Have machete — will garden

Apache Plume (left) & Mountain Mahogany. Blue = compost tumblers.

About seven years ago we spent a bunch of money on landscaping design and installation. We’re very happy with the native shrubs in our backyard, but are questioning the placement of some of those shrubs. Case in point: the two Apache Plumes planted right next to a Mountain Mahogany (which was planted next to an existing volunteer Cotoneaster).

I’m headed out right now to prune and de-crowd this area of the yard. All the while I’m gonna be fighting the urge to call that landscaper and ask him WTF.

Free drawers!


I just got back from picking up these free wooden drawers that were listed on Craigslist. I’m hoping to start a new sustainability project in my basement. Not sure of all the details, but wanted to document my start.

Needless to say, Zippy is thrilled.




That Smell

Ooh, that smell
Can’t you smell that smell?
Ooh, that smell
The smell of death surrounds you, yeah

Thank you, Lynyrd Skynyrd, for penning today’s theme song. Allow me to explain.

Last fall while researching Build a Compost Tumbler, I learned all sorts of good stuff that helped me reinvigorate our composting process here at home. In fact, to Zippy’s absolute delight, we now have three compost bins (one free-standing and two tumblers). And one of the biggest changes to our composting method is that we no longer put weeds in our trash where they end up creating methane and carbon dioxide in the landfill.

Unwelcome plant aka WEED.

Unwelcome plant aka WEED.

The prickly lettuce, the bindweed, the thistles, the grasses gone to seed, all those things go into a lidded garbage can full of water.

You see, I learned from Bob Flowerdew** that weed seeds and roots will die if left submerged in water for two weeks. (Weeds are valuable compost materials that are often left out because of the fear that the invasive weeds will spread via the compost.)  But you know what else happens after those two weeks of submersion? The water is transformed into one of Mr. Flowerdew’s favorite things: vile liquids. He loves them because vile liquids are great additives to your composting piles. Vile liquids accelerate the composting process.

Early stages of the tumbler Zippy and I built before I wrote the book.

Early stages of the tumbler Zippy and I built before I wrote the book.

But if left too long, vile liquids will, oddly enough, give off the aroma you’d expect from a vile liquid. (Think farmyard plus death plus your next three least favorite smells). It’s imperative you wear old clothes and shoes while handling vile liquids, especially when you’ve allowed your weeds to marinate for a month or longer. (Oops.) And woe to you if you happen to splash any on exposed skin.

Ooh, that smell

So yes, I did handle vile liquids today. And yes, despite the latex gloves (you want one-use gloves for this chore), I got vile liquids on my hand and now all I can smell is that horrifying combination of stink. (The stink does go away, just never fast enough).

Lynyrd Skynyrd is playing on a loop in my head as I try my best to think ahead to the rich compost I’ll someday be adding back into the earth.
Spring garden shots 018

**best compost-guru name ever!

Have I Got a Story for You

 There  I was in my bra, surrounded by strangers, while a man hit me repeatedly in the head with his hat…


I drove my brother’s pickup to the Rooney Valley Recycling Center to unload the juniper branches and sod I’d removed from my yard. I paid $10 at the gate and the woman told me I needed to separate the materials so she directed me to the very back of the area where there was a huge mound of sod. Right across from it was the enormous pile of branches. She thought it’d be most convenient for me to unload both back there.

I drove past one other truck on my way to the sod mound, weaving around materials piled so high you can’t see anyone or anything else. I parked the truck next to the mound and started grabbing sod and flinging it into the pile. It was a nice morning, not too warm, not too windy. Not bad at all, I thought as I flung a huge piece of sod.

Suddenly an annoying fly was buzzing around my head. Quite aggressively. I told the damned fly to shoo, but then there was another. And another.

Except they weren’t damned flies.
They were damned bees.
A swarm of them.
All around me but especially around my head.

In my hair.

I took off my ball cap and waved it around my head.
As I screamed.

The bees kept buzzing.
My whole head vibrated.

I tried to be calm,
to stand still so they’d leave me alone.

They were too pissed.
I felt a sting.

So I screamed some more
And ran a bit toward the entrance.

The woman from the other truck saw me and yelled, “Run, honey! Run!”

I ran past her and the man with her said for me to run to the shack at the gate. (Not clear on why I’d want to bring bees to the woman in the shack, but at least it was a plan!)

But before I got there, the woman screamed for me to take off my shirt
because bees were flying out of it.

The woman from the shack came out while the other woman helped me unbutton my shirt. She shook it out while the man yelled for me to stand still.

Then he hit me in the head with his hat, over and over.
Really hard.

I was so grateful.

He knocked all but two bees off my head.
I got the second-to-the-last one and the woman brushed off the last.

I was bee-free but full of adrenaline.

And there was my brother’s truck, keys in the ignition, way back there surrounded by an angry swarm of bees.

The man and woman drove me back there in their truck. We watched while bees swarmed near the truck and around the stump that probably held their nest.

The one I’d inadvertently hit with a huge piece of sod.

We strategized.
I walked slowly to the truck, got in the passenger side and slammed the door. The man slowly walked to the back of my truck, grabbed the broom and rake leaning there, and threw them in my truck before getting back in his own.

I unloaded the rest of my materials in stump-free areas and was remarkably calm the entire time, if I do say so myself.

On the drive home, though, a fly buzzed in the truck cab and I panicked.
And screamed.

I’ve got a ways to go before letting go of the bee panic.
But I’d be much worse off without Good Samaritans, Phyllis and Jeff, there to help me.

Next time I go to the drop-off, I think I’ll wear one of these: