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!