Monthly Archives: March 2015

March Gardening

Probably the biggest thing that’s been happening this month in the garden and the yard is weeding. Boring. The weeds have been growing like crazy, but since I have a pretty thick layer of mulch nearly everywhere that isn’t grass, most of the weeds have really shallow roots. So I’ve been able to pull a few square feet almost every day whenever I have a few spare minutes. I think this is the first year where I’ve managed to deal with most of the weeds before they went to seed. Maybe that means there will be fewer weeds next year? Haha I can dream.

I haven’t done anything other than weed control in the front yard, since we have hopes of tearing up and re-landscaping this year sometime. But even with my neglect, the alyssum and lavender went ahead and did their thing:

Alyssum and lavender

I’m trying out leaving weeds where I pulled them if they haven’t gone to seed, as a little free mulch. You can see them strewn about in the photo above. We’ll see how that goes.

Also in the front yard, my neighbor has awesome poppies growing like crazy in the patch of earth between the sidewalk and the curb. And a few volunteers have taken hold in my patch! I don’t quite have the energy to pull up the grass completely, but I’m keeping it short and trying to give the poppies an advantage. My section is in the foreground, my neighbor’s is in the background:

poppies

The rest of the front yard is… green for now.

Green

But over half of it is just weeds, since we didn’t water at all last summer and a lot of the grass died. The weeds are still mow-able, but at the moment they’re growing faster than grass, so I have to mow a lot to keep things under control. Once things heat up this summer it should all turn brown and dead again. We haven’t replaced it yet because we’re hoping to hire some folks to do a big renovation on the house soon that probably involves construction equipment. And that equipment will presumably need to drive over the front yard. So for now I’m just trying to keep the house visible behind the weeds. 🙂

Moving on to the back yard, please notice the lack of weeds:

garden sans weeds

For comparison, in past years this has looked a bit like a field of mature wheat by the time I get around to hacking it all down. Progress! The fabric over the bigger garden box is there because I just transplanted my broccoli seedlings, and I read a suggestion to use a floating row cover for a few days after transplanting, so we’ll see how this goes. The smaller garden box has almost everything transplanted now, though they’re all still pretty small:

garden box

I haven’t actually used mulch in the boxes before, but it seems like an obvious way to conserve a little water. We’ll see how this straw works out.

Oh! And I bought some dwarf fruit trees! I’m going to grow them in containers. Or possibly they’ll all die. Hopefully if they do they’ll die within a year so I can return them and try again. 🙂 I got one each of orange, lemon, lime, and avocado:

Fruit trees

And I bought those big plastic containers, got home, and read that you shouldn’t put small citrus trees in big containers. Sigh. So for now I’m keeping them in their original black containers that they came in. I did pot up the avocado (the one on the top left by itself in the picture) because it’s a bit bigger and was looking kinda sad after a week in its original container. I’ve been checking the soil regularly with a cheap moisture meter to hopefully not overwater these guys. I’m probably damaging the roots because I’m checking the moisture level so often, but I’m hoping it’s worth it to get a feel for this sort of thing as a newbie, even if I kill a few plants off. 🙂

one last picture, I made an outdoor mini greenhouse/cold frame thing:

cold frame

My seedlings are all doing pretty well in there, so now I’m back to just starting seeds in the garage, then moving them out here. I’ll do a separate post on how I put this together.

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Picture Book Shelves

Dakota’s books have been haphazardly piled on the TV console in the living room. It was nice to have them out in the middle of everything, but they were pretty messy, and since Dakota could only see the spines, they didn’t really grab her attention.

So Dave built some shelves. It was so quick and easy that I didn’t even take any progress pictures. Here’s the finished product:

Display Shelves

We used these plans, and it was basically the simplest construction project ever. I measured the space and figured I wanted three ~32″ wide shelves. So we made them 31 7/8 inches so we cut them out of 8-foot boards. I’m pretty sure it took longer to paint them than it took to cut and assemble the pieces! It’s so nice when an “easy” project actually is as quick and easy as it’s supposed to be.

I wanted to hang them pretty low so Dakota could access them easily:

Kid shelves

The top shelf is still a little high for her, but we were able to screw straight through the backs into the wall studs, so at worst she’ll probably just crack them if she tries to hang off them. And since these are actually in our bedroom instead of the living room, she likes to bring her stool over from the bathroom so she can use it to reach the top shelf.

I was a little indecisive about moving the books out of the living room since we do a lot of reading in there. But there’s not a really a good place to display the books so prominently there, and we’re in and out of the bedroom enough that Dakota notices the books and will often pull a few off the shelf and carry them out. Here they are with a little more of the room visible:

Low display shelves

I like how they’re close to the door. The bookshelf unit thing to the left of them is our current cloth diaper storage/access setup, since we do diaper changes right on the bed. The three big picture canvasses above the shelves make it look less weird that the shelves are so low. Looking at this photo reminds me that someday I really want to make cool bedside tables with built in wall lamps, but in the mean time what we have works. 🙂

Breathing New Life into an Old Swing Set

I started contemplating fixing up the dilapidated swing set over a year ago, and now I can finally (finally!) declare success! As a refresher, here’s the swing set the way it’s looked since we inherited it with the house:

Swing Set

And here’s how it looks now:

Finished Swing Set

Really just a fresh coat of spray paint in one of my favorite colors took the frame from ugly to awesome:

spray paint before and after

And I ordered the swings/chains, “rings”, and rope online. It was a bit of a gamble to get them all the same shade of yellow since I got them from different sources, but I think I got it pretty close! The painting and ordering actually happened months ago, and Dakota was loving it even before we got all the elements set up.

In progress

The reason why it took so long for me to declare victory was the slide.

Slide detail

I spray painted the plastic part of the slide a while back, and though the bright yellow started to chip off a little, (shoulda used primer!) it still looks pretty good. What took me forever was that I wanted to build the ladder out of steel pipe. After a few false starts I ordered the T connectors and custom length pieces of pipe (for the rungs, since I wanted to use the existing holes in the plastic slide) online. The shipping was a bit high, and I’m sure I could have found someone local to cut pipe for me if I had tried. But it’s hard to beat the ease of ordering exactly what you need from your computer, while wearing your PJs. 🙂

Once I had everything, it was pretty easy to connect all the pieces of pipe and slide them into the existing holes. And then I spray painted them to match and declared victory! The slide is pretty solid and doesn’t need support from the rest of the structure at all.

Swing Set Done

Sadly Dakota will probably be outgrowing this thing pretty soon. Since we aren’t cementing it into the ground or anything she can’t swing very high before the whole thing starts rocking. On the plus side we can always reuse all of the elements on a larger (wooden?) frame if we want to keep the DIY fun going.

Dakota: Toddler California Winter Highlights

Time for a Dakota photo dump! I started this post over a week ago, so just pretend it’s the end of February still, okay?

One month until she’s a two year old, and we’ve been having lots of fun! We hit up the Exploratorium for the first time, which the grownups probably appreciated way more than Dakota, but there was still plenty for her to see. Here she is with a fog generating table thing. Not quite sure what we were learning about, but it was cool:

Exploratorium

She may have loved the BART trip (traaiinnnn!!!!) even more than the actual Exploratorium, but she still managed to fall asleep for the entire ride home:

BART trip
In more every-day news, here’s Dakota’s preferred coloring activity, decorating the sides of her “rocket ship” with chalk:

Chalk drawing

And we had a nice rain shower. So at least we’re reasonably sure that Dakota knows what rain is now.

Rain!

Dakota is starting to figure out how to actually play with other kids now, super exciting. It makes photo dumps on a public blog a little tougher, because I’m okay putting up photos of my own kid, but don’t want to post tons of photos of other people’s kids. 🙂 Anyway, here’s Dakota at an aweeeesssooommmmmee sea-themed playground in Sunnyvale:

Playground

Have I mentioned Dakota’s obsessed with ocean-related things? Thanks a lot, Octonauts. 🙂

And since this is a February recap, here she is eating some chocolate covered strawberries for Valentine’s Day.

strawberries

In slightly more frustrating developments, Dakota is very NOT into sitting in the stroller or the carrier, making a daily walk for the dogs much more difficult. Sorry Loki and Alaska. 😦 Sometimes I can convince her to sit so we can go fast enough to give the dogs some exercise, but normally only if I let her play with the iPhone. That kinda feels like it’s defeating the purpose of being outside, but you gotta do what you gotta do. It’s somewhat easier if two adults are present, and even easier to keep he moving if we can convince her to “walk her dog”:

Dog Walking

One last photo, Dakota continues to “help” with the gardening. Here she is trying on my gloves:

big gloves