Friday, April 26, 2013

Night Creature Deterrant No. 549

In my ongoing battle with my "night creature", I have tried a lot of deterrents. This little bugger continues to prove he is smarter than me. Here is what I have tried so far (pity me):

live trap with peanut butter on apples
live trap with cookies
live trap with shrimp shells
live trap with cat food (fish kind)
live trap with broccoli (which he loves)
live trap with carrots
live trap with cheese
live trap with cheese crackers
Repels-all pellets sprinkled generously around the garden (it has been entertaining to watch the squirrels avoid the pellets sprinkled on the cross bars of the fence by walking on the very top of the fence pickets)
Garlic fire spray
Cayenne pepper
Praying for wisdom (which obviously hasn't come yet)
Rain dance
Turning on the back patio light at night really, really fast to see if I can see him
Getting up really early and turning on the back patio light really, really fast to see if I can see him
I am now awaiting the delivery of yet another deterrent, the Contech Scarecrow, a motion and heat activated water sprinkler. I've taken my fight high tech! I swallowed hard and ordered it. It's kinda pricey for a plastic water sprinkler but by golly I am determined to taste my broccoli this year!

I also got a kick out of this video. Heck, this might work on those pesky solicitors.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

"Forest Floor" Maintenance Free Landscaping

Here is a little followup to our maintenance free FREE backyard. We have decided to call this landscaping style "Forest Floor". How ya like that?

We landscaped the other side of our house and used up the remainder of the chipped up tree pile. This is the side of the house that our guest room and boys room look out onto. Right now, it looks kinda plain. Better than weeds and standing water! In a few years, we are considering planting blueberry bushes on this side of the house. My husband cheered when he came home because it means no more mowing on that side of the house. We have had difficulty with drainage on this side of the yard. There seems to be standing water after a storm. The very cool thing about Forest Floor Landscaping is that the chipped up trees soak in an amazing amount of water. It also doesn't float away like bark would. We had a nice rain storm this week, and the other side of the house that had previously been landscaped with Forest Floor held up beautifully. It was so neat to walk on it after it rained. It wasn't mushy, muddy or wet after the storm. Bonus - it smelled amazing! I always take a deep breath when I walk outside.
There is something beautiful about returning land to the way God intended it to be. It has attracted some beautiful house finches to my yard. They bounce around in it and go from garden box to garden box and eat the bugs. The nest-building birds also appreciate the fine selection of building materials. It is neat to watch them pick up something and then toss it aside. They are looking for the perfect piece for their nest. We should have some finely crafted nests around here!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Adventures with FREE landscaping!

This is one "steaming pile" I like to see
in our front yard! ha ha!
The weather is still cool here in Houston, so we decided to take advantage of it and do some yard work. As noted in my previous post, we had a delivery of wood chipper chopped up trees from a tree trimming company dumped on our driveway.It was beautiful, steamy and smelled like a Christmas tree farm with all the pine tree trimmings. It was way more than I anticipated. I'm sure our neighbors were curious what we were doing with this refuse.

My youngest son toted load after load into the backyard. We dumped it where we now have pine bark nuggets that surround our square foot gardens and take up most of our backyard. We made a thick layer. Then we added more. It didn't even make a dent in the pile. Gulp.

We needed to do some work in our side yard. Years ago we had lots of pine bark nuggets there but we had neglected it last year and the weeds were starting to take over. Well, we hired a strong young friend "J" to help us tackle this portion. We had to move rocks from our previous "dry creek bed" landscaping look. We then put a thick layer of newspaper (4-5 layers thick) right over the weeds. Newspaper is amazing stuff. It smothers and kills whatever is below. No need to pull up grass or weeds. 

Then we piled up a very thick layer of our wood chipper delivery. Then we piled on more and walked on top to help it settle. We were careful to keep it well below the bottom of the siding and brick weep holes around the house. We don't want a friendly location for termites to enter the home. It smelled like heaven. I transported an old log from our backyard to this location. It really added a woodsy feel. I added the rocks back to make a "dry creek bed" look. I planted a small fern on the hollowed out end of the old log. I put a little dirt in there to help anchor the fern. I also pulled aside the layer of chipped tree and put a bunch of dirt and compost down to the newspaper. I planted another small fern here. I also had some sheet moss from the decorator store. I put a little dirt in the cracks of the log and pushed the moss here and there on the log. Below are before and after pictures.

The chopped up trees will turn browner as the days go by. It feels very natural and smells just amazing. It is springy to walk on and is a natural fertilizer for the cypress trees in this location. We still have a nice amount of chopped up trees sitting in our driveway. Enough to do the other side of the house. We are awaiting some more newspaper.

The best part? Everything was FREE! The newspaper was from our "extreme couponer" friends (thanks Holly and Renee) and the chopped up trees were courtesy our electricity company's contract wood trimmer. All we did was make an inquiry to our electric utility company via e-mail and Voila! We did pay our young friend, but that was all the money we have spent on this project and it was worth it to have the extra pair of hands.

I am so thrilled. In years to come, we will just need to get another free load dumped and then spread it on top of what we have already done to keep a thick layer. In a few years, if we so choose, we can plant in the mulch which will have broken down enough to support some vegetation. I am thinking blueberry bushes on the other side of the house. Yummy!





Closeup of Fern planted in the hollow end of the log. Added a little moss for effect.

Moss with a little dirt added to bark of the log

Dry creek bed and the log

closeup of moss planted under the bark

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

How to Have a Maintenance Free Backyard for FREE

Over the years, we have slowly been reclaiming the grassy areas of our backyard in our goal of having a maintenance free backyard with no grass.  We have been using newspaper, covered with black weed cloth, topped with large pine bark nuggets. It works well, but the nuggets are not cheap and you have to maintain a thick layer to keep out the weeds. Recently, I came across the "Back to Eden" project video. It got me to thinking that we could more quickly reclaim our backyard and return the natural covering to it by using the free resources talked about in the film. Namely, free leftover newspaper and free tree clippings from the choppers that tree service people use. Did you know tree service companies have to pay to dump their tree clippings? They are paying to get rid of something we can all use for our benefit.

Here are some benefits:

  • We can save water by not having to water our grass in the backyard.
  • We can save time by not having to mow the grass.
  • We can save gas by not having to mow the grass.
  • In a few years, you can actually plant in the clippings.
  • The plants and trees in the clippings need very little water as the clippings hold water efficiently.
  • The plants and trees in the clippings will not need any plant food.
  • Flooded backyards will be lessened by using the clippings.
  • The clippings don't float away in a rain storm.
  • The clippings don't blow away in the wind.
  • Future buyers will be attracted in purchasing a home that requires no yard maintenance in the backyard.
  • Your beautiful backyard has raised the value of your house.
  • The clippings are soft to walk on and look natural and beautiful.
  • The clippings are loose and easy to weed.

 We have contacted a local tree trimmer and are arranging for him to dump some tree clippings in our driveway. Our plan is to trim the grass as short as we can, lay a thick layer of newspaper (like at least 5-6 layers thick) and lay a very thick layer of clippings right on top of that. We are foregoing the black weed cloth. We are going to claim the remaining areas of our backyard and I am eyeballing some areas of our front yard. I'll post pictures as we go along. I'm super excited about this new project and want to get it underway before the heat of the summer claims us.


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