Monthly Archives: September 2011

if it wasn’t my lime tree before, it sure is now.

partially dug up treehello, dear reader. the image you see to the left is of a nascent lime tree, or bush as it appears, partially dug up due to my big stupid dog named max who i love very much. he tries to find things to do when i won’t let him back in the house and unfortunately sometimes these activities are destructive. when i first moved into the house, i resolutely decided to move all three of the citrus trees as they are somewhat in a line down the center of the backyard. while there is some space around each tree to roam (or run), it doesn’t allow for planning for anything else in that space. i really want to keep them because i use limes and lemons all the time and as for the third tree, i’m sure i can find someone to donate ruby red grapefruits to. so max began the first leg of the project for me.
to me, the best plan was to put the small lime tree into a pot to transplant later because i am not sure where to put it just yet but i wanted to save it. i’ve been told that you just don’t move citrus trees because they die. since the lime tree is the smallest of the bunch, there would be less of a loss if it died.
i was not in possession of a shovel just yet, so a trip to the hardware store – two weeks before the actual project, mind you – and i had a red digging shovel, blue gloves (kids size?), a pot, and some potting soil specially made for citrus, palm trees, and cacti(?). i waited until i had a day off without the children and no plans for the morning. yes, i had to do a bit of rearranging: thank you sister. after i took the boys to school, i changed into my paint jeans and pulled my hair back. i felt that the fact that it was a cool cloudy morning in the summer in the desert was a good omen that this would be a task i could realize. set the radio to the classic rock station, let the dogs outside with me, and assessed the situation. this is what i know about plants: i kill them. i water them, but eventually they die. to me, judging by the photo above, the tree was mostly dug up anyway so there shouldn’t be too much digging around the other side to do. i put my cute blue gloves on and began putting little rocks into the bottom of the pot. it seemed like a good idea at the time, you know, for water drainage. the virgin voyage of my shovel was scooping dirt into the bottom of the pot. i filled it up about halfway, as everything i’ve transplanted before took about a half of a pot of dirt to support the roots, and mixed some of the potting soil with the dirt to stretch the bag out. since the lime tree was already planted in dirt, it should be fine in more dirt, right?
i approached the mini-tree. i began to kind of shovel dirt away from the roots. the shovel was wide for the hole that was dug with the paws and claws of my dog, so i widened the hole by pulling the tarp back and digging around the tree further. i tried not to jab with the shovel toward the roots of the tree so as to leave them intact. as i poked at the surrounding hole, i found rocks so i tossed them. now and then i sat on the edge of the hole and dug with my hands toward the roots and shook the tree to see if i could move it just yet. i didn’t realize how deep the hole was until i put the shovel down in it and stepped onto it. my leg was in the hole up to my knee. i pressed down and tried to get under the roots with the shovel but the dirt was really hard. i sat down and pushed the tree again and i heard a small snap. damn. there went one of the roots. okay. i looked at the pot again, half full of dirt. hah. some of that would have to come out. i took a break from unearthing the tree to shovel some dirt out of the pot.
painfully against my better judgement, i decided that since i couldn’t muscle the tree out of the ground and because i didn’t want to further enlarge the hole, i would soak that sucker out of the ground. making a mess of the job i grabbed the hose and wet the roots that i could see. then i just let it run for a few minutes. i probably put a good four inches of water into that hole and then turned to water the other two trees. water was still soaking into the ground after i watered the others so i set to work breaking off all of the absolutely unsightly dead branches from the lemon tree. the dog, who was laying on a wet patch of ground with his big pink tongue spread out all over his teeth, caught one of the branches and began to chew on it. when next i looked, it was time to try to get that tree out of the hole. i picked the shovel back up with gloved hands and began to sink it into the mud around and under the tree. when i could move the tree from side to side, i slid the shovel under the roots and used the edge of the hole for leverage to lift the tree up. i moved around and around the hole, gently heaving the tree up from the ground. when i was confident it was free, i went to pick it up out of the ground with my hands. oh mama was it heavy. the phrase “forty pounds!!!” appeared in my brain. i don’t know exactly how heavy it was but my poor little back and arms were not prepared for that kind of strain. i left it in the hole and looked at it. it occured to me that first, i had way too much dirt in that plastic pot and second, the plastic pot was way too small for the amount of tree that i had to put in it. okay, i thought, let me get this sucker out of the hole first.
root ball i was a good girl and i kept my gloves on and stood next to the hole, legs far apart. i squatted down as low as i could, gripped the base of the tree, and i’m pretty sure i pushed earth away from myself and the tree as i strained. i set it down on the ground next to the hole. now, looking at the heavy root ball and the pot, i kind of laughed because i was now supposed to lift the tree up and into the pot. panting, i just sat and recovered and relaxed for a moment. i gathered myself and dumped the dirt out of the pot to make room for all those roots. i also took this time to move the pot to where i might want it in the yard until i decided where i wanted to place it permanently. no way was i moving this tree again for a long time. i now had a muddy hole, a tree, a pile of dirt, rocks, and soil, an empty pot, and somewhere along the way, i got two wet dogs running around the yard. almost done! i put the pot by one of the walls of the yard not too far from the tree and the hole.newly potted tree i spied the boys’ yellow tonka truck across the yard and i am sorry that i did not get any photos of myself lifting the tree onto the tonka truck and wheeling it over to the pot, hunched over to the ground as i outsmarted gravity. i plopped the tree into the pot and shovelled the soil from the pile 12 feet away (yes i sorted out all the rocks i had collected earlier) to the pot to cover the roots. after the pot was full, i realized i hadn’t broken up the roots at all. so there are also no photos of me dumping the pot and the tree over to its side and digging my hand toward the bottom of the pot to break up the root ball and get it to set better in the pot. and then i had to pile all the soil back in there. i gave the tree a really good soak and of course the dirt and soil packed together so i scrounged and added some more soil to the top to cover up the roots. it seems to be doing well (as in its not dying yet) and its nice not having to worry about it so much. i just want it to live through the winter so i can move it in the spring. maybe even to the front yard. now i just have to fill in this stupid hole and re-tarp because i’m not prepared to de-tarp the yard yet. nor will i be for a while.

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wake up!

this morning, my alarm woke me up and i turned it off, as usual, and rolled back over to sleep for a few more blessed minutes. then there was a very short but loud buzz. i shut my eyes and sighed a very heavy sigh: it could only have come from the smoke detector. if there’s one thing that’ll get my sorry butt outta bed for its a faulty smoke detector. i thought the battery was going dead. the only other experience i have with a smoke detector was about six years ago in an apartment that also had vaulted ceilings and that ended with a chair, a broomstick, and a broken smoke detector. an important note to make here is that i am only five feet and four inches tall.
so i’ll have to deal with some loud beeps before i go to a neighbor for help with this as i don’t have a ladder. i’ll get the boys ready for school and take them to school and when i get back i’ll enlist some helping hands. we went about the morning eating breakfast and getting dressed and brushing teeth. we had to leave a little early this morning as it is picture day for my youngest son and theirs are first thing in the morning. we got ready among the beeps from the smoke detector growing longer and longer in duration. the boys covered their ears when appropriate. apparently talking to smoke detectors that you can’t reach doesn’t work. i tried making a deal with it. the dog tried barking at it and staring at it, but every time it went off, he went outside. this was the big dog too.
the detector began to sound but it didn’t stop. panic set my heart to “pound”. that sound is deafening. i didn’t want the neighbors to think that there was a fire. i paced back and forth saying aloud that i didn’t know what to do. can’t hear or think with that thing going. that’s why you’re supposed to make an escape plan: because it also turns your brain off. who could think to try to save any belongings? finally i ran to the neighbor’s house. i rang the doorbell and her dogs began to bark loudly. i could still hear the detector sounding loudly even from her doorstep. when she came to the door, shooing the dogs out of the way, i realized i caught her mid-makeup and hair as she was getting ready for work: wet hair in a towel and pajamas. she cracked open the door, smiling and said “good morning!”
i could hear my poor little voice shaking as i said, “kim, my fire alarm is going off! there’s no fire but i don’t know what to do to stop it!”
she said, “oh that’s what that sound is? i was thinking, ‘what the hell is that?’ i thought you were out in the backyard with a pair of power cutters or something or maybe you were buzzin’ the kids’ hair. okay. come on in. do you have a ladder?”
“no.” i followed her inside.
“okay. let me grab ours from the backyard. we’ve been painting back there.” she put her black and white pit bull mix named molly into her kennel and grabbed the ladder. she explained that their smoke detector acts up every time someone takes a shower in the downstairs bathroom and opens the door. she carried the ladder out the front door and we went into my garage and through the kitchen. when we got into the house, the buzz was positively deafening. it hit me that i hadn’t put my dogs away and they will wriggle their way out of the door and if they don’t get to do that, then they will excitedly jump and scratch. in my rush to lock them outside, i forgot to hold the door open for kim and the ladder. she joked that there was no way anyone would be able to sleep through the alarm. she asked me where it was.
“its at the top of the stairs!” i shouted over the sound. i followed her upstairs and watched as she set up the ladder. she reached up like a professional and twisted the front of it off, pulled the wire out of it and silence was restored.
“thank you so much!” i accidentally screamed.
“it was hard-wired to the house! i’ve never seen that before.”
“huh. me neither. i’ve just seen battery powered ones. this one looks really old. should i replace it?”
“absolutely! your alarm can never be too new, i always say.” then she noticed the boys downstairs through the cutout in the wall. “hiiiiii!” she smiled waved to them.
i thanked her again as she took down the ladder and i held the door for her this time as she carried it out. she said she would ask her husband about it later and if replacing it gave me any trouble to tell them and they would come help me with it.
who needs that much of an adrenaline rush before coffee????
another sigh of relief and one cup of coffee to go and the boys and i were off.
my son said asked who that was. i told him it was our neighbor kim from the blue house. he said it was a good thing she was there to help us. i agreed.
now it’s off to the hardware store to buy two replacement smoke detectors. you can believe that i don’t want to hear that noise again. at least i can reach the other detector.


why couldn’t i be two inches taller?

so i went to the hardware store yesterday specifically to buy an air filter. i wandered around the store for about an hour and declined several offers of help from the associates. i looked at pretty much everything they had to sell before deciding to actually buy filters. i stumbled on a welcome mat that embodies “my house” and decided only to buy it if the filter cost more than $10. and what a range of filters are on the market! whoa. $20 for 2 filters, $18 for my welcome mat and i was off to the trunk of my car (and the pet store for dog food and dental floss but thats neither here nor there) and then home.
allow me to briefly explain the front walkway of my house to you. the house appears to be very very tall and in fact it is because of the lovely vaulted ceilings. the exterior walls are all beige and the eaves of the roof are painted a dark beige. from the sidewalk by the street rises several uneven red steps made of square pavers. when i say uneven, i mean that the depth of each step differs from every other step. they are all very level but its hard to judge where to step next. the steps lead to a sidewalk that goes straight to the door. at the left of the sidewalk are dying aloe vera plants that occasionally shoot a stalk up for the fun of it. they are surrounded by dirt. to the right of the sidewalk are river rocks scattered all over the front yard with dirt and the occasional weed popping through. the blue tarp the owner put down underneath the top layer of dirt to prevent weed growth is also showing through in spots. as you approach the house, the wall to the kitchen is parallel to your left side and a tall scraggly dead bush appears at your right and blocks the window to the front bedroom. the door itself is beige. the porch light fixture is losing its battle with gravity after all these years and there’s dirt and dead bugs on the windowsills that line the left of the doorframe from top to bottom. the hardware to the door is also dated. the visitor then crosses a dark puddle stain on the concrete before stepping onto a mat that is so old and worn that it doesnt say “welcome” anymore. the color of it is somewhere between the gray of the sidewalk and the beige of the walls. and it’s a semi circle/rectangle. perhaps i put too much thought into it, but it seems to me that a welcome mat makes a first impression. i want mine to say that i care about the visitor and want them to feel good in my house.
so after these three months, i finally rolled it up and threw it away and then swept away all the dead bugs and little leaves and dust that have collected under, on, and around the mat and plopped the new face of my residence in its stead. here’s a photo of the new one in all its glory:

welcome mat

new welcome mat


maybe its presence will also inspire me to dig out all the aloe vera and replace it with white and pink jasmine as i so long to do.
so with my welcome mat all rolled out, i set my sights on the real project of the day: change my air filter. aside from the fact that its been two months since i moved in, i knew it was time to change it when the old one bent in half because the air conditioner was trying so hard to pull air through the vent. i also noticed that the existing filter was filthy. just CAKED with dust. i don’t want to tell you how long it took me to actually buy a filter after the other one bent in half but i put it off for a bit because of the treacherous placement of the intake vent:
vent to hell

airvent placement


yes there you have it. it is at the top of the stairwell, on the wall over the steps. i don’t know if this is unusual as this is my first house, but i was pretty afraid to risk life and limb to change this filter. glad i waited till the boys were home. standing on the very tips of my toes on the third step down, i could just reach the top screw that held the front of the vent on and unscrew it. the second screw below that i could easily reach. naturally, i did not decided to keep the screws in my pocket or on my person at all, but to put them on the cutout in the wall at the top of the staircase. i also had it in my head that the front of the vent would open like a door on hinges as there were only screws on one side. boy was i wrong. i went to swing it open and it nearly came all the way off. now i know no clumsy skinny girl like me is going to be able to accurately and easily get that vent back up there without a fight so i held on for dear life. so there’s me on my tippy toes on the stairs holding up the airvent with my left hand and reaching as far as i can with my right hand for the replacement filter, which was on the landing at the top of the stairs, willing it to come toward me. not happening. i called to my eldest son who slowly came up the stairs. i frantically cried, ‘get the other filter!” and he reached into the bag for me. in the meantime, i’d removed the old dirty nasty filter and dropped it on the stairs so that my other young son could try to tiptoe around it on the way upstairs. my oldest handed me the new filter and i slapped it into that frame faster than i ever thought i could. i swung the door shut and reached for the screws which were just close enough to my fingertips. i almost couldn’t reach the top screw to replace it till i remembered i’d been one step higher and leaning and balancing over certain death with the zeal of a fool. i went directly to the trash with the old filter and am counting the days till i have to repeat the ordeal.
maybe one of the boys will grow to be taller than me. hope that’s sooner rather than later.