Going Blonde

With the beautiful summer weather, it makes one want to feel young and carefree. And what better way but to go blonde.

I’m talking about the lawn going blonde.

Honestly, I have always felt that lawns are drain on resources. People waste so much time and effort trying to keep them green. Not only that, but people water them unnecessarily as well. With droughts and water shortages throughout North America there is no need to waste it frivolously on watering a lawn. Grass stays healthy and is designed to look dry and discolored during the summer.

I know what you’re thinking. But Joe, don’t you have a pool? Yes we do. But we don’t drain it or have to add gallons of water due to evaporation because we take care of it. We are very conscientious about our water consumption and usage.

We do however have a garden. Many bushes and flowers grow bringing beauty to our landscape. We use water in the early morning and late evening to grow herbs, fruits and vegetables. Yesterday I enjoyed a cherry tomato right off the vine. No pesticides or chemicals on it. Just as natural and as fresh as you could imagine.

I honestly think we as a society need to do away with lawns. Or at least the obsession with having them green all the time. People also need to respect watering restrictions as well. I see too many of my neighbors ignoring the laws, wasting water and having green lawns during a heat wave. Water should be used to keep hydrated and refreshed. Not to make grass grow.

Finding Shade

Since we bought a home that has limited trees compared to our last home, I have been enjoying the sunshine. I have taken a few hundred photos of the landscape, sky and the sun. I have enjoyed it immensely.

But we have little to no shade in the yard. So we bought a patio umbrella last summer. We also assembled a Gazebo back in March and placed a patio set underneath for socializing.

But our dog has found solace under a bush we have near the pool. It’s funny because I trimmed it just yesterday. She loves the shade and spent hours laying there this afternoon. Even with my music playing next to her- she hardly stirred.

Sure, I write about finding shade, yet local weather has been far from normal these days. But as summer slowly approaches- I know that the family (pets included) will need these spaces to cool off from the summer sun.

Do your pets try and find shade in unique places, perhaps your kids do. Let me know in the comments how you keep cool in the summer. (When it arrives…)

Peony

I’ve always been appreciative of flowers. I have favorites- like roses and birds if paradise. Some other ones we have owned and planted that are among my favorites are lilies, daffodils and rhododendrons. Whenever they bloom, I know the spring and summer seasons are at hand.

Our new home has a couple of peony plants that were already in the garden. I had never heard of them. Seeing them grow was interesting. Little balls on the end of stalks. Tons of ants crawling around on them. And suddenly- BLOOM!

These things just POP. I am absolutely enthralled with the colour and the size of the blooms. My wife trimmed a couple of them and brought those inside for a vase to set on our countertop.

They look beautiful. I never knew that I’d like these. But then again, I never knew about them before this house.

When Is Summer Arriving?

The sun appears briefly and I want the warm weather to be here. Sure, there was a Wind Storm the other day, but come on- spring is here… yet I want summer weather!

Our patio is slowly getting set up for visitors and entertaining. We removed the dining sets and loungers from winter storage. Now we are in the process of deciding the best layout, while keeping it looking spacious.

The Gazebo went up three weeks ago and has proven to be sturdy as well as keeping the furniture dry. That is a great feeling. I have been out on the patio set now at least two to three times a week. Even on an overcast day like today. I am imagining what it will be like in a month once we open the pool!

Gardening has also commenced. The front is looking spectacular (patting myself on the back). That curb appeal is really something now. Periodic mowing, watering and weeding is all that’s needed now.

Soon I’ll share about the vegetable and herb gardening. That’s more my wife’s project. But I am totally going to benefit from the fruits of her labor!

Are you as impatient about summer arriving as I am?

Yard Pride From Front To Back

As the weather gets nicer, people are out working on their yards. My wife and I have spent a lot of time, elbow grease, and money on creating beautiful curb appeal. There is still more to come, but for the most part I’d say it’s looking great.

As I said, we aren’t the only ones working on their yards. I have seen the neighbors out on a regular basis tending to their lawns and gardens. My wife and I chose to keep up with the similarities of our neighborhood yards, not just because it looks good, but it also showed us which plants thrive in this general location. I also took the time to discuss with neighbors about their yards and experiences as the seasons change.

As for our backyard, since it is mostly a lounging location for us, the garden aspect is limited. Most of the edge gardens is established and we just need to trim back on occasion. My wife has been working on vegetables to be grown in a few planters around the backyard. So currently inside our home, the seedlings are beginning to sprout. Within a few weeks, they will be replanted outside as we await tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers to begin growing.

As wonderful as all of this sounds, there is a bit more chaos going on in our next door neighbors’s places. Both the house next to us and the one next to that are digging up their backyards. Next to us they are planning on adding a swim spa and the house next to that is wanting a pond. The crew that was hired is doing both at the same time and work began months ago. Now that the weather is nicer- they are working on it more frequently. I am looking forward to when the work is completed, not just because the noise will be over, but I want to admire the final results. I think the three of us will have outstanding backyards that we will enjoy for years to come.

Do you have big plans for your yard this year? Let me know in the comments and feel free to share previous work you are proud of!

Daffodils

Daffodils have started to sprout in our gardens. They are a lovely sight and we haven’t had these flowers at our previous home. We did have daffodils around a Sakura tree at our first house.

The flowers are vibrant, as I’m sure you know. Even though we are still in winter- I love that the bright yellow is a foreshadow to spring. Unfortunately, the flowers also make me sad.

The flowers at our first home were planted to remember my father. He had died from cancer. Daffodils are a symbol of hope for those suffering the effects of cancer.

Now that I am seeing daffodils in our current garden, I think of my father. I’d like to think he’d be proud of who I’ve become. Perhaps he would admire my parenting skills or career path. But that’s not the case. Cancer took him away in the year 2000. My children never had an opportunity to meet their grandfather.

As I walk around our home for the next few months, I will be thinking of my father in a positive way. The daffodils bring a new lease on life, and I love the yellow.

That’s A Wrap

The weather was sunny and the temperature was decent, so we decided to take advantage of it. My wife and I went for a 5km walk at the Tynehead Park. It’s a short drive away from our home, so it was nice to wander an area that wasn’t quite at home. Since it’s autumn, the leaves have mostly left the trees and the bare bones of the park remains.

Later in the afternoon as the sun crested over our house, my son and I ventured into our backyard to wrap our palm trees. We used some burlap and created a blanket around the trunk. It was easy enough to do, and I know it is better to do this while it’s nice instead of when the cold snap hits. Hopefully the winter is mild and doesn’t hurt the palm trees.

After wrapping the trees, my son helped to run an extension cord under our back deck so that we could spin some rope lights around the trees. Besides a fun look, this will also keep them warm in the winter months as required.

Next spring it’ll be nice to see everything come back to life and spread some colour in the world. For now, gardening isn’t over- that’s a wrap.

The Pathway To Curb Appeal

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been working hard at creating “curb appeal” for our home. Most of the summer was too hot to do manual labor in the front yard. During that time, we enjoyed our backyard immensely, and who wouldn’t?

But it finally came time to start with landscaping the front. I would be lying if I didn’t say I had “Yard Envy” of our neighbors. They all had a decade to creat beautiful landscapes. The home we bought- the previous owners put the time and money into the backyard. The gave my wife and I pretty much a blank canvas to do what we want in the front.

All summer we talked and planned. We drew ideas, hit some nurseries, and finally started in the purchasing of plants and such. A few bushes, trees, dirt, cement slabs, and stones have arrived. It has been back breaking work, quite literally. I pushed myself too hard last week and felt it.

After that, my wife put our two youngest to work helping out. I utilized our middle for quite a bit of the work. So naturally I paid her afterwards- much to her surprise. Today, my wife also took a few minutes to assist me. (Do I need to pay her also?)

Here are some of the before pictures of what we have done thus far. We decided to add a stone path along the driveway that leads past the front garden and towards our back gate. I did this all the right way, so I won’t have to try and fix it later on. We dug up the grass, leveled it off, lay down landscape fabric, put in a border, spread some sand, put down the slabs and shoveled the tiny stones all around.

Last week we planted a few of the bushes where we want them to be the centerpieces once we finish pulling up the lawn and adding some garden islands. In fact, we are hoping to remove the entire lawn to create a beautiful, low maintenance garden. That will likely happen next spring.

Today was a delivery of the stones and it only took about two hours to spread it out. The final look of the pathway is amazing. I’m really satisfied with how it turned out. I always love a sense of accomplishment when finishing a project. Now on to the next one!

Weekend Woes

As summer comes to a close, enjoying a weekend in the sun is a luxury. After a few days of rain, it was nice that our Saturday was filled sunshine.

As the summer comes to a close, my wife and I started to plan our gardens. Sales at the garden centers are starting to come up. Today we planted some late summer/ autumn plants by the pool. They will add a splash of red and yellow the the back yard.

We also moved our tomato plants into a small green house in order to protect them from blight. They are so close to being edible that it would be a shame to lose them this far into the season.

Finally, we are gathering up junipers and cedars for our front garden. These will be planted over the next few weeks as we try and figure out a layout that won’t involve lawn.

Hopefully the sun peaks it’s head out on my days off. That’ll make it so much easier to plant.

How is the end of your summer coming along?

Victoria: Day 3- Walking

We started our final day in Victoria by walking around Canada’s oldest Chinatown. There were the typical shops filled with cheap knickknacks. It was most fun to just squeeze down the narrow alleyways and admire the brickwork of the buildings.

We tooled around the tourist part of downtown Victoria and stopped in at a bookstore followed by a macaron shoppe. Both places were greeted by our kids with enthusiasm.

On our drive back to the ferry terminal- we stopped at The Butchart Gardens. I always wanted to visit this place, but never made the time to do so. Unfortunately, because it is autumn- the garden was rather lackluster. I’m sure it is far more vibrant and lovely in the spring and summer when the rose garden is in full bloom.

I did enjoy walking through the Japanese Garden and the Italian Garden. The time of year was good for the fact that it wasn’t crowded. Perhaps one day I shall see it in the spring time. But it has taken me until ages 44 to go my first time, so there may not be a second time. Especially since there is so much more of the world to explore.

At the end of the day we got lucky and made it on a ferry an hour earlier than planned. All of our walking had made us very tired, so that hour made all the difference in our trip. I do look forward to visiting Victoria once again some day. I have always enjoyed traveling there.

Upcycle To A Greenhouse

Last year when I Built a set of doors, I had removed the old sliding glass door and set it aside. It was pretty massive, with each panel being four feet wide. Today I finally began to do something about them. I made a mini greenhouse.

I had my son as a helper once more as we measured out some boards for the frame. I figured we could make a TARDIS shaped greenhouse. Just the right size to get some of the plants started.

These boards came from our old deck that was in front of the old sliding glass door. We ripped that deck out in 2014. Many of these board have been used for projects such as an Axe Throwing Target. I kept the long ones just in case. Today they became the frame of the mini greenhouse. I also added an old busted sliding window for the roof. That way it can be opened to allow airflow.

All that’s left is adding a door and maybe some painting of the boards. If I can find a small can of blue paint- you know I’ll be making a TARDIS door! It’s fun being a Whovian. Pretty sure my wife will be okay with that idea.

I think she will also appreciate this Great Glass Elevator in our garden.

Fern Baby Fern

When we first moved into our home, I hated the ferns we had growing everywhere. In fact during the first year or so, my lawnmower found them attractive. I chopped them right down to the roots. You know what happened next? They grew back.

I gave in and accepted that ferns are pretty dang hearty plants. I’ve even dug them up and transplanted them and they’ve thrived happily. Over a decade later, I’m satisfied with the ease at which these plants are to maintain.

Ferns have this amazing ability to just keep living. What I do now is wait until mid spring and cut off the old or dead leaves. It’s easy to figure out because the new one stems have sprouted and are a vibrant healthy green color.

After a quick trim- these plants look good as new. If I forget to water them, no big deal- they could live through a drought of a few weeks. Ferns grow exponentially without being trimmed as well. For us, ferns add the splash of greenery to our garden that we get to enjoy during the beautiful weather.

Empty Threat?

My wife has threatened to remove my train garden if I don’t fix it up. So today I went to my local garden center that supplies G Scale trains. I brought with me some parts to get fixed and wanted to buy some stuff.

Sadly, the fellow that runs it is retiring within the year. That means no new stock or parts any more. And the stuff he has- is just getting cleared out. I had to make a decision. Do I buy some boxcars for a train set that doesn’t run, or do I walk away empty handed.

I left without buying anything. I texted my wife as well about the hard decision I needed to make. When I spoke to her however- it turns out she doesn’t want to lose the train. She was just making it as an empty threat to get me motivated again. Little did she know that the place nearby would stop supplying my hobby.

On the plus side- it looks like I can spend a “little extra” to get the trains running again. As well as throw a pond in alongside the tracks. Maybe I’ll go with a steam engine this time… I like Trains.

The Pinterest Plans

A few years back, I was addicted to Pinterest. So much so that I’d kill the battery on my iPhone regularly. Then one day it stopped. I think it was because I had saved all these wonderful ideas, but never did any.

It has been ages since I’ve logged into my Pinterest account. However, I do remember certain things I kept looking for. Mostly to do with our garden and doing it on the cheap.

We have an acre to work with. Lots of old growth as well as large trees. I have taken the time to move things around in the yard and have cut back some of the overgrown parts. It’s a labour of love.

Even animals love to hang out on our property. Our dog Lex is super lazy and never chases the squirrels away. We have numerous bird nests hidden in places like the wood shed and throughout trees. So we have a bird feeder that is always filled to keep them happy. And the squirrels love to run along our fence and up the trees.

Like a regular Disney Princess film- we just need more singing in the yard.

Pinterest was always something that kept me creating visions for our property. “Up Cycling” is still a hot trend. We have a collection of junk that is turning into Instagram hashtags. All with stuff we had already in our possession. This year’s spring cleaning and yard setup hasn’t cost me a penny. Thanks to some old ideas from Pinterest. I did toss a couple of our old toilets. I wasn’t really wanting the white trash planters in my yard. I’m glad I don’t go on Pinterest anymore.

But I still think about making stuff from old pallets I have…

Vegetables and Herbs

Every year we grow our own food.  Something about the taste of a freshly picked vegetable really makes a meal.


Every evening my wife goes out to water and cover the plants. Every morning she goes to check on the progress.  It’s always a slow start at the beginning of the season as the seeds begin to take root.  Patience in gardening is required.


In the past, we have purchased some plants that were already begun at a nursery.  This year was mostly seeds.  We also tried something new by putting everything up higher on tables.  This was to keep the wild rabbits out.  It seemed to work.


We have moved everything closer to our house now so that they don’t wither up in the sun.  This should also slow the growing process a bit as well to spread out the vegetables over the next couple of weeks as they finish ripening. 

I can’t wait to dive into some of the peppers my omelettes will be devine.

Train Garden


Back in the summer of 2008, a year after we had moved into our home, we decided (mostly with my influence) to build a trainset in our garden instead of a pond. We cut down some trees and built up the ground to lay the tracks. It was a lot of time and a lot of fun.  The kids were happy to help out in building it and watching it run.  Plus at ages 2,4 & 6 playing in dirt is always the best.


Over the years, many changes have occurred to the train garden.  Some of it was just trial and error as I figured out how to make it look good and continue to run. Some were just for fun.  I’ve reconfigured the loops twice, built new bridges, placed bricks under the tracks to keep it level and even added in a small tunnel.  We have had issues with moles, birds and even a snake trying to make a home out of the garden. 


But the biggest hurdle is that I haven’t figured out how to keep the engines running smoothly. The tracks are outside all year and the electrical connection drops in various parts.  This has caused excessive wear on the motors on both of my engines.  I’ve had to replace the motors a few times now.  My next option is to buy a battery pack- like the type used for RC cars. And of course a remote control to help run them. A remote that can eventually be used to control every aspect of the railroad.  From lights to sounds to even lining switches. That way I can use the power source that I currently have to add some lighting to buildings or other structures. I love scale models of scenery shots. They’re so much fun to set up.

Our next biggest hurdle is money for my project.  It would seem that whenever a bit of extra fun is wanted, something more serious rears its ugly head.  Unfortunately this time it appears that our washing machine has decided to leak from who-knows-where.  I’ve tried to take it apart to find the source of the leak, but to no avail.  Looks like a new washer is about to be purchased in a couple of days.  


Or we can just enjoy stinky, dirty clothes and have a cool trainset for the summer.  I’ll let my wife decide.  I know my choice. 

Woo-woo!

Weeds and work

We’ve been at our home for nine years now.  Every year I allot about $500 towards our garden.  Having an acre and budgeting such a small amount has its challenges.  Nine years ago we bought a trampoline.  Six years ago, the money was mostly spent on bark mulch.  Seven years ago, I spent the money on building garden boxes.  Two years ago we bought cement for our covered deck.  Last year was a new BBQ and a new lawnmower.  This year is some more cement to finish off the deck, some plants, and a new patio set.

Old bench seat from a car now for the backyard.


$500 doesn’t go very far these days.  Pinterest has given me plenty of ideas on “up cycling” and dealing with what we have on hand.  We have grown lettuce and green onions from the stalks of the remaining vegetables.  We compost as much as we can and use our rain barrels as well.  Without having to spend a fortune, we do our best to keep the yard maintained.  I have more moss than grass but hey it’s green and soft.

There’s a garden shed back there somewhere.


Most of our gardening time is spent pulling weeds and cutting back on brush. Trimming ferns and bushes takes up half the day.  The end result looks amazing, even if it only lasts a week or two.  The warm weather has been both a blessing and a curse.  We get extra time to make the yard look nice, but we will have twice the amount of work to do in later months.  The weeds are relentless this year.  My fingernails are coated underneath with soil from digging down to pull the roots.  My “yard work clothes” are getting washed more regularly.  My back and knees are taking a beating as I bend over to work.

Only a few weeds to pull. No big deal.


I love my yard.  All the work we put into it makes me beam with pride and joy.  Especially when the kids are out playing or our friends are over for a visit.  We work hard to make it pretty.  Of course I could spend a small fortune to get the outdoor kitchen and seating set I want.  I don’t need to get further into debt just to have a few days of pleasure.  We have plenty of seating as it is, it’s just not new- it’s up cycled.