Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hellebore Porn

I've been converted into a hellebore fan after reading Margaret Roach's first book (about checking out from her high-powered job with Martha Stewart and blissing out on gardening) and her blog, I bought this hellebore, above, after reading that book when I first arrived on the mountain, and I'm ready to buy about 50, oh maybe 100, more. Hellebores are evergreens, love shade and shoot up these gorgeous flowers in late winter and early spring. Mine's been blooming for at least a month now. Stunning.

I still haven't made my first purchase at the Barn (my new employer), but it will definitely happen next week. I've finished shaping up that new backyard gathering area here, so now I need a little landscaping to set it all off. I'm thinking blueberry bushes, combined with some evergreen shrubs. It's always a challenge to find the right mix that doesn't look too suburban for the middle of the forest.

Today Mason celebrated the return of his main chainsaw (after a replacement part finally arrived). He took down three small maples (each about 40 feet tall) and a small oak (about 40 feet, too) to make room for downing a 70-foot oak that's got to come down for the solar panel project. He wore himself out, taking the small ones out by the roots (plus taking down a pair of dead "sourwood" trees that we have to split tomorrow for firewood, as spring is refusing to arrive), so the massive oak may not come down for a few days.

Meanwhile, can I bitch about the weather? On Tuesday, I worked 8 hours. Outside. In 40-degree weather. (That morning an inch of snow covered our yard.) It almost made my newspaper days look pleasant (almost, if I wasn't hearing about how miserable my former co-workers are ...). And the average temp here for that day? Supposed to be 67. Ugh. This prolonged winter is KILLING US!

And yes, we once again have run out of firewood and have been scavenging to keep ourselves warm at night until the real spring arrives. Mason's already built a bigger firewood storage area for next year, so maybe we'll finally get it right for our fourth winter in the woods.

Up tomorrow: A trailer load of free mulch in Soddy Daisy to tidy up some other deserving areas.

Friday, March 22, 2013

It Had To Happen

No, no, this isn't our back yard. (Yet.) Ha! I wish. This is an early spring photo from the shrub section of the Barn Nursery, my new employer. Yup, I'm a working girl again. I scored a job at the best nursery in town, only for spring, but I may possibly be able to stay on longer.  So far, I'm loving it. I get to help customers pick out plants, and even do some landscape design when a customer wants it; there's also lots of watering and deadheading, not to mention heavy lifting and constant walking around the acre's worth of plants. I work in the perennial, tree and shrub area -- pure heaven!!

Now after two years of "vacation," it's been an adjustment. (For example, I have to set an alarm clock now for the first time after decades of night-shift work. AND ... we had to buy a battery-operated alarm clock, as we don't run our precious electricity 24/7, and the cell phone alarms are unreliable, as the clock function jumps back and forth between Central and Eastern time. Our lives are tough.)

But the extra cash will come in handy for that guest cabin, not to mention my gardening addiction. It's been an adjustment for Mason, too, who has strict instructions on NO CHAINSAW work while I'm not around.

Stay tuned for the photos of the plants I blow my first paycheck on.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Back Yard: From Embarrassment to Tiki Bar

Mark it: It took eight days of bonfires -- and 10 giant contractor bags full of trash -- and our backyard embarrassment is gone. See above? That's the ash pile from the last night of burning, and beyond that, where you see the freshly roto-tilled swath of forest floor? That's where the 12-foot-high brush pile used to be. Some damn fine dirt under that brush pile, by the way; I already stole some for the garden.

No snakes were encountered. The only injury was to Mason's hair, eyebrows and eyelashes; my Pyro Man sometimes gets a bit too close to the fire. The hair was due for a trim anyway, but we had to cut it a bit shorter than usual to tend to the yellow, crispy ends.

In between our burning chores, I worked on our new backyard gathering area. Mason calls it the future tiki bar, but it's got a way to go still. Here's the preview:

In the rear left, you'll see our new firewood pile (Attention NYT readers: we're wild and crazy Tennesseans, so it's stacked bark up AND down). That's fresh firewood for next season, from trees we've taken down to clear room for the upcoming solar panels. Meanwhile, our firewood stockpile for this season might last us another five or six cold nights, so, yes, we might be back to scavenging until spring is in full swing.

And one final note. Spring is starting to sprout here on Flat Top. Redbud trees are already blooming in town, but here, we're just starting to see daffodils sprout and little green buds on shrubs. All that gray you see in the top photo? Give us four more weeks, and the same shot will be awash in green! Our giant maples are already budding out, and check out my cute little lungwort in the front bed: