Wednesday, June 24, 2020

mulberry tree ~ and a tour of our late june yard

In my last post, I shared about my neighbor's mulberry tree that overhangs our property. That the tree drops mulberries all over our patio, the patio furniture, the plants, walkway...literally everything that's on the south side of our house. And that it was about to start.

It did indeed. Here you can see how the berries are littering the mulch on the walkway to the patio. Impossible to clean up when they're in the mulch.

In this photo you can see how I had to take the cushions off the furniture and put the chairs up against the house. The berries still find their way onto the chairs and get stuck in the crevices. This photo of the berries on the patio isn't even that bad; this was a few hours after I swept. You can see how they're already staining the concrete. Flies are also attracted to the mulberries, so we're dealing with those nasty insects, too.

My poor plants are getting socked by the berries. The Bishops Cap is a more delicate plant, and it's falling over from the weight of the berries constantly falling on it.

Some of you commented on my last post and also emailed me about having our neighbor's tree trimmed. For reference, those tall overhanging branches you see in the next photo are part of the mulberry tree. They're about 40 feet high. The wooden fence is hers. It sits right on our property line. We don't mind those low hanging branches in back of the patio. They don't cause any problems and provide shade for our patio.

We've had the mulberry tree trimmed twice in the past six years: once every three years. We are legally allowed to have her trees trimmed back to her property line. Here's the problems: 1) The tree trimmers can't reach those highest branches. There's no room for a cherry picker truck in our front yard. And she will not allow the tree trimmer workers onto her property to climb the tree to trim it. 2) Without getting into too much detail, the neighbor is a mean, nasty person. She has caused us a lot of problems over the years. Each time we've hired a tree service to trim her overhanging trees (which costs a lot of money), we've written a letter ahead of time and mailed it to her Certified Mail Return Receipt (which she did indeed sign) to let her know the date her trees would be trimmed. 

Three years ago when we last did this, she made sure she took the day off work and flew out of her house, yelling and screaming at the workers because they had to step onto her property to cut some of the branches. She even threatened to call the police. I had warned the workers ahead of time about her, but they told me afterwards that they had never encountered anyone quite like her. 

(The "offending" tree)...

After the tree trimming guys left, I went to the police station to let them know the whole scenario in case she decided to contact them. The policeman took a report and said to me, "I don't understand. You're doing her a favor!" 

On to more positive things. The shady portion of the south side of our house is starting to fill in nicely. The ferns have taken off and the coleus plants between all the hostas are starting to grow, even though you can't really see them in this photo.

Now you can see some of the coleus in a close-up photo.

The plants in the butterfly garden will soon burst into bloom and that's when it will look especially beautiful. From the back coming towards the front of the photo, there's black-eyed susan (the shorter plant), tall garden phlox, bee balm, lamb's ear, sedum, purple coneflower, and columbine. The columbine is now slowly fading away, as it's a spring perennial.

My herb garden in back of the house has mint, lemon balm, red leaf sorrel, two varieties of thyme, oregano, rosemary and chives. I have basil, dill and parsley in pots around other areas of my yard. I don't mind that mint and lemon balm are invasive. They've been in my herb garden for many years and I just pull stalks out when they start spreading too much.

The tomato plants are huge now and have yellow blossoms. Can't wait until we have tomatoes! We were lucky enough to find heirloom tomatoes at a farmer's market this past weekend and there just is no comparison to supermarket tomatoes. Doesn't even taste like the same fruit. (Who else wants to call tomatoes a vegetable? 😏)

An addition to Zippo's memorial garden is this angel kitty statue I found at HomeGoods.

Brian and I were working in the yard the other evening and he spotted this mourning dove couple up in the tree. Aren't they the sweetest?

Have a beautiful week!

Thursday, June 18, 2020

patio time

One thing I love about this time of year is spending time on the patio. It's a peaceful spot to have morning coffee or tea, a relaxing spot in the late afternoon with a magazine or book, and of course, we have dinner out here often, too. Though these past few days have been too hot to do much hanging out here past morning.

This path on this side of the house is lined with perennials and is fun to dress up with potted annuals for color. I wanted to paint the ladder this year, but Brian likes it as is, so I left it alone.

It's hard to see some of the details from the overall photo above, so here's some close-ups. This is on the right side of the path as you're walking towards the patio, though I took this photo coming back down the path.

I love this red bench I got at a vintage shop for $5 a few months ago. It's not sturdy enough to sit on, but it looks nice in the gardens.

Looking back at the bench area from the patio.

With living in an area where we're surrounded by neighbors, I love that we have this space carved out for privacy. The only thing I detest - and that I've mentioned on this blog probably every summer - is the neighbor's mulberry tree. It's already started dropping green berries on the patio. That means within the next week, ripened berries are going to start dropping by the thousands. They not only fall all over the patio, but the furniture, in my plant pots, into the hostas, and all along the path leading up to the patio. They are mushy and rot quickly, attracting flies. They also stain everything, so I have to move my patio furniture up against the house. And they ruin my hostas. 

Friday edit: Some of you had commented or emailed me to let me know we can trim the neighbor's trees that hang onto our property. We are aware of this and have done so several times in the past years. But it's complicated with both the neighbor and the mulberry tree itself. I will give details in my next post. 

I have this bicycle at the end of the patio, behind the settee. This is my first "real" bicycle from childhood. I got it for my 8th birthday in 1970. An original made-in-Chicago Schwinn. I love using it now as garden decor. When these tiger lilies bloom, it looks so pretty around the bike.

There's the bike in the background. 🌞

The warm evenings are magical...

Do you have an outdoor space to enjoy some quiet time?

Thursday, June 11, 2020

outdoor before and after

Hello, friends!

 We recently had a lot of hardscaping done in the front of our house and I thought I'd show you the before and after photos. 

Our driveway was in terrible shape, as you can see by this photo. It was beyond repair and sealcoating. It needed to be dug out and replaced with new asphalt.

Once the old asphalt was taken out, a layer of gravel was put down.

Our old sidewalk leading from the driveway to the front of the house was dug out, too. You can see in this photo from last summer, how the sidewalk wasn't level anymore and was leaning into the ground.

After the sidewalk was dug out, we also had the contractor extend the gutter downspouts on the front of the garage with PVC piping. He then ran the pipes underground (the lawn had to be dug up) and into the swale in front of our house. Same thing was done on the other side of the garage. Previously, when it rained, the water from the downspouts would pool by the garage and the water would sometimes go under the garage door and get in our garage.

Framing for the sidewalk going in. Instead of the sidewalk having sharp angles like it did before, I wanted it to have a curve.

The finished sidewalk! We also chose to have the sidewalk flared where it meets the first riser of our porch. 

We bought fountain grasses and solar lights at Home Depot and put those along the sidewalk. But silly us...we put grass seed in the dirt in-between the fountain grasses, forgetting that we would need to mow the grass or use a weed whacker ~ without whacking the plants! So, I don't know what we're going to do now. I also think we need to add some kind of edging along the sidewalk on both sides so that dirt doesn't get all over the sidewalk. Live and learn!

Another thing we chose to do differently was the brush strokes on the concrete. The contractor did make traditional horizontal brush strokes in the middle of the sidewalk, but then he asked me what I thought of brush strokes going down the sides of the sidewalk, following the curve. He started to show me what it'd look like in the wet cement and I told him to go for it. I'm glad I did. I think it gives boring concrete a more interesting look.

Brian's been working very hard getting our yard on both sides of the driveway back to normal after the ground being all torn up from installation of the underground gutter pipes. He had to level the ground, pull out all the weeds, put on some fresh top soil, sprinkle grass seed, and then he laid some fresh straw and netting over the entire area, as suggested by the local landscaping company.

Have a beautiful weekend!

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

out of the house, around the house

This past Saturday, Brian and I took a little road trip to our favorite vintage shop, Secret Treasures. They're currently open for online orders and then you pick up curb-side. It was so strange to see the empty streets and sidewalks that are usually bustling with traffic and people, especially on a weekend.

Brian had ordered a lamp for his desk and I had ordered a brass horse bookend. When we were standing on the sidewalk waiting for our purchases, I window shopped. I found a beautiful glass cake plate and dome, plus two pieces of vintage pottery that also came home with me.

 We ordered a sandwich online, picked it up curbside, and took it to our favorite park by the lake. Sat on a bench and shared a sammie, enjoying the beautiful day. There were lots of people out and about, walking dogs, playing Frisbee, having picnics on blankets with their family, but keeping their distance from others.

 One of my favorite Lake Michigan views.

A store we were able to check out in person (donning masks and keeping our distance from others) was Evanston Rebuilding Warehouse. From their website: 

The Evanston ReBuilding Warehouse is a non-profit organization that promotes the reduction of waste in landfills through sustainable deconstruction and renovation building practices. Reclaimed building materials are sold at our warehouse at low cost to the community and the proceeds support our education, job-training and job-development programs which foster individual, community and economic growth in Evanston and beyond.

This place was much bigger than we expected with aisles overfilled with anything and everything you could think of for inside and outside a home. Love this bathroom sink made by Jacob Delafon, Paris. Too big for either of our small bathrooms though.

Isn't this old range amazing?

The back right burner was like a "well" and had a silver pot down inside.

 Does anyone know what this was used for?

If you have a huge kitchen, how about this amazing Miele ventilation hood? Great price. These go for over $2000 brand-new.

Lots of chandeliers...

All kinds of interior doors...

So, back at home, here are my two pieces of gorgeous vintage pottery from Secret Treasures. The green one is Shawnee and the blue one is McCoy.

I added the pottery to my collection on the shelves in the living room.

The lamp that Brian found is filled with old radio tubes. Brian is a big radio and electronic aficionado, so this lamp is perfect for his office. We're still looking for long, floating picture shelves to go on this wall above his desk ~ and that's where this propped up art on his desk will go.

 My brass horse may not stay here; I just put it here for the time being.

 I don't collect horse figurines, but for some reason, this bookend spoke to me when I saw it online. I did have a horse when I was a teenager and living in Kentucky...a beautiful brown and white quarter horse named Judy. I still miss her, over 40 years later. And I've always thought that horses were one of the most beautiful creatures I've ever maybe that's why I was drawn to this particular bookend.

 We're still experiencing an overabundance of rain. These past few days have been in the high 80's, too so with the heat index, it's in the low 90's. Too early to be this humid! On the plus side, everything is so lush and green now.

 The heat and thunderstorms weren't kind to my lilacs this year. They were here and gone in a little over a week. Barely got to enjoy them.

We're in the middle of contracting renovations in the front of our house. It started with our little Village redoing our front swales and an asphalt company digging out our old driveway. Today the concrete contractor is digging out our old sidewalk that leads up to the porch and digging trenches in our yard on either side of the driveway that lead down into the swales. They're installing pipes on the downspouts in front of our garage that will go down the trenches and into the swales. When this work is done, then the new asphalt driveway can be put in. 

Hopefully, before and after pictures to come in the near future!
Have a good week, my friends ~ and stay well and healthy.

Monday, May 18, 2020

mid-may home doings

We've been deluged with rain again here in the Chicago area. Just like last year, there's localized flooding. My back yard has standing water in several places, but thank goodness our basement is dry. I much prefer the few sunny days we had before all this rain. 

Clementine loves to be outside with me. I sometimes let her out on the front porch and I stand right there and watch her, but after a few minutes, she tries to run away. I found this pet tent on Amazon and ordered it for her. This way she can be safely outside with me. The tent is six feet long, so a nice size. Not sure what she thinks about it though.

I haven't done much in the way of flowers yet this year since we're just now warming up, but so far, it looks like yellow is the predominant color theme. There's still sooo much yard work to be done and more plants and flowers to be purchased.

I'm sprucing up my patio furniture this year with new cushions. I ordered these blue Sunbrella cushions from Target. Love the color!

Now all I need are cushions for the backs of the seats. I picked out two sets of these colorful paisley cushions from Overstock. They have all the summer colors I love and will go perfectly with the blue Target cushions, the red wicker stand on the patio, the red vintage bench that sits nearby, and all the yellow flowers. (I also noticed how dingy this wicker settee is. Power washing is yet another thing on our outdoor to-do list.)

This past Saturday when it was warm and sunny, wet got a nice start on the yard work. We planted the coleus plants in-between all the hostas and ferns in this shady area on the north side of the house. The coleus is tiny right now, but I know from past experience that they fill out beautifully. I might buy a shepherd's hook with a hanging plant on it for this area for some height interest.

Hubby got the tomato plants planted in pots. He mixes potting soil with our own compost. I believe three of the plants are cherry and pear tomatoes (one or two yellow) and one is San Marzanos. We've never planted that kind of tomato before, so I'm excited to see if they grow well. If you are a cook, you probably know that San Marzanos are the best tomatoes.

More spring beauty from a walk around our neighborhood:

I believe both of these are crabapple trees...

An empty lot on the next block filled with blowy dandelions...when I was a kid, I loved to pick these, blow on the fluffy, white seeds and make a wish.

I haven't been doing a lot of baking because I would fill up on sugary goodies, and we all know that's not good for us. But my rhubarb was prolific, so I wanted to put it to good use. And nothing goes better with rhubarb than strawberries. I made a strawberry-rhubarb crisp last week and delivered some to a friend so that we wouldn't eat the whole thing. 😉 This past weekend, I made yummy strawberry rhubarb muffins. This recipe calls for vegetable oil, which I never use, as it's a toxic oil. Please substitute a good baking oil, such as avocado or coconut. If you'd like a streusel topping (and who wouldn't), I used the one found in this recipe. I noticed she has other strawberry rhubarb recipes on her site, too but I haven't tried any of them. 

I just looked at our 10-day weather forecast online and it looks like this Tuesday - Thursday will be the only days without rain or thunderstorms. Ugh! Looks like I won't get all my planting done until June.

Hope you all are keeping well and sane(ish).