Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Perils of Gardening

house with weeds in front of it
Image 1.1. This is my house.   .
This is a story about my flowerbed project. Having come in from today's gardening, I feel as though people are unaware of why I hate landscape fabric so much and the righteousness of my cause, so today I have a post (with photos!) to justify my wrath. But first, let's have some introductory photos to illustrate the problem.

So, in our first image, we have my house, as viewed from the driveway (and largely also from the road headed east about 50 feet to the right of this view (roughly). This was once a roughly grand-piano shaped flowerbed. It is now a weed patch that overwhelms my ability to make it not weedy through normal means. This year I found out  why that is -- the top 3-5 inches of dirt are not dirt, but roots, and they are almost exclusively roots because there is a layer of landscape fabric below that, meaning that only hardy, shallow-rooted weeds can live there, but they're almost impossible to get rid of by hand once they are.

Image 1.2. This is the view of my house from the porch, looking toward the driveway. 
Image 1.3. This is landscape fabric.
This is what it looks like facing out from my porch. A bit better, but not that much so. Perspective helps -- it's a downhill slope to the drive, you see. As you can observe, close to the camera there is brown, not green. This is where the work is happening. I have to get from the porch all the way down to the drive. I cannot simply plant things, however, because the landscape fabric prevents me from doing so.

Image 1.4. This is the section of the garden I've cleared of weeds.
To that end, rather than struggling fruitlessly with it for years to come, I've decided to just dig up all the damn landscape fabric, since I can largely just pull up all the matted soil and move it, pulling up the fabric underneath, then putting down dirt and mulch to prevent the weeds from taking it back over again. I'm not planting anything this year because I think this is all I can conceivably finish over the summer, even with the arrival of my minions in July.

As you can see, this is what I've cleared so far -- roughly half the length of this strip still has fabric under it because I'm still trying to find the edges. The kneepad is in the middle of the hole I just started clearing to make sure the area there was fabric'd, as I'd lost the fabric portion about two feet south (toward the end of the porch). If it seems like it's going slowly, you're right.

Image 1.5. Freaking tree roots.
Part of the reason for everything going slowly is shown here, in image 1.5. You see, it's not just matted baby roots or plant roots on top of the landscape fabric. It's tree roots that have grown across but been unable to burrow deeper, like they should have. I'm pulling out and tugging on roots that have no inclination to move anywhere, but have to if I'm going to get the freaking stuff out from the dirt. I placed the kneepad under the root so you could see it better. Also, that's my shadow taking the picture. Hi, shadow! On top of that, I found potting soil today ON TOP of the landscape fabric. AAAAARRRGGGHHH. Poor plants. They had no chance.

Image 1.6. Mulch.
Image 1.7. Silly dog.
 A shovel can't get through the roots or the fabric, so it's a matter of pulling all the matted roots up by hand, then pulling up the landscape fabric, then putting dirt back in the trench I've now dug, then putting down at least 2 inches of mulch to keep it from growing stuff I don't want. These are my bags of mulch. It's maybe half of what I need, maybe less. Also, the dogs think it might be something like dog bubblegum, a result I had not forseen. Sigh. Silly dogs.

With all of that, perhaps it is now clearer why I curse the makers and buriers of landscape fabric, whether under dirt or mulch, because eventually mulch turns into dirt and then you have this situation.

On the upside, though, apparently heavy gardening is excellent strength training.

Silly dog. 

Post-semester update post!

I'm done with the semester! This puts me at the end of my first semester of PhD coursework... which looks a lot like my Masters coursework, except that a) I have more teaching responsibility, b) I seem somehow to have managed to get myself together more thoroughly, and c) I can see sort of a sea-change in my academic writing. Something took, I think, and I'm managing to engage more thoroughly with my research topics and moving more toward primary sources, which is what I'm supposed to be doing, so that's all to the good.

My house plans for the summer thus far include:
1) Clean and decorate the bedroom, including art on the walls and curtains.
2) Clean the library, including reclaiming my desk from my knitting and random stuff piled there.
3) Get the hole from the old iron stove fixed, even if it won't be beautiful.
4) Clean out the remaining cabinets that haven't been touched since before I moved in and get more usable storage space out of it.
5) Get at least one of the flowerbeds not looking like an overgrown vacant lot.
6) Fix the screen door so we don't have to slam it to close it.

 My academic plans for the summer thus far include:
1) Write a letter of recommendation for my student
2) Study Latin -- attempt translation by the end of the summer.
3) Teach the class I'm being paid to teach (I need another post about this).
4) Get my last-year's ASECS paper worked up for submission for the journal.
5) Possibly brush up another paper or two.
6) Write some pieces for the EGSA website
7) Start making stabs at a tentative reading list.

My work plans for the summer include:
1) Write the sourcebook for Seattle for Interface Zero
2) Go to Origins.
3) Go to GenCon.
4) Go to Toronto Fan Expo.
5) Finish revisions to my short story for the ctd anthology.
6) Start working on M0arPIGz!
7) Edit Demon: the ???.

Yeah. That's a list. And across and above all of that -- spend time with my sons, who are coming out to visit at the beginning of July and staying until the end of August. Some of these things may not get done. It makes me sad to ponder it, but it is the way of things. However, this semester I accomplished more and, I think, more successfully, than I ever have before. I owe a lot of that to Matt, but not all of it. I think, really, that now that I have an actual support base, I'm just managing to get better at knowing my limitations and working within them, which ironically makes me more successful at life and less limited by them. Overall, it's a very good thing.