Thursday, December 10, 2009

California Dreamin (of Snow of course!)

Well, here in the usually sunny high desert, we finally got our first snow. A bit dissapointing with just an inch or two, not even picture worthy.

I remember the first year we moved here from "down below" in the greater LA basin where I lived most of my life and never saw it snow. Talking on the phone one day with my daughter in Boise shortly after we moved here, I peered out the window to see gigantic snow flakes coming down. They kept coming, and coming, and coming! It was fabulous! A warm fire in the fireplace and a winter wonderland all around. We got about 4-5 inches that first snow and I was hooked! So lovely, melted all away without a problem in a few days.

I came to long for the snow events. I was born in Iowa and snow is not so beloved by my family who lived their adulthoods there. As a landscaper, and a self-employed person who has to work every day want to or not, snow gives me an excuse written by Mother Nature herself! I get to take snow days and I'm not even in school.

Last year, pictured here was a different story for me. We got 2 feet of snow!! As you can see by the picture there was a lot of snow for southern California. We couldnt even get out the driveway for 5 days until a friend with a tractor came and scraped us out!
There was so much snow that our heater vent was covered and the heater wouldnt work so we (me) had to shovel our way to the firewood shed to keep us warm until enough snow melted to allow the heater to work again.
So I am looking forward to snow this year again, but I think I'll take the lighter kind somewhere inbetween a dusting and 2 feet!
I hope everyone has all their irrigation pipes insulated. Even with the insulation, we had a lot of broken pipes calls last year. We only had one client of ours that had a problem with their valve so that's a good sign.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fall landscaping - the best time of all

Well, the relatives are on the way home from a hearty and fun Thanksgiving weekend and the "Holiday Season" has officially arrived. I like to think of the Fall and Winter months as a kick back time. As a landscaper, we get so busy from March through October, we barely have time to think. I LOVE the fall! The landscapes we install this time of year get a kick start next spring and look fabulous wayyyyy early. And this time of year, we actually have time to plan, organize and make improvements that will carry us through the next year and beyond.

Ask anyone who is responsible for the Thanksgiving or the Christmas dinner... fail to plan and you plan to fail! And just try to tackle the Black Friday sales without a plan and come up empty handed or worse, with something you have to wait in line to return. In holidays past, it sometimes took several women several hours to plan the attack on the various store sales to get just the right thing. I dont know how we did it without cell phones!

We have become an instant society and we are paying the price. In our parents day, they planned for every major purchase and most of the minor ones too. Now we are paying the price with our current economy for our desire for instant gratification to buy the biggest, best, car, house, boat, ....fill in the blank.

I get people all the time wanting to landscape their back yard right away for a big landmark birthday or anniversary party or wedding reception. Two weeks to the party they call you and want the landscaping in the next week, I mean knew last year you were gonna be 40 this year didn't you?

With landscaping it is no different. Hey with a plan, there are very few surprises and things come off as expected and on budget and on time. I always say no, you dont need a landscape design to landscape unless....... you dont care if you spend too much and take too long and have to re-do something. Dont get me started on the landscape plans, bidding, scheduling and legal notices and wait times we have to do.

Here's to your christmas list! Oh, and your New Year's Resolutions. Happy Planning!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

So mad I can spit!

I've heard and seen a lot of horror stories about people who have been taken advantage of by unlicensed contractors who dont know what they are doing. This is one of the worst I have personally worked on and they weren't even unlicensed!

I got a call recently to help an older couple with a problem in their backyard. It seems that they had contracted with a local licensed contractor to re-place their lawn and irrigation system in their back yard. That was in the spring.

The homeowner called me because my ad says "We Fix Others Mistakes!" Boy did he have a mess. The work done by the original contractor (contractor #1) was poorly done. The trenches had sunk several inches. They did not bother to compact the trenches before laying sod on top!

In addition, the lawn was extremely wet! I was puzzled by this and the fact that the second valve for the lawn did not work as if it was full on, sorta like there was a leak somewhere..... hmmm. The homeowner insisted there was no leak. He had hired another guy (contractor #2) to come in and do some sprinkler repairs in the summer because the original contractor had deleted some of the sprinkler heads that watered some of the plants and they were dying.

While running the sprinklers it was obvious to me that the lawn was getting spongy, like a water bed in certain places. I called the homeowner over and showed him. He now could see how the water pooled in certain places and let me dig them up,

I found no less than 3 (count em, three!) broken lines. These lines were spewing water into the soil every time the sprinklers ran! Keep in mind that this is November now and two 3/4inch pipes and one 1/2 inch pipe running for 5 minutes twice a day for 7 days a week is a LOT of water.

As you can see by this picture, the pipes were ragged and broken. I surmised that the contractor trenched for the new system, the trencher chewing up the old system and they "forgot" to cap off the old pipes!! Apparently they didn't bother to check their work.

The homeowner was really disgusted with the original contractor and realized that even when someone has a contractor's license, doesn't mean you will get a good job! They ended up spending as much to fix the job as they did originally. Some bargan!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Frost is on the pumpkin...

Oh, OK, OK it's 97 degrees out there! but the nights are much cooler here in the Victor Valley and Inland empire of Southern California. It got down to 47 degrees two nights ago and Darling Hubby is worried about freeze protection.

He has always been one to be prepared. So we will check all our hose faucets ( hose bibs) and valves and make sure the insulation is up to par and check on all our jobs in the mountains to make sure they are all set too.

It still is a little early to winterize your irrigation system just yet. I look forward with great anticipation to the chill weather. It makes it easier to work outdoors. I am not a fan of hot weather. The plants need less water, ( saves $$$) in the fall and winter.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Shocking, Really

I LOVE helping people with their gardens. It's the most, best thing I do. I often get calls and help people with a little advice over the phone if they are not ready for a full on paid consultation.

People really are surprised sometimes at the simplicity of the advice. I often advise people with pest issues like aphids on a favorite shrub just to wash it off as a first step. This often washes off most of the bugs and they become less of a problem. Plant then recovers. Seems crazy as I am a licensed and trained pest control operator here in the State of Cali for nia and make no money off that advice.

OR... how about this? Small plant having extreme problems? Try REPLACING it. Cheaper than spraying usually.

This week, however I was the one surprised when speaking with a woman over the phone. She sounded quite intelligent and spoke well. She was concerned with the potential for bark beetles in the Pinion Pines on her heavily wooded lot (which is why she bought the lot in the first place). She was genuinely surprised that I said the best defense against the bark beetle was a healthy tree, which included WATERING them. Something she had not considered before.

OK, I am just glad that I could help. I sometimes forget that things that are elementry to me may not be so obvious to others. I will keep that lesson in my head when I am helping others.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Stand and Dance not Sit and Spin

I am not much of a garage sale person. I don't really have a need to aquire "things" anymore. But with the way babies grow out of the things they need, (and the things you just "have" to get them) some times you just have to go there.

Such was the case for a "sit and spin". we talked about getting one for Kennedy for a while now and I have been on the look out for a sale. Just noticed a yard sale one sunday morning with kid stuff and stopped off to look. ( for once I was not in a hurry to get someplace). I scored an umbrella stroller for grandma's baby stash and a brand new Sit n Spin still in the box . I put it together and eagerly awaited an opportunity to be with Kennedy again. That opportunity recently arrived and we pulled out the sit n spin much to Kennedy's delight.

However, she does not sit or spin on this device. It has lites and music if you push the top buttons wonderful upbeat music plays and lites flash off and on. She adores it. She will crawl over to the sit n spin and pull herself up to a standing position and dance to the music.

When we sent it to Kennedy's house, Katie say she does this several times a day and says "happy,happy,happy!" while dancing to the music. I think I have earned my "Grandma Card"

Friday, August 28, 2009

Look for the crawlers!

Here in the Victor Valley it is the right time to treat for late summer crawlers. You may first notice it as sticky drips under a woody shrub or tree. You look up and see little white specks in the branches. A closer look shows the white stuff looks like it is fuzzy with little ridges kind of like a shell. To see a picture from UC Davis's IPM website go here. Some people get this little creep mixed up with a mealybug but this is cottony cushiony scale a soft bodied scale. If you see little brown bugs nearby, this is the immature bug and they are the crawlers and are mobile. Eventually the female attaches herself to a leaf and begins to give off a waxy substance to protect her and her eggs. The waxy substance protects her from the typical pesticide so the best time is to treat the invasion is during the crawler stage every 7 to 10 days for 2 to 3 weeks.

The time to act is now!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Really Irritated!

People who know us know that we rarely take time off of " the business". Even weekends are spent catching up on paperwork, bids, marketing, etc. After a rare evening off playing with baby Kennedy over friday night so Katie and Shawn could go to the show, we spend Saturday on major clean up from Fleas the cats got. (more on that later).

We decided to go to the movies on Sunday at the Mall in Victorville. There were two movies we wanted to see. Potter and District 9. (me not so much District 9). According to the newspaper, both were showing at around the same time. So off we go get in the car and drive the 12 miles to the theatre, stand in line to buy the tickets. While in line, we duked it out which movie to see. Go to buy the tickets and the girl says the movie doesnt start for 90 minutes! Whoa! How bout the other one? It just started! Seems the good ol Daily Press movie times have been off for the whole weekend. Not wanting to waste 90 minutes waiting, we just went home to WORK some more. Bummer.

By coincidence, the paper had an article the same day that theatres are not advertising in the print media so much anymore due the the fact that people check the times on line! News to me. I guess I will be checking on line too. Seems that the newspaper is their own worst enemy!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Coolest Pool!

OK, I just read about the coolest thing! Part of my job is to help people design the scenery of their lives. I take the various wants and needs of the the property owner and weave it into a fabulous design that will mesh with their lifestyle and create the perfect compliment to their home and lives.

Often pools are a part of that equation. I just read about the neatest pool in the Watershapes August 2009 issue. this pool was designed specifically to convert a solid deck to a 5 and a half foot deep pool in a matter of 2 minutes! It's called a Hidden Water Pool and was designed by inventor Stefan Kanetis of San Diego for his mother who needed to exercise but was unable to lower herself into and out of a pool by herself due to arthritis.

Think of it! Want to go swimming or exercising in the pool but have limited ability to climb in and out of the pool? Just walk to the deck and push a button and wait for the floor to lower you into the water and up when you are done!

Want a cooling water feature to play in but worried about the baby falling into the water? When done swimming or exercising, push a button and no standing water to worry about because the floor of the pool rises to the level of the deck. You can even vary the depth of the pool to accomodate different ages or abilities. AMAZING!!!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Tomato Worms and Koi

I'm really enjoying my tomato and pepper plants. Every year, I say I am going to grow a veggie garden, and every year, I just don't make time for it. This year I started small with a few tomatos and green peppers.

The taste of freshly picked tomato or pepper is not able to be duplicated from the grocery store. Every time I walk by the plants, the aroma is intoxicating and makes me want to be more creative in the kitchen. A new interest that my husband is thrilled with.

One of the things that I don't like is the tomato worms. I was doing great for a few months, but recently started noticing some bare branches on the tomatos. Sure enough, there they were.
Those big, fat ,green, ugly guys snacking on my matos! Even though I am a licensed pesticide applicator, it just isn't necessary to spray them with chemicals. Don't get me wrong, chemicals have their place, it just isn't on my plate!

It does, however give me great satisfaction to pluck those little buggers off the plants and toss them in the pond. My koi LOVE them.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Why is my rose bush all spotty?

I got this question from a client of mine. Her roses are amazing! However one bush has this discoloration on the leaves even though the rest of the plant and blooms appear just fine. She wanted to know what the problem is. This is Rose Mosaic Virus. This virus does not move from plant to plant and does not seem to affect the health of the plant, only the appearance. If it is disturbing to you, replace the plant with a new one.

Monday, January 26, 2009

OK, OK.. a little late with the new year's resolution

Regular blogging is therapeutic, (I'm told). I resolved to blog "regularly" this year. Last year's "regularly" was like every 6 months. Let's see if I can improve on that. I also resolved to strenghten and make better our personal life and home just like normal people ( those who don't own their own business).

December was a big challenge. The coughing crud got a hold of me and hasn't let go quite yet. The two feet of snow we got didn't help matters much. Not that I don't long for snow every year, but this was ridiculous. Shoveling snow 100 feet just to get to the firewood in the shed is no fun. Even I was tempted when Hubby Darling suggested a state-of-the-art snow blower would be the best way to be prepared NEXT time. Cooler heads prevailed and we got tractored out of our little snowfort and spread salt to keep the melting snow from freezing on the driveway and falling on our cushioned spots.

Now I am concerned about how all the salt will affect all the lawns. The warmer weather recently has greened up the lawns considerably and so far they are showing no ill effects. The topiary shrubs (hereafter called poodles) in front of the house got shazammed by the snow sliding off the roof and into the poor poodles. They will never be the same. Lost a window box too. I think we will take all of the boxes out of commission for the near future.

I really need to get into the nursery and clean up the plants there. That's where we keep plants that I overbuy for jobs just in case I need them and can't get them later for warranty. I also keep my potted "wounded" plants that get replaced from jobs because they don't look so good. I somehow think that if given enough time they will "snap out of it" as Cher would say. Some do. Some dont.

I"ve noticed just a few weeds are starting to pop up here and there. I put the weed pre-emergent (preventer) down here at home today. We've been busy on weed patrol for our clients lately. With all the wet weather we've had this season, we will have a big weed crop this year. I usually wait until we have weeds i simply can't ignore before I get around to doing ours. I am actually being pro-active for us and not just my clients. Amazing. there might just be something to that resolution thing afterall.