Grandmas sit in chairs and reminisce?

The Sonny and Cher song, The Beat Goes On, is stuck playing in my head. I was gifted a new turntable for my recent 70th birthday and Jay and I have been enjoying 55 years or so of vinyl records. It’s true that listening to the music of the past sparks a lot of reminiscing.

When I was 15 I’m sure the lyric line “Grandmas sit in chairs and reminisce” fit with my impressions of “the elderly”–a class to which I suppose I technically belong. But I rarely sit.

Not because I don’t want to. I enjoy more passive interests, but once we make plans and get going I find that one thing leads to the next and soon a small, reasonably conceived plan grows far beyond our original intention and we are consumed. 

Avid gardeners know how much planning, time and resource goes into making significant changes to any landscape design.

Drought conditions with imposed landscape watering restrictions aren’t new to us. We have been adapting our outdoor landscaping to include more native and drought-tolerant plantings, slowly reducing  sod, for several years.

But this time we went all in! No more grass.

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Isn’t this lovely? Once you decide to let your lawn die and commit to its removal you’ve crossed a threshold. It’s too late to change your mind. 

We had help removing the sod, but the rest of the landscaping, including adapting our previous sprinkler system to all drip irrigation, has been achieved with our sweat equity. We hoped to get this show on the road in winter months so that we weren’t trying to establish new plants in high summer heat, but we hit some bumps early this year that sidelined the project. We have been going full force since mid-March, and we are finally coming up for air.

We’ve enjoyed curiosity and conversations with neighbors, many stopping by daily for a briefing on our progress, and we seem to be establishing ourselves as resident consultants. Maybe we’re inspiring a movement.

Along the way we encountered one particular and very interesting challenge.

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In February, this beautiful agave, I think it’s a Blue Agave ‘Americana,‘ sprouted a stalk. We have several agaves on our property but this is the first to put on a showy display.

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The stalk grew and it grew and it grew! It fascinated us over a few months and was a bee and bird magnate. It was also central to the front of the house, and as we were trying to create a new landscaping design to accommodate natives and other climate suitable plants we knew that once this agave was through with its bloom cycle it would die and leave a big vacancy in its wake.

Eventually the agave began to wither and Jay spent the better part of two days removing it. Fortunately, these agave plants produce pups, and we have several more to take its place. Think very carefully before you plant one of these beasts, however. They get VERY large!

I plan to share more about our project in the coming weeks.

Although this garden overhaul has been consuming our days, there is always more that requires attention. We spend a lot of time also caring for the resident birds and our other animals. If you recall my previous post about the Red-whiskered bulbels that raid the guava trees, I have a postscript.

The bulbels did nest, raising two separate families before they moved on. It was delightful. Except for one little mishap.

This sweet guy failed his initial flight test! He left the nest but then landed nearby, stuck between our trashcans and the side of the garage. He couldn’t gain altitude when he flapped his wings and as he fluttered helplessly, we felt helpless, too. What were we going to do?

Consulting with on-line experts I gained reassurance that if the parents were close, and they were, they’d take care of the problem. Both mom and dad hovered continuously and brought guava blossoms to their little baby bird, feeding him over three days. It was quite remarkable to observe, although we tried to keep our distance. Eventually he gained a little size and strength, and took flight.

And then there’s summertime with Darwin. This is the time of year he eats and gains strength in preparation for the fall and winter months when he’s mostly inactive.

Fitting a bale of timothy hay into the back of a Prius and ‘wrangling’ it home is another necessity. In 2020 it was a real challenge getting enough fresh hay for this growing boy! We purchased it in smaller amounts and had it delivered. It was costly.

It’s much less expensive if we handle the bale ourselves. Although the price is higher right now, it’s still a good deal for Darwin. A bale is just under $50 and will last up to two months.

We estimate Darwin’s weight to be around 75 pounds. He’s still growing. And he eats a lot!

A few times along the way I wondered if we are just generally unrealistic. Had we known how much work we were about to encounter I think we would have talked ourselves out of starting. But at least we are never bored! I’ll be back with more photos of the project.

I understand how drought tolerant landscaping isn’t for everyone’s taste, but it fits us.

And the beat goes on!

48 thoughts on “Grandmas sit in chairs and reminisce?

    • Thank you so much for stopping by, Annemarie. I took note of your beautiful blog and will look forward to knowing more about you. I hope you’ll enjoy some future posts when I hope to share a bit more about our gardening plans and the needs we are encountering with our climate issues! I hope it will be a topic we can all share. Gardeners around the world have new challenges! 🙂

  1. Cheers to your joy of landscaping and attempting to get it to fit in with the natural species in your area. For some reason, I’m not surprised you found joy in your watchful eye on the little bird. I have often wondered about Darwin and his mischievous nature – so many thanks for the update and the smiles!

    • Thank you, Frank, for your interest, and you’re right about Darwin having a mischievous nature. He has personality, which often surprises me still! And yes, our little bird near-disaster was hard on me. LOL! I so badly wanted to interfere, but I was proud to note that I did not. It was incredible for me to witness the way the parent birds responded. Nature always fascinates me! So nice to hear from you.

  2. I like your adjustment plans for your yard and I agree, your yard looks lovely. Why keep a lawn if it dies anyway. We lived in the south of Texas for a couple of years and while I never particularly cared for cacti and pampas grass, it grew on me -because it was the only thing that was growing. Against better knowledge, I planted exotic plants anyway, even had a garden, just to find myself under severe water restrictions when it was time to harvest. We weren’t allowed to water our garden plants anymore, we saved the waste water in buckets under the sink, and watered with the leftover water after doing the dishes. The heat and the restrictions won, and my garden lost. I adapted to it.

    As for Darwin, I can’t believe he is still growing. How old is he now? Do you know his age by any chance?

    And last (but not least) Happy belated birthday.

    • I completely understand what you’re saying about early reluctance to embrace cacti and pampas grass. It took me awhile to embrace the often drab, by comparison, natives, and the drought tolerant landscape overall. But I’ve been going on gardening home tours for about a decade and trying to learn. Over time I was really won over. And I also understand what you’re describing with the buckets. We are doing that, too. Our under-one-roof is four adults and two teenage girls. The shower alone is a concern. So we are using buckets to capture what we can in all sinks, and each evening I take the water and distribute it. I feel like I’m carrying gold!

      Darwin is 15. So he is young. And we make jokes all the time (not so funny) about how he is going to outlive us. I would assume my children have their concerns. LOL!

  3. “The cars keep going faster all the time ..”
    Lovely post, Deb ! 🙂 I often think of you, as we’re frequently updated re the Californian Big Dry. Brilliant to see what you’re doing with your garden; and Darwin looks to be in top form !
    Loved reading about those bulbuls and knowing they’d bred – even allowing for the almost-disaster.
    Keep it up, all of it !!!

    • Thanks for continuing with the song lyrics, M-R. 🙂 And thank you for the encouragement on our landscaping effort. I look forward to sharing more precise photos and talking a bit more about why certain plants were chosen. The drought is here to stay, as far as I can see, and I like to think we can adapt in a few places! The bulbuls have left our area for now, but likely in mid-March I will begin to hear them and each year I get so excited! 🙂

  4. Good for you removing your lawn and revamping your yard, Debra. Lawns are proper in rainy climates. I’m glad the little bird survived it’s fall. I’ve had some rogue tomatoes pop up in my blackberry planter (seeds from those I had planted in San Leandro). I left one in place and transplanted two to buckets, so I will have late-season tomatoes if all goes well.

    • Thank you for the encouragement, Sharyn. It is a big change to take up a lawn in our area, although more people are doing so all the time. I just couldn’t sit and watch it die. Watering only two times a week in heat that tops 90 degrees every day this time of year is true death to a green lawn. I understand the desire to bring your tomatoes with you. We do get attached to our plants and I think that’s a good quality. We appreciate them. 🙂

  5. Fantastic to hear from you, Debbie! I was wondering how things were and am glad you’re busy effecting change in your own space. We have those agaves here, aplenty- in fact I was taking photos of them yesterday because the green leaves look so fresh and lovely at present. And good to know that Darwin is still… Darwin! Have a great summer!

    • Thank you, Jo. In your photos I so often see plants that appear very similar if not the same as do well in our climate. I can remember when I really didn’t think I even liked agaves, and then something took hold and I became quite a fan. But you sure need space. 🙂

      I will give Darwin a word from you. He is really something…again, big!!

    • Like I mentioned, Nancy, I think had we really been clear on how much work this would be we never would have taken the plunge. We need to slow it down a bit now, I think! LOL! But I’ll enjoy sharing some of the project photos. Thank you for that encouragement.

  6. One of the neighbors in a townhouse unit took out all her grass. Her front yard is small but she put a path, bench and some beautiful perennials and small shrubs. It’s just lovely. Darwin is amazing. He will outlive us all!

    • I love the sound of your neighbors yard, Kate. I suppose in her case it was more of a design preference than the need to conserve resources. But no lawn is a lot easier for some people just with the aspect of mowing. It does sound particularly nice for a townhouse unit, too. And believe me, we joke a lot about who will inherit Darwin. For a while it was a joke. With each passing day it’s less funny. 😅

  7. I’ve been seeing a good deal about how we should let our ‘yards’ go back to their natural state, or at least instead of planting and forcing grass(es) that are not native to the land plant things that are. I think I will look into that. I’m allergic to grass anyway. 🙂 (but I do love it!)

    • That’s interesting to me Colleen! I I didn’t know there was much discussion about this outside of our drought areas. It would be so interesting to me to see what plants and foliage would be native to your area. I plan to share quite a few pictures and discuss the plants that we’ve used. Many of them I think will look a little bit like “fancy” weeds to you. I’m going to have to find a way to give readers permission to say, “Not for me!” LOL!

  8. We have two sections of lawn at the house above Pacific Beach that really should go and be replaced with native somethings. At this point, it looks like we’ll do it next year. And thanks for the catch-up on Darwin.

    • I think that area would do so well with a change in landscaping. You’ll have less heat intensity than we deal with, and once established everything should thrive. But definitely wait until next year! We had done just enough before we lost some time and it felt like we needed to just get it done. I was very happy to give Darwin a little blog attention. 🙂 Hope you and the family are well, Jim.

  9. Really enjoyed seeing your update Debra and I hope that you are both keeping well 🙂

    I think you’ve made a great choice – moving over to purely native flora and losing the lawn. A mown lawn is not a very good prospect for most birds – it’s a bit of a desert food wise and, lacking cover, leaves them more open to predation. While on the subject of birds, pleased to see your Bulbuls had a successful breeding season. The advice regards the parents being close by was good, It’s usually best to let them sort out the problem – only if the baby bird is in real danger should you consider moving it (remember my baby Robin trapped in the tools in my shed?).

    I loved your Agave images – such a wonderful plant. There seems to be a common theme among large succulents that they die after flowering. Propagation is often by suckers that produce new plants around the original – which fits with your experience!

    Nice to see some shots of Darwin again along with his very own bale – you may need to get a small tractor for your trips to the store 😉

    Sounds like you still have a lot of work to do this year to complete your garden project. What are your plans for the ex-lawn area? A small patio to sit on surrounded by planted banks? I have a bit of a garden project of my own for some cooler days. We have a very large Buddleia that grew between the shed and the neighbour’s fence. It has destroyed the shed, so I’m going to have to remove that and have a general clear out. Then I think we’ll keep the paved base the shed sits on as a place to sit in the sun. Or should I say, a place for Epi to sit in the sun 😉 The Buddleia will be retained and trimmed back to a more sensible size so that it still provides a mix of cover and food for the birds along with nectar for bees and Flutterbies 😉 Alasdair is home from Uni for the summer, so I’ll enlist his help with that, starting in late June.

    • Good you can count on Alasdair to give you a little help. The Buddleia in our garden can really take over! And I always hate to cut it back, always a little fearful that I take too much, but I don’t think. you could destroy this plant. We have added a great many plants to the area where the grass has been removed, and if I can just organize myself a bit more, I plan to share a lot more about the whole process, and share the plant choices, too. We’ve also added some seating areas, as you mention! We have made great progress, and I am looking forward to finishing. Then again, are we ever really finished? 🙂

  10. I would love to get rid of grass, we have acres of it here in Oklahoma, but we do have well water and an endless resource so that’s a relief. I know someone who put in Astro turf in her yard and it always looks perfect – and no watering!

    • I’m laughing, Mimi, because if I had acres I couldn’t consider this at all. Our total motivation was just the lack of water! Some people here are doing the artificial grass, and it looks good, but I’m not inclined to go that route. I think grass is great if you have the ability to keep it alive. I am really quite interested in what everyone, state to state, is doing to cope with resources, time and finding the right balance. Thanks so much for sharing about your landscape. I am sure it is lovely to live with so much open space! 🙂

  11. How exciting! I look forward to seeing some of the results of your hard work. And your story of the process sounds so optimistic and positive Debra, especially with the Agave. I do hope some of the neighbours will follow suit and offer more space to insects, birds etc. It also sounds as if you invested a lot of time in the planning as well as the actual doing. Great project! 😃🐝🦋

    • Thank you, Cathy. I think you’ll enjoy some of the photos and descriptions as I offer them. Our climates are so different. LOL! I drool over all your beautiful flowers, and you’ll find some of the dry, reedy plants interesting, too. We who love a garden work for the joy of it, and do the best we can with our climate conditions. I know you understand that! 🙂

  12. I love how your yard has evolved, Debra. The front and the back have gone through several transformations over the years. This project is going to be awesome when completed!
    Your posts continue to educate me, this time about the magnificent agave! What a striking plant.

    • Thank you, Gail. Succulents have so much more personality than many observe. As you know we have been attempting this transformation for such a long time, but we finally went “all in!” 🙂

  13. We got rid of our lawn years ago and have never looked back. I think yards with native (or at least climate-appropriate) plants are so much more interesting. Here in SoCal, those who are clinging to their lawns are facing water restrictions and many pf those yards are going brown. I’m a big fan of succulents and look forward to reading more about your sustainable landscape journey.

    • You’re ahead of us, Janis. Years ago I took out a large portion of the sod, but I couldn’t quite imagine the entirety of it gone. I’m still adjusting to the change, but I’m so glad we’ve done it. I really didn’t think I was going to handle watching the grass die. I wanted to be ahead of that end. Thanks for the encouragement, Janis, and I’ll look forward to sharing more photos. 🙂

  14. We’ve started removing lawn too. I have one section that we’re converting to a flower bed. We’re planning on taking more out this fall. The only issue I’ve had is changing the irrigation over from lawn watering to drip lines for the beds. In the end it will use much less water.

    • I’m so glad to hear that you’re making some changes, too, Andrew. You’re right, though, about the drip irrigation. This has been an enormous amount of work. I think we’re nearing the end of that part of the project. I know we’ll be glad we did it, but I must admit there were times I wondered if we were up to it. Good luck with your effort. I know you’ll be glad you did it.

  15. So happy to see a post from you. Sounds like you and Jay are keeping yourselves busy. If you have the time would love catch up.
    Catherine

  16. Once again I must apologise for being so slow to comment, it’s because Grandpas dont sit in chairs and remenisce, they take on all sorts of projects! I enjoyed your update on the garden and your thoughtful comments. It makes so much sense to have plants that like the climate and your agave is very impressive! Hopefully you have sown the seed of garden transformation in your neighbourhood. It was lovely to hear about the young bulbel. Nature is often rather rough and tough but not in this case.

    • I really liked this comment Philip! I completely understand how busy a day and week can be when we spend a fair amount of time outdoors. I hope you’ll enjoy as I hopefully more regularly share about this garden “transformation.” I think for those who live in landscapes with plenty of irrigation water it’s hard to visualize many of the plants that do well with almost no watering at all. I’m learning to appreciate them more than I once did. And believe me when I say I was just sick over that little bird. Every morning we’d check and I was just sure I was going to find him dead. I was just amazed at the parents’ attention. I’m relived, too, that it ended well.

  17. Awe How Wonderful Happy 70 the Birthday 🎉🥳 Sorry I have been out of touch these days ! Yes Music especially records make me think of the past ❤️and the wonderful memories ❤️ We have been adjusting to family being very far away now Brent and family are in Florida now ! We have one Granddaughter here ! Devynn she lives in Denver ! I am recovering from a very bad ear infection ! Laying low these days ! Much Love my dear friend ❤️ Debi

  18. Happy 70! I reached that “magical” age a couple of months ago and then promptly forgot about it. Someone asked me lately if I hit 70 yet and I felt insulted. I’m only 60, right? Age is an attitude, and yes, when we listened to Sonny and Cher we thought all grandmoms just sat and rocked. Oh so NOT true these days. Gardening is a great reason to be busy, and I loved reading about your new project. I also happen to love watching agave plants put up a shoot show. Aren’t they amazing? I’m glad you saved a ‘pup’ or two.

    • Thank you, Karen. I’m sure in Florida you have your own weather-related concerns, but you probably can’t quite imagine gardening in such a dry climate. I would love to have some of your rain. 🙂

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