We were already on our way back south to the Rio Grande Valley when I opened up my email one morning to find a message from the owner of our winter park. She sent a picture and said that the garden was basically “out of control.” Our neighbor had been a great help in sending the occasional photo so I could keep abreast of developments. I knew it was getting “a little overgrown” in the words of said neighbor but I also knew it was a small space, the bones were good and it wouldn’t take long to whip into shape.
At first the photos weren’t too bad looking and things were growing. I had arranged for another neighbor and our housekeeper to water the small trees so they wouldn’t die in the heat. The rest was either drought resistant or expendable.
Apparently the plan was for the owner’s husband to bring in his tractor, shove everything in front of the fence down and plant sod! Whoa! The day that was supposed to happen there was a big rainstorm and it had to be put off. Then the tractor broke and it would be a week before the part came in. A little breathing room.
We got back on Sunday the 14th and after we unloaded the bus, I got to work that day clearing grass and weeds. We were supposed to talk the next day and I wanted to convince her that it could be dealt with thoroughly and in short order.
The next day I went to work in earnest. Jim and Richie were busy installing an outdoor shower so it was a solo effort for a couple of days. The house was on hold until the garden shaped up. By the time the owner came by on Monday I had cleared off a good patch and she described what they had to deal with during the summer. The castor beans in back got blown down in a big storm and had to be trimmed up since they couldn’t mow behind the garden. An insidious viney grass had taken hold in the front and was a bitch to pull out.
The pics below were sent by neighbor Michal. The last one is what they looked like when we got back.
And now… This stand is six plants.
I trimmed everything up so they could mow easily. One of the roosters, the one I call the Gay Rooster roosts about ten feet up in them at night. I call him the Gay Rooster because he is a loner with no hens. The chickens are going to be “re-homed” which is probably a good thing. Last year when we left there were 35 chicks and hens and one rooster. It could easily become unsustainable. Now there are four hens and two roosters. Here he is in the beans.
These pictures were taken the morning we got back. Lots of work to do.
Initial progress. During our chat I found out more details of what had transpired. I apologized profusely for putting her in that position and petitioned for a week to make it right. She remarked that I had made a lot of progress and I assured her it would continue. I also told her that we were going to travel differently next summer and that it would NEVER get like that again. It turned out that the tractor couldn’t be fixed for another week so I just kept grinding away at it.
By the third day the outdoor shower was installed and it was a lifesaver! Jim joined me in the garden and applied his detail oriented mentality to the stands of stuff that had grown up and taken over and the grass that had emerged in the front. We also bought a weed whip.
We cut back large branches on the pyracantha, flame tree and two large branches off the retama tree. We had several large brush piles going. When the guy came to cut the retama and haul the brush away it was like a veil was lifted and you could see the light at the end of the tunnel. We gave away the swing and planted rubber trees and cannas in its place. Before:
And after… Swing is gone now.
Jim weed whipped the area between us and neighbor Patty. That made a big difference! Starting to take shape.
And did I mention that it was HOT? Obviously there was some malfunction of the sensor but it sure seemed that hot! If it wasn’t for the outdoor shower, I would be dead right now.
We’ve been back a little over two weeks now and every day things are looking better. We have had a couple of good rains that brought the green back to the cannas and the elephant ears started popping up again.
I am so grateful for the reprieve and second chance to whip the garden into shape. It was one of the main reasons we liked the house so much and I am thrilled that we can continue to enjoy it. I know it was serendipitous timing due to the heavy rain that delayed the mow-down before we got back and the delay of the tractor part delivery. When we were on our way back I reminded myself to Trust the Loving Universe. And it worked!
The Mexican Orchid is blooming, hummingbirds are visiting the feeders and the woodpeckers, doves and green jays are visiting the birdbath and feeders. And, for now, the chickens are here. Today I was actually able to clean up the house a little.
We continue to feel BIG BIG Lucky! And I’m glad that episode is over. I know the park owner is too. When she said “It’ll work” I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Thank you, thank you.