Putting the “we” into “weekend projects”


 

“So, if you were going to take out the swing set, would you dig out the legs first, or unscrew all the bolts first?” I ask.

DH thinks a minute and replies, “Oh, I’d undo the bolts, and then you could use leverage to get the bases out.”

“Oh.” I said. “What are you doing this weekend?”

He looks a little panicked. “It’s Easter?”

“No. Easter is next week.” It was inescapable- and he knew it- we didn’t do it right after the conversation, or on Easter weekend either, but before my walk this past Saturday, I looked him in the eye and said, “I really, really really want that thing gone, and I know I can’t do it by myself.”

So,  when I came home from my walk on Saturday to find DH in the back yard undoing the bolts on the swing set, I knew my begging had made an impression. I went to find my own set of pliers and get the kids off the couch.Image

The swing set has been there since before we moved in, and is a magnet for wasps, but not a magnet for our kids anymore I had assumed it was set in concrete, because of the way it didn’t tip over when the big kids attempted to swing high enough to go over the bar (busted on Mythbusters, by the way). What we discovered on Saturday was extremely gratifying, though, no concrete, just stakes.

I set Will up with a shovel.  He complained.  “But I thought you liked digging holes…”

“When I was 5!”

Oh, yeah. I remember, we bought him his own little trowel, and he used to dig holes in the middle of the grass, looking for worms. Then we would step in them in the dark, and hurt ourselves and curse.  Good times.

So we dig around each of the posts, and find the loops on top of the stakes. At first we just try to unscrew them from the soil with brute force, then we break out our simple machine ingenuity. I get some short pieces of rebar to put through the loops to add leverage to untwist them. “Lefty loosey…” I keep muttering.

“Mom, I know it’s lefty loosey!”

Yeah, I know. I was just reminding myself. I get mixed up.

After less than an hour, with all of us helping, and really very minimal flopping on the ground in teen angst, we have the whole thing dismantled, and piled on the ground.

I’m sure in another 6 months, we can get it loaded into the pick-up and recycled.  Watch this space for planting schemes. The schemes include fruit.

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He has a ratchet, and he knows how to use it.

 

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Enough planning! I think…


We have an old swing set in the south west corner of the yard, which has mostly become a terrifying haven for yellow jackets. Kate used to use it as an obstacle course, after the swings fell off. She would clamber up the slide, and swing across the top bar, then climb down next to the fence. As the kids have gotten older, wasps have moved in- try swinging hand over hand across the top bar while wasps fly out- it might be more challenge than you are up for.
Pure laziness has prevented me from doing anything about it- Not really, because I have certainly done other projects, like taking out our juniper bushes,  and radically pruning our old apple tree, and tearing out the basement bathroom. But it will be a pretty big project. As I said, it is set into the ground, and digging out the concrete, then moving the chunks of concrete doesn’t sound like much fun. Although, I haven’t actually dug down to see- I am guessing it is concrete, but maybe they are just stakes? We can hope, right?
So my process so far has been to think about it, and ask questions,. Like, is it worth more as a swing set, or as scrap metal? Is there anyone who would haul this thing away for free? Can we just come to a détente with the wasps? I sit in my Adirondack chair and gaze at the swing set and make plans.
My plan for several years was to take out the swings and replace it with some other kind of structure- a tea house, or a pergola, not quite a gazebo, but some kind of trellis and shade structure, with flagstone paving, and lawn chairs, and at one point I even wanted a sky chair, which is like a hammocky swinging chair. At first I wanted a couple of sky chairs, then I visualized teenagers swinging as hard as they could and then crashing into each other.   So then I just wanted one, so that I could be out there all by myself, swinging alone, with no one crashing into anyone.
As time passed, though, I have wanted less structure, and more plants. I wanted plants that could feed me.
That southwest corner of the yard is roughly 20 by 20 feet (a shade over 6 by 6 meters) with mostly just weedy grass. The neighbor has a willow that shades it on the south side, and I have a small burr oak that borders it on the East. There is a rose bush against the West fence, which adds to the adventures in lawnmowing- you have to get around the slide, the rocking horse thingy, avoid getting tangled up in the thorns, then set the swing in motion and mow underneath it. With the swings there, it is 400 square feet of pain in the neck. Without them, it could be an orchard, with peaches and maybe a blueberry bush.
So, my first small step, is to get rid of this big honking metal contraption. The neighbor kid who mows the lawn  If we get it done on a cool weekend, maybe we can avoid getting stung by the wasps.
For the 12 years we have lived here, we haven’t used fertilizer or herbicide on the grass under here- oops, I just remembered, we did use it on the thistles once- some spray stuff…but otherwise we have left the grass clippings to mulch the soil, and left it alone. You know, thistles are a national symbol of Scotland, so maybe my problem isn’t too many thistles, maybe the problem is not enough Scotsmen…not enough scotsmen

My plan is to mow it very short after the swings come out, then mulch the hell out of it with wood chips.
I have been reading about tilling to convert areas to garden. I am conflicted. I know that tilling shoots a lot of oxygen into the soil, which gives soil bacteria a huge surge in growth, and releases a lot of plant nutrients. However, the trees I am going to plant will be tiny- they will not need the nutrition released by all that bacteria, and it will burn off into the atmosphere, or wash off in the rain. Also, rototillers are loud. I don’t like loud stuff.
I have also read a lot about using big sheets of cardboard or newspaper to sheet mulch. I have used cardboard in the past to smother weeds, but I have read more recently about how sheets of weed barrier have an adverse effect on soil chemistry, preventing oxygen from getting to organisms. I will have to research more about it. I know that wood chips alone will not prevent grass from growing up through them, and the work of converting a big area to garden would be lessened if I didn’t have to hand weed around everything. I’ll have to think about it more.
No. Enough thinking. Let’s do something.

A Tower of Flowers- you can grow that


My Pinterest feed is full of these pictures of graduated flower pots stacked up, sometimes crookedly, sometimes straight. At first, I was appalled by the amount of soil that must have to go into them, then I realized that they must have fillers. Sure enough, an upside down pot inside each larger pot both takes up space and supports the pot above it.
DH got me some adorable fish pots a few years ago, the largest about 12 inches in diameter, the smallest about 6. I figured they’d be perfect for pansies and petunias on the front porch.

An upside-down 8 inch pot fills up space and still allows drainage.

An upside-down 8 inch pot fills up space and still allows drainage.

I've seen pots placed lopsided, and centered, but I decided to stack them off center.

I’ve seen pots placed lopsided, and centered, but I decided to stack them off center.

Pansies and petunias should work well on my shady front porch. In a sunnier spot, I'd put in marigolds and dahlias.

Pansies and petunias should work well on my shady front porch. In a sunnier spot, I’d put in marigolds and dahlias.

I’m a day late on You Can Grow That day- started by garden writer C.L. Fornari- where the challenge every month is to write about what is growable.

 

Perfect vs. good enough


“The perfect is the enemy of the good” is something I tell my students all the time. I usually tell it to kids who are struggling with getting started writing, frozen by the blank page. They think that they should be perfect, not realizing that writing takes practice, and the way to get better is to just start, and work on the

Alice was super-interested in the quilt-sandwich making process.

Alice was super-interested in the quilt-sandwich making process.

piece of writing until it is good enough.

Or until they run out of time, whichever comes first.
Is there some sort of quote about “the teacher teaches what she most needs to learn”? Because perfection and procrastination and the art of the “good enough” are perpetual problems for me.
Case in point, the Hattie Hill Quilt Top.

Way back last summer, I was talking with my mom about quilting, and mentioned how I really hate the “sitting at the sewing machine, putting together a puzzle” part of quilting, but really enjoy the “sitting by the window, hand-quilting” part.  She said that her friends who quilted were the opposite, and from what I have seen online, that may be true of many quilters. They put together the puzzle, then ship it off to be machine quilted.

My mom also mentioned a top made by my Great grandmother, Hattie Hill Hutchcraft Neal. After she had died, my grandmother had helped clean out her house, this would be in 1942. She found a completed quilt top, that had been pieced but not quilted. She thought to herself, “it’s a shame to let that work go to waste, maybe I’ll quilt it someday.”

More than 30 years later, my mom finds the top. It is during the quilting revival, when people were taking up quilting for the bicentennial, and watching Little House on the Prairie, and wearing long ruffled denim skirts.  My mom thought to herself, “it’s a shame to let that work go to waste, maybe I’ll quilt it someday.”

So my mom offered it to me, seeing as how I had kind of taken up quilting, and based on the track record of both my mom and my grandmother, I have 30 years before I hand it off to Kate and let her worry about it.

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However, I am instead slowly working on it.  I found some vintagey-looking fabric in a dark blue floral.  I have a big hoop, and am slowly outlining the dresden plate appliques, then echoing their shapes with wavy lines. My stitches are not tiny and even and perfect, the way the stitches are on the other Hattie Hill quilt I have, but they are good enough.