Background Switcher (Hidden)

My Favorite Room in the House

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

My favorite room in the house isn't even in the house...

I think it's pretty clear that I love where I live. That's what this blog is really all about. I love this part of Ohio, and I love the homestead Bill and I made here. Since Bill died, I've gone at the place with a vigor that surprises me.  I am suddenly and urgently aware that my time on earth is limited, and I'd better make this sanctuary and my home surrounds the best I can while I have the strength and energy to do it. Being sequestered out here alone lit a fire in me to improve my surroundings. Although I've been working hard at this since spring 2019, and had a year's jump on everyone, I think the pandemic starting in early spring 2020 did that to (and for) a lot of people. They launched into home renovation, yardwork, gardening projects, got new pets, maybe started feeding and watching birds. And that part of it was good, the new focus on aesthetics and our surroundings. 

I had to do something. There was so very much to do, most of it having to do with beating back the strangling jungle that had overtaken the grounds. With that sort of semi-under control, I had a little time to look at the house and gardens. There had always been a problem area by the side back door. When the people who built the house lived here, there was a garage in what is now my basement, with a gravel drive leading down to it, and a double garage door on the side of the house. As a result, the ground there is tightly packed gravel. And what happened every time we got a hard rain was that water rushed down over the compacted gravelly soil and right under my basement door. I didn't like that, but I dealt with it for 29 years.

 I dug what I called a Hillbilly French Drain which was a trench that ran across the low part of the lawn, meant to catch the water before it came under the door. It worked pretty well, but when the grass grew back over it, Phoebe and I nearly broke our ankles stepping into it when we went to hang out clothes. That happened more times than I care to remember. 

In this photo you can see everything slopes down to that back side door.
 I got really tired of mowing the corner near that door. I couldn't get the rider mower in there, and wound up having to whack and hand-pull the grass and weeds that sprang up there. Ugh! I hated doing that.

So in January 2021 I had a patio installed, to pave over the problem area and give us an outdoor space to inhabit. In the process, Thomson's Landscaping of Marietta, Ohio installed a real French drain, visible as a black line behind the revelers, with a  system of pipes and gravel and well thought out drainage (pitching the patio to drain away from the house, what a concept!) to preserve the integrity of the basement. 

The kids were thrilled, and we sat on the new patio even in February.

As spring came on and the skies got bluer, Curtis and I would bask out there on sunny mornings. It was heavenly! What a difference some pavers can make! I don't know why it's sooo much more appealing to sit on a patio than on the lumpy grass. It feels official, like you're in a room. Things don't bite and sting your ankles. You can have dinner and furniture on a patio. You feel like you belong there, as if you are Somewhere, moreso than if you just plunk a lawn chair down in the grass.

As the grass grew this spring, I swiftly realized I still had an annoying corner to mow, to the left of the patio. And I had always wanted another flower bed down along that wall of the house. Mo' flowers, mo' betta! So I called Brian at Thomson's again and told him what I was envisioning: a big fat raised bed where I could grow more flowers, and NOT have to mow the dang grass.

I was SO excited when Thomson's was able to stick to the promised schedule and get out here in late June, while I still had some 2021 growing season to play with! Brian designed a kind of modest, slender bed. I stubbornly paced out a bigger, fatter (and far more expensive) one. Yep. That's what I want. Big fat raised bed. I didn't mind having to climb up in it to plant and weed it. I can still do that, so I want to.

As the bed went up, Curtis snoopervised and kept morale high. I saw him getting a lot of lovin's from Chris and Lenny. 

Oh, it was so exciting to see it take shape over the next three days!

When the soil finally went in, Curtis figured it must have been put in for him to dig in! We had made him an excellent Cur Sandbox! 
This dog will do something like this once, just to make me hee haw, and then never do it again.
He knows one doesn't dig up flower beds. He just wants me to know he *could* if he wanted to! 

I couldn't wait. I went to Angel's Greenhouse in Boaz, WV, and found the MOST beautiful plants still for sale. And on clearance, even. Wow. He is such an amazing horticulturist. I felt incredibly blessed to still find great plants for sale. So well cared for, they were totally rootbound but not showing it in the least.

I also found some really groovy "Magellan" dwarf zinnias at Lowe's, planted five to a pot. I love zinnias almost as much as the butterflies do. Bought two pots of them and sawed them into five parts with my garden knife, then planted the liberated plants in long planters to ready them for the big new bed. I babied and watered them in the shade while the bed was being constructed.

A couple of Salvia victoria that had to be dug up were given the same treatment. 

Finally, the new bed was filled with soil and ready to plant!!

Chris tells a story on Lenny, concerning a prank he played with the ultra-stinky compost mulch that darkens the top of the beds. But don't miss Curtis' star turn as lover and digger in this little clip. I loved having these guys work here, playing Creedence and swamp rock on their portable radio.

I put everything in the evening the bed was finished. I was ready, Eddie! 

What fun. I had dreamt of doing something with this side of the house for years, but never pulled the trigger. Now was the time. It had gone from a weed bed with scattered stepstones to a place someone would want to linger. It was thoroughly civilized. Please admire that sharp corner. Lenny split the blocks with a chisel so they'd appear hand-hewn like the rest. Niiice.

While they were at it, Chris took it upon himself to clean up the lines around my pond area. What a difference that and a little mulch made! 

If I'm guilty of anything, it's not having enough negative space around my plantings. 
I need to work on that. Things get way too crowded. I could divide and thin everything and have bushel baskets of plants to get rid of. 

I waited to plant the existing bed until I got the new one in. Glad I did. I wanted them to color coordinate.

Inasmuch as anything I do is color coordinated...what I do is throw together as much color as possible.

I couldn't resist adding a few more cockscomb, these new ones sort of spiky and purple. Liam can find the scent in any flower, and sure enough they were fragrant. I watched them for awhile at WalMart and saw they were full of bumblebees, which tipped the balance for me. (In late June and July, I get my colorful annuals wherever I can).

Some visitors to the new beds, attracted by the Very Stinky Mulch, included a Virginia Giant
hoverfly (Milesia virginiensis)

also known by its folk name, News Bee, for the way they hover in front of your face as if they have something important to tell you...

and one that was new to me, a Rainbow Beetle (Tarpela micans) whose name should be self-explanatory. Wowwweeee.

With the disturbance, Fak the copperhead was temporarily routed from a resting place in the old flower bed, and moved peacefully and slowly to his crack in the patio.

So this is the story of my new patio, and my Big Fat Bed, and my new favorite room (on) the house!
When I have a choice, I'll always choose to be outdoors. The view is so much better. 

I have been watching the private lives of a pair of orchard orioles and their fledglings. 
I've learned a lot.

Inhabiting that new room for all I'm worth. 
It's a good life, and I'm thankful to be here to live it.



I am exhausted. But I love the results. I favor an English garden look instead of things being all tidy. Nature sometimes provides a bit of chaos.

Looks great ! Your home and gardens look so inviting …and the birdwatching …all,so wonderful !

'Love your outdoor room. I identified with the part about having something to sit on besides grass..... that is how I felt about our deck on the back of the house. 'So much living has gone on there.

Ann Hoffert

You are right in line with the latest gardening gurus if you fill in the garden space with plants to keep the weeds out naturally and let one wave of color and tecture flow into the next. Check out Roy Diblik's gardens, if you haven't already -- that's what I'm working towards :-).

I spend more time on my patio than I do in the living room. I suggest shade cloth or an umbrella.

Ooh, nice! I'm sure your new garden will attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. Who needs more grass to mow? This is a wonderful improvement. Enjoy!

Love your new “room” Julie. I can’t believe you live side by side with a Copperhead. Yikes!

I am looking forward to your insights on Orioles. I have watched Hooded Orioles casually for years, noting their visits, their comings and goings. Also, luv your backyard retreat!

[Back to Top]