the hyphens that define my life

Grow Food Not Lawn March 23, 2014


This weekend was dedicated to prepping our garden. Unlike established gardens, we, having moved last year at the start of summer, had to start our garden at the very beginning, by digging. Springtime in our house starts with sod removal.

This isn’t a small backyard garden. In California, I always had a 200 – 300 s.f. backyard garden. This will be my largest garden at 570 s.f. with the added challenge of being a front yard garden. My mantra is grow food, not lawn. Front yard gardens are tricky because they are exposed, accessible and open to comment from your neighbors.

Lawn. My new nemesis.
570 s.f. of sod removal.
There are options to dealing with sod than just the manual labor of removal. I solicited some quotes from local landscapers that were too pricey. I could have rented a tiller but I didn’t want the potential of weeds being propagated by tilling the front lawn into the soil. Truth be told, big reartine tillers scare me. I could have just built and placed raised beds on top of the sod but that still leaves pathways that would need mowing. No thanks. Grow food, not lawn. Grow food, not lawn. Grow food, not lawn. Stick to the mantra.

570 s.f. is just half of our front yard, the smaller half, on the northeast side. Our back yard has trees with minimal sunlight. Our front yard gets fantastic sun all day long, the perfect spot for a garden. The other half of our front yard has a future as our dwarf fruit tree mini orchard. Maybe this year, maybe not. For now, we’re just focusing on the northeast side.

Day 1, Saturday. Sunny, clear, blue skies and crisp. I made breakfast, suited up and headed out to dig. Just me, my shovel and 570 s.f. of front lawn. Only when the first wheelbarrow load was full did I realize the wheelbarrow had a flat tire. Argh! My husband came out to help and told me he’d pick up a new tire intertube when he went out in a couple of hours. Until then, he and our two older boys helped shovel sod and pile it up for two hours. Our daughter joined in the action too. We managed to clear and 11′ x 19′ space within a four hour window. I was thrilled with the help and excited with our progress. My triceps, hamstrings, shoulders and back ached! Check out this progress!


Day 2, Sunday. Another spectacular day in Spokane.
My husband repaired the tire, then took the boys out for a few hours. Our daughter studied for her last final.
Today I was alone, just me, my shovel, wheelbarrow and all my neighbors out walking, stopping to inquire and give their two cents.
I removed some sod, but my focus was to deal with the giant mound of sod we removed and piled yesterday. What to do with all this sod is the issue with sod removal. My plan for the sod is to compost. To start, I stacked the sod to create the walls of my compost area. Better than pallets or spending money on a premade compost bid. After another four hours of work, here’s my progress and compost structure. Yeah!

photo 1 (2)

photo 3

I was wrong to report that my body ached on Saturday night. Tonight gives new meaning to body aches and pain. I’m not sure if my pain is from two days worth of manual labor or the thought of the work still ahead. I have only just begun.

My garden plan is awesome and my vision for garden greatness keeps me motivated and excited to get outside tomorrow after work and continue the hard work. My digging this weekend provided soil samples to submit to Spokane Conservation for soil analysis. Spokane Conservation is a great resource that will tell me what amendments are needed in the soil. Considering I had successful gardens in Southern California with heavy clay soil, the rich,beautiful, dark, non-clay soil in my Spokane yard will make a bountiful garden.

What am I growing? Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Kohlrabi, Corn, Popcorn, two types of Summer Squash, Butternut Squash, 3 kinds of Onions, leaf and head Lettuces, Spinach, Arugula, Beets, Carrots, Leeks, Pumpkins, 3 kinds of Beans, two kinds of Peas, six kinds of Tomatoes, all the herbs, Kale, Chard, Potatoes, 3 kinds of Peppers, Eggplant, Cucumbers, Artichokes, Blueberries, Blackberries and Raspberries.

Our eight year old, our youngest, refrained from helping this weekend. He said, “I only like planting a garden, not digging a garden.” Who doesn’t? Smart[alec] kid. This isn’t a Little Red Hen story, this is a full family effort.

Grow food not lawn!


Squirrel With Me October 30, 2013

Ok. Ouch.  My wrist really hurt yesterday. I reached my pain threshhold and decided to go to the doctor today and get it check out.

Just to recap, eleven days ago, I hurt my wrist when I fell as the result of being attacked by squirrels. [see previous post:  Squirrel Attack! for all the details.]  The road rash on my knees has scabbed over beautifully and are nearly healed.  I still haven’t bought new gloves to replace the ones shredded in the incident.

At the doctor’s office today I told the nurse my story, (did you think I would just say I fell?) she said what I said, “Damn Squirrels!” She added, “That’s why I don’t feel bad when I run them over.”  She definitely has bigger issues than I do with squirrels.  I still have squirrel compassion but I’m definitely on the defensive.

The x-rays were a hot topic of discussion in the doctor’s office.  They were very concerned about a bone chip.  No need to fret, I informed, the bone chip happened when I broke my arm in the 5th grade.  The squirrel attack, however, resulted in a hairline fracture , less than an inch long running vertically up my ulna. (anatomy check:  two arm bones, radius and ulna).  The fracture doesn’t hurt from all the twists and turns the doctor tested me with; the wrist sprain and soft tissue damage is what hurts.

The brace I had been wearing didn’t provide enough stability nor did the braces the doctor’s office offered.  The doctor foolishly suggested that I just rest and not use my left arm.  Clearly he doesn’t know me.  I explained that I’m a mother of 4, I work full time, have too many projects and its the holidays. HELLO! I will use every available limb. Our only choice was to go with a soft cast, or in doctor speak, an ulnar gutter splint.  The gutter runs from the top of my ring finger on my left hand, also encasing the pinky finger, up to my elbow.  Finger tip to elbow is then wrapped in a couple of Ace bandages.

This is my Halloween costume:

squirrel injury

Why  did I go to the doctor?  Now I can’t move my left hand!  Do you know how hard it is to type with this thing on?

The bright side is that I won’t be able to do dishes for two weeks! Woo!  Happy dance!  The boys are going to be thrilled when they find out they are on KP duty.

I bought myself this theme perfect sweater for the holidays from TJ Maxx.  I’m certain this squirrel got their bling from some poor unsuspecting soul that was attacked and robbed.  Squirrels are capable, don’t be fooled by their cute faces and fluffy tails.

squirrel sweater

After my doctor’s visit, I watched squirrels dig in my small but effective bulb garden today.  T-Bone and Jerry, our boy cats, played a good game of chase with the squirrels.  The cats grew weary and the squirrels were determined to take my bulbs but were unsuccesful.  Break my arm, bruise my ego, but do not, I repeat do not, mess with my garden.  I could get a pellet gun and shoot at them from my office window.  Tempting.  Good to know my options.

I realize I’m a little obsessed with squirrels right now.  My arm will heal, snow will fall (maybe as soon as tonight), the year will end, the garden will grow despite the efforts of these ferocious beasts.  Squirrel with me as I obsess (why should bears get all the credit?).


Under Attack. Proceed With Caution October 19, 2013

7:15 AM Saturday, 31 degrees farenheit

I leave my house to walk eight-tenths of a mile to the coffee shop and bakery to meet my co-room mom to make plans for the upcoming harvest party for our third grader’s class.

Though I cursed my alarm clock ringing on a Saturday morning, I was happy to be up and out walking in the brisk fall morning.

Leaves cover the landscape in a blanket of gold, red and brown.  The air is crisp.  The sun has not yet crested the South Hill.  Squirrels are hyper-active, preparing for winter, foraging food and running around in pairs.  I wonder if fall is mating season for squirrels.

Almost to my destination, I pass a three to four foot high rock wall and startle some squirrels. They rustle in the bushes as I walk past then WHOOSH, one squirrel leaps to the sidewalk behind me, so close to me that I feel his movement as he passes.  At the same time, WHOOSH, another squirrel leaps to the sidewalk in front of me, so close that I thought he was going to jump on me.

Startled and fearful that I was under squirrel attack, I yell out “AGH!”

Unsure of what just happened, I failed to notice that the elevation sidewalk in front of me popped up from a tree root, a common Spokane sidewalk hazard. Within seconds after the squirrel attack, my left foot tripped over the sidewalk.  Disoriented from the squirrel savages, I could not regain my footing.  Momentum pitched me forward like I was sliding into home plate.  No home run, only ice-cold concrete scraping into my hands and knees as I landed hard.


I laid on the sidewalk for a moment to assess the damage.  Nothing seemed to be broken and I was thankful that I didn’t ricochet my chin or forehead off the concrete.  I was also thankful that there were no witnesses, other than my psychotic squirrel friends.

I picked myself up and limped to the bakery, extremely in need of my first cup of coffee for the morning.  Yes, all this and I haven’t had coffee yet.

My right knee is skinned from bottom to top and makes my boys squirm when they see it.  Ouch.  My left knee isn’t a pulverized mess but is bruised and more stiff than the right.  Ouch.  My left hand is scraped, and my brand new workout gloves are shredded.  Ouch and damn.  The front of my down jacket was shredded and white fluff was flying out as I walked along. This I’m actually ok with because I wanted a new down jacket but couldn’t justify the purchase.  This is not how I wanted to get a new jacket though.

Meeting my co-room mom for the first time, I was quite a sight.

After our meeting, I limped home.  Up hill.  My husband asked what was wrong.  I showed him my wounded knee. The mistake I made in answering his what and how questions was starting the story with “I was attacked by squirrels.” He was concerned but had a good laugh.

The boys were grossed out and though they could appreciate my squirrel attack story, I had no nursemaids.

The only sympathy I received was from the grocery store checker who asked how my day was going as he rang up my groceries.  I started the story the same way with him as I did with Vince.  “I was attacked by squirrels.”  The checker told me his recent experience how one squirrel jumped so close to his head that he ducked and cracked his head on the door of his truck.

Squirrels are crazy right now, people, proceed with caution.