Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Saturday—the day after our horrific "snow day," mind you—we went outside to do some yard work. We started out wearing sweaters but soon we stripped those off and worked in our t-shirts because it was warm enough for that. (Now ask me how much I'm enjoying my winter. Very much).

It's kind of strange to need to do yard work in the winter. Shoveling snow seems like a perfectly normal winter chore for me. Weeding the flowerbed does not seem like a perfectly normal winter chore for me but that's what we were doing on Saturday anyway.

We started with just pulling up the grasses and wild onion that had tried to take over the plot this summer. And then we thought about how much we wished the bushes weren't there—a half-dead juniper and some ghastly ornamental grasses, that kind of thing—and how much we wished to have a flower garden or a vegetable garden or both. So, with our landlady's blessing, we ripped those bushes out.

Andrew grabbed a shovel and started digging down by the roots of a bush—not a juniper or the ornamental grass clumps but just some blah-type bush—but the soil's been so moist here and the bushes weren't very big so I decided I could probably pull up a few while he was working with the shovel.

I grabbed the bush by its stem, rooted my feet into the ground, gave it the ol' heave ho, and yanked that bush right out of the ground.

Rachel's jaw dropped open.

"Whoa, Mom!" she exclaimed. "That was amazing! Dad, did you see that? Did you see what Mom just did?!"

"That's what you get for marrying a cowgirl," I said to Andrew, flexing my muscles.

We sometimes joke that I'm a cowgirl because I grew up in southern Alberta where cowpokes are aplenty. But it's only a joke—I'm not really a cowgirl.
I've gone rock-pickin' and cattle-ropin' with the best of 'em (ie. my cousins, who really are the best of them) but the truth of the matter is I'm a rootin' tootin' city slicker. At least, that's what my cousins always told me...but when I took Andrew to High River (where I spent several years in my youth) the image of me as a cowgirl was only solidified in his mind. Compared to where my cousins grew up, I'm a city slicker. Compared to where Andrew grew up, I'm a cowgirl. It's all relative...

Apparently Rachel is rather new to this joke, although I'm sure she has heard it before. Hearing it again though only served to further elevate me in her eyes.

"You're a cowgirl?! Wow!" she squealed.

She spent the rest of the afternoon pulling out wisps of wild onion and grunting triumphantly, "I'm a cowgirl!" with every handful she got. And when Andrew finished yanking out the half-dead juniper (which was probably more like 3/4-dead) she remarked, "Now you're a real cowboy, Daddy!" as if stump-pullin' was rite of passage.

Now that we have a nice plot of...dirt...Andrew's handed me complete ownership of the project. He's promised to be helpful and supportive about whatever I decide to do but doesn't feel like he has time to plan a garden. And I don't blame him.

I've been researching garden design the past couple of days and it's kind of a headache. There is so much I don't know and so much information out there. I've gardened before, but only under the supervision of my mom. I've never been the in-charge person and I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing.

We want to have a vegetable garden but have it be pretty, interspersed with flowers like echinacea, and prettier produce, such as scarlet runner beans. Our reasoning behind this is that the garden is on the side of the house and we're not 100% sure of the HOA rules about gardens (Andrew did say he'd look that up though). I've been researching which flowers bring beneficial critters, which ones to plant as decoy crops, which ones repel unwanted critters, and so forth. I've been looking up companion plants for all sorts of vegetables and so far have only come to the conclusion that I'm not sure how well peas will fare in this area given the proclivity for wild onion to sprout up anywhere and everywhere.

Choosing what to plant is further complicated by the desire to create something aesthetically pleasing (how many colours are too many?) and the long growing season (plant carrots and asparagus around tomato plants, which will be ready to harvest by the time the tomato plants get large—sounds complicated, especially since things like lettuce and broccoli can be grown year-round here (or so I hear)) and the small size of our garden (I don't want to accidentally plant anything that's going to get huge).

Since this is our first gardening adventure, I'm trying to keep it as simple as possible, which is getting more and more complicated the more I research.

I've decided to just be very forgiving of myself until I get the hang of this (which will take years, I'm sure) because whatever I do is bound to be more attractive and useful than a mostly-dead juniper bush. *crossing fingers*

Speaking of aesthetics, while researching garden design I stumbled upon rain chains, a novel idea...for me. Apparently they've been used in Japan for centuries with great success. Basically they create a waterfall every time it rains, fulfilling the same purpose as a gutter spout but beautifying your garden at the same time. And now I kind of want to make one to test it out...but I'm not sure how safe it would be should we ever encounter a hurricane.

There are so many pretty-looking/interesting ones: this one and this one and this one...

For now though I think I'll focus on trying to figure out what to plant and where.


  1. In some states it's against the law to collect rainwater. You'll probably want to check that out before you build a rain chain.

    I studied landscape design for a number of years so if you have any questions I can point you in some helpful directions.

    1. It's not against the law here. Our house came with a water barrel (the gutter spout is connected to it)...