Monday, July 12, 2010

My Love of Stone

I love stone, boulders and rock in a landscape. If you read my recent post about fences, you will see that others do not share my enthusiasm for rock piles. When I was able to source the reclaimed stone locally and discovered that they were all part of a local barn and were mined locally, I felt like I hit the reclaimed materials jackpot. I liked my pile of stone even when it was just a pile. Now it is a pile in transition. Each piece is slowly making its way to the front yard. Little by little, piece by piece it will make a massive difference in curb appeal and is already making me want to spend time in the front instead of the back. It is a work in progress.

Occasionally, I contribute to Landscape Architecture magazine's Riprap section. I just read a piece about this guy in the July 2010 Riprap. Check out the 16 minute film and see how other people feel about stone. All the credits and info are right there.

Jon is no Andy Goldsworthy, for those of you familiar with Rivers and Tides. He talks way too much to be compared to Andy. But, his Stone River is pretty inspirational and impressive.

With that, I will head back out front. More weed pulling and soil turning before I can add more stone.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

2009 Tour de France

Week One of the 2010 Tour de France and Lance's last one (supposedly) is now finished. Today was an exciting day. Lance had a bad one, though, announcing that his tour bid is "finished." That just makes me sad. I like Lance. At least I like what he does. Who knows whether the drug allegations are true. I don't care. I am more impressed about LIVESTRONG. That is what makes him great to me.

I must do some explaining. I am not a sports enthusiast. I know nothing about football, baseball, basketball or soccer. But I do love me a good Tour. It all started years ago...

My dear husband was once a big cycling enthusiast, long before we met, when he was a teenager. He told me all about how he used to ride all over Western NY and Vermont, as a youth. One day, when we were excelling at Dink-hood (double income no kids for those of you who aren't hip to acronyms) while living in Kansas City's River Market area, I realized the Tour was on TV. This was also just a few months after my first cable TV experience. I grew up in the country and cable wasn't available. So I probably had done some cable newbie surfing and found the Tour.

I suggested that we watch it for a while and he agreed. The rest is history. He patiently explained and re-explained the rules to me. I learned about the polka dot jersey and the green jersey as well as the maillot jaune. Slowly, I learned. I was hooked.

I can't tell you what it was that hooked me. It was all so exciting. Some of it was the guys in tight pants with great asses, I admit. Some of it was the wonder that was Lance. Most of it was the intriguing helicopter shots of the French countryside. What a beautiful place. And a lot of it was Bobke, Phil and Paul! How many times could Bob Roll mispronounce Le Tour de France? This was some great entertainment, people.

Much of the fun was that it was something fun for Scott and I to experience together. I think he was entertained by my enthusiasm and I by his knowledge. It worked for both of us. The next year, I determined that 3-4 hours of Tour watching after a full day of work and school, plus an hour commute required more to keep my attention. I don't do the sitting-still thing well. I was too tired to keep up. Then I started knitting along to the Tour. It gave me something to keep my hands busy while watching. Lets face it, not every minute of the Tour is exciting and this was pre-Tivo. No fast forward option back then. I remain knitting-challenged. But I have whipped off some cool stuff during the Tour.

Fast forward a bit. Scott's birthday falls in July, always near the end of the Tour. As you devoted readers know, I love mountains. So we dream about the idea of seeing the Tour de France for his birthday sometime. Do you see where this is going yet?

Years later, we move to Switzerland. It happens to be when Scott is turning 40 years young. Paris is just a 3 hour train ride away. What an opportunity this is! Seeing as I spent so much time in Switzerland planning travel, I plan the ultimate birthday trip to Paris, too see the final stage of the Tour de France!!!!!!

Scott has never been to Paris. I have, but I was sick when I was there. So we go and have a great time. We stay in some funky Art Deco hotel. We do all the non-touristy things because Scott can't handle lines and crowds and I have already seen much of it. We go to E. Dehillerin, where Julia Child used to shop. We see some great parks that I studied while in landscape architecture school. But most importantly, we see the final stage of the 2009 Tour de France!!!!!

Rewind a bit. In 2009,
several stages of the Tour were in Switzerland or in the Alsace region of France, which was very close to Basel, where we lived. So we were lucky enough to see 3 stages of the Tour last year. First, we went to Dannemarie, France, less than an hour from Basel to see Stage 14. It was a sad, rainy day, but we had a blast. I was so happy because I saw George Hincapie up close, he went right by us.

Next, on Scott's actual birthday, we drove to Annecy, France to see Stage 18. It was incredibly hot as we wandered around town. Finally we found a spot in the shade near the 1 km line. If I looked in front of me, I saw the Tour. This happened to be the individual time trial day. If I turned around, I saw a beautiful lake, with people in paddle boats and the mountains beyond.

The next morning, we left for Paris! The Tour is crazy, really, it is a circus followed by some bike riding. Before the riders come through, the advertising posse comes. They throw stuff from their crazy cars and hype up the crowd. It is all about the entertainment factor. Next come the helicopters. You know when they come that the riders aren't far behind.

The riders come by in a blur. Maybe you are lucky enough to identify one or two of them. Before you know it, the peloton has passed you by and all you are left with is the smell of 150 or so sweaty guys. The hard part is that you don't know who is winning. You have no access to English-speaking commentary. The names you do hear don't sound the same with a local French dude reciting them. It is a challenge that involves lots of standing around waiting for a few brief moments of excitement. But it is an exciting one.

I watched the bulk of the 2009 Tour on Eurosport in Basel, with English guys commentating. Not the same as what I was used to. I missed Paul Sherwen and Phil Liggett. But I did get to have dinner with them. Well, at least next to them. The quick version is that we went to Bern to see the final stage of the Tour de Suisse. As the server seated us, I realized that they were sitting next to us. I freaked out like I had just had a Brangelina siting. Scott was pretty excited, too. I spent the whole dinner trying to figure out how I could greet them, without looking like a total moron. In the end, I decided they just wanted a quiet dinner and didn't need me pestering them. I still regret this. They are part of what makes the Tour great to me. I am happy to be watching them again this year, from the comfort of my own couch, with my cat and with the benefit of fast forward and rewind. Gotta love those great accents and their enthusiasm.

So whether Lance wins this year or not, we won last year. What a milestone of a birthday trip. The only way we could top that was to spend my 40th watching a mountain stage in the Alps with the luxury of an RV to provide cold wine and cheese and a restroom. So much more to experience, so little time. And you gotta love the Schloogs and the Danes. They always make their presence known.

Crappy Neighbors?

A post in 2 parts. You see, I am a wait-and-let-it-sink-in kind of person.


I really don't know if they are crappy, but the fence that they just put up is. This would be me venting.

We have a long, skinny lot, with a garage in the back. The people behind us, apparently don't like the view into our yard. So they put up a really ugly fence. I can only assume from the nasty urine yellow color, that it is pressure treated or a really low-grade cedar. I know that it is us they do not like because the fence only exists at the back of the property bordering ours and our next door neighbors.

Some background info - I have only spoken to them a handful of times. They would occasionally comment on the construction progress when we were building our Garage Mahal. It is bigger than theirs, but theirs sits right in front of it, so they see only theirs and the side of ours.

I am taking it personally, but they too are entitled to their opinion. I am sure that their opinion of my yard was not that good. Perhaps they didn't like my pile of reclaimed stone from an old local barn, locally quarried, of course. Or maybe it was my stack of brick that I dug up from an old buried walkway that led to a BBQ at the corner of their property, under their oak tree. Maybe it is the fact that I do not mow my lawn every 4 days, on the shortest mower setting possible, whether it needs it or not. And I like fallen leaves and plants that just show up to surprise me and didn't come from Home Depot. That is why I am a landscape architect.

I have big plans for these things. The boulders will make my front yard rock garden and the brick may replace ugly concrete on the path. Curb appeal will happen, but they will never see this now. Too bad, so sad for them. They put up the fence to block out my future awesome back yard.

I realize that my preferences do not have to be theirs. I See her out using a leaf blower pretty regularly. They have taken a bunch of trees out. Arboretum-like trees. All gone because they drop things that she dislikes onto the yard and driveway. But they did leave the American linden and a beautiful multi-stemmed oak. The linden perches dangerously close to Garage Mahal and our next door neighbors garage. Hmmm. They like their yard to be neat like a sterile kitchen should be and I do not. And they prefer to leave the dangerous trees instead of dealing with them.

I am sure they are perfectly nice people. I just will never have the kind of yard they like and I am proud of that. But with a little communication, I could have saved them a little money on that fence.


That was then. I stewed on this post for a while and didn't finish it. Now it is weeks later. The fence isn't that bad. I have grown used to it. It blocks my view of their kids play things and the pool. But it doesn't block the sounds of the kids or the pool filter, which has grown considerably louder. I am not complaining, just stating the facts. It is what it is.

I mentioned above that I could have saved them money. If they had just told me that they hated the view into our yard, maybe I could have moved my boulders or done something to spruce it up. Whatever. Apparently their bad view was worth the cost of an ugly fence.

What I failed to mention earlier is that the fence is not on their property line. They left a pretty substantial 'L' shaped plot of land between the fence and our property line. In the past, they just had workers come and mow this all to the ground once a year. When we had our survey done, they said they didn't know it was theirs. The space between the garages has been used by them to toss old tree limbs, etc.

Oh, and I failed to mention the most important part. This 'L' shape plot is VERY prone to poison ivy. In fact, my poor husband spent the first 2 summers in our house trying to get it under control. The part that spreads into our yard anyway, which at the time seemed to be all of it. It seems to be an endless battle.

Now I have yet another design challenge to conquer. When I do get around to the back yard, how do I deal with the fact that there is a big gap between our property line and theirs? Do I put up my own fence, creating a nice poison ivy-laden dog run between fences, for lack of a better term and lack of dog, for that matter? I don't like that option, so back to the drawing table.

Needless to say, I will still hear the filter and the leaf blower. And I suspect that the addition of the fence means that they will soon forget the 'L' shape poison ivy-laden land that is theirs. I hope that they don't. But that is probably wishful thinking.