To Do Tuesday: Shed of Death

To step into our shed was to be ankle-deep in compost and carcasses (rat and lizard).  To retrieve an item from within its depths, I had to grip the door jam with one hand,  lean forward precariously while keeping both feet outside the “death zone”, grab the item and shake it vigorously to dislodge any mice or black widows, then swing myself out of harm’s way.  Likewise, my storage strategy was to whip open the door, fling in the item, then slam the door shut again before anything could climb my leg.  An object that flew too far back into the Shed of Death was obviously doomed.

Clearly the situation was out of control. I finally had to tuck my jeans into my boots and deal with the it, or never garden again.

Three hours later:

(dusts off hands with satisfaction, realizes how much petrified carcass is in the dust and immediately showers)


To-Do Tuesday: Corner of Shame

Hidden in our yard, far away behind the shed, is my Corner of Shame:

But the truth is even more tragic when you realize that  it used to look like this:

I know, I know. (And apologies to my Dad, who was in the trenches with me, digging out mulberry stumps for days.)

After I moved the sandbox to the play area, this empty corner became a magnet for the detritus of all my other projects.  It was beyond my control.  And, since it is literally out of sight, well, you get the idea.

Shame was less of a motivator than need, however.  I needed a new compost system.  This one was NOT doing it for me:

I mean, it was a fine (free) bin, but I had to have somewhere to start another one while this pile cooked.  Plus, since it was tucked between the back of the shed and the fence, I didn’t have enough room to swing my shovel.

The corner formerly known as Sandbox, was a perfect location for my new system.  I just needed to erase The Shame.  Thankfully, October proved to be slightly cooler than hell, so I got to work.

Just to review, this is what I was up against:

Now, to construct the new bin system.  I had a few pallets leftover from my playhouse project, a few planks I salvaged from a neighbor’s old fence and some hardware cloth leftover from the chicken coop.   Cordless screwdriver, leftover hardware and viola!  An almost free compost system.*

One side gets all the kitchen scraps, chicken poop, leaves, garden debris and weekly mixing until it reaches about 3 feet high and wide.  Then I let it sit for a couple months or so (with weekly stirring).  Meanwhile, I start the process on the other side.  When the first pile is almost done I stick it in the compost tumbler as a final mixer.

*I got this one half off through the city rebate program.  (Downsize your curbside garbage can and Austin will subsidize a compost bin).

Confession and penance done.  Now I am shame-free.  Until next week.

garden candy cane

Hello blog.  It’s been a while.  I just popped in to share something seasonal from the garden.  The kids actually discovered this.

Last year I put in a stevia plant with high hopes of harvesting and drying the leaves in case the zombie apocalypse leaves us without sugar.  Of course I have not accomplished that task, mostly because the kids strip the plant bare.  It really is very sweet and, clearly, a hardy plant.  I don’t baby it at all.

So the other day the kids excitedly told me they had invented a candy cane and called me over to the veggie beds.  There they picked a stevia leaf, then picked a mint leaf, put them together and popped them into their mouths.  I had to try it.

YUM.  It’s like eating Christmas. But healthy.

You’re welcome.


a Bloom Day mystery

A mystery plant for your bloom day this month.  (No, I’m not a garden blogger, I just pretend to be on the 15th of each month… if I remember… or have time…)  What the heck is this?  No, not the Henry Deulberg sage in front.  Not the desert willow in back.  Not the purple coneflowers on the right.  Not the… um… other coneflowers on the left.  There, in the middle.  That giant thing that I DID NOT plant.

I know that this is a cigar plant, cuphea.  It really struggled all summer.  I think my soil has way too much clay for the poor thing.

This is the lovely Russian sage, which I was skeptical about since anything named after a place near the Arctic circle could not possibly do well here.  I was thankfully wrong.

Same with the Tropical sage.  I assumed it would need more water, but it just keeps blooming.  I did trim it back mid-summer, which it seemed to love.

I know lantanas are so last decade, but man, are they easy.

Dutifully spilling over into the path, as per my plan.

The mistflower bush is about to explode.  I’m a little bit giddy with anticipation.  Apparently it will smell lovely and attract a zillion butterflies.

My fall asters are bursting, as if trying to make up for the copper canyon daisies next to them that are withering away.  (I blame the cat)

And I love the guara, although mine have decided to lay flat.  Today I propped them up with rocks at the base. That’s a bit pitiful, really.

Fortunately, you can’t kill blackfoot daisy or bulbine.  Believe me, I’ve tried.

The moss verbena require nothing of me…

…which is more than I can say for our other resident gardener.

This is her latest project from the Green Classroom.  Black-eyed peas, she says, taunting me with her knowledge.

I, however, still have a mystery plant.  It sprouted up right next to the base of the Henry Duelberg sage, confusing me into thinking that was common Henry behavior,  and soon towered over the desert willow tree right next to it.

In fact, it looks similar to the desert willow, but is thinner in the branches and leaves.

When it bloomed, I knew for sure I had an entirely different plant on my hands.

But WHAT IS IT?  I’m going crazy.  Someone tell me.

While I wait for the responses to pour in, I will clean up the garden wreckage from the summer.  Only then will I take some wide angle shots of how our backyard has changed since the Big Reveal.

Coming soon…. ish.


Moonlight Float: guest blogger

Hey!  I’m a guest blogger over at this week.  Check it out!


“So you’re an Austinite.  You’ve seen the bats.  You’ve seen live music.  You’ve canoed Lady Bird Lake.  But chances are you’ve never canoed under the emerging bats while listening to a floating band.  Thanks to the Moonlight Float, you can.  And support a good cause while you’re at it…”

 (Read more here>>>)


3rd and 1st graders

city plan, part 8: The Big Reveal

I’m sorry, this is a long, long post.  But it’s the culmination of almost two years of planning and work.  And more work.  And lots of work after that.  So you WILL scroll to the end.  Besides, this is the best part.

Behold, the big reveal:

I know it looks like a lovely lush lawn from certain angles, but that is an illusion.  It was green for about two weeks out of the year and at least 75% sticker-burs and weeds.

Oh, back when we still had three chickens.

This is where the new hammock lives.

So there you have it, the photos I sent in to the city yesterday.  The project is done.  Did you make it to the end of the post? What do you think?

city plan, part 7: granite, lots of granite

A couple weeks ago I did the final 50-billion calculations (yes, Dad, you were right, I am using math in real life) necessary to order the crushed granite.  It was delivered on a Thursday, whereupon Violet and Graham immediately claimed the mountain…

…in the name of Kitty-tania.

I spent Friday doing the final clearing and pinning of landscape cloth.  There was, however, one small section uncovered.  Dreading yet another trip to Home Depot, I had a brilliant idea: paperwork.  There was a box of paperwork that needed to be shredded sitting in the garage.  Why not use that as weed blocker?  After all, they do say using newspapers 6 layers thick will block most weeds, at least to a manageable level.  And so, congratulating myself on my frugality and multi-tasking prowess, I set to work laying out the paper and soaking it to keep it from blowing away.

That evening, I was settling down to watch the kids chase fireflies in the front yard when an ominous cloud rose up in the north.  This was the edge of the storm that caused all those tornados in Oklahoma and the panhandle.  It was on us literally in minutes with 50 mile an hour winds and torrential rains.  By the time we got inside and looked out to the backyard, the place was a mess.  Despite being heavy and waterlogged, the papers were flying everywhere.

“ARG!  All my work!”  I wailed.  Rob saw the bigger picture.  ”Um… so basically all our financial records are flying all over the neighborhood right now.”


We ran outside, dodging lightning bolts (slight exaggeration, but the thought did cross my mind) frantically piling wet papers into a muddy mountain that we wedged under a stepping stone.  In 30 seconds we were soaked to the skin.

And here is where having kids finally paid off:  When we finally flung ourselves onto the back porch, there was Violet standing in the doorway, waiting for us with dry towels.  Give that kid a puppy, or something.

This is what we had to deal with the next morning:

We spent the next two days shoveling and wheelbarrowing (mostly Rob), and raking and stomping (mostly me) crushed granite.  Because it was Mother’s Day weekend, and that’s what I wanted.

Coming up: the big reveal