Sunday, April 26, 2015

Building a Backyard from Scratch: The Prickliest Friends I Ever Met!

All week, Brendan and I were looking forward to Saturday so we could pick up some Agave cacti and continue our xeriscaping backyard version. The big day arrived, and we headed to a local nursery and found a huge Agave...for $150.00. Back to the drawing board...we needed some smaller specimens that better fit our budget.

Luckily we ran into Nick and Brandon, and Brandon happens to be extremely knowledgable about succulents!

We developed a new budget conscious strategy...

Three tiny succulents for around the Mexican Ocotillo that we planted last weekend (center).

This cactus is like a sister plant to red yucca...should be useful in our goal to attract birds, bees, and butterflies. 

These four were the big purchases. As you can see, we did get one Agave (center), but it was a lot smaller and only cost $24.99. We got a barrel cactus that already had some bird of paradise growing on it (bonus!) and a cactus that had a few miniature barrels. The cactus in the far left corner was perhaps the best purchase of all because it had several off shoots growing at the bottom, so we were able to separate the roots and plant the "babies" elsewhere: 

Also at the nursery, we noticed some prickly pears had dropped some pads on the ground. If you plant these, root down, Brandon told us, you should be able to produce your own prickly pears. Added bonus, the pads were free. 

We planted three: 

Lets hope they eventually root and grow. Remember when planting cactus to WEAR GLOVES. These friends are prickly, and I got jabbed a few times even through the gloves. Total cost of all our prickly friends: $170.00. Far better than paying $150.00 for one plant. We topped the $1,000.00 point in our backyard renovation this weekend...but I'd say we've gotten our money's worth. To see past efforts check out our previous posts: 

After our efforts, Brendan made us mojitos using the sweet mint, spearmint, and peppermint from our very own herb garden. Then I made us pasta for dinner with basil, rosemary, and thyme from the garden. The herbs really added flavor to the meal! 

Then we went to school to host an on campus movie night with the club we advise. We had 20 students come to watch The Great Gatsby (the newer version) on the big screen. Here's the elusive green light on the edge of Daisy's dock: 

The students brought some awesome "themed snacks" 

All in all, an excellent Saturday.

Today is all about getting ready for the last teaching week of the semester...oh my! Grocery store, laundry, cleaning up...and Brendan is out in the yard putting weed guard down on the side yard. Tonight, we'll go over to our friends' house and watch Game of Thrones, which will be a great way to end the week. I am ready to put on my "A" game and make it through the end of the spring semester. This semester has been a challenge because of our move and getting settled, and I'm pretty exhausted, but I know I need another burst of energy.

Here's to finding your motivation!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Happy Met Ya Day!

7 years ago today, I was lucky enough to meet the love of my life. After our long coffee shop hangout, he sent me an email that was the start of our friendship. 2.5 years after that, we kissed, and I swear, I'm not exaggerating when I say my world lit up forever and has been brighter ever since. 2.5 years as friends plus 4.5 years in love has equaled the best 7 years of my life.

Brendan, my life isn't just happier now, it is more meaningful. Thank you for having the love, for making me smile, and for being off to see the world with me. I love you so very, very much. 

<3 Stacy

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Building a Backyard From Scratch: Drought Resistant Planting

Our backyard efforts continued yesterday, starting with an early wake up to visit the Permian Basin Master Gardeners plant show (after the farmer's market, of course!) where we picked up eighteen plants and succulents for $125.00.

We then visited Alldredge Gardens to pick up more rock to finish the other flower bed and some more garden soil. We spent a good few hours out in the sun digging and planting.

I added a few more herbs on this side as well, including cilantro, fennel, chives, and lemongrass. I hope my herbs make it, but this spring is all about experimentation and discovering what does and doesn't work.

For the plants, we suck to things that like sunlight and require very little water. We also looked for plants that attract birds, bees, and butterflies. Maybe it worked already because we saw one white butterfly as we were planting.  In this bed, the plants toward the right in the photo are supposed to eventually grow to be about four feet wide and have some blooms. 

Around the flagstone path, we planted some succulents and drought resistant plants. It doesn't look like much now, but everything should grow up (some as tall as eight feet) and out and even flower a little. In the photos below, you can see the weed guard that Brendan put down a couple of weeks ago to keep the uncovered dirt from blowing around. 

Along the fence, we planted some yuccas and other drought resistant plants like sage. 

We do eventually want trees, some grass, and lots of gravel, but this is progress towards our little desert oasis! 

In other weekend news, we saw Jay Leno on Friday night when he did a performance at the college. It was nice to laugh a lot after such a busy week (and before another busy week starts!) 

And last night, we took a group of thirteen students to see the community theater production of West Side Story. At the end, the actor playing Tony proposed to the actress playing Maria. It was pretty cute! 

Today, our plans are: laundry, grading, preparing for week 14 of the semester (gasp!), and dinner and watching Game of Thrones with some friends tonight. 

We hope your Sunday is a Fun day!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Weekend Apart, or Camping in Fort Davis

On Friday morning, Brendan left for South Padre, TX to attend the Great Plains Honors Council conference with the other director of the MC honor's program and two student presenters. To lesson your confusion, this is part of Brendan's position as the Co-director of the honor's program, which is separate from the English Honor Society that we co-advise together. 

Though I was invited to attend the conference, there was no possible way for me to miss teaching on Friday (way too much going on in my eight week flex course), so when my friend Kristen invited me to go camping this weekend with her Outdoors Club, I was very excited to be able to work Friday and still have my own adventure away.

Kristen picked me up shortly after 5:00pm on Friday and we headed to Fort Davis, which is about 2.5 hours away. We had an SUV packed full of stuff for our 48 hours away. What can we say? We like to be prepared (according to our friend Chelsea, we like to go "glamping," but she is over-exaggerating, though I do love my camp stove and double high airbed!) 

It was raining when we arrived, but the sunset was gorgeous: 

We enjoyed conversation with the other campers and made veggie burgers on the camp stove for dinner.  We survived incredible winds in the canyon we were camping in on both nights. I really thought that our tents were going to go flying away, but Kristen is a seasoned camper and kept assuring me that that wouldn't happen.  

Friday morning, I went on a drive with Chelsea and her boyfriend, Brandon, and we saw some pigs, horses, cows, roadrunners, and other wildlife. 

Friday afternoon, we all went rappelling off of an 80 foot canyon cliff. This involved putting on a harness, gloves, and a helmet and then being tied to a lot of ropes that my life was sincerely depending on. I felt comfortable because Richard, the former founder of the Outdoor's club was highly experienced and had an experienced helper, Tom. I also watched several people go before me and survive. Plus, back in December, my sister-in-law, Annie, took Brendan and I to her rock climbing gym, which gave me an idea of what to expect. 

So, I suited up: 

Got hooked in:

Hugged my friends goodbye and told them to establish a scholarship in my name for a reading program for children should anything happen to me: 

Then I began my descent (backwards!) off the cliff. The photos don't show how nervous I was. This took a big leap of courage for me: 

I kept my feet on the rocks until I was perpendicular to the ground and there were no rocks. Then I had to push off to find myself hanging 80 feet in the air. I continued to let out rope until I was safely down on the ground. I got an awesome view of the canyon on the way down. It was so cool! 

The rest of Friday was spent relaxing since everyone was exhausted from staying up late, the canyon climb (very step), and the rappelling down. Kristen and I made mac n'cheese for lunch and other campers made two kinds of cobbler, which we proudly ate for dinner. 

This morning, it was time for a short hike! We packed up the tents and our campsites, and I headed off with Kristen, Chelsea, and Brandon. Fun Fact: I have been friends with Kristen and Chelsea since fall of 2011, so over 3.5 years now. 

We had an amazing hike, though we all estimated it to be longer than its true distance of 1.5 miles roundtrip (I logged it on my Run Keeper app just to see). 

We even found more horses:

And because of recent rains, the creeks were not empty:

At this point, I hadn't showered in three days, but I was happy to break in my new hiking boots this weekend. I got them at Sierra Trading Post and only spent $54.00. They were very comfortable and had good traction. 

We saw a rattlesnake (scary!) 

Even after my bravery rappelling yesterday, I still appreciated a helping hand to get across the mossy rocks! 

We stopped for food in Balmorhea and made it back to town a little after 3:00pm. As for Brendan, his flight lands in about fifteen minutes, and by all accounts, their conference was a big success. Both students had never been on a plane before, and one student had never seen the ocean before, so I think it was a big weekend for them. I cannot wait to see my husband after our weekend apart. I had a great time, but now I just want to watch the Game of Thrones season premiere and cuddle (and don't worry, I did take a much needed shower as soon as I walked in the door!) 

We hope your weekend was awesome too! 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Greetings From the Backyard

Ahhh, this is SO MUCH better than writing greetings from Starbucks. Yesterday was hot, but today is a "cool" 85 degrees, and I'm really enjoying sitting outside with my computer.

How am I doing on my internet rules? Better, but not perfect! I have completely cut my usage at night and focused on reading and just having downtime. I'm working on resisting the urge to scroll through Facebook as much. I joined Twitter to see what all the fuss is about...but so far, I don't get it. I tweet but nothing happens. There's no interaction. What is going on? I've already managed to lose one "follower." Was I that bad at tweeting? Enlighten me, please.

The internet has also managed to bring Brendan some great joy. He purchased a year long subscription to the Major League Baseball channel through Apple TV, and now he can watch his Red Sox games on demand. This had made for one happy Red Sox fan! We hear we can do the same for HBO Go now. The Apple TV was a Christmas gift from my dad, and we are really liking it. We don't subscribe to cable (and haven't since we moved here in 2011), so Apple TV opens a nice entertainment option for us.

We've been on a farmer's market inspired food kick since the Midland Farmer's Market is back in action on Saturday mornings. Our finds on Saturday included: beets, radishes, cauliflower, rainbow chard, BBQ sauce, raspberry/cherry tart jam, and homemade bread. It wasn't our best haul ever, but it was pretty good for April.

We made BBQ Tofu with beets and beet greens (bottom photo) and Brendan made the barley with greens and radishes (top photo). For tonight's dinner, I have this in the crockpot...only I added some swiss chard. I love lentils, and I'm looking forward to a healthy after yoga dinner.

Speaking of healthy, I am wanting to make changes to my fitness routine. By change, I simply mean working out more than twice a week. I'm planning to add some more group classes to my life because I'm most motivated when I work out with others. Sure, I can trudge through workout sessions on my own, but it doesn't bring me the same joy. I will check back in with updates on my progress.

In crazy crazy news, there is officially ONE month of the Spring 2015 semester left. I'm trying to not let my students sense my panic at how much we have left to cover! For the most part, they are doing great, and it works to my benefit to keep them focused on only what is right in front of them. One thing at a time.

Today, my mom texted me and told me she found a creative writing principal's award that I won in 1996. I mentioned this to my class and one student said "That's the year I was born." Oh goodness. This combined with my lack of understanding of Twitter makes me feel I really may be getting old.

But you know what? I'm liking it! Happy Wednesday to all!

PS- There is an ice cream truck that frequents our street at this time. Isn't that zany?

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Building a Backyard From Scratch: Edging Begins

Happy Easter! We hope everyone had a great time with family today. We were missing ours, but we stayed busy busy busy the past four days building our backyard. It has involved a lot of time and some money too, but we're slowly making progress.

Step one was a trip to the rock yard to pick out edging for our flower beds and some flagstone for a path. We picked everything out at Alldredge Garden Center with a very nice employee named Calvin. Calvin was sweet enough to deliver all of our choices for free via his trailer. By the way: If you live in Midland and are looking for lawn care, Calvin is your guy! Please contact me for his phone number. He was so knowledgeable and friendly.

Next step, the edging begins. Brendan had already dug the trenches, and then it was a matter of putting the rocks in and adding sand (we went through four bags of sand this weekend).  This took a few hours. 

The window behind our bedroom 

The window behind our living room
Poor Brendan dug a hole to bury each of the flagstones to make our little path. I lined the stones up, but he did all of the digging, and I know that was exhausting. 

Up next: a trip to Home Depot to buy garden soil and herbs. It took so much digging and work (for both of us), to get the bed ready, but, finally, my dream of an herb garden became a reality. I decided where to plant everything and dug the holes myself...let's hope I have a green thumb. 

I planted sweet mint, spearmint, peppermint, oregano, rosemary, basil, parsley, sage, thyme, lemon thyme, and dill. I hope all of my herbs thrive. I'm pretty darn excited about it! 

Tomorrow, Brendan is putting down weed guard in the backyard to keep all of the dirt from blowing around in the crazy winds we have in spring until we can get the ground covered with other things. We want to eventually put down some trees, plants, and shrubs edged with river rock and a patch of grass (eventually two). Non-landscaped areas would be covered with crushed granite over the weed guard. 

The backyard is going to take us...forever, and this is just the beginning! It feels fun to have an outdoor space that's all our own though. Do you have any tips for an herb garden? If so, please leave them in the comments.

We look forward to seeing what's to bloom in thyme (hahaha).

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