Sunday, February 22, 2009


On our way to Home Depot one day this past week, we passed a house where a black guy was mowing the lawn. It was obvious from the trailer behind the pickup parked in front that the guy was hired to do this. I think Em's one of only 3 people in our neighborhood who mow their own lawns, but this guy stood out because he's not Mexican.

I feel really jingoistic, but if the US is experiencing the same recession as the rest of the world, it makes sense to me that we should hire US workers, Mexico should hire Mexican workers, China should hire Chinese workers, etc. So, anyway, Em pulled into the driveway and asked the guy if he'd like more work (thinking that we had some bushes in the front yard that needed cutting back). The guy said, "Sure!", we got his card, and continued on our way.

Em ended up paying the people who do our neighbor's yard to cut back the bushes, but I'm preparing to buy 22 fruit bushes, 25 strawberry plants, asparagus, horseradish, and rhubarb. Just the thought of digging all those holes is enough to wear me out.

I gave Ken a call and he came over early this morning to give me an estimate on what I might want done. While the weather recently has been in the mid 70s, a cool front came through yesterday and the early morning had a blustery wind associated with it, so Ken and I walked and talked around the outside of the house while doing some serious shivering. His input really helped me get the seeds planted in my head for what I want, so I emailed him with my final thoughts.

Did you ever hear of mushroom soil? Ken did, and we're gonna get a yard of that to amend the backyard stuff over and above the amendments from tossing kitchen scraps. It's times like this that I appreciate the rich black dirt of the Midwest, although No. 2 says that the soil on the back 40 at her dad's place isn't any better than ours and now that I think about it, we paid to have that rich, black dirt dumped in our backyard so many years ago. Like everything else in life, mushroom soil has its critics. I'm not going to market my garden stuff, so "organic" concerns are nill, and a little over $50/yard doesn't strike me as over-priced (especially when pro-rated over 3 years).

The final plan is to have rototilled and amended: a 3 foot wide garden area along all 3 back fences, my 4x9 compost area, another 4x9 garden area perpendicular and on the other side of the yard from the 1st one, along with six 3' circles for my sweet potatoes. The 22 fruit bushes will be planted along the fences on the north and west sides. The rhubarb will be planted in the shade of the northeast corner, the horseradish and asparagus along the east fence.

I don't have final plans in my head yet for the 4x9 garden areas, but will be planting lettuces, spinach, cilantro, and other cooler weather plants between the bushes along the fenceline and lining pretty much every blank space with thick wet newspapers as a mulch. The current 4x9 space gets some shade from the house, but the second one will be exposed to a full day of Texas summer sun. The gears are still clinking and clanging in my head on what I want to plant in both areas. Part of the decision will rest on what seeds are viable, and I'll get going on seed-starting tomorrow.

Gonna order the bushes, strawberries, asparagus, and horseradish from Simmons Plant Farm. Their website is here.

Ken's lived in this area all his life, and has never heard of rhubarb. Rhubarb isn't something that typically grows in the south, and the red-stemmed stuff won't tolerate the heat, apparently. I'll be growing the green-stemmed stuff that could tolerate the heat here, as well as planting it in the corner of the yard under the canopy of our neighbor's tree. Did you know the leaves are poisonous? Ken's also not heard of arugula, which now grows pretty much everywhere in my backyard like a weed, and which Em considers "bitter". He's welcome to take ALL my arugula home with him AND welcome to all my arugula seeds.

I really enjoyed my hour or so with Ken this morning. He's actually a banker by trade, but maybe last October found himself out of a job with a severance package and an attitude that said, "I need to reinvent myself." He's found that he enjoys this outside gig way more than he ever liked the office politics, and it seems to support his family, as well.

We're probably also going to invest in some kind of backyard staging area because this house just wasn't built to do anything in the back yard. We have a "no shoes" rule in the house, and our garage is at the front of the house. This means that anytime I need something like bonemeal I put on shoes, go into the garage, come back into the house, take off my shoes, walk to the back door, put my shoes back on, go outside, come back in, remove my shoes, etc. Might be a shed, might be something Ken called a planting "table", but there's definitely got to be something back there in which to store things like my garden kneeler and (of course) my sun oven. Reminds me of George Carlin's thing on Stuff:

I'm still on the schedule of a vampire and I suppose reading Seize the Night isn't helping.

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