09/01/2016 – Hello September!

September comes with the promise of rain. Just promises, though. I’ve yet to see a drop. Tomorrow, I hope, otherwise, I have to water my small front yard by hand and since the house next door sold, I’m not terribly fond of going out front. It’s a long story involving many, many, many crappy next door neighbors.

I am one filled yard debris bin away from being done with all my outdoor summer yard projects. One more empty bin ought to do it. My yard work projects this summer included:

– Removing and disposing, by hand and shovel, five large tree stumps PLUS all the roots to reclaim a flowerbed. All stumps were smaller than a smart car, bigger than a cocktail table.

– Dug out and disposed of approximately eighty-two yards of dirt; some clay-like, some light and loamy, most composted, decayed, compacted bark mulch inhabited with entire colonies of ants.

– Fixed cut-thru sprinkler lines too many times (the perils of giving a husband free-rein with a Sawsall cutter).

– Laid eighty-six bricks and cobblestone blocks of differing colors, styles, and sizes to create a solid, stable surface under the bird feeder.

– Removed a sixteen-year old, poorly performing, overgrown Rhododendron… and remembering, too late, I had buried a dead opossum under it. (Look at the bones!)

– Painted over my Hot Patio cement poured just last November with solid blue-gray cement paint because the original tan brown cement stain faded to pink. To be honest, I don’t like the blue-gray color any better.

– Dug a foot-wide, half-foot deep trench along the front of the eastern flowerbed (forty feet) for fall/winter rain runoff. No more flooding the cement walkways.

My hope is to actually enjoy my backyard’s near complete transformation for a couple of weeks, without feeling the need to dig anymore, before cool, wet weather shuts everything down.

I have six more books to read by the end of the year. I finished my fourth book in August just before midnight last night. Anyone dreaming of running away to live on an island “paradise” first ought to read, “A Serpent in Paradise” by Dea Birkett. Eye opening. If you are a fan of or just curious about the descendants of the mutineers of the H.M.S Bounty still living on Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific, you’ll probably race right through the book like I did, and scratch off visiting that place from your bucket list.

And finally, in case you missed it, here’s a photo of the last 2016 August sunset.

The last August 2016 sunset - 2016 © Colehaus.com

The last August 2016 sunset – 2016 © Colehaus.com

08/23/2016

I have about a month’s worth of dirt removal left to do and no one could possibly be happier about that than I. Well, maybe the yard debris pickup guys will be. Year Two of the three year dirt removal project is almost at a close.

We were very lightly rear-ended in his car yesterday, on the way to his birthday lunch. I was driving. Very, very minor damage. No injuries. Almost a non-event. I worry he will over-focus on this rather than the previous three days in which we spent money we don’t have so he might think his 50th was pleasant. And then, that happened.

I gave thought to getting back on the treadmill today, after nearly a year off it, then thought better of it. I’m happy to be thinking about it again, though. It means I’m tired of ill-fitting clothes even if I rarely think of that consciously. One more month of working outside, digging out clay dirt, and I’ll trade my shovel for the treadmill. And if I’m lucky, I’ll fit into jeans by late-October, in time for cooler, wet weather.

My streak of avoiding restaurants ended in late July with a truly crappy meal in Ridgefield. Last week, I had pizza out at a local place and was appalled at the lack of service I had once been accustomed to as normal. Yesterday, I realized I have lost my taste for restaurant food. Much of it seems to taste unnatural, chemical-laced almost, creamy to the point of bland and tasteless. And this makes me happy. My addiction to restaurant food is as good as broken.

I’m two-thirds the way through reading, Paradise by Toni Morrison and I still don’t understand what it’s about, but I’m determined to get through it and move on. I’m sticking to my reading list this year. That, and dirt digging. Nothing else is as important.

07/27/2016 – Summer Update

Work out in the backyard has gone extremely well so far this season. Two of three big projects have been completed, plus one side project that really needed to be done, like, last year (fountain clean out and fountain pump filter material replaced). While I’m still in the “fill the yard debris bin with excess dirt in a single day like a madwoman on six Redbulls, then wait thirteen days before the bin is empty again” mode, during those thirteen days of waiting, I can actually sit and enjoy the fruits of my labor this year. Wasn’t the case last year when it was all about work, work, dig, dig, work, work.

Of course, it was about a billion degrees out there last year, too. This year…. ahhhh, mostly 70 and 80 degree temps. Now this is a summer I can handle!

West Side flowerbed, before digging began - 2016 © Colehaus.com

West Side flowerbed, before digging began – 2016 © Colehaus.com

This year, I had three projects to complete. I thought the first one, the backyard west side flower bed, would be relatively easy to tackle, so that one was slated first. Tasks: Simply dig out all the excess dirt down to the same level as the next door neighbor. Throw down some bark mulch. Call it done.

Surprise! More tree stumps and roots - 2016 © Colehaus.com

Surprise! More tree stumps and roots – 2016 © Colehaus.com

Somehow, in all the excitement of planning this project, I completely forgot the bottom of the fence was rotted away, oh and there were tree stumps under all that excess dirt. Surprise! I decided to work around them and incorporate the stumps in with the eventual shrub and flower plantings (one of next year’s projects). “Not so fast,” the man here said, he, who though not able to do much because of his MS, seems to LOVE to dig out tree stumps like some dentists seem to love popping out half-rotted teeth (that’s another topic for a later post).

West side flowerbed done, for now - 2016 © Colehaus.com

West side flowerbed done, for now – 2016 © Colehaus.com

The project, originally estimated to last a month and a half, dragged from the last of March until June, but we did get every stump and root out. And all disposed of, too. Well, I’m sure to find one or two roots next year but I’ll deal with that then. The cedar boards along the bottom will eventually age to the color of the rest of the fence… at which time, our neighbor will probably decide it’s time to replace the whole thing.

Onto project 2: On the other side of the yard and toward the back property line, the man had been complaining for years that he had a hard time putting bird food up in the tall, six-foot feeder because the ground was lumpy and uneven. I complained that I always had to find a stable spot of ground that my step ladder wouldn’t sink into when putting food in the feeder, thusly disrupting the massive colonies of black ants that lived there.

The answer, clearly, was to remove all that excess dirt too (and ant colonies) and finally use up all those cobblestone blocks that had been the Hot Patio before the Hot Patio cement was poured last October. I had about seventy-five blocks, most the same boring, square gray variety with a mish-mash of other sizes and colors. It seemed like the right number of block and the right place to put them in a permanent kind of way.

So I did. From this to this, the finished project. The man, who helped by bringing me home two buckets of polymeric sand, seems to like it.

Another bed full of more excess dirt - 2016 © Colehaus.com

Another bed full of more excess dirt – 2016 © Colehaus.com

Dirt removed, block laid - 2016 © Colehaus.com

Dirt removed, block laid – 2016 © Colehaus.com

Currently, I’m in the middle of the final project of the summer – digging out an enclosed flowerbed that contain, other than mounds of dirt much taller than the surrounding cement walkways, a large weeping blue atlas cedar, a big Exbury flame orange azalea, and a six-foot tall blueberry bush.

Removing more dirt - 2016 © Colehaus.com

Removing more dirt – 2016 © Colehaus.com

The cedar and azalea are staying put. The blueberry I’ve cut down a bit and hope to transplant it down to the lower soil level sometime near the end of August. There’s also a striped clump grass and a daylily in there that are also staying, though I might dig those out just to divide them and plant them lower as well. If the blueberry doesn’t survive transplanting, next spring I’ll plant two dwarf evergreen blueberries in it’s place and call the bed done. I am not going to cram a ton of plants in there like I used to do with all the beds. I’ve become a fan of leaving some “white space” in the garden.

While I’m not digging out dirt and waiting for an empty yard debris bin to make an appearance, this year I’m reading. I’m tackling all those books I’d bought over the years and never read, most I never even opened the cover, and I’ve made good strides.

Books Read from December 2015 through July 2016:

The Martian – Andrew Weir (December 2015)
Wild – Cheryl Strayed (December 2015)
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn (December 2015)
The Orchardist – Amanda Coplin (December 2015/January 2016)
The Sparrow – Mary Doria Russell (January 2016)
American Gods – Neil Gaiman (January/February 2016)
Martian Chronicles – Ray Bradbury (February 2016)
The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern (February 2016)
The Devil in White City – Erik Larson (March 2016)
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle – David Wroblewski (March/April 2016)
Fuzzy Nation – John Scalzi (April 2016)
World War Z – Max Brooks (April 2016)
Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded – John Scalzi (May 2016)
11/22/63 – Stephen King (May 2016)
Everything She Ever Wanted – Ann Rule (May 2016)
Helen of Troy – Margaret George (June 2016)
The Help – Kathryn Stockett (June 2016)
Winter’s Bone – Daniel Woodrell (June 2016)
Empire Falls – Richard Russo (July 2016)

I’m a quarter the way through The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry, and though the Templars are interesting to me, I’m not having the best time reading this book. That said, my middle name is Fortitude and I will not put a book away before its been read. A good number of the books I’ve read so far this year have been horrible to get through; really, I don’t see how or why some people LOVE some of them, while others I’m already mentally filing under “To read again.”

I’ve got ten more on my 2016 list to go and yesterday, I started compiling my 2017 To Read list. Should have done all this years ago. Better late than never!

And finally, no, I’m not writing. Not fiction, anyway. Not this year, perhaps, though I do think of plots and plot changes of things I stopped working on, and sometimes, I even think about writing some of that down.

Still have not eaten out at a restaurant since December 22nd of last year and through what he has called my “draconian cruelty,” I’ve managed to peel a few thousand dollars off our credit card debt by meticulously budgeting every penny on a weekly basis. He might even thank me someday, but I’m not going to count on it.

Lastly, I turn 60 Friday. I feel mid-to-late 40s. Must be all that dirt digging keeping me feeling young. I sure don’t look it. Wondering: When next year’s three-year dirt digging project finally comes to a close, will I suddenly feel 61? Hmmm, surely there will be more dirt to dig somewhere…

04/08/2016 – Present. Busy. Different.

Year Two of my three year landscaping project, a.k.a. The Ongoing Massive Elimination of Dirt (OMED), is in full swing. Unlike last year’s removal and disposal of fifty-plus yards of dirt, a mere forty yards need digging out this spring and summer. The plus side here is less than half the dirt is clay unlike ninety percent of last year’s harvest. Most is loamy, fertile, “super-soil,” or so our arborist said when he was here last. Full of earthworms and softly decayed mulch aged some dozen or more years and all types of garden-y goodness.

And it’s going into our yard debris bin, to be picked up and dumped every other week, along with the last four tree stumps lovingly dug out by hand amid many HBO words. Good riddance.

So much excess dirt - 2016 © Colehaus.com

So much excess dirt – 2016 © Colehaus.com

Another bed full of more excess dirt - 2016 © Colehaus.com

Another bed full of more excess dirt – 2016 © Colehaus.com

Since last November, I’ve tucked nine books under by belt and by this time tomorrow, that number will be ten. Over the years, I’ve bought and been given so many books and read barely any of them. This is the year of change. Of the nine-almost-ten novels, I liked two, was left confused by four, and four made me give thought to gouging my eyes out to keep from having to read another word. And yet all received wonderful reviews by this, that, and the next big, well known publishing review groups. Clearly, to myself anyway, I am not capable of understanding the importance of what I’m reading. That, or I’m just not a literary or fiction snob.

Since November, I’ve taken my car out of the garage three times, decided to foster another cat from the shelter (a grumpy senior this time), stopped beating myself up over not writing, and have given up conventions for an extended period of time. Sure, maybe being meowed at last year’s OryCon (by a couple of con security, probable friends of my bully) had a little something to do with that last item but the end was probably coming anyway. The cost. Ugh.

noeatingout In December, I decided I didn’t like restaurant food anymore and so, I haven’t eaten out since December 22nd. Eating out, being waited on, not having to clean up dishes and food and the mess multiple times a week, sometimes multiple times per day, used to be my biggest joy, no, my addiction, really. For some reason, something clicked to the Off position in my head. Cold turkey isn’t bad. I love the money I’m saving. I’m mortified at the money I spent. I haven’t lost a single pound.

After a stint of me living out of a different room in our house for a period of time in January (during which a LOT of reading happened), the man became motivated enough to sign himself up once again for mental health therapy, his third attempt. His appointments began in March. Despite what he sometimes tries to make everyone believe, no, he’s not cured yet. He hasn’t quit yet either. Thank goodness for that.

For whatever reason and however it came about, in February I got into genealogy research. Growing up, my family was extremely tight-lipped about our heritage, to the point that I didn’t know anyone else existed beyond my grandparents. All questions about other family members were answered with a smack, more often a fist. The last time I asked I think I was ten. Saw stars after for a couple of hours.

But I remembered a couple of things my father’s parents let slip. Said, always in anger, they were of pure English blood until my mother, the Kraut woman, ruined the line. My mother’s mother said we were part Russian, possibly Yugoslavian, and sometimes muttered things under her breath that we didn’t understand. My mother smacked me hard once after she discovered I saw Fiddler on the Roof on a date and I always wondered if something there, something Russian, or Jewish, struck a nerve.

Turns out I should have been a decent fiction writer because I am the spawn of liars.

11/18/2015

I’m heading in a fresh direction after this coming weekend and will be wrapping up some projects I’ve dragged my feet over for a long time. Reading, blogging, photography, perhaps some classes, next year’s landscaping project list. Also, leaf raking! I’m very thankful leaf raking isn’t as big of a chore as it once was here, back when we had eight additional deciduous trees on our small property. But the neighborhood maples have finally reached their heights and so, raking will always be. It’s about keeping things tidy now, both inside and out. It’s possible we’re over-compensating for our across-the-street neighbor who now has nine vehicles and one boat parked on and around their property.

My NaNo novel is coming along. I have lots of notes, observances, and dialog chunks, and will pass the required fifty thousand word threshold tomorrow or Friday. Of course, I won’t stop there. I figure I’m good for another ten-to-twenty thousand at least.

My old Mac laptop battery died permanently and yes, I can get another for next to nothing. But I did just drain my entire savings by paying for cement work. I don’t need a battery anytime soon.

That cement work turned out… interesting. Much browner than I would have liked. Love the stamped slate look, complete with unexpected visiting animal paw prints in one barely noticeable corner. I might try my hand at cement painting next summer, just a little gray shading sponged here and there to help with tie-in. Very thankful he has a solid surface to walk on now to get to the side gate, instead of the exposed root and mud pit that area used to be.

Facebook just isn’t working for me right now so I’m giving it a break. Nothing wrong with Facebook itself. It isn’t a good fit for me at the moment. Ditto on that twitter account.

My bully is still telling her sad, shameful, sexual-oriented joke about me wherever she can keep getting the laughs. So old, so… 5th grade behavior. This weekend’s OryCon ought to work well for her. I worry more about her finding new material, who that means she’s set her sights on next. Or maybe it’ll be the same nasty, rehashed remarks about everyone she views as her inferiors. And don’t you know? We’re all her inferiors.

Not putting up a tree again this year for the holidays because, cats. There. Probably gave my bully some new joke material.