Mar 30 2014

Darwinian Landscaping


(Photo by Sam)

So this is what our front yard looks like right now—do you like my lawn gnome? I had the bright idea that if we got some boulders and dropped them around the yard, it would magically transform our “patch of overgrown weeds” into a “wildflower rock garden.” Accordingly we traipsed off to the rock store, loaded up the station wagon with some nice big ones, and heaved them into the front yard. I gazed around at the results and said, “Yeah, we’re gonna need more rocks.”

Here is my approach to landscaping: Every fall, when the rains start, I buy a few plants and I put them in the yard. Then I do absolutely nothing to help them. I don’t weed, I don’t fertilize, I don’t water. Usually I put a little rock next to them, so that when I come out the next time I can easily spot whether or not they’re dead yet. When the next fall rolls around, if the plant is dead, I put something else in that spot.

I call this “Darwinian landscaping,” and the amazing thing is that it works pretty well. I mean, obviously a lot of plants have died on me. But so far we’ve got some native sage, gooseberries, and manzanita that are thriving; two rosemary bushes that are going like gangbusters; some very happy and bee-covered lavender lining the walkway; a native penstemon that looks like it’s gonna pull through after all; a fuschia bush that probably won’t; and several low-growing mountain lilacs that I have high hopes for. And weeds. Lots and lots of weeds.

And you know what? The weeds–especially the weeds that make pretty flowers, and attract butterflies and bees–are welcome to compete. I don’t know why a patch of oxalis with its cheerful yellow (and edible!) flowers should be considered any less desirable than a violet or geranium. It’s not a native plant, but then again, neither is my lavender. So long as the oxalis can thrive without water, fertilizer, or pesticides, it’s welcome in my weed patch wildflower rock garden.

But we are gonna need more rocks.

Mar 24 2014

Happy Birthday Baby!


I can’t believe Sol is already a year old!

We didn’t have a big party, but I baked a plate of brownies and we stuck a candle in one, and after dinner we all sang “Happy Birthday.” His brothers helped him blow out the candle. He also got some cards in the mail, and seemed pleased by that—I think he was generally aware that a special fuss was being made, and that he was at the center of it. He’s pretty comfortable with that state of affairs!

Mar 12 2014



We got to see my baby nephew Luke in Portland last weekend—he was the sweetest little thing, with his small kitten cries and his little scrunchy fists. As ill fate would have it, though, I started to develop a cough on the drive up, so I heroically refrained from holding the baby, lest I pass on my germs. It was so hard!

I did get to chat with Masie about just how taxing it is to be the primary caregiver to a newborn. This is one of those things that “everybody knows,” so it’s hard to have a conversation about it except with people who are actually currently engaged in the process—because if you’re not severely sleep-deprived then you tend to forget just how debilitating it can be. There’s a relief in talking with somebody who really knows how difficult (as well as how rewarding) babies can be.

Although my baby? He’s not a newborn any more. In fact, compared to his cousin, Sol is great big hulking bruiser. Here he is enjoying the “science playground” at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry:


The other kids enjoyed it a lot too, but they were too busy zipping around for me to get good photos.

Now we are home and trying to settle back into our daily routines, although everyone still has a cough and I’ve got a mild case of pink-eye on top of that. Coming down sick over vacation is so annoying, and yet I suspect it’s not accidental: in college I used to always get sick whenever I went home for break. It was right after finals, so I’d always been stressing out and not getting much sleep in the weeks before. I think under those circumstances the body holds up as well as it can, and then as soon as you feel like you can rest and relax, you break down. I dunno. It’s my theory.