Friday, July 31, 2009

Crap Piles and Wabi-Sabi

I always get excited during these big projects like the driveway/fence/carport/porch/walkway one that we are in the midst of because I know that I am going to get a new crap pile out of it. Any wabi-sabi gardener worth her salt loves a good crap pile.
When they dug up the old garage floor and pseudo-driveway there was a LOT of concrete. Big chunks and little chunks and some slabs as well.

That's one of the reasons I was able to get my new front porch and walkway. They took most of the dug up stuff and filled the porch frame with it. Voila! No landfill trip, a new porch and a new crap pile! The rest of the concrete I am using in the what-is-someday-to-be a bird/butterfly/bee/frog oasis. I'm using them to line the paths. The paths themselves are being made from the mulch of the hackberry trees that we cut down.
Could we digress and talk about hackberry trees for a minute?
I know, I know, but they're trees and I, for one, do not cut down trees. Well, yes, you have a point, I did cut them down, but not without much wringing of the hands and gnashing of the teeth and drinking of the beer. Those gazillions of hackberry trees shaded my property somewhat fierce. They were full of bugs and birds and critters of all sorts and I do not take the razing of homes lightly, even if it is a home belonging to a bug. Alas, we did have to take some down to fit the new driveway and the new fence in, but we left a lot too. The ones we killed I mulched up.
Another digression - the terrifying industrial mulcher. I hated running that thing. It was like a wild and starving monster who used tree limbs as bait to get the good stuff - my limbs. I finally had to beg off and let Tom Cruz (yes, Tom Cruz is my yard dude) and Jackdaddy do it while I stood there fretting and worrying that the monster would eat them. But, I got a big ole' pile of mulch out of it and I feel glad that they are still in my yard in spirit. I wouldn't call it the prettiest mulch you've ever seen, but it was free and I love free.
Here's the pile (with Jackdaddy's new fence going up in the background):

Here is just one wheelbarrow full of the 345,698,938 stones that I have moved from the side yard into the someday-to-be bird/butterfly/bee/frog oasis (now officially known as the STBBBBFO).

This lovely pile of crap will someday be something cool like a bean pole tee pee. Another idea I may use is copied from Pedernales State Park's bird blind. I love their idea of using dead wood as bird feeders. They just have old logs and branches laying around and they put the bird seed in the crevices or on any flat spot. They all look so pretty and natural and the birds love them. Promise me if you go out there you will go to the bird blind. (I keep typing "bird bling" which seems really funny to me.) If you like birds and stuff, that is. If you go out there to drink beer and listen to Lynrd Skynrd, the bird blind might not be your cup of tea. Your cup of beer. (I'm not saying that's a bad thing.)

Here's my use of the busted up concrete as path liners. Again, not so beautiful except in a wabi-sabi kind of way.
I see such beauty in reusing what was already here. This house is so incredibly dear to me. I have been a gypsy since the age of 18. This is the first house I've lived in for more than 2 years in twenty-eight years! There is just something about this house that makes me feel really and finally at home. Knowing that I am only the second owner also makes me feel a special kinship with it and the yard. Every time we change something I think about Mr. and Mrs. Luetkenhoelter. They were once a young couple with a young family just like us. They must have planted and pruned and planned and dreamed just as we do now. So when I reuse everything I feel like I am keeping their spirit here, in a way. I like knowing that his garage floor is now my garden path and my front porch. That his gnarly old shed now has a fresh coat of paint and a bamboo door and it houses all my gardening stuff. I mean, it's still a gnarly old shed, but it is so wabi-sabi because it is functional as hell and I love it. Here's what it used to look like:

We did get rid of some of their stuff cuz there was a lot of stuff. When I did part with something I made sure it stayed in the neighborhood. Interestingly, everyone understood when I told them why I wanted to keep whatever-it-was close by. This hood has a lot of history and most of the people I run into here are really into that aspect of it. I thank the Luetkenhoelters often (not to worry, in my head) because they must have infused this place with a lot of love and care for it to feel so intensely right to me. I don't really believe in heaven and all that, but I do like to think of them as knowing I'm here and that I'm taking care of their place. And, based on what was here when we moved in, they would be really happy that I am continuing the fine tradition of crap piles.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The story of a stove.

Jackdaddy and I have a long history with vintage stoves.
We, in fact, met because of a stove.
You can hear that story here.
That's a condensed version of what happened, but it's "our story" (and we're stickin' to it).
The stove in the story was a gorgeous old O'Keefe and Merritt that could cook like nobody's business. It was just an amazing representation of all that is good and fine in the world.
When we bought the Wabi-Sabi house we knew we had to have a new stove. See what I mean?

So we started obsessively checking perusing Craigslist for one. Sure enough, one turned up and we went to look at it. I wishlikehell I had a picture of it when we first got it. I'll just tell you that it was used as a camp stove for many, many, many years and all that that implies. I think the guy sold it to us for less than $200. Stealing is wrong. Agreeing to a most agreeable price is not. We agreed and then drove quickly away before he could see how hysterical
we were. What did we do before Craigslist? What did we do, I ask you?
Then Jackdaddy got to obsessively restoring fixin' it up.
I'm here to tell you that Jackdaddy can do some fixin' up when he puts his mind to it.
Here it is - a 1951 (same year as the house even) Wedgwood with rare blue burner knobs. It's been re-chromed and re-porcelained and cleaned and sumpin' else and sumpin' else.

Isn't that the most beautiful thing you've ever seen?
(And the stove looks so good too!)
The fancy vent-a-hood was a damaged item from some swanky kitchen store. It's got a dent on the right side that you cannot see because it's mounted to the cabinet. I just love that those swanky stores discount things just for having a dent in a spot where you are not even going to see it.
It's all grungy and grimy now cuz we live over here. I am not one to stand around picking crumbs from every crevice in an effort to keep it perfect. It's all part of being wabi-sabi, you know.
Not only is it beautiful, but it can really cook. When you turn it on, that is. Wish someone around here would do that every now and then.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

To shed, or not to shed: there is no question

The Universe has a great sense of humor.
I mean, could you ask for a better punchline than me finding this cicada today?
Look at this thing! Look at it's superprehistoricoutofthisworld face! It's face is so cuteashell.
Stretching, growing, sliding, slithering, pulling, crawling it's way to something new.
There I was yesterday yapping on and on about my feeling stuck in my skin and, POW, there he was on the stroller this morning. He had a bit o' luck actually as he was stuck to the stroller tire and I almost wheeled right over him. I saw him at the very last moment and was able to stop in the nick of time.
Isn't it just the coolest thing ever to see him half in and half out?
And, ooooo, I could feel him pulling himself out every so slowly. It was amazing and creepy and awesome.

AND, if that little feat of the Universe did not impress you, our butterflies hatched this morning!!
MORE skin shedding.
I mean, really. I get it. I get it.

Aren't they wonderful?
I'm just beside myself with all of this shedding and renewal and rebirth.
I wonder what the new me is going to be all about?
Whatever happens I hope someone saves me from being squished by a stroller tire, gives me some sugar after I hatch, and for goodness sake, put me back in the wild as soon as possible!
P.S. I think it might r.a.i.n.
Don't say it aloud or you'll chase it off. That's what my mama always says. You can spell it, but don't say it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

It's No Skin Off My Back

Cicadas on the fort.
Five of them here, but they're attached all over.
We used to call them locusts as kids. SO much more apocalyptic, don't you think? Locust is just a colloquialism though. They really are cicadas.
I like these guys. I know how they feel.
Lately I've been feeling like my own skin is too tight; like I need to peel it off and leave it on someone else's fort.
I know that some of it is the lack of rain.
I am a swamp girl from Beaumont. I just cannot go without rain for too long. I start to feel dry in my brain.
I also know that having my yard torn up for weeks and weeks makes me koo-koo.
Here's what happens around here - we save and save and we get some money together and ... wait, that's only sort of true. What really happens is that we get these teensy windfalls (like refinancing) and we go to "THE LIST."
Ahhh, THE LIST. It is both the bane and the joy of my existence.
If you have ever remodeled a house and/or yard then you know about THE LIST.
This last windfall knocked a bunch of stuff off that list.
Since we had the remodel money, we were able to hire people to come and do the big things that we cannot do like dig up driveways and pour new ones; cut down large hackberrys; pour a new porch and walkway in concrete. You know, big stuff that requires lots of folks and heavy machinery.
Lemme tell you, that is sooo intoxicating to have some guys come in and knock out a bunch of impressive stuff in a week or so.
But then they leave.
Then it is just us and our weekends and our monthly paycheck and everything slows way down, sometimes to a halt.
This is when things get hairy.
I can live with only so much chaos.
Jackdaddy can only work so hard.
And so we fall into the pit of remodeling despair which includes eating out a lot (mostly at semi-fast food places), the house being filthy (because why clean up if we are just going to spend all weekend traipsing in and out with construction gunk stuck to us?), staying up too late (trying to work as late as possible every night so we just might have a free second during the weekend to do something other than work on the house), being cross to each other (read all the above and tell me you wouldn't be cross), etc., etc., ad nauseam.
Quality freakin' problems, my friend.
Then, somehow, we catch our collective breath and say, "Lucky us."
Lucky us to have a home to remodel, a home to clean, food to eat, loved ones to be cross to!
We chose to do this. We really do love to do it.
Sometimes we just need to leave some skin hanging around and grow a new, grateful one.
I know this phase will get finished and we won't even remember how crazy it was.
Our house WILL be finished someday and I'm grateful for all of it.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Pig's Name Is ...

Nope. That would be weird, even for me.

Lemme' tell you what happened:
Day before yesterday I was thinking about my Dad a lot. I was thinking about the stuff we used to do and the things he liked and didn't like and all the things I wish I'd done for him and all the things I wish I'd said (or hadn't said). You know, all those things that pass through your head when you think about someone you loved and lost. One of the things that I was remembering was how much my Daddy used to love to eat BBQ at this crazy place that sits way back in the woods right outside of Conroe, Texas.
We used to have a little saying:
"If you can find it, you deserve to eat it."

It's called Early's BBQ and the address is 14340 Shepard Hill Rd. Willis, TX 77318. I think they're only open on Saturdays and Sundays now. You should call first. The number is (936) 856-4645.
Old Man Early cooked BBQ there for so long that, I swear, you can smell the place long before you get there. (And gettin' there 'aint easy, trust me on that.)
Mr. Early is gone now just like my sweet Daddy, but his kids still cook that BBQ.

The next thing I'm about to say might rile you up. These are fightin' words in Texas, I do know that, but I'm gonna say them anyway:
Early's has the best chipped beef sandwich in all of Texas.

If you don't believe me just take a road trip some weekend and find out for yourself.
Drive on back in those piney woods and try to find it. Course, I guess in this day of GPS and IPhones and whatnots it won't be so hard to find. I say just drive to Conroe and start asking around like the "good old days." When (and if) you get there grab some BBQ, a freezing cold Budweiser and go sit out under the big trees and see if I'm not right.
And while you're there send up a little prayer to my Daddy. And one for my cousin, Ann, who used to love to sit out there too. Also, if you see our old friends (and Early's regulars), Kris and Michael McBride, tell them that I miss them.

In case you're still confused, the pig's name is Early.
This way I stuck to the pig theme, but I also get to think of my Daddy and the fun we had over there at that tiny BBQ joint in the woods.

Sorry 'bout the can of SPAM.

I'm sure I'll find another treasure by the side of the road and maybe we can all try to name that too. Thanks for playing along, y'all are so sweet.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Peach Mouth

We got a peach!
Two, actually.
That is one more than we got last year.
We ate one and there is still one up there cookin'.
The first year we were here (this is our third summer) we saw one peach, but the birds got to it first.
This year I worked on the tree. I read. I pruned. I fertilized. I watered. I mulched. I communed with it.
And, lo and behold, TWO peaches for my efforts. I really was as happy with two as I might have been with ten.
I was dreading having to do something crafty like, oh, canning or making jelly.
(This is a joke.)

It's been such fun to watch the buds turn into flowers then into tiny peach babies then bigger peach babies then that unmistakable flash of color that catches the eye ...

Oh, hmmm, well, that's the flower from back in April. I didn't get a picture of the peach on the tree. I wanted to snatch it before the birds could eat it and then FinnigantheCurious snatched it from me before I could eat it.

It got eaten is the moral of the story.

I'm going out on a limb (pun, y'all!) and predict five for next year. That might just be enough for homemade ice cream.

Or a peach margarita if Jackdaddy doesn't snatch that from me.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Southern Ingenuity or...

white trash mulch-holder?
Can you believe this crazy-ass thing that Jackdaddy came up with so that I could go out to Natural Gardener and buy FOUR AND A HALF YARDS of mulch? I know you're thinking, "Why the hell didn't she just get Natural Gardener to deliver it?"
Well, and I know you think me mad, but, I really, really love to go out there and get soil. I extra really like to bag my own and I got to do that this time too.
So, Jackdaddy built this crazy thing and FinnigantheCurious and I headed over there in the midday sun and had a good 'ole time. We even got a free Maine Root Orange Sodee. Mmmmm. They're all so nice out there.

I'm here to tell you today that FIVE and a half yards, total, of mulch is a LOT of much. I love it. Man, I love this mulch. It's the pine bark mulch and it sounds like it would be hard or rough but it's not at all. In fact, it's super, super soft and spongy. Just the softest thing you've ever walked on. It's like something from a fairy tale.
The guys out there in the soil yard are really quite fun. I guess if you're sitting in a front end loader all day it might help to have a sense of humor. Not only are they humorous, they really try to make it work for you. They took great pleasure in trying to see how much mulch they could squeeze into this contraption. We were all impressed with 4 1/2 yards.

Then the unloading.
It was easier today, for some reason. Guess I had a better idea of what I was getting into.

I'm gonna leave with some advice as what not to do on a Saturday night.
Don't wait until 8pm to realize that it's 8pm and then rush around putting up your tools then rush around taking an instant shower then rush around getting dressed and corralling the confused and not-in-a-hurry child and then racing down to Elsi's only to find out that they closed early. Then don't race to Enchiladas y Mas because they have the CLOSED sign up even though there are still plenty of people in there. Then, whatever you do, DO NOT go to the old Ninfas, which is now called Twin Palms (We called it Twin Peaks.) because it is soooo freaking horrible that you will just be horrified and you will have to eat it anyway because it is now 10pm and everyone is grouchy and miserable.

We made up for it tonight by having homemade margaritas and freshly cooked pinto beans with salad and tomatoes off the vine and some fettuccine with olive oil, garlic, lots of squeezed lemon, salt and ground pepper. FinnigantheCurious had some freshly-made limeade.
I could go off on how fresh squeezed lime juice is the key to a fantastic margarita, but I'll save that for another post.

Monday, July 6, 2009

You know you're a real gardener if ...

you duct tape your gloves.
Also known by it's unofficial moniker - Duck Tape.
I got hip to this when I saw that a fellow gardener in my neighborhood had duct taped her gardening shoes. They were awesome. I couldn't wait to bust a hole in something so I could try it out. I swear it's better than a new pair.
Try it, Luke, come to the duct side. Ahem.

Did I mention that I loaded and unloaded a yard of playground mulch yesterday?
Did I mention that I loaded and unloaded a 1/2 yard of Sylvan Formula tree mulch yesterday?
Well, that's not exactly true. I stood by looking official while the lovely manboys at The Natural Gardener loaded it, but I did lay the tarp down and then cover it all up and put some more tarp on top and then put some heavy bricks on top of that. I felt like I loaded it and I sure as hell unloaded it.
Did I also mention that a yard of playground mulch doesn't cover *%&$?
I swear I stood in the back of our truck for HOURS unloading and all it came out to was this:

I mean, it's just nothing.
I was forced to go eat Mexican food and drink margaritas to recover from the disappointment.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A sad morning in the garden.

We got the pond back in.
We made a terrible oversight by forgetting to put in a frog ladder.
We were all so, so sad to find this dead frog in the pond this morning.
I just cried and cried and cried.
I was so mad at myself because I know better. I've had this happen before with baby pools and it just breaks my heart.
The worst thing (for me, not for her, obviously) is that I spent all day yesterday visiting with this frog while I put the pond in. I moved some liriope in the morning and she popped out of one of them. I was just delighted to find her and I told her all day long how great the new pond was gonna be and how I was creating this whole oasis for frogs and birds. Then I went off and forgot to put some big rocks in it so she could get out.
I buried her in the liriope because she was happy there.
Now my eyes are all red and swollen and my hair is dirty and my frog is dead and I feel like climbing back into bed and starting over.
But it's the Fourth of July and we've got pie to eat and beer to drink and fireworks to watch and friends to love.
I also found two smaller frogs hiding in my garden bed. I'd never seen them before so I'm thinking that that was the Universe's way of telling me that life goes on.
And it does indeed.
Happy Fourth of July, y'all.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Only mad dogs and Englishmen...

go out in the midday sun. (Noel Coward)
My god, it's HOT. Had you heard?
But on Monday it rained!!!!
That's when water falls out of the sky and lands on the Earth. I know it's hard to remember, but you can Google it.
I know I am not the only Austin gardener who raced out of the house to garden in the middle of a monsoon. I did, for real, and I know there are more of you. I had some very sad Cigar Plants (Cuphea ignea, I think) that were getting way too much sun. They should put a label on plants that says: "This plant can live in direct blazing sun and needs no water, ever." That would be the only real investment for this particular spot in my yard. Drought tolerant does not mean *$&% here in Central Texas in July.
Trust me on that one.
Anyway, I got out there in the rain and thunder and dug those babies up. I found them a better home in the back beds.
Course, I cannot have two gaping holes in the beds that I can see from our bedroom so I was forced to go to the "nurserythatisclosetomyhousethatIdon'treallylikeandshallnotname" today and buy some Pride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima). Jackdaddy was disappointed when I got home with plants. He thought the true Pride of Barbados was rum. He wanted to know where the bottle was.
I was out there at 2:00 pm today planting them.
I was hoping for a little heat stroke so I could make Jackdaddy go get me some of the above mentioned rum. That and a little mint and some soda water goes a long way on a hot day, y'all.
Here they are, looking so pretty and fancy:

I think they look so cool against the blue of the bottle tree.
Here's what else is blooming in this crazy heat:
Prickly Pear Cactus. I think it's Prickly Pear. It doesn't have those big spiky things, just invisible lasers that pierce your skin like a rabid fire ant. I prefer the damn big spikes, at least I can see them to pull them out.

Corn! I've tried to grow corn before, but every time I start reading about how you have to propagate them and ammonium nitrate and pH and blah blah blah, my eyes just glaze over and I have to lie down with a wet rag on my head (as my mama always says). This year I just threw some seeds in the bed, put some Natural Gardener fertilizer on them (because I had a bag and it seemed like a good idea) and I water them every now and then. Man, I really want some fresh corn. It's still growing. I'm not sure if I'll get corn, but considering that they're still alive, I
have a good feeling about it.

I know everybody has them, but they make me so happy. Sometime you should get Jackdady to tell you the story of me coming in the house sobbing and snotting and ranting like a madwoman because he'd mowed down all the sunflowers. He took that as a direct sign that he should never mow again and he's stuck with it.