Category Archives: Gardening/plants

Bad neighbors – real estate bummer

My front yard - from the driveway

My front yard - from the driveway

I have a pretty home in a nice neighborhood close enough to town to be convenient but far enough out to be quiet.  The houses are attractive, owner-occupied, with well-kept yards.

Except for two houses.
The two houses on either side of my little piece of heaven.
They are shitheaps.

They are shitheaps owned by absentee landlords who don’t give a shit as long as the rent comes in. Both yards are overgrown with noxious weeds as high as my waist.  These weeds blow and crawl down from the uphill shitheap, and they creep over and under the fence from the downhill shitheap.

Living here, it’s a constant battle against their blackberry vines, thistles and dandelions that migrate into my yard. It also reflects badly on home values in the neighborhood – most especially MINE.

The uphill shitheap (US, for short) situation may improve, because the landlord had a stroke and his business partner plans to clean it up and sell it (one dumpster load gone so far…).

The downhill shitheap (DS) was owned by a sweet retired schoolteacher when I moved in seven years ago, and she took great pride in her garden. But within that first year she died and her daughter and son-in-law, who live in 3 hours away in Seattle, turned it over to their two adult children.

Downhill Shitheap - blackberry choked driveway

Downhill Shitheap - blackberry choked driveway

When I stopped by and asked the older daughter if they could please deal with the weeds, she snapped, “Talk to the landlord… that’s his job”.  So last night I called Dad in Seattle, who was extremely rude. When I suggested that they hire someone to take care of the weeds, he snapped, “I’ve got better things to do with my money…

Perhaps if Mom and Dad lived next door they’d insist the kids “pick up their rooms”, but they’re Christian missionaries – too busy evangelizing to notice that Jesus’ neighborliness message isn’t getting through.

My own house has lots of curb appeal.  The question is how can I enhance the curb appeal of my neighbors’ homes?  Either I distribute blinkers to potential buyers, so they don’t notice the slobs that surround me, or I fork out some of my own money to help them clean up their yards (and I’m not even a Christian).   Grrrrrrr.


Filed under Emotional issues, Gardening/plants, Priorities

Sold one more thing

Garden Way Cart

Garden Way Cart

Baby steps, I tell myself, baby steps.  I posted the cart on Craigslist and probably should have priced it higher because eight people responded excitedly in short order. But the cart has  lived outside for fifteen years and my son had scoffed at its saleability. “Who would want that old thing??? You should pay someone to come get it!”

So I asked $35 for it and could have gotten $50.

If I were to sell, donate, or toss one item a day, I’d be fully down-sized by maybe 2050. Down into my grave, actually.

Perhaps I need to pick up the pace?

Especially motivated since yesterday, when I went on a house tour  in the downtown neighborhood where I’d like to live, once I sell this place…

The Hough (pronounced “howk”) neighborhood is waking up from a generation or more of neglect. Nobody wanted an old Craftsman bungalow from the 1920s, because McMansions were the hot thing around here.

Then the market collapsed.

But now those cute little bungalows are HOT,  people are doing fabulous renovations and the neighborhood is really coming up. Six homes were on the tour and I could have been happy in any of them, though three were really too big.

Between my travel lust and now bungalow lust the motivation is getting stronger. I begin to see that alternatives to my current life could be extremely attractive…


Filed under 101 Reasons to Downsize, Baby steps, Downsizing, Envisioning a simpler life, Gardening/plants, Inspiration & encouragement, Selling stuff

Home is where my heart is

While I love getting away, seeing new sights, meeting new people, I am firmly anchored at home. Home is where my heart is. Home is where I center and rejuvenate myself.

Since my ex and I separated seven years ago, my home has been a 3,000 square foot house on a one-third acre lot framed by trees and nestled into a gentle slope overlooking a lake. In feng shui, this fortuitous placement is called “the belly of the dragon.”

This is the most wonderful home I’ve ever had – and people who visit are immediately enchanted by it as well. Not because it’s grand – because it is anything but (built from a plan-book in 1972). But it’s cozy, colorful and quirky.

So why did a single woman of modest means buy a house this big? Aside from my instant heart connection to it, it was the only house I could find within my pre-recession budget that had a dining room big enough for my grandmother’s dining table, and a living room large enough for my mother’s Steinway baby grand (which I’m keeping for my still-peripatetic son, 25).

And ohmigod the yard! The previous owners were skillful gardeners who left behind shrubs, native plants, sheets of color from spring bulbs, rock walls, five prolific blueberry bushes, a grape arbor and an asparagus bed! A chestnut tree on the southwest corner to keep the house cool in the summer, and a couple of towering black walnut trees in my neighbor’s yard that frames my view to the northwest.

I plowed a lot of money into remodeling. If the economy and housing market hadn’t plunged, the investment might have been wise. But now the moths in my purse are looking hungry.

Walking around the yard this spring, I’m seeing not just beauty but bondage. The yard work is unending. And it’s more work than a single woman of my age wants to do.

My options as I see it: find a new mate (someone who loves to garden or has enough money to pay a gardener); inherit lots of money from a long-lost maiden aunt or down-size.

At the moment the first two options are in the realm of fiction . That leaves me with down-sizing.

It’s so easy to be blithe about down-sizing when it’s my feng shui clients’ stuff. But the shoe is now on MY foot and it hurts. Yesterday I sat in the yard and wept just thinking about letting go of this place.

It took me months to find my home – and now I’ll be fighting the growing horde of down-sizers who are also seeking a smaller, charming home within walking distance to shops and public transportation.

I hope I can maintain some shred of equanimity during this process. For sure I’ll be a better consultant after I’ve done it myself.

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Filed under Back Story, Downsizing, Emotional issues, Gardening/plants, Practical feng shui

Plants and permanence

Permanent: fixed and changeless; lasting; not expected to change in status, condition or place

I spent much of last weekend in the garden, dealing with my plants (wanted and unwanted).  The rhodies, iris and peonies were at their peak, and all looked fabulous.

But now the rhody bushes are covered with dead florets and look like hell. Ditto the iris and peonies. I want everything to STOP! Why won’t the rhodies just STAY in perfect bloom? Ditto the iris and peonies.

If there is one thing plants teach it’s impermanence. A plant is at its peak only for a couple of weeks. Cut a flower to bring inside and maybe it lasts a few days.

A few years ago I took an Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) class at the Shambhala Meditation Center in Portland. The teacher had brought all sorts of plant materials and one vase for each of us.

I have had a fair amount of ikebana training so the lesson wasn’t particularly new for me, but some of the materials were novel (those flat sweet little peaches, for example).

We all fixed and fussed on our own arrangements for maybe an hour. Mine turned out to be the most fabulous arrangement I had ever created (at least I thought so). It totally tickled me, particularly how I’d used the peach and picked up its subtle colors in the other plant materials I used.

The teacher walked us from arrangement to arrangement tweaking here and there and discussing what worked in each one. We were inspired by each other’s creations.

Then she said, “OK, take them apart. We’re going to do another arrangement and you’ll need to re-use that vase.”

WHAT !?!?! My chef ‘ouevre? The pinnacle of my ikebana career? Destroyed after only one hour??

I know that plants are ephemeral, but to KILL an arrangement after only one hour was unthinkable! And I didn’t even bring a camera to capture it on film for my continuing pleasure.

Buddhist teachings stress that all is impermanent, that attachment is suffering.  I got it.

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Filed under Gardening/plants, Inspiration & encouragement