Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Cat came to dinner

This is Milo, the neighbour's cat.

He usually stays in his own yard, but today he decided to check out the bird feeder. It has been a favourite of the local birds since being put into the garden last week. I'm not sure if they are going to come back now that the cat is around though.

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The lazy gal vs. cheapskate conundrum

I love my house but I know that eventually I will have to sell it and move. With that in mind I need to look at home improvement projects from two points of view. What will enhance my living experience without making it financially impossible to sell and move at some point. Since my financial investment in the property roughly equals what I could sell it for, then I won't be doing any major projects like upgrading the kitchen or bathroom, or finishing the basement. My plan with these areas is to make them pretty and functional without investing tons of money.

The yard, however, is another story. For the past two summers I have been working hard installing planting beds and new plants. I only planned to work on it last year, but decided to make some changes this spring so have expanded the planting bed slightly and moved some shrubs around. The place is looking pretty good, in my humble opinion, and will be very nice in a couple of years when the plants reach their size potential. This gardening hobby has brought me a lot of pleasure and I think it will also differentiate my house from the others in the neighbourhood so that it "should" be easy to sell.

Now to throw a spanner in the works. Yard maintenance might drive some people away. I have an opportunity to put in an underground sprinkler system that will make my work load lighter, will encourage responsible water use, and will help the garden and lawn grow throughout the drought season that we have each summer.

A local company installed underground sprinkler systems at two of my neighbour's houses and they are thrilled with them. During the installation, I asked the owner of the company some questions and he gave me a quote of $1250 for the front yard and $1000 for the back yard.

Then my cheapskate nature got involved and I decided that I could install the system myself for a lower cost. After all, it is basically just hoses and timers. I researched it locally but the hardware stores don't carry parts for underground systems. There are some drip irrigation systems and timers for above ground systems which I looked closely at. Finally I purchased a timer with splitters for the tap and two extra hoses with sprinklers. This would be enough capacity to cover about 80% of my yard using an above ground sprinkler system that I would have to put out the night before each watering and take in each day after work. Not much work and cost effective.

Just after purchasing these parts, however, the lawn service company delivered a written quote to my door stating that they could install the complete underground system for $1500 + $75GST. This would include front and back installation with a variety of sprinkler components that would apply water in zones that would respond to the different qualities in my yard. The quote also includes a rain sensor, a backflow preventor and a 2008 fall winterization and 2009 spring startup.

This will be a much better system than the one that I was going to use since the watering will be responsive to what the yard needs and the system won't come on during rainy periods. It definitely appeals to my lazy nature since I won't have to do anything except mow the grass all summer. My cheapskate nature thinks that $1575 is a lot of money to spend when I can do it for a little effort for much cheaper. (The price discount from $2200 definitely appeals, however.)

Since the overall price is less than 1% of the home's value this is a viable project to do that will improve the overall home's appearance with a more attractive yard and make it easier to sell. (Well, perhaps not easier, but non-gardening types of people won't automatically turn away.) I also love the lazy aspect - all I do is write a check and sit back to enjoy the yard.

What should I do - take back the components that I bought from the hardware store and install the underground system or keep the cost effective above ground system and spend the rest of the money on BBQ and beer?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008

The skunk hunter

The crocodile hunter found that tracking wildlife is hazardous but I took a chance and chased down these two cuties.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Bring on the birds

Have bird seed, waiting for dinner guests.

New bookcase

The new bookcase arrived. I'm using it in the kitchen for spices and baking supplies, since I don't have enough cabinet space in my teenie kitchen.

As soon as I learn how to cook, you're all invited over for some good food. Until then you are invited for food - that's right, just food, nothing good about it.

Blue skies wanted

Waiting for blue skies... hope they come soon. Had a productive couple of days. The kayak is down from its storage place in the roof of the garage and the saddles are on top of the car. The bike has paniers and a rack for the front. The paniers are sitting on the living room floor while I pack, but that won't take long. All the camping gear has fit in but I still need to buy some essentials like food, stove fuel and a lighter. A quick trip to the store this afternoon should take care of those items and I'll be ready to go. Just need some sunshine!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sleep and more sleep

Weigela's are rumoured to be excellent for attracting humming birds. I haven't seen any hummers yet but the flowers are beautiful and I'm enjoying looking at the shrubs. The little mini W's in the front yard almost died over the winter so they aren't doing much to enhance the garden, but the bushes in the back yard seem to be doing very well.

The iris are past their prime but other plants are coming into bloom now so the garden is still pretty.I arrived home late last night and then poked around the house for a little while checking the papers and having a snack. I didn't feel especially tired but apparently it caught up with me and this morning I slept in until 10 AM. Right now I am dragging around the house taking my time getting started.

On the bright side, the garden is in bloom and looks great.

The small number of strawberry plants that I have are producing an amazing amount of fruit. Last year I moved the plants to a different planting bed because they were sending out so many runners that I was worried the neighbours would complain that the plants were intruding on their yard. If the growing season goes well, I should have enough plants and runners to make jam next year. The birds haven't eaten the fruit yet but I have bird nets purchased from Lee Valley that I can install over the bed if my avian friends become a nuisance.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

running clinic

Today was the first day of the running clinic that I signed up for through the Running Room. My goal race is the Toronto Waterfront half marathon which is held in the last week of September. My last half marathon was in 2004 and the time was 2:01:some seconds. I was quite disappointed that I didn't finish under 2 hours and also hurt my knee during the training and it took six months to heal completely.

This time I want to finish under 2 hours and do it injury free. So far the run club is fun. There are about 20 people signed up for the clinic and they are all different abilities. Several have done previous clinics and seem to like going from one race to another with their friends. I haven't been to the Wednesday or Sunday group runs yet but will try them when I get back from vacation.

Surprisingly, the mileage isn't very high. The training schedule calls for five days a week of running but the mileage is only 3 or 4 Km runs except for Sundays which are 7 km. After the first month the mileage picks up sharply so hopefully I`ll be in a solid training mode by that time.

One thing that I need is a new pair of shoes. The ones that I have are hurting my legs and I know that they are at the end of their useful life.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Reader comments

Hi folks,
Deadwood has been a favorite of mine for a while now. I watched season one and most of season two but haven't seen the rest. I might pick up the next part of the series to have a boo. It took me a few episodes to get into it but I really started to enjoy the dry humour in the show. Any other suggestions for series? Keep in mind that I haven't seen any of this year's TV offerings.

Re: stones in the garden. The stones came from the back yard so there isn't much of a story to tell there. I am going to collapse one of the flower beds that were installed by the previous homeowners. The bed is in a bad location and makes it hard to water and weed. The plants are being moved and the stones are being relocated.

I have a vision in my mind's eye of a lush tropical paradise in my back yard. The reality is much different. So far there are a few spindly shrubs surrounding a weed choked patch of green plants masquerading as a lawn. Weed and feed have been dispatched and we'll wait to see if it does any good. Starting this autumn the city is banning the use of pesticides so I have a small window of opportunity to eradicate all the noxious weeds on my property before I have to go "au natural". More to follow in a few months.

Name that pest