Tag Archives: yardwork

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.


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.