Monday, July 1, 2013

Easy Being Green

While we're waiting for our stalled inspection-- more about that later-- we've worked on making the place greener over the last week or so.  We started last Saturday with a trip out to Johnson's Nursery in Olney, where we bought "The Irenes" -- four three-foot arborvitae that we placed alongside the SE side of our house, under the kids' bedrooms, between the window banks.  This weekend, I hinted to Abby I wanted to finish the job, but she had been noncommittal to the various plants the Real Irene had showed us.  There was, for instance, a series of Japanese hollies that came in normal, dwarf, and giant varieties that we'd be able to plant in between The Irenes and, right away, have the look that everything was the same size-- given the fact that the side of the house is on a slant.  Or any number of other plants.  But nothing doing.  So I suggested we go back to Olney this weekend and revisit the decision.  Abby suggested we go to Merrifield Garden Center out near Tyson's, since she thought it was bigger and had better choices.  If it meant I got to buy plants, I was all about it-- plus, we have had really good luck with their stuff; W.C. Merrifields, one of our favorite plants from the backyard of our old house, was in their clearance section, and now he's so big that our tenant tried in vain to suggest that we trim him back this spring.  NEVER!

So we went off to Merrifield, and spent a good couple of hours browsing around.  After about 20 minutes, the kids decided they'd had enough-- after only about five, Lola was pulling her "I'm tired of walking" shtick. No, sorry Lola, you're related to Gregory and Abby, so you're gonna have to deal with walking.  So while Abby pondered and pondered, as she's apt to do, I took the kids over to play with the fountains and the koi pond.  After an hour or so, we headed back to see what Abby was up to, and found she had arranged six plants from side to side, smallest to the left, largest to the right, in a display of what she thought would be good on the side of the house.  They were really pretty, but all together they cost almost $400.  Plus, I really didn't think we'd have enough room for them all.  Sure, we do now, but when they grow, they'll totally bunch up, and not in a charming-garden kind of way, like we want eventually out front.  So we winnowed them down to four-- although I think only three were necessary-- and brought 'em home.

The area we have is 30 feet across, and 32-34 inches wide-- about the width of a sidewalk.  It's at a crazy slant so that at the far left there is a clearance of about two inches between the ground and the window sills, but at the far left there's almost five feet.  So clearly, there was math involved.  With The Irenes positioned at the ends and between the windows, we had ten feet between the first two, nine between the next two, and another ten between the last two; however, each Irene will get about four feet wide, so that left us with three spaces of six, five, and six feet in width.  Follow?

They say a picture's worth a thousand words?
Well, this one's worth at least a few paragraphs.
Three of the four bushes we bought are really cool.  Funny enough, we ended up buying two more arborvitae (although way different looking than the originals), and two differed cypresses.  The shortest of the three cool ones went in the middle of the left space, right under Isaac's bank of windows.  It's a Whipcord Arborvitae, and the only way I can describe it is by referencing Side Show Bob from The Simpsons.  It's only about a foot tall right now, but it's got dreadlocks, and will grow to about four feet tall at maturity.  I think this one will be called "Marley," for obvious reasons, but also because Lola has a friend named Marley, and it's better that than the crazy thing Isaac thought of in his stream-of-consciousness style of thought.  Next, in the middle, is a Rheingold Arborvitae, which is rounded, about two feet tall, and is colored bright green with a tinge of yellow/orange-- hence the name.  It's smack-dab in the center of the stretch, right where the wall between the kids' rooms is.  Hopefully, it'll grow big and bushy enough that it'll block the direct view of the kids' bed areas, although with the curtains in, that matters less.  Finally, on the right side in Lola's windows is my favorite-- the Curly Tops Cypress, which is blue like a spruce, really soft to the touch, and looks like a bush made of poodle hair.  It's really cool, and can supposedly grow 8-10 feet tall, which would be awesome.  Ideally, all of the bushes will grow high enough that the bottom halves of all the SE-facing windows will be obscured... but that won't be until the kids are probably in middle school at least!

Interestingly enough, while I'm not "that dad" at all, I had very much been considering buying plants with thorns to put under the windows.  For Abby's sake, it was to deter people from stealing our kids through their windows, but for my sake, it was to deter my kids from using their windows to sneak out an night when they're older.  That said, they could just walk over to the back door, and it'd be easier and probably quieter, so there goes that idea...  We had found an amazing plant called a Mock Orange Flying Dragon that would have been amazing for that reason-- it was all spindly with big thorns, but produced beautiful flowers and tiny inedible oranges year round-- but Abby didn't like how it looked in the winter, so that was nixed in favor of the other three-- all of which are perfectly soft and quiet to brush against.  Oh well.

New sidewalk, new bushes, new hose,
and lots of unearthed stones
(Oh, and the fourth tree-- the most expensive, and the smallest-- was a Tsukumo Dwarf Cypress that's about the size of a bowling ball, and grows in that shape.  I convinced Abby it didn't belong with the rest, with the hope that we could return it, but she liked it a lot, so right now it'd just in a planter until we can think of something else to do with it.)

I planted them all on Sunday afternoon, and was lucky enough to have a huge rainstorm about an hour later, so didn't have to water them.  The number of big rocks I pulled out of that yard is ridiculous-- the area under the Yew tree in that corner is strewn with unearthed stone right now-- and the topsoil is a patchwork of colors right now, from the orangey-brown clay that was there originally to the brownish-gray topsoil and the black nutrient-rich fertilizer I bought, plus some other stuff thrown in.  But it's there, and I love how it looks.  There's just something about planting stuff-- especially stuff that'll stay around for years-- that's so satisfying to me.  Now, if we can just get to that damn front yard.

So now for the front yard update.  Meaning: what the heck is going on with the inspection.  Get a load of the latest: You all know we're waiting for our Certificate of Occupancy inspection from the county, and that  while we failed 13 different things, the main issue was that there was no record of an inspection of our new foundation wall at the front of the house.  You may also know that Mark said he might have to re-dig the area in our front yard so as to show the inspector what the now-buried wall looks like, thus precluding us from doing anything in the front yard,  But what you don't know is that Mark more-than-alluded to the fact that it would cost us $4,000 to have that done.  Yes, for him to dig up the yard to show the inspector who he claims inspected a wall, but who claims he did not, more than a year ago, he wants to charge me, and that charge would be $4,000.  When I mentioned this to Abby the other day, she flipped out.  Honestly, although it would be so much easier for the county to "realize" they had inspected the wall after all, part of me wants them not to, just so I can see my mild-mannered wife go ballistic on whomever it is that broaches the subject of us paying for that dig.  Ballistic, I tells ya.  For now, the news is that Mark has petitioned for them to approve the wall without a dig, seeing as he had to have the footer under the wall inspected at the same time, and the county does have a record of us passing that.  While it would totally make sense that both things would have been done at the same time, I don't put it past our contractor to have bypassed the one because the other would be done easily enough later on.  (If you can't tell, they're no longer getting even a modicum of a benefit of the doubt from us.)

Our bathroom window and the resulting
post-shower leak.  Oh, and that white stone
to the left of it is positioned where the roof leaks.
Also, as I mentioned last time, we "won" a giveaway from Montgomery County for a free home-energy audit sponsored by the Maryland Historical Trust.  I guess ten historic homes from each county were selected from among all the applicants-- and we applied, thanks to a heads-up from Bonnie (thanks!)-- and we were one of those chosen.  Originally, we had been told they might bring a film crew along to record it for local TV, but that never happened, which is good, since our house is pretty much a disaster inside right now, with us still in squatter mode and all.  But the guy came late last week and ran his tests all over the house, and we're supposed to get a report back one of these days on what we can be doing better.  I can only imagine the exclamation points that will be all over the thing.  So hopefully we can get going on whatever recommendations they make, without having to rely on Servicez Unlimited to do the job.  As it is, we've been going back and forth with Mark for weeks now on our list of stuff to do.  It's taken about the last four days to get the same damn list to him, this time broken down between stuff they have to wait until after the inspection passes to do, and STUFF THEY CAN DO RIGHT FREAKING NOW!  One thing on that list: fix the leak in the porch ceiling that I noticed yesterday while I stood outside during a downpour and Lola ate her ice cream cone.  Oh, and the fact that when we take showers upstairs, water trickles out the windows and pools on the floor of the porch along the wall.  Great.

But hey, we've got bushes, right?

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