In the Garden

Today I’m feeling like I need an escape; a peaceful place to gather my thoughts and tune out the world. I have it in my mind to create such a place in my own back yard, but for now I’ll just have to pretend.

Here is a simple paper cutting I finished last month. It was a good month for me. I think all the sunshine helped energize my mind and awaken a little creative beast with in me.

I did this tin because Japan during springtime is one of my favorite places to be.  I wanted to capture the serenity of a tranquil Japanese bamboo forest, the soothing sound of bamboo leaves rustling in the breeze and the trickling of a gentle stream.japanese garden papercut

I’ve started to use more of my own hand made embellishments and I like to keep it as true to handmade as possible, but I did use two texture plates for the sky and the grass. Also, I cheated a little and used a small circle punch for the cherry blossoms. I wasn’t feeling up to the challenge of cutting out 50 little tiny circles by hand.

bamboo garden

Japanese garden collage

As I said, this was a pretty productive month for me and I’m excited to be finishing up a few projects, which I hope to share with you next time. But now – I must go tend to the garden –

Cheers!

 

 

An End to Summertime Blues

Oh NO, It’s mid September and I haven’t posted a thing! What will my beloved fans think? (note the sarcasm)

It’s been a busy month; I’ve been attending conferences, classes, meetings, hustling to build inventory for craft shows, done a couple of craft shows, now I’m planning a baby shower, preparing for out-of-town visitors not to mention I want to revamp my whole blog –  and well, I’m finding it hard to organize my thoughts long enough to write a meaningful post.

Aside from all the above mentioned activities, the biggest project by far has been getting our yard under control. We are certainly not done, but we have made huge progress in creating a nicely prepped canvas for next year. Finally, there seems to be an end to those summers spent in a bland, ugly backyard!!!

I’ve decided our next home will either be a high-rise apartment in the center of a bustling city or a small bungalow in Bali, either way – it wont have a yard. If it does have a yard, it will be fully and completely landscaped BEFORE we buy it. Of all the DIY projects we have done, the yard has felt like an impossible, never-ending task. It’s hard work and it’s expensive.

Anyway, I’d like to get this posted before September Ends so here is the run down:

slopeCollage

before and after of slope. Imagine the whole area covered in 10 times more than that last photo on the right.

I really wish I had more photos of this slope before we started – yep, believe it or not, it actually looked worse than this. It looked a little like the photo on the right, which is a corner of our backyard last year before we took care of all that ugliness. The plastic was to choke out the blackberry bushes and ivy we cut back. Let me tell you, I was sick of plastic sheeting by the time it was over with, I can’t imagine how Christo did it. Dang, I should have used pink plastic – maybe next time.

Then there was this:

Summer 2011, 7 months after moving in

Summer 2011, 7 months after moving in. We were playing around with the idea of what a retaining wall would look like here – we tested out the idea by using blocks we found which had been scattered throughout the yard.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, I came home one day a few weeks ago and found my husband had rented a jack hammer. The next  photo was taken after the six truck loads of rubble had been removed AND after the several days it took for me to fully digest just how big the problem was. Now, does this look like a space to laze away those nice summer days? NOT!

patiobef

This slope in the foreground is a pain to mow, so I’d like to have steps here, but how to connect it to the wall we already started?

My husband really did a great job on getting the wall started – you can see how long it is, and it is completely level, but trying to problem solve working around this grassy slope was more than we could deal with  – I mean, the man does have a full-time job and he wanted to take advantage of SOME of the nice summer weather on his time off, so we hired someone to complete the project. And I am soooooo glad we did.

We worked with Gonzalo Zuniga, a hardscape and landscape specialist, and I will say I am very impressed with Gonzalo’s  professionalism, attention to detail and ability to actually DESIGN. In my experience with contractors, I find many of them are just willing to do what you ask regardless of whether it makes sense or not, they seem to have no opinions or ideas about making a space look pleasing AND be functional. They do what they are getting paid for and that is it, no imagination, no problem solving and no design skills, which can end up leaving one with a bad case of buyers remorse.

We had an idea how we wanted the space to look. I pulled up TONS of photos of my dream spaces, but we didn’t need anything elaborate that would over power the style of the house. We also have one of those annoying budget things. The two problems were the slope where we initially wanted a retaining wall to hold all the dirt back and the  grassy slope which was a pain to mow. We had no idea how to  incorporate the existing wall to meet the point of where that grassy slope should disappear.

Thankfully, our trusty landscape specialist, Gonzolo, worked out a solution for us. Now, I’ll admit, the result  looks pretty grand for our simple backyard, but it was the best solution for what we had in mind and I absolutely love it.  I can’t wait for everything to grow in and soften the space up. You can bet I already have a to-do list going to finish this space off  next year.

Here’s a few shots of the work Gonzolo did:

You can see the back corner where those blackberry bushes from the first set of photos were last summer.

slope view of patio

view of the patio from what was once a huge overgrown mess of ugliness.

We still have work to do on the back wall. FIRST, removing the concrete pieces my husband thought would be good to use as filler.... REALLY???? But still a big improvement.

We still have work to do on the back wall. FIRST, removing the concrete pieces my husband thought would be good to use as filler…. REALLY???? But still a big improvement.

It’s nice to have the patio complete just in time for the rainy fall season 🙂 And it is even nicer to finally have this posted before September gets away from me completely! On second thought, It’s nicer to have the landscaping done (well, started anyway…)

Now I’m off to prepare for a weekend retreat. I can’t wait. It will be a good time spent focusing on my business and art. Because I am so over yard work for a while.

Cheers for now.

What have you been up to this summer?

Creating a Roof Top Garden

I had to take a break from the yard work. Our yard is still in such a sorry state, it seems defeating to work so hard only to gain minimal results. I know I must have patience, but for now I thought I’d work on something I knew I’d be able to enjoy after a few hours of work. I’m sort of an immediate gratification sorta girl.

This is our roof top patio. I really love it. There’s a nice view and I imagine us having many relaxing nights dinning al fresco on warm summer evenings.  But as it looks now, it’s not the place you’d want to eat a bologna sandwich, much less enjoy a good meal.

Fortunately, I had everything I needed to create an inviting space here, with the exception of greenery and shade. But that only required a quick run to the garden center. It was just a mater of getting motivated to DO SOMETHING. Well, really I’ve had the motivation, but other projects have been taking  up most my time.

Though the view is enough of a focal point (minus the lovely power line…) I wanted to create a focal point on the brick exterior fire-place wall.  A nice place for the eyes to focus for anyone sitting with their back towards the view. Who wants to stare at a boring brick wall? So I came up with this:

 I fixed a string of lights to the backs of these screens and this became my inspiration for the space. I can’t wait for the plants to fill out, especially the Calla Lilly.

Here are a couple more photos of our new rooftop garden:

   

I’m quite happy with it, though I’m sure over time I will add a few more plants and possibly more seating,  I love it and I’m looking forward to having my coffee out here in the mornings, dinning in the evenings and just relaxing.

Well, that was my project for the week, not sure what I have planned for this week – maybe I’ll just be relaxing on my rooftop garden – IF the weather cooperates.

Digging in the Dirt (part 1)

Spring is in the air. Or it was for a couple of days. We had a beautiful weekend which revived my senses and left me with a longing to be in the great outdoors. The great outdoors being our yard.

Attack of the blackberry bush

Here is a partial shot of what our yard looked like when we moved in. UGLY. Not exactly the kind of place conducive to relaxation.  But there is huge potential here. Obviously, the blackberry bushes had to go. I had mixed feelings about this. I feel anything that produces something as good and delicious as a blackberry should be allowed to live. All it would take is a little pruning and TLC to make them look pretty again right? Well, most people would say no. It seems to be the general opinion in these parts that the black berry bushes had to go. So out they came. However with one stipulation, my husband is not allowed to buy, or for that matter, eat another black berry again.

Then there were these randomly placed trees. I think maybe the previous owners just wanted to plant a forest in the yard. I really couldn’t make much sense of their placement. So of course out they came. Don’t worry, I put my foot down about tossing these little guys into the jaws of the evil chipper. 

The yard was very uneven which caused water to pool, creating a muddy swamp like mess. It seemed the only solution was to dig it up and start over. Of Course!!! So out came the grass.

It only took a few days to get the yard leveled and the trees moved. The grass is now coming in very slowly.

Here is the progress so far: We transplanted the trees along the fence line. They make for a much nicer barrier than those ugly blackberry bushes.

    

Yes, I realize the trees were just a bit crooked (ok – more than a bit) – I’ll try to get to those today. But I’m happier with their placement here rather than how they were randomly scattered around the yard. The white picket fence will come down soon – hopefully within the week and will be replaced with a taller privacy fence.

Still to do:
1. build a fence
2. build a retaining wall
3. pretty it all up a bit – ummmm A LOT!

So, I know what I’m doing on my summer vacation ( and right now it feels like for the rest of my life). What about you?

Really, what better way to spend a nice day than digging in the dirt? Although I’m not sure Peter Gabriel meant it so literally.