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You need to ask my Mommy!

About four days ago, I realized there was a big problem around my shed.  You see, I don’t pay much attention to the shed.  It’s in a rather neglected niche in the yard and is easily overlooked. IMG_1338

While many gardeners probably wouldn’t show you their troubled areas (I guess because it’s like showing someone your holey underwear), I will.  No garden got beautiful by accident.  Someone commits time, energy, and probably money to get it that way.  Some gardens have issues, and I’m the first to say mine certainly does with its weirdly shaped lot.

When I purchased this property, I suspected the survey would show the narrow funky “arm” where the shed is located wasn’t legally part of the plot, but I was wrong.

An 80+ year old neighbor who grew up in this ‘hood informed me there used to be an alley/city easement behind the homes on our side of the street where the sewer pipes ran, but at some point, the City relinquished ownership and for an unknown reason, my property ended up with a sizeable portion of the alley that goes behind two other homes.

There is an +/- 8’ x 16’ piece of land behind the shed. (Future secret garden???)  I rarely visit it, but the vines and the weeds do, and they’re sneaky and evil.

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Here is that approximate 8′ x 16′ area.  Can you see anything but weeds? No?  Neither can I.

Four days ago, I looked at the shed and realized it was being eaten by vines so I went back into the jungle and cut the vines off at their roots.

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I removed the dead vines above today.

Truthfully, I’m sick of pulling weeds, but I resigned myself to commit 2-4 hours/day removing weeds in the area beside and behind the shed.  BLAH!

For two days, I cut, pulled, and sacked big nasty thorny weeds (greenbriar and wild dewberry) along with Virginia Creeper, Snailseed vine, and English ivy.  In that time, I managed to clear a 4’ x 8’ area along one side of the shed.

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I know this photo is blurry, but if you look to the left of the leaves, you’ll see a very thick thorny greenbriar cane. The black spots are vicious thorns.

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Thorny dew berry above.

This morning when I grabbed my gloves, my brain finally turned on.  What was I doing????

Why wasn’t I using cardboard to cover/smother the weeds on the ground? I’d done this on other occasions.  Duh!  And it just so happened I’d walked by a huge mound of cardboard placed out for the trash yesterday.

I stopped mid-glove, hopped into my car, and rushed to the house with all of the boxes.  Whew!  The big boxes were still there.  I took almost all of them.

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On the way home, I spied a lonely Amazon box sitting on the top of a garage can.Why not take it too?

So, I pulled over, got out and grabbed it, and that’s when this disembodied voice called out to me.

“You need to ask my mommy!”

Hunh? Where was that voice coming from?

I finally spied a little girl on the swing set behind the house looking at me.

She said again, “You need to ask my mommy!”

I answered her by saying I was pretty sure her mommy didn’t want the box because it was sitting on the garbage can.  However, the little girl wouldn’t be swayed.

“No.  You need to ask my mommy, first.”

I didn’t want to meet “mommy.”  I was dressed like a weed-pulling bum in a T-shirt that was three sizes too large with holes and my pants were stained and baggy.

I put the box back on the garbage can and said I didn’t need it after all.

“No,” she said.  “Wait!” With that, she ran inside the house.

Damn, I wanted to go.

Thankfully, the girl came out immediately and told me, “My mommy says you can have it.  I’ll get it for you.”  And she did.

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Tomorrow, I’ll work on cutting and bagging the vines on the fence, but the cardboard makes this job so much easier. I’ve not decided yet what I’ll cover the cardboard with.  I have mulch, but don’t want to attract termites to the shed.

Finally, here’s what was blooming in the yard today:

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My hair looks like this most days. I think it’s an allium/onion.  Got it at an estate sale.

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Abutilon (flowering maple)

Happy blogging!

My Sister’s Book

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What I see in the mirror, may not be what you see.

Here I go again wandering away from my blog’s gardening focus, BUT if Pam Penick of long-time garden blog, Digging, can write about roller derby girls–and I didn’t notice any flower pots on their heads as they skated–then I can fall off, every once in a while, and write about something else too.

My sister’s book manuscript was finally sent to the publisher and will come out this fall.  She’s worked on it for several years, and I am proud of her even though we aren’t particularly close and hold divergent opinions regarding our family or perhaps I should say “her” family. (And, no, I’m not trying to get you to buy a copy of her book by posting this. It’s just something that’s weighs heavily on my mind.)

Below is a “blurb” about her book.

From the web address, http://agencelapautre.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Aevitas-Creative-Management.pdf

ALL SHIPS FOLLOW ME  A Family’s Inheritance of War

By Mieke Eerkens

US publisher: Picador (North American rights)

To publish: Fall 2017

MS available in May 2017

Rights sold: Holland (De Geus)

Poland (Agora)

A brilliant and heartrending World War II memoir by Dutch-American author Mieke Eerkens, on par with Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken and Edmund de Waal’s The Hare with Amber Eyes.

ALL SHIPS FOLLOW ME is an untold World War II story that challenges our perception of victim and perpetrator, and blurs the lines of war. In March 1942, a ten-year-old boy living in the Dutch East Indies was interned, like a hundred thousand other Dutch civilians, in a Japanese concentration camp doing hard labor for three years, until the atomic bombings caused the Japanese to surrender.

Meanwhile, across the globe, Dutch police carried a crying five-year-old girl out of her home at the war’s end, abandoned and ostracized as a daughter of Nazi sympathizers in the Netherlands. It was the post-war period of reckoning, the so-called “hatchet day” where Nazi collaborators were tortured in the same concentration camps where the Jews had just been liberated from.

Many years later, the boy and girl met as adults, and married and had children. The author is one of these children, and ALL SHIPS FOLLOW ME is her remarkable memoir of the inheritance of war.

Mieke Eerkens teaches creative writing for UCLA Extension’ Writers Program.

Her work has appeared in various places such as The Atlantic, Los Angeles Review of Books, PEN America, Pank, and Guernica.

Until recently, I always thought my sister was the lucky one to have grown up with our father, but as I’ve gotten older, I’m not so sure.

And so, I anxiously await THE book.  (I’d love to get a free copy, but I think like everyone else, I’ll have to pay for one.)

My sister is a good writer, but will she or is she allowed to tell the truth–not so much about the history of events–but more about the character of the individuals involved? Will she embellish her story or be truthful?  Will she evoke pity or respect or shock about family members?  Or will she even delve into their behaviors and personalities?

And does she explore the possible link between DNA and war trauma???

Her book’s focus changed from the course of its inception to include her mother who is my step-mother. I never knew until now what is hinted by the book’s description of my step-mother’s early life. I was shocked, and I’m not easily shocked.

Most of all, does my sister know about my family’s theory regarding our father’s behavior? Does it even matter?

I, too, have written about my father, but certainly nothing that is book-length, and not about his hellish time in the Japanese concentration camp.

Once I’ve read the book, I’ll post an update.

In a Fern’s Dream

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Pampered Fern

This post could have been titled so many different things such as “All Over the Place in the Garden” or “I’ve been a Naughty Girl” or “Assailed by Sales” or “Who’ll Stop the Rain?”

It’s been raining for four days now.  I told someone it was five, but it actually was four.  After so m-a-n-y days, it’s hard to remember.  The amount of rain we’ve received, however, is what is significant…somewhere around 6-1/2” with the possibility of more…

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Photo taken two days ago.  Stock tank is now filled to the brim.

From KLTV First Alert Weather:

Good Tuesday morning, East Texas!

We’re tracking a few showers and storms to our west that could move into East Texas by late morning if they hold together. Heavy rainfall is expected with a few of these storms, but nothing severe. Otherwise, we’re cloudy and cool this morning with a few places dropping into the upper 50s.

Another cold front moves through this afternoon. This will bring in another wave of showers and thunderstorms late afternoon and evening. Once again, a few storms are possible, but no severe weather is expected.

Drier air moves in behind the front with gradually clearing skies overnight. Finally back to some sunshine for midweek! Becoming mostly sunny and nice for your Wednesday with high temperatures staying below average in the mid 70s.

A quick warm up for the end of the week with more sunshine and afternoon highs reaching the upper 80s to near 90 degrees by Friday. The holiday weekend looks mostly cloudy, warm and breezy at times.

Expect chances for showers and storms by Sunday afternoon. A few showers could last into early Monday morning, with clearing clouds by Memorial Day afternoon.

Generally, I like rain, but this has been a bit much.

Pick any of the following songs…They all fit.  And in fact, I’d love to hear what your favorite rain song is.

This was yesterday’s song, Rainy Days and Mondays

And then there’s:

Have You Ever Seen the Rain

Who’ll Stop the Rain

Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head

And what I’m hoping for, Mr. Blue Sky

So, about ferns…I bought a bedraggled half-dead scraggly little fern a few days ago.  It’s the one in the photo above.  This fern was the last of its kind at Lowe’s.  It hadn’t been watered in quite a while, and this showed in the multitude of dead fronds it sported.  (I cut those off.) Paid $1 for it.

In short order, I soaked the fern for three hours in a mix of rainwater (abundantly available), Superthrive, and some diluted organic fertilizer.  Then, between raindrops, I re-potted it in rich potting soil topped with homemade compost.  After that, I placed it under one of the house eaves where it was misted with rain for two days.

In my opinion, this fern got the “royalty” treatment, and I think it’s looking much better for it.  Wish I’d taken a “before’ photo.

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Ultimately, I plan to put the fern in the birdcage you see.  I’ll take another photo when I do this, once the fern “fronds” out as I hope it will.

What kind of fern?  I’ve no idea because it didn’t have a tag. Maidenhair perhaps?

When I stopped at our local Ace Hardware yesterday, I found this six pack below on sale for a dollar. Who could resist?

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Red Salvias

I asked if these were perennial (the tag didn’t give any indication).  The sales clerk said they were, but now that I’ve done research online, I think she was wrong.  No matter, they’re pretty.  I know where I want to plant them, and if they re-seed, so much the better.

And then things got bad.  There is only so much house cleaning you can do in a day before you get into mischief.

I ordered the following plants from Santa Rosa Gardens.  After all, they sent me a *special* VIP coupon because I’m such a terrific customer & gardener.  (Uh-huh.)

Also, in my defense, I can’t find some of these plants locally.

Order Details:

Code Item Qty Price Grand Total
AMS-HUB Amsonia hubrichtii 3 $6.95 $20.85
ACH-DER Achillea Desert Eve Red Improved 3 $5.00 $15.00
AQU-PAY Aquilegia Swan Pink, Yellow 1 $5.95 $5.95
HED-DIS Hedychium coccineum Disney 1 $5.95 $5.95
PEN-DPR Penstemon MissionBells Deep Rose 3 $5.95 $17.85
PHL-SSQ Phlox paniculata Sweet Summer Queen 2 $5.95 $11.90
SAL-BLS Salvia Heatwave Blast 1 $5.00 $5.00
PAN-HEA Panicum Heavy Metal 1 $8.95 $8.95
DSC-550 Exclusive VIP 20% Coupon 1 -$18.29 -$18.29
 
  Subtotal: $73.16
  Tax: $0.00
  Shipping Cost: $15.35
  Grand Total: $88.51

Immediately after placing this order, Park Seed sent me their “deeply discounted” sales list.–I’m not to look at it… I don’t think I’ll look at it…  Okay, I might peek.

Finally, I am trying without success to get someone to build the arbor I’d like using the gate I purchased below at auction.

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Photo by Ye Olde Auction House in Palestine, TX.

I want my arbor to look a bit like this:

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Page 63 in Flea Market Outdoors 2017 magazine, Country Decorating Ideas, #191.  Original photo taken by Mark Lohman.  Styled by Fifi O’Neill.  This arbor is in the garden of Karla Ritchey.

Hope your day is a dry one!

 

Explore-io Pictorio (Looking at Local Gardens, Etc. with a Different View)

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Wish your screen were “scratch & sniff”.  This gardenia’s perfume is wonderful!  The plant lives in my front yard. –It came with the house.

Sometimes you are so excited about something you want to blog about that you can’t wait. Either that or you want to get out of housework!

I’m taking a class that makes one contemplate the meaning of everything.  If you’re used to looking at things head-on then this class turns your view upside down and makes you re-think how you think or at least it does for me.

As a corollary to this, while I’ve not always agreed with everything my mother believed or taught (who does?), I do think some of her insights were spot on. For this post, I want to look at the world in the way she viewed it and in a way that perhaps most of us don’t see the world.

My mother once told me people don’t remember you for the fancy house you own or the expensive car you drive.  She said people remember you for the way you treat them.  She also said success in life was not measured in how many degrees you held or how famous you were.  She told me to look at the garbage man and to think about how unhappy we would all be if we didn’t have him to pick up our garbage.

For the last 15 years of my mother’s life, she lived in south Texas where a lot of poor folks also lived.

She told me about a house she drove past that, in an attempt to make the yard beautiful, someone placed a multitude of washed milk jugs filled with different colors of water around the perimeter of the front yard.  She believed this was an attempt to cheaply give the dirt-only front yard color, and my mother appreciated the attempt.

In the small town where I live, there are a lot of sad vacant houses and buildings, as well as some that are occupied but rundown.  As you walk down a street, you might see a magnificent Victorian mansion with a manicured lawn and garden and the house immediately next-door might be vacant and falling to the ground.  The contrast can be jarring.

Not everyone can afford home or building maintenance especially when the cost here to do some kinds of work is more than what the Internet shows as the highest rate charged in the country.  (For example, for three hours of electrical work, my total bill came to $860. There are only two electrical companies in town so they charge what they want.)

What does this have to do with gardening?  Well, I’ll show you in the photos below.  Some folks are limited as to what they can spend on their yards, but they try to make them pretty to the best of their ability.

My hope is you will see the beauty in their gardens and that through the humbleness or the decay, you will understand someone tried.

To quote Piet Oudolf, ““Seeing beauty in ugliness, beauty in death, beauty in decay, beauty in the unexpected, that is part of my life too.” 

Without more words (other than captions), here are photos I’ve taken of homes/buildings where someone has attempted to add beauty.

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1a    Colorful pots & plants. Some pots are plastic buckets.

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1b    Another view.

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2a  Hidden behind a 6 ft front yard hedge, I peeked in to find the garden above.
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2b  A second view.

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3a  Tiny house with a front yard garden.

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3b Entrance into the same house.

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4a Very old building.  Used perhaps for storage??? See the iron ring embedded in the sidewalk?  I wonder what it was for? There are several of them. To tether a horse maybe?

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4b Massive doors with lots of character. Notice the light coming through at the top of the door.  Is there a roof?  Guess not.

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4c Close up of the door. I didn’t push on it…Hmmm…Is it latched? Do I want to know? Maybe not.

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4d Side of the same building.

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4e Colorful wall.  Wonder who painted it and why?  What’s behind that wall?

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4f  Trying to see through the crack in the wall without success.

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4g Window around the corner at the back of the wall. That’s not a reflection on the glass that you see.

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4h Another view. Same window. Is there a secret garden behind the window?  If not, could I create one?

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5 The bane of this photo shoot.  The postman followed me everywhere!!!–Go away.  Please!

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6 The person who lives here gardened at one point.  It’s obvious.  I met the woman who lives here as she chased after her very large doberman pinscher bounding toward me.  I’d like to get to know her, but I rarely see her outside. She was well-spoken and seemed friendly.

I have many more photos, but I’ll save them for another post.

 

Friends don’t Give Friends Mexican Petunias

I’ve wanted to post for the last three days, but life got in the way.  You know how that is…protest property taxes, grocery shop, mow, murder plants, etc…

So, first let me give you a small tour of what my garden looks like.  All photos were taken this morning.

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This was the general view of my garden (coffee in hand) from the deck this morning.

Almost without fail, I check my baby plants every morning, usually in my night clothes.

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Baby hyssop planted two days ago.  He/She should look like this when all grown up.

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Baby butterfly weed, a very slow grower, but appears healthy.

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Baby foxglove. Should look like this as an adult.

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Baby ‘Red October’ bluestem grass.  Believe it or not, these are my favorite babies. I know–mothers aren’t supposed to have favorites.

And now let’s move away from the baby plant crib.

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Second year red hollyhock in the veggie patch. These are biennial so unless it re-seeds, I’ll need to plant it again.  Notice all of the bare earth?  I weeded!

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Colorful photo of my mulched path on the south side of the yard.

By now you’re probably wondering, what the heck do any of these photos have to do with Mexican petunias? Absolutely nothing. I just wanted to give you an update on my garden.

In the early 1990’s, “Mexican ruellia” (Ruellia brittoniana) also know as Mexican petunia was  considered a great plant for central Texas.  They were hardy, easy to grow, pretty, attracted wildlife, and self-seeded.  What more could one want in a plant?

My husband and I dutifully planted three.  I shudder when I think about this today.  Who needs a lawn when you have Mexican petunia?

When my then boss bought a new house and said she had a black thumb, I offered her several Mexican petunias.  I told her they were foolproof; that she could not kill them.  I was right.

Fast forward to the here and now, I would never in a million years plant tall Mexican petunias nor would I ever offer them to a friend, and yes, they grow in east Texas too.

If a Mexican petunia could get inside your house, it would grow in the dirt between your floor boards or in the dust on your furniture.  The word, invasive, doesn’t do this plant justice.

Some 15 years after I’d left my former job, I ran into my former boss in the supermarket and in the course of our conversation, I asked her about the Mexican petunias.  In answer, she rolled her eyes.  Oh, yes, she still had them.  (I knew this would be her answer because once you have them, you need dynamite and some serious prayer to get rid of them.)

How does this relate to my garden today? When I first moved in, a woman I know gave me several pass-along plants from her garden.  One was a Seven Sisters rose and the other a Four o’Clock, Mirabilis jalapa.

As a fairly seasoned gardener, I already knew about the bad habits of Four O’Clocks.  There are several sites on the web with the title, “How to Grow Four O’Clocks”.  There needs to be a counter site with the title, “How NOT to grow Four O’Clocks” because like ruellias, once you have them you won’t NOT have them.

I put the Four o’clock she gave to me in a large pot, and I diligently pull up the babies it makes each spring, but I had no previous experience with the Seven Sisters rose.

The Seven Sisters rose also reminds me of Mexican petunias. Invasive?  Oh My Goodness!  In less than six months, this baby rose had canes with roots 8 feet from its original planting site, plus in the two years I’ve grown it, it did NOT bloom.  Not once.

In my innocence, I’d never grown a Multiflora rose.  The woman who gifted it to me said this rose was a cutting from one her father grew on his farm “way-back-when”.

I wish I’d taken a photo of it before I killed it, but alas, I didn’t.  Two days ago, as much as I hated to do it, I cut the thorny creature to the ground, removed its invasive on-the-ground canes, and applied an herbicide to its stump, which is something I’ve only used once on poison ivy. I consider myself for the most part to be an organic gardener.

Had I left this rose, it might have choked me while I slept, kind of like this vine is choking my scarecrow.

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Native Snailseed vine on my Lady of the Garden.

And that’s MY Story.

Have you ever grown an invasive plant and lived to regret it?  I’d love to know.

A Song for my Future Grandson

Once again, this isn’t a gardening post, but it is about something that’s germinating….my new grandchild.  This will be my second grandchild.

While I prefer good old fashioned names, my daughter is drawn to names that are different.  Since these are her babies, the names are not my choice. I understand this. I’m not the one carrying the child for nine months nor will I take care of him for the next 18 years or so.  So no matter what she names him, he is hers to name…but that doesn’t mean I have to like the name.

Fortunately, my daughter of her own accord decided to name my soon-to-be grandson, something other than her original selection.  Thank God!!  And today, as I was pulling weeds, I came up with a song to honor the name change.  I hope you like it. Both of my kids thought it was funny.

Here is the history of the original name, Osiris:  The name means “God of the living and the dead”.

From the Internet:  Who was Osiris?

“He was a god-king who was believed to have given Egypt civilization. Osiris was the first child of Nut and Geb, and therefore the brother of Seth, Nephthys, and Isis. He was married to his sister, Isis. He was also the father of Horus and Anubis.Aug 17, 2014″

Short Song:  Osiris Moon by the HairyToeGardener

I was born in the month of June,

And my mom almost named me Osiris Moon.

 

Osiris Moon, Osiris Moon,

My mom almost named me Osiris Moon.

 

This, the first child of Nut and Geb,

Osiris Moon was “The Name” they both said.

 

Osiris Moon, Osiris Moon,

My mom almost named me Osiris Moon.

 

While I think both my parents were dropped on their head,

Tobias Blue is my name, instead.

Tobias Blue, Tobias Blue,

But I could have been named Osiris too.

 

Osiris Moon, Osiris Moon,

My mom almost named me Osiris Moon.

 

As I look at the stars in the night overhead,

Thinking with dread of the name they first said,

(And not only that, but a sister to wed!)

Thank God, I am not Osiris Moon,

Singing this tune with a name to impugn.

 

Oh, Osiris Moon, Osiris Moon,

My mom almost named me Osiris Moon.

Potting Bench Challenge

I’d planned to post this yesterday, but lightning storms kept the computer off for much of the day and evening.

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Rain water from yesterday’s storm collected in buckets under the house eaves.

First, I want to give you a peek at a few of the plants I’ve placed in the new planting area.  About two weeks ago, I began planting the seedlings I’d started in pots into the ground. Seeing them get big is rewarding.

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Mealy Blue Sage, Salvia farinacea, a perennial in my area and a Texas native, grown from seed.  It’s about to bloom.

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Baby cone flower, Echinacea purpurea, from seed. I have six planted.

I would show a photo of the baby Butterfly weeds, but they’re hard to see because of the mulch.

In among the flowers and ornamental grasses birds dropped in some vegetable seeds, and I’ve been dragging my feet as to whether they should be pulled up. They weren’t in the plan, but veggies are always a good thing, right?

Volunteer tomato and squash plant.

Change of subject…

I don’t mean to be sexist when I write I *think* more men love to grill than ladies, but of course that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few female barbeque-ers waving their grilling forks out there.

So, now I’m about to beg for ideas…and I hope you won’t hold back.

This house came with a grill inset into an outdoor counter with a mini refrigerator.  While I cook, and I feel I’m a great cook, grilling outside isn’t my “thing” although if YOU grilled at your house, I’d certainly eat whatever you made.  I like grilled food.

Since buying the house, I’ve not used the grill once, but I’ve had a multitude of men admire it such as my plumber, the mason and his workers, two handymen, my neighbor, and so forth.

When coming into the backyard, women usually say, “Oh, the yard is so large,” while men comment, “Oh, look at that grill!”

I’ve thought of selling the thing, but it’s not happening because 1) I’ve no idea what it’s worth and 2) everyone wants the grill and NOT the behemoth ceramic counter that surrounds it.  I can’t blame them.  The counter is unattractive.  No, I take that back.  It’s functional and modern, but it doesn’t go with the style of the house, and I like stuff that is funky, rustic, charming, and/or antique. The counter isn’t any of these.   It was never meant to be.

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The counter in all of its glory.  (Couldn’t get the dog out of the photo.) Pretend you don’t see the gate!

A few days ago, I approached my neighbor at the Kolstad Inn and said, “Let’s make a deal. You want my rotisserie grill, but not the counter.  I will give it to you.  How’s that for a good price?  Here’s the catch…I have a sink I want you to put in the hole left by the grill.”  I think I made his day and perhaps I’ll get part of a rotisserie chicken out of the deal as well.  (I already have an old porcelain sink that will fit.)

Now I need to be creative and that’s where YOU come in with your suggestions or at least I hope you will.

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Side view with another awesome picture of a dog’s butt.

I’ve decided since I can’t get rid of the counter, I’d like to convert it into a potting bench.

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Back view…Charming?  Rustic?  Vintage?  No?  Ugly?  Yes!

So to you: Have any ideas as to how I can make this counter look…rustic or vintage or funky or less ugly, and/or charming without breaking the bank?  Paint?  Wood?  Plants?  Vines? Mosaic?… Is it even possible to make this thing over or am I making a mistake?

Hope a few of you will chime in.