Monthly Archives: July 2008

The grass is always greener…

It’s the height of summer and we’ve had two weeks with little rain and temperatures hovering around 100 degrees. The front lawn is an interesting study of drought tolerant plants. The burnt lawn to the far right is composed mainly of the dreaded Bermuda grass (yeah!) and bluets, an early Spring flower. The lush green lawn on the left is not grass at all but a sedge. This sedge, which I have not yet identified, but I’m quite certain is a native, makes the best lawn I’ve seen in years. Soft on bare feet, growing thickly, it requires little mowing because the plant is naturally short. I love to lie out on it and play with the dogs.

The sedges grew up last year after the drought of 2006 had killed off most of the grass. I thought it would die back in the summer, but I’ve cut the lawn high and I don’t water, so the plants have formed deep roots. High mowing apparently doesn’t benefit Bermuda grass (all to the good), which lacks the deep fibrous root system of the sedge.

This little patch of the sedge, that grew up in the unplanted section of the driveway garden, I’m going to leave uncut so I can identify it when the seeds ripen. I’ll also use this little patch to propagate the sedge elsewhere. If I can replace the Bermuda grass with this lovely fine leaved plant, I’ll be a happy camper. Apparently, the grass is always greener here at Windhaven when it’s not a grass.

"Kill da Wabbit!"

There was a bunny in the yard this morning when I let the dogs out. The bunny is usually fast enough to evade both dogs, but this bunny made a miscalculation. It was up on the hillside when it was first noticed and the dogs took off after it. It headed Northeast initially and I thought it would scoot out the unfinished gate at that end. I guess the bunny thought it needed more of a lead and headed straight for me instead, then making a sharp right turn by the walkway. Apparently, the bunny hasn’t been in the yard since I installed the new gate. Instead of an open trellis the bunny could easily slip through, it was faced with a full wooden gate with an inch clearance at the bottom. In desperation the bunny tried to go around the gate and hit the green fencing. That’s when the dogs caught up to it. I think Odo was merely trying to sniff the bunny and was easy to call off. D’Argo had other plans. The bunny had squeezed halfway through the fence and D’Argo was trying to pull it back by a leg. I pulled D’Argo away, and the bunny slipped through the fence. Not without effort however, as you can see by the stretched wire and the fur left behind on the fence (to the left of Odo’s nose). The dogs spent the rest of the day hanging out by the gate, just in case the bunny came back, and I had the music from “What’s opera, Doc?“, with Elmer Fudd singing “kill da wabbit”, rattling around my head all day.

Nature’s approval

I was getting a little bit of mud from the drying pile (see: Tackling the “to do” list) for some last minute touch ups on the dining room wall when I noticed these funny markings. I realized what they were, and with a smile, I sat down to await the culprit.

It wasn’t long before this little mud wasp came by to abscond with another mouthful of clay for it’s nest. Unfortunately, the wasp is building it’s nest inside the stone facade of the house, but it amuses me to think of all the little blue nest that are now residing within our walls. You won’t see that with a pile of drying joint compound! It’s nice to know that nature approves of my wall covering and apparently doesn’t mind the color either.

Tackling the "To Do" list

Despite the high-90 temperatures these past weeks, I’ve managed to check a few items off the “to do” list. One project hanging over my head for some time was the electric fencing, which is finally installed. The process is pretty simple, but the execution is somewhat tedious. First you have to install the insulators, those yellow doohickies. Each one had to be pre-drilled and nailed onto the posts. Then a continuous wire was strung through all of them, anchored at each end of the fence line. I haven’t made gate openings in the wire, since I don’t have gates yet.

The second step is installing the three ground rods. Each rod is 6 feet long that I managed to hammer all but a foot into the ground. The ground rods are then connected with a wire and clamps.

Finally the ground rods and the fence wire are connected to the charger, solar of course. That’s it. Turn on the charger and test the line. I have a tiny fence tester: one end hangs on the wire and the other pokes into the ground. If the line is charged the light will light up on the tester. I have to admit I have been reluctant to touch the wire myself, but hit it accidentally while mowing yesterday. It works. I didn’t get the full charge since I was wearing two layers of clothing and rubber boots, but I felt it. One project done.

The fence has been up for quite some time but I had yet to build any gates, even though the wood was sitting in the garage and the cutting plan was ready on my desk. I tackled that project on Saturday and, despite the heat, finished one gate and installed it on Sunday morning. I’m very pleased with it. The hinges are self-closing so there’s no chance of forgetting to close the gate. I’m not sure what the dogs think of it, but I’m happy they’re more secure. Now that I’ve built one beautiful gate, I have the prototype for the two others. Two projects done.

Removing the texture from the dining room wall has been on my “to do” list since last fall. I was a little burned out after the popcorn ceiling removal projects and wanted to concentrate on outdoor projects for a while. The summer heat was my motivator for doing some more indoor projects and I had everything I needed to tackle the dining area wall. This is the wall on which I wanted to experiment with earth plaster. The first step was to scrape off the major bumps of the wall texturing and clean the wall surface. Then I applied a special sanded primer to give the clay something to hold on to. The first coat of clay goes on thinly, but roughly over the primer. That’s the scratch coat. Once that dries, you apply the finish coat, smoothing it as much as you want. The photo shows the dried scratch coat and the dark wet finish coat being applied. The clay was really easy to work with, very forgiving, easy to smooth and repair, and no odor.

The finished product is an elegant background for the dining table light. My vision for the kitchen is finally coming together.

This little painting, given to me by my sister many years ago, was my color inspiration, although I didn’t realize it at the time. The blue is the exact same blue as the background farm buildings, and my intention for the wall it rests on is to use the golden tan color from the fields.

The best thing about natural plasters is the cleanup. There’s no staining and no waste. Splatters wipe off with a wet sponge. The leftover clay can simply be dried and returned to the bag to be rewetted for another project or used for repair. It never goes bad. Three projects done!

My “to do” list isn’t any shorter, new projects are added daily, but it’s always satisfying to cross a few of them off.