Landscaping the Backyard

The garden path is finished and the garden beds have lots of new plants in them!  There are some iris from my foster son and his wife, violets that were transplanted from a different area of the yard, new plants of lavender, delphinium, and salvia and lots of other things.  The sweet-peas and morning glories are just beginning to sprout under the tuteurs and I am looking forward to the time when everything starts to grow in!  By the time my daughter gets married at the end of July, they should be looking quite lush!  

The backyard has been one of my big frustrations, in part because I couldn't figure out what to do with it.  It had been quite neglected before I bought it and things had gotten weedy and run down.  

The flagstone patio, which I really loved, had gotten wavy and cracked and lots of weeds growing up through it.  The old sandstone fireplace/grill was in sad shape.  After many ideas, all of a sudden, I knew what I wanted to do with it and after a consultation with my sons, we decided it was a project we could "easily" accomplish.  

We started early on Memorial Day.  The first step was to remove the fireplace/grill.  It came down very easily!  My oldest son Jonathan was able to get the majority of it down with a 4lb hammer! 

The driveway filled up with timbers and sand in preparation.  I had neglected to consider how much debris the removal of the fireplace and patio would create.  We ended up piling that in the driveway too and are eagerly awaiting the arrival of a dumpster to haul it away! 

The boys had fun with the equipment.  All three of my sons work for a mine/shale processing plant and their jobs often entail driving really big equipment, so this was a lot of fun for them ~ and nice for me to have sons that know how to operate equipment like this! 

We had a good crew of people to take the patio apart! This part ended up taking much longer than anticipated due to the uneven construction of it.  Some places had lots of concrete, others almost none.  There were lengths of steel pipe that attached to nothing under parts of it, lots of tree roots, which were probably the "root" cause of the heaving of the entire patio, and lots of other oddities, which made us wonder!    

Eventually, we got the entire patio up, the reusable flagstones stacked off to the side of the yard and the large hump in the yard from the tree stump that was removed a few weeks ago graded down to match the rest of the yard.  

I didn't take many photos today as we were too busy working.  By the end of today, we had the majority of the beams in to frame out some flower beds, the ground cloth laid and the bed of sand for underneath the new flagstones that arrive on Thursday.  I had hoped to reuse some of the old flagstones, but many of them are too thin.  The new flagstone will be 2 inches thick and provide a more stable surface.  I'll use much of the thinner flagstone for some other projects around the yard instead.  

Eventually, I'd like to build a pergola to go on the back side of the garage, the part of the house closest in this photo.  The landscaper has a bit more work to get the lawn into shape before the wedding.  I think some new sod is needed in several places!  Tomorrow, we'll finish the bed framing, as well as prepping a spot near the front of the garage for a step and to put the garbage cans.  And hopefully, the dumpster that was supposed to be delivered this afternoon but never showed up, will arrive early in the morning so we can load it while we still have the bobcat to assist us!  

It's lots of work and our muscles are sore, but we are all so happy with the way it is looking and can't wait to see it finished! 


Creating a Garden Path

One of the many projects on my to-do-list, was to create a better path between the two garden beds.  It tended to get muddy and weedy and by the end of summer isn't very nice to look at.  Today's job was to get it underway and hopefully finished.  

We started by removing all the weeds and leveling the ground.  Then I laid ground cloth over the path and pinned it down.  Next came a layer of sand that ranges from 1 to 2 inches deep, which was leveled and then packed down.

One of the previous owners of this house had made many mosaic covered pavers and placed them all over the yard.  We gathered them all together and lined them up down the center of the path.  I'm not sure how they will hold up to foot traffic in the garden, but they will be enjoyed while they last.  

Before we had the tree stump and miscellaneous shrubs removed, we gathered a good sized pile of loose flagstone pieces that had made a loose wall around some old flower beds.  We are using them to fill in the sides of the path around the mosaic pavers.   We think the flagstone goes back to the original owners of the house as it was a feature in many of the houses in this neighborhood that were built around the same time. 

I'm really happy with how it's coming out!  We got 95% finished when our work was stopped by a thunderstorm overhead.  I snapped a few quick photos before the rain started in earnest!  


Here's a look at some of the mosaic pavers.  They all use bits of broken china.  Some are in pretty good shape, while the ones at the back of the path, where we figure they will get less wear and tear, are in a bit rougher condition.  It's fun to see them all together and to have this path that pays tribute to previous owners, who I think must have loved this house as much as I do! 

This is a shot of the working scene.  We laid out all the pieces of flagstone on the lawn so I could see the shapes.  Piecing the path together is a lot like piecing a jigsaw puzzle!  We should be able to get it finished tomorrow morning.  We'll sweep some sand into the cracks between the flagstones.  It should be fairly easy to redo if we need to, but in the meantime adds a delightful touch to my flower garden, which is coming along, slowly but surely!  



In the year and a half that we've lived in this house, I've never lit a fire in the fireplace!  I had it inspected and a new cap installed shortly after I bought the house and it all checked out well.  But somehow, I figured in an old fireplace like this, I'd probably lose more heat than I gained by lighting a fire in it.  On a chilly day last week, when I couldn't get warm, I decided to light the first fire and find out.  The kitties both spent time watching the flames.  It did give off a little heat if you sat with your nose to the screen like they did!  

But mostly, we enjoyed the light of the flames, the crackle of the wood burning and the soft campfire scent that it gives off.  It really didn't warm the room much at all!  I think that if we want warmth from the fireplace, it needs at the very least an iron fire back.  For now, I'll enjoy it when I want  the ambience of a burning fire and not when I want warmth! 

2014.05.14Jacque PeakWIP
I managed to get a little time to paint last week.  Made good progress on this painting of Jacque Peak.  Hope to finish it soon!

Most of my time has been taken up with various types of "home work"  The insulation crew has been here every day this past week working adding insulation to my little house.  The way my small house sprawls out actually makes the job more like a big house job, so it's definitely taking some time.  I liked the way they removed the siding to drill holes in the sheathing underneath.  They've still got a day or two of work to finish insulating the roof and crawl spaces.  I've already noticed a difference though!  The house is quieter and the temperature doesn't fluctuate as much during the course of a day! Should make a huge difference come winter!  When they put siding back on, it looked like nothing had been done!  They got it done just in the nick of time as we had torrential downpours of rain last night after they finished.  Now it's all ready for the painter to arrive next week (hopefully - if the rain doesn't keep him from being able to work)!  New gutters are coming soon as well!  

The landscaping on the back side of the house has been a huge frustration for me.  It has a lovely flagstone terrace, but it has heaved and cracked in many places and is getting uneven enough to be unsafe.  The old flagstone fireplace is also cracked and not good for much except as a spider haven.  This weekend, my sons are going to help me tear all of this out and prepare to re-lay the sandstone and expand the terrace behind the garage.  At this corner, I hope to get a pergola in place as well as some new flower beds along the terrace!  There will be some new fencing going in as well in the next few weeks.  My daughter's wedding is taking place at the far end of the back yard here in July, so it's motivation to get everything done quickly!  

Remember all those dandelions blooming around my house a few weeks ago?  A huge flock of chipping sparrows has been here eating all those seeds!  I've loved seeing the yard just hopping with them!


Under the Sea Block for Velia

I finished my part of Velia's Under the Sea block!

When it arrived at my house, Linda, the first person to work on it had added a nice sea-bottom scape in the lower left corner.   I decided to work on the upper left area and to finish off the left side of the block as no seams had been done yet.  

The little fish got some embroidery to bring it to life.

I embroidered all the seams, especially important as some of the edges of the fabric patches were not fully secured down.  I also believe strongly that good seams can do a beautiful job of grounding these big blocks.  By doing the seams in similar colors to the fabrics, they blend right in without taking over.  The jelly fish was lots of fun to make with a scrap of organza, some beaded trim and some interesting iridescent knitted trim that I had.  

I had just four of these little fish beads in my stash and the colors were perfect for this block!  I also added some seaweed fronds from the bottom to bring this sided of the block into cohesion.   I tacked them down with feather and fly stitching. The pink feathery yarn is some that I hand-dyed a while back.  It went perfectly with this block!  

I hope that Velia likes what I've done on her block!  Now it heads off to the next person in the round robin and I get to work on the next block!  


May Pincushion for CQJP 2014

The May pincushion for the CQJP (Crazy Quilt Journal Project) 2014 is complete!

This one started off with this little box of inspiration from Helen Gibb.

I fell in love with the lily of the valley ribbon and knew I had to make a pincushion using elements from this little inspiration box! 

When I first pieced the block, one of the long edges of the lily of the valley ribbon was tucked underneath the other fabrics.  It just wasn't right, so I unstitched the seam and basted the ribbon on top.

I used feather stitching to catch the edges of the heavy ribbon down.  Some of the ultra-suede leaves and a lavender ribbon flower from the box trimmed the bottom edge of the ribbon.

A small bit of the lovely net lace was added along one corner.

At the other end of the ribbon, I added a seam using some flower sequins in forget-me-not blue!

On the other side, I added a silk ribbon embroidered stalk of lily of the valley and another seam with flower sequins.  

The back received my usual signature ~ plus a little cat hair!

That's because, I cannot work on any project without both kitties having to look and see what I'm doing!  The lint brush is in constant use here!  


Mollie Kitty had to see what was happening too.  Here she is giving me her "winky" eyes happy look.  She's always winking both eyes at me and I can rarely catch her in a photo without her eyes half closed as a result!


I finished the pincushion the same day that the lilies of the valley were in full bloom in my garden!  With snow predicted for the following day, I picked them all and brought them inside to enjoy!  The little aqua blue glass vase is from the Roman Bath at Bath, England! 

Love having beautiful spring flowers on the windowsill over the kitchen sink!  So cheery!


Loved having so many of these sweet little flowers blooming!  Last year, there were just a couple, but this year, there were so many!  Such a heavenly scent!  


I also brought in a few lilacs from the neighbor's bushes that edge my yard.  They have filled the dining room with my favorite floral scent!

When the tree guys were here last week, I kept a few blooming branches of the wild plum to enjoy.  They are still blooming beautifully!

After a week of lovely warm weather, winter returned on Mother's day with cold rain that turned to snow.  The quaking aspen leaves just shrug off the snow and look as beautiful as ever! 

The burning bush gathers the snow though and all the branches were leaning hard to the side under the weight of the wet snow by the end of the day.  Thankfully, we didn't have a huge accumulation as most of it melted off as it fell.  We did receive over an inch of moisture though, which is lovely for our arid high desert region at this time of year! 

With the snow and cold, it was a good day to stay inside!  I made a batch of donut spice muffins in the morning.  Perfect with a pot of tea! 


In addition to working on the pincushion, I've been playing around with ideas for this denim shirt.  Way back... w a y  b a c k . . .   I used to have a denim work shirt that I'd embroidered to go with my embroidered jeans.  I think I started it when I was in 8th or 9th grade.  I wore it everywhere for a long time ~ until my kids were small!  I'm sure it wore out long ago.  I also had embroidered shirts for my Mom and Dad that were covered with birds.  My Dad often wore his when he went bird watching and hiking!  Well, I've been hunting for a shirt for myself, that I could wear as a lightweight jacket.  I found this one in the Men's section at a local thrift shop.  It's roomy enough to wear over another shirt and possibly a lightweight sweater if I like!  The cloth is in great shape, yet soft and comfy feeling!  

So, I've been sketching up ideas for how to embroider it.  We'll see how it evolves!  I'll keep you posted! 


The Yard Work Begins!

First a quick update on Mollie Kitty!  She is doing somewhat better, though not cured.  Tests show that she has a pseudocyst or abscess on her pancreas.  Treatment is very expensive and the success rate negligible, so I've decided against any surgery for her.  I brought her home a week ago, and she is eating again, seems happy and pain free and nearly back to being her normal self again.  She's getting lots of loving!   

With a wedding to take place in my back yard in July, there is MUCH to be done!  I've been working at it bit by bit with my kids, but it was finally time to bring the professionals in.  Since I moved in, this big old cottonwood stump has been one of my big frustrations in the back yard.  Along with all the overgrown and weedy shrubs in inconvenient places, not to mention the seedling Chinese elm trees that seem to spring up EVERYWHERE and grow like crazy!

Bright and early this morning, the tree service showed up with their stump grinder and went to work!  Fascinating to watch this piece of machinery eat through a huge stump with seemingly little effort!  

They made short work of the stump and all those miscellaneous shrubs and saplings!  Amazing how much larger the yard looks now!  

At the side of the driveway there was a hedge of weedy looking elderberries and chinese elm.  I liked the hedge there as it gives privacy from the road on the right, but the trees were so old that it always looked bad and the chinese elms had such a hold that I could not keep them out.  

First they cut them all down, and then they came in with the stump grinder and removed all the roots!  They also "discovered" a ten foot long section of steel pipe that wasn't attached to anything.  I'm grateful that no one was hurt when it went flying!  I suspect it had been there since the house was built in 1941.  

Much neater now!  I will create a bed here with landscape timber edges and then plant some lilacs, which my yard is sadly devoid of.

In another corner of the back yard, you can see where I've painted the shed (the same colors that the house will be) and built two tuteurs for the garden beds.  The sprinkler guy was here this weekend and fixed the drip sprinkler system that runs through the beds! You can also see the huge weedy clump of trees by the shed, so thick that you couldn't tell what was growing there.  Turned out to be at least 5 or 6 different shrubs and trees packed into that little bed.  Maybe more.  

Now the bed by the shed is all neat and clean and I can get it properly fixed and ready for some plants.  The garden beds are coming along.  The right one has most of my herbs in it as well as delphinium, hollyhocks and hopefully some sweet peas that will grow up the tuteur!  What a joy it was to spend the afternoon in the garden getting my hands dirty, and then tucking a few plants in and getting them watered in.  The drip system only runs three times a week, so I settled the new plants and seeds in with the sprinkler for a while.  

Tomorrow, I hope to get the second bed cleaned up and ready for some new plants.  It already has some tiny delphiniums and daisies that I had planted in the fall.  They are a bit slow starting with our cool spring.  

That large clump to the right is a lovely patch of rhubarb!  It's not in the best spot, but I haven't yet figured out where a better spot would be, so I've left it there for now.  The nice thing about working in the garden, is seeing when something is ready to be picked!  A handful of bright red and green rhubarb stalks came into the kitchen with me when I was done playing in the dirt!

It might seem like a silly thing, but I felt like I found a part of me that has been missing today.  The part that is a gardening, making good things to eat in the kitchen part of me.  The part of me that doesn't need a computer or cell phone to be happy.   Ever since I sold my last house way back in 2004, I've been missing this part of me.  It's so good to have it back!  

The chives are just about to burst into bloom and there is plenty of mint ready to use as well!

I made an old fashioned Rhubarb Pudding with the rhubarb!  So tasty!  That was my dinner tonight!

At the end of the day, I had a Dark N' Stormy ~ my favorite summer drink!  Best when drunk on the patio after a long day of working outside, especially if you have friends to sit and chat with!  I didn't have friends with me tonight, but it was nice to sit and look out at all that had been accomplished in the course of the day!  

In all, the tree service spent six hours at my house and in that time they took out 4 dead aspen trees, removed a large broken branch in the maple tree, removed countless chinese elms and ground out stumps and roots in at least half a dozen different spots!  It's so nice to see things getting neatened up!