2010 Eco Resolutions

So the look forward begins, contemplating the upcoming year and noting all that has been done on the little piece o’ land I claimed back in 2006…what I have been up to…and what I am contemplating for 2010…

I bought my little 1925 home in May 2006, and during the first year, most of the hard work was noticeable only from the inside. I bought Energy Star appliances, refinished my hardwood floors, had my walk-in closet transformed from hole to dreamy, and tore out the carpeting in half of the basement. The only outside work I had done was having my laurels cut back by almost 50% as they had consumed my garage and side yards. The first snow was amazing – I just remember feeling so fortunate to have a warm safe home that I bought all by myself.

Fast forward three years later. I tore out the boxwood hedges (something I’ve never been a fan of) by hand and planted a rose garden (hard to see in this photo bu it’s in front of where the boxwoods used to be), and yes, removed all the grass, slowly but surely, with a shovel, a twister, and a whole lotta elbow grease. After half of the picket fence fell down during a particularly evil wind storm in 2008, I used that as an excuse to rid myself of its wicked suburbanite feel and tore the whole bugger out. My awesome neighbor pulled the posts out with his truck and was more than happy to take all of it away for me as well – THIS, ladies & gentlemen, is why I love my neighbors! We all help each other out. This spring I took out the majority of the lawn and front slope as seen above, and added the block path (whew, heavy!), planted 7 blueberry bushes where the picket fence once was, and a ton of groundcover.

The photo above shows it brand new, so everything is tiny. This year it all about doubled in size, not fully covering the ground but making remarkable progress. Lessons learned? Strawberries definitely love to take over the world, which was my intent, but at the same time aren’t the most aesthetically lovely things after they are done fruiting. I enjoyed berries well into the fall (yay for everbearing varieties) but definitely had conversations with a few of the plants about getting too big for their britches). In 2010 I have one primary goal for the front yard: deck. Even if I have to do it all by myself – there will be a deck, stretching from the existing front porch to the end of the house, reaching out 8′ to where the roses begin. A nice lovely sustainable ipe wood deck to enjoy summer evenings with a mojito in hand and neighborly conversation. Sigh…

Lesson learned: This year I built, painted, and installed my first rainbarrel. Pretty huh? Well it’s in the garage now. Why? I live in Oregon. 1/2″ of rain from the roof and it was full. 2010 calls for a cistern, without a doubt. I will figure out what to do with this barrel though, it’s just too cute to be hidden away! Word to the wise though…this is why rain barrels and cisterns ROCK – they collect all the water you’ll need to water your veggies and lawn…provided you have a big enough device to capture that water!!

Then there was my first version of a garden. Using the only southern exposure on my lot, due to 2 horrid ailanthus (‘tree of heaven’) shading out my backyard, my driveway – thanks to going carless in 2008 – became my experimental world. Onions, zucchini, artichokes, and cucumbers along the side of the house where weeds once ruled, and peppers, tomatoes, lettuces & herbs in the pots. The galvanized ones came from Ikea – super cheap and with holes I put in the bottom, along with some river rock borrowed from an old dog run in the back yard, perfectly draining.

Great huh? Then it decided to become the hottest day on record at 108 degrees. Fucking hot weather beyond any rational thinking. Sorry, there are no nice words to describe this summer’s heat wave. (Bonus? I was renting out my basement room so didn’t even have a place to escape myself besides sleeping in the backyard…).

Serrano peppers? Overjoyed. Bell peppers? Terrified. Did I know that simply covering them up or moving them into the shade during this time would prevent ‘sunburn’ (i.e., gross brown moldy)? Nope. Oy vey. Tomatoes? Wimpy crop. Turns out I overwatered them in my rescue attempts. Lettuce? Thrilled. Spinach? Once I learned not to let water touch them on top, we made out OK. Had some amazing salads this year and the tomatoes I did get were freakin’ incredible. The yellow jelly bean grape tomato is definitely being invited back. Zucchinis also had a great time – lots of bread which I made and froze. Unfortunately it was so good that today I finished the last of it. Yay, it’s December. Next year’s dream? A separate freezer for the oodles of frozen veggies so I can go gangbusters on that bread (and berries, and…). Yeaaah boyyyy.

And then there was the back yard. The evil weed trees that some jackass decided to nickname ‘tree of heaven’ – the ailanthus altissima – finally left my world. This shit don’t burn – it stinks like pee – so I was thrilled to see these buggers go in the chipper and my tree guys dig way deep into the ground to grind those stumps out. Happy as a clam to see these go – in fact, so happy, that when I got my job offer after being unemployed for several months, I called my arborist Before I called my friends or family. They rock.

So what does that mean? I suddenly have this fantastic – and intimidating – blank slate of a backyard. A backyard that now screams GARDEN ME BEE-YATCH! And also reminds me that I need more flowers, more zen places to chill, maybe some fruit trees, a fire feature (I can’t decide if I want a pit, a place, or one of those modern cement block thingys), and yet also leave a few patches of grass – nice on the feet, nice on the eyes, and yes, a place for my dog to poop 🙂

So I did a little preparation this fall. Concrete blocks, about half being salvaged from various places on the property and the other from the big box store, created my raised bed structure, holes up so as to welcome marigolds, herbs, etc. Maple leaves courtesy of my (very happy to donate) neighbor has filled them halfway atop a layer of cardboard to kill the grass underneath. Compost is cookin’ nearby to help when the time comes, and potting soil becomes my greatest birthday wish.


With the harvest came some good practice at canning, something I’d done but in minimal quantities in the past. Next year I’m goin’ Betty. Crocker, that is. But this year I created a nice little stash of tomatoes (thanks to a gorgeous deal on San Marzanos at the farmers market to substitute for my crap crop), applesauce (next year I will be getting hooked up with PFT, this year I cheated), pears (courtesy of the PFT volunteer work, cool!!), roasted/marinated peppers (hell yeah these are great – wheeled and dealed 10 lbs worth due to my personal losses), sundried tomatoes, and tons of berry jams n jellies. My applesauce, y’all? It’s like crack. Minimal sugar and lots of cardamom. Sweet n spicy n a spoonful of that and you’ll give it up.

So for 2010?

* Yes the garden in the backyard. And the fact that I’m actually doing some planning in December & January? Promises to be a much more thoughtful process, and with the help of a friend, possibly a much more overwhelming crop. Overwhelming in this topic, by the way, is a good thing. Love apples baby.

* The deck. Still being a fairly new homeowner promises a decent tax refund. Joy.

* A gorgeous cistern (or it will be after I paint it in my kindergarten style!) for rainwater collection. Cannot wait. Contemplating professional versus DIY on this particular project. Hmm.

* Sanctuary. With the garden I am insistent that a little sanctuary be created somewhere in the yard. A little sweet spot to bliss out on summer nights. A place for friends to gather under the stars. Something soft underfoot and peaceful to the eye.

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