Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Now comes the tricky part.

Last time, I told you of the LA and I getting our friends around to help clear our yard. Now, though... now, it's clear, and we have to decide what to do with it. We'd appreciate some help with that... and so, here's a distinctly cropped screenshot from Google Earth. I made sure it was properly North-aligned, so you can judge sun angles.

The projection at the Northerly end is a two-car garage, to give you some sense of scale, although the pickups next door ought to help with that too. They're about the size of a Toyota Tacoma/Hilux.

Currently, I'm considering gravel along both side paths, with a small shed at the front end of the southerly one (currently, there's a fence blocking it; the gate is at the North side); the awkward, sharper rear corner becoming a vegetable garden of raised beds, with perhaps a compost clamp or two; hardstanding for a table and some chairs under the lemon tree, and scattered paving slabs with some invasive, drought-tolerant stuff like mint for ground cover filling in most of the remainder. Perhaps even a barbecue grill (heavens, me advocating outdoor cooking?) somewhere near the Northerly limit of the back fence.

As for the front, frankly I'd cheerfully gravel the whole lot bar the rosebushes that regularly get crowded out by weeds. The obstacle is of course the price of gravel.

One of my objectives is to minimise water usage and maintenance. I don't want a lawn that I'd have to water, mow and so on; something that can stand the natural climate of the Bay Area is far more preferable. I don't mind in the slightest watering the vegetables; those, I get to eat.

Of course, this assumes staying here on the order of years. If our plans don't include that, then I'm inclined to simply weedwhack the yards on a regular basis and not bother with anything resembling improvements.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The power of the crowd...

The LA and I have been unsatisfied with the state of our backyard for some time, but, well, clearing out the jungle of weeds it had grown was beyond our abilities. We have roughly 600 square yards in this property, and even removing the roughly 1500 square feet of the house (roughly 167 square yards), that's a lot of area, and the weeds were big. We had almost given up... but we decided to ask for help, and our friends most definitely delivered.

Yesterday was a serious Work day; Ric, a very dear friend, came over with tools and knowledge, and absolutely boundless energy. How such a thin man maintains such huge reserves of energy is beyond me; with his help, we improved our lemon tree (which, incidentally, produces the sweeter Meyer lemon, edible in its own right and as easy to peel as a mandarin orange) by pruning, trimmed back a willow hanging over (and in fact leaning upon) our back fence, and got a significant amount of the backyard trimmed down to almost bare soil. In the process, we discovered that much of the yard was previously paved. We also managed to kill our cheap weed whacker (for the Brits: strimmer) by losing the spring of the line feeder. Considering just how much use we got from a $25 machine, we're not complaining; we just bought a better one this morning (more cut width, more powerful motor, easier reloading, better cord management) for a little more.

Today was more of a party. We had multiple people over, and some of their children who helped us by harvesting some lemons, and then learning to make lemonade, which kept them out from underfoot as we trimmed and strimmed more of the yard, and discovered a yellowjacket nest; the property managers will be getting a call regarding same!

The job, of course, is not done. It's never finished. It is, however, well started; I can now continue the good work, and as the place improves, invite friends here more. I'll be waiting for the blisters to heal a bit before getting too into continuing, though; this weekend has left me with multiple popped blisters and a strong thirst. Time, I think, to open the bottle of India Pale Ale I've been saving!

Thursday, June 3, 2010


It seems that in the nearly two years I've been a temporary permanent resident of the US, the rules have changed. Two years ago, an immigration attorney told me that I could apply for citizenship when I applied for permanent permanent resident status (the earliest I can do that, incidentally, is 90 days prior to the expiration of my temporary permanent residency; the start of next week), but now I need three years of permanent residency (since I'm a spouse of a US citizen; otherwise, it would be even longer, and I'd have had a harder time gaining permanent residency) and I don't know if the two years I've had will count. Be that as it may, I can still apply before my British passport expires, even if the 2 years don't count.

Meanwhile, I'm currently working on my second sock. The first one went reasonably well, but there were some niggles. Things I didn't get right. First, the cast-on (figure-8; I do socks toe-up, to avoid a need to graft and so I can cope with running out of yarn) was horribly loose. This was partly because it's not a great cast-on, and partly because doing it with DPNs has a tendency to mess things up and loosen it to the point of its degeneration into holes. For this sock, I switched to a circular (but still square; I much prefer squares at this needle size for their controllability and even tension) and to Judy's Magic Cast-On, and the combination has eased things tremendously. The short-row heel works well for me, but on the first sock I started it a little early. Easily fixed. The final problem is that the 2x2 ribbing I used for the cuff of the first sock is too loose and floppy. I'll still be using it for the second sock, but for future pairs, since I'm using the nice simple sewn bind-off, I can just switch to a 1x1 rib that'll fix that easily.

And eventually, I'll start doing fancy cabled socks and the like. Not yet, though.