Sunday, June 14, 2009

More gardens is good

See the garden grow!

I am winning the battle (but will always be losing the war) against weeds. I am very tickled to see all the growing that is happening outside our house. Sowing seeds is an act of faith, and I realize I seldom perform such acts (or at least, ones I notice so clearly). Some of them came up, and I was happily surprised. The roses are also MUCH happier than they were last year. I have yet to address their aphid problem, but they seem to be soldiering on. Funny how they grow so easily here. I grew up thinking of roses as the ultimate prissy flower, watching my mother try to baby them through the North Carolina heat, and the June bugs. So I watch my roses now with wary pleasure, ready to lecture them severely if they start acting uppity.

No uppity roses here. Look at all those greens! Salad, anyone?Peas. And beans. And tomatoes. Oh my.

My first poppy. And the first dahlia, which was supposed to be a late summer bloomer? Far be it for me to discourage you, dahlia, but it is June. Overachiever? Don't worry, me too.

We also planted a little rock garden with succulents in the strangely useless space between the house and the front walk. It sits under the eaves and hardly gets any rain. Perfect. All the succulents like it--they are blooming!

That's your garden update. No deep thoughts. Just dirt. Mmmm. Dirt.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


So, I promised a garden sequel. Let's revisit the house:

Here we are, the 1954 single-story ranch. The previous owner took very good care of the basics and left off the frills. The roof is solid, the foundation good. Inside, all the walls were white, the curtains were white, the kitchen was white, and the bathroom you have seen. Outside, all the ferns were sad and sunburnt. And at some point, the car was parked on the lawn. We didn't really get to a garden last year, but this year we were determined. The backyard is home to the mobile destruction module of doom (otherwise known as our 50lb tortoise, Rasputin) as well as the wild and wooly doglets, so we decided to keep the tender young veggies away from the depredations of our menagerie. Plus, less to mow! Behold:

Originally, there was simply lawn choking the iris and rose bushes, as well as a chain link fence. We have no photo records of the fence, as we prefer to erase its memory completely. Now we have the new flowerbed and two large raised beds for veggies. At some point, there may erupt another one or two beds on the other side of the (BLINDING!) white door. Not to mention maybe a new paint job for the house itself.

It has been lovely this spring, and I am jealous of all the flowering plants in other yards. I am partially assuaged that the people several houses down have a large magnolia tree with fuschia blossoms. I LOVE those trees, but they get quite large. So I can enjoy the blooms vicariously. Here's spring at my house, looking south.

That is, of course, my car in the foreground. I think about taking off the Cthulu sticker, but then it makes me giggle again. Maybe it's timeless. (You can't read it completely when you click on the picture, but the caption reads: "Why vote for the lesser evil? Vote Elder Party." Hee.)

Now, if only I had planted more daffodils last November. I'm a fan. As for the vegetables--this is why it's called a saga. You now, it continues...

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Who am I? Where am I? What is this blog?

I claim amnesia. Really. I only just remembered who I am and that I used to write things on the internot (a Joelism).

FINE. Like all journals, diaries or other attempts at self chronicling I suck at consistency. Most of the time, my urge to write is driven by the grumpy part of me. As in, just another forum to bitch. But I refuse to use this space to whine constantly (or, as the Brits say, whinge--I love that expression), though I do reserve the right to do it occasionally. And I do believe heartily in self-editing, something that the current climate of blogging and twittering makes (sadly) unusual. I can whinge in my own head, but I don't really think YOU want to hear it. I'm usually just home from work when I have time to write, so I'm usually thinking about work and frustrations related to, etc. Also, I am trying (believe it or not) to be professional. While dealing with clients can be tiresome, and sometimes I just want to complain about my day and blow off steam, I take my job fairly seriously and believe that being in the medical field people don't want to hear you discuss their foibles and shortcomings (maybe this is a little different for a vet, since my true "patients" are hardly ever trying in the same way that their humans are, so I'm not usually directly talking about my patient). A doctor is someone you are supposed to trust. Sometimes we give them almost super-human status. This is a little bit too high of a standard (look into Atul Gawande's essays on medicine and learning); we do have to be human (and able to make mistakes), but since a blog is a semi-public forum, posting snarky stories about clients is different than complaining to a friend or even my own head. I certainly, even when discussing a difficult day, never use names to identify anyone.

Anyway, I've decided that what I enjoy about my friends' blogs is being able to keep tabs on the small joys and events that fill their lives. While I may not be very good at keeping up regularly, I can fill you in on a few things that have happened in the past few months.


When we moved in (March 2008), it looked like this:

The door is open in this picture, which is just as well since it's a vast expanse of hideous whiteness. One day to be changed, as will the strange pinky-brown (baby poop after beets?) color. It's a small house, 880 square feet, no basement or garage, but for all it's smallness it has an easy, open layout and a great backyard. Note the fern under the large window. Then note that the window in question faces west, which means we get a lot of very hot afternoon sun. Then consider the poor fern, who prefers damp and shade. Needless to say, he is happier after we transplanted him and his other hapless brethren to the forest behind the folks-in-law's house. Why people, why? Do you hate the fern?

Anyway. When we bought the house, the bathroom looked like this:
Note the lovely faux marble plastic shower insert. And look! An original wooden sashed window. IN the shower. WOODEN. With the cute little mini-shower curtain that together with the regular shower curtain created a vortex sucking effect so that when showering, you had to fend off an unwelcome and enthusiastic plastic hug from both sides. By the way, the depth of that tub is exactly 12 inches from basin bottom to edge. A true foot bath. And by my standards, woefully inadequate. I am an inveterate soaker. I had lived with no tub for exactly 2 years. Far too long, for someone that takes baths almost every day. Do you like the adorable shell sink? The cabinet was so rotten at the bottom that eventually the front board below the doors fell off. We still have the wooden toilet seat, I confess, but mostly this is just due to laziness.

We put in a new bathtub before we moved in. (This involved removing the wall in my closet, but I digress.) But the bathroom remained in state of transition for almost 7 months, sadly enough. We showered in plastic sheeting for longer than I'd like to remember. Finally, a good friend took pity (and now can claim my first born child), and over a series of 3 weeks helped me put this beast together. Here we are laying out tiles for one wall.

I designed the shower on graph paper first, although I really only specified where major tiles would go, and we added the different colored tiles at random when we laid the walls out on the floor.

I should mention that this project started because we have a fancy tile place in town called Pratt & Larson. Their tiles are often hand painted and cost a month's supply in groceries. Lucky for us, they have a seconds store which carries extras, slightly damaged or off color tiles. My mother-in-law has been collecting these tiles for a while, so I first got the idea to use them when we were looking through her collection. So I went over to the seconds store, found a color I liked, and bought a bunch of light green tile I wanted to use. But then, of course, the much ignored and hidden art major took over my motor centers and headed me into the fancy tile section. The rest is, as they say, history.

This is what the shower looked like before the tile. Note the new VINYL window that Joel installed. With privacy glass. As much as I miss that sensation of being encased in a wet plastic hug, we now know that there is a lack of water dripping through the wall and rotting the window frame and bracket beneath it.

The color is a little off in these pictures. This is the far left wall. You can see how at first, you start with a plank (one you hope is straight) and tile upwards. After that, it's masking tape to hold the tiles to the ones above them.

That's me in the bathtub finishing the bottom tiles.

Here's part of the final result. I tried to make a montage of several photos to give a sense of the whole, but can't apparently master the photo program well enough to get it to work. Plus, I'm just not that motivated to learn how, since just remembering the way my back felt after three weekends of mortar and grout makes me want to stop posting this. Needless to say, I very much like my shower now and try not to notice the little places where things are not quite aligned (did I mention my inner perfectionist and my inner artist are in league and give me no peace?). The best part? I can shower now.

Here you can see the new sink. I figure if we ever leave this house, I'll just have to carve out the shower and re-install it. On second thought--I guess we just won't move. The children will just have to sleep in the shed, as there are no more bedrooms in the house. It'll be like a clubhouse-- fun! I mean, we won't lock them out so that they can still come in and use the bathroom. It'll be fine. As it is, I'm planning on attaching hooks to the (future--not pregnant!) baby's clothing so that we can just hang it from the ceiling. If I use bungee cords, it'll be just like a home-made "Johnny Jump Up." Social Services will understand; I hear they're very nice.

So ends the bathroom saga. Next up: THE GARDEN EPISODE.