Tree Killer

There are 2 types of people, tree planters, and tree murderers. No. Not really. Sometimes people who plant trees also kill them. Me, for example.
I have killed trees through benign neglect, bad cultural practices, and laisse faire policies. And occasionally, I have hired hit men to practice premeditated tree murder. (We’ve been watching a lot of Monk lately- I think it’s rubbing off.)

It’s like Justin Beiber’s bangs, in shrub form…

We have juniper bushes that were probably planted when the house was built, almost 50 years ago.They are hideous and over-mature- we have trimmed them in past years, but not the past couple of years. They half block the windows, making the front bedroom cavelike all year round. They have to go.
What has been holding me back?

  • Possible insulation value
  • Prickliness
  • Snake habitat

Does anyone know how to figure out the R value of 50 year-old juniper bushes? Me neither. Actually, there are places on the web where you can figure it out, but as far as I have been able to determine, the most value comes from bushes stopping the wind in winter. These uglies are on the east side of the house, and winter wind hits us from the north. I am not convinced they make much difference in gas bills in the winter. They do make a comfort difference in summer, I suspect, since, as I said, they make the front bedroom cave-like.
Prickliness- I don’t want to take these out myself. They poke, and make my skin rashy, and whaa whaa whaa. Plus they smell like cat pee. That is why I am hiring hit men to do the job- tree guys to get the junipers as well as clean out some dead wood on the ash trees. Since it is family policy to spend as little money as possible on anything, it has taken me a while to come around to this decision (and I am not bad mouthing DH here- the crazy penny-pinching mostly comes from me…unless we’re talking about lattes…)
Snake habitat- animal habitat in general, actually. Dense, prickly bushes make great protective homes for wildlife, not just the cute cuddly birds and butterflies that people want to attract, but also the garter snakes and rodents who are part of the environment but who don’t get the kind of  press that butterflies do. By taking out shrubs that are close to 7 feet tall and 4 feet wide, I am affecting beings other than myself.
I’m doing it anyway. I’ll let you know how it goes.


Contagious Crazies

This morning I was insisting that Kate* comb her hair before leaving the house, no, really comb it, not just wave the comb in the general direction of her head, and she said, “You just hate that you have an ugly child, and you want to make me perfect!”
The thing is, Kate looks strikingly like me, scarily like me, except for hair (hers is naturally a to- die-for auburn, mine goes back and forth between brown, and to-dye-for auburn) and eye color (Her eyes are hazel, mine blue)  We have the same face, nose, hair texture. We’ll probably have the same body type- (late-blooming) tall and thin. If I believe that I gave birth to an ugly child, then I believe I am an ugly person. If she believes that I believe that I gave birth to an ugly child….she believes she’s ugly. And that I’m ugly.

I just want her to comb her hair.

Some of this is bubbling up because she is finishing 6th grade and going into 7th- it is a natural stage for her to criticize her looks, when everything is changing too fast, but not fast enough.

Some of this is bubbling up for me because I have been consciously dieting for the first time in a long time.

With my “baby” almost 9 years old, I have decided I need to really work on that baby weight…I have been doing yoga pretty regularly for almost 2 years, and generally exercising more.  Also, for two years, I have been stuck in the no- man’s-land of pant sizes- 16 is too big, 14 is too small, I waver in between, depending on the brand. I have always hated shopping, and this makes it even worse- taking in 2 sizes of everything into the dressing room, being unsatisfied with all of it. Coming out of the dressing room believing I’m ugly.

Odd- It is awkward right now, publicizing my pant size- my inner voice saying, oh my god, don’t tell them that!  I’ll tell you my credit card number before I tell you my weight.

It was 186 pounds a few weeks ago. I don’t own a scale, and the only one I know of is at the pool, and we haven’t been swimming for a while. I get a little psycho when I weigh myself, anyway. I suspect many people do, but we don’t much talk about it. It’s a secret number.

The diet program I am using is an app for my iPod called My Fitness Pal (link) I put in my weight, and height and level of activity, and how much weight I’d like to lose. Each day I add the food I eat, and the exercise, and it totals up the calories and fat and protein and subtracts the calories from exercise, and at the end of the day there’s a little graph showing whether I was on target for the day, or over, or under.

I have set the goal of losing a pound a week, and it made me pretty neurotic for a while (noooo…that’s not what made you neurotic…) but this week, it is having the effect of making me aware, and conscious of what I put in my mouth. For example, I often stop at the grocery store by my school on the way home and get a doughnut and coffee on the way home.  I deserve it, right? Um, sure, but the latte is 250 calories, and the doughnut is 250 calories, and that is really a lot, for it not to be a real meal. Today I didn’t stop, I came home and had some peanut butter on toast. It sure wasn’t a doughnut…but it had some nutrition, at least.

So, as a fretful mother of a middle schooler, I worry that this consciousness, this awareness, or hyper-awareness, is rubbing off on my sweet girl. When I first started tracking, she said she wanted to track her food too, so she could fit in with the other girls who are on diets. Ack!

So, how does this work? How do I improve the way I look, without rejecting how I look? How do we minimize the craziness?  I just want to be able to button my pants, and it has opened up a can of crazies. Or maybe the crazy can would have been opened anyway. What are your thoughts?

*the girl has decided she wants to be referred to by her real name. “How am I supposed to get famous if you just keep calling me ‘the girl?'”


Bloom Day- Patience

Three years ago (or was it four?), my wonderful Mother-in-law gave me an envelope of seeds from her yellow columbine, which was spilling over the sides of the flowerbed (the flowers, not the envelope). I scratched them into the soil next to my brass headboard, near the dark red lilies, and stella d’oro daylilies…and this week for bloom day….they are about to bloom. Still waiting.

The waiting is the hardest part.

Oh sure, they have pretty ruffly leaves, and a bright green color, but none of us got into this for the foliage! Give us flowers!

Also about to bloom, roses and peonies.

Planted before we moved in- unknown variety.

As big as a dinner plate when it opens…did I say dinner plate? I meant coffee cup. Which is still pretty darn big. For a flower.

Actually in bloom, we have Honeysuckle Blanche Sandman, well-loved by pollinators and in continual bloom from May through August.

Bearded iris is still blooming.

Clover is  in the paths and lawn. Clover fixes nitrogen, and the flowers attract bees and butterflies, so I have it even though it doesn’t make my heart pound.

And, of course, we have strawberries. Blossoms now mean fruit in June- all mine! Mine, I tell you!

In June, I’ll eat strawberries…

Vanilla Vine update

Not only has my vanilla plant survived the winter, but it has even grown- it isn’t to the top of the trellis, but it has quite a bit of new growth on it, and some aerial roots going into the moss on the trellis. The trellis is made of 2 layers of hardware cloth, with sheet moss in between the layers and orchid potting mix inside the cylinder.

Ignore the messy kitchen counter…

My pop bottle humidity system is not perfect- it takes a while to dial it in to slow drip, and about once a week I just bring the whole contraption to the kitchen and hose it down with the sprayer. I moved it out to the back porch today, and I’ll splash it with the hose regularly.

I added a grocery store orchid to the pot- vanilla is a type of orchid, after all, and they should like the same conditions. I don’t remember what kind of orchid it is, and the tag just says “orchid.” C’m0n, grocery store…

Bearded Iris- you can grow that

I just love bearded iris.

Thanks to C.L. Fornari’s meme  last month, by pure luck I had a ton of new visitors to my dusty little corner of the blogoverse. If you’ve come back, thank you, and welcome. I say it was by pure luck because the links are listed on J.L.’s site in alphabetical order by plant name, and my plant was chives. Now for this month…aconite, anyone? Asparagus? AAronroot? I just made up that last one, there’s no such thing as aaronroot. As far as I know.
I decided to go back to the true spirit of the meme, which is that newbie gardeners sometimes get scared off by complicated instructions, or recommendations from one side to be all organic, and the other side to use blue chemicals on a regular basis. What people need is a slam dunk- something so easy you have to give away extras. In my garden, bearded irises are a slam dunk. And toward the end of June, I will probably be giving away extras, if anyone local is interested.
I use Iris a lot as a kind of placeholder- when my Korean lilac was 6 inches tall, surrounding it with iris made it look like a real garden bed, instead of a twig surrounded by mulch. Now that the lilac is about 4 feet tall, and covered with flowers, the iris anchor it, and are ready to be divided and given away.
Making friends with a gardener who is dividing iris is maybe the best way to get them, unless he’s a stalker, which you won’t know until he keeps showing up at your door with bags of rhizomes…
Once you get your bag with plants, sort them out. The best roots are big and fat. There should be at least one fan of leaves per chunk. I trim the leaves to about 6 or 8 inches from the rhizome, and plant it with the dangly roots in the soil, but the knobby rhizome just on the surface. If it goes underground, it rots. In fact, iris is nice and drought tolerant, not really caring whether it gets much water. Cutting the leaves back allow it to establish itself without drying out, but there are still green leaves to feed it while it makes itself at home.
My wonderful MIL is the source of this information, and the source of all my iris as well. She has told me to transplant before July 4th. I don’t know if that is specific to zone 5, or the front range of Colorado, your mileage may vary in other parts of the world.
What if you can’t bring yourself to make friends with a gardener? They sell bearded iris- McClure and Zimmerman has some in their Spring catalog for $11.95 if you buy 3. That seems expensive…but as I’ve said, I’ve never bought Iris. They also claim that a coral-pink variety named “Beverly Sills” is among the most popular. Hmmmm…I don’t know.
Buying them would be the way to get unusual colors- most of mine are light purple, with a couple of plants that are dark purple, and one that is bronze-flowered, which blooms a week or so after the others.
Trust me, you can grow that.

Patio Beer Opener

Let the record show-I hate beer. But I do like having people over on the patio, and many of the people I like, like beer. Snobby beer, with caps that have to be removed with tools, rather than just screw caps, or cans. Canned beer is what we give to the slugs.
Last summer, we stayed at a hotel that had a bottle opener screwed to the bathroom counter. I know, classy. It was in Wyoming. Anyway, I saw that, and thought, ooh, I want that for my house.

Except, you know, not in the bathroom. On the patio.

So, I checked the local hardware store, which didn’t carry them, so then I ordered one from Amazon and I mounted it to one of the porch posts, then I’ll mount a bucket underneath. Come on over.