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Hell Strip Project Day 2

I first heard the term “Hell Strip” in our Master Gardener Intern year Water Conservation class.  It’s that narrow piece of yard between the sidewalk and the street.  In my yard it’s been mostly weeds, as we don’t have a sprinkler system and we don’t water the yard.  The reason this was discussed in class was so we would consider removing turf (or weeds, as in my case) and planting water-wise native perennials instead.  One of my classmates did just that and I was able to see the finished bed during the DCMGA Garden Tour last month.

I began working on this strip last February, but my initial efforts didn’t really succeed.  I removed as many weeds as I could by hand and then applied a layer of wood chip mulch.  Well, all I managed to do was stir up more seeds to the top, and they grew right through the layer of mulch.  Not at all the results I wanted.

So, I took notes on how my classmate created her new, improved Hell Strip and I began digging yesterday.  The goal is to dig out all the dirt down as far as I can (probably no more than 6 inches), then put down a thick layer of cardboard, and then fill back with new soil / compost, and cover with mulch.  I’m hoping to get that all done this week, as the weather forecast is for an unusually (for June) cool week. 

Here’s what I’ve accomplished in 2 mornings. 

digging out dirt in the hell strip
This is not nice soil. It’s no wonder weeds are thriving.

It doesn’t look like much, but it’s much more work than just simply digging.  There’s chunks of concrete and rocks and trash and oh, so many clay clods.  I shovel some dirt into the cart, then  break the chunks of clay and dirt up by hand and also sort out the rocks and cement pieces, throwing them into a bucket.  Some are too big for a bucket, so they get piled to the side.  Next I add about 1/3 again wood chip mulch and then I spread it.  Yesterday I spread in the swale along the south fence line; today it was under the Bradford pear tree.  Plus I added another couple of loads of mulch. 

Hoping to get it thick enough to stunt the grass and weeds, but not too thick. Don’t want to harm the roots of the tree.

Today I dug out four cartloads, plus 2 extra loads of mulch.  You can see the gaping hole on the side of the mulch pile (the same mulch pile from last December!).  The goal is to eventually spread most of that mulch pile around the pear tree and onto the Hell Strip.

wood chip mulch pile
Wood chip mulch pile from last December when we mulched the limbs of the pear tree.

I’ve decided I will only do the smaller strip near the mailbox this year.  Maybe this fall I’ll tackle the other strip – it’s twice as long, so I’m not looking forward to doing it.  Also, I’m trying to pace myself, because I really need to be able to move the rest of the month!  Yesterday I didn’t feel too bad, but today I am noticing some stiffness.  Good thing I’m still young!  LOL

When I came back inside late this morning, I noticed my hoya is blooming again, this time many more blossoms at the same time. 

hoya plant in bloom
The hoya plant from Propagation Class (Mach 2017) continues to delight.

They have such interesting blossoms – I’m fascinated by them.

Hoya blossoms.

My Current Reading List

I have a tendency to read several books at the same time, usually a mix of fiction and non-fiction.  My current list is no exception, although I have to say, I’m reading a much larger number of books than usual, even for me.

Actively Reading- Non-Fiction:

She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity by Carl Zimmer – the title says it all.  It’s a massive book; 574 pages of text, plus the Glossary, Notes, Bibliography, Acknowledgments, and Index, coming to a grand total of 657 pages.  I am finding it quite fascinating.


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Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dryer.  This book was a birthday gift – someone knew how much I enjoy copyediting.  Not only is this informative, but it’s extremely witty. 


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Building the American Republic, Volume 2:  A Narrative History from 1877 by Jane Dailey.  I began reading this two volume set upon the recommendation of my nephew-in-law, who was a Colonial History major in college at the time.  It’s a bit dry, but I learned a lot from the first volume and, since I’m a history nerd, dry isn’t a reason to skip a history book.  Besides, given our current political situation here in the United States, having a better understanding of how we got here isn’t a bad idea, is it?


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Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear.  This is a recent bestseller and was recommended to me by several friends.  There’s a lot to digest in this small book, so I am reading small bits at a time, highlighting a lot, and then mulling over what I’ve read.  It’s a book to be read more than once, I believe, to get the full benefit from all the great information.


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Actively Reading – Fiction:

The Isaac Question: Templars and the Secret of the Old Testament (Templars in America #5) by David S. Brody.  I am reading this on my Kindle and it was a free book offered through BookBub, which explains why I’m reading #5 in the series rather than starting with #1.  The author assures the reader, though, that this book works as a stand-alone, which I’ve decided is pretty much the case.  The author also shamelessly promotes his previous books within this book, which is rather different.  The main character, Cameron (Cam) Thorne, seems to be loosely based upon the Brody himself. Cam is an historian and author who writes novels that coincidentally have the same titles and subjects as Brody.  That said, the topic is fascinating, completely rewriting the Old Testament story of Abraham, Moses, Isaac, and Joseph and the span of the Egyptian enslavement and exodus.  I can’t put it down at night, which has led to a few nights short on sleep!


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Not Actively Reading:

Even though I’m not actively reading these, I am not ready to give up on them yet!  I do intend to finish each and every one.

The Bullet Journal Method: Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future by Ryder Carroll (non-fiction).  This book has been life-changing for me.  I devoured the first hundred pages or so back in October 2018, and I then immediately began putting his method into action with my own Bullet Journal, which I now use daily.  Like Atomic Habits, this is a book to hang on to, read and read again, as there is so much useful information to implement that you can’t possibly do it all at once.


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Jeff Gordon:  His Dream, Drive, and Destiny by Joe Garner (non-fiction).  I’ve been working on this book for over a year now.  If you are a Jeff Gordon fan, it’s a must read.  It is an over-sized book, though, and unwieldy to hold, which isn’t really a good reason for not having finished reading it.  I need to pull it back off the shelf!


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Fast Food Genocide: How Processed Food is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It by Joel Fuhrman.  I own almost all of Dr. Fuhrman’s books and follow (mostly) Eat To Live (ETL), his dietary plan.  Lately I’ve been slip sliding away, so I should pull this one back out and refresh what I already know.  I need to be eating to live, not living to eat.


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8 books, and only 1 fiction.  Wow.  I think that’s a record for me!

What are you reading?

January 2013 Highlight Reel

In January, there were memories to preserve:

  • Munchkin has gotten so good at writing/typing/spelling that we were able to have an hour and a half Skype conversation, all in words. I see many more conversations in our future.
  • We spent a pleasant couple of hours in early January with Bill’s cousins in Tempe, having lunch and catching up on family news.
  • David spent the Christmas / New Year’s holidays with us. David and I spent an afternoon in Bisbee, eating lunch, walking the downtown and window shopping. It was great fun. I took several pictures of the snow falling – it was cold that day! We had a pleasant time together, as we always do.

In January, there were things that deserved editing:

  • Charles had a very serious bout of food poisoning in January, so severe that he was hospitalized for two days. These are the times when I most dislike living so far away. All you can do is hope and pray and wait for updates. Luckily he recovered and was able to be back to work a week later, but it was still a very scary time.
  • My Uncle Kent’s memorial service was held on January 3rd, a very sad way to begin 2013. It was held in New York, so I was not there, but I was glad that my brother Eric and my mom both were able to attend and represent the family. Having lost my father less than two years ago, I know what my cousins Roberta and Rebecca are going through and I think about them every day, holding them in my heart and sending hugs and love.

In January, there were the moments that hold our lives together:

  • I had yearly lab work done to check on my thyroid levels and a follow-up doctor’s visit. Other than cutting back on some sweets/breads and losing a little weight, his advice was to have a better year in 2013 than I had in 2012 with a lot less stress.
  • January was full of usual things like getting the car serviced, my having a cavity filled, a bathroom sink replaced, and the furnace not working one morning (nothing serious, just the new furnace is very fussy about dirty – or even slightly dirty – filters!).
  • I signed up for a weekly FarmBox of fresh, locally-grown fruits and vegetables. We received our first box the last week of January and I was quite pleased with it. I have wanted to do something like this for years, but never had the opportunity. It is a good feeling to be supporting local farmers.
  • I completed two crochet projects – a granny square Christmas stocking and a granny square lapghan. I also worked on a couple of crocheted jewelry projects, which I will be posting about here in February.

In January, there were mountains climbed:

  • My anxiety issues seem to be fading away. I’m not sure exactly what has helped – walking daily, adding more protein into my diet, the natural supplement kicking in better – but whatever it was, I have not had any symptoms since New Year’s Eve, for which I am grateful.
  • My one big goal this year was to walk daily, and while I’m not yet at 100% success, I did manage 23 walks in the 31 days of January.
  • My desk has remained (mostly) clean and neat and I have been working diligently on getting Quicken up to date (after procrastinating the first two weeks of the month).
  • I participated in a “Values” workshop at Thirty Day Focus, which was a very worthwhile experience. I discovered a few things about myself, had other things reinforced, and ended January with a much better outlook than I began the month. I highly recommend Thirty Day Focus and will likely take another of their monthly workshops later in the year.

In January, there were pitfalls to overcome:

  • We have been trying to cut back on desserts (sweets) and lower our carb intake this month. I sent a huge care box to David full of items we shouldn’t be eating. So far, mixed results. But each day is a new day to begin again.
  • It seems like every January is a stressful one on Bill’s job front and this has January has been no exception. He says it is months like these that make driving truck seem like a really good alternative.
  • I continue to have to deal with many issues concerning my dad’s estate and I will have to make another trip to Alabama soon, possibly the end of February, definitely by mid-March. His house is empty now, so there is some cleaning out of personal effects that needs to be done, along with lining up an auctioneer for a sale later in the year.