Friday, February 25, 2011

Planning, Planning, and (you guessed it) More Planning

Perhaps only JP knows the true extent of my brown thumb, but let's just say that I have a hard time preventing plants from giving in to their suicidal tendencies. It's tough to think about investing in a garden (even a low-water one), when my suspicion is that I'll kill everything. I like plants! I really do! I'm just not sure how much they like me.

Ironically enough, my dad studied horticulture in college. Unfortunately, I did not inherit his skill in the garden.

One thing I have never really done is invest time in planning a garden. Instead, I see a pretty plant, buy it, water it, and kill it. And since planting season isn't until fall, now is the perfect time to get started.

Below is the layout of our backyard. I truly want this to be a low-water yard. Obviously, it's a more eco (and wallet) friendly choice, but also the Texas summers are brutal to water-needy plants. And since I'm not the most attentive gardener, I'm hoping this means we'll still have a garden (with living plants) in 2012.

Let's start with the bare-bones backyard layout (there are actually a few trees, but I don't yet have exact locations for them):

I haven't even begun to work out which plants will go where, but here are a few pictures that are inspiring me (all Texas-native and low-water):

All photos are award-winning green gardens, courtesy of the City of Austin's website.

Happy Planting!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

My House Smells Like Cedar

The fence is mostly up! Hooray!

And the whole yard has this amazing aroma of cedar. After talking with Tom (our super handyman) this morning, I learned that he used western red cedar for the pickets. The horizontal cap (also western red cedar) should be going up today or tomorrow. This is untreated cedar, so as much as I'm feeling impatient, we won't be able to stain it until the fall.

I am honestly thrilled with our progress, though I cannot help but see all the things that still need to be done to make the backyard more enjoyable. So in true Butterfield fashion, here is my working list of changes I'd still like to make to the backyard:

• Extend the patio (currently sized at 10' x 10')
• Purchase a patio set
• Create two levels to the backyard, to eliminate the slope and help water drain away from the house
• Plant a low-water, native Texas garden (with a small area dedicated to turf -- mostly for the dogs' benefit)
• Move the shed, so it's not the first thing you see when looking out into the backyard
• Repaint the shed

And back to the subject of the fence for a minute. When we asked Tom to work on it, I really thought I'd have some time to help him work on it. I love learning carpentry and construction, and thought it would be great to learn from someone way more experienced than me. However, between work, school, and life, I've only spent a few hours outside during this project (during the destructo phase, when we were ripping out all the "trash trees").

Needless to say, I'm a little sad I didn't get to see him put up the fence (though I do get a ton of enjoyment when I get home each night and see the progress that's been made). Here's hoping I have a little more free time for future projects!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Backyard

Our backyard has been in a sad state since the day we moved in. In our first year in this home, JP put in tons of work: cutting down Texas-sized weeds, clearing out years of piled-on dead leaves, and hacking down half-dead bushes that were clinging to the last remnants of life.

There was much chaos and destruction a la Casa Morganfield. We did eventually get the backyard to a state where we could feel (semi)comfortable with Little E playing there. With shoes on. The back yard has never been a place where I've wanted to spend even the smallest amount of time, but at least it was no longer a trash heap.

Enter Tom, an amazing handyman, who has helped us on a bunch of small projects around the house. He's replaced our sink, caulked windows, and given us loads of great advice over the last year. So when it came time to focus on the back yard, he was the first person I called.

Let's start with a picture of our dream fence:

I really love the horizontal cap along the top -- it leaves a really clean line with just a touch of modernism.

I also really like the stain they used. I'll be at Lowe's over the next few days picking out stains, so if any of you have ideas, please let me know.

And here is where our yard was a year ago when a "trash tree" fell down (thankfully, no one and nothing was hurt):

And here is our yard today:

Ok, so we've got quite a ways to go, I'll grant you that. But, all in all, we're making progress. I'll definitely keep you posted as the fence progresses.

We've also decided that we're going to follow a water-conserving landscape template from the City of Austin's website. It's not only good for the environment, but it means that I'm less likely to kill it. Win win! However, we're not supposed to plant until the fall, so that plan is temporarily on hold.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Well, Hello There!

I know, I know -- I've been gone a loooong time. Have you been wondering what I've been up to?
I've got lots of updates for you, not the least of which is that I'm back in school part-time. I'm taking some computer courses at ACC and so far, am LOVING it! More on that in some other post.

But let's get to the good stuff! My living room has been slightly transformed. It's nowhere near complete, but it is off to a start!

The picture above is where we stand today. Not bad, right? Especially considering that this is where we were a mere six weeks ago (see below).

All in all, I'm pretty happy with the changes! We still need some art on the walls -- but I'm working on that.

We would both really love something original. JP and I were chatting about it the other night and remembered that we used to live next to a really talented painter and his super creative wife. They've since moved to Dallas, but are still making work. Here's his website, if you're interested.

Also, I don't mean to tease, but there have been some pretty big changes to our back yard that we're working on. More on that soon!