Saturday, May 23, 2009

It's Still Coming Along....

It seems like I have deserted the Big Project, but I have not. I've just been too tired at night to journal what's happening. So here's where we stand as of tonight:

Tuesday - bought and spread 10 bags of gravel. The "buying" part wasn't too bad, but by the time I loaded the sacks on a cart at the store and pushed them thru check-out, I had sense enough to ask for help loading them into my car! At home, I had to unload onto a garden cart and then dump the gravel into the box - not too hard actually, just lots of pounds of rocks!

Thursday - the plants arrived from Santa Fe! High Country Gardens is a class act. Everything arrived in excellent shape - via three day delivery. Nothing was dried out and there was zero damage to the plants. I watered everything and put all the plants in a shady spot to wait. I also picked up 16 bags of sand at the garden center. I was smart enough to get two carts this time, and again, I got help from the nice folks at the garden center loading the car.

Friday - spread the sand. At the right hand end of the box it's about two inches deep and at the left it's four inches. The plants that need the best drainage will go at the left of the box. Once the sand was spread, I started moving dirt from the compost pile. Remember the three wheelbarrow loads of "good" dirt I removed from the site? Well, that was a drop in the bucket to refilling the box. Remember, I built it up 15 inches at one end and six at the other. I am estimating that I have 75 cubic feet inside the box! After dinner [when it cooled off] I loaded more dirt for a total of 17 wheelbarrow-fuls and had the box about half filled.

Saturday - early this morning I started again on the dirt. Six more loads and the right compost pile was empty - actually I dug down about 8 inches below grade before hitting clay again. Fortunately, I had a Plan B. Under the left compost pile was another pile of dirt. I flipped the pile from left to right, moving all the loose and dry material over into the hole on the right side and started digging on the left. Many more loads and I finally filled the box. Unfortunately, I lost count of the loads this morning, but am guessing that it was a total of 35 or so. Remember that this are "girl loads".

The only excitement of the morning was the discovery of a black snake in the dirt under the left compost pile. I dug into him and scared him way more than he scared me, so I gave him a few minutes of privacy to disappear. When I returned to digging, tho, I kept plenty of distance from that part of the pile and kept my feet well away from the shovel. Lesson in composting: there may be snakes in your pile. Chances are they are not dangerous, but keep an eye out!

This afternoon we did a bit more shopping for plants to fill the space. Orange had a great sale on perennials and I got five more that I had not planned on having. Tomorrow we will have the big reveal. Don't get too excited yet, tho. I am planting perennials, so I am planning for the future. It will look sparce for at least a year, and won't be gorgeous until two years from now.

Join the No-Poo Revolution?

I've never considered myself a revolutionary - well, not since the Vietnam War- but it turns out I am. About a month ago I joined the "No-Poo Revolution".

Some weeks ago over Mohitos a friend [nurse practitioner in a family practice] mentioned to the tennis team that she had attended a dermatology conference at which a doctor suggested that women "of a certain age" [over 50] need to stop using shampoo and let their hair return to a more natural state. According to her instructions one just stops using shampoo and rinses her hair as needed, using conditioner now and then. Since I have the least hair of the assembled group, I decided to give it a try for the good of the order.

My hair is fine, short and stick straight, so it would be hard to look noticably worse! Over the years I have tried perms and do-it-yourself color with no real improvement - well, I loved the auburn, but my husband did not. At the time I went no-poo I was using a national brand "for brunettes", but without a conditioner. With my fine hair, I had not been using conditioner because it seemed to weigh my hair down. I am also a daily hair washer. It's easy with short hair and I do a lot of sweaty yard work. I like to shower when I come out of the garden - sometimes up to three times a day. It never occurred to me not to wash my hair a lot.

So, I just quit using the shampoo. After five days I was not thrilled with the feel of my hair - it was plenty clean, but felt odd. So, I bought some conditioner - also for brunettes - and my hair immediately felt really good! I am no fool. I realize that any product "for brunettes" is putting a small amount of color on my hair, and I don't mind that a bit!

After three weeks it occured to me to google "no poo" and you would not believe the amount of information on the web. Apparently the "revolution" started three or four years ago in Australia and there are all sorts of blogs devoted to not washing your hair. I will try to summarize:

There are at least two groups actively trying no-poo - those who are trying to reduce the chemicals in their lives, and those who are trying to have better hair. I guess I fall in the latter group, but I certainly think that the shampoo was stripping the oil from my hair and making it dryer. For those with more hair than I have, it may also be causing them to produce extra oils to counteract the stripping.

There are several "plans" for going no-poo and several goals. The big two are:

WO = water only. By happenstance I fall into this group, but it seems to be the smaller cohort. I have not yet felt the need to use anything to "cleanse" my scalp, but that may be because my hair is so short. I am guessing that the longer the hair, the more this is an issue.

BS/ACV = Baking soda and apple cider vinegar. This is clearly the most popular recipe. You make a paste from BS and water, rub that into your scalp thoroughly and then rinse with a diluted ACV. The idea is that BS is alkaline and vinegar is acid, so the combination returns your head to "neutral". I actually want to try this combo sometime. I used vinegar in high school as an alternative to cream rinse - before conditioners became widely available.

Other: some folks add honey to the vinegar - I don't get that. The people who do it love the way it feels, but I have visions of ants and bees! And, how do you get it out completely? There are also several, perhaps many, "natural" soaps and other ingredients that people say work well for them.

From the blogs it appears that success with no-poo is largely a matter of your own hair, your own preferences, and your expectations. Many with curly hair said it curled better; many with fine hair said it felt fuller and had more body [I agree with that]; and many hated it. It apparently it takes from five days to five months to get thru the aclimation period. This is a highly personal experience.

No one else in my tennis group has tried it, but my friend Garland has. Like me, she has fine, straight, short hair and she says she likes it so far. So, if you want to give it a try, I would definitely google first and read what others have to say.

For me, it's too soon to say that I will remain poo-free forever. But, right now I see no reason to go back to soaping. I like the way my hair feels and it sure is easy! How about you? Want to join the revolution?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Progress Report

Hard to believe it's been just over a month since I started this blog. Somehow it seems like much longer. I went back today to look at the goals I shared in the beginning and thought you would want a progress report.

1) The purple river. Overall, I am pleased with how this is coming, but it will be the middle of the summer before we will be able to see it all and next year before it will be really pretty - such is the reality of the garden. The salvia 'May Night' that I planted last fall are looking really good (center back and far right back), as are the geraniums (left front). The hydrangea has buds, but will not bloom until mid-to-late June, so it will look better later. The new perennials I added this spring are growing - well, some of them - and will hopefully look better as they get larger. It appears that fewer than half of the bulbs I planted last month are coming up. Perhaps the rest are just slow, but I fear they are not going to make it. I hadn't used this nursery before, so doubt that I will use them again.

I need to continue to work on this area. I need to look at different shades of purple, as well as different heights and textures to make it more interesting. I have seen some small iris in the neighborhood that are very dark in color. I need to see if I can barter for some to add both height and contrast. When the aquilegia [columbine] spreads that will help, too, since they are quite dark.

2) Planting around the pond: I haven't done much, but it does look better anyway. The ground covers I planted last fall have spread, as has the yarrow and the large clump of daylilies at the far right edge of the pond [see below]. These are a locally propagated lily 'Richmond Spider' that is considered "red". You will see later in the summer that it's in the orange family, but definitely to the red end of the spectrum. I added several verbinas [Homestead Purple and an annual variety] and cut back the buddelia. The latter has really filled out and thickened up. It should be pretty when it blooms. In the pond itself, the iris have about doubled in size, so hopefully will provide more blooms this year. I also added a varigated water parsley. The varigation is both cream and pink. The water lilies are getting ready to bloom and are already as full as they got last year over the whole summer. The pond is a perfect example of how well benign neglect works in the garden.

3) The shrub rose is long gone and replaced by an Emerald Arborvitae. I love the height it brings to back of the border.

4) The raised area in the corner. I planted a new clematis on the wrought iron gate (center of photo, it's not up enough to see), but that's all I've added. I didn't really have a plan for this area, but as I look at it now perhaps it planned itself. The shrubs are going well and provide a background for that end of the garden; we pruned out all the dead branches of the weigelia and trimmed back the flowering almonds this spring. They are all full grown now and all blossomed well this year.

The pink iris were pretty, but looked skimpy. I think when the clematis matures a bit (two years) and I add a few more iris, it will look fine. When I get iris for the river, I will get extras to put here to pull the two areas together color-wise. There is an amsonia to the right that I have pulled out twice, but keeps coming back. I think I will maintain that strategy to keep it small. [This is a plant that was way bigger than advertised and I have to really keep working to keep it small. It's gorgeous in the fall when it turns gold - really ! - and pretty now with pale blue blooms, but it's branchy and grows too fast for me.] In the far left you can just see a tall planter. It has a mini-rose bush that was a birthday gift a couple of years ago and blooms almost non-stop all summer.

5) The seating area by the pond is just great. We use it nearly every evening when we feed the fish. It's a great place to relax at the end of the day. Mitchell found two small tables - just in case someone needs a place to put a glass... or a cereal bowl. It's one of my favorite places to sit early in the morning to think or read. Right now the fragrance of the peonies makes it especially nice, but I think that even when all the flowers are gone the foliage will continue to provide a nice shady nook for us to enjoy.

So, in only a month two goals are completely met and three well under way. And the big project - which is not even on the list - is also well underway. I don't think of myself as a goal-setting person, but maybe I am. I saw these more as projects I wanted to complete this summer, and not as high-faluting as "goals".

Maybe that is a lesson for life; that goals don't have to be lofty. They can be little projects that we want to accomplish.

Project # 1 - Rain Delay!

No work today. A slow drizzly overnight rain was still hanging around this morning, along with a cool front that dropped the temperature but left a yucky-stay-inside kind of day. To be truthful, I was glad. With every muscle and joint in my body aching from yesterday, I was glad for the day off!

It is giving me a chance to see if I am right about the natural drainage of the raised bed. So far, water does not stand, but we have only gotten a half inch of rain, so I need to see how it does with a true downpour. Hopefully, we will have some nicer weather this week and I can finish shoveling out the rest of the dirt and start putting in the gravel. Time will tell.

Lessons learned: One - I'm not as young as I wish I were and need to take heavy work a bit slower - if I wish to walk the next day. And, two: wear more sunscreen. The new Neutrogena 70+ works great, but you need to put it everywhere!