If only they weren’t weeds

Yesterday was a beautiful warm day, so I thought I’d do something helpful AND be outside.  Yesterday was the day I would pull up dandelions.  And then I went outside and really looked.  Guys, we have SO many dandelions.  Acres of dandelions.  Endless seas of dandelions.  Dandelions as far as the eye can see.

I started in the far corner of the yard, with Jack nearby, our portable speaker in his hands playing Sesame Street songs.  He was as not interested in pulling up dandelions or playing in the dirt as you can possibly be and still be breathing, so my dandelion-pulling was interrupted by chasing after him – he headed for the street by way of the neighbor’s yard, he headed for the playset by way of the woods where poison ivy is probably making a comeback, and he headed for John who was in the driveway feeding branches to the chipper.  I felt like a sheepdog.

I went back to it while Jack was napping, shifting my focus to the front of the house where at least someone (me) would see the improvement, and I was able to make a dent before I gave up for the day.  There’s a very clear swath of dandelion-free grass.

Tomorrow will be when I realize how much I missed.

Too lazy to take pictures

This has been a busy week for contractors.  The painters were here Tuesday through today, painting the main living spaces downstairs (not the kitchen), our bedroom, and the baby’s room, a plumber came Tuesday to fix the leaking kitchen sink (and a few other things while he was here), and the yard people came today (just left), and WOW what a difference having work done makes.  I mean, hello, that’s obvious, but it’s so nice to see the changes.  We can walk out the back door without being attacked by bushes and trees, we can see whole flower beds we didn’t know we had, and we can see much of the low stone wall around the front of the house.  I can’t wait until those guys come back.  Too bad I don’t know when that will be – they have a couple of jobs to take care of next week, and everything else in the schedule is weather-dependent.  The guy in charge (Dana) definitely understands what we’re after, though, which means we are completely comfortable letting him loose.

I was not that comfortable with our lead painter after a day or two.  We had to ask for another coat of paint over the section of wall downstairs where the chalkboard paint had been because we could still the difference between that part of the wall and parts next to it, and then yesterday, he messed up one of the bedroom walls.  In the master, we wanted the two walls with windows to be dark blue and the two without windows to be a lighter blue.  I even diagrammed the room and included that, and he had that diagram on his phone.  So yesterday, I went in to take a look and I found that one wall of each color was the wrong color.  His excuse was that the day before, I had said I wanted to the two lighter walls (the room was already two colors) to be the darker blue and the two darker walls to be the light blue.  First of all, I said no such thing.  Second of all, when you come in to start painting and you realize that you have conflicting instructions from the homeowner, wouldn’t you check one more time to be sure?  Anyway, he fixed it, but he didn’t seem happy about it, which annoyed me even more.

What he’ll never know, because we’ll never tell him, is that now that we’ve had a day to live with the room in two colors, we think we like the darker color MUCH better, and we’ll probably make all four walls that color ourselves.  He doesn’t need to know that.   Besides, I got the impression that he’s as glad to be done with this job as we are to have him not in the house anymore.  Three and a half days of strangers in the house all the time was way too much.



  • Routine doctor’s visit, met a new doctor from the practice. Everything is fine, normal, healthy, and she landed the doppler-thingy right on the baby’s heartbeat today, first try, no searching or smearing goop around.  It was pretty impressive.  I really liked her, and it looks like I’ll see her again during on my September appointments.
  • We bought the stroller and carseat.  We originally decided on the Baby Jogger Summit X3 (and the compatible infant carseat), but we dawdled on the actual purchase and the price for both of those went up kind of a lot.  Brian has been talking up the BOB strollers (and they get very good reviews, too), so when we saw that the jogging stroller and the infant car seat were each about $70 less than the Baby Jogger equivalents, we snapped them up.  I’m pretty sure that price difference was the opposite when we first started looking.  Milestone complete!  They’ll be delivered on Monday.
  • We hired a plumber to fix the leak under the sink.  Tuesday morning, no more leak and we should have a working garbage disposal.
  • We finally got a schedule for getting the painting done (end of August, although they’ll move us sooner if they can).
  • We hired a yard guy!

Those of you who have seen the house (or who read my post from Wednesday) know that the lawn is overgrown, the flowerbeds are full of weeds, there’s poison ivy in too many places, vines are threatening to take over the wooded areas, and every plant/tree/bush near the house is practically (in many cases, actually) attached to the house.  And we have an acre, so it’s kind of overwhelming.  We knew going into this that we would be hiring help for the yard, so paying for a bunch of yard-related stuff is in the budget.  We just had to prioritize and pick someone.

The first place I called took down my notes about what we wanted and then sent someone out to look over the place WHILE WE WEREN’T THERE.  We never met the guy, never talked to him, never clarified what we might want or not want to do, and we ended up with a quote that didn’t meet what we wanted at all.  Surprise.  I eventually talked to him on the phone, and he quoted us an hourly rate to just have some guys come in and trim or clean up where we point for a set number of hours.  Still not really what we’re looking for.  We want advice, too.  Oh, yeah – this is the guy who basically told me I can’t pay him to remove the poison ivy.  So they’re a no.

For the second place I called, we met with the guy Friday afternoon a week ago.  Turns out his sister went to high school with John, and he (Anthony) was only three or so years behind.  Rhode Island is small and no one leaves.  We liked him, he helped us prioritize, understood what we’re after, WILL help kill and remove the poison ivy, and when his quote came in, it was about what we expected.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to be in any kind of hurry.  It took him over a week to get us the quote, and he wants to do the work in October, and we just can’t wait that long to trim back the stuff that’s attacking the house.  We’re happy to break up the work, but that part needs to be done soon.

John found the third guy (Dana) via a card and write-up on a bulletin board in a local coffee shop.  His website sucks, but we called him Wednesday and he made the appointment to come out Thursday, and we liked him immediately.  He seems very practical, practices organic gardening/landscaping (no pesticides or herbicides), and understood our need to simplify.  He’s maybe a little odd – he’d wander off mid-sentence, get up really close to a tree branch, grab hold of it, and inspect it closely.  With nearly every tree.  He was happy to see that everything we have is native, and said it appears that our yard was designed by a professional, and he even thinks he knows which one (the timing matches up to that guy’s career in RI, although apparently he has moved on to landscaping in the Hamptons).  It is crazy to me that a landscaper could look at our overgrown yard and, based on the layout and the type of plants, be able to name the landscaper.  What was I saying about Rhode Island?  Also, hopefully that means he knows his industry.  Artists can do it – why can’t landscape architects?

After one circuit of the house, I left John and Dana to roaming the yard, and when John came in later, he said, “I hired him.”  I’m glad I’m not the only one who liked him.  Also, turns out his hourly rate is $30 less than the first group, AND he wants to come back in a week to get started.  Works for me!

And I swore I’d never rake leaves again

Today, I willingly voluntarily raked leaves.  I raked ALL the leaves in the front yard, and let me tell you – there were a lot of them.  There were so many I wasn’t sure they’d all fit in our yard waste bin.  (Eugene doesn’t do yard bags, and the street leaf pickup doesn’t start for another two weeks.)

This is the bin I planned to fill, sure at the beginning that I would have no trouble:


Here’s the pile of leaves, mostly raked, which is when I began to worry:


Here’s the bin, overflowing even after I climbed onto our retaining wall and stepped into the bin to smoosh down all the leaves:


But the story has a happy ending, since I was able to close the lid:


Of course, then I found out that our next yard waste pick-up day is the day before the street leaf pick-up day, and I could have saved myself the trouble.

Nature removed

There are men in our yard.

That could sound sinister.  Isn’t.  But they have chainsaws and shovels!  Oooh, and an ax (axe?).  Our neighbors hired people to remove the mess of trees and thorns and weeds that acted as a barrier between our yards, so all of a sudden we can see into their yard (and they can see into ours).  It’s temporary, or so the not-scary men told me the other day.  They’re going to put in a retaining wall with a fence on top of it so we’ll get our privacy back, it’ll look nicer, and I won’t have to get in there and get stabbed by thorns anymore.  Heh, “anymore”.  I’ve been too afraid of the thorns to even attempt it once.

Aaand the chainsaw-wielding guy just did a circuit of our backyard.  That’s unexpected.  I’d make sure the back door is locked, but I’m pretty sure his chainsaw could cut through it.

Tune in tomorrow to see if we survived the afternoon!

A little more settling in

Sunday morning started out gloomy, but we went out for pancakes and then to Home Depot.  And then the sun came out!  We bought a little reel-type lawn mower for our postage stamp lawn, a rake, and a dandelion puller (because we have WEEDS and many of them are dandelions).  I’m not crazy about having to do yard work again, but there’s really not much.  John mowed the back and front of the house in about 5 minutes Sunday afternoon.


Then he re-potted our avocado plant,  because yes, we drove across the country with an avocado plant in our car, and we want it to grow big and strong.

The old pot is in the background.  Perspective is making it look smaller than it really is.

The old pot is in the background. Perspective is making it look smaller than it really is.

Sadly, the little hedgehog pot-hugger dude doesn’t fit on our new pot.  We’ll have to figure out somewhere else to put him.

Here are a couple of shots of our backyard, for the curious.  Not so surprisingly, it looks a lot like it did the last time I posted a picture of it.  Not as wet this time, and you can see flowers in the bed over near the shed in the second picture that weren’t there in February.



Our stuff is coming tomorrow!  YAY!

And now I can breathe

The weekend is upon us, and I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.  Sure, we have work to do (seeding the lawn is on the agenda for tomorrow), but it’s a THREE-DAY WEEKEND.  Three whole days.  Once I stopped working today, I was even inspired to clean up a bit.  I may have been watching Cinderella (and singing along) while washing dishes and cleaning the countertops, but you weren’t there so you’ll never know for sure.

I started reading the next book club book (Before I Go to Sleep) last night – it’s fascinating.  The next meeting is a week from today.  I’ll have this one finished before the weekend is over.

Visiting dignitary

John and I did some yardwork yesterday (mowing, weeding, clipping back the creeping vines, etc.) – it’s a good thing we did it yesterday morning, too, since the rest of the weekend was rainy – and we noticed a wee visitor in the yard.  Say hello to Mr. Toad.

At least, we think he’s a toad.  Pretty sure he’s a toad.  John nearly hit him with the lawn mower, and even then the little dude didn’t move.  He was hanging out under a tree.  He eventually hopped over to the mulch near the fence.  Riley barely noticed he was there.  Can’t blame him for that, really.  In the mulch and the dead leaves, Mr. Toad was nearly invisible.

When we finally finished up and went inside, he was snuggled up underneath the leaves right there by the fencepost, showing no signs of heading out.  I’m not sure where he would have gone.  Don’t toads need moisture, like near a pond or a swamp?  I wouldn’t have thought our backyard was his ideal habitat.  I know Google and Wikipedia could help me out here, but toads creep me out a little and I don’t really want to know that toads are happiest when they’re living under my bed or something.  I only like them when they go on wild rides and sing.  Speaking of Disney, did you know Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride in Fantasyland was replaced by a Winnie the Pooh ride?  Looks like it still exists in Disneyland, but not Disney World.  Sad.

Great day in the morning!

Seriously, could today have been any better?  Only if it had unicorns and sparkles.  And it’s not over yet.  There’s hope.  Sure, we got up super early on a Saturday, but it was only so we could go to the giant used book sale that happens every six weeks in a warehouse in Annapolis.  Worth it.  AND I had a croissant and my favorite candy-coffee from Starbucks for breakfast on the way (tall, skim, no whip white mocha with two pumps of toffee nut – yes, I’m one of those now).  Extra worth the early wake-up.  AND we hung out with Jess while looking for books and then having bagels.  Better than extra worth it.  And THEN we went to IKEA and bought two more bookshelves, upper shelf extensions for those two plus the six at home that didn’t already have them, plus two wall shelves to go over the couch (and hold more books – maybe the graphic novels?).  We’ve spent the afternoon since then putting the shelves and the extension together while watching Law & Order: SVU, and now we’re going to pick up dinner from somewhere and settle in and watch a movie.

A day like today makes me so very happy.  Books, best friend, shelves, dinner, and a movie, a whole day hanging out with John, and sure, I didn’t do any calculus like originally planned, but John and I worked it out on the way home from IKEA.  Today we get the furniture part out of the way and relax a little.  Tomorrow, we’ll run, mow the lawn (it grew, like, two feet in 8 days), and do homework (my calculus, his thesis).  Sunday is the responsible day.

Happy Friday!

This week was a short week (thank you for Labor Day – I love three-day weekends) that still managed to feel like a regular week, but Friday is finally here.  Tomorrow I get to see Jess at a great big book used book sale and then I’ll spend the rest of the weekend immersed in calculus.  Except for Sunday morning when I have to run.  And except for later Sunday morning when I’ll help John with the lawn, assuming it dries out.  I’ll have to pretend the internet doesn’t exist, I think.  Give it the cold shoulder.  Hope it doesn’t take offense and will let me back in later.  How forgiving is the internet?  I know it never forgets, which is somewhat (a lot) scary.

Not so good

I took my calculus final last night.  I don’t feel good about it.  And that sucks.  But it’s over, it’s done, there’s nothing left but the screaming, and I will do my best not to fret.  Until I get my grade.  But then at least I’ll know.  New focus: statistics.  My goal for the weekend is to get through two more quizzes.  And run six miles on Saturday.  That’s really all I’m hoping to accomplish.  That and get to the grocery store.  I need to buy lots of fruit and other healthy things.  And maybe go to Target.  And possibly weed the flower beds.  Drink some wine.  Oooh, I bought a raspberry merlot (“the kind you buy at a second-hand store”) at one of the wineries Jess and I visited last weekend (did I mention Jess and I went wine-tasting last Saturday?).  It’s really good.  Sadly, it’s mostly gone already.  I might have to buy more…but maybe not this weekend.  I’m in danger of over-scheduling myself.  Focus, please.  Statistics!

A rabbit ate my tree

Bunnies are bad news.  You think they’re all cute and cuddly and not a menace, but really, they’re out to get you.  And your baby trees.  You know that cute little crabapple tree John and I planted a couple of weeks ago?  It had little baby leaves and everything, and now it’s GONE.

I used to think rabbits looked like this:

All cute and innocent and nose-wriggly – but look a little closer….

If there are train tracks between you and this bunny, RUN!

…EVIL!  So clearly evil.  Turns out they’ve looked like this all along.  This explains the disappearance of the sunflowers John tried to plant for me a couple of years ago and my poor munched-on black-eyed susans.  It explains the death of our cute little baby crabapple tree, and it finally explains why Roxy goes airborne and tries to tear my arm out of its socket every time she spots a rabbit on our walks.  She’s always known they were evil and just couldn’t tell me.  Those rabbits aren’t just hungry – they’re out to get us.  Monty Python was on to something.  (Like that’s news.)

Little baby trees bear a remarkable resemblance to sticks

A few months ago, I made a donation to the Arbor Day Foundation, and they mailed me trees.  Trees by mail.  Trees by mail that fit in my mailbox.  Seriously tiny trees.  Sticks.  I’m going completely on faith that the twigs I pulled out of what looks like the plastic sleeve your newspaper gets delivered in when it’s raining will grow into trees.  We planted kindling in the ground.

It has leaves! It lives! I think it's a crabapple. And it's only four inches tall.

If you look carefully, you can see a stick inside that cage. That one might grow up to be a golden raintree, whatever that is.

Roxy likes to eat sticks, so I put fences around the 8 trees we planted in the backyard to try to keep her away. It's mostly working.

In other news, Candy completed a triathlon yesterday.  (She’s completely insane.  Awesomely insane.)  She swam 1.2 miles, biked 56 miles, and ran 13.1 miles yesterday, in under six hours (which is better than average because, of course, she’s better than average.  WAY better.).  Does this news inflame every competitive instinct I have?  If she can do it, I can do it?

Not really, no.  She’s wonderful (and batshit crazy, clearly), and I will leave the Ironman (which I’m sure is next on her to-do list) to her.

Still have to work next week

The government didn’t shut down.  Yay?  I mean, yay!  Definitely yay. Definitely yay because it’s less selfish.  Just because I would LOVE to have a couple of free days off (even if they are without pay) doesn’t mean that everyone this affects is in my position.  But the irrational (and not as nice) part of me wants to whine.

The rest of me wants to whine because we have to do yard work tomorrow.  We’re going to cordon off the holes the dogs have been digging, cut the grass (that will probably be first), weed, and rescue the damn rose bush again.