Everything Non-Remediation

Throughout all the EPA lead remediation work, things have continued to bloom and grow in the rest of my garden. There has been plenty of beauty, though I haven’t wanted to do much work outside while I waited for the remediation work to be over. In some spots, the blooms happened in spite of all the remediation work. Here’s a look at the rest of my garden:

And here are a batch of cat photos and videos for the cat fans. The Ladies have had plenty of time to sit at their back window and survey their backyard domain. Perry gets to go out for daily walks. We never stray far from home but stay out for at least a half hour. Meanwhile, our neighbor has now ejected three male cats from her home. They hang out in our yard all the time and are generally pests. John and I really hope to get them neutered in the hope that it will make everyone (including our cats) happier. That will be a big project, however.


The EPA subcontractors have come and gone. In short, the plan was followed and everything should be OK, but it sure took a lot of my energy to get to that point.

The longer version: Back at the beginning of March I met with representatives of the subcontractor in charge of doing the EPA lead remediation in my yard. I’m sure they have their own version of the events, but my version is that they said everything in my yard was slated to be dug up. Everything. And just 6 days after that meeting.

After the meeting, I voiced my concerns to the project supervisor at the EPA. I had many of them. I said that I’ve seen the process go well and I’d seen it go badly, and so far this was going badly, but I knew it could go better. I started clearing what I could from my garden (most of my plants were still dormant), felt horrible, and finally realized I could ask for more time. I heard unofficially that my yard had been rescheduled. I followed up more. Several weeks later I got a call and arranged a meeting with the contractor the next day.

Six or seven men showed up wearing their official safety vests and hard hats. It was a little intimidating. But, they were all very nice. They liked cats and birds and gardens. They complimented my garden, which by then had begun to emerge from dormancy. And they asked what I wanted to have done. They made new notes and a plan that would spare the perennial beds where I’d already added so much soil and so many plants. They asked when I would prefer to have the work done, and we came up with May 10, since I could get off work that day.

I waited and completed my final garden preparations. There was a false start when the excavation crew had their equipment in place and were ready to start about a week and a half before I’d anticipated. John told them, “not today,” and they moved on to the neighbor’s yard.

May 10 arrived and they were running late, but they still honored our agreement. They got their equipment in place on the 10th, and digging started on the 11th. They finished removing soil on the 13th. After some initial damage from trying to get the excavator into too tight a space, they were incredibly careful in the restrictive spaces of my yard. I was impressed with the care with which they manipulated the excavator claw so it missed my shed and fence on every pass.

After the contaminated soil was out, they brought new soil in. Whether it was the complaining to the project coordinator or dumb luck, I got some fantastic soil. At the initial meeting, they said I’d get fill dirt and only the top 4″ would be topsoil. In the end, it was all topsoil and “platinum grade” topsoil at that, as the contractor explained. It came from a source in Kentucky who mixes in racehorse manure, resulting in a relatively high percentage of organic material.

Of course, I still needed to argue with the skid loader driver so he wouldn’t try to fit his machine through the same spot where the excavator guy had tried and failed. The argument went longer than need be. Suffice it to say, there was a lot of work in my yard that needed to be done by hand and in the end they had people do it.

The topsoil was added, then sod and mulch. Now we’re a week from when it all began and I’ve started to put things back where they belong. It felt good to get back to creating a garden again after holding back for so long. Even with my perennial beds being spared, it will take the summer to get things back in shape. I had them leave the back section bare where I hope to have a garden again just like I did before. However, the soil is incredibly compacted, so I’ll need to find a tiller to work it up before I can use it.

Below is a slideshow of what the process looked like, along with some videos to give you a feel. There are captions to explain what’s what. My cats should be on retainer for the EPA. They provided a lot of very critical supervision.

The excavator working in the tight space:

Lady Ygraine keeps an eye on the guys doing the hand digging:

Lady Ygraine Views the Quiet Excavator:

The skid loader brings new dirt:



The Most Beautiful Time of the Year

I’ve been so busy taking pictures of my garden that I haven’t had time to edit and post them! All through April, I saw wave after wave of beauty come through my garden and the entire city. The soft greens, bright spring bulbs, pastel redbuds, frothy cherry trees, pink and white dogwoods, fluorescent azaleas, and deepening greens make the world feel airy and light. Everything is new and perfect.

My garden emerged from dormancy. At first I was still waiting to hear what the EPA contractors and subcontractors would do to it or not do to it. Now, however, I am much more hopeful. If everything goes as I’ve discussed with all the workers, things will be OK. It’s taken plenty of energy, though. I’m really not one to complain and put up a stink, so it’s been a lot of work to continue to be “that crazy lady” to all of them. Hopefully it pays off in work I’m happy with.

Below is a slideshow that takes you through most of April 8-27 in my garden. You will see things emerging and expanding to fill their spots in my different garden spaces. I love the way the plants change and develop throughout the process. There are also a few cats mixed in for good measure.

Spring Arrives, but Where Will It Go?

Spring is firmly upon us now. A bright greenness seems to hover over my garden as the new, tender growth unfolds. It’s the same cycle that has passed over my garden for years now: the first shoots, early bulbs blooming, the hints that things are alive beneath the soil, then quick growth skyward. You can see the progression of things in the slide show below. Remarkably, these photos were taken over the course of only one week–from 3/31 to 4/7. There is a lot of growth there. If you flip through the photos, you will find captions.

The plants are growing happy and energetic as usual, but I still see so much uncertainty when I look at them. I met with the EPA subcontractor several weeks ago, and it didn’t go well. Now the contractor is supposed to be meeting with me to go over my concerns, but I haven’t heard anything for weeks. I still hope that things will work out better, but it’s incredibly stressful.

It seems appropriate that this is the first year that I’ve lived in this house that the magnolia blooms were destroyed by cold during their early stages. Instead of the usual exuberant explosion of color, there were only scattered blossoms. It matches my mood.

I’m not planning to buy plants or seeds. It makes me sad. But then a new catalog arrived in the mail and there was a little hope. It was the catalog for next year’s spring bulbs to be planted this fall. That is something I can hope for.

The nice weather has meant that Perry gets to go out for walks on most days. We usually spend a half hour just wandering around our yard and our neighbor’s yard. It’s his daily attitude adjustment time, and the fresh air seems to help with his bitey-ness and aggression.

Yesterday evening, John and I were out walking Perry and a couple kids who live further down the block were riding their bikes on the sidewalk. They were about 5- or 6-years-old, so, young enough to notice and comment on weird stuff going on. One boy looked through the fence at us and said, “Look at that do…CAT!”

Later he rode his bike past while John kept Perry out of the way. The kid looked at Perry and reassured him, “It’s OK, kitty.” It was very sweet. We felt it necessary to tell the kid at that point that he couldn’t pet Perry because Perry bites. He seemed oddly to have already figured that out.

Meanwhile, the Ladies are fluffy and fantastic. They do not need daily attitude adjustment time in order to be good. They are always perfection!

Spring Is Ushered In

My early spring flowers have been blooming, blooming, blooming for about a month now. For them it’s a spring like every other, but I’ve been looking at them and wondering if it’s their last.

I’m a step closer to the EPA lead remediation. Last week a representative from the subcontractor went over my property with me. It really worried me, and I wasn’t sure that everything would be OK, but it looks like things may have changed today along with the seasons. Hopefully we can get everything worked out and I can get this lead remediation done and behind me. Thank you to everyone who has offered your support. I’m grateful for it. It’s been an incredibly stressful situation.

Last weekend, I started to prepare my yard for the lead remediation. It took an entire day just to round up all my garden art. On a second day I started removing plants. There may be a lot more to do, but we’ll see. My yard is barren without the art, but I have quite the cast of characters hanging out on my porch and the inside of my shed is a glittering, magical treasure trove.

It won’t truly be spring until Lady Morgaine leaves her heated cat bed, until the birds grow less frequent at the feeders, and until the Ladies cease their synchronized naps in the heat of their favorite furnace vent. However, the increasing days of warmer weather have meant that Perry gets to go out for walks more regularly and the Ladies have more time sitting at the open door in the kitchen.

Meanwhile, I got some cat cams so I can see what the cats are doing all day while I’m at work. Not surprisingly, they mostly nap. I was a little surprised at how relaxing it is to glance at my phone in the middle of a crazy afternoon and see a peacefully sleeping kitty. The camera in Perry’s part of the house is pointed at his favorite nap spot–his heated cat bed. It’s sweet to see how often he seems to smile in his sleep.

The Temperature Roller Coaster

The end of January through the beginning of February has included a little bit of everything weather-wise. We’ve had snow accumulations, ice, ice and snow, frigid temperatures, and sunny days in the 60’s!

All of this has led to interesting arrangements of snow and ice to observe on the ground. Below is a gallery of photos I took on January 20 during a walk from my back yard to Patchwork Central and back. It includes the brick-edged streets in between both places. If you click on a photo, you’ll get a description of what you are looking at. Perhaps I should have taken a few pictures that show the bigger picture, but things were much, much prettier and more interesting when I could crop out the surroundings.

John and I had contemplated going somewhere for the long Martin Luther King weekend, but with the bad weather predicted we decided to stay home and enjoy quiet time there. On one of the cold days, we fixed ourselves some fancy cinnamon French toast with bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup and bacon. It was fantastic.

Then last week we had dangerously cold temperatures with some snow. That was followed by a morning of freezing rain. It was not fun weather, but I took some additional photos in the brick alley behind Patchwork and in Patchwork’s garden. With the wild swings in temperature, there is a ring of daffodils that have begun to emerge.

Through all this, my orchids have provided bright cheer indoors. Several of them always bloom at this time of year.

Meanwhile: the cats. Last week we celebrated two years since we brought the Ladies home from the Humane Society. They continue to be lovely. Morgaine is a champion napper, always finding new configurations to sleep in. She also loves to burrow under the covers on our beds so she can nap there. Ygraine remains regal. Perry remains a troublemaker, but he’s very compelling, too, and continues to work very hard to be a better cat. I used an online app to make him a trading card for the Puppy Bowl, which is held in conjunction with the Super Bowl.

Part of Perry’s problem continues to be McBalls, the stray male cat outdoors. McBalls seems to taunt Perry by doing things like sitting on the porch railing a few inches (and a pane of glass) from Perry’s face and then ignoring Perry banging on the window behind him. Perry gets upset, then lashes out at his human friends if we happen to be nearby. McBalls can sit there for a half hour, so it doesn’t stop quickly. The nickname we’ve given him is a little crass, but it summarizes his unfortunate life. I need to get him neutered, but he’s really skittish so I know it will be traumatic.

Last week, the Ladies were super interested in something going on next door. I looked and saw McBalls grooming himself in a pile of leaves on our neighbor’s roof. He’s quite the tomcat.


Starting 2019 with a Little Sun and a Little Snow

2019 has been pretty unremarkable so far. We’ve had a lot of the usual Southern Indiana winter weather. It’s quite a mix but often warm, usually cloudy, very brown, sometimes rainy, and occasionally snowy. A few days were warm enough that the Ladies were allowed to sit at the open back door to survey their domain.

There is not a lot to survey, though. The only bit of natural color that remains is in the leaves of the blackberry, which glow against the drab browns everywhere else. That makes snow a gift as it smooths everything over, highlights the remaining plant structures, and creates contrast against the browns.

We’ve only gotten one snowfall with accumulation so far. Last weekend several inches fell overnight, but they began to melt with the help of some rain even before we awoke in the morning. I got out early and got some photos before things deteriorated further. It was not a very high quality snow, but it was festive for several hours.

I’d never taken Perry out for a walk in the snow before, so I decided to find out what he thought of it. Turns out he’s not a fan. He did not like getting it between his toes, and he kept shaking his wet paws like it was the worst sensation ever. We came back inside after less than 10 minutes.

Oh, and we started 2019 with a really neat sighting. John went to take the trash out on January 1 and felt a presence no more than 20 feet above him. He looked up and there was a mass on the cable wires directly in back of our house. It was a barred owl, and it stayed long enough for John to find me and for us both to marvel before it flew off.

Other than getting snow between Perry’s toes, the cats are doing great, though. John and I enjoy their furry presences. Perry continues to improve ever so gradually. He still has a long, long way to go, though. However, the Ladies continue to be perfection. At Christmas we moved their giant cat tree into our living room with the other smaller one. The two cat trees now form a Cat Complex that the Ladies clearly love.

Everyone continues to be bothered by the interloper cat from next door. He frequents our yard. The other day, both Ladies were riveted by something they saw out the window. I looked, and the neighbor cat was on our opposite neighbor’s roof. He was up there for so long that I was afraid he was stuck, but he somehow leapt from the roof onto our magnolia tree. I missed seeing how he managed that and only caught his less-than-graceful dismount from the tree.