The Letter G

July 17, 2013

Well here we are again, time to participate in Basically Benita’s Alphabet Photo Challenge with the letter G.  As with my F post, I’ve done something a bit different with my G’s, focusing more on the “challenge” part and less on the letter G.

Did I cheat?

I don’t think so, but you judge for yourself.

You’re all familiar with a “bird’s-eye view” of things right?  Well, what about a “Ground’s eye view”?  Yep, that’s what I did for the letter G, I laid on the ground for all of these images so that I could achieve that view!  Though I didn’t have an assistant handy for all my pictures, I did have one available for the first one so I had her take a picture of me taking a picture so there’s no doubt I was sprawled out on the ground  :-)

First  up…a Ground’s Eye View of one of the creels at work full of cones of cotton…


…and me taking the picture!

me taking pic

A Ground’s Eye View of kitty Skittles hanging out on the counter…


A Ground’s Eye View of kitty Scarpetto checking out the backyard gardens…


A Ground’s Eye View of some railroad tracks near my house…

train trax looking south

A Ground’s Eye View of the dry creek bed I put in my front yard (that’s my neighbor’s house in the background)…

looking up dry creek bed

And lastly, a Ground’s Eye View of part of the 8′ x 10′ locker hooking rug I made for underneath my dining room table…


So folks, you be the judges…did I cheat a bit with this post or did I just have fun with the “challenge” part of it?

On to the H’s  :-D

Drought Tolerant Landscaping One Year Later

March 4, 2012

On March 28th of last year, this is what my front yard looked like after I spent months converting my water-hog front yard to a drought tolerant one…


I don’t have exact matches for these pictures, but even so, you’ll be able to tell how happy the plants are.

I get giddy when I let myself imagine how the yard will look at this time next year!!!

The Writing Blahs

March 1, 2012

What forces came together to keep me from writing?  Did the sky fall in?  Did the ground open up and swallow me whole?  Did I forget how to write?  Unfortunately the answer is no.

Did I lose interest in writing?  Not really, my fingers just lost the desire to dance across the keyboard!


That ugly 6-letter word that is notorious for zapping energy and happiness from all who are greeted by this unwanted visitor – STRESS.

As you all know from my posts, beginning in November 2010 I spent months converting my front yard from a water-hog landscape to a drought tolerant one (see Front Yard Conversion Category on the right).  By the time it was done I was exhausted and wondering if I had done the right thing.  Little did I know then that my mind would soon become more stressed out about the front yard then my body was at the end of each day of laboring in the yard!

Though the 100+ plants were drought tolerant, they would still need some water during the hot months, especially given that they were experiencing their first year in the ground.  But…how much water and how often?  I’m from New England – if plants wither you water them…but I’ve killed many a drought tolerant plant out here in So. Cal. by doing this.   It wasn’t until late October, when the cooler temperatures and shorter days rolled in, that I exhaled about the yard – 90% of the plants had survived (some barely) but now the yard was on its own until April or May.  I learned a lot but still have a few puzzles to figure out.  I’m incredibly more confident about the front yard and even have a plan in place for better maintaining it this summer so hopefully I won’t be stressed out this year.  I’ll take pix this weekend and upload so you can all see where the yard is now (tease – it’s incredibly colorful!).

The other main source of stress has been work.  I have always tried to keep work under control – it’s what I do, not who I am – but that was incredibly difficult this past year.

The year started out with a bang – 1 trade show in October 2010 followed by 2 in January 2011.  Just as the follow-up work to the shows ended, the worldwide fiber shortage kicked in big-time.  This shortage was all the buzz at the shows — wool would be scarce and would quadruple in price, ditto for cotton and acrylic.  I’m not sure if the shortage was real in all three areas or if one started and the others greedily jumped on the band-wagon, but it was ugly.  The company I work for is a manufacturer that relies very heavily on cotton and acrylic.  My boss devoted most of the year to tracking down fibers and haggling over prices.  When the fibers could be found, deliveries were often months later than promised, so I spent much of my time working with the warehouse manager to figure out how to ship products when we didn’t have enough supplies.

My assistant, who also handles much of the customer service, was hammered by customers due to how late we were shipping – they were screaming mad and she heard it all.  It amazes me that she’s still working for us…there’s definitely been a negative attitude shift, but I can’t say as I blame her.  As bad as it was for me to have to stretch my creativity and keep reworking products, at least I wasn’t getting the brunt of the customers’ frustrations (though I did read every single e-mail).  I did talk with many of our business customers, but they were aware of the fiber issue and dealing with it from many of their other suppliers, so they were much more understanding.

By the time the fiber issue was finally well under control and bordering on a memory, it was late November and time to start gearing up for the major trade show again.  Thankfully we only did one show this past trade show season!

As usual, the boss decided in mid-December to add two new products to the end-of-January show, and we had no latch hookers available to tackle 2 large rugs and have them back by early January.  What had been an 11-day hang out holiday vacation for me turned into a latch hooking marathon.  I stopped counting at the 55 hour mark but estimate the total was somewhere around 75-80 hours.  Yep, I spent that much time of my vacation hooking one rug…and then spent nights/weekends the 1st 2 weeks of January doing the second one.

Just when I thought things were under control, a whole new project was thought up.  I had a weekend to design, hook, assemble and photograph this one.  Fortunately it was much smaller than the other rugs — it’s a latch hook soccer ball.  In case you didn’t know, a soccer ball has 12 black pentagons and 20 white hexagons…each one was hooked separately then whip stitched together.

I nearly cried in relief the day the show started because I no longer had to spend every minute of my day multi-tasking and priority juggling in an attempt to get everything done.  If something wasn’t done then too bad…

If you’re still reading, and my whining hasn’t made you close my post vowing never to return, there is good news too.  These past few months haven’t been all bad, there were bright spots mixed in.  I’ll share those with you in my next post – and there will be pictures too!

Wordsmith Help

June 27, 2011

Calling all relatives, friends, writers, editors, publishers, gardeners and Good Morning America Weekend Addition viewers!!!

I need your help!!!


If you watch Good Morning America on Saturday mornings you know they have a segment towards the end of the second 1/2 hour called “Your Week In Three Words”.  I toyed with the idea of submitting a video of my front yard landscaping and after posting that thought on Facebook and getting lots of thumbs up, I’ve decided to do it!!!!

Here’s where I need YOUR help!!!

I only have 3 words…what should they be?

Here’s the background info…

I live in Southern California in an area called the Inland Empire.  I am an  hour east of L.A. and an hour west of Palm Springs.  My climate most resembles the desert.  Summer temps are 100+ and nearly void of humidity.  The landscaping I have done in my front yard is completely drought tolerant…xeriscape.  If you click on the “Front Yard Conversion” tab on the right you can see the progress of my yard project (posts are most recent backwards to the beginning).

Most of the plants were put in the ground between December 2010 and late early February 2011.  I have not given any of them any water since they were planted.  None.  Not a drop.  My sprinkler system has not run since early October 2010 when I first received approval from my HOA for this conversion project.

So, now that you have the background info…what 3 words should I use for my video???

“Needs No Water” is wrong because the plants need water…but only that which Mom Nature supplies.

“Needs Minimal Water” is deceiving because it doesn’t explain that the majority of the water source is natural.

“Nature’s Water Only” is close…very close…

“Drought Tolerant Landscaping” is wonderful except that many folks in non-drought areas will not “get it”.

HELP!!!!!!!  :-(

If you were me and you had this awesome front yard you could video and submit, what 3 words would YOU use (and they absolutely do NOT have to be any combination that I came up with)?????

How I Spent Mother’s Day

May 9, 2011

As wonderful as Mother’s Day is in theory, there is a group of people for whom it can sometimes be a painful reminder of a loving person no longer in one’s life.  

I belong to that group.

Within that group there is a subset of individuals who do not have children, and who therefore do not spend time honoring their significant other or being the center of attention.

I belong to that group too.


My Mom passed away on November 14, 2003.  Some years Mother’s Day really bothers me and other years it doesn’t.  This year started out to be overwhelming but by the middle of last week things were looking up.  I tuned out as many electronics as possible in order to avoid being slammed with sale ads, AKA painful reminders, and that seemed to swing the pendulum in the positive direction.

Sunday morning I was up before the sun, puttered until it was time for my weekly sister chat, then headed out to Lowe’s to pick up some plants for the front yard.  Once back home I fortified myself with a couple fresh glazed donuts then headed outdoors to putter in the front yard.  I love gardening, as did my Mom, so what better way to spend my day then thinking of her while doing what we both love?

The forecast was for clouds and maybe some drizzle so the wardrobe was a t-shirt and jeans, no shorts.  Unfortunately, the sun came out for a couple of hours.  Though I believe Mom sent it to brighten my day, she seems to have forgotten some of her Mom-responsibilities as she  forgot to remind me to go inside and slather my arms with sunscreen.

No, I’m not trying for the Michael Jackson white glove look, I wear gardening gloves (sometimes) when I garden.

I spent nearly 5 glorious hours puttering the front yard.  I added some plants, unburied all the sprinkler heads and removed all the flag markers, re-staked 2 trees, finished the dead-heading I started on Saturday then took more than two dozen pictures of the now really completed front yard.

And now my fingers will shut up and instead let you enjoy some pictures of my front yard.  While you are doing that, I’m off to massage some sore muscles from all those hours of bending and stretching.

Water Bill Savings

May 3, 2011

Saturday’s mail, which I didn’t retrieve until Monday, brought the first warmer weather water bill.  The bill for April usually jumps from the previous 5 months as the sprinkler system is used regularly for the first time since late fall.

I’ve been on the prowl for this bill, nearly busting with curiosity about the savings I would (hopefully) find inside thanks to my new landscaping.  My previous months’ bills were their usual low amount, and if I was right, this bill would be too.

I love it when the mail brings good, no GREAT, news!

This is the budget graph the water department has given me.

Look at how much water I used in the left April column (2010) vs the right April column (2011)!   Now to clarify, I can use more water than my allotment, but the extra water will cost me more per billing unit than the budgeted amount of water.  The water department sets the budget by using a formula for calculating the amount of indoor/outdoor water usage each household should need based upon # of residents/property square footage.

Here’s my water usage breakdown…

One thing to note is that my April 2010 bill covered 49 days where as my April 2011 bill only covers 34 days.  However, even if I add 50% of my April 2011 water usage to the bill I’m still way behind last year’s usage. :-)

These results are exactly what I expected when I converted my front yard to drought tolerant landscaping.  So far so good…!

The wait is on for the June through October bills to see how much water (and dollars) I conserve!! ;-)

Enjoying The Fruits of My Labor

April 18, 2011

Saturday morning I went out front to weed and deadhead.  The main yard was done in 20 minutes and it looked awesome!  After 2 hours the small yard on the far side of the driveway wasn’t quite done…but I was!  At 11:30AM it was a bit toasty in the sun…

An abundance of gazania plants that surround my sidewalk on that side take a bit of time to deadhead as there are so many once-beautiful flowers that need to be nipped.  And there is one African Daisy plant that had hundreds of dead flowers that were calling out to be removed.  They need to be snipped individually as new buds grow in the nooks and crannies of the old ones.  Of course, had I dead-headed last weekend this project wouldn’t have been so large this weekend  ;-)  The gazania dead-heading is complete and more than 1/2 of the daisy plant is done as well, the balance to be finished tonight.

I was in my glory checking out all the plants and yes, talking to them…a little.

Can you believe that all of the plants in the above pictures were so small just a few short months ago that they barely showed up in the photos?

Now…for the discovery that made me look foolish I was smiling so broadly…and squealing with delight!

That is Carlton Jr and that red dot?  That’s a new pad!  YES…Carlton Jr is as happy in the front yard as Carlton Sr is in the back!!

Sunday morning I went out for a walk then did some indoor work before kicking back to watch the NASCAR race.  Once it was over I took my netbook, CD player and glass of water outdoors to the bistro table and chairs in my covered front entry so I could work on my novella.

I was a little distracted by the view…

…and all the natives who were busy playing in my yard — butterflies, sparrows, hummingbirds and lizards!  I won’t complain at all as the fact that they chose to hang out for a bit instead of wizz on was their way of thanking me for filling my yard with the plants they adore.

That view plus all that entertainment plus nearly 800 word progress on my novella plus awesome softly playing piano music (Lyric Americana by Jeff Thatcher) plus incredible weather = one VERY happy Judy who sees lots of similar days in her future!!!


None will be on the front yard deck.  For a multitude of reasons, installation of the deck is on hold until the fall.  I’m pretty sure that I’ll redesign the deck area by then, making it even better than the original plan.  And as a bonus, I’ll be able to furnish it once its been installed.  If I put it in now it would be nekked until all the outdoor furniture sales at the end of the season  ;-)

Tonight after I finish dead-heading the daisy plant I’ll uncover the rest of the sprinkler heads, turn each zone on one at a time to make sure the heads pop up, then I’ll remove all the blue and white flags.

My front yard will then officially be in maintenance mode…

and entertainment mode…

and enjoyment mode…!

Enough With The Front Yard

April 4, 2011

I’ve been going on and on (and on and on) about the front yard for months, to the near exclusion of the back yard.  Now that the front yard is in maintenance mode and just waiting for the quotes and contractor selection for the deck, it’s time for me to return my focus to the back yard.

Last year I started overhauling the backyard – adding more plants, moving block pathways and creating new block pathways.  I was full of energy until the true heat of summer arrived.  Since no one sees the backyard unless I invite them in, I kind of sort of ignored that area of my property…until now.

After some weeding and decorating, I think the side entrance to my backyard is inviting…

Once in my backyard, some of the plants are doing awesome!  Here’s the clevelandii sage from a distance:

and here’s a close-up of some flowers.  I really, really, really wish computers had a smell feature as this plant smells awesome!

The butterfly bush has grown incredibly since last year and should be filled with flowers this summer…and of course, butterflies too!

My broom bush has grown a lot too and the bright yellow flowers are starting to brighten my backyard.

Unfortunately, the Genista caterpillars think this bush is awesome too so I had to use a spray in hopes to cleanse the bush of the critters before they strip it bare.  Here’s one of the unwanted visitors…

I checked on the status of Carlton, and his twin new pads are both still present and growing, but I still believe one of the two will not survive…

No worries if one doesn’t make it, a close examination found 8 more new pads sprouting in addition to these twins.  I think Carlton is quite pleased with his new address!  ;-)

My Eve’s Needle is going a bit crazy this year…but it should be very interesting to watch as this guy gets bigger.  I bought it because I thought it was neat, but I didn’t have any idea what it would look like when it matures.

The Bunny Ears (or Crazy Bunny Ears) plant also has several new pads growing.  The plant is still on the small side but its shape is definitely interesting…I love to stand over it and just look at how the pads all twist around each other.

Now, on to my workspace.  This area is the unfinished area that I hope to finish in the next month or two.

I’ve removed all the plants and morning glory vines that used to fill the raised bed and cover part of the block wall as well as the cedar fence.  I’m going to fill the raised bed with plants similar to many of the ones I have in the front yard.  I’m going to draw up my plans and order the plants this week.  I also have to finish the path in front of the wall using the brick, blocks and bags of sand you  an see in the foreground (and several blocks that are in my garage).  I will need to purchase more blocks and bricks, but I’ll figure out how many as the path progresses.

Once all the work is complete, a final touch, this treasure purchased at Joann’s, will be added near where the block wall and cedar fence meet.

Isn’t she just the cutest bee you’ve ever seen???  She’s about 2-1/2 feet tall and she’ll make me smile every time I look out the dining room window and see her.

How long all of this will take is out of my control.  Not for any weather or ambition issue, but because of the residents who are living overhead.

No one bothered me this past weekend so I don’t know if the eggs have been laid yet, but I’m sure if/when any baby birds are in this mud and grass house, the parents will NOT be happy with me puttering around in close proximity.

As soon as this area is complete I can hook my hammock up to the steel frame on the block patio and enjoy some serious nap time.  Or maybe I’ll nap on the front yard deck.

Oh, the decisions…if only all were that difficult!  ;-)

To Drip or Not To Drip

March 30, 2011

That is the debate raging in my head right now…

As you may or may not know, I’ve spent months converting my front yard to drought tolerant landscaping, and everything is done except for the sprinkler system conversion to a drip system and the installation of a deck.  Fortunately I know my own limits, sometimes, and am hiring someone to install the deck.  ;-)

Now it’s time to do the sprinkler system conversion, but as I started doing all my sketching and planning for the conversion, an interesting thought was in my head when I woke up this morning.

Why am I converting the system?

I have drought tolerant plants in the backyard, and once a month from June through October, I fill the water wells around the plants with water.  For non-gardeners, a water well is made when the plants are put in the ground by surrounding the plant with a wall of dirt.  The wall is the same diameter as the hole dug for the plant itself and is about 2″-3″ high.  I fill this area with water and let it slowly drain down into the soil.  For my larger plants, I may fill the well 1-1/2 times in the hottest months.  This watering isn’t time-consuming – it takes about 15 minutes to do the entire backyard.

Given that I made wells for all the plants in the front yard too, won’t the backyard hand watering work out front too?  It might take me 3/4 of an hour to water all the plants in the front, and I’ll have to do that 6 or 7 times throughout the non-rainy season, but that compares to an hour or so to cap each sprinkler head.  I need to cap about 30 of the 37 heads (the balance would be converted to drip heads…a 10 minute process.  After adding the sprinkler heads I need to add all the hosing, trail each lead to a plant and stake it in place.

Some of the smaller plants I will have to hand water even if I put in the drip system because they will be over-watered if I include them in the drip.  So, if I do the drip conversion, there will still be hand watering involved in the front yard maintenance.

There are 4 sprinkler heads that will need to be capped as they are located where the deck is going.  I’ll definitely cap them just in case I, or a future homeowner, decide to turn on the sprinkler system.

As for the balance of the sprinkler heads — 35-40 hours of work over the next couple weeks to convert or the same number of hours divided by time to hand water the plants = 6 of 7 years of watering.  Which is the best use of my time and most efficient for the yard?  Why not just leave the sprinkler heads as they are?  They’re hidden by the mulch so they’re not a visible part of the landscape…

Besides, it’s not like if I don’t convert to drip now I can’t ever convert – I can do that at any time!

The debate rages…

Silly Things To Make Me Smile

March 28, 2011

Sometimes you just need to “blow” some bucks on useless stuff whose only job is to make you smile.  The key is to NOT feel guilty for doing it!

This past weekend was one of those times and I truly did really good as everything was purchased at Joanns.  Not only were all the items on sale but I also had a 25% off coupon – that would be 25% off the TOTAL purchase, sale items included!  To make the coupon even more wonderful, it was REUSABLE – good 3/25 thru 3/27!!!

An awesome coupon + a need to smile = purchases to enhance my front yard conversion.

Wanna see??  I thought you might so here are some pix!

Growing up my Mom had flamingos on stakes in the gardens so when I saw this guy he absolutely needed to come home with me…

Another tribute to Mom is her love of roosters….

Who doesn’t love the magic of a gnome…

or two…

What about an awesome street…er…lane sign?

Here’s hoping these are the only snails I find in my gardens this year…

Bzzzz…did anyone say “bee”?

Do you think this sign in front of the butterfly bush is welcoming enough?

I also splurged on three pots.  One large and one small pot that both look like rocks.  The larger one has ice plants in it…

but the small one, about 1/3 the size of the larger, is patiently waiting for a cactus…

The third pot looks like a section of a tree.  I’m not sure what will end up living inside this treasure, but it will be awesome for sure!

I could go on and on with more fun additions, but I also need to show you the rearranging I did.

After looking at the yard for several weeks I decided that having the bench on a hill near where the deck will be going was…well…pointless and awkward.  Sooo…I moved the bird bath to the hill spot

and I put the bench next to the Fern of the Desert plant which will soon look like the tree its supposed to be.

That wooden bench is a place marker only.  I have yet to find the bench that I love, and until I do, this old rickety wooden guy will stay where he is.

And BIG news – I’ve saved the best for last!!  Carlton Jr is now in the ground!

That’s him – that 1/2 circle in the middle of the darkest mulch.  If he’s even half as happy as his parent, this cacti will quickly become THE focal point of the cactus garden!!!

Lest you think he’s the only addition to this area, I also planted what I call “Crazy Hair”…

I planted one of these out back last year and have fallen in LOVE with it!  The plant is so outrageous and interesting and just plain WOW, that I had to put one in the front too.  Please don’t ask me what it really is ‘cuz I don’t have a clue.

So folks, except for capping sprinkler heads and hiring a company to install my deck, the front yard is pretty much in maintenance mode now.  I am beyond ecstatic with how it looks, especially when I peer out the window in my office/studio/2nd guest room and see this…

This time next year, when all the plants (and any additions) are larger and covering all the mulch, the view should be spectacular to say the least!

Lest my backyard feel left out, I did purchase 2 treasures for it, but you’ll have to wait for my next post to see them.  ;-)

Sometimes I amaze myself… :-)

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