Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Where are we?

On our last long drive, I looked down and saw this.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Leaf thief

Last November, I finally got around to doing something I'd been meaning to do for a long time. I took my garden rake and my big yard waste bin and carted it a couple streets down to where there are several large, mature trees that all drop heaps of leaves at the same time.

I collected five or six huge bins of leaves, in addition to the leaves that a couple of my own trees dropped. I didn't go into anyone's yard or even do much raking; there were ample piles of leaves on the sidewalk and in the bike lane. I did make a point to leave the areas tidy for the neigbors.

I got a few strange looks, but not many people went so far as to ask. I cheerfully explained to one person whose house I was in front of that I'd be glad to put them back, if he was using them (he wasn't). He thought I was being very energetic. In fact, I was making a down payment on a lazy winter and spring.

The reason for all this leaf-gathering was to cover my garden. I've cleared out a fairly good-sized back corner of my yard as a vegetable patch, and so far, I have had to weed that same area each spring. Last fall, I spread it six inches deep with leaves I collected. There's one little clump of garlic popping through from last year, and other than that, essentially no weeds, even in February with all the rain. The leaves will eventually break down and help improve the impenetrable clay. If I want to plant, I'll either dig them in or scoop them aside and plant right through them.

That has left me free to expand the borders of the weed free area, which in turn has led me to believe that I might someday conquer the entire weed patch and have a real garden.

We are, of course, a bit short on water in California this year. Thus, I think I may keep my vegetable garden smaller this year. I planted a few cool-season things that can probably get by mostly on the spring rain, and I may plant just enough tomatoes to water with collected water from cleaning fish tanks, waiting for the shower to warm up, and so on.

While I'm working on weeds (the Bermuda grass may take longer to conquer, anyway) and waiting for water, I think I'll try to do some planning, preparation, and hardscaping. I'm starting to decide where to put a patio or deck, pathways, and raised beds. I'd like to build rainwater barrels, too, but I'll need to measure output on some of my downspouts to learn where to put them. I've been thinking about this sort of thing since we've had the house, but it's starting to come together.

Oddly, the piece that's helping it come together more than anything else is the decision to focus on reclaimed and recycled materials. Now that I know I can make a pathway out of recycled concrete chunks with thyme or another groundcover in between, I've stopped worrying about how much it might cost or how long I want it and I can make a decision on where it should go. I also have plans to build raised bed boxes out of reclaimed lumber from torn out fences and cover the paths between them with wood chips from a tree service. I'll probably even be more inclined to water with collected rainwater.

I suppose it also helps in my design that I have nothing much to lose by trying. There are a few established trees that I plan to leave where they are. Otherwise, it's pretty much all a weed patch that I'd prefer not to go on mowing.

This post is a bit late in the writing, but it gives me a chance to mention the results as well as the activity.

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