Summer Bummer

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So..this is the last long weekend of the summer. I am BUMMED. This won’t be a long post because I’m going home, sitting in my backyard and not leaving. You can find me there if you need me.

I still have l lots of things to do as fall creeps in – think about winterizing the pond and fish, clean and put away my tools, clean and organize the garage, weep. But before the leaves and tears start flying – I thought I’d take one long last look at my backyard before starting to wrap things up in a bow. 

When I moved in, the previous owners had landscaped the yard in a very western Rockies way… with lots of river rock, cedar trees, mugo pines, rose bushes, dwarf pines, dogwood, buckthorn, etc. Everything was thorny, prickly, angry and mean. (My little mama in the background isn’t prickly and angry. She’s really, really nice.)

HERE’S THE YARD IN 2010

2009

In the photo above you can see a swath of mugo pines between the pond and deck. Those were the first to go…then I slowly got rid of the million round river rocks, cedar trees (you can see a few on the left hand side of the photo above) Rose bushes (two down by the pond and a few in the rocky bed on the right – between the brick path and the deck). All told I pulled out about 20 scraggly, dying trees over the years – plus a giant dying Manitoba Maple and a 50 year old apple tree (pictured on the left above)  For the record – I still miss my apple tree and wish it didn’t die and need to be cut down, but the resulting pergola is an amazing, special, precious gift that makes my heart soar…so I will just say my final goodbye to my apple tree here and now and move on.)

Then after a couple of trips to a gorgeous Mexican resort I was inspired by the beautiful, lush, clean, tropical gardens wanted to create a beachy, relaxing, zen resort feel back there, so got to work pulling everything prickly out.

After six summers back there, I finally have it almost the way I want it….lush and tropical…

Here’s a look-back at how everything grew in this year:

MAY 2014

late may 2014

In April the apple tree came out and in May the pergola went up. With the pergola went in a ton of giant hostas, day lilies, fluffy, leafy heuchera, an bright yellow azalea shrub, purple clematis and ferns. A couple of cana lilies went into the pond – along with some water hyacinths and bamboo.

JUNE 2014

Early June 2014

In June everything started to grow like crazy. I added a sage plant by the deck, chucked a cattail (plant – not animal) in the pond and just sat back and watched things grow.

JULY 2014

July

July is always a crazy month for me, so I didn’t do much back here at all. Again – just poked around, watched things grow and killed a lot of lily beetles. I’m happy to report my vigilante twice-daily crushing of the little bastards worked and I got these beauties this year:

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AUGUST 2014

may

August was also much the same as July – My daylilies started to pop open (you can see them behind the cat) and all my hostas started blooming. I think the biggest achievement this month was my new baby grass.

So far, I have a few ideas for next year – fill in the few empty beds left – the south side by the fence, behind the remaining Manitoba Maple drives me a bit crazy…..

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I’d like to do something spectacular with the space by the northwest corner by the garage:

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Figure out what should live under the porch:

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Add some more perennials by the pergola:

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And beef up the perennials around the pond so it’s even more lush:

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And finally – I want to invest in some lighting – under the pergola and some lights for the pond. Too much for my pocketbook this year…but I’ll try to start saving now. 

What about your yard? What plans do you have for next year?

xo

WAY before. And after.

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Ok…so this is fun.

I was cruising around on Google Maps street view the other day and realized that you can click a button and go back in time to see the historical photos from when they first started mapping the ENTIRE EARTH. For my particular address they have photos going back to 2007 and I was pretty shocked to see what an ugly duckling my little house used to be:

THEN (SEPTEMBER 2007)2007

NOW (JULY 2014)20114

 

Holy crap, hey?  

I LOVE to see how much things can change with a little hard work over time.  This is a really easy way to see all of the improvements that have happened over the years to my wee little house. Isn’t it CRAZY to see how simple paint is to make something look SO. MUCH. BETTER.

In these photos it’s really easy to see the new trim, roof and walkway. The trim was not my idea but painting it white was clearly a good one (it was this way when I moved in – in 2009) My dad replaced the crazy stone path in 2011 and I got a new roof in 2012.  That’ pretty much all the exterior improvements I’ve done to the front except for some landscaping.

It’s not as easy to see the landscaping changes in these photos, but I ripped out an ugly rose bush from the front bed (to the right of the pathway) – planted a new spirea in it’s place. The daylilies around the spruce tree are new as well (transplanted there about 3 years ago from a big clump on the other side of the path)

 

Here it is in chronological order.

SEPTEMBER 2007:2007

 

 

MAY 2009:
2009

APRIL 2012:
2012

OCTOBER 2012:
2012-2

 

July 2014:
20114

 

This new Google tool just entertains me so, so SO much. As creepy as it sounds I’ll be the first to admit I’m a bit of a home voyeur. I love seeing how other people live and like to peek in windows at night (from the street of course!) just to see how furniture is arranged or what color walls are painted.  Using Streetview I’ve poked around my entire neighbourhood (alleys included) to see how much things have changed.

As an aside – just as much as I love seeing the changes at my house, I also love seeing the changes that have been happening at my neighbour’s place as well….in particular seeing their pergola porch magically appear and watching their little weeping caragana grow. I LOVE that little wraparound porch.It was an inspiration for my backyard garden pergola. 

I’ve started going back to find more ‘before and afters’ to see other changes that have happened over the years. Stay tuned!

A funny little post.

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This morning, I was staring off into space looking at, and thinking about nothing in particular…except maybe coffee and laundry.

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…and I realized the little post attached to the lattice privacy screen looked a little funny. It was just kinda, uh, there. Not really doing much with it’s life…hanging out, bored. Blah. Meh. Pffft.

I decided it was my duty as a homeowner to spice up it’s little drab post-life a bit. So off to Lowe’s I went for one of these little thingies:

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A quick spruce with some leftover stain:

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A little carpenter’s glue:

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Et, voila!

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Funny little post, all growed up.

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They say the devil is in the details and I say this little devil is adorable, non?

 

Dang, baby. Nice (gr)ass.

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Remember this?

Before

This is how wretched my backyard ‘lawn’ has look for the past couple of years.

You may recall I have been seriously obsessed with making my back lawn lush and beautiful this summer – and guess what?

IT WORKED!!!
Through the magic of time, patience, water and chlorophyll I now have this:

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Seriously, guys. I have a suburbanite backyard lawn. 

I am BEYOND thrilled with my lawn project – I never knew how easy it actually is to grow grass from seed.  I have to admit I didn’t follow the proper steps – (I found out after the fact you are supposed to put down new topsoil to rake the grass seed into so it has something to grow in.)

Whatever Mother Nature. I won this one.

I basically raked the existing dry, crusty dirt, sprinkled the seeds and watered the crap out of it all summer.

Check it out:

JUNE 2014

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JULY 2014

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AUGUST 2014

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I have to admit the biggest bummer about  this summer project is the total amount of water I used to get the grass this green and lush. I hope now that the baby grass roots are established I can cut back on the water a bit next year and it will still look as nice. P

 

Here’s another angle for your grass viewing pleasure:

JUNE 2014
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JULY 2014

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AUGUST 2014

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Anyone want to come and run barefoot through my lawn?
🙂

 

~T.

All up in my grill.

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Full disclosure: I’m a vegetarian. Have been for twenty years. So summer barbeques don’t mean exactly the same to me as they might to your average Canadian carnivore. That said, I have no problem admitting nothing smells better than something cooked on an outdoor grill.

I remember, as a kid, walking home in the early evenings, smelling a variety of meats and sauces being grilled in my neighbourhood – desperately hoping that one of the sweet, wafting, saucy smells belonged to my backyard.

Now, my favourite grilled dinner usually consists of veggie burgers and dogs, veggie kabobs, grilled corn and foil wrapped potatoes. Considerably less meaty, but still perfectly summery and delicious.

Sadly, my adult life has been a bit stingy on the BBQ goodness due to a serious grill-ficiency. Some of you may have seen this mysterious creature lurking in the background:

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Pssst. Wanna see what’s underneath?

(cue the ugliest BBQ in the world music….)

Ka-blam!

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About 10 years ago I bought a crappy little BBQ for my apartment balcony. I think it cost me a hundred bucks back in the day, and it was very much a case of ‘you get what you pay for’.  It had two temperature settings: incinerating blow-torch or off. The grill was the size of a postage stamp, the igniter stopped working the third time it was used. It made a wonderful shelter for wasp nests on more than one occasion, and it needed to be put out of it’s misery.

Then, my quirky, sweet and endearingly nosy neighbour passed away in March. His home is currently in a state of limbo and I’ve been taking care of the property so it doesn’t become too derelict. His sister generously offered to give me his BBQ as a thanks and although I was reluctant at first, (because it seemed a bit run-down and more trouble than it was worth) further examination and a bit of market research proved it is actually a high-end model that was practically new (albeit filthy). I decided to take them up on their offer and dragged it over to my place this past weekend.

I’m pretty sure there were actual angels singing when I snapped this pic:

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Although it literally looks like it was placed in my backyard by the hand of God, It really was a hot mess inside and needed some serious TLC. And before I could even get started, I also needed to scrub the existing BBQ pad (under high scrutiny by my  furry friend)

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Then I moved the new ‘que to its new home and start a thorough cleaning. It was FILTHY – inside and out:

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Ugh.

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More ugh:

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And, as they often say, three ughs a charm:

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After a couple of hours vacuuming, washing and polishing all the stainless steel and plastic parts with dish-soap and vinegar, then gently scrubbing the grills with a plastic scrubbing pad and giving them a run through the dishwasher on pot and pans I ended up with this:

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Not perfect, but definitely not bad:

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Although my BBQ-lovin’ heart was now starting to go pitter-pat with the results of the deep clean, there was still something not quite right with my new BBQ nook. There was something about the raggedy grass and trashy cement blocks that screamed trailer park to me.  And, although I’m sure these locales are lovely and charming, it definitely wasn’t the aesthetic I was going for. So in came the rocks for a more charming, less trashy, fix.

(Side note: There is a multi-dimensional back story about the rocks in my yard – I’ve spent years taking them out, and I cringe every time I bring some back in….so each rock is a hotly debated issue in my brain. This project just about did me in.)

End result, however? Adorable, if I do say so myself.

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BEFORE:

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AFTER:

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That’s it. See you around.

~T xo

 

 

 

 

The Grass Is Greener

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I suck at grass.

This is what my back lawn looked like before I moved in – most likely in late July or early August of 2009. See the pretty, PRETTY, green grass? Granted, there wasn’t much of it, tucked in behind the house, but what was there, was nice. Nice and green and thick and pretty. THIS is what grass is supposed to look like:

Before, before.

Sadly, all I have to remember this beautiful grass are two photos… a teensy photo from MLS from before I moved in (above) and  a shot of what it looked like in the first summer I lived here (below).

Before I got my hands on it, it actually looked like this:

Way before

BUT THEN….a tragic sequence of events and some serious lawn neglect turned my lawn onto a crusty, weedy, cement pad of ghetto grass.

BACK STORY:

One of the first things I had to do in my yard was remove that little tree in the photo above. It was planted in the DUMBEST spot in the yard. Right smack in the way when you came in through the side gate. It completely blocked that entrance to the yard. More times than I’d like to remember, my guests would walk through the gate and get smacked in the face with branches and leaves. It had to go.

Then, we realized the small back addition to the house wasn’t actually built on a foundation. Like NONE.  It’s amazing the house didn’t sink into the ground because the siding boards were literally sitting in the dirt. My amazing Dad built up the bottom of this part of the house as best he could, to stop the back part of my home from literally falling off.  In doing so, a large chunk of the grass near the edge of house had to be dug up. Then, add in the fact this is a very slope-y and sunny spot. Every time it rains it turns to mud. When the sun shines the mud dries and cracks.  Sooooooo…the perfect storm of a big empty tree-hole, years of neglect, giant chunks of earth dug away from the house and a lot of water running down a hill eventually turned a cute little patch of grass into this tropical paradise:

 

Before

I know, right? I hate it too.

It is a huge, dirty, ugly armpit and drives me around the bend.

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This part of my yard makes me need therapy.

I have two different ideas of what to do here in the longer term – build a nice pie-shaped patio to BBQ and sunbathe on (it’s the sunniest spot in the yard). Or extend the porch so I have a nice big wooden deck across the span of the house. I might be dreaming, to think I could ever make that happen……but in my very rich imagination, it’s lovely.

Until then – I have decided to try to embrace my inner suburban, lawn-lovin’ dad stereotype and cultivate a beautiful, luscious, thick, green patch of lawn.

And I’m doing it old school. I’d actually love to be able to hire a couple of hunky summer landscapers to come and sod this for me, but sadly the cost is prohibitive so I bought a big bag of grass seed and went to town.

 

Freshly seeded:

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That Mother Nature is a freakin’ miracle worker.  Two weeks in…can you see what I see?

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BABY GRASS!

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I feel like such a proud parent!

 

It’s not much yet….but I will definitely keep you posted.

And, here. Just ’cause I love ya:

greener-grass-2

So there.

See you around!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Porch – Part Two

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There really isn’t much to this post except a few pictures of the pretty new patio furniture that I now have for my back porch. It was my birthday recently so I treated myself to a picnic-style table that I’d been eyeing at IKEA. There were a few sizes, styles and colours to choose from – round, square and rectangular in both black and white. I was tempted to go white and round….for a classic bistro look and feel. I knew the round ANGSO table would fit nicely on my 8′ x 10′ porch but the more I mulled over it, the more I wanted big. Super, extra BIG. And bold.  And white. I wanted to fill the whole dang porch with clean, white , useable space.

Before you get to see the whole thing I also considered getting some modern, cube modular furniture to fit perfectly in the corner, but then realized I already have a nice comfy lounge furniture on the deck.  Perfect for morning coffee or afternoon beers or a late night glass of wine. But I really didn’t have a place to eat dinner.

Decision made.

I went with the ANGSO rectangular table with two long benches and two chairs.

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I’m in love:

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It’s large enough to seat 8 comfortably …although if I want to seat people all around it, I will need to pull it away from the wall, but I tried it and it works.

 

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The furniture is painted and glazed pine and is incredibly sturdy and comfortable. No frills and easy to clean. It’s basic and plain, but there’s something just special about how it fits, tucked under the overhang, completely filling the space. It’s inviting. It wants you to sit and stay a while. Eat a healthy meal. Drink something cold.

 

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My porch gets INCREDIBLE evening sun, but I’ve never embraced the space because there was no place to sit, comfortably. With friends.

 

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The white keeps cooler in the blazing sun and reflects light so the porch literally glows.

 

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It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that realized my porch is actually fantastic. Sadly, it has always been overlooked by myself (and my guests) because the rest of the yard is just so, so nice. Poor porch, no more.

 

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Everyone here loves it.

 

See you around,

xo ~ T.