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Life is Skittles and Life is Beer

Okay, so yes, I’m a Tom Lehrer fan. His songs are just so delightfully wrong. But anyway, spring is here! And yes, this spring has been a little more stressful for me than most, but the warming weather is marvelous, my father is recovering and has moved from ICU to a regular room and should hopefully be moving to a rehab center for physical therapy, etc soon before coming back home. It’s slow, but the important part is…he’s recovering! So…overall, life is good.

My two big fur-babies agree.

It has been a lovely time for most of my plants, too, as it has warmed enough that I have moved most of them outside. At the moment, they’re all grouped in front of my front porch where I removed my wooden steps (I replaced them with some longer-lasting block-and-cement steps off to the side…that was a project!) so they’re still looking a bit crowded, even outside. (And yes, I still have to tear down the rest of that wooden railing and replace it with a nice cement seating wall to keep people from falling off the porch. But for now, there’s a ton of plants in the way on the porch as well as beneath, so it’s safe enough.)

But with them all still so small, it works. And I have a large number of outdoor construction projects going on — in part to make them a more permanent place to stay (a greenhouse) — and this particular spot is mostly out of the way for now while also getting full sun for most of the day. So wish me luck my construction finishes (at least enough) before I have to move them all back inside for the winter. Oh, the difficulties I make for myself!

(By the way, in case you can’t tell, I love grow bags. Makes it virtually impossible to over-water — a failing of mine — while also making it near-impossible to under-water because you can sit them in a shallow basin with an inch or so of water and they will wick it up as needed. They’re the pot-of-choice for people with a gardening brown-thumb, trust me!)

The trees I planned to take down have been taken down and it’s both nice…and not. Nice because I have been much less nervous during all our spring storms that the wind will send a giant pine tree through my house. And also not so nice because I liked being tucked away back in the trees with all that lovely privacy. It’s so open around my house now. Here’s one field of destruction:

That’s effectively right out my front door, expanding the space for my driveway. The woods are still there, though, so that side isn’t so bad. But most of the other trees were on the side of the house facing the street. They provided a very nice screen that is now all gone.

So what I’ve decided to do is to take all of those felled logs (I told the tree company they could just be left in the woods because…why not?) and stack them up in a little 2-1 pyramid right in front of that black fence in the picture. Then I’ll cover the logs with mulch and soil and make myself a little hugelkultur berm between my house and the street. Planted with some hardy fruits and other edibles, it will give me back some of my privacy with trees that won’t grow as dangerously tall and thick as the pines were.

It will also allow me to plant some less-water-tolerant plants than my near-marshy ground would otherwise allow to grow. Summers can be dry around here, but spring…and some winters…are notoriously wet with near-permanent water found a mere 3 feet under the surface. (Which also fed my fears about those tall pines falling — I didn’t trust the ground to be firm enough to hold them during the most stormy seasons.) So for plants that don’t like ‘wet feet’….my yard isn’t a good place for them. A nice berm to plant them on should fix that.

This location is also where I plan to place a permanent greenhouse, as soon as I figure out how to remove or work around all those leftover stumps (grinding is risky, due to the utilities running through the area). I bought several ‘shed kits’ from Northern Tool for the framing. Initially, the covering will be greenhouse plastic, but I plan to replace it with glass a little at a time as I can afford it. It seemed to me to be the cheapest and easiest way to make a nice, sturdy greenhouse.

If you like the idea and want to do the same, be advised that, without the rigid plywood or other hard outside sheathing the shed kit intends to be used, some diagonal bracing will be needed to keep the frame properly straight. Rectangles are not sturdy structures — they rack easily back and forth, skewing your nice 90° corners into….angles entirely not square and occasionally angles that are downright dangerous. Usually the plywood attached to the studs prevents this shifting. Without the plywood attached, the shed will not keep its shape for long. So instead, diagonal boards should be attached from high on the corners of each wall to the bottom board in the center of the wall. This will keep the walls from leaning and make the structure sound.

So that’s the overview of where I am now. Next post will be about the specific plants, I promise!

Happy spring to all!

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