekend in a nutshell: enjoying the little everyday things. Warm sun and cool breeze. No schedule. Dogs warm from the sun. Wegman's garlic loaf. Cheese and salami. Pudding cups and popsicles. Cleaned floor. Favorite books. Favorite movies. Washed laundry. Cleaned kitchen. Smoked ribs. Corn on the cob. Good friends. Good times.

"And then I says to Mabel, I says..."

Monday, June 4, 2012

Dry creek in ACTION!

Well!  Turns out imbedding videos isn't that big a deal after all.  And so behold the dry creek bed as it becomes a raging river that channels the flood safely away from our basement.

It works!

Friday evening in the DC metro area, there were severe thunderstorms (and even threats of tornadoes). I got home from work before it started, but shortly the skies opened and poured down upon us. It was a very big rain. The kind of rain that causes the creek across the street to overflow and literally turn our entire street into a raging river.

The kind of rain that floods our basement.

But not this time!

For anyone out there who read about our adventures building the dry creek bed and thought, "Poor misguided souls, they're digging that big trench and moving that 5.5 tons of rock by hand for nothing, the amateurs,"* may I present The Dry Creek Bed, dry no more. I can't believe it really worked! (Video to come if I can figure out how to imbed a video into a post. Anyone know how to imbed a video into a post?)

*Count me and Mulch Boy among the skeptical.