Archive for the 'Landscaping' Category

Un Jardin Bonito!

Posted by Nate in Garden, Landscaping.
Saturday, April 22nd, 2006 at 8:52 pm

Ok, so after Karen’s enthusiastic but detail-free post, I’ve been tasked with posting a few more pictures and notes. Here goes: First, some "before" pictures: on the left, the buried path, and on the right the garden as it existed a week ago.

First thing we did was dig out a new section of garden for raspberries and rhubarb. I’m putting in some edging left, and then tilling the surface – mixing compost and some new dirt.

Helpy doing his thing with the tomato bed frame, and me putting in the stakes for the pumpkin and cucumber trellis.

Karen making out with one of the cool little sun faces guarding the garden, and the tomatoes in the dirt with their stakes.

The trellis at left, we’re hoping it will support the cucumbers and pumpkins. Supposedly if we put the pumpkins in pantyhose legs and tie them to the trellis they’ll stay up and grow big without taking too much room in the garden. Finally, the path. While this is totally a temporary measure – we’re going to replace the whole thing with a sweet stone path done properly – it’s one thousand times better than the overgrown mess it was a week ago.

Ta da! A big long workday for both of us, but it was wonderful – working outside in the sun in our yard with our dog… (and beer on tap in the basement.) Ahhhh…

(oh yeah, we planted: raspberries, rhubarb, a hot chili pepper, basil, dill, cilantro, mint, rosemary, 4 kinds of tomatoes, a cinderella pumpkin, and some cucumbers. Whoa.)

I heart rain gardens!

Posted by Karen in Landscaping.
Friday, April 7th, 2006 at 12:58 pm

You know how it is when you learn a new word that you don’t think you’ve ever heard before, and then suddenly you hear it allllll the time? Well that’s me and rain gardens right now. I recently learned about them at a session on using native plants in urban settings at the annual MN Shade Tree Short Course. And now it seems like I hear about them everywhere! The new edition of our neighborhood newspaper arrived the other day, and there was a front page article about rain gardens and green roofs. I had a meeting at the Minnetonka Public Works building yesterday and I parked my car and looked up to see that I had parked right in front of a rain garden, complete with information sign (it looked suspiciously similar to your average drainage ditch, but I bet in a couple of months it will kabloom with native wildfowers and grasses).

So having decided that we simply must have a rain garden of our own, I embarked on some research. To my delight, there was a lot of really great info out there, leading me to wonder how in the world a natural resources grad student such as myself could have made it this far without learning about this! The main benefit of a rain garden is that they filter stormwater runoff and reduce the amount of pollutants draining to lakes and streams, mitigating one of the main environmental problems in urban areas these days. But in addition to this, they help recharge groundwater, protect from flooding and drainage problems, provide habitat for birds, butterflies, and other beneficial insects, and they just plain look and smell pretty! Rain garden, will you marry me?

In Karen’s perfect world, our whole yard would be one giant rain garden, but for practical purposes I think we’ll start small. Regular Duo Team readers may recall that our back yard has had some drainage issues in the past. Granted, that was an extreme rain event. But even with regular storms, there’s pooling and general swamp-like conditions, resulting in Nate and I having to sort of hopscotch and curse our way from the back door to the garage in the morning. Improvements on the half-buried path from door to garage are high on my list of spring/summer goals as well, but if we could channel the water to a cutie little rain garden it could significantly improve our quality of life at the ole DT headquarters.

It turns out that there is this great Minneapolis Blooms program, which started holding FREE rain garden workshops last year. They held 18 workshops and expected about 300 people, and ended up having over 500 people attend and another 400 on a waiting list! This year they were able to offer 38 workshops. As soon as I read about it I went to sign up, only to find out that they have been full for some time. I’m bummed I don’t get to go to one this year, but how great is it that there is so much interest? They also apparently have rain garden interns who you can hire to come to your house for an on-site consultation for a mere $20! sweeeeet.

I was able to find some other workshops on Lawncare for Water Quality, offered by Friends of the Mississippi, which include rain gardens in the topics they cover, but have yet to find out if they too are already full. Even if they are, I feel like I have enough resources right now to sit down and bust out a plan. For one thing, my officemate has offered his assistance. He works at Kestrel Design Group, a private consulting firm that does ecological restorations and landscape architecture (and the ones who designed the green roof on the Phillips Eco Center, a seriously amazing green building on a former city brownfield, home of the Green Institute, and incidentally, only a few blocks from our house), and has some experience with rain gardens. I also have an arsenal of how-to guides from the internets, like this one and this one.

The main challenge will be, as usual, time. And the thorn in my side that is my research project. That’s right, it’s STILL not done, though it is crawling at a snail’s pace ever closer to the finish line. Some day very soon, I just know it…

PS – Holy links Batman! Can you handle it? I just gave you a reason to not work for the rest of the day. You’re welcome.

“Democracy makes me tired…”

Posted by Nate in Landscaping, Politics.
Saturday, April 1st, 2006 at 5:36 pm

Whew. What a day – Karen and I went as delegates to the DFL SD62 convention, and man, are we tired. We went to our precinct caucus back on March 7th without a real clear understanding of the process, who we got to endorse, etc., and as you’ll know if you read this blog the last month has been über hectic for both of us: we were barely able to find the time to properly research the state senate candidates, let alone make a decision. We’d been tipped off early on to keep an eye out for Matt Gladue, but this Alex kid was running a really high-energy campaign, and what about Scott and Tina and … Who to endorse?

Finally last week we went to a house party for Matt hosted by one of our neighbors, just a few of us and him, and it was one of those incredibly awesome moments of really connecting with a candidate. He was articulate, passionate, intelligent, and listened to what we were asking and saying. His answers were honest and didn’t smack of being tailored to what he thought we wanted to hear – and he had concrete plans! He had experience! In short, it was the kind of meeting I wish I had been in two months earlier so I could have devoted more time and energy to the campaign: here was the candidate I had been looking for. We went home, contributed, and emailed Matt and his campaign manager to get involved. So today at the convention we were two of the people running around in Matt Gladue T-Shirts handing out stickers, polling our precinct, and most important/difficult of all – trying to convince the undecided delegates to vote for our boy.

I’ll spare you the blow by blow – you can read the link above for the rules on the convention endorsement procedure, but the end of the story is that Matt came in a very strong second place after 4 rounds of voting and out of 8 candidates – but he did it with such class, dignity, and eloquence that he raised the bar — even in losing — for the winner. I feel incredibly happy to have been a part of his campaign, even for a few short days.

Here’s a picture (blurry, sorry) of him on stage with the endorsement winner – Patricia Torres Ray. She immigrated to Minnesota from Columbia (I think) 19 years ago and will make an excellent state senator, so our district is still a winner.

In other politics, we got to hear 1 minute stump speeches from the 8 thousand people running for US Congress and US Senate in our district, as well as state Governor – and I have to say that Becky Lourey was a big, big hit. We started to do the whole process of sub-caucusing to help her get delegates at the state convention, but Karen and I had been fighting headaches all day and couldn’t deal – plus Bruno was about due to explode if he didn’t get his evening walk… So we had to leave. But it looked like she had good support, and hopefully she’ll get some good delegates from our district.

Finally, our bulbs are starting to come up!! Spring is coming, the days are getting longer, and there are still good people out there running for office…

Our first landscaping endeavor

Posted by Karen in Landscaping.
Tuesday, November 8th, 2005 at 9:58 am

Nate and I recently embarked on our first landscaping endeavor at Duo Team Headquarters: planting bulbs! As a small tidbit of background, when we bought the house I was all psyched up to convert our entire yard into native Minnesota prairie grasses and flowers. And then pretty much as soon as we moved in and I surveyed the garden and the plants that we inherited from Amy (previous owner), I realized I didn’t know the first thing about outdoor plants (or indoor for that matter really). So I have revised my plans. I still hope to eventually line our front walkway and possibly fill that part between the sidewalk and the street with prairie goodness, but I now know I have to take baby steps to get there. Hence, baby step #1: Bulbs!

Since I was going to be in the neighborhood of El Depot de Casa, it was my task to buy the bulbs. I was excited about this, but as I walked out to the gardening section, I suddenly realized I had no idea what I was doing. My footsteps slowed. The Home Depot garden lady approached. "What can I help you with?" she asked. "I want bulbs!" I practically screamed at her. She stared at me for a moment, and then I told her I had no idea what I was doing. She smiled patiently and directed me to the bins and bins of bulbs, which happened to be right in front of me. I said "Oh, that’s what bulbs look like". She showed me the idiot-proof instructions on the bags, and I then spent an eternity agonizing over the different possibilities: crocuses, irises, hyacinths, tulips… I finally settled on what I thought could be a winning combination: $24 worth of purpley bluey crocuses (croci?), red, orange and yellow tulips, some solid color and some stripey, yellow narcissus, and all different kinds of white and yellow daffodils. I have since learned that narcissus is apparently a daffodil. No wonder they looked so similar. Whatever.

Since it now gets dark at like freakin 5pm up here in the north der hey, Nate and I decided to wake up early and plant them. We used the awesome claw garden tool that Ma and Pa Phillips recently gave to us (THANK YOU!) to loosen the dirt, and went to town! Nate put the crocuses/croci in the window box. There was previously an herb garden there, but we think we may just put all edibles in the garden in back. It was nice to have those smells wafting in the window though, but there’s still enough room that we could plant a few somethings in there with the flowers if we want.

We had read that we were supposed to cut back all perennials, so we did, somewhat nervously. On my Bruno walks I’ve been checking out other people’s plants, and I’ve seen a few things cut back, but not many. Lots of people plant with prairie grasses and flowers here, and none of that is cut back, which makes sense to me, but I wasn’t thinking of that when I cut our purple cone flowers. Probably should have left them. Well hopefully they’ll all be ok.

Nate also did the long section underneath the window box, as you can see in the photo above. There were some things planted around a tree by the street, so I put some in there. After my first three bulbs I realized I hadn’t been paying attention at all to what direction I was placing them in, so I had to go back and dig them up and replace them. duhhh. Got too excited and forgot to read the idiot-proof instructions. There are these pieces of wood that are all broken and crappy around the tree now, but I want to replace them with stones. Then I planted a bunch of bulbs in this corner section on the other side of the front door. I was putting daffodils and tulips in, and I was trying to alternate, but could not for the life of me keep track of what I had just put in, so it’s probably going to be just a big ol mess of flowers.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bruno, tied to the big tree in front, was wreaking havoc on Marcus the Carcass, a cheap yet awesome $13 light-up Halloween decoration I bought. Since Nate had spent quite some time making Marcus look oh so spooky, Bruno was subsequently put in his kennel and howled the rest of the time.

Nate put the last remaining bulbs in the back yard, and so far Bruno has not dug them up. Weee. So come spring we should have a wonderful surprise! It will be like getting a present, because we will have long forgotten the work we did, and we will be just coming out of seasonal depression and sooooo excited about seeing colors in our yard!