July 16, 2017:
Hola! Where does the time go, Geez Louise! Half summer is already gone, and I am first now updating this from last December, tsk tsk. Bad Jan! So, been busy puttering around the yard, as always, and paying more attention than I probably should be to politics. The kitchen "remodel" is on hold due to budgetary constraints, but I hope to have that remedied before the end of the year. And I have yet to paint the guest room - it's only been 3 years now since I moved in to this version of Maison Newton, I'm not lazy or anything, nope... LOL! Take care and have a great rest of the summer. Jan

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Battling Sod Web Worm and Sprucing Up The Deck

Hola darlings!

It's going to be very warm and humid here today.  High in the mid to upper-80's and a big fat wet dew point that keeps you sweaty because the air is so saturated with moisture it doesn't evaporated! 

I arrived home last night from work with the intention of cutting the grass in the backyard, knowing how awful it is to do sustained work outside when the dew point gets above 55 for me.  I'm way too uncomfortable after that point.  But after a stop at the Pick 'n Save after getting off the bus and hiking the 3/4th of a mile to the house with two full bags of groceries plus my tote, I was just a little spent.  All of my good intentions went right out the window.  I ran upstairs and changed, then took a look at the grass out back and decided it was just too dry (ahem) to cut last night.  Instead, I set up the sprinkler and gave everything out back a good long drink while I sat with my feet up under the umbrella on the deck paging through a magazine and sipping a cold glass of cheap pink wine.

I called it a night at about 8:15 p.m. and came inside, but there was a lovely coolish breeze and the house felt great.  I kept the patio door and front door open to get a nice cross-breeze as I worked at the desk in the front room while snatching glimpses of some true crime stories on NBC.   I knew, though, that the heat/humidity was coming, because my knees have been aching for nearly 36 hours - that signals a significant weather change.  Poor knees!  Ouch!

I arose about quarter to six this morning, it was lovely cool in the house!  I shut down the south window in my bedroom which was still shaded in the early morning light, opened up the patio door and front door downstairs.  Set up the sprinkler in the front yard.  Watched the sun in the east slowly rise up and fill the front room with the most incredible light.  My poor lawn out front gets hammered MANY hours with full sun once it clears the trees and houses across the street and swings in a higher and higher arc to the southeast and then to the south.  Unfortunately, about three years ago, my ignorant neighbors to the south cut down not one but two trees that offered shade both to their house and to mine when the sun swung around to the southeast and south.  I hope they are now suffering from incredibly HIGH electric bills because they are constantly running their AC unit now.  The fricking idiots!  Just because they didn't want to rake up leaves in the fall.  Well, you can imagine what happened to the lawns that were used to nice shade in the afternoon. 

My new street tree - not the best photo of
it - sort of blends into the green of the trees
further down the road.  See how teeny it is!
I called around and offered various nurseries $1,000 to come and plant a large bore tree in my front yard to give me some small bit of shade out there.  That wasn't enough money, evidently.  So, last fall, out of desperation, I called the city Forestry Department and this spring they came out and planted a small - really small (sigh) maple tree in the city right-of-way near the curb area.  For $190, I got a "2 inch bore."  I wanted a maple with the purply-red leaves - I ordered a maple with the purply-red leaves. I have a street maple on the north side of the yard that has purply-red leaves.  The city put in the wrong color  on the south side of the yard - it's bright lime green!  All the other trees up and down the street are purply-red maples, although you really can't see that in this photo.  More fricking idiots!  But I was just so happy to see it finally go in (been expecting it since early March) that I didn't even call to complain that they had put in THE WRONG COLOR TREE.  The best part is that the city crew planted MY new tree smack dab in the middle of the lot line that I share with the idiots to the south.  Ha ha ha!  Ooooooh, I know it just ticks them off no end to have that CITY PLANTED TREE there, and watching me haul buckets of water out to it every night since it has been planted to make sure it's root system gets well established.  Poor tree was all wilted looking when I got home that first night a month or so ago and saw it planted there, all of a sudden.  The Forester was supposed to call me and let me know when they were coming out to plant so I could put a stake out where I wanted the tree planted.  No call.  They did not stake the tree either, but so far it's been good and steady, despite some blowing storms!  So there I am, hauling two to three buckets of water out each night when I get home from work and laving it all over the base of the young tree.  It perked up within 48 hours and appears to be thriving!  I was one wreck of nervous concern until I saw the very tips of the wilted leaves flush back out again.  As far as I can tell, I didn't lose a single leaf to wilt loss/transplant shock!   Yeah, guess I'm just a wee bit obsessive.  Trees are a mighty true wonder of the Goddess' fabulous creation.  Trees add such value to one's lot, I just cannot imagine deliberately chopping down two healthy shade-providing trees that are not a danger to me or anyone else!  Just cannot imagine it.  In the photo above you can see an area in the lawn to the southwest of my new tree where the stump of the healthy maple tree they'd removed used to be.  They have yet to reseed the area.  You can see by the size of the wound on the earth what size that tree used to be, and that's been filling in with slow creep growth and weeds for over three years now.  What a sin.

Love my tree - but look at the small amount
of shade it provides right now.  Sigh.  My
yard is to the right, tree-killer neighbors
are to the left.  See all those trees in my back
yard! They really help keep me cool in summer.
I'M SO HAPPY WITH MY LITTLE LIME GREEN TREE!

Area on north side of lawn next to driveway - you can see
what sod web worm damage looks like here - this
is a text-book example.  Although it looks like it,
this is not drought damage.
It is because of the actions of those idiots who live to the south of me - TREE DESTROYERS - that I've got infested with sod web worm worse than ever before.  My front lawn is now almost totally infested with sod web worm, which are larvae of  those tiny little bland colored moths that fly just above the tips of the grass blades. If you pull into your driveway at night with your low beams on, you can see them hovering in the air.  You can also see the very thin strands of web that their larvae leave behind. Right now thousands of larvae are busy killing my blue grass. They NEVER eat the crowns of the weedy grass, or the fescue.  Nope.  Just the blue grass.  The larvae gnaw it off right where the grass blade comes out of the ground. The lawn that a month ago was a lush, gorgeous uniform green growing like a sun of a gun now looks sickly and half dead or fully dead in spots, despite my putting down pesticide to try and eliminate those little buggers once and for all.  Well, guess it doesn't do me much good to try and keep them out of my lawn when none of the neighbors treat for them; I can kill them and kill them over and over again, and they just fly in from the neighboring lawns and lay their eggs all over mine.  It seems I have the perfect combination of heat, sun and dryness -- all three of which they favor for laying their eggs.  I don't know if you have them where you live - I hope you don't!

Enough of the rant on sod web worm.  I've been engaged in an escalating unending war against them and probably will be until the day I move to Las Vegas or die, whichever comes first.   


Looking from inside the house, the right side of the deck.
Fred added four boards to give extra width.
Back to the deck!  It's serviceable.  I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, as the old saying goes!  My brother-in-law Fred built the first part of it in one day and there it was one evening in 2001 when I got home from work.  I was totally amazed and very happy with it, because it replaced a stamped down pea gravel "patio" that had been added shortly after I first moved into this then newly built house in August 1990 -- and had hardly been touched since although it had always been meant to be "temporary."  So now you're getting a real idea of how I operate...

To say the deck was like a 100% improvement over what was there before would be a gross understatement.  My sister Darlene (Fred's wife) complained to him, though, that she thought it was too small.  Fred built it to the original length of the lumber he bought:  a little over 10' wide, and he took it out from the house a little more than 12 feet (the width of 21 boards). ( Somewhere I have old photos of what it looked like "pre-Fred-deck".  I will have to dig those out and scan a couple of them in!  It was pretty awful!)

Looking from inside the house, the left side of the deck.
Fred only added three board to this side -- probably because
he had not purchased enough lumber to do the build-out evenly.
Oh well.
And so, the next day Fred added some boards on each side -- running at 90 degrees to the original boards -- to widen out the existing deck.  He added several feet to the width, but he didn't do it evenly; looking out from the house, on the right side he added four boards (about 22-1/2"), on the left side he added three boards (about 17-1/2").  LOL!

But hey, I wasn't complaining!  I loved it!  And still do.  Whatever Fred did, it worked then and it's still working now.  It's now been over 11 years since Fred built my deck. It is not "permanently" attached to the house with lug bolted-on faceboard and joist hangers running from it -- it's totally free floating, built on it's own wood frame with "anchor" corners pounded into the dirt, not anchored in concrete.  Thus, the entire deck has been gradually drifing away from the house over the years, LOL!  This gradual drift away from the base of the house has given numerous voles and mice homes along the foundation...

The deck Fred built was never meant to be "permanet."  And here I am, still using it exactly as Fred built it all these years later.  Good job, Fred!  I haven't powered-washed it or cleaned it with deck stuff since it went in other than sweeping; haven't stained it or painted it.  Fred installed some of the boards cup side up instead of cup side down, and now they're popping up and I've got nail and even screw pops here and there.  But I still love it.  I just tell my guests to watch where they're walking, and they do. 

Because my back yard is a magical place. Sitting out here just totally transports you to another world. One of the original reasons I purchased this lot on land contract back in 1987 was because it had trees on it! When I first purchased the lot, many of the trees were just saplings, weed trees they are called (Chinese elms) and yeah, they're a pain in the neck because they toss off tons of twigs and branches and clog up my rain gutters.  But they also provide graceful light shade and the way the branches move in a breeze, it's just awesome to sit out here and stare up at the sky filtered through those branches.  Despite being able to see peeks of neighboring houses and hearing traffic noises from the nearby interstate and the even closer 84th Street which gets constant if not heavy traffic.  because even though it really is just a "deck" -- no railings, no overhead trellis or pergola, no fancy trimwork, and most of the knot-holes in the pressure-treated wood have long since popped out and numerous critters and creatures have made their home in the gravel base underneath -- it's plopped down in a yard anchored with numerous trees and native shrubs, plus all the plantings I've added over the past 20 plus years. 

Wildlife flock to my yard.  I have wild berry trees, wild grapes, and provide two bird baths that I have to fill twice a day (like now) during season because it's like a factory assembly line, with birds lined up to take baths.  I've put in transplanted perennials from homes and homes and homes that we used to live in over the years and always moved some of the plants with us when we left for new grounds -- old-fashioned German bearded Iris, run-of-the-mill Day Lilies, "Swedish" daisies, various colors of Hostas (which the bunnies have mostly eaten down to nubs this year, unfortuantely -- first year that's ever happened but we had a very mild winter and many survived that ordinarily would not otherwise have).  Oh, and lots of other perennials I've added here and there that I can't even remember the names of -- and lots of volunteers that have moved in or have always been here, just moved around year to year as they saw fit and conditions in the back yard have changed over the years as the trees have gotten bigger and bigger.  As long as they're pretty or the yellow and red finches love them (like the catnip and "stink weed"), I just let them be. 

When I put photos of my backyard on line, I may "brag" that I'm such a great yard designer and gardener but the truth is, the backyard has, over the years, pretty much slapped my efforts aside and designed itself :) 

Now - the deck!  EEK!  About once a month (less during summer and holiday season in winter) the ladies of the investment club to which I belong meet at my house once a month on morning after we breakfast at a local restaurant.   Tomorrow is our June meeting (we did not meet in May).  There are five of us, but tomorrow only four of us will can make it.

That gave me an idea -- knowing what the weather was going to be like, at least before noon, and knowing what my backyard is like during that part of the day, I suggested we meet out on my deck rather than around the round table in my dinette, and enjoy a little bit of nature's bounty on the deck in the shade and the breeze, under the umbrella.  The only reason I suggested this at all is because I only have four chair that are deck worthy -- two green stacking chairs and two white semi-folding adjustable chairs.  Well, I also have two other "deck" chairs but I won't write about them here.  Suffice to say they are not chairs that one can pull up to my small round plastic deck table that fits comfortably underneath my 7' umbrella.  And since only four of us will be present tomorrow...

So -- I've been piddling around out on the deck (and writing this blog) since about 8:30 a.m. and it's now past 12 noon.  EEK!  Where does the time go?  I wanted to spruce things up a bit.  The Chinese elms are not cooperating, however.  They are in "shedding leaves" mode, and there is also the occasional catepillar that falls down off the tree and tries frantically to find shelter before being attacked by ants (EEK!) -- I always side with the catepillar and try to fend off the ants...

Whatever. This is going on and on too long.  The table, as you see, is not very large.  I haven't yet pulled out the white lawn chairs from the garage, which need to be scrubbed and bleached down.  But after scooting all around the internet the past few days I gathered lots of inspiration to what I can do with what I have at hand (which ain't much, let me tell you!) , and I put in place (not showing in this photo) some of my efforts at sprucing the space up a bit.  I think the ladies of the investment club will enjoy their time out on my deck tomorrow morning, small and humble though it is. 

Don't you just love that the deck boards are the same color as the bark on that big old Chinese elm tree you can see in the background near center of the photo?

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