Tag Archives: remodeling

Looking autumn in the face.

What sets this autumn apart from any other is my distaste for leaves turning color. Out of the corner of my eye I’ve seen it happening, and my heart protests, “Oh, please don’t!” I look the other way. Time has been swallowed up in remodeling, or waiting for remodeling, and the steady progress of months and seasons was not in my face so colorfully until now, telling me that without a doubt that the end of the calendar year is drawing near as well.

Until yesterday, when on the way back from the gym I drove around a corner and was met with this familiar tree that had just put on its late-season dress. I couldn’t help loving it, just as I couldn’t help being angry with those other orange leaves a week earlier.

The cold weather I dread is holding off, and it’s gotten to 90° for a few days, making for unusually balmy evenings. Sunny weather means I can work in the garden for hours every day, putting up pea trellises, weatherproofing the planter boxes, and staining the rim of the fountain that had built up a layer of white mineral scale.

Rain would be better, though. In Northern California the combination of tinder-dry foliage and wind gusts creates a situation that threatens to repeat the horrors of the fires of the last two years. Too bad we can’t put all that behind us — but “it” is trying to be part of our future as well, a reality of which the power company keeps reminding us, and shutting off the power as a precaution.

A few of my volunteer tomatoes turned pink. They look like Juliets. Barely any sun is shining on them these days so I brought several into the house and when they turned red I ate them. They taste as one might expect from such culture!

 

These moths are all over the garden, but especially on the salvia here pictured – I think I have identified them as Fiery Skippers. What a cute name for a cute moth. [oops – not a moth! See about skippers in the comments.] I began to wonder if it is their caterpillars that are eating my sunflowers, so I researched that, too, and I don’t think so. Next photo is in the Disturbing Photos category. 😦

But look at this: The most fun insect I have discovered this week is these caterpillars…

… and they appear to be the Black Swallowtail again, on the parsley again, looking as though they wanted to be eaten by birds, so I brought the two of them into my mesh cage, after the carpenter and I took pictures outdoors near the parsley patch.

Other heartening events: One window in the soon-to-be sewing room has been framed, and irises keep blooming like they want to be my best friends; the tropical milkweed also, and it makes more and more seeds! I harvested the mystery squashes. [Update: I found the tag that came with the 4″pot, and they are Buttercup Heirloom Squash.]

Tiny harbingers of spring caught my eye as I came up to the front door yesterday, just after my encounter with the bright tree. Yes, the daphne is putting out new leaves, so that in a very few months it can put out those divinely aromatic flowers. See, I do know that the seasons are good! Of course. And when winter comes, this particular challenging and wonderful time will be a thing of the past. I must enjoy it while I can!

Glimpses of then and now.

I had just begun to eat my eggs and greens when I glanced out at the garden table and knew it was warm and cheery there, so I moved out to that sunny corner. There were two lovely bird sounds close by that I haven’t heard lately, and I wondered who was singing, and if I had identified them before…

Then a new sound, and hopping noises in the hopbush, and whom did I see but my old wren friend Bewick! I’m pretty sure I haven’t noticed him in a couple of years. The titmouse was back, too, this week, peeking from under the wisteria. The birds are telling me it’s fall.

I have yet to do most of those pre-winter chores outside; somehow it always seems more necessary to read poems, or watch and write about the garden instead of working in it. I did plant a pot of mums, and had Alejandro transfer a bunch of succulents out of pots and into my gravel area under the manzanita. After I told him which one was my favorite, I came back this morning to see that he had put a circle of small stones around it.

I spent an hour last night looking at pictures of my back yard just four years ago. It is pretty unbelievable what has “happened” since then, by which to say, what the rain and sun and tiny plants have done together, after humans arranged them to work in harmony. The next few photos are from fall of 2015:

The photo below is from February 2016, about two months after planting, through my rainy bedroom window. One of the dodoneas is already dying, and the replacement for the first, defective, fountain is already installed and running.

And this morning:

Oh, but all this new landscaping went in just a moment ago, compared to the events I will be remembering with friends this weekend: My K-8 elementary school is having a reunion, spanning ten years of graduating classes, and I am driving south to take part. Other than my siblings, I haven’t seen any of the people who will be there since high school or before. I don’t think we’ll be wanting to take pictures of our older selves in the “now” – we much prefer the “then” from our yearbooks, where we all look so cute! This one is me in First Grade.

Next, glimpses of my garden currently, and goddaughter Mary on her family’s trampoline, from last week when I got to spend a little time with them.

Work has ramped up on my remodel project. The latest delay has been over non-standard construction in the original house, which was revealed after removing sheetrock in advance of moving a closet wall. This photo shows the three main parties so far, including the contractor and the architect, who are calculating the necessary strength of extra beams they will install to bear the current load, in addition to the weight of the new rooms.

It made me happy to hear how conscientious they are about it. The architect said to me, as I listened in on their hour-long discussion yesterday, in between their tromping up and down the stairs from the garage to the great room above it, “You are learning about how not to build a house.” Everyone has been saying, “Once they get started, it shouldn’t take long.” I think we are at that point now, of having started. But until now, that point was theoretical.

I guess that’s about enough procrastination, and I must go pack a suitcase!
Those garden chores will have to wait till next week. 🙂

The darling juncos flew in.

Last month a man I barely know came into town and put a new roof on my playhouse. It’s a long story involving his grief and pain, and it was a long week while he was in town, but all in all it seems to have been a good thing for him who has been a carpenter his whole life to have this familiar but minor project to focus on.

When I bought the playhouse on Craigslist four years ago I think the red plastic roof may have been freshly painted by the previous owner; after the first winter it was peeling, and two more repaintings have also not lasted. For a long time I’ve planned to replace the plastic roof with something paintable, but couldn’t find the right person to help me, someone with the vision and the know-how and the time.

Carpenter Friend heard about my remodel and didn’t understand that I already have a team of younger people for that project; when he arrived from Idaho with his tools I pointed him toward the playhouse, and within a few days he had put on a real roof. He was going to paint it, too, but I could tell he was ready to move on, so I did that part myself.

This all happened at the perfect time, because somehow I was mostly available for that week, to listen to the stories from a long life, and to admire the work. Also, I am going to replant my matching strawberry barrels this fall, and will put a coat of the same color on them before I do. There’s a little trim piece that is supposed to go on the front of the playhouse, and which I haven’t yet figured out how to adapt without plastic. So the area above the door looks a bit plain still.

This month I want to put a coat of sealer on the rest of the playhouse, and then it will be ready for winter. After a cold snap that was a warning call, the weather has been milder again, but I don’t think we’ll be having the windows wide open anymore — the night breezes are too chill. The sunflowers continue in their enthusiastic blooming behavior, and the repeating irises never stop! I accidentally broke one off today so it is in the house.

High winds brought in the cooler temps, and blew bushels of redwood twigs cascading down from the tree behind me. You can see them all over the place in the photo above. I haven’t had the energy or time to rake them up.

It was because of their mess I had the little broom out where the Oregon junco could pose near it. Of course he didn’t pose – he and his friend only hopped about on the patio and this is as close as I could get to them, through the window in my kitchen and family room. Yesterday I gave up getting a picture at that distance, and began to look for pictures online, but they were not my juncos; this morning I managed to get (fuzzy) images that are much as I usually see them, with their signature little black caps being the most distinctive feature for sure. My husband first told me who they were, long ago, and it’s always exciting when they arrive in the garden and hang around the neighborhood for months.

Bit by bit little things are done toward the remodeling. Lots of demolition, and bags and bags of old ceiling and sheet rock are collecting in my utility yard, for the construction guys to carry off, soon I hope: that’s where I want to put the firewood I am waiting to order. But the area in front of my wood stove is currently taken by bathroom vanity parts ready to be installed. Here is one picture of actual construction going on, but it is only a small cabinet that needed assembling.

The fig harvest continues gloriously. I’m giving them away, and finding recipes that I can use to turn them into something freezable to use later. This picture below is of Honey Fried Figs, a simple sauteing in butter and honey, which makes a kind of preserve to serve on its own or as a topping for ice cream. 🙂

I also have my cook’s eye on a Martha Stewart fig cake. I did try a fig clafoutis but it did not please the palate, however pretty it looked just out of the oven.

My gardener’s eye will have plenty to keep it happy in the days to come, and the sorts of things I find outdoors are more certain to be satisfying to the whole person. So, out I go again, and maybe I’ll find a few moments to sit still and watch juncos for a while.

Rescued by a mantis.

It was nearly dusk when I realized I had lots of stuff to put in the yard waste bin for pick-up tomorrow, so I raked pine needles and cut tangles of wisteria vines that were trying to get in the kitchen window. At the last, I pulled out the wallflower bush that has been dead and bleaching in the sun for a couple of weeks now. I put it on top of the stuffed-in green matter, but the lid was not near to closing, so I went back for my pruners to cut up the bush a bit.

Then I saw the mantis, barely browner than the bush, and he wasn’t interested in going anywhere. So I took his picture, such a patient subject he was. My neighbor came down to look at him, too, and watched while I managed to pick him up and move him over to the coreopsis.

I had hoped to have a full day of gardening today, but very little of that got done. I measured bathroom floors, ran around from the tile store to the home improvement store, measured floors again… back to the tile store, researched windows and window coverings…

In an email to my contractor I wrote the proverb that came to mind, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” I think I still have patience; what else is there to have? But I ran out of emotional strength about three days ago. I’m managing without it.

That last little burst of pruning and raking and being in the garden was the best thing of the whole day, and by itself lifted my heart quite a bit. But the mantis saved the day, by showing up and hanging out with me for a few minutes, and letting himself be rescued. ❤