Friday, May 30, 2014

Greener on the other side (I hope)

Tomorrow begins our experiment with some new grass in our yard. It's called African Dogtooth and it's being sold here and here. I've taken to calling it "African Dog Too-good-to-be-true" grass, because the list of all the things it will supposedly BE pretty much makes it sound like the perfect grass: cushiony and dense enough to be weed resistant (after 3 seasons), doesn't go to seed, only grows 2-4" (no mowing), very little watering needed, bright green from June through October. We have about 400 plugs of grass that need to be planted by Sunday night.

My aunt decided to partially subsidize this experiment, after seeing us struggle to keep this patch of grass weed-free and green for the last 4 summers. I have really mixed feelings about grass. We have a lot of xeriscape planting areas and they are so brown and crunchy for so much of the year. It's really nice to have green. It's nice to have cushion-y green grass. But the sprinklers and chemicals and aeration that seem to be required to keep regular Kentucky bluegrass green in this part of the country? Not so cool.

So, now it's up to African Dog Too-good-to-be-true Grass. Can it keep this patch of lawn in better shape? Let's see. Ready? Set. Go!

Planting the dogtooth grass plugs
Why we planted the grass (a dialog)
The African dogtooth grass at 4 months in August
The additional bulb flower experiment
Where the bulbs get eaten by the rabbits
Fifteen months after planting
Two year in when the grubs/Japanese Beetle attack

Monday, May 26, 2014


We've had three shifts in the past week that are making things a little easier around the Wyse home.

First, Trixie is walking enough to go across the room/around the room. I know a lot of people feel like there's an uptick in chaos when the walking begins. But at this point, she's not so fast as to run away from me and she's still getting into "trouble" (like the trash cans and cupboards and the open dishwasher) at the same rate as a crawling baby. Basically, at this point, being able to walk means that it's easier to take her outside in the grass. It's easier to go to the park because she's not on her hands and knees eating the mulch. And it's easier to set her down (on her feet!) in public.

Second, Trixie is dropping her second nap. I used the word dropping because she still needs a little something in the morning, but it doesn't need to be a proper nap in her crib. The crib naps are really tough to mesh with the older kids' schedules and noise level, so I am very happy to see the second nap go. If we can get to one nap a day by the time school lets out for the summer, that would make our summer schedule feel a lot less restrictive.

Third, we finally finished re-appropriating all our biking gear so that the whole family can go biking. Trixie is in the bike trailer, Mattias on his balance bike, and Noah on his regular bike. The recommendation on babies in bike trailers is one year old. I know a lot of you put a carseat in the bike trailer, but I guess I'm too much of a rule follower to try that. We used birthday season this year to get everyone re-outfitted in properly sized bikes and helmets. Theoretically, we have a lovely hand-me-down system since all the kids are 3 years apart. In practice, it still took time and money and finessing to get everyone into the proper gear to bike. Being able to bike as a family again will be a huge step forward for our summer sanity.

Monday, May 19, 2014


This weekend the temperatures shot up past 80 degrees. I got quite a bit of gardening done, but by 2pm, I thought to myself, I am a New England weather person. I was feeling particularly grumpy and hot and tired and I was glaring menacingly back at the sun itself. Yes, I'll take a humid 70 over a dry 80 any day of the week. Fritz is my foil in this matter. He's just getting going at 2pm and 85 degrees.

Speaking of getting going, I'm getting lots of questions and blog hits about the bamboo. May is a bad month for the bamboo. It looses all it's leaves in the spring, not the fall. It's kind of discouraging. The rest of the world turns green, and the bamboo turns brown. I trimmed out the dead stuff this weekend. (You can see some clippings are still on the deck below.) It looks like this right now:

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Not so nice. Over the next two months, it will grow all its new stalks (culms) and get new leaves. It will be looking okay again by the end of June. I hope. There's always a bit of finger crossing involved with the bamboo.

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The nicer weather meant the solar panels were installed this week. Hurray! Now we're waiting for an inspection and for the utilities company to install a bidirectional meter. I love the idea that our house is about to become its own little power plant. Noah and Max were fascinated by the installers. (Okay, I was fascinated, too!)

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The installers had a cool pulley system on their ladder to get the solar panels up to the roof.  Of course, that inspired us to get the pulley (that my brother made for the boys) mounted to the playhouse. Originally, the pulley idea came from something I saw being sold in a German toy catalog. I've seen something similar here. Let the fun begin.

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Well, it was fun when we had it indoors, too. I just worried more about safety. The drop was a little greater in the stairwell. Ah-hem. That's why they are wearing bike helmets below... (?!?)

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Trixie is really into wearing food based hair products lately. Thankfully, the cast is gone, so we can give her baths again. Whew! I believe this concoction was beets and cheese. Who feeds their baby beets in a white top?

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I'm really struggling with dishes to feed the whole family for the last few months. One of the few that works is Strapatsada – basically, Greek scrambled eggs with tomato. There's a video with this link, and I suggest watching it, if for no other reason than to learn why and how to grate(!) a tomato.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Late comes Early...comes Late?

Since my last post mentioned that Mother's Day is when we can officially begin planting here in Colorado - and I rushed out and planted a whole bunch of stuff a week early – because the weather was so good! – and the people in the nursery said we could have planted early! –

– Well –

Well. This is what happened on Mother's Day:

That would be snow.
(Grumble. Grumble.)
You know, what can I say? At least there's some nice irony for my blog, right?

Mother's Day was still quite simple and lovely and perfect in all the important ways.

But the poor plants!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Late comes Early

Yesterday, I purchased some flowers for our front porch. The mystery seed mix experiment from last year was a little slow to get going and a little less colorful than I would prefer, so living flower starts it is.

The talk in the garden store was all about how Normally, in Colorado, you shouldn't plant anything before Mother's Day! But this year: You could have planted weeks ago; there haven't been any late snowstorms! I rushed home and planted almost everything I could because I was suddenly feeling late.

Late comes early, I suppose.

This is also an appropriate saying for life around the Wyse household lately. Three kids is a lot of kid. It's still overwhelming. Many days I think to myself, this is too many kids for me. Also, 8-20 months is a perpetually exhausting stage. Every now and then my head emerges from the sort of deliberate tunnel vision that this age demands and I'm shocked to discover how everything else is going by in leaps and bounds.

This past weekend, I was allowed a little perspective thanks to my parents, who flew in from the east coast for Trixie's birthday. They were a whirlwind of activity. My father patiently swept our floors no less than 15 times in the 80 hours they were here. He washed trim and painted trim and painted walls and fixed toys and assembled toys. While my mother cooked and scrubbed cabinets and picked up toys and did dishes. And together they must have read about 60 books to the kids.

So, yes, somehow, Trixie turned one this weekend. One, you say, so fast! Kind of. And kind of not. There's a definitely element of Thank goodness! when I utter the word one.

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My parents came bearing family gifts: first, the rocking horse my grandfather made for my mother, which was my rocking horse when I was little, which is now Trixie's. The horse's name is Georgie. He seems to be a hit with the four-year-old as well.

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Also, my dollhouse arrived, originally made and designed by my parents when I was about five. The original was pressed particle board, and over the years it warped and sagged and got moldy. So my father rebuilt it using plywood. When he told me that he was planning to do this, we had a big discussion about just how much he should change it. It felt important to me to retain much of the original dollhouse design. You can get a sense of the changes from the photos below. The rebuild is going to last several more generations! It still needs some interior decorating, however. That will be for me to complete. (Most likely after this 8-20 months stage is over!)
The dollhouse is proportioned for Barbie. I still haven't really decided how I feel about Barbie for my own daughter. Honestly, I'm not sure my gut likes Barbie, but I can intellectually throw a good argument either way. I'm still thinking about it and pretending that it's all under my control: pretending that I have some decision in the whole matter. Will Barbie be allowed to live here? Hmmm....

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Trixie's cast came off on Monday. Another moment of Thank goodness. Trixie was undeterred by it, but I was ready for it to come off. Having a baby in a cast was kind of like having a baby and a half when you add in the cast bonuses: baby getting stuck all over the place, baby lumbering around and scratching the floor with the resin, trying to figure out what clothes can still be worn, lugging around baby awkwardly and (even) protecting yourself from the cast-used-as-weapon. Sheesh. I'm glad that's over.

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Unfortunately, it appears that Trixie will be teaching herself to walk all over again. Her muscle tone and flexibility have been negatively impacted by the time in the cast. On the positive side, she's relentless in her quest to be up on her feet. And I'm ready for her to walk.