Backyard: Groundcovers Are Better Than Grass

Hoarding the groundcover —

Before I had a house and yard of my own, I always thought grass just came up by default when you didn’t plant something interesting. Who knew it had to be planted (every year) and fertilized (twice a year) and watered (constantly) and have chemicals dumped on it to discourage weeds (often). To my surprise, and I think to his too, Bob liked the grass. Maybe the stereotypes are right, and it really is a guy thing. After Bob’s death, I tried taking care of the grass. I felt guilty when I couldn’t keep it going, but it was too much for me. Now I’ve eliminated it.

We’ve had drought years here, and watering was forbidden. I did replant like Bob taught me to, but I always ended up with dead grass. Through it all there was a little bed of ajuga (bugle weed) off to the side that stayed green. I tried replanting grass through three years of drought. Without constant watering it didn’t survive, but wait… when the rain finally came, little shoots of ajuga came up everywhere. Through those dry years, it was colonizing. I decided that if the ajuga survived, it should be encouraged. Instead of planting grass, I planted white clover where the ajuga hadn’t filled in yet, to hold the soil and return some nitrogen. Last summer, there was enough groundcover for me to stop mowing.

ajuga groundcover in back yard

Here’s the backyard now…

The newer patches still need some weeding, but they won’t for long. And it’s worth it — it’s attractive when it blooms, it appears to hold the soil well, and I’ll mow only once a year, after the bloom stems dry. It’s a healthier ecosystem too. I did a little weed patrol this morning, using Bob’s old dandelion digger. I was happy to see earthworms slithering through the lower stems and bees visiting the flowers. I’m leaving the black-eyed susans and the hellebores that come up from seed, but digging out any weeds, strawberries, or liriope that pops up.

close up of ajuga groundcover, some blossoms purple and some white

Ajuga. Most blooms are purple but these surprised me by coming up white.

Now there’s just one more advantage that I haven’t mentioned.  Care for a little luck, anyone?

4 leaf clover and white clover bloom

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What Is This Doing In My Garage?

paper grocery bag full of pine cones

— WHY? —

It’s hard to believe I kept a bag of pine cones. What was I thinking?

I still haven’t finished my utility closet project. I admit I have so much stuff (like a bag of pine cones) piled up that it’s hard to get to the door. It should be ready to paint by now; I’ve vacuumed and washed it. But the floor is rough and I’d really like to sand it, and the wall has places that need filler. I need to get a grip… my closet will be seldom seen and it doesn’t need to be perfect. It’s been like this since the house was built. I make a pact with myself – I will allocate one hour, no more, to getting it ready to paint.

I will not – repeat NOT – dither over color. I will use what’s left over from painting the garage and trim.

Meanwhile I deliver my accumulated recyclables to a nearby recycling center (thank you earth911.org for pointing me there).  These are things my weekly service doesn’t take, and I’ve accumulated a pick-up load.  Even the seat beside me is full (and yes, I still have my pick-up truck, but that’s a subject for another day). The Recycling Center accepts even more than I thought they would — broken CDs and a stack of old floppies, yes! They take my old electric kettle and 2 worn-out lawn sprinkler attachments, plus some other metal pieces I cleaned out of the garage,  3 1/2 trash bags full of shredded paper, and the old PC tower that’s been sitting in the garage for 5 or 6 years. They even have a bin for old eye-glasses. With this and a trip to leave Goodwill donations, I feel much lighter.

Anyone need a bag of pine cones?

Horoscope Help: Cleaning the Garage

time_2 The Vault of Time, courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Vault of Time, courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sometimes I read my horoscope in the paper. This one appeals to me:
“The distant point you see is not close to your destination, but you can’t make out anything beyond it. Journey to that point, and when you get there, you’ll be able to see farther.”

This helps me think of my house-project as something I may be able to accomplish after all. It’s been a tough week, with lots of maintenance chores and little progress toward my goals. I need to pick one room and focus on it. I’m getting back to the garage. It’s not a room I live in, and really not a “room” at all, but it’s a disorganized place in the house that I see every day when I go in and out.

Every little bit of order carved from chaos helps to lift my spirit.

Maybe I can whittle away at it by choosing one thing to clean up every time I go through.  Of course, years ago I thought I’d do that with the basement and the result was — I quit going to the basement. I can’t quit going to the garage though — can this work?

Can I Have Too Many Recyclables?

I gather up my trash and recyclables, so proud of my big bag of recyclables and little bag of trash that I decide to photograph them. Then it occurs to me that maybe this is not such a good thing after all. Can I have too many recyclables? I look through the bag and I see how much is junk mail and newspaper and realize the answer is yes.

Small trash bag on the left, large recycle bag on the right

Trash on the left, recyclables on the right.

For the last two years I’ve been fretting about the newspaper. Every time its up for renewal I keep my paper-subscription and think “next time” I’ll go digital. I love walking down the driveway in the morning, picking up the paper, reading it while drinking my coffee, and saving articles to share or reference later. Uh-oh, my newspaper subscription is due for renewal now. Can I make myself go through with it this time?

What’s stopping me? – Old habits and a 13-inch laptop screen. But, paper saved in the first place is better than paper recycled. It’s past time to try that digital subscription.

Then I realize there’s another, deeper reason that I’m still taking the newspaper. It’s a link to a happy time in my life B.C. – Before Cancer – when Bob’s cancer was years in the future; we had apartments and lived in Kansas City. We always got the Kansas City Star on  Sunday. It amused us when it started coming out the evening before, and when we were out on Saturday night we always stopped to buy one on the way home. So I have to acknowledge that the newspaper stands in as link to a simpler time, not just pre-cancer, but pre-hoarding.

I have good newspaper-memories from this house too. Bob used to bring me a New York Times and a weekend Wall Street Journal as a treat on Friday afternoons. We worked the crossword puzzles together, passing them back and forth across the table.

Now, as for the recyclables – I’ll go to work on cutting down on junk mail, but maybe I’m not quite ready to give up the newspaper after all.

What physical things are you hanging onto for reasons of the heart?