Taking the Plunge In Honor of a Friend

We recently lost a dear family friend, Dick Ossey, after a long battle with cancer. Although I was sad to get the news, I was so glad we’d gotten the chance to visit with him on our recent road trip.  The hubs and I have decided to honor his memory by participating in the 2015 Seward Polar Bear Jump Off, which benefits the American Cancer Society. The event takes place in January and is a spectacle of participants dressed in wacky costumes plunging into the near freezing waters of Resurrection Bay in Seward, Alaska. Luckily another good friend lives there and as the local Assistant Fire Chief, he oversees the safety of all the jumpers. And the local Coast Guard unit where the hubs was once stationed will be on hand, so I feel pretty confident that I’ll survive the experience.

Although I’m not looking forward to the moment of being submerged in icy water, I am excited about some costume ideas I’ve already conjured up. Of course there will be something purple involved, but I don’t want to give away the surprise just yet.

But there won’t be any costumes unless we raise enough sponsorships to be eligible to jump. As a team of two, we each have to raise a minimum of $750, $500 of which has to be turned in by November 30! That means the clock is ticking! We will be asking friends and family to support us in this adventure to honor the amazing fight that Dick made. If you would like to donate to our team please leave a comment below with contact information or message me on the DB&DT Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/DustBunniesAndDogToys.

At Last!

Remember forever ago when I told you about our plan to install a rain garden? Well it’s finally done! After months of delays waiting for the ground to thaw, our lot to be graded and uncooperative work schedules we put in the last of the plants and mulch this past weekend. Here’s a recap of the process from the beginning.

The free tires we had delivered while the house was still under construction last fall were already covered over with snow when we moved in back in December, so they remained where they had been dropped until spring.   Luna enjoyed them as a lookout spot during this time.

Luna

Once the ground thawed, I arranged them into a semi-circle shape to act as the retaining wall at the back of the garden. We placed large rocks from around the property into the center of tires to keep the wall from shifting.

Start

StartWall

As the garden started to take shape, I quickly realized that using individual bags of soil and compost I’d purchased wasn’t going to be efficient, so I decided to order a delivery of top soil mix. Unfortunately, I had to wait for the builder to do our final grade, which was rescheduled several times and finally happened a few days before our road trip. This provided the required ‘dip’ to the area between the driveway and the garden so that water runoff will be directed toward the garden and pool there to be absorbed.

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The top soil was delivered soon after we returned home, but conflicting schedules didn’t allow me to get back to the garden until several weeks later, when the hubs and I mixed in the sand and compost before spreading everything out to fill the space. There were a few spots where the tires didn’t line up just right, so we filled those with large rocks to keep the dirt and subsequent water from escaping.

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Bacardi and her siblings ‘helped’ throughout this process… BHelping

We decided this was an appropriate opportunity to spread Sangria’s ashes, so we scattered her throughout the soil before planting. I also gathered a variety of rocks to create stone cairns in memory of other special pets either of us had lost. In addition to one for Sangria there is one for the hub’s dog Kenai, our previous cat Kitty Meow and my goats Daisy, Rosy and Quincy.

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Next I laid out all the plants I’d purchased and collected over the last few months to decide what should go where. Once I was happy with the arrangement I set to planting, filling in the empty areas with spring bulbs.  I had also purchased mulch to top the garden, but ran out and couldn’t find more of the same kind so late in the season.

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Another few weeks passed and I found cedar mulch at the hardware store, so I purchased enough to finish the empty spaces and sprinkle over top of the other mulch so they’d blend together. Most of the annuals I’d planted had already died off, so I replaced them with perennials I’d purchased at a Master Gardener plant sale.  I also added a clemantis on either side of the garden against the retaining wall so it will attach to the tires and cover them as it grows.  Then I planted Aleutian Speedwell along the front edge of the garden. In time it should spread and act as a ground cover for the slope into the garden – part of my agreement with the hubs that the backyard will be the only landscaping that requires mowing.

Mower

As I planted, the hubs and kiddos watched from the lawn mower parked nearby. We rescued both the mower and that cool trailer attached to it from someone who planned to take it to the landfill! Both needed a little work, but it’s been super handy to have them for projects around the yard.

MowerRide

Once I was finished, the hubs loaded the dogs up in the utility trailer and drove them back up to the house so I could get some kiddo free shots of the finished garden. We placed our bargain bench off to the side so there’s a spot to sit and reminisce next to what I’m now calling our Memorial Rain Garden. Eventually I’ll create a paver pad for the bench along with a pathway down the hillside to it, since I plan to fill the rest of the area around the garden with local ground covers that will spread.

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Here’s the view from the house, where you can see how it is situated in the low spot to collect the run off from the driveway. View

And I’m happy to see that we’ve had an increase in “good insects” like this butterfly since we’ve started planting!

Butterfly

Discovering Hatchers Pass

Little Su

Our new home is a stone’s throw from the amazing Hatchers Pass, but we haven’t gone farther than this first riverside pull off since moving in. That gave me a great reason to plan a photo walk there with my photography Meetup group.   I’d heard the historic Independence Mine at the top of the pass offered great panoramas and had interesting old buildings, so I was excited to see it for myself. I wasn’t disappointed.

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Before entering the park around the mine there was this adorable lodge with cabins that can be rented. I’m thinking it might be the perfect spot for the hubs and I to have a little get away. (hint, hint!)

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The mine itself was a mix of restored and deteriorating historic buildings. The amazing textures on the buildings and scenery literally beg or a rustic photo shoot.

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I hiked a steep trail that took me up and around the entrance to the actual mine, providing a hillside view of the entire area.

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Rusty pieces of mining equipment were scattered about wherever they were forgotten when the mine closed and several signs explained what each building was used for, along with some interesting historical tidbits.

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I spotted several prairie dogs on the road and then got an up close view of a group of them along one of the trails I took. They were gnawing on the wood of a collapsed building, making a sound I first thought was the building sliding down the hillside! Once they spotted me they scurried around and took cover. Then this guy took up sentry duty barking at me in an apparent message to his cohorts that there was danger afoot.

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We also made a quick drive over to nearby Summit Lake, which I’m told is only 20’ deep at the center. The water was very chilly, but super clear. I could just envision bringing the fur kids up here to play!

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Late August into September is prime season for wild blue berries and there are plenty of patches in this area. I’m planning to make a trip back very soon to pick my own batch, which we’ll freeze and save for my hubby’s amazing lemon blueberry bread!

A Pretty Spot to Sit

Several weeks ago we picked up two unfinished wood Adirondack chairs at the big box store. They were pretty as is, but needed something to make them stand up to the Alaskan elements since I don’t plan to bring them inside every winter.

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I had some teal outdoor paint leftover from a project I never got to when we lived in Kodiak, and thought they’d look awesome painted and paired with one of my many garden stools. Turns out I was right.

Chair

I added a couple of bright outdoor pillows from my ever growing stash and some potted oregano just for fun. The wooden stool came home with the hubs from work and makes a handy little table – or footrest!

Chairs

The ultimate plan is to use them next to the fire pit, but until that’s installed they are making the barren deck more hospitable – even in the rain. Oh and that metal thing in the back corner, that’s the cat’s access to the doggie door from the yard.  I can’t wait to no longer need that once the dog run is taken down!

Next year, I plan for this space to be home for a DIY outdoor sectional that will store all the outdoor cushions and pillows during the off-season. And that pretty white cut-out stool will live between some lounge chairs on the master deck that will be installed next to the hot tub.  It’s an evolution, but I’m sure trying to make each stage as pretty as possible.

Let It Grow!

At last, the dirt patch we call a backyard is on it’s way to becoming a lawn! But it definitely took some prep work. After we installed the fence posts to mark where the yard would be, we cleared the space of sticks and large rocks to avoid having the mower kick up such things during the first cutting.  We also had to rearrange the dog run panels so they could still go outside, but stay off the seeded area.  Here’s what it looked like in preparation for the hydroseeding.

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And here’s what it looks like with the seed down!  Ok so, it’s not that different, but hopefully, that green coating will turn into a lush beautiful lawn over the next few weeks.

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Luckily, it’s rained on and off just enough since they sprayed to keep the seed damp, but not wet like they suggest.  The tech also suggested we lime the area, which we’ll do this weekend with a hand spreader.  The yard still isn’t totally level, but the lay of the land does let water drain away from the house, past the leech fields and out toward the natural gulley on the other edge of the property, all while “watering” the lawn in the process. Plus having a small hillside creates the perfect ‘bank’ for the dogs when they do the Puppy 500!  There was a section of rocks near the deck we weren’t able to get moved before they arrived, but we plan to add a little top soil over that once the grass gets established, which will help level

Notice the progress on the fence in the after photos?  Yeah, LOVING that!  The hubs does good work!  He still has a few sections to do and three gates to install, but we can get that done while we wait for the grass to start coming in.  The posts will be cut down and capped with these pretty copper toppers I found at the box store when it’s all done.  I may have him leave a few a little taller to accommodate hooks for bird feeders and such.

Once the lawn has come in and it’s tough enough for the dogs to be on we’ll take down the dog run panels and they will have free reign of the entire space.  The area they are currently using will become a pea gravel patio with a fire pit at the edge and a deck off the master to match the one the builder provided.  I also plan to put flower beds like the one along the side of the house around both decks to soften the edges.  The empty space on the other side of the house will become our garden, which will be fenced off so roaming wet noses don’t help themselves to the bounty of produce I envision having.  Of course a good chunk of that plan won’t happen until next summer, but that’s alright.  I know it will happen eventually and that’s what counts.

Full Speed Ahead!

Sorry for falling off the face of the blogsphere after my last post.  Things around here have been SUPER busy.  There are a million things going on at work, I had five photography clients on Sunday with several more scheduled this week and there are lots of projects in progress around the house.

The hubs has been working hard on the fence for the dogs and the back yard was just hydroseeded so we’ll have a lawn inside the fence. In preparation for winter, we purchased an old plow truck which needs some fixing and arranged for the mechanic neighbor to bring it back to life. We also started installing a closet kit for the guest room that we picked up for a third of the retail cost on a local buy/sell page.

I’ve been trying to wrap up the rain garden installation and get the yard planted so things take root before fall. And we’re sorting all the heirloom china and glassware we brought back on our recent trip. I’m also painting and staining for a couple décor projects that have been on my to-do list for some time. I’ll be sharing pictures of it all soon.

It’s nice to see progress after feeling frustrated recently. It’s definitely gotten me inspired again, even though I have minimal time to make the ideas in my head reality these days. Such is life, right?

The fun part is getting that twinge of pride mixed with happiness when I subconsciously notice those projects that we’ve completed and turned out to be a perfect fit for the space. I have a feeling that there will be many more of those moments in the months to come!

Curbing the Urge to Rush

When we moved into the our new home I told myself that I’d take my time decorating, so that the end product was a natural evolution of us creating a home and learning how we use the space. But recently I’ve been struggling with that process.

We’ve been in the house about 8 months now and I thought we’d have a lot more done than we do. Part of the problem is my over-estimating how much I can get done in a day, or two, or even a week with a full-time job, a photography business, an Etsy shop, managing this blog and a little down time with my hubby and fur babies every now and then. Another obstacle is my hubby’s swing shift that contradicts my day-job schedule, making working on projects together quite difficult. And there are some projects that just take two sets of hands.

I think part of my frustration is that I dreamed about the details of our house for years before it became a reality, so when I can’t use a space how I planned because we haven’t done that project yet, I get irritated. It was a blessing and a curse that I had most of the spaces decorated and organized in my head way before they were even digging footers! Now that we’re actually in, it’s a constant balance between time, budget and energy to make all those plans come to life.

But there is a silver lining to the wait. It’s caused me to tweak some of my plans to better suit our needs, budget and the space. And it’s allowed me to incorporate things I forgot to plan for, like my hope chest and the hubby’s grandfather clock. Plus it’s eliminated a lot of ‘extra’ shopping for things I ended up not needing.

So my lessons in patience continue. It’s definitely not an easy course for me, but it’s what the Lord knows I need. And it will make the finished product that much more rewarding. 🙂