Sunday, September 11, 2011

Renovation ain't for sissies!

Especially in this Texas heat! Rudy and I continue to remodel/renovate our new/old 1930's vernacular cottage. The heat has been brutal at times, but not nearly as bad as before we got our new air conditioner installed. Now, it's tolerable, and the nice old pecan trees make lovely shade over the back porch and yard most of the day. I hear it's supposed to climb back up to 103 this week. ACK! That's just nuts. We're still in one of the worst droughts in recorded history, as well.

So, here are a few photos with random comments. I have very little time at home these days, and when I'm here, I'm either sleeping, doing laundry or tending to the shrinking garden here. Here's a hint...don't try doing what we're doing if you still have a full-time job! This IS our full-time job.

A lot of what I've been doing at the new/old house is trying to save the former garden with judicious watering, and planting new drought resistant things to replace some of the dying plants that thrived when there was a supplemental water well there. The well is still there, BTW, but dry right now. I've been told it's likely to come back to life after we get a "good" rain. Right now, ANY rain would be a good one. That was definitely one of the selling points for me, having a water well nearby.

I've been concentrating on plants in containers since I can move them easily, move them around, see where they're happy before putting them in the ground. One of my recent favorites for pots are oleanders. Scored at a Big Box store on clearance, I bought four of these pot-bound beauties, repotted them and am using them around the property for screening and a bit of green color. I was surprised to find that they are drought tolerant.

Coincidentally, the hanging bougainvillea plant and the oleander both bloomed on the same day, and they're both pink.

We've been moving garden stuff over a few plants and pieces at a time. I was excited to be able to finally place my purple garden bench under the shade of the pecan tree. Potted veggies surround it, and they are very happy (and blooming!) there now, even in this heat. Shade is the key, my friends.

I use herbs a lot for landscaping, and we use them for cooking at every meal. This bare spot beside the back porch formerly was covered with a little vine and some sickly succulents. After the plumbers and the house levelers tromped through it, I decided to start over. It's now my Herbs & Chickens garden. So far, I've planted a wonderful Sicilian oregano and some Thai Basils among my collection of terra cotta chickens. And yes, some of them hold "Hens & Chicks" succulents.

The way I design my garden is to plant little pockets here and there, then eventually join them with "bridge" plants. This little pocket is right beside the sidewalk leading to the back cottage/greenhouse and contains rosemary, Italian basils, native salivas for the hummingbirds, a sedum for groundcover and a gazing ball.

As I mentioned, we're in a serious drought here, and here's proof. When we bought the house a few months ago, the grass was green, although stressed. Just a few weeks without water (we never water lawns) and this was the result. The long-term plan is to turn the entire area into a perennial and herb garden with a walkway, pergola or trellis, fruit trees, etc. One challenge is a gas line that runs along the side of the property, but I can plant ground covers of some sort there. Anything that goes there, though, has to be drought resistant.

Although I've identified most of the plants on the property, there are a few that leave me stumped. Here's one of them. It was a nice green before, but since has died down to the ground. Is it an annual? A dead or dormant perennial?

This is another mystery "plant"....or actually, some sort of mushroom or fungus. Woodears, perhaps? I'm not touching it until I find out if it's edible or not. The location is pretty handy, though--right outside the back door by the kitchen.

And here's a mystery vine that's twining around a rose bush. It's short, has dark green leaves, small black berries AND large bright red berries. It's a pretty little vine, whatever it is.

This last photo is of my new temporary, experimental raised garden bed. It's in the back yard, right underneath the World's Longest Clothesline, and is made up of materials I gathered from the property or here. Underneath is dead grass. On top of that I layered a cardboard box that our solar fan came in. Cardboard boxes have been one of the most useful materials in building my gardens. On top of that, I layered topsoil scooped from the yard. It's very sandy, so I mixed some homemade compost from there (yep, I already have some finished compost), a sack of oak leaves we brought from the other house (a Freecycle score, gathered locally) and dead pecan leaves scooped from underneath the boxwood hedge there. It's supported on one side by a pecan log that fell from the tree, rocks that used to support the house, and bricks that were piled up in the yard. In it, I planted seeds of Japanese cucumber, Italian beans, a little Chocolate Cherry Tomato (heirloom, from Bonnie's) and some icicle radishes to help break up the soil underneath.

A friend asked if I was the pink Energizer bunny. LOL. Nope, not hardly, but I do think getting more sunshine has given me more energy, and I do take frequent "stick the face in the fan" breaks. Lots of water mixed with a small amount of tea and the occasional treat from the Kolache Shoppe right down the street from the house has kept us going.

Happy trails,

bobbi c.


  1. Well, I think you're a close relative of the Energizer Bunny, and I'm glad that Two Sisters Cottage is giving you so much back in inspiration and stories for all your efforts in restoring it with Rudy. It's looking like you're doing good work with the yard despite the drought. Good for you!

  2. Thanks, Susan! Since I posted, I have IDs for the plants....the fungi are most likely Reishi mushrooms, which thrills me; the vine is Snail Seed vine, which should make my birds happy, and the other one is possibly goldenrod, a plant I love. Can't wait to see what else pops up there, after we get some rain. Remember that stuff? LOL.


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