Clearing Out

I was talking to my dad last night—just checking in—when he mentioned his Kindle was having some problems. The screen would close down in the middle of reading things. I suggested checking the sleep settings. And it had stopped receiving my blog. He didn’t know how long it had been since he’d gotten one…

Well gee Dad, I haven’t really done anything lately. But, he interrupted, the MR had that guy come and remove all the brush. You know you’re in trouble when your 77-year-old father is giving you blog post ideas. Maybe I’ll take him on as my assistant and let him write a few stories.

So here’s brush cutting in honor of Papa Willy. The MR and his dad had a fellow out this summer to look at the blackberry situation; let’s just say we have a lot. The guy wanted $4,000 to $5,000 to take out our bushes. The MR decided to keep looking.

That’s when he found the Brush Wrangler, who came in with a much better price. Unfortunately, with our dry August, they couldn’t schedule any work due to fire danger. One stray spark can create a world a trouble. We were next up on the list when we headed to Oregon to move Baby Girl into her sorority house. Finally, at the end of September the Brush Wrangler tackled our berry bushes.

Now some of you may be wondering why we’d get rid of blackberries. Obviously, you’ve never had them in your backyard. They’ll take over everything in sight. The MR takes a walk to the mailboxes a few times each month with his pruners to get rid of errant boughs.

I do have a thing for blackberry crisp and blackberry jam, but in Washington State, blackberres are classified as a noxious weed. The Himalayan blackberry is a non-native species that is out of control. OK, I’ll step down from my soap box for the moment.

Anyways, I was off at my ladies’ Bible study, when the MR started sending pictures to our family’s group text. It was amazing.

co-tractor

That little red machine was clearing a swath through the wilderness.

Now when I got home, I looked at the tennis court, and I still saw blackberries. What was going on? Aren’t they trying to get rid of these?

 

co-tennis-court-above

Well, the MR explained that the slope was too high, too steep, and the soil too loose for them to reach the very top of the patch of bushes below the tennis court. All you have to do is wander down below it, and you’ll see the progress.

co-tennis-court-below-2

This whole area was a mass of sticker bushes.

co-tennis-court-below

It’s amazing. The tiny path he used to drive the riding lawn mower down to the meadow has become a vast thoroughfare.

After the work was down, the MR figured the Brush Wrangler had cleared about an acre of berry bushes.

co-cleared-area-with-house

Now that the blackberries are gone, he has gained easy access (OK, maybe just easier access) to the vine maples and saplings blocking the view of the river. For the last few weeks, he’s been out cutting down trees and applying stump and brush killer to keep everything from coming back.

When I ventured down to see his progress the other day, I tried to explore the trail down to the valley floor. The former owners had roughed out a road down to the highway. I’m afraid it’s succombed to blackberries.

The workers have found a lot of things at different job sites. At one place, they’d found a barn the owners didn’t even know they had hidden among the blackberries. All they found at our house was an old fence post and some logging wire. We’re kind of boring in comparison.

Now that it’s mid-October, we’re gearing up for our first big storm of the season. It looks like rain and strong winds are headed our way. Stay safe our Northwest neighbors.

And if we have power, and water, and the dog doesn’t start barking at deer while I’m trying to sleep, I’ll have more to share on Monday. Otherwise my dad might start complaining about technical difficulties, again.

What killer weed is taking over your patch of earth?

 

 

 

A Little Drama

Our driveway has this dramatic turn at the bottom that gives visitors the first glimpse of our home.

When we first moved in, the house looked pretty good but the yard left a lot to be desired. (OK, so they both needed some help. We didn’t have any curtains in the master bedroom or bath, so I hung up panels from our last house. They make our shades looks so civilized in comparison.)

Outside view of master

Year after year, we’ve added a little of this and a little of that. And then last spring, the MR hired a friend to put in some landscaping for Baby Girl’s grad party. It was more than a tiny upgrade.

yard & house

Over the last year, the plants have started to fill in, and we added a few annuals from the high school’s FFA plant sale. I’m fairly please with the view these days.

But the MR always wants to go one step further. He decided landscape lighting was the ticket to really bump up the wow factor. He found some solar lights on Amazon with no wires and simple install.

These lights soak up the sun during the day and highlight our trees at night—a total win-win.

ALD Solar Lights in the Day

So in the day time, they look pretty good.

ALD Solar Light on Maple DT

And at night they look impressive, too.

ALD Light on Maple at Night

It’s rather nice to come home to this after taking the dog for her evening walk.

ALD Lights in the Dark

The 90-degree heat has done a number on the grass, but the cool days of autumn are on their way along with the accompanying rains. It’s fun to be able to add just a little light to the darkness or our valley.

Have you ever experimented with outdoor lighting?

 

 

 

Just Imagine

Last week, me and the MR spent a few days in Chelan at a B&B. We arrived in town in the early afternoon in search of lunch. 

From past visits, we knew Karma Vinewards  serves up a lot of tasty food, so that was our first stop. 

The chicken, Brie, and sautéed onion sandwich lived up to expectations, but it was the koi pond and beautiful grounds that captured my imagination. 

What if we built a waterfall like this on our steep slope above the meadow?


It would drown out the sound of traffic drifting up from the highway down in the valley. 

The MR—always the voice of reason—mentioned the amount of water it would require. Even on a closed system, you have to factor in evaporation. 

Oh… Over zealous watering has resulted in burst pipes in the past, and no showers or wash on Monday. It still is really pretty; maybe just not for us. 

Any backyard projects or inspiration to share?

The Price of Progress

A field of foxgloves with our house in the background has been the desktop picture on my computer for the last four years.

Foxgloves below the meadow

I was lucky enought to just stumble on this field of flowers by chance. Me and MR had been talking about adding lavender to the hillside, and I went out to find our own, ready-made swath of purple. You can see the flaws in our house—how the underside of the deck is falling to pieces. Drip lines run down the side of the girls’ wing, and bright blue paint outlines the roof.  We had so much to do, but somehow that meadow, filled with flowers, made it seem possible.

Over the years, the house has been painted and the deck repaired. We’ve added the orchard and the MR has mowed back the weeds and the brambles in the meadow. Somehow, in all that progress, our flowers were lost.

House & Orchard

I can still find a few scattered foxgloves here and there. A single stalk near the driveway made me go in search of more.

Foxglove

Later this summer, we’ll be enjoying apples and plums, and the currants are beginning to turn lovely shades of red. While I love the harvest and the progress it symbolizes, a part of me will always miss the wild beauty of the meadow.

We planted lavender on the steep hill below the well room, and Russian sage near the new retaining wall. They’re both doing well, and someday, we’ll have civilized blooms taking over our tangle of weeds.

Lavender on the Hill

But we’ll always have room for a few foxgloves.

What’s your favorite wild flower? Any bitter-sweet progress reports?

 

 

Sweet Surprises

Spring in earnest has arrived at our house. We came home late last Wednesday from eight beautiful days on Maui and woke the next morning to a front lawn dotted with purple azaleas.

SS Dogs

Not black dogs—that was purple azaleas.

SS Bogart

What you didn’t hear that buddy? I said purple azaleas.

SS Azaleas

Sometimes you guys don’t realize what I go through just for one picture.  The azaleas are quite pretty.

SS Azalea CloseupBack when we were adding all the new landscaping last spring, I had no idea that all those sweet, little bushes would turn out to be azaleas decked out in purple each spring.  We were https://bigwhitehouseonthehill.wordpress.com/2015/06/18/making-a-statement/ and let the landscapers have free reign.  They did well.  Me and the MR were talking about adding in some annuals like last year.  It might be too early for the new guinea impatiens that brought such nice color.  The deer did really like to nibble them, so maybe a less tasty option would work better.

The original owners lined the drive with barberry and candytuft.  Over the winter, it gets a bit scraggly-looking, and I wonder why we don’t just pull it out.  But on our return home, it was in full-bloom.

SS Candytuft

It looks lovely in all its glory and adds a bit of brightness along the driveway.

SS Candytuft Edging Drive

I think a little hint of white in our new planting beds might balance things out.  Wait and see.  I moved a little dirt and sorted out the worm bin, while the MR sprayed weeds, mowed the lawn and the meadow, used the weed eater in the orchard and the steep hillside, and power-washed half the deck.  OK, so he tends to be a little more driven than I am. Our yard thanks him, and so do I.

How’s your yard looking this spring? Any wonderful surprises?

 

 

Looking Backwards and Forwards

It’s hard to believe, December is over, the children are gone, and life is getting back to normal.  I’ve disappeared for the last few weeks, but sometimes you just need a little break.

So today, I’ll recap December and 2015 and give you a peak at what’s to come.  I started off the month disappointed in my Christmas trees—not the giant one we brought home from the tree farm but the ribbon trees I’ve been making for months.  Let’s face it, 18-inch trees don’t look impressive in 18-foot windows.  My little ribbon trees ended up on the bookcase where they looked quite festive, all I had to do was Rethink My Plan.

Bookcase forest

Then I shared with you Winter Sunsets, because they’re one of the best parts of this time of year.  The MR has been taking some time off over break. He’s going to miss the beautiful sunrises and sunsets we enjoy during winter.

Winter Suset Collage

We get short days, rain, and flooding in our little valley.  It’s been crisp and cool for the last week, but December brought its share of rain; It’s the Season.

flood

When the girls finished up finals, we headed off to Roatan, an island off the coast of Hondoras.  We’d visited the beach on a Caribbean cruise years ago, and the MR always wanted to go back.

Baby Girl at the Beach

Baby Girl back in the day rocking a bikini and braids.

It was a low-key week for all after the kids’ stress from end of term exams and the MR’s work excitement.  We rented a condo a few feet from the beach, swam, snorkeled, read books, and relaxed.

IMG_2357

We traded in our sunsets from the deck for the tropical version for a week.

IMG_2354

We were home in time to Wish You Joy and Peace this holiday season and spend Christmas at together as a family..Tropical fam

One of my favorite gifts this year was from Sweet Miss.  She used Shutterfly to put together a book of highlights in A Tribute to the Big White House on the Hill—2015.  She had told me she’d been going through the blog lately, but I had no idea what for.  I thought she just enjoying my witty way with words and wanted to keep up with what we were doing.

She did add quotes from the blog that have me smiling giddily, forcing people to feel the softness of my towels, and playing with the dogs, drinking wine, and crafting on the deck.  Perhaps I need to tone down the realism a little.  People might be afraid to visit.

According to WordPress, the top posts of 2015 were when the new furniture for the great room finally arrived in Orders Up with 145 views and 10 comments.  By the by, I really do like to hear from you guys.  Sometimes I feel like I’m sending my words out into the void.

Great Room with pillows & throw

The next was our recap of last year in Bathrooms, Floors, and Bounty in 2014 highlighting the big bathroom remodel upstairs and down (remember the baby blue sink?), the new floors downstairs, and all that garden goodness (plus a shocking picture of me with red hair—what was I thinking?).  It received 81 view and three comments.

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Oh the memories we can look back on.

Orange floor at sunset

Rounding out the top three was getting the carpet in Color Under Foot with 72 views and nine comments.  We still have a bit of an echo problem, but the carpet adds so much warmth and really pulls the room together.

Great Room Closer

Other favorites from last year were the Party Prep for Baby Girl’s graduation.  The whole family was in on the preparation with baby face pennants, balloon banners, and a pineapple tower.  It was a day to remember.

Pineapple Tower

Making a Statement was another highlight of 2015.  Now when you round that last corner of the driveway, the helicopter pad is gone, the grass is green, and the landscaping is welcoming.  We are no longer a house plopped down in a wilderness.  It took months, a burst pipe, and the family laying sod on graudation day, but it’s done.

yard & house

A few of the flowers and shrubs have been pruned by the deer, and the long dry summer was a little tough on the grass, but it still looks great and is the perfect starting place for future plantings.

One important change that didn’t make the top 10 was replacing the windows with blown seals and adding window films. We’ve had one window crack after the application of film, but we purchased the extra insurance and will have it replaced this spring.  Cracking is very unusual, but as I watch the snowflakes fall, me and the MR were concerned that extreme temperatures might cause more problems.

You can read all about it in Windows Upgrade.  While it still gets quite toasty in here at times (think 80º inside and 32º outside), the films have reduced the glare dramatically.

Film Install Collage

And now if this post wasn’t long enough, perhaps I’ve been holding it all in for the last three weeks and now I’m ready to burst, what’s up for next year?  Well, with both of our sweet girlies off at school, we’re painting the upstairs.  We meaning the MR.  By the time he’s done, the laundry room will be the only room left to be painted.

When he’s finished, I’ll get to put the sewing room together in earnest, seed catalogs are arriving, we have travel plans, and after 19 years and it’s fair share of spilled milk, sharpies, and spirographs it’s time to replace the dining room table. Now that the house isn’t totally falling apart, we have a little time for some fun stuff.  I think a bit more landscaping and a few more paths are on the agenda.

In good news, Baby Girl was accepted to the architecture program.  She still has four-and-a-half years of hard work ahead of her, but we’re very proud and happy for her.  Another highlight for December was my dad selling his home of 38 years and purchasing a townhome.  I’m sure that will keep us all busy packing in the next few weeks.

I’m hoping to stay more organized/on task in 2016.  It’s going to be a great year—I can just feel it.

No Christmas post would be complete without the much anticipated Christmas PJ’s.  Someone asked for Christmas’ mumus.  All I’m saying is be careful what you ask for.

Christmas Pjs Collage

How did your 2015 shape up? What’s on the agenda for the new year?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making a Statement

Remember way back in March when I talked about things Piling Up? That’s when our landscaping project began.

Pallet Piles & House 3And a month or so went by and I told you about The Wall that was in progress and I knew one day it was going to happen. Well, for quite a while, our view was blocks and some piles of dirt.

Yes, I am up at the crack of dawn to take pictures for you guys--be thankful.

We had part of a wall and some nice steps, but progress was at a standstill.

StepsThen the MR reminded his buddy about Baby Girl’s graduation party and that June deadline, and everyone got busy. The guys had talked about rocks, but I had no idea they’d be giant, craggy rocks that look amazing.

rocks

Or that they had plans for beautiful plants along the edge along with really good sod from Oregon.

sod

Maybe it was the time passing or it could have been a couple men getting their wires crossed, but our extra parking area turned into a green and lovely oasis.

yard & house

I can’t say I’m disappointed; it’s a beautiful sight as you turn the corner and drive up to our home. Lillies, maples, a beech, and some rhodies fill out the planting beds.

yard & house 3

 

I thought the steps would be simple and utilitarian, but they’re lined by smoke trees and other decorative plants.

steps 2

 

Cocoa is trying to hide your view or maybe just trying to figure out what I find so interesting. Here’s a better look at the steps.

steps from below

 

We had cannas like this at our last house with vibrant, yellow flowers. I can’t wait to see what they look like in bloom.

Along with all the added plants, I set out one of the MR’s Christmas presents from his folks. They show at art exhibitions and meet the most interesting people. A friend of theirs made this wrought iron hummingbird feeder.

new hummingbird feeder

I have it on good authority that the birds have already found it.

The old and new retaining walls look quite impressive from below.

both retaining walls

Living on a steep slope comes with built-in problems, but we’re very excited about the presence the new landscaping gives to our home.

Yard Collage  

It took awhile, and now with the heat of summer upon us, the new grass is struggling to get established, but we’re happy to be looking at beautiful plants and a peaceful setting instead of piles of dirt.

yard from driveway

Little Buddy is checking the grass for rollability.

We’ve always had a lovely view; now the foreground matches the background. Maybe we’ll be moving over to the meadow next.

How’s your yard looking? Any projects this summer?