Fall clean-up

In the great northwest, September means fall clean-up and a bit of planting. This year has meant a lot of both, and I’ve learned a ton about what not to due thanks to the intrepid, ever daring and eternally patient Janel Ecker, of Terra Firma Landscape Design. Who, will likely kill me for mentioning her unless I also type “she doesn’t do the dirt part.” ergo, she designs, not digs.

Lesson number one. Hire a designer first. Bribe. Trade. Babysit. All of the above. When I was a high-heeled, pale, non-jean San Francsico girl and moved up here out of love (and a bit of lust), I naively hired a guy with a big machine. That happens…in any case, he moved a lot of dirt around, but put lots of things in the ground that started green and ended up brown. Permanently.

Lesson two. Ask your ‘advisor’ if they know what kind of soil you have. In my case, the reason we could even afford this property was because it was/is, in the middle of nowhere, relatively speaking, outside Seattle, and it was also horse pasture. Stinky, slimy, rat-infested, dung heaps surrounding a decrepit old house. We were young(er), without children and thought it would be an adventure.

Lesson three. Ask your mother “why she’s crying” when you proudly show her your new pad. And when she gives you the honest answer, “Honey, whatever you have as a budget, double it once, then double it again, and maybe you’ll come close.”

Lesson four. Don’t believe your husband when he says his mother in law “doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” As one year of remodel stretched to 2, then 3, then 4, she was right. But we were still married.

Lesson five. Play Rock Paper Scissors. It saved our marriage. At the beginning of the project, my contractor took us aside and sat us down. We thought he was going to change the price before he’d dug a shovel of dirt.

“I like you two,” he began, his wisened old face scrunched up as he took a drag on his cigarette. “So I gotta tell ya. The three top reasons for divorce are 1-death of a child, 2-job loss and 3- remodel.”

Rog and I looked at each other. We didn’t have the contract in front of us, but I felt pretty sure we hadn’t signed up for the marriage counseling add-on option.

“Well, this is a remodel. And I’d hate to see you kids get divorced.”

Oh, was that all, we said collectively, sighing with relief.

“No, you don’t understand. You like each other know. Maybe even love each other. But when you are twelve months into this and sleeping on the floor with dust in your mouth, you may want out.”

We laughed uncomfortably.

“Get a system now,” he recommended. “Doesn’t matter what it is. Flip a coin. Throw stones. Just pick one.”

Rog likes to proudly announce he’s never been to a therapist, but he has. This was it. That bit of wisdom has seen us through 12 years, and we employed Rock Paper Scissors. Even today, we use it to solve major differences. Rog got his colored walls, I got my garden. It all worked out.

Now, I actually started this blog thinking I was going to write about fall clean-up. So here it is:
1-planting trees. If it has a root ball, take the burlap sack down half-way and tuck it under. This is because the small tentacles on the bottom (in and outside the burlap sack) are feeders for the tree. Removing the sack entirely removes/kills all the feeders. No wonder I’ve killed so many trees!!

2-trim all the hostas. Never done that before either. I thought they were the raggedy look was supposed to represent fall. “Give them a haircut” said Janel, by lifting up the roots, and trimming the top. I was mortified that at 42, I had no idea of either this tip, or the one above.

3-plant plant–seed seed. This is a great time to seed and fertilize the lawn. As much as I like moss, I would like a blade of grass now and then.

4-prepare for winter. I read this is supposed to be 2 years of El Nina, and that means likely 2 ft of snow at the house. We got 2 cords of wood (yes, and I stack it myself), 2 pallats of pellets (Rog helps on that) and make sure the tub works for long soaks.

5-check your regional advice. I really like Home and Garden’s regional section. I can never remember what I’m supposed to do, even when I’ve bribed someone to tell me. This month’s October section was perfect. If it hadn’t been for my reading, I would have forgotten to divide (well, Janel told me once, I forgot already and them remembered. Thx H & G)

I’ve already mowed the lawns today, perhaps for the last time this year. As my relatives bake in the 100+degree of Arizona and Nevada, I must say, I do envy the warm weather and ability to get some vitamin D. But I wouldn’t trade the beautiful fall weathers for a tan. I’ll happily cover up my under-belly-of-a-slug white for the natural loviliness of fall.