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.


Homegrown bouquets

Gomphrena and amaranth…looks good in the garden, looks GREAT on our table. Good ol’ Handyman Heath doesn’t just buy me flowers. He grows them and picks them. Happy weekend!

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Let’s see what our pals in the front yard have been up to

I love reading fellow Austin-based blogs like Digging and The Grackle, and comparing their landscaping blooms to ours. It’s nice to see that other gardeners share our same struggles, and if they don’t, they can offer us some gardening guidance. It’s been especially nice now that we actually have some front yard landscaping to tend to. Earlier this summer my garden guru came to help us install a new garden in our front yard. I know Austin summers are not the best time of year to put in new landscaping, but that’s the time we had available and you gotta do what you gotta do. So I’m pleased to see, despite the odds, two months later there is a respectable amount of growth and development in our front yard garden.

The front yard as seen from the driveway.

Roses and echinacea coneflower have been blooming all summer.

Roses and yucca are an unconventional but really fun landscaping combination.

Pride of Barbados is blooming like crazy all over Central Texas.

I fell in love with desert globemallow after a visit to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. I’m pretty jazzed about having two plants of our own in bloom.

Autumn joy sedum is doing its thing.

Gomphrena fireworks…because everyday at the doodle house is a celebration.

The succulent planter, thank heaven, is always lush even in the harshest of summers.

Echinacea is forever smiling.

I’m happy we’ve had few flora casualties this summer, and now that September is just around the corner, I’m eager to see what glorious surprises fall will bring.


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!

Best before and after ever?

Admittedly, waiting a week between blog posts is unacceptable, and for this I apologize.

You see, I’ve been a bit busy over the past week. For one… I changed jobs, which has been wonderfully exhilarating but very time consuming. And for another, we have been wrapped up in a major yard rejuvenation. My garden guru (mom) has been staying with us for the past week to help us install a custom landscaping plan she designed for our front and back yard. She and Heath have been waking up at  7 am every morning to put the plan into action. I wouldn’t believe the transformation if I wasn’t part of the process.

I squeal with glee at the end result. What all did the plan entail, you ask?

1.) Weeding the existing flower bed

2.) Cleaning the succulent planter and adding gravel to cover the dirt

3.) Pruning the trees

4.) Marking a curvature for the bed

5.) Leveling and installing paver borders

6.) Scrapping grass from the walkway and landing

7.) Installing and leveling the paver walkway

8.) Shopping endlessly at various nurseries for the perfect plants and pavers

9.) Installing the plants

10.) Mulching

11.) Mowing

12.) Edging

Already we are at step 12 and I can’t begin to describe the lengths they’ve gone to to make sure the new plan is not only installed but also poised for success. Every paver was perfectly placed and leveled and every plant was meticulously chosen, taking into consideration its water needs, soil needs, future growth, and cohesion with other plants. Nothing was selected on a whim. As good as it looks now, I know it will look even more marvelous once the plants mature.

Of course, the front is only half the story. The back is still in the works, but already we’re making progress to turn that from a wonky and weed-laden war zone to  polished and pristine courtyard.

There’s more to tackle in the rear, as most of the projects taking place back there this week have been less the stuff of glamorous makeovers and more maintenance (taking care of some of the things we let slide during the school year). We removed a large brush pile we had long been ignoring, chopped down a dying tree, pruned up a tenacious Pecan and cleaned and reorganized the shed. And of course, there was a bit of harvesting.

Tomorrow is dear mom’s last day gardening at the old doodle house, but at this rate  I wouldn’t put it past her to install a swimming pool back there just to prove she could. The woman’s a landscaping machine. I can’t wait for our next back yard bbq to show off the fancy new digs.

Heath and Mom relax after a solid day of work in the garden. Pool to come soon? Or how about a tree house? I wouldn’t put either option past these two.


More ideas from my garden coach

Heath and I have been spending a lot of time in Denton lately, which for us means spending a lot of time in my mom’s garden. It’s not a bad place to be. Over the past few weeks, her front yard has really started to burst with color.

A view of the front yard from my mother’s walkway.

 

The charismatic front porch.

Looking out toward the street. (While I’m taking photos, good old mom is hard at work mowing.) 

Onion

A foot path through the flora.

Flower bed detail

Very Alice in Wonderland

Her terracotta terrace.

Absolutely the prettiest tomato cage I’ve ever seen.

After telling my mom I liked her sun dial, she immediately went out and bought me one. I guess I need to start aiming a little higher if that’s how she’s gonna play it.

The garden lining the driveway.

She is so creative with her use of color and texture. I can’t wait for her to come makeover our space. Happy gardening!