Saturday, November 21, 2015

Home Ownership

You’ve just closed on your new home (new construction or just new to you.)  And now you’re ready to put your own style on everything from bathroom floors to landscaping.

I’ve never seen one single new homebuyer satisfied with the previous owner’s landscaping. You name it and someone will hate it or wonder why you didn’t do it.  It’s human nature. 

Here are some considerations for the whole landscaping gig at your new home:

1.    Don’t do any major changes to your yard the first full year.  There may be seasonal reasons for what does or doesn’t exist.
a.     Those trees may be in that odd place because they provide a windbreak from those crazy nor’easters or as a sound buffer.
b.    That huge bush might be a rare hundred-year-old survivor.

2.    Understand what’s underground and overhead:
a.     Locate the sewer, water, gas, electric, phone and cable. 
b.    What you plant over/under utilities today may be dangerous or removed in a few years.
c.     There is a free locating service – use it.

3.    Feel free to ask the neighbors the history of the landscaping.  Not ask them what to plant but they do have historical data plus you’ll get their gripes up front.  (The fence that’s on the property line, the tree that always gets their drive dirty with mulberries, the bush that doesn’t allow them to peak in your windows.)

4.    Use a diagram to plan changes.   Whether using a contract landscaping firm or doing it yourself, having an overall plan allows you to see what it will look like down the road. 

5.    Respect the history of your property.  Some things work for new construction but would look woefully out of place at an older home.

6.    Plan hard scapes FIRST.  Even if you can’t afford to put in everything in the beginning, having hardscapes in the original plan will keep you from removing important plants later. 
a.     Hard scapes are sidewalks, porches & decks, steps, edging, kids’ play areas, garages, driveways, mailboxes, clotheslines, fire pits, gates/fences, downspouts/rain barrels, irrigation systems, pool & other water features and any other large permanent structure.

7.    Large trees:  Know the measurements of the MATURE tree canopy and root system.  If these are placed wrong, it will forever be an expensive maintenance problem. 
a.     What is the purpose of the tree?  Shade, windbreak, privacy, decorative, sound buffer or wildlife habitat?
b.    What are the tree’s maintenance requirements?  Nuts, fruits, leaves, sap, susceptibility to disease & wind damage, invasive root system and will these things be a problem where you plan to locate?

8.    Bushes:  Considerations are much the same as when planning trees.
a.     Use bushes that are complementary to the age of your home.
b.    All bushes need some maintenance.  Understand all their requirements.

9.      Do NOT plant things too close to buildings – ever. 

10.   If you’re putting in a new landscape, amend the soil FIRST. 

11.   To sod or to seed?  It’s a money and speed choice.  Both will need water to establish.

12.  Now is the time to realistically calculate how much you’re willing to work or pay others to work.

13.   Edging:  Easy to mow around.  Will it require heavy weed pulling or herbicides?

14.   Consider how much light/shade – water/drought a piece of ground gets in ALL seasons.  It can make or break a plant.

15.   Landscape fabric/mulches:  Landscape fabric and mulches help control weeds but can become unsightly and difficult to remove.  Chose well. 

16.   I’ve covered this before, but unless you live where there are legal restrictions to what can and cannot go in your yard, you can pretty much design as you want.  Others may hate your 20 foot pink elephant bought at a bargain from Nature World but if you truly can’t live without it, put it in but then try to shield it from others.  It’s called “being a good neighbor.”

17.   If you want to remove the previous owner’s landscaping, instead of trashing, consider giving it away to other gardeners.  It’s the old:  One person’s trash is another person’s treasures.
There’s nothing wrong with getting ideas from Pinterest, neighbors and decorating books.  Then adapt what you love and put your own personality on the landscape.  

Wait a year, make a plan, do your research and happy gardening!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Stop and Smell the Roses

Some folks spend so much time complaining, 
analyzing and hating the thorns on a rose bush
 they never see the beauty of the flowers.
My comment (above) isn't terribly original but it still holds true.  I'll see someone has written a lovely thought about their favorite whatever and invariably the grinches of the world must point out all the pitfalls.  

Call it political correctness, negativity, mean spirited, reading too much news or the inability to see goodness and beauty.  

Yes, I know there are horrible and evil things in the world and we mourn and despise them; we are scared and we have compassion.  

The lasting sadness when someone we love dies, the lasting horror of violence and the lasting depression when hopes are shredded makes it so very hard to stay positive.  Staying positive isn't about forgetting - it's about choice.  

There isn't a week that goes by I don't think about our grandson who passed away.  I'm sure his parents don't have a moment where Nick isn't in their thoughts.  He won't be forgotten.  Something that isn't happening is we're not punishing others by trying to steal their joy for their own children.  We aren't throwing the blue blanket of unhappiness upon others' roses.

When stepping back and looking unemotionally at negative comments thrown on positive thoughts, it really is all about the naysayers getting satisfaction, a measure of happiness, by showing the world there are so many awful sides to a picture no one should rejoice.

We all have those moments of negative thoughts.  If you simply can't get negativity out of your thoughts to the point you only see sadness, talk with a professional who can help you. 

Step back from negative comments and consider exactly what you're trying to accomplish.  Do you think the world won't consider these things unless you're there to save them from unwarranted happiness?

When I posted on social media that my grandson had passed away, every single comment was positive.  I didn't need someone pointing out their disappointment in God or in medicine or in a world of heartaches.  By friends and family only lifting us up, we were able to take strength and celebrate Nick being in our lives.

Roses have thorns.  Don't plant them near a walkway.  Wear thick gloves when working on the bush.  Pop off the thorns when bringing them into the house.  But do your best to celebrate the gift of the flower.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Salad for One

Red cabbage - just because it's pretty!
My husband went from eating robust meals to eating dietary supplement drinks.  He can venture out into real food occasionally but his throat won't allow much variety.  So now I'm making food essentially for one.  A whole new adventure in buying food and cooking.

When I can't seem to make small portions, because it's hugely difficult to buy and cook for one, I farm out food on my children.  I rationalize they are young busy working parents and appreciate having something they don't have to make.   I also know there are times they take it and really aren't all that keen on what I've fixed.    I've been trying to buy smaller portions.
Green cabbage just because it makes a beautiful picture.
One thing that's difficult is buying lettuce or fresh leafy vegetables that don't get icky before I can eat it all.  Plus, how many of us voluntarily eat a whole bag of greens or head of lettuce in a few days without our noses twitching like a rabbit?

I've found a substitute green:  "Italian Vegetable Blend" by Green Giant.  This contains chopped washed cabbage, brussels sprouts, carrot, kale, broccoli, celery and onion.  Zero fat, and zero cholesterol. High in Vitamin A and C.   I feel virtuous just telling you about it.  These vegetables don't go bad as fast and have substance.  Substance helps because it requires chewing.  Chewing satisfies part of the whole eating healthy process.
Chinese cabbage cause I needed a 3rd picture.
Here's my recipe for a substantial and healthy meal.  This is for one but as a side salad, it could be for two.

2 handfuls - Italian Vegetable Blend
1/2 Cup - Dried soybeans
1/2 Cup - Frozen peas - microwaved to tender
1/4 Cup - Pepper Jack cheese - cut into small cubes
2 handfuls - Seedless green grapes - halved

Top with:
1/4 Cup - Hellman's Mayonnaise
1/8 Cup - V8 Juice
Sprinkle with Kosher Salt and Fresh ground pepper

Toss to coat.

You can eat with toast, crackers or chips but I warn you this is a very filling salad by itself.

The trick is once you have the Italian Vegetable Blend, you can use any nut or seed, fresh or frozen vegetable, with or without any kind of cheese and most any small cut fruit.  When "IVB" isn't available, I buy a bag of mixed shredded cabbage.  If you change out the dressing, you risk taking away from the flavor.  I like the balance of flavors and textures with the above list.  But then, it's your salad so experiment and enjoy.

I used the 10.5 oz. bag of vegetable blend for six days with no wilting or spoilage.