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Hedging It Out

May 22, 2012   //  Posted in: Curb Appeal, DIY, Gardening, Other Pads, Supporting Sponsors   //  By: Emily   //  3 responses
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Another big thanks owed to Black & Decker for making this possible. I’m under no obligation to write about the 36V cordless hedge trimmer I received for free after attending a blogger event, but I’m doing it anyways, because just like the tiller I wrote about on Friday, this too is badass.

Or maybe the real thanks are owed to our neighbors, a nice family who legitimately has more important things to be concerned about than curb appeal. See, we don’t have hedges on our property. And yes, hedge trimmers could be useful for any number of backyard projects, like shaping my mini-Mountain Laurel plants and maybe for playing swords, but we wanted to give them a real workout. True story: Word on the street is that my neighbor’s row of hedges was once maintained to be just shorter than the chain link fence on their property. And up until late last week, the hedges stood tall, stretching nearly 11-feet high in some places. An eyesore. A Desperate Landscapes in the making. A yard maintenance afterthought for years, and years, and years.

Do you see where this is going? If not, this video should do the trick. It’s not even a minute-and-a-half long, and you can turn down the sound without losing effect, so enjoy it at the office if you so wish.

Pete’s G12 camera was stationed in the sunroom window for 90 minutes, which was the full length of time it took us to do the entire hedge trimming project. That also included us cleaning up the back side of the hedges on the family’s property, and string trimming along the base and curb, but the damn camera inexplicably stopped recording after just 23-minutes and I was having too much fun hauling armloads of branches to come back inside to check in on it like I should have. It was starting to rain outside only 15-minutes in and we just wanted to go-go-go. Good news is for the last 45-minutes of the job, my jeans had stretched out so much from bending and moving that I was pulling them up every 2 seconds. I thought it might have looked awk on camera, so maybe things worked out for the best. Overshare?

The good news is, these trimmers were awesome. If you couldn’t tell in the video, they cut like butter, and that’s so exaggeration, it was easy-breezy. Pete’s was working a little harder than mine, so while we started with two fully-charged 36V batteries, we swapped about 40-minutes into the job so that he could finish the project without having to miss a beat.

Using a 6′ ladder gave Pete enough height to cut 3-4 feet clean off the top while I cleaned up the lower parts with grandiose swishing motions to give it a good front. The whole project was a great feel-good workout, even if Pete did lose his balance and tumble in once. That didn’t feel so good. But there were no injuries, just scratches, and it only happened once, so, oh well.

Oops, we lost Pete.

The end results? So fresh and so clean-clean.

We’re still waiting on the city to pick up the pile of branches that stands as tall as my shoulders, but they’ll take care of it and we don’t have to dispose of it anywhere specific ourselves.

Finished hedges, freshly scaled back.

Update: Look who showed up this morning to eat branches for breakfast. Chomp-chomp. Best arcade game turned real-life job ever?

The City of Rochester does have a remarkably fine disposal system.

The main focus for this first go-around was to see just how low we could cut the shrubs without them becoming totally stickly (that’s stick-ly, not sickly, since the leaves are really only growing on the outermost sun-reaching branches what remains underneath are naked twigs).

Yes, there are some more barron spots, mostly in the out of control section that I was hacking at most aggressively, but we expect that the leaves will fill right in during the summer and by fall we might even be able to take it down another few feet.

Finished hedges, freshly scaled back.

One observation that Pete made was that since the hedges had been unattended for so long, the branches towards the top on the inside were mature and thick. The trimmer ate through branches that were 3/4″ in diameter with no problem, but the thicker ones might require a different when the time comes.

Second observation: the neighbors have a big beautiful posted light that would illuminate their driveway and sidewalk if it were exposed. We’re still about 3-feet away from getting it back into view. Who knew!

And then we took some photos just for fun.

Finished hedges, power duo.

I believe this was Pete’s DIY MCA tribute? All he’s missing is the fish-eye lens effect.

Pete, gettin' all Beastie with the hedger.

With all this said, it was a pleasure to be able to make someone else’s property look nicer. We’re so happy they let us tackle it instead of letting it go completely, or having a company charge big bucks to get the job done. Plus, now we know that the tools are great.

Anyone else spending time raging on the neighborhood landscaping?

Taking A Breather, Eating Cake

May 21, 2012   //  Posted in: Casual Celebrations   //  By: Emily   //  5 responses
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I’ve spent the last few days quietly celebrating my rebirth and happy dancing all over the place.

Not re-birth-birthday-related, I mean, more like life-related. It’s my one year anniversary from leaving my job to do this whole thing full-time, to explore what it is I want to be doing next, to soak up the summer rays, and stay in bed late on snowy mornings.

True to form, I even made a cake inspired by this one I adored by The Cilantropist.

So pretty. So girly. And are those little star sprinkles? Yum-may.

And then I proceeded to sloppily eat half of it myself in a full-fists-into-devil’s-food-mess. No big deal.

Little celebration with a side of Devil's Food cake.

It (my new life, not the cake) has been sustainable. And I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.

I’m off to walk the dog on the beach and work on a cool new Anthropologie-inspired DIY project that you’ll be seeing soon enough before I get down to answering my emails and making the morning coffee (we switched to decaf, BTW, being jitter-free and level-headed is just more icing on the live-a-good-life cake).

So, with that said, go follow your wildest dreams today. I’m not trying to be all hokey and inspirational, just do what it takes to be a happier person.

Dirt-Stir-Crazy (And Other Backyard Preparation)

May 18, 2012   //  Posted in: Backyard, DIY, Gardening, Supporting Sponsors, Tools   //  By: Emily   //  7 responses
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Thanks to Black & Decker for making this possible. I’m under no obligation to write about the 36V cordless tiller I received for free, but I’m doing it anyways. Because it’s badass.

We had a few very wet, cold, windy days immediately following the afternoon that I assembled our veggie and flower planter boxes in the backyard. It’s a good thing I hadn’t put the tomatoes in the ground right away. With the sun out this week I couldn’t put off the project any more, so I got right down to it.

Last you saw, I had this set of planter boxes assembled and resting in the middle of the yard just off the deck. Super convenient placement. Not. After discussion, we had determined that installing the planters in the back left corner of the yard would be most logical: close to our raspberry bushes, in a part of the yard that gets a lot of sunlight, and best of all, far enough away from Cody’s running loop so as not to trip him up. Dog likes to run, you know?

New set of planter boxes.

I debated removing the grass in an oval all around both boxes and making a mulchy walkway, but in the end decided to only clear out the spaces directly on the inside of both planters, leaving the outer edge grassy, and most of the yard in tact.

Easily said and done, once I was positive that the planters were in position, I used some leftover white spray paint to mark the inside of each box so I knew precisely where to cut. I didn’t spray the outside of the box because I didn’t want to chance a lot of white paint coating the wooden exterior, which I anticipate to wear naturally over time.

Spray painting along the inside of the planter boxes.

With the boxes out of the way, my dig-plan was clear. And the dog was intrigued.

Spray painting along the inside of the planter boxes.The dig only took an hour, but was a good workout; I trimmed around the edges first with a straight edge shovel to loosen the grass, and then moved inward, shaking as much loose soil back onto the ground as I could manage, aiming to only throw out a lightweight grass toupee.

Removing grass for the planter boxes.

Completely cleared, the ground was ready for the most exciting part: a serious tillin’.

Squeal, ready for the tiller!

The tiller, I’ve been really excited about since our trip to Arizona for the Black & Decker Blogger Event. It’s the only product that we didn’t have a chance to test on-site, probably because the Angels field maintenance crew didn’t want to deal with our path of destruction, but I’ve been eager to give it a try in our own yard.

No, I’ve never tilled before. Never operated anything that did such a thing so powerfully. I assembled it myself on the deck last weekend, and was eager to put it to use, so I got to it.

For a number of reasons, I decided to make this part of the post a video:

  • Pete wasn’t home to see the tiller off on her maiden voyage. It’s partially for him.
  • Sure, it’s kind of like a lawnmower, but I’ve never operated a tiller so I didn’t know what to expect. I thought you might like to see what a first-timer goes through to operate the product.
  • It seemed like a more entertaining option.

It was a one-time video shoot, with no redos and no retouching. I think you’ll be able to tell that I’m a tilling newbie right off the bat. Nonetheless, enjoy. I want to take it to the whole lawn now. Anyone have something I can power through?

I’m weird, right? Was I tilling deep enough? That thing was yanking me all over, which I guess is what it’s supposed to do to an extent, and I guess goes to prove that the 36V cordless product by Black & Decker has some brute strength for being battery-powered. Yeah, I need to practice more, that’s the lesson here.

The finished and tilled squares looked and felt good. Very light soil, but not enough yet. Before I loaded more into position, I had to get the planters in place and installed, which was as simple as pulling the structures back into position and hammering the rebar into the ground so they were flush with the top of the box. The dog happily scratched himself in the background, he’s uncontrollable.

These things are locked. in. tight.

Installing the planter boxes by hammering rebar reinforcements.

The big game plan was to use the box on the left for tomatoes, and the one on the right for an assorted mass of flowers. Before I could begin planting and seeding, I bought a lot (a lot, a lot) of soil to optimize the situation.

$30 bought me a healthy amount of peat moss, planter soil, in-ground gardening moisture-hold soil, hummus and manure for the tomatoes, and extra dirt. I made my dollar go a little further by purposefully selecting damaged bags at Home Depot; even a little tear in the bag (with seemingly no lost soil) saved me 10-50% off the retail price depending on the extent of the damage. It’s my understanding that “it all depends on the person ringing you out” so be sure to inquire and point out all damages when you’re paying to save a few dollars.

Soil, soil, soil.

Spread and mixed up a little by hand, both planters were considerably more filled and ready for planting. Notice that the soil on the left is darker? That’s thanks to the hummus and manure bags, which I layered in to give the tomato babies extra nutrients.

Soil, soil, soil.

I sprinkled flower seeds in the one on the right; only time will tell what that’s going to look like. For now, not much, but expect to be seeing Four O’Clocks, Marigolds, Gazania, and Gomphrena. Crossing my finger that they take root since the impatients were a big fat failure.

The tomatoes have been adjusting to real sunlight in the sunroom over the last week; my parents start them from seed early every spring and hand deliver me whatever ones they think I’ll like best. So lucky. These little guys just about ready to go into the ground. Hoping to get them adjusted this afternoon.

Assorted tomato plants, from Mom and Dad, 2012.

Till anything good lately? How does your springtime garden grow?