Getting Our Yard Ready for Winter

IMG_8533

We had our first frost in Dallas a few days ago, and since it was right on average for a target date, I guess I have no reason to be surprised.  But it still was kind of jarring to wake up to such a cold morning! It didn’t get above 45 degrees this weekend. The first thing I did was to move my herb garden indoors to keep them from getting frost bite.

Luckily we already had a few projects in the works, and with a few days off for Thanksgiving, we started getting our yard ready for winter. I built hoop “green” houses for a few of my garden beds, using greenhouse plastic. I left a few of them open, because these are the ones I will be fertilizing first for spring planting. Crop rotation is a wonderful thing, if you have the space!

garden beds winterized

 

We already have a few winter veggies in the ground. These guys probably don’t even need the greenhouse plastic– they love the frost and cold, but we’ll see.IMG_8534

Shockingly, a few of my tomato and squash plants are still alive! A few leaves here and there have some frostbite from the other night, but they are still producing dozens of tomatoes, so maybe we can keep them alive a little longer 😉

IMG_8535

 

We also harvested quite a few squash!

Squash harvest

 

Here is the last of the winter crop to go in the ground. We’ve been growing these seedlings for weeks– it’s nice to finally be able to plant them!WInter garden seedlings

 

One of our final winterizing projects was to re-roof the chicken coop with tar paper underneath the corrugated roofing. With all the rain we get, we figured this would be a good investment. Roofing contractors Palm Beach county proved to be a very reliable roofing company. Now, we just have to repaint the whole thing to match our house!

Jesse chicken coop

 

As you can see, Gregory is very bonded to his “chickies”. He even has little nicknames for them in addition to their actual names. Sometimes he’ll say, “Oh, there goes my naughty one!”Gregory with chicken in mud kitchen

 

Gregory hugging the chicken

What projects have you done to get your yard ready for winter?

Tornado Shelter

watching the storms from afar

Well, everyone, my grad school classes are almost done, which is good because I don’t have stamina like I used to! Late night studying (it’s impossible to get work done while the boys are awake) is taking its toll on me, especially since all the material we’re covering is very interesting and makes my brain pump on all cylinders.

But let’s talk about tornadoes for a moment.

Tornados are terrifying. And awesome. And terrifying.

They used to be mostly awesome, and only slightly terrifying the last time we lived in TX. We even lived in a more tornado-prone suburb back then (and even had a couple F-0s touch down a few miles away from us one time).

But now that I have kids? The Momma Bear inside does NOT like tornados, I’ll tell you that much.

We’ve had a week or two of rough weather (technically, Dallas is right at the bottom of tornado alley) where I’ve been glued to the weather channels trying to make heads or tails of it all. I’ve been trying to get my “TX feet” back underneath me, reminding myself of the difference between tornado “watch” and “warning”, trying to remember that the weather people always act like they’re on Red Bull as they jump around in front of the screen saying scary things.

One of the things people who don’t live in a tornado-prone areas of the U.S. need to realize is that the odds of getting hit by a tornado are very rare. People don’t drop everything they’re doing every time there’s a thunder storm rolling through just because they can’t, otherwise nothing would ever get done. It’s rained here 12 of the last 14 days, and 9 of those days were thunder storms. That’s called “normal” for TX spring.

And it’s not even necessary to drop everything and run for cover, every time the weather “could” be right for tornados, because there are thousands of knowledgable people who are glued to those storms, watching for any sort of rotation in the upper hemispheres that could later produce something that would touch down. They are able to pinpoint those hot spots down to a few miles radius, and warn people ahead of time. I kid you not– it sounds something like this: “We see rotating clouds that could produce a tornado, it will cross 5th and Main St. at 7:32pm, Laurel and Main St. at 7:34pm,” etc.

And “the natives” aren’t stupid. They know which types of weather to be on the lookout for. And when the time comes, they all have a plan.

Part of our confusion this time around in TX is figuring out what our plan is now that we have a family and a house. Our house is built on a pier and beam foundation, and we don’t even have a window-less room or closet to huddle up in when the winds get strong. Heck, we don’t even have a garage to protect our car from hail! (we’re working on that one).

Most of the scary weather happens about 1.5 hours away from Dallas to the southwest.

Take, for example, this monster tornado that roared through a very rural town a few counties away from Dallas last week:

tornado southwest of Dallas

 

Or how about the softball/grapefruit hail this storm sent raining down?

softball hail

We didn’t get much action up here in Dallas, not even hail. It did, however, rain around 12 inches in just a few days! People don’t realize that Dallas gets the same amount of yearly rain as both Seattle AND Portland. We just get our rain in short clumps, where it’s dumped from the sky, deluge-style (but, on the reverse, we gets lots of sunshine in between!).

And yet…we just had a guy come this evening to give us a quote for putting a storm shelter in our backyard. If we were on a slab foundation, they sell really nifty “panic” rooms that are also tornado proof, and you almost don’t even know that they’re in your house, they blend in so well. But with a pier and beam, our only option is to pour a slab outdoors or go underground.

They’re kinda expensive, like buying a used car expensive. And although FEMA is now handing out money grants for folks to get them installed, Dallas is not on the list of counties eligible. But the company that came and gave us our quote does have 100% financing, and the monthly payment equals out to less than our car insurance.

And, when you think about it, a tornado shelter really is a type of insurance– you don’t want to have to use it, but you have peace of mind knowing it’s there, just steps away from your back door. Tornados are like a really crappy lottery– probably not ever going to happen, but if it does and you’re not prepared, you’re going to wish you were.

This is the model we were looking at having installed. It can fit 7-10 people, along with some supplies. It could also double as a root cellar, something I’ve always wanted! The technician today said that he’s been in these things during the hot TX sun, and it only gets to 60 degrees in there.

tornado shelter 2

tornado shelter 3

LS12-inside-view-from-side-of-steps

 

If we really wanted to go overboard, we could make it look like this! 😉

cool storm shelter landscaping

 

We’ll keep you all updated as we make our decision!

Gardening Is Cheaper Than Therapy

TX Garden 2

Why is there something so therapeutic about gardening? Everywhere I’ve ever lived, two things have remained constant for me: a) I MUST decorate, and b) I MUST garden. For some reason, a place does not feel like home to me until I’ve put something into dirt.

Naturally, I’ve thought quite a bit about the poetic nature in all of this. When one puts plants into the ground, they are putting down roots. They plan on being there a few months later to harvest the outcome. They are staking a claim, telling the world that this is “their” space in the world, their plant kingdom, and that they can create a space where things thrive and then feed a family.

In my mind, there is nothing so beautiful as learning to garden. And this includes everything from performing actions of weed clearance using trimmer lines to understanding the soil and buying the best soil fertilizer based on it. It is a skill that everyone should dabble in, somehow, and I am glad that my 4 year old is already really into it. Gardening is cheaper than therapy, really.

Even when we lived in apartments and townhouses, I learned how to garden using containers. I wasn’t always the best at it, and sometimes I even went a little crazy and wrote love poems to my Basil Plants.

There was the time I had just found I was pregnant for the first time and began the incessant crazy nesting by building a window-frame garden.

There was the time I gardened in our tiny CA townhouse.

And then upgraded to large deer-proof garden beds once we bought the “Blue House”.

And then we came to TX and I immediately put herbs into some containers.

Last, but not least, we are gardening in our new planter beds, picked up for a steal of a deal (along with the dirt!) off of Craigslist this past week.

TX Garden 3

Obviously, we need a “little” more dirt to fill the other two, and I’d better get a move on because the TX growing season for most of my favorite veggies is short! I had to buy all of my seedlings this time, because I didn’t know whether we’d be getting a house or not until late February, and we were also really busy 😉 Luckily, we have an awesome nursery just 2 blocks away that has wonderful organic seedlings for just $1-2/each! And I was able to pick their brains about some of the ins and outs of TX gardening, which was quite helpful.

All in all, I am so thankful that I get to “put down roots” here in this lovely little cottage, in what is already turning out to be such a lovely Texas Spring.

TX Garden 1

Dallas Snow Days!

FullSizeRender-17

I can’t even begin to tell you how much fun it is to get snow a few times a year. Living in CA for 3 years, we certainly missed having any sort of weather, even rain! Now, we get rain at least a few times a month, and just got 4 inches of snow in the last week!

It’s rare to be getting Dallas snow days, much less this late into the winter season, but we definitely tried to make the most of it. As I mentioned, Jesse not only had 2.5 days off from work (great timing so that we could unpack!), but we also got enough of it on Friday afternoon that Gregory was able to play in it!

Here are a few pictures of us having a ball out in our new front yard!

Snow in front of the house

IMG_6700

FullSizeRender-16

Gregory with his snowman Dallas with snowSnow on Victorian House

 

And if you want to know what happens when two little boys get cooped up for a few days….

FullSizeRender-15