Archive for March, 2011

Instead of Round-Up, I Used Elbow Grease

Monday, March 28th, 2011









by Samantha Prust


The photo on the left is the front yard before our landscape renovations. The photo on the right is after our landscape renovations (with much more to come!)

My first house was in need of some TLC inside, but I conveniently hadn't thought of the area outside around the house. Sure, I had looked at it. It had a nice big backyard. A crab apple tree, some aspen. I didn't worry at the time. After chopping down overgrown foliage, it was time to tackle the trees and the turf--or the lack of it. The trees were easy: we just cut them down or hired a tree trimmer for the larger trees. We had a nice dirt yard in the front with some aspen suckers poking through the dried up soil. It was my first big "Uh-oh" moment. I had no idea how to fix it. My first inclination was to get the grass in better shape. Everyone said to use Round-Up to kill the weeds and aspen suckers. I didn't want to use it. I was adamant about not using Round-Up or any other chemical week killer because I don't believe that is right for the environment and only ends up making it more difficult to get rid of weeds in the long run. I wanted a natural solution that wouldn't compromise the health of our soil. When I met my husband, he was completely on board with my decision to avoid toxic chemicals in our yard. Also, we have pets and it's not safe for them. We stuck by our rule: No Round-Up. The only other option was hand weeding. I decided it was a great option that would provide exercise, sunshine and some good ol' dirt under the fingernails. We focused on hand weeding the front yard because that's what everyone sees. I planted grass seed and fertilized it and it did grow. I used a nontoxic pre-emergent/fertilizer mix that contains corn gluten to kill the weeds before they come up.

The yard was looking pretty good for a couple of years. But the grass soon succumbed to the weeds and the sun baked the grass into an ugly, crispy brown carpet across the lawn. When the grass went dormant, that gave the weeds a chance to grow. I had had it with trying to cultivate a perfect green grass lawn. I decided that I didn't want the hassle, maintenance, and expense (it takes a lot of watering to get a green lawn in Colorado) of such a lawn, so I began reading about xeriscaping. I had heard of it years before I bought my house, but I hadn't thought of it as a viable option because I figured it took special gardening skills. I was always very attracted to high desert and native plants, and wanted to incorporate those into the landscape. It was decided: we would have a xeriscaped front yard. I was so excited! It would be a while before we could add any plants. I had to read more and plan out where we would put certain plants. In the meantime, I continued hand weeding. This went on year after year and this year is the first year we are caught up with weeds and have them under control (as much as this is possible). It was a great workout regimen, let me tell ya! We also had to pull up aspen sucker roots throughout the entire front yard.

So, after pulling out those big roots and hand weeding enough that the weeds were under control, we covered the soil with clear plastic. Now, I know they say not to do this, but we were on a mission to kill weeds and this seemed like a sure bet (it worked out great). After we secured the plastic in place with garden staples, we covered the plastic with wood mulch, all of which we got free from asking nearby tree trimmers if we could have their shredded mulch when they were done. They were more than happy to skip a trip to dump the mulch, so they just dumped it in our driveway and we shoveled wheelbarrows full and dumped it where we wanted it in the front yard. We left a space for grass where it was growing the best without any extra irrigation. This method worked great because once the weeds were suppressed by the plastic and mulch, we had more time to focus on getting the grass patch whipped into shape. I concentrated on weeds growing the grassy area and tried to reseed grass there as much as possible.

Finally, as you can see in the after pic, it is much improved. The after pic also shows that we repainted the house, but that's another blog entry I'll get to later. We are still in the process of adding landscaping plantings, but we did plant a tree and a large ornamental pampas grass and a maiden grass, which the photo on the right doesn't show. I will post another pic this spring when those plants are in full bloom. Slowly the front yard is beginning to take shape as our xeriscape garden. It is one of the most satisfying feelings to plant something and watch it grow and bring beauty to your landscape. I am really enjoying home improvement, especially outdoors!

The Scent of Memory

Monday, March 21st, 2011

The Scent of Memory


Fay Ulanoff

            The day I stepped onto the long Island Railroad I knew something was missing.

            The thing that eluded me, which is politically incorrect, was the smell of tobacco.

            The scent brought to mind, my dad who, now long gone, was a smoker. Who’d puff away at least two packs a week.

            Perhaps you say, filters, but no they were not for him.  He preferred the strongest cigarettes he could get. And I, as a child, who did not know any better, loved his cologne, which I refer now, as tobacco.

            I’d cuddle up, and listen to him read me a Golden Book, while sitting on his lap in our favorite overstuffed chair. Then and drink it in.

            The montage of photos, of my parents has a prominent place where I can visit them every day.

            My mom smiles back from hers and I remember some of the closeness we shared, but when I stare into the image of my dad, I conjure up the fine aroma of tobacco, which brings me back to the story time we shared in our old house, sitting in our chair.

            So yes they have sanitized the old smoking cars and those people who could not kick their unhealthy habit, who were ostracized, but they do exist and I on a limited basis do not mind if a person lights up now and then, because to me it is the scent of a memory, that I cherish, between dad and I.

Decade Birthdays

Friday, March 18th, 2011

My brother Dennis will turn 60 in a few days. The family gathered in Black Hawk for a joyous celebration. Brother Bill and his wife Earlene graciously took me up and helped me get around as it was my first trip there in over fifteen years ñ and things have changed!

We went on Wednesday and had our own time with the Birthday Boy and his wife Claudia that day and, again, Thursday morning before others began arriving. Brothers Ralph, with wife Cheryl, and Roy, with wife Sue, arrived yesterday. Sister Linda was unable to join us due to health problems.

About 1:00 this afternoon (Friday) we all gathered in a room at the Ameristar Hotel. We lit candles on a large cake ñ 6 candles, each representing 10 years ñ and sang Happy Birthday. We basked in our time together and admired the glorious scene of snow on the evergreen trees from our vantage point on the 23rd floor. We brothers and sisters donít always agree with each other 100% (no political discussions by mutual agreement), but we do always love and respect each other.

Now in the quiet of my own home, I am reflecting on the tradition of noting decade birthdays in special ways. I remember aiming to get my doctorate for my 40th birthday. I missed that goal by a few months ñ receiving the Degree in December instead of May of that year, but I was still 40! My sister Linda threw a surprise party for my 50th birthday. We had a great brunch in the Sheraton Hotel in Lakewood with family and close friends. I was awake to greet my 60th birthday at 12:01 a.m., but exhausted, sitting in an airport in Lima, Peru, waiting to return from an inspirational two-week trip featuring Caroline Myss. The family honored that birthday a few weeks later with everyone giving me packages containing 60 of something ñ paperclips, note pads, marbles, stuffed mice, pennies, etc. When I turned 70 last May, Bill, Earlene, and Linda hosted a fabulous party for friends and family. I am truly blessed.

Yes! Letís celebrate life! Letís celebrate each decade and continue to anticipate even greater events and joys as we move into the challenging and unchartered territory of a new age.

Have House Will Move!

Friday, March 18th, 2011
Been out house hunting for most of week. Hard work!
Plenty to see, lots of info to process/remember(prices and locations) and hard to make that right decision.
Finding older homes need mucho renovations which can be costly thus equal to cost of some new construction.
What's a buyer to do? It a real dilemma!

So many helpful suggestions coming my way and I have people lighting candles, praying and projecting positive thoughts as well as looking for places for me to move to.

Advice includes:

Be patient. ìÖyouíll walk into a place and know itís the ONE.î

Spend more and buy new because renovations on the older home can be costly. ìTrust me, if it looks like it needs a little, it actually needs a lotÖif it looks like it needs nothing, it needs a little.î

Cheap is best.

Rent until youíre sure.

Go with your gutÖif it seems perfect for you, it is.

Move back home to NJ and come back to FL. Hmmm.

Get a condo; no work.

This project will proceed knowing itís life changing and that I will survive this ìperfect stormî and find the best place for me. Viva Las Residence!


Available: One Feliine Extraordinaire

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Flash here. Itís springtime in the Rockies, a bit early if you ask me. Of course, thereís still plenty of snow in the mountains, but here in town green things are shooting up from the ground, squirrels are cavorting in the backyard, and Iím feeling frisky.

A month from today, Cindy will be getting on a plane to fly to Austin, TX for a retreat with a bunch of her fellow clients from our literary agency. You guessed it. Iím planning to stow away.

Why wouldnít I? Itís a chance to meet my agent in person. This lady just loves my VOICE. Iím not sure what that means, since sheís never actually heard me meow, but whatever.

I wonder if any other main characters will be tagging along with their writers? Do you think anyone else wrote about cats?

Like maybe a girl cat? With perky ears and long whiskers?

Just wondering . . .

Girl with Dog

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

I have become known as the girl with dog, at least in the small city where I live. I have a few acquaintances, some from my job as a journalist, and run into them at coffee shops, restaurants and downtown. If Iím dressed casual after normal work hours and donít have my miniature dachshund, Zoey, with me, they ask, ìWhereís your dog?î Itís like weíre a unit, my 9-pound best friend and I.

Our hanging out together during after-work hours started with a conflict of interest. Being a single girl for a couple of decades (with boyfriends thrown in here and there), I got used to doing what I want in my free time. And then I adopted a dog with needs, particularly for going on walks, getting pets and being social.

As a coffee shop lover, I started taking my squirmy dog with me to a downtown coffee shop, so that I could read and satisfy her needs for getting attention. At first, she didnít want to be a lapdog, but after a few weeks, she learned that it was a compromise ñ she sits on my lap and people come up to us and want to pet her.

I take her to open houses and events that allow dogs and into shops that do the same. The result ñ when I am sans dog, itís like Iím missing my purse. I run into people who ask that question, where is she?

Zoey, too, loves our regular coffee shop. When weíre actually trying to take a walk and pass the shop, she pulls me to the door and scratches on the glass, as if saying, ìLet me in!î ìThe shop is closed,î I tell her. ìWe can come back tomorrow.î Scratch. Scratch.

I feel bad for her, my friendly girl who wants to go inside for attention, a free bone and some love.

My challenge next week is to ask someone out for coffee who I normally would not, because I would tell myself, Iím too shy. I just might bring my dog, too.