Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Backyard Transformations

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I was having some work done in my back yard, but never got around to posting about it (along with a bunch of other things I never got around to posting about, but will likely get to soon).  I don't really have much in the way of before and after pictures, and right now the after pictures wouldn't look too much different from the before as most of the changes so far are under the ground.

The problem that needed resolving was this:

Water near front door

Every time it rained, an area 10 feet by 25 feet quickly became flooded - and unfortunately, that area was all around the back door.  In fact,  for several weeks this winter, there was 3-4 inches of water between the back door and the gate.  I did a temporary fix by building a 'bridge'

Bridge over the River Crofton

but of course that didn't resolve the problem of all the mud in the yard, mud which was generously tracked into the house by a minimum of 12 muddy paws several times a day.

And so a couple of weeks ago, I called in the big guns.  Together we worked out a plan that was within (more or less) the budget that I had set aside for landscaping, would resolve the problem (as well as it could be resolved when you live near the beach at sea level, on an island where all the homes to the west have properties higher than yours, and where the soil is clay).

We began by removing a section of back fence to give access via the back lane, and in came the machinery to dig dig dig, scraping and re-grading the soil and preparing for the drainage pits and pipes.

The municipality wouldn't allow us to channel water off the property (unless we connected to a storm sewer which runs down the middle of the street at the front of the house, and for which I'd have to pay many more thousands of dollars to have the road dug up and about fifty feet of pipe laid just to connect to whatever underground pipes were being done in the back,), so we dug a pit 4'x6'x6' and filled it with 2.5 tonnes of rock.

Got any bodies you want buried?

We dug trenches diagonally from the west side of the yard to the pit, and from the downspout of the back porch to the pit, sunk drainage piping surrounded by landscape fabric to prevent clogging, put in an access port to clean it out if it should clog, and surrounded the drainage pipes with more rock.

Drain from back porch to pit

Drainage channel diagonally across yard

Meanwhile, we had a 10' x 25' exposed aggregate patio built along the back of the house.  We discussed removing the back porch altogether, as the landscaper really thought it stuck out like a sore thumb, but between costs and utility (the porch is easy to contain dogs on, a good place to put stuff down when fumbling with the back door, etc.) I vetoed that idea and had them build around it.  Some day I will have a nicer back porch built, or at least replace the ugly cover with something more esthetically pleasing.

Down comes the aggregate

Finished exposed aggregate patio

Lastly, we added sand and topsoil.  We used sod over a small area, so the dogs would have somewhere to pee, and seed over the rest, fenced off with snow fencing while it gets established.  One area was left unseeded (covered with tarp) for a perennial garden.

From back porch.  Tarped area will be planted with shrubs and perennial flowers.

So, with the exception of the new patio, it doesn't look too much different from the mud and bare land I had before - except that it is ready to be 'softscaped' now.  However, as the budget has been used up on the heavy work, I'll be doing the rest myself - at least, for this year.

Here's my plan for the yard.  It's still subject to change, as I haven't quite decided where to relocate the umbrella clothesline (which I carefully had them work around and then decided to move!) - I use it all the time, so it has to find a home.  I'm also unsure of the placement of the 4x4 cedar compost box I want to use for garden materials like lawn clippings that are too long and wet to leave on the ground but fill up my other composter too quickly. I'm pretty I'll use the back corner, camouflaged by shrubs, as any other place creates an obstacle or an barrier to something else.

Plan for back yard - for those with good eyesight!
(You can click on the picture to make it full sized, and to view
a slideshow of all the photos in this entry)

I have already built a level contained area for the various garbage and recycling bins and for my mostly-kitchen compost bin, and I have the wood for the cedar garden compost and for the new raised veggie beds.  I've ordered two custom-made 5x2x2 planter boxes for the end of the patio, which I'll fill with tall evergreen shrubs to provide a privacy screen from the nearby neighbour's deck. I've got seeds and some plants and lots of compost and peat. I've spray painted a metal flying pig and hung it on my wall behind the red chairs.

But most of all, I have sat on my new patio at sunrise with cup of coffee in hand,

Sunrise, first morning on the new patio

and watched four baby birds take their very first flight:

Mom, is today the day we get to fly?

Please, please, please can we fly today?

One last snack before you go!


Are you getting this, camera lady?


(Aw, camera lady, you almost missed it!)

Cost of drainage project:  $5,600.  Cost of  a morning sunrise spent with baby birds:  priceless.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Allie and I have been robbed!

Allie's reality show "The Secret Lives of Hungry Birds" is no longer available - some jerk stole our wrought iron bird feeder, including the shepherd's crook it hung on and the clear plastic dome that kept the seed dry, and even the dang seed.  I found the seed dumped on the sidewalk and on the step of an apartment building two blocks away.

Cancelled:  The Secret Lives of Hungry Birds

I filled the feeder last night, and I'm pretty sure it was still there this morning when I watered the plants nearby.  So it was either stolen when I took my friend Else out for her belated birthday breakfast, or while I was working on landscaping in the back yard - that is, in broad daylight.  I did hear Sadie barking like crazy while I was out the back, but didn't really think twice about it as she often barks at people on the street.

What is scary is the feeder is only 18" from the window (which is a good distance from the road!), and was well spiked into the very hard ground.  And who in their right mind walks off (or drives off, as I suspect, since there was no spilled seed between my place and where the seed was dumped) with a five foot tall shepherd's crook with a filled bird feeder swaying from it? If they were stealing it for the metal, as often happens nowadays, you'd think they would have dumped the seed and the plastic dome right there instead of juggling it all to their car or home.

Crofton has always felt like such a safe little town to me.  It has a very, very low crime rate - virtually nil - and is the kind of place where a lot of people don't lock their doors, and where you can safely walk the streets at any time of the day or night.

It doesn't feel quite so safe to me any more.

And Allie is very pissed off.

I will GET YOU, you jerk!  

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Trouble in Bloggerland

My McAfee Secure  system tells me that most of the blogging sites I visit (Haiku Farms, It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the time, Bully Buddies, A Collection of Madcap Escapades, Just Another Dog Blog, The Foster Report, Little Dogs on Long Leashes, Mountain Music, Bikesbirdsbeasts, to name just a few, have become infected with a dangerous virus.  Turtle Gardens and 7MSN don't seem to be affected.

Of course, it is possible that people trying to visit this site are also getting the "Whoa! Do you really want to go there" message, so won't read this, but I thought I'd try to let my cyberfriends know in case they want to run a scan on their computer.

If you are getting that message when you visit this site (but decided to risk everything and come here anyway), please let me know.  I've run a scan on my site and can't detect anything, but what the heck do I know about the evil world of technology?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Still here

Still here, still tired, still taking a sabbatical from just about everything (including blogging it seems).  I have been working in the yard a bit, reading a bit, watching garbage on tv a bit, sleeping a bit (though not as much as I'd like), writing a bit, and playing with the new-to-me camera a bit.  I took this shot on my patio at night, trying out some new settings and lenses.  I'm pretty happy with it, but can't for the life of me remember the name of the plant.  Two hours thumbing through gardening books and surfing the net hasn't left me any the wiser.  Can someone enlighten me? It is a perennial, grows about three feet tall on long stems with paired leaves along the length and rows of these flowers hanging along the underside of each stem.

Flowers at night

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Dogs, Frogs, and Blogs

Sadie B, Eddie, Gail and I went up the southern end of Maple Mountain on Thursday, starting at the east side  of Escarpment Way.  My local dog friends refer to this as "The Pond Walk" as all the swimming dogs head straight for a small but fairly deep pond not far along the trail.  This was Sadie B's first time on this walk, and she found the pond in no time:


Eddie doesn't have much use for water, so moseyed about while Sadie B swam.  And Eddie doesn't do fetch, so ignored the sticks that Sadie B kept bringing back for 'just one more throw, pleeeeease":

Sadie B's favourite pasttime

Apparently, neither Eddie nor Sadie B do frogs, because both of them completely ignored this little guy who afforded me many opportunities to photograph him, even after Sadie B danced right on his head:

Excuse me - could you keep that dog off my head?

Swim time over (though Sadie B would have opted to stay there all day, as long as someone would keep throwing her stick), we continued up the wide trail which ascends at a gentle slope in dappled sunlight:

Happy Eddie on the trail

Hurry Up!  There could be another pond ahead!

About an hour later we reached an area from which we could see Quamichan Lake below.

Quamichan Lake from the south side of Maple Mountain

I had company arriving in the afternoon, so that seemed as good a point as any to turn back.  The dogs had a good run, we had a nice hike, and Sadie B had a great swim.

I've been falling behind in blogging, reading and commenting on cyberfriends' blogs, and sorting and editing thousands of photos.  This week the drainage and patio guys were here, and now I can add "water newly seeded area three times a day" to my to-do list as well as "edit photos and blog about back yard transformation" to my growing list of things to blog about.

I have been feeling over-extended lately, though it isn't so much the volume of work as the timing of it - balancing my Sadie's frequent meals and between-meal meds, with Petey's needs, with Eddie's walks, with other tasks that need to be done for the upcoming kitchen renos, with trying (in vain) to get the flowers and veggie seeds in, with meeting writing deadlines, with ........oh, maybe it is the volume of work.

Anyway, I decided to clear my calendar of all but the essentials - taking a couple of months off from a few of my regular, non-dog-related activities in order to have more time for me. I really want to be gardening, reading, and most of all learning how to use my new camera equipment (the above photos were all taken with my old point-and-shoot) - and these are solo activities that don't mesh well with clock-watching, preparing for meetings, getting to places on time. This might also give me a bit more time and energy to blog and to respond to some of the truly wonderful blogs I like to read.

Or not.  Kitchen renos begin June 25th.  Life may get crazier before it gets calmer.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My New Toy: Part Two

I have such clever readers.  And their responses to my last post were ALL correct.  Part of my sister's legacy to me, aside from the role model she provided and the countless ways she influenced my life, was this:

My sister was a gifted photographer.  She would spend hours in uncomfortable positions, usually lying flat on the cold hard ground, waiting for that perfect shot. She belonged to the Summerland Camera Club, entered competitions, and was also a judge at some events.

Carole's partner Bev was her sherpa, her go-fer, her packer and unpacker of all this photographic 'stuff'.  And Bev's last camera-packing job for Carole was to pack up all the gear and send it on home with me.  Five boxes of stuff.  Books and lenses and filters and tripods and cases and reflectors and fancy frames to make star-shaped images and a zillion things I haven't yet figured out.

Among the treasures are two cameras - a film Nikon F-801 which she used for slide photography, and a digital Canon EOS Rebel XSi.  I t was with the Canon, plus a Canon EF-S 18-200mm  zoom lens and a  UV Haze filter, that I captured the photo of Allie in sunlight, the teaser in the previous post.  I assure you, the quality of the shot was purely a fluke.  So far I've only made it to paragraph five of the manual, which appears to be written in some secret code.   Apparently I am a hands-on, trial-and-error learner.......and believe me, this will be a steep learning curve.  But what a gift, what an opportunity to follow in my big sister's photofootsteps.

One day I will post some of my sister's wonderful photos - Bev is currently helping her elderly mother to move, but will forward some to me when she has had time to catch her breath - but if you look closely at this picture of my new toy, you'll see one of my sister's photos just behind the camera.  Ironically, it is also of a cat in sunlight.  And I didn't notice that until just now:

I look forward to many happy hours (and no doubt many frustrating ones too) learning to capture our beautiful world through the lens of my sister's camera.  I hope I can grow to be half the photographer she was.

Monday, May 14, 2012

My New Toy - Part One

Wanna guess what my new toy is?  

I'll give you a hint:


No, it's not another critter!  Try again!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day Meanderings

Seeds burst from bull rushes at Chemainus Lake:
mothers sending children off into the world

One of the pleasures of my recent trip to attend my sister's Celebration of Life last week was the opportunity to spend time with my daughter, both on the ride up and sharing a hotel room for three days.  Okay, I'm a person who likes living alone (well, as alone as one can ever be with critters around!) and likes my own space, so I was a bit apprehensive - while I love my daughter dearly and I know she loves me, we are not what you might call a closely bonded pair.  We phone or email each other once every couple of months or so, but we would never be mistaken for sisters - or even kin - in either looks or personality.  Yet we do both enjoy the outdoors, photography, writing, reading, and the occasional family gathering. Perhaps we are more alike than first appears.

Motherhood is, I believe, one of the most stressful and demanding choices a person can make.  I single-parented for eighteen years, just the one child, and I am in awe of those who single-parent multiple children without losing their mind or ending up doing time for murder. And I am even more in awe of mothers who so obviously enjoy parenting.  While there were some parts of it I liked - like reading a bedtime story, or watching her reach a new milestone in life, parenting was definitely not my forte.  My child was a challenge at times, though thankfully it was because of our opposing personalities rather than any of the scarier teen issues like drugs or alcohol or crime.  She was a good student, had really nice friends, and turned into an amazing adult. I am so proud of her.  My daughter, now in her mid-thirties,  matured beautifully in spite of me!

In many ways, our relationship mimics the one I have had with my own mother - strained at times, but I always knew she was there for me.  She, too, was an independent woman, a strong woman, a woman with whom I lacked a close emotional attachment in day-to-day life but hold firmly in my heart.  Watching mom in these her final months or years of life (she is 93) is not easy - in recent years she has lost so much that brought her happiness - her mobility, her eyesight, some hearing, some cognitive abilities, and, of course, her oldest daughter.  It hurts to see her unhappy, and I often feel guilty for not seeing her more often or doing for her the little things my sister did to bring her pleasure.  I find myself wondering how my daughter will handle my senior years. Having a very elderly mother is almost as challenging as having a very young child.

My daughter phoned me bright and early this morning;  and I will phone my mother a little later in the day.  Meanwhile, true to form, we will each do our own thing - three independent, sometimes stubborn women, connected by the strings of the heart and the strands of DNA.

Happy Mothers' Day to the mothers out there.  May your family times be happy ones, your memories be good ones, and your children grow up fine - not your clone, but individuals in their own right, ready to take on a challenging world.

(And this wasn't the topic I had planned to write about this morning - I had seven topics in mind, but this is what popped out.  Perhaps tomorrow I will post about the trip, or my new toy, or the landscaping that starts at 7 AM tomorrow, or the concert I attended, or the bears, or - oh yes - the inspiration for ever starting my blog:  the animals! )

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What's wrong with this picture?

What I did today:
Walked the dog, did five loads of laundry, picked up the new kitchen sink and faucet for the renos,  met with the kitchen designer, mowed the grass, took garden refuse to the dump, bought a composting bin, went to the bank,  raked the grass, sorted stuff I brought back from my sister's, cleaned out a cupboard to make room for stuff I brought back from my sister's, met with the guy who is pouring my new patio,  talked with the guy doing the drainage work Monday, boxed up something my daughter needed, went to the post office, picked up groceries, checked out the paint for the kitchen, and read (but haven't yet replied to) 33 emails.

What the dogs did today:



In my next life, I wanna be a dog!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I am home

I am back on the island.  The dogs and Margaret survived just fine.  I will write more after I have had a chance to unwind from an emotional but also wonderful time.  For now, let me share this single photo I took of a rose cast on the lake by my sister-in-law Bev (my sister's life partner of 36 years) as we said our final goodbyes to Carole:

A rose for Carole

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Our Mama's gone and left us!

By Sagacious Sadie, Steady Eddie, Perky Petey and Allie the Cat

On Wednesday, our Mama (Petey:  she's not my mama, she's my FOSTER mama!) pulled out the suitcases.  We know what that means.  We quickly dispatched Allie to run interference:

Allie, one o'clock

Allie:  This should keep her from packing!
Allie, two o'clock

Allie:  Maybe if I scrunch down real low she won't notice me
Allie, three o'clock

Booted out of one case, she quickly slips into the other

Allie:  I'll hide  in here - she'll never see me!
Petey:  She's goin' away and she makes ME have a bath?
Shudn't the one goin' away have the bath?

Petey:  An she even took me to Auntie Karen's for a haircut!
(Now let that vet tell my foster mama I'm too fat -
I was just FLUFFY!)

Sadie:  I bet she takes me! She told me she loves me BEST!
(Oops, she said not to tell you that!)
Eddie:  I s'pose I don't get to go?
Jean:  NO!  None of you are coming!  Auntie Margaret is going to
 take good care of you right here
Sadie:  Aww schucks.  No fair. I wanted a road trip!
Petey:  At least I'll have a lap to snuggle on!
One that stays still for more than two minutes!
Allie:  Mom's gonna be gone?
Not here to protect the dogs?
Now's my chance!
Sadie:  I think us three canines better stick together

Mama will be back in a few days.  Wiv pictures and stories, I betcha.  Meanwhile, we 
is getting spoiled by her friend Margaret.  Mama has wireless at her hotel, so she will be 
able to read your comments about how cute we are and how mean she was to leave us behind 
and how lucky we are to have a nice lady looking after us.  And telling the cat to **** off.