Pinteresting garden idea: Paint some stuff pink

20170621_132338_HDRHow to do this project:

1. Buy some stuff, preferably from the dollar store.
2. Buy some pink spray paint.
3. Spray paint the stuff pink.

BOOM. Your garden just got 100% pinker and 40% more pinterest-worthy.

FAQs about this project:

Q: Jocelyn, does your husband mind that you keep making stuff in your yard pink?

A: I don’t know, but if he does, he should go buy some spray paint of his own because that’s the only law I respect.

Q: Does your finger hurt from spray painting?

A: Yes it does. Thank you for asking. Spray paint can fatigue is a real thing.

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Step 4: Attach with zip ties. Like a boss.

Summer of Yard Improvement 2017

As I write this, a chipper young woman is about eight feet from me, painting the exterior trim on my window. I would be watching tv on my laptop, except she can see what I’m doing through the window, and that makes me feel like a bourgeois a-hole, whereas if I’m typing I could be “working.” Right? Right! Like one of those amazing moms who works from home while somehow also looking after a kid!

This is the summer I hire people to do the work I can’t do myself. There are so many projects that I’ve never gotten around to, and after eight years in my house (and with a seven-month old), it’s time to admit defeat. So I hired painters, and landscapers, and next up is arborists to clear out the disastrous weedy Manitoba Maples in the back 40 and hopefully create a usable space back there. At first I felt guilty and discouraged about all of this, because I had to admit that I’m not the DIY-capable pioneer woman type I imagine myself as. But then several twenty-two year olds showed up and fixed my entire front yard in two days and now it makes me smile every time I walk past it or look out the window. So never mind the guilt, shall we?

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Here’s the before picture I sent to the landscaping companies I talked to. (It’s a little wobbly and weird because I took it with the panorama feature on my phone.) About three years ago, we had our sewer line from the house to the front street replaced. It’s on the other side of the yard (on the right of the sidewalk in this picture), but they took everything that was on that side and piled it up on this side. Including a cedar tree they had to take down. It was never that nice to begin with, but at least it looked like our house was inhabited, instead of like it was one of those foreclosed houses in a swamp from a documentary about the mortgage crisis. The day I came home from work and saw the pile of rocks, dirt, cedar branches and junk all piled up I started to cry. It was sad, Internet. It looked like a bomb had gone off. And the bomb was made of branches and dirt. And failure.

So then a couple years went by and I didn’t have the time and energy to tackle this project all at once, the way it needed to be tackled. I would weed and then a few days later it would look like nothing had been done. I had the great idea of taking one empty Burnco bag and putting it INSIDE another empty Burnco bag (thus reducing the number of unsightly Burnco bags in our front yard by 50%!) which, I still maintain, was a great idea. And then I got pregnant and spent a whole summer with nausea and viral laryngitis. And then I had a baby and realized I was never going to get anything done ever again, except maybe when he does to university, IF he goes somewhere away from home. So then I hired a landscaping company.

Today!

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Are my phone’s advanced camera features making you dizzy yet? I KNOW! EXCITING, ISN’T IT?

The right-hand side was mostly done, but the landscapers planted new goji berries in the stock trough on the far right, and cleaned up the weeds around the existing rocks and mulch to make it look real tidy, like a yard in a glossy magazine called Fancy Tiny Yards.

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And on the left-hand side, they completely fixed everything. They took away the garbage. They dug up the old, weedy grass. They dug up two new beds between the hedge and the sidewalk that I showed in a previous post. They put down a tiny area of grass where next year my toddler will be able to toddle. They took the weeping caragana tree that was falling over (the people who fixed the sewer line bumped into it with the stock trough) and straightened it back up and this year it bloomed. Basically, they made everything look beautiful, the way the yard of a person with a fancy cameraphone should look. And thus began my summer of Paying People To Do Things I Am Never Going To Get Around To. Feel free to celebrate along with me, Internet. It’s a very freeing feeling, in two senses: first, it will free you from your guilt; second, it will free you from your money, which is probably not making you a better person anyway, right?

20170616_092527Room to toddle.

The garden time-travel machine

I love the Facebook “on this day” feature. I actually keep a personal journal that works the same way: a card for every day of the year, and each day you write an entry for that year beneath the entries for the same day on previous years. I love that it encourages me to look back over the past, both for remembering small joys and for realizing how much things have changed.

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On this day in 2014 I took this gorgeous picture of a clematis bloom in my yard. Thanks, Facebook!

Less philosophical and also somewhat gloomier side note: This year, all of my non-native clematis plants died over the winter. All of them. (I had three.) The only clematis that survived was my native variety. I also lost a grape (the one that produced fruit last year) and a few other perennials. I’m not sure why the winter was so hard on plants, but I think I lost more perennials this past winter than ever before.

On this day in 2011, I was waiting for the rain to clear so my dad and I could get to work building my deck. I posted about it on Facebook.

It’s tempting to feel like the slog of work and things to do around the house (and life-stuff in general) is endless. It always feels like there’s too much to do. Now that I have a baby, this is even more the case. There is a literal never-ending list of tasks that need to get done. No matter how much laundry I do, the next day will create more. But when I start to get caught up in a fervor of what-I-need-to-do, I am trying to cultivate two new trains of thought:

  1. Look how far I’ve come. Progress IS happening, all around us. It’s enough.
  2. I can sit back and enjoy what I’ve made and done without always being focused on the next thing to do. This applies to the yard, among other things. I can sit with a drink or a baby or a book and just enjoy. If it doesn’t get done today or this week or this summer, it will keep.

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Building the deck, June 2011. (I was a glorified Deck Stain Assistant. The hard work was all my dad. This picture makes it seem like I might be some kind of Bob-The-Builderesque Construction Expert, which I am not at all.)

I’m too type-A to ever truly master maintaining a sense of contentment, gratitude and abundance, but I’m working on it. Maybe there’s a chart I could make for myself, where I get a sticker every day I remember to cultivate contentment, gratitude and abundance.

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The deck today. See? Abundance!

Trying new edible perennials!

So, I’ll post about this later when I have more time, but I got a permaculture landscaping company to come and fix my front yard. It’s so great. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Also we don’t need to be ashamed of our yard when delivery people come to the door anymore! We still need to be ashamed of how much delivery food we eat, but that’s a problem for another day.

So anyway, as a result of this miracle landscaping, I have a stock trough bed with almost nothing planted in it, as well as two new beds between my hedge and the city sidewalk, with space for plants.

20170616_092453First stock trough, planted with borage and ‘merlot’ lettuce, both reliable self-sowing annuals in my garden. I’m looking for more things to add.

These are tricky locations because the stock trough gets COLD (almost nothing planted in the other one overwintered successfully), so for that spot, I’m looking for mostly self-sowing annuals. It’s also quite a shady spot.

Beyond it (on the left-hand side of this picture) is the new, tiny grass patch that will house future baby play-junk! I was feeling guilty that my whole yard is so garden-centric, so now there’s one little area of actual nice grass. It’s about eight feet square. Every time I have to water it, it hurts my soul.

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Sidewalk bed – east side. I’ve planted a few things already, including a juniper shrub, giant Solomon’s Seal, and creeping nancy. My goal for this area is not to over-plant it, but to actually leave room for the plants to spread out in future years, something I never do properly.

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Sidewalk bed – west side. That ugly planter was in the yard. Now it’s an architectural feature y’all.

The other new beds are even shadier (on the Northern edge of our low, plus our street has a canopy of big trees), AND they’re next to the sidewalk, so they’ll be subject to gravel in the winter, the odd shovel-trampling or stroller-squishing.

Almost everything in my front yard has at least one of the following qualities:

  • Alberta native
  • Edible, medicinal or useful (usually nitrogen-fixing) plant
  • Attractive to bees

The only exceptions are a few perennials I planted in the first years of my garden, before I developed my preoccupations with plants’ usefulness. I’m also making some exceptions for the beds next to the sidewalk, because it’s such a shady, thankless spot to grow, I haven’t been able to find much that I think will survive.

So anyway, here are a few new edible perennials I’m going to try:

  • Claytonia Sibirica – Purslane ‘Siberian Spring Beauty’ – ordered some seeds from a random vendor on Amazon. What could possibly go wrong with that?! This is an edible perennial that has been on my wishlist for some time. [more info]
  • Goji berry. This was a suggestion from the guy who did my landscaping, and he planted 4 large-ish shrubs in then second stock trough. I also have some plugs coming in the mail so I’ll plant a few more elsewhere and see how they do.

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goji berries in the second stock trough. I hope they are hardy enough to overwinter in here.

And two from a new mail-order vendor I just discovered, Norton Naturals in Ontario. I ordered a couple things to try from them:

  • Groundnut – Apios Americana. This is such an interesting-sounding plant. It’s a perennial. It’s a vine. You can eat it. It fixes nitrogen. WHAT?! It’s funny that there are so many plants that were staples for Canada’s indigenous people and first settlers and now we not only don’t eat them, we have never heard of them. (This is a native species in Eastern Canada, not here)
  • Meadow Garlic – Allium Canadense. I love all members of the onion family. I love their smell, I love to eat them, and I love their globe flowers. Someone else in my neighbourhood is growing Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ (someone in a Facebook plant group IDed it for me after I surreptitiously took a photo, I’m not a wizard) and they’re gorgeous. I’m going to look for some bulbs in the fall.

I also would have ordered some ramps, but they’re sold out. Maybe in a future year!

So that’s my biggest project right now, getting these lovely de-weeded beds planted and mulched before the next time the elm trees drop their disgusting paper pod-storm and try to make one million baby trees.