Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tight Squeeze

Evan squeezes into his dump truck.

Squeezing into spaces seems to be universally popular with small children. I could say that perhaps it's their way of trying to emulate their experience in the womb.

Miranda squeezes in behind Mommy.

Or, it might just be fun.

Duncan takes his squeezing to a whole new level--literally!

I have to admit, whatever the reason behind the squeezin''s just plain cute.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Second Look

I thought the other day that we had been given the "gift of dirt." That wasn't quite accurate. After a second, closer look, I have found that although there is some new sediment back in the Back 40, there are dips and rises everywhere, and new scraped out areas. We have noticeable erosion. So, we are hoping to go on the attack as soon as possible. We're thinking we'll install French drains and dry creek beds, in hopes to get any flood waters directed back to the creek. And I'm starting to think about doing raised beds for my gardens and play areas for the kids. So, I'm trying to do my research on raised beds to decide what to do. Any body have any advice on doing raised beds? I'm thinking either a concrete product or stone for edging.

The Pit...of Dispair!

Since the floods in September of last year, the back yard has been more of a mud pit than a yard. After a month with only light rain (but really cold temperatures), I finally thought I might be able to get some work done in the yard. I mostly do planning this time of year, and don't get my hands too dirty for another month or so. The Back 40 was still moist (with standing water in some spots since September.) But it was dry enough to give it a go. Unfortunately, last weekend brought more heavy rains. And more flooding. So, we're back to square one. The flood in September really scraped away the soil. Sure, there was some sediment left, but it seemed like more was taken away. I thought it appeared as though we had more dirt left this time. But when Duncan and I decided to tool around back there this week, I was shocked. There is some sediment, but there are different areas that were scraped. And many, many plants were lost this time. Mostly newbies.

The mud pit that is the back yard (aka Back 40.)

Those holes used to have some cool little sedges called "Blue Bunny." A nice small native grass that is supposed to be pretty tough and handle a wet environment. They were new plants, and didn't have an established root system, so...the latest flood literally dug them right out and swept them away.

What used to be Evan's Garden. I've decided to move it to a safer, less flood prone spot. Not sure I will have many things to transplant, unfortunately.

The new perennial bed that was an extension of Evan's Garden zoo theme. They were all newly planted plants--newly purchased or transplanted in the fall. I lost at least 12 plants here. I won't be sure until Spring about plants that are still dormant.

Signs of Life!

I'm trying to stay positive about this whole backyard do-over. We have erosion that has to be addressed. I might as well fix it, fix it right, and do things that I like. It's going to be a lot of work. And a lot of money! I'll post pictures of our progess.

Monday, January 25, 2010

More Rain

We had quite a storm roll through yesterday. According to my handy dandy new rain gauge, we ended up with 2.8 inches of rain. It was enough in a short enough period of time for us to have another flood in the back 40. So, today we have more standing water (because it hasn't dried out completely since September), mostly organic debris, and silt. Places I had dug out before to act as a channel down to the creek, are now filled in again! The big flood last year seemed to scrape away more than it left. This time it kind of feels like we got a present. A dirt present. Just when I think I might have it all figured out (or at least, some ideas figured out), we get flooded again. And of course, all the rain has given me time to think. And I believe that those years of drought (2006, 2007, 2008) kind of made me forget that the back part of my yard is a flood plain. I've been thinking about doing some hardscaping (read: patio) back there, surrounded by native shrubs to act as a flood breaker. Maybe some raised beds and some dry creek beds, to give the flow of water direction. Of course, it's difficult to plan with the distraction of more flooding. It's difficult to get to work when the ground is like a wet sponge. So, it's definitely been a frustrating period. And I don't know if I should do what I'm planning or not. It seems like planting some anchoring plants would be a good thing. I may have to call in a pro for help this time!

Escape Artist

She's cute. She's sweet (well, most of the time.) She's sneaky. For a while now, Miranda has been moving up in the world-literally. She likes to climb. I've quit telling her that God only gives out one climber per family (and that spot was filled by Duncan), because she's clearly not listening. She watches how big brother, with relative ease, scales up the shelves in the cupboard, and on top of desks and armoires. She watches. And she thinks that she can do it, too. But she doesn't have Duncan's skills just yet. So, she falls. A lot. But she has her own little skill set that she's been honing. I mentioned previously Miranda's talent for disrobing (a la Houdini), and she continues to enjoy gettin' nekkid. But she's moving up in her wriggling world, too. When we go to the store, I buckle her in the cart and start shopping. But before long I notice that she's doing some wiggling. And some wriggling. Then she stands up, gets out of the buckle and either tries to climb into the cart or jump over the side. I put her back in, buckle the strap, and tighten it. "Whatever, Mom," she seems to say. She wriggles out again with ease. And it happens a third time, with an even tighter belt! Finally, exasperated, I decide we gotta get out of there before I lose it (or her!) Again today, she wriggled out of the belt. I gave her a cookie and told her she only gets the cookie if she's sitting down. That worked pretty well. She stood up...I took the cookie (she got MAD, and sat down.) I decided to make a bee line to the checkout before I turned completely grey headed. When I have my back turned, putting groceries on the conveyor belt, she gets up, cookie in hand, and sits on the handle bar, like that's where she's supposed to be. Meanwhile, Duncan sits quietly in his seat that he buckled himself.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Good News!

We had some rain over the weekend, but the mud didn't stop my son, Duncan, and me from playing outdoors in the beautiful weather the last couple of days. We've gone from unseasonably cold to unseasonable warm. But just a little above average. We'll be seeing some more rain tomorrow and back to average temps for the weekend. Duncan and I spent most of our outside time in the Back 40. There's plenty of mess for a little boy to get into without getting into too much trouble. I took the opportunity to get out my shovel and dig around a little. I dug a hole in the area of Evan's Garden, and in a couple of areas where I'd like to place some shrubs. I was mainly testing the ground. I wanted to know if the hole would fill up with water, or if the weekend's rains had drained in those spots (because it certainly hadn't in others!) I'm happy to say that all of tests came back with no water! I'm feeling more encouraged about the future of the gardens back there now. It's still going to take a lot of dirt/pea gravel/stone/plants/etc. to get it looking like my backyard oasis, but at least I am hopeful.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cabin Fever

I really don't know how people can live in colder climates. I really don't. Oh sure, you have your down jackets and snow shoes, but what about the sunshine? We've had unseasonably cold weather here lately. Although, we actually had a couple of days last week that were pretty nice. Dare I say it? Pleasant. Duncan and I played in the backyard. It seemed drier than it has been since The Flood of 2009, but it was all just an illusion. I could hear the ice crunching under my feet. Still moisture there, just frozen. Sigh. But something even more unfamiliar happened. Duncan took his toddler sized shovel and thrust it at the ground. But the ground won. Duncan tried it again. Nothing doing. The ground was (and is?) frozen! Something that we don't experience very often down South. He looked at me and asked, "What happened to the ground?" I told him it was frozen and hard. He went back to breaking up ice. Of course, the weekend could have been warmer and allowed for outside time. But no! It rained. So, the Back 40 is, yet again, a big mud pit. All of this cold weather and rain has meant a lot of indoor time with the kids. And let's face it, we're getting on each other's nerves. So, I keep looking at the calendar wishing for Spring. I know it's bad to wish your time away, but I want to work in the yard and play with the kids. Those are the days when they play so hard, they sleep like little angels. We will be getting some more agreeable temperatures this week (woohoo!), but probably some more rain, too. So, hopefully we can get out there and enjoy the sunshine while it lasts and try to make our indoor time a little more sunny.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Is it Spring, yet?

I feel like I'm waking up from a long winter's nap expecting the new growth and buds of early Spring. But then I become aware that it is still Winter, and a rather chilly one at that. This morning it was 12 degrees. Twelve! I live in the Southeast US. We don't get those temperatures around here. In spite of the weather, I did get some gardening done in the first couple of days of 2010. I planted some Acorus in the still damp back 40. Still wet in places. I planted a couple in standing water. I went inside feeling uncertain about this. I looked up Acorus to see if they like wet feet. What I found was they do ok with shallow water, not too deep. They like things consistently moist. I decided to dig them all back up the next day and add some organic matter to the soil and see if I could give them a good start that way. I went back out the next day. Things weren't wet, they were frozen! I managed to dig all the little plants up, improve the soil, and replant. The temperatures have been mostly below freezing all week with a small amount of snow. The last I saw the Acorus looked just fine. Fingers crossed. But I am seriously over this weather. I really feel for my friends in more northerly areas. I don't know how they can stand it. Of course, I stayed inside the house entirely too much and have a case of cabin fever. I imagine people who are accustomed to cold weather are better equipped (like owning more than cotton pants! Jeans are useless in the cold!) I'm trying to do what I do best this time of year: plan. We hope to add more stone here, there, and everywhere. Terraced beds on the slope, patio and pathways in the back 40. Too bad we have no wheel barrow to cart stone around. (Our two wheel barrows floated away in the September flooding.) The bridge is gone, too. So, we'll have to use our neighbor's until we get a new one. I'll try to not be distracted so much by the temperatures, and get busy with planning Evan's New Garden.

Out of the Mouths of Babes

I suppose if you live long enough, you get to plan your own funeral. You pick out Scripture verses, music, quotations you deem appropriate. But not everyone has a choice. Death comes as a nasty surprise. You have to hope, then, that the people in charge of the service can figure things out without your assistance.

I remember going to the funeral home after Evan died. A parent's worst nightmare, people always say, is to lose a child. Pouring over a brochure about caskets, looking at gravesites (with a thoroughly unpleasant salesman), and planning the service. The music minister and organist came over and wanted to know the music we'd like played before and during the service and the pastor asked about scriptures and quotations. Suggestions were made, and we settled on those that seemed special. We chose the song "Be Thou My Vision" as one of the hymns, because that was something I always sang for Evan at naps and bedtimes. And also "The Lord's Prayer" (sung by a wonderful tenor.) Evan called it "Our Father." It was a special song that grandma and Mommy sang to him. I asked my brother in law, Mark, to read "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost. We have a copy of the poem with illustrations by Susan Jeffers that Evan loved.

I have found that now when I read one of Evan's favorites, 3 years after his death, I still have a hard time. Sometimes I cry a little bit and hug Miranda or Duncan a little tighter. I haven't sung "Be Thou My Vision" to Duncan or Miranda. When I hear it played at church I break down. It's just too much. I haven't read the Robert Frost poem, either.

Recently I was reading another of Evan's favorites, "Little Tree" by e.e. cummings. You probably remember cummings from your schools days...for the lack of capital letters. And the lack of rhyming. When I was younger, I didn't think it was poetry unless it rhymed! "Little Tree" is a Christmas poem. We have the version illustrated my Mary Claire Smith. A little tree is selected from the forest by the angels to be a Christmas tree. When I read it I think of Evan as the little tree. The angels take him and tell him not to be afraid. The tree is decorated and placed in a place of honor. I thought to myself recently, "Why didn't we have this read at Evan's funeral? It's perfect." Of course, then I may not want to read it, either. After swallowing the lump in my throat and reading the book to Duncan at bedtime two nights ago, he asked about the angels in the pictures. At the end of the book the illustrator has them flying off into the sky. Duncan asked where they were going. I said, "They're going back to Heaven. Their job is done." He said that the angels were going to their house in Heaven. I said, "Mmm...ok." He chose "Little Tree" again last night, and again at the end of the book he asked where the angels were flying. I said, "Back to Heaven." And he said, "Yeah, to Evan's house." Of course, I got all misty, and agreed that's where they were flying.

little tree by e.e. cummings

little tree

little silent Christmas tree

you are so little

you are more like a flower

who found you in the green forest

and were you very sorry to come away?

see i will comfort you

because you smell so sweetly

i will kiss your cool bark

and hug you safe and tight

just as your mother would,

only don't be afraid

look the spangles

that sleep all the year in a dark box

dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,

the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,

put up your little arms

and i'll give them all to you to hold

every finger shall have its ring

and there won't a single place dark or unhappy

then when you're quite dressed

you'll stand in the window for everyone to see

and how they'll stare!

oh but you'll be very proud

and my little sister and i will take hands

and looking up at our beautiful tree

we'll dance and sing

"Noel Noel"

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Yes, I'm late, but...

Santa came and left lots of toys for our good girl and boy.

Tea anyone?

Look out Jimi Hendrix! (I only say that because Duncan has already submitted the guitar (pronounced gee-tar) to much abuse! And I don't know because I don't play a stringed instrument, but I'm pretty sure when you unwind the string, it's not going to play in tune. Just a guess, really.)

Miranda and I toast our teacups, and Duncan plays with his new Garbage/Recycling truck (made in the USA--woohoo, thanks Santa!)

The aftermath.