Upclose & personal in the nitty gritty

Hidden friends in the yard at the end of last summer... click to zoom each picture.  

& this is why we don't feed our grass, use insecticide or weed killer.  We love our salamanders, amphibians, insects, bugs, and other friends.  If you are going to help your plants add natural products, lime or sulfur as appropriate, to the type of plants you have, i.e. Lilacs vs. Azaleas.  And if you need to get mold off your deck or siding, just use a water only power-washer, you don't need chemicals.  & if you don't like moss under your toes, move it and create a habitat where it can thrive.  Live and enjoy your yard or your home for what you have, after all, your home should be all about location, location, location.  Remember, it's easier to measure twice and cut once so keep or add value to your home, nature takes a long time to come back if you remove it.  You can't make an elephant be a goldfinch... they're both cute but both have their own proper place. 

Please visit the Amphibian Ark for more information.  
Just a bunch of rocks and dirt, right?
Nope!  There's a frog!

Please visit the Amphibian Ark for more information for how you can help!
Click on this image to see some serious freckle-face action, this guy is sooo cool!

Man, that car can shine when it's waxed.
Like putty in my hands!

While the face is out of focus, I loved the body texture in this shot, click to zoom to see the segments!

In a few more weeks, the skies the limit!

If I had a penny for my thoughts I'd be a millionaire

On it's own it's a great song but to go as far and put any song so full-body lyrically amazing under a microscope with an exacto knife, this is one to do it with, to really revel and see that Thoreau marrow.  So sorry Jay-Z (thank you too!) sorry Aesop Rocks, sorry Tool, but one of my fav music blogs for all things real music recently featured this disecction so I had to share.   It is quite 'a mother' and yes, 'ain't it funky' indeed?   

Very well done post.  It is a sound by sound break down on this classic Beastie Boys song and it is most impressive.  An awesome post, thank you.  This pairs like the ultimate drink & food with this analysis lyric by lyric.

If you don't know it, here... and we're on the go...

... btw this isn't to be confused with (but I find it odd that in all the lyrics and this analyis there's not even a hat-tip to, Louis Armstrong - Shadrack.  Ripped from record this evening, enjoy!
p.s. Dear Decca Records,
Why the 'k' vs the 'h'?


Best chairs ever

One of the pluses when we moved into a house was finally being able to go to estate sales and buy stuff vs. wishing we could nail stuff to the ceiling in our one bedroom apartment.

These perfect chairs were one of our first successful diamonds in the rough.  I didn't see them online and I couldn't see the joie de vivre either in-person but damn, do they have it and that's why she's got the vision... plus, two chairs for $40, who could argue!  Not me!

This, by the way, was one of the most serendipitous days ever.  On the way home we stopped by a yard sale on a whim and found, not only the fabric to cover it ...
... but also a matching bench that we could also cover with the left over fabric.  
But wait, there's more!
At the same awesome yard sale we found not only the perfect fabric for the chairs and the bench but also found this awesome chandelier to replace the etched-glass pineapple brass light we had before in the foyer.

The great brass door knocker came from Lee Valley

& speaking of great chairs... we have a bit of a chair problem but we keep it in check rather well so it's not like it's a real problem per se like our tupperware matching lid problem. 

Pairs are hard to come by at $40 a pair.  However, there's lots of great ones-ies for under $40 out there and it's really difficult not to have a whole house full of chairs.  Infact, recently at the library we borrowed 50 Chairs that Changed the World (here's a slide show of 10 good ones) and we could easily write this book 10 times over I fear.  Infact, this is where we appreciate our mental health not to be on an episode of Hoarders... case in point, the "diggers delight" estate sale we went to that was surprising well organized.
While their basement was full of various other mailboxes and many copies of the same record, I'd have 50 chairs per room myself... on a good day and given the right medication.  

Anyways... here's some other good chairs we've adopted and created a good home for on our three-season sun porch.

The white rocker on the left has a brass Stickley bros. plate on the bottom, found on the side of the road during bulk trash day; the fabric seat cover is updated with an old table cloth we had at the apartment from Target.  

The brown wood chair back right with the green fabric was also found on the side of the road during bulk trash day.  It has the cutest carved heart on one of the arm rests, I oughta take a photo and add it.  

& finally the pale light shabby-chic-green rocker was $20 at an estate sale which we just had to pick up because it matched the round table's hue perfectly as if the can of paint had been shared between two different crafters.  

and finally... The Harvard Chair.
Again, also at an estate sale, to which I was told these normally retail for the low-low price of $400, but we're only asking $50 on the 1/2 day of sale price of $100.  

How about $35? ... Sold!

Sit on this... I made 'em change out two twentys... how's that for vision?  


Best cat toy on a pole ever

These are the best cat pole toys on the market by far.  The pole and accompanying string is a great length, the feather amazingly real in the air.  The option to change out the feather once worn out with a simple dog-tag chain hook is briliant.  Great, great product made by Vo-Toys in Harrison, NJ or order here.  
Full disclosure: Neither Henri, Simon, or Cosette made me write this post nor did anyone else.  I can't for the life of me get a photo of them in mid-air doing their great aerobatic tricks with the feather so here they are opening and playing on their cat tree.



Yard Cleanup

These are photos of yard clean-up in the spring over the last three years.

First year pile.
The first pile above was mostly removing multi-flora rose from the side yard that had grown so far into the road that it had trapped enough leaves to completely hide the granite block curb and make a 4" bed of really great compost which I moved up and around the ailing Lilacs.  Note: wear double long-sleeve shirts and gloves when dealing with the thorns of this bush or as this Rutgers website recommends, get a bulldozer.
The 2nd first year pile.
This pile included boxes of coal that was raked up out of the yard.  The chicks and hens seemed to be doing well growing in and around it but shiny black rocks in the yard is just a bit too odd.  We figured out what was in that google street view photo (3rd pics this post), an old pot belly stove was in the basement.  Ah, the good ol' 70's and their alternative fuels... I wonder how many of today's solar panels, lithium batteries and wind farms will end up like our boxes of coal?
Ariel view of The Ring and the tree swing (behind the roof corner) hung on the most dead tree in the yard.
This is another photo of the fire pit.  We just recently saw an episode of This Old House and debated recreating the fire pit in a proper fashion but we're too busy planting and saving the bones of the yard yet.

If you click and enlarge the photo above you'll also notice the rope swing that was hung on the most dead tree in the yard.  We figured the tree needed to come down due to the fungus growing on it but we were really put into action to get quotes for tree removal after a large 15 foot branch crashed down while we were having lunch on the deck.  

I don't know where you live but we found that tree removal near us in central NJ is less expensive if you have it done in the winter.  We're on a wooded lot with lots of ash trees that were dying and needed quite a few taken down.  Tie some twine around the trees you can't save so as not to confuse them when the leaves are gone.  Also, ask to have the wood removed unless you have the time and ability to chop it into log size pieces.  We came home to find we were left *ahem* "fire-place sized" wood pieces.  Unless you have a 20 foot tall fireplace in a castle you're not fitting a 12 inch log that's 2 or 3 feet thick.  
Pile year 2, now it's getting serious
This was the second year of our spring pile.  We split our acre yard into sections and are still taking the clean up bit by bit, slow and steady, and there's only so much advil you can take.  
Pile year 2, landscape view
The thin bits in the front was our first experiment in trimming up the forsythia because we heard it grows back crazy fast... yet to be seen, though we have lots of deer.  While advertised as resistant to the deer it can only be said in our experience that the forsythia just lives on even though stripped of leaves, which really isn't resistant.  We've found keeping the deer away helps it to sucker and grow thicker by putting black rubberized garden fence around.  I'd love to deer-fence the yard as I think it once was but it is so much money.
One of many trips in the ol' Jeep Liberty.
We made about 6 trips to the local dump a year where they turn the debris into mulch.  Last year we got smart and rented a Budget box truck for $90 and did the haul in one trip.
Pile 2 point 1, year 2, the bigger stuff.
We debated buying a chipper and having lots of great mulch and wood chips but there was just so much big stuff we took it to the dump which was free.  The sweat equity really helped us learn the lay of the land and find all kinds of great plants season to season, appreciate the hidden bits of moss or new varied plant life growing where before the sun couldn't reach.
Those crazy kids, zero.  Old man in the bushes, one.
When we disassembled The Ring we put the pavers back behind the shed thinking while they wouldn't serve a purpose for us it could continue to be a great habitat for the snakes and chipmunks.  The neighborhood kids decided it was a good spot to drink beer because now with the multi-flora gone they could walk right up from the road not just chuck their bottles from the car into the thorny mess.  

The debate where to post our National Wildlife Foundation Back Yard Habitat sign was over and the back of the shed proudly displays to all who walk or drive by.  And so far it has discouraged any crazy teen discotechs from establishing itself behind our shed, which was of course the next step.  

While the snakes don't like the shady location, the salamanders are loving it!
Powerwashing the deck the year after removing the hot tub of death.
We don't use chemicals in our lawn, at most sulfur to acidify the plants that need it, because we don't want to harm the amphibians.  We found quite a few salamanders in and around our deck and didn't realize it was probably because of all the algae growing on it.  

After much research on how to clean the deck we decided our only option was high pressure but plain old water.  
Wow what a difference!
I can't believe we walked on it barefoot previously!

Half way there!
Ta - Da!
Foundation planting done wrong and not thinking 30+ years later.
Most places you'll find chemicals used is either in the lawn or the plantings in the front of the house.  We saw clear signs under the front window as the dirt was dry and dusty as if it had been bleached of all life.  We felt bad to remove these old bushes from the front of the house and the beautiful blue spruce but it had to be done.  Someone clearly didn't think about size proportion when planting and no one who moved into the house after that thought about buying pruning sheers.  

Also, the view is facing north west.  These trees would make a great north wind block further away from the house but up close to the house they only trap the shadows and cold.  Our ranch is cantilevered and so the over-hang would remain cold by not only funneling the wind but also because it was never allowed the winter sun to warm up the house.  Even in summer it remained cold with these ever-greens.  

Even though our ranch was built in 1965, the builders (as well as builders now!) could well have heeded the following advice from one of my favorite references.

From America's Garden Book by Louise Bush-Brown & James Bush-Brown Copyright 1939
Foundation Planting

"'Foundation Planting' has been given altogether too much emphasis in this country.  It all came about, and the habit became fixed, several decades ago, when the foundations of houses were made, as they still so often are, of ugly materials such as concrete block, while the house itself was a self-respecting frame structure.  Bushes and low evergreens were called upon to mask the existence of this regrettable, but apparently unavoidable condition.  The nursery catalogs were filled with pictures of various combinations of dwarf evergreens.  Variety of form, and color, and texture seemed to be the great aim in this type of planting.  It never occurred to people that the array of tall and short corquets, round and oval globes, and the green and yellow and blue pincushions, with a pair stiff blue toy trees, had only covered up one type of ugliness with another.  The only difference was that for monotony there was substituted a restlessness; for frank utility, a discordant decoration."

The book is just brilliant!  And that was it for our guilt, especially after we replaced the windows, the view from inside just had to change.

After.  Not only could we see but the Japanese holly behind them was glad to see the light of day.
New window, old stumps.
Dig that summer tan!
In all the dirt through out the yard we've found lots of kids toys, several plastic shovels and rakes, a plastic muffin, and a green metal double-decker bus.  One time I found a bottle of gin burried under one of the pine trees while trying to pull up granite blocks in the rain that had been sinking for years.
But the scariest was this ice cream cone
Seriously freaky, no?

One last spring clean up tip for yard sales... Don't.
Just put it in the yard the night before and at dawn the next day put up a sign & post to Craig's List.
All done!