Pond project update


This is the product of my efforts the past two afternoons. The twinkles you see in the pond are from the all-in-one pump, UV filter and lighting system I bought on sale for $103 (marked down from $129) at Lowe’s this afternoon. Hopefully it will keep the algae down better than the systems I’ve attempted in the past. Bonus that it took less than five minutes to install and required exactly zero skill.

I showed you step 1 of this project — the hole — yesterday. I dug it out a bit more this afternoon, then hit the feed store for some sand:


The sand serves as a buffer between the ground and the flexible liner, reducing the risk of punctures and tears that can lead to leaks.

The ridges you see are tree roots. I deliberately chose a spot where we’d had a stump taken out because I knew the soil would be loose and easy to dig, and I wanted some planting shelves in my pond as a safety feature for toads and other small animals that need escape routes. I just dug out the loose dirt and worked around the tree roots, using them as a guide for where the planting shelves should be. I liked the idea of letting nature dictate my design.

When I finished, I laid in the liner, filled up the pond, and went to Ware, Ill., to pick up some flagstone at Lotus Naturescapes. I came home with enough fieldstone veneer to weigh down and conceal the edge of the pond liner, a few extra pieces for garnish, and a big green rock for the mermaid to sit on for less than $37. I also got some good advice about plants and a great idea for a couple of Christmas presents.

This is how the pond looked with the stone installed:



While I was at Lowe’s, I found some shade-friendly rhizomes on sale, so I stocked up: two crested irises, two maidenhair ferns, two New York ferns and two Christmas ferns. The area around the pond is very shady (which pretty much describes our entire yard), so hopefully they’ll look good there.

I’m cold and tired after working outside all afternoon and evening, but it’s nothing a bowl of butternut squash soup and a mug of Irish coffee won’t fix.

Hope your Saturday was good, wherever you are.




Dig it


“Can you dig it? Yes, I can. And I’ve been waiting such a long time….”
— Chicago

It doesn’t look like much yet, but the picture you see above is the beginning of a project I’ve wanted to do since we moved: I’m excavating part of the backyard for a new pond. Eep!

I couldn’t put in a new pond when we first moved, because the yard wasn’t fenced, and I was afraid a curious munchkin would fall in and drown while trying to catch a toad or inspect a goldfish or something. We finally got our fence recently, so in the interest of taking advantage of end-of-season sales (and making sure all the equipment I buy works while it’s still new enough to return), I spent part of today digging out the spot where I want to put the pond.


My beloved mermaid moved with us, of course. (Excuse the terrible, fuzzy cellphone photo; it was nearly dark when I got done.)

In other news, my trifocals finally came in today. I’m still breaking them in, but I think I’ll like them.


Just for the hell of it, I got a contact prescription this time around, too. I got caught having to come up with a Halloween costume on the spur of the moment last year, and it was a giant pain in the arse to find something that wouldn’t look too stupid with my glasses.


God willing, I won’t have to dress up for anything this year, but if I do, I’ve got about three options I can throw together in a pinch: Merida from Brave, Magenta from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, or Bonnie Raitt.

Speaking of Bonnie Raitt, have we talked about the progress of my gray streak lately?


And speaking of progress, I cut back my carbs, upped my protein and reduced my junk food intake a couple of weeks ago. Last night, I jogged four miles on the track and did 10 miles’ worth of intervals on a stationary bike and felt good enough today to go out and dig a pond, so apparently I’m doing something right.

Last, but certainly not least, here is my new baby:


This was another of the big things I wanted to do after we sold the house in Tulsa. I went to Baldwin Piano and Organ in Herrin, Ill., last weekend and bought a digital piano. I haven’t had one in 10 years, and I finally started to miss it last winter. I’m terribly rusty, but it feels so good to have piano keys under my fingers again.

Life is good.


Go listen to this.

This is one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard. It’s crickets. CRICKETS. The sound you hear in that link above is being produced by those nasty little jumping-cockroaches-with-good-press that the cat likes to stalk and eat and then yakk up all over the carpet.

Apparently when crickets chirp at night, they’re actually just having a big ol’ cricket flash mob, like that choir that pops up and performs Handel’s Messiah at shopping malls. We just don’t notice because they’re singing really fast; after all, they only live a few days, so for them, a four-minute song would be the equivalent of a human singing for several weeks. When you slow them down to human-lifespan-pace, you get an angel choir.

I’m gonna have to rethink my position on crickets.

(Just don’t expect me to start tolerating cicadas. I don’t care if those creepy bastards secretly sound like Emmylou Harris and Mary Travers singing backup for Judy Collins on an album of Joan Baez covers; I still don’t want them body-slamming my front door every time I turn on the porch light, because ewww.)


At last.

I was too busy wandering around in a folk-royalty-induced fog yesterday to report this, but the fence guys finished enclosing our backyard yesterday, and my dogs are now contentedly wandering around out there, barking at imaginary varmints and stretching their legs more than they’ve been able to do since we moved.

The fence — a six-foot-high wooden job that should discourage busybodies from getting too inquisitive about my garden and its inhabitants — enables us to finish settling in like we mean it.

Without a fence, I was afraid to put in a pond or an in-ground dog waste composter, lest an errant child wander into the yard and fall into one or both. Without a fence, I was afraid to put in a beehive, lest an apiphobic neighbor complain to the city and inspire a flurry of anti-honeybee legislation at City Hall. Without a fence, I was afraid to adopt any chickens, as I am not entirely sure they are legal inside city limits.

With a fence, I can have all the bees and chooks and goldfish and rabbits and composters and other Have-More-Plan luxuries I can cram onto this small but remarkably fertile property of ours.

Self-sufficiency commencing in 3 … 2 … 1….


I saw her again last night


The only thing better than watching Judy Collins from the front row is watching an old friend watch Judy Collins from the front row. Especially if the friend in question loves her as much as you do, and doubly especially if you’ve owed said friend a favor since 1998.


Of course, the mark of true friendship is the ability to one-up each other’s personal favors, so naturally, after I rustled up a pair of front-row tickets for us, Jeff had to use his longtime entertainment writing gig to score a phone interview with Ms. Collins, which led to a couple of passes to meet her in person during intermission.


This meant I got to see not only the look on Jeff’s face when she smiled at him from the stage during “Open the Door,” but also the look on his face when she gave him a hug and autographed his copy of Colors of the Day.

Pure joy.

Now, you know this would not be an Emily Priddy moment if it did not involve some sort of circular plotline.

I said I owed Jeff a favor from 1998. That was the year the principal at my first teaching gig called me into her office and told me she couldn’t renew my contract because I was a lousy teacher. Dear, sweet, unfailingly loyal Jeff handled this situation by taking me out, buying me all the whiskey sours I could suck down, and telling me I was beautiful and brilliant until I was just schnockered enough to believe him.

Every girl ought to have a Jeff in her life.

Earlier that same school year, the district’s PR flack had given me an occasional writing fix by letting me put together press releases for him. I think he knew how miserable I was, and he went out of his way to make me feel better.

I hadn’t seen him in 15 years, but he was one of the four people invited backstage during intermission last night.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Heart of Gold. We are now cruising at at a level of two to the power of twenty-five thousand to one against and falling, and we will be restoring normality just as soon as we are sure of what is normal anyway….


P.S.: Please ignore the craptastic photo quality. My iPhone was having serious depth-of-field issues last night. Apparently iOS 7 needs bifocals.

Back to basics (and feeling awesome)

We closed on the House of the Lifted Lorax on Monday (congratulations to new owner Josh, who is way amped about the solar panels and the woodstove, and whose young niece is way amped about the Lorax mural on the side of the garage), which means we have just enough money in the bank to pay off our moving expenses and put a privacy fence around the backyard.

You can’t fully appreciate the value of a good fence until you’ve spent six months putting out a pair of hyperactive dogs on short cables umpteen times a day. Yeesh.

In addition to affording us the convenience of opening the back door and letting Song and Riggy take themselves out, this fence will free us up to establish a new beehive, adopt some chooks, install a pond, start a compost pile, and — if I’m feeling really ambitious — maybe set up a small warren of rabbits without interference from curious neighbors of either the two- or four-footed variety.

I put in an experimental, totally halfassed garden this spring and learned enough about my new yard to feel pretty confident taking my usual “Darwin Garden” approach: Coddle the tomatoes and leave everything else to natural selection. So far, I’ve determined that California poppies won’t do a damn thing; cucumbers, strawberries, arugula and most herbs will thrive with absolutely no attention; green beans should do well with minimal attention; and tomatoes should perform fairly well if we choose a variety that’s tolerant of partial shade and try to protect it from the local wildlife.

After meeting the new owner of the old house Monday and giving him some pointers on living the eco-hippie life to its fullest, I’m in full-on DIY mode, so this afternoon, I mixed up a batch of homemade laundry detergent and am currently trolling for dishwasher detergent recipes, since I’ve got plenty of washing soda and borax left over.

Also on the to-do list for this afternoon: Get a new set of shelves for the basement, join a gym, stock up on soup and chili ingredients, find the source of the smell coming from the kitchen drain, and work on the coupon books I’m making the kids for Christmas.

Life is good.