Tag Archives: spring cleaning

Surprise Blooms and an Unidentified Blockage

red flowers

About a month ago, I was either getting the mail or taking out the trash when I noticed something red on one of the bushes in front of my house. I rarely use the front door, except to water the jasmine that’s out there, so I never look at the bushes. I smiled as I approached the bush — it had a few of these cool red flowers that I’ve never seen on it. I have lived here for almost two years without this bush blooming to my knowledge.

red flowers
Standing in front of the surprise blossoms was like having a conversation with a friend who still continues to surprise. There are many more things to know about parts of our lives — inanimate or not — than we consider.


And then there are inanimate things that we — or I — could live a happy life without “consider”ing. Desert plant buffs, prepare to cringe. Before the holidays when my amazing neighbors came to help hack down all my bushes, they suggested trimming this plant by tying up part of it and just trimming whatever was underneath it. Part of this was to deter pack rats and spiders and promote the general health of the backyards that all four intersect in the corner where the plant resides. Come spring, I was throwing a going-away party for a co-worker and thought this to be a good time to approach this task. I whined and cried and pissed and moaned as I crawled around under that thing for maybe two hours with a pair of gloves and a small pair of handheld gardening clippers. The spiky fronds kept pulling at my hair and scratching and stabbing pretty much my entire body. Add to that the spider webs I found, the old dead rotten oranges fallen from the neighbor’s orange tree, and intermittent and sudden “scurrying” by lizards, and I was not a happy girl. I had a huge pile of spines and other plant parts by the time my wrist was ready to throw in the towel. I am still only half finished. If you see a tweet in the feed about me opening a beer at 7:30 in the morning, you’ll know I am tackling the rest of those damn dead fronds. As I was working I kept thinking that the previous owner should’ve trimmed them AT LEAST once (!!), but to be fair, I have lived here for a while now and could’ve done it much sooner too.


Just to add a little more fun to the subject of the almost-succulent from hell, a stalk has grown out of the top of it and is, of course, leaning toward my neighbor’s yard as it begins to flower. Really need to keep an eye on that sucker as the monsoon approaches. Ah, the perks of DIY landscape maintenance.

As a horrific note, my sons thought it would be a good idea to fill my compost can with water . . . and leave it sitting there . . . in the heat . . . without telling me about it . . . so that after a few days it was positively putrid and full of f_______ flies. I had to drain a bunch of the water; hated that. I put a bunch of dirt in the can to dry it up and the boys heard about it from me.

Moving indoors, I repaired a towel rack last week. My Monkey Children like to swing on the towel racks, naturally.

towel rack

I bought a Tiny Screwdriver set as suggested by Video Joe Knows. It came with a standard and a phillips head screwdriver, mini, as the name suggests. Turns out all you have to do is screw the part that holds the bar into the little flat piece mounted on the wall. That took about 1 minute to do as my son cleaned out their bathroom drain:


That’s the first time it’s ever stopped up that much. And the water is murky because they continued to use the sink to brush their teeth and rinse out their mouths in it. So that is my eldest son’s hand in the photo as I am instructing him to untwist and pull out the stopper of the drain. He asked why he had to and I explained that it’s their drain and he needs to learn to do it, that he’s a boy and boys like gross things, and lastly that I would vomit if I had to do it. After some complaining and wrestling with the stopper, he got it out and we were faced with this:


Bleh. He wore a glove because he wanted to and used about 187 toothpicks to pull all that crap out. He thought it was hilarious how unsettled I was by that gunk. He was proud to have gotten it all out though. Little punk. He even WAVED some of it at me. Gross.


I had him clean out the sink after that and put all of our tools away where they go. I don’t understand what that is in the drain and I don’t want to know. Perhaps some preventive maintenance is in order. It’s funny the things I am still learning about running a home. I don’t know if these things are basic or obvious but I suppose the important thing is that I am learning them.

My basil seeds sprouted on Wednesday.

Time to make a drink. Good night.


Step One

The drain in my shower upstairs is clogged. When I shower, water backs up and gets up to my ankles and drains very very slowly. It’s hair in there, I know it is. And I hate pulling hair out of drains. Who doesn’t, right? So step one was to check out youtube.com for a video on how to clear the drain. This was the best one I found:


Informative and horrifying all in one. Entertainment, folks. This afternoon I gathered up some newspapers to catch the clog, a screwdriver for the plate in the tub, and my rubber gloves that thinly protect me from nasty things. I started to unscrew the screws and . . .


. . . paused to take a photo so you could see the process and what I found. I was looking for an attachment similar to the one in the above video that connects a long metal part from the plate down to a spring designed to hang near the drain and catch debris. The idea is that you can pull the plate off and with it the clog. Then you replace it and shower clog-free. I found that I have no such attachment and next week you will find a post from me on how to use a plumber’s auger, or rather, my experiences with a plumber’s auger. Also known as a “snake”. Sigh.

Front Yard; Phase One

Last night, I made plans with myself to get rid of these gigantic dead bushes:

It is important for me to mention here that in order for me to snap this photo, I backed into the aloe vera plants that are blooming alongside the sidewalk and the blooms are attracting bees, which I conveniently forgot about until I was in danger of being stung. Thank you; back to the photo. The shrubs on the ends are the same type, I’m pretty sure, and the one in the middle is called a heavenly bamboo. I know it isn’t dead. But it is gigantic. These bushes were absolutely perfect to cling fake spiderwebs to for a creepy entryway for my Halloween party. The rest of the year, the house looked like no one lived here because the bushes are so wild and unkept. They also cover so much of the front window that it looked like I was trying to hide something. I hated the way they defined the house, that someone who lives there can’t take care of their things. I decided it was time to cut them away and see what I could do with them. I started by checking out websites on how to prune bushes. I don’t want to kill them, just tame them a bit. I finally ended on an article titled “How to Prune a Bush” by Callie Barber. I also read a little bit about pruning citrus trees. Apparently once every year or two is frequent enough for those kind of trees.
So this morning, after I got the boys to school, I made a trip to the hardware store. I am now the proud owner of a pair of gardening gloves with thick leather at the palms to protect my hands, a pruning saw, little plant clippers, and a trowel. I also desperately want to transplant the jasmine into the ground, to explain the last item listed there. When I came home, I realized how perfect the weather was today for such a project and chopping dead bushes to bits. It was bright and sunny but there was a wonderful breeze, sometimes wind, blowing. The bush at the far right of the photo was completely dead. No growth, no nothing. I hacked off some of it several months ago to kind of jumpstart my compost, mixing in the dry elements with whatever else was in there. If you’d asked me two years ago what a pruning saw was, I would not have had an answer for you. This thing is my new best friend. A few of the articles I read last night mentioned it and as soon as I saw that phrase I knew that’s what I was missing; bear in mind the formerly out of control citrus trees out back. It quickly got through all those dead dusty limbs. I started by cutting off the huge chunks and when I tried to stand up to start on the higher branches, I discovered an innocent mini cactus entwined in the left knee of the jeans I was thankfully wearing. I also rediscovered this irrigation system that goes to each of the bushes out there. I don’t know how to reconnect it to a water supply but I will figure that out sometime. I don’t mind watering plants around the house, but as we all know, I suck at it.
After I finished with the first shrub, I moved to the one at the far left of the photo. Its dead limbs stretch across the heavenly bamboo. As I cleared away the unnecessary branches, I found that there are actually two bamboo bushes there: the one that is extremely proportionate to the size of the entire house and then a much smaller one which I assume has stunted growth due to the gnarly brush around it. I got to a point as I chopped where I just had one tall limb left that kind of stretched toward the center of the yard. I honestly considered keeping it because it had new growth on it, but heck, why not just dive in. So I’m starting over with that one.
That left the heavenly bamboo. Which is a monster. I had no idea where to start with that. It’s named after bamboo because it has long straight shoots like bamboo does; it’s not actually bamboo. But it grew to be maybe eight feet tall at the most and there were more stems at the bottom of this thing than I honestly knew what to do with. I started with the dead parts of the plant, then moved on to the really tall parts, then to the parts that were extending all over the yard. There was still a ton of plant there! I took out several branches in the middle that were tall and continued to shorten it until I could see over it. I must have taken about half of that bush down. The pile of branches in the yard was huge. Lastly I cleaned up the new growth at the very base of it. I saved a few pieces and potted them to try to create new plants. So after all that crawling around on the ground and snipping and hacking and sawing and snapping, I pulled the twigs out of my hair and the back of my shirt and I was left with something like this:

after: there was a house behind all of that!

It kind of reminds me of when I give my dog a haircut. He looks younger and fresh, he can see, and I want to play with him. You can kind of see in between the two bushes that are left is the small heavenly bamboo I mentioned. After all that was cleared away, I turned around and really wished I had a wood chipper:

Aftermath. Also, you can see that my yard is not respectable at all when compared to my neighbors' yards.

This does not include the remains of the dead bush on the far side from the first photo. Those branches I tossed behind me, toward the side of the house. At this part of the day, it started to get very windy outside so the large branches that were just laying around started threatening to blow away into the neighbor’s yard and possibly down the street. I started jumping on them and breaking them apart, especially the larger pieces, so as to get them to be less airborne (read: tumbleweed-like). The remnants took up most of the trash can. I stood over the trash can breaking branches apart (gloves on!) and shaking the can so that they’d settle in there. I also composted some of the heavenly bamboo, just for the sake of room in the trash can. I didn’t think about it before, but not having all that dead decaying plant life to see when I look out the window was very refreshing. The front room is much brighter now with a lot of it gone and I’m not as worried someone’s hiding in there waiting to attack me. Just have to get the rest of that stuff picked up. It doesn’t help that there are also still a bunch of weeds out there that need to go in the trash too. Also, I was not surprised or attacked by anything crawling around. The only living thing I found was that baby cactus with my knee. And it’s still safe and sound out there.

What I Do When I Find a Dead Mouse in the Garage

  • Scream
  • Leave it there
  • Walk away
  • Keep glancing at it while I sweep the floor to be sure it hasn’t moved and won’t attack me
  • Approach it
  • Sweep it toward the garage door
  • Squeal
  • Realize that it’s been dead for months because it’s light as a feather
  • Put it in the trashcan
  • Look for more dead mice

I recently recycled some magazines and boxes that were crowding the garage. One of the boxes was so heavy that I couldn’t move it so I just emptied it out bit by bit. Somehow the mouse got stuck back there and it looks like it lived there for a little while. Then we all know what happened to it. Maybe I’ll never find another one.

In other news, the jasmine is still alive and well in the front yard. I’ve been watering it daily and seem to have found a good spot for it where it gets enough sunlight without getting fried. Also, my citrus trees each have mini fruits on them. Hooray. I’d take a photo but it’s  dark outside.

I’ve been noticing how boring the walls are in here so look for a fun and detailed entry next week about curtains or paint or both. Or about pruning paradise bushes so I can see out of the front window.