Sow: nice surprise

Last night’s demo/floor prep was mostly as expected, dusty, dirty, noisy, and without event, except when all my clothes fell on the floor during the closet “organizer” demo that took place in my closet. Then it became filled with swearing and scrambling to put together a fix — yeah, Bruce! No big whoop, just have some dusty stuff to wear (I’m sure 47 years of dust and grime will brush off and not stick) and clothes lying on the lounge sectional, in a guest room closet and in piles throughout the house. That’s ok, Guinness likes soft things to sleep on, everyone is ok, everything’s fine. I’ll probably put it all back tonight or at least put the stuff that can hang high enough to stay out of the floor dudes’ way on Saturday.

While I was making dinner last night and Bruce was getting the tools and stuff ready for last night’s demo fun, the door bell rang twice. Since no one usually just drops by, even the neighbors text us first, we figured someone was selling something, which meant they were ignoring our No Soliciting sign. The Gs went insane and threw themselves against the front window when the person didn’t leave so Bruce had to investigate.

It turns out it was actually a woman from the neighborhood association (kind of like a homeowner’s association, but without the annoying rules and restrictions and set up mostly for social reasons to foster community in the neighborhood). She came by to tell us that….drum roll please….we won the Yard of the Month for May! What an amazingly nice surprise, especially since the inside of the house looks so terrible at the moment!


The Mortroski Midcentury has the Yard of the Month for May and the sign to prove it — thank you NPNA and Calloway’s!

She’ll be back to take photos for our neighborhood e-newsletter today (light was not good for photos at 6:45 pm last night — too bright), but Bruce took a few this morning.

Here’s what it used to look like before we moved in (image is approximately 2.5 years ago, massively Photoshopped photo courtesy of the listing agent):

front of 10950 rosser road

Before (photo credit: seller’s real estate agent)


After (photo credit: Bruce)

You can see we replaced the mailbox, front door (added side lights and windows, painted it red), added a new porch light, new windows, new water-restriction friendly landscaping, removed a bunch of grass, pulled out the crumbling brick “planters” and the hollies. A lot has happened since we moved in!

Unfortunately for our neighbors, all of the exterior changes were done over a period of about 6 months, maybe longer even longer (I’ll wait for Bruce to correct me and then update this post), so the front of the house really looked bad for a lot of that time. When it looked really bad, we joked that we would definitely win for the Worst Yard of the Month — I even thought about making a parody sign to acknowledge our eyesore sweet eyesore.

But now the house has become a landmark of sorts for the neighborhood. We’re “that house with the red pot in front” or “the house with the red door and the red chairs on the porch.” It’s great for delivery people and people visiting for the first time. Can’t miss us now!

In case you’re curious, here are a few photos of the plants:


The landscaping is all native Texas perennials so stuff happens all year ’round. If you look carefully you’ll see a doggie in the window next to the flag (it’s George).


Other side, more Texas perennials and that’s a striped agave in the red pot. A nod to the Great White North with the Muskoka chairs (aka Adirondack chairs) on the porch.

Bruce and I pulled down the crumbling brick “planters” (really not wide enough nor deep enough for mature holly bushes with trunks 10 inches in diameter so they were busting out through the sides) one hot spring day (my main job was hauling the brick to the backyard using my garden cart where eventually we loaded into a dumpster some months later—Guinness and Godiva liked the odds of furry creatures living in the brick ruins and were sad that the bricks went away). But first we had to cut down the hollies (not as easy or as fun as you might think) the summer before getting the windows installed. They grew back despite being cut to the ground. So we had to chop them up again before the planter demo. And heavy equipment eventually had to be used to pull them out (though not by us).

Once we realized that we were completely over our heads with figuring out the landscaping plan ourselves, we attended a session at North Haven Gardens on landscaping and meeting Berrit from Roundtree Landscaping last summer. We had planned to get a plan, then install everything by ourselves. Berrit listened to our desires to have a lower impact, native landscape while minimizing the amount of grass we had to water during the hot Texas summers and drew up a plan that’s a lot like what ended up being planted. She also gently suggested that we should leave the sprinkler moving and planting to the professionals (she was right). She was fantastic to work with and we’re so glad that we worked with her.

You can’t see it but in the enlarged planting beds, the Roundtree crew changed the sprinklers to drip irrigation and the sprinklers for the front grass to NP rotors, a type of sprinkler that gets more water into the ground verses spraying in the air. They planted small plants since they will just get bigger and spread as the years progress. Everything was planted in late August 2012, except for a bunch of daffodils which were planted in February 2013.

The trees are a lot happier too. They’re getting watered deeper and better so we hope they’ll stay out of our plumbing (a big problem down here) from now on.

It’s so nice to be recognized for the changes in the yard, but truthfully, we didn’t do it to get recognized, but to make our house look more inviting and more our style. Like everything we’ve done to the Mortroski Midcentury (with the exception of the big plumbing mess), we did it because we wanted to. We’re trying to bring back some style to the place. So far so good.

PS: Guinness and I are going to the vet at 4 pm as planned. He’s still not ok and I’ve been giving him rimadyl (anti-inflammatory that he has been prescribed for his back and neck issues caused by wrestling with George and chasing Godiva) for the pain. He’s eating and drinking, wagging his tail, etc., but tried to bite Bruce when Bruce was poking around in his mouth. There’s something that hurts and it needs to get looked at. Update tomorrow.


Sow: wacky weather, wonderful water

There’s a saying here in north Texas, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a couple of hours.” The old timers aren’t kidding. We can have highs in the 80° Fs, then, if a cold front comes in, the temperature can drop 40°F. We can have summer-like temperatures and then snow, like we got on Christmas Day. The weather folks on the news channels must channel all of their meteorological education and check out their crystal balls daily. They are usually wrong, as are the weather apps (remember yesterday’s post?).

When it rains, it rains Texas-style. A lot. All at once. Big drops. Flash flooding. We all get swampy yards thanks to the amount of clay in our soil (this is also the reason that most home vegetable gardeners have raised beds vs planting directly into the ground).

It’s been raining since late yesterday morning. Guinness, our water-hating 100% lab usually cringes when he sees it’s raining and refuses to go outside unless absolutely necessary. Not this week. Maybe he knows that we need the rain. Or that’s going to continue for a while. We’re in a drought situation so despite the roadway issues and swampy yards, most people are happy for the inches of rain that have already fallen. We’ll get a couple more later today. Boaters are especially happy since it will mean a longer season before the lakes decrease. You see, our lakes are all man-made and were created to collect water for the surrounding cities.

Collecting water for later can be critical for home gardeners since drought means water restrictions. Specific days based on your house number that you can water your plants. Although no one mandates California-style water saving measures like the “if it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down” rule I learned as a kid in Southern California, it’s in residents’ best interest to do what they can to reduce their water use.

Or save it themselves. Because of the unpredictable weather, last year we installed four rain barrels to save what we could. We use the water to irrigate the Urban Farm, to fill the bird baths (we have 2 and they are used year ’round  by every kind of bird you can imagine from hummingbirds to owls), to water the patio containers, to irrigate the fruit trees. We water by hand until its gone and only then do we switch to the modified sprinkler system which focuses on the farm.

Despite what some might think, the rain barrels were easy to install and are not ugly. Two of our barrels are reused food storage containers, repurposed by an enterprising entrepreneur and covered with a durable cloth cover that blends in with the surrounding colors of our house. Two are space saving designs, created to maximize storage in a place where seeing a tall barrel may not be desirable (one is under our kitchen bay window for example).

The water saved is relatively clean. Leaves, acorns and other large things are filtered out by the gutter system. Dust and like debris from the roof does wash in, but usually settles at the bottom of the barrel. Each month when the temperature is consistently above 50° F, I treat the water with mosquito dunks to reduce the chances of the water becoming a breeding ground for those damn mozzies that love my blood so much.

At the office, people will grumble about the messy commute and getting wet. Their kids unable to play outside and sports practice cancelled. But I love the rain. I love the sound it makes. I love the free carwash. I love the smell of the wet dirt, grass and plants. But most of all, I love what it promises: quiet time in the garden in the morning before work, checking out what’s going on while I’m watering.