May flowers

Not to be self congratulatory or anything, but Heath and I are basically American heroes for making good on our promise to the garden to give it some much needed TLC.  Austin’s been gifted with a pretty spectacular spring season, which made it nearly impossible for us not to get our hands dirty these past couple months beautifying the grounds of House Doodle. Veggies have been planted, bottle trees erected, new fences built—a productive spring season indeed.

raised beds and chicken cooptexasnativegarden

texassucculents

greyhousegreendoorraingarden marblemulch  doodlehouseroses crushedgranitepatio _DSC7936  _DSC7940 doodlehouserosebouquet bottletree _DSC7935

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Baby, I love you. Please don’t go.

Dear Backyard Garden,

Remember when you and I were tight and would hang out all the time?

-3We had so much in common, so much to learn from each other. Those were the good good old days.  But I don’t think you or I can deny for any longer the fact that lately we’ve been growing apart. Well, I’ve been growing apart. You have not been growing much of anything. But I understand. Especially with you, veggies.

-1I have to take some of the blame. I wasn’t there for you and I’m sorry.  But I hope you know that it’s not forever, I am just going through a tough time right now what with this heat and all. And I know, I know, before you say anything, I am fully aware of the fact that there are other gardeners who treat their plants nice even in the summer. But I’m not other gardeners. When it’s sweaty out there, and the raindrops are replaced by mosquitoes and we experience 40 days of triple digit temperatures, I’m just not woman enough to be there for you. I can’t make excuses. I am a weak person. I don’t feel great about it, and it’s time that I come clean and admit that my neglect has changed you. 

-3-2I take full responsibility for this low point in our relationship, veggie garden. Your pollen is on my hands and my hands alone.

But as for the rest of you plants, I think you need to take some responsibility for your actions.

I’m looking at you loquat tree. You hurt me. You hurt me bad. We were so good together! When you first started acting sad, I did everything I could to make you happy. Remember the daily dates with the water hose? If not, maybe the $400 utility bill will jog your memory. What did I do wrong? Why do you refuse to cooperate? I am beginning to feel really jilted by how much you take-take-take without giving back.
-4And you, yaupon holly? You’re a native! You should know better than to behave like a tropical, which you have to admit you have been these days with the water business. I’ll keep it coming, but get real, this weather is suppose to be your jam! I expect you to behave better and maybe act grateful for the attention you’ve been getting. What would veggies say if they they knew you were acting like this?-5What am I doing? This isn’t me. I didn’t mean to point fingers. This is my fault. I’ll try and be better. I promise you. I’ll turn over a new leaf, and I hope you will consider growing some in return. I love you garden. Maybe in time, we can get back to where we were.

Raised beds

Love always,

Kelsey


Picnic anyone?

Whelp, the time finally came for Bro to move out of the doodle house. His departure came about a month ago, and with him went the Foosball table (at our request), which meant it was time for us to look into more sit-able table options for our newly naked back patio. Muah ha ha, another weekend project to put on the books.

I did some fact checking and number crunching and figured the best option for us would be to pick up a prefab picnic table from Lowe’s ($88) and gussy ‘er up with a bright coat of paint. It would be affordable. It would be easy. It would be done!

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I chose to paint it what my pals calls “P-Terry’s blue” a sort of seafoam blue/turquoise color that is one the trademark colors of my favorite Austin hamburger chain.  I’ve eaten many a meal on their blue picnic tables and it seemed as fitting a color as any to bring to the patio. Plus, I’ve gotten so accustomed to painting furniture and walls in shades of blue that not to just seemed wrong some how. You know what’s not wrong? The finished product…

seafoampicnictablepatiopicnicYES!  We are picnic ready! Heath, who by some miracle never questions my bizarre color choices, was smitten with the finished product, saying it looked good enough to eat. Whoop, whoop!

In addition to prepping the picnic table, we also spent some of the weekend sprucing up the garden and freshening up things we had let go over the winter. The pallet planter got updated with some hardy succulents and we put in a handful of fast-growing, drought-tolerant natives along the back and side fence to give us some future privacy from the neighbors (and their incessantly barking schnauzers). Soon enough, I hope to have a really nice backyard space in which to romp with the doodles and host fancy pants backyard garden parties.

turquoisepicnictablesucculentplanter

succulents_palletplanterAnd, with luck, we will soon have edible goodies to fill the empty space on our PTerry’s picnic bench.  Heath stayed busy by tending to the veggie garden, planting sugar snap peas, lettuce, onions, potatoes, broccoli and carrots.

sprouting onion

sprouting onion

lettuce coming in strong

broccoli coming in strong

sugar snap peas going nuts (Pardon our mess in the background, we are protecting them from cold and chickens, a brutal dynamic.)

sugar snap peas going nuts (Pardon our mess in the background, we are attempting to protect them from cold and chickens, a brutal duo.)

I’m so excited by all that has developed in the backyard in the last two weeks with the rise in temperatures and rise in our morale. I better enjoy garden season while it lasts, because heaven knows by May the triple digit temperatures will be upon us again. Until then, who’s down for a picnic?

doodlehousepicnic


One year later

A little more than a year ago, we were making our way toward the 2011 ACL music festival when our realtor called to tell us the sellers of a little house on Corona Drive had accepted our offer to buy their place; a month later they handed us the key. Even though the process of buying our first home happened fairly quickly, in many ways this one year anniversary of life in our first home seems like it took a lifetime to reach–especially when I think about all the projects I wanted to accomplish in the first year.

I had a lofty checklist of things to add, modify and remove in the new house. Admittedly, I was a little too ambitious. I wanted wood floors within the first month and new counter tops within the first two weeks. Fast forward 365 days and the original counters and carpets are still here. I still don’t have a dishwasher in the kitchen, and we still let the dogs out into the backyard through a window and not a proper backdoor. But while there are many, many, many improvements I still haven’t found the time or money to make, I’m careful to remember and be proud of all that we have accomplished in one year together in our first place.

For starters, we (with A LOT of help from my mom) we were able to install some much needed landscaping in the front yard.

The uninspired and lackluster front yard before we got our hands (and feet and faces) dirty with gardening.

And here it is today.

We put in a path that leads to the front door.

And planted lots of native color.

Echinacea is forever smiling.

We painted and added windows to our front door for much needed character.

And in the backyard we did even more.  When we first arrived, the only life in the backyard was a 30-year-old pecan tree.

The bare backyard.

So we added a shed and built a new and improved chicken coop for our feathered friends.

We put in raised beds for veggies…

…and a rain garden to help with drainage.

We built a fence to help with privacy.

And we added some spunk to the patio with a pallet planter, and dining area.

Inside, we got things done too…like painting more walls than we can count.

The bland walls before we got our hands on them.

And after many iterations of furniture placement, we  finally found the perfect layout for our massive living room.

We put up invisible book shelves in the office.

And I finally found the perfect way to incorporate a map wall into the house.

In the kitchen we refinished the cabinets and added new hardware, bringing some much needed shine to a kitchen that was in the running to be named one of the country’s ugliest.

Dinged up faded cabinets and rusty black metal hardware makes for a creepy kitchen.

A little shine goes a long way. At some point we’ll get to updating the backsplash and countertops.

We also stripped the knotty pine paneling to make room for more shelving and storage.

For me, knotty pine is beautiful in small doses. The original kitchen had more than what I prefer.

On top of the big projects, there were dozens of weekends and evenings spent painting furniture, framing artwork, hanging curtains and performing the many other tiny tasks that culminate in having a happy house that feels like home. I didn’t get to a lot of the big projects, but I’m learning to cope with our revised timeline. As my older and wiser home-owning cohorts have told me, the list of home improvement projects never goes away, it just changes over time, and that’s part of the fun. So on our one year anniversary, I’m opting not to lament the projects we have not yet gotten to and instead will celebrate what we have accomplished. Plus, we still need things to keep us busy as we head in to year two.


Fickle Junipers

I’ve got these junipers, three in the front and three in the back, and for the most part we get along great. But there are these two suckers who just won’t play ball and I don’t get it. All three junipers in the front and back were planted at the same time, get the same amount of sun and are recipients of the same watering regimen. So why is there one plant from each group that looks to be either on their death bed or already kicked it?

Happy Juniper

And the happy junipers sad brother. I’m calling it Eeyore.

One of these things is not like the others.

I’ve lost a plant or two, or 10 before, so it’s not as if this is some new phenomenon. And I know not every specimen can survive the summer season, but why is there such a disparity with my junipers? If one was going to kick it, you’d think all of them would. The world of gardening sure is full mystery.


Seasonal and Sensational

I think it’s safe to say my favorite thing about having a vegetable garden is eating the veggies. But I’m fairly certain my second favorite thing is observing how much it changes not only from season to season but also from week to week. It’s constantly evolving and Heath has become a champion at monitoring its progress, knowing what’s in season and being able to prep the soil for the future.  We have not yet been through a complete year with our ever evolving garden, but when I look back at pictures of our veggie sprawl from the day it was born to now,  I’m tickled by how much it has morphed.

Early Winter: the “garden” last December when we first put together the raised beds though at this point, it was more dirt than anything.

Early spring: the garden is full of lettuce.

Early spring

In March: no leaves on the trees, few greens in the garden.

Early spring: sugar snap peas from seed. We planted late February and harvested late April.

Mid spring: Heath picking the sugar snap peas.

Early summer: peas are still growing, but we added baby amaranth and New Zealand spinach to the mix.

Today: corn, amaranth, New Zealand spinach and lima beans

Today: corn and lima beans are in season.

Today: lima beans.

Today: corn

Today: amaranth and New Zealand spinach


If it ever rains again, we’ll be in good shape.

Once upon a time, it rained in Texas. And when it did, our yard turned into a swamp.

Swamp city is not a great situation for anyone. After lots of planning and scheming, we decided installing a rain garden would be an effective and earth-friendly way to control the water flow. The idea is that by digging out a trench, you divert the water to a designated area, rather than letting it flow here, there and everywhere. Then, you fill said area with strategically placed rocks and native plants so it’s pretty to look at as well as being functional.

The Red Clay Valley Association encourages its residences to make rain gardens in small backyard depressions like this one.

From gardenfowl.com

Minnesota Public Radio did a neat feature on how to install backyard rain gardens, like this one, for its listeners.

Once again, we enlisted the help of my garden guru to figure out the best way to incorporate a rain garden into the back yard. Since the water seems pretty intent on puddling in one particular area, we thought, why challenge it? We opted to start there and then manipulate the existing landscape around it—making the rest of our yard accoutrement work with the soon-to-be rain garden rather than the other way around. Once that was determined, the only thing left to do was start digging.
Heath dug a few inches into the soil to make a clearly defined low area where the water could easily drain. From there, he tilled the soil to prepare for future plants.
Then we got to play architect, deciding on how and where to place the rocks that would exist in and around the garden.
A few rocks and plants later, we had a bona fide rain garden!
It’s functional, earth-friendly and it creates quite the precious backdrop to our entertaining area.
So far, I’m a big fan of our newest addition. Hopefully we’ll be able to give it a test drive soon.
Happy gardening!

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