And so a new year begins…

Baby, it’s cold out there…

P1010934Click on the pix for a better view.

Nowhere near as cold as in other parts of the country, but crisp. For us, lows in the 30s are mighty chilly.

SDXB’s central air-conditioning/heating system crapped out: naturally, over the New Year’s holiday; naturally, on one of the coldest days of the year. It was 18 or 20 years old and needed to be replaced. Cost? Five thousand dollah.

Over here, I’ve spent the past three weeks working on a complicated and difficult project that turned into a much, much bigger job than planned. The thing finally went to press today, meaning there’s nothing more we can do on it.

It expanded to fill virtually all time available. The only days the client and I weren’t each spending eight, ten, or more hours on it were Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. So that delayed the much-anticipated “retirement” by quite a while…and it’s why I haven’t been posting much here.

So many things I want to do and need to do!

Yesterday I finally got around to starting on the windows. The front windows of this house haven’t been cleaned in years. Truly. Sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s not. I tend to put off jobs I dislike, and cleaning windows is one of my most disliked jobs. I’ve put it off…forever. :-D

However, when Gerardo was here, he got rid of one of my best excuses: he took out the sickly roses in front, which formed a conveniently vicious barrier to climbing up on the ladder and scrubbing the glass.

The roses seemed like a good idea when I put them in six or eight years ago. But I must say…I just can’t face another finger-stabbing, arm-scratching pruning session! In my old age, I’m just flat out of patience with unpleasant chores, and that’s one that also has expanded to fill all space available. Counting the climbing roses — which need some serious work this winter — the house had 11 rose plants until I took out the perennially peakèd numbers on the west side and replaced them with a succulent garden. That dropped the number to nine.

As the trees in front grew, they blocked the light to the roses in front, plus I just could not get enough water on those things. The drippers alone never sufficed. I built a trench to water them, which worked but required me to drag a hose out there several times a week in the summer…not a task I was likely to remember to do. And when I did put the hose on them, I’d often wander off and forget.

So I put a timer on the hose. A whole succession of timers, actually. Invariably, the damn things leak. I go off and forget — also invariably — and the thing drips for two days before I notice. No wonder the water bills are through the stratosphere! The city about doubled the rates to begin with, and then having the shut-off valve leak has resulted in water bills almost as high as the summer power bills.

Out with that.

Tomorrow afternoon the arborist is slated to come by and thin out the trees. Once he’s done tromping around out there and the worst of the cold snap passes — Saturday, probably — I’m going to plant a new garden with cacti and succulents slips from the plants around the yard, like these wild maroon Easter lily cacti…

easterlilies

And a bunch of plants I’ve picked up at Home Depot and Summerwinds over the past week:

P1010943Not that broad-leafed thing — it’s a potted plant that does fine outdoors in the summer but is wintering in the living room. Among the others, though, are a butterfly iris and a blue agapanthus, a lavender plant, a yellow rain lily, a kalanchoe, a little variegated sedum, a couple of hens-&-chicks, a mint plant, a-a-a-n-d-d…

P1010942 A pile of BULBS!!!

I love bulbs. They’re so mysterious…you never know when they’re going to pop up, and they look so strange.

Conveniently, these are labeled “early,” “mid,” and “late.” What exactly any of these translate to here in the Valley of the We-Do-Mean Sun remains to be seen — some paperwhites are thriving in the frost-ridden backyard as we scribble, as are a couple of amaryllis. But I expect when one isn’t blooming, another will be.

Dahlias grow well here. I’ve never tried to grow those purple things, clematis. Should be interesting to see what develops. Calla lilies grow nicely in shaded spots here, given some water — La Maya has a great pot full of them. The lily of the valley looks like it may live in that flowerbed pretty well, too. That red “commander in chief” lily is said to be bright red and to stay that way, and not to need vast quantities of water.

I bought a couple packages of sprinkler thingies for the irrigation system. They distribute a lot more water than the drippers; I figure four or five of them will probably eliminate the need to drag the hose out there next summer.

So that’s one project already under way.

Others remaining to do:

Finish cleaning the windows (the ones in back haven’t slid into quite such a desperate state).

Finish writing the e-book that’s 3/4 done; get it formatted and published.

Restart the CE Desk marketing plan that fell by the wayside while I was sick and stumbling through the last of the semester.

Prune the climbing roses.

Hoe the gravel away from the base of the climbing roses; cut out the ground cloth; build river-rock borders around the enlarged beds; dig compost and fertilizer into the ground; water well.

Ditto the tea roses in the back yard.

Dig (or persuade Gerardo to dig…) French wells in the two low spots where water floods onto the patio; line with screen; fill with rip-rap and top with river rock.

Dig (or persuade Gerardo to dig…) another French well in the far northwest corner of the yard, allowing me to backwash the pool legally, without risk of a $1200 fine.

Really clean the house from stem to stern; then…

Create a cleaning schedule allowing me to do one task per day, so that after this the place doesn’t go to hell on a handcart, and so that it doesn’t freaking kill me to clean it after it’s become uninhabitable.

Walk the dog at least once a day; preferably twice.

Hike the local hills three or four times a week.

Make more beaded necklaces.

Eat a lot better. Cook actual food, and consume more fruits and veggies.

And finally,

Figure out how to get a life.

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Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies January 4, 2013 at 7:02 am

Nights in the 30′s definitely count as cold in my book. Heck, nights in the 40′s or 50′s do, too!

$5000 is about what we paid for our new AC a couple years ago. Hopefully you’ll notice a reduction in the electric bill with the new energy efficiency. We definitely did, about $50-60/month in the summertime. So it softens the $5000 blow somewhat. Do people still put in swamp coolers down there – or are all the new systems these days AC?

funny January 4, 2013 at 8:47 am

Wow! Fifty or sixty bucks is a big improvement!

SDXB doesn’t hang around in the summer — this year he spent most of the hot season in Colorado, where New Girlfriend has a home. So he probably won’t see much difference. He doesn’t like to be cold, though, especially at night, so I expect he’ll save something on his heating bill.

Yes, some people do have swamp coolers. My son’s house came equipped with one, though his rusted out this year. He imagines he can replace it himself. Yup.

Air conditioning guys have told me that the newer high-efficiency units cost about the same to operate as a swamp cooler. My son’s bills are very high — he’s in an area served by Arizona Public Service, whose rates are blinding, and when we put a new unit on his house, he insisted on a gas pack rather than a heat pump, apparently not understanding how much more efficient the heat pump can be. Unfortunately, maintenance on a swamp cooler is also expensive; when the thing was running, the annual maintenance cost ate up the savings in the power bills for the two months in which a swamp cooler works effectively.

101 Centavos January 4, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Mint plant, eh? Keep the durned thing in a pot, or it’ll take over the whole garden. Good for bourbon mojitos, though.

funny January 4, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Bourbon mojito, eh? Got a recipe?

I kill mint, for reasons unknown. It will grow here…friends have had it take over whole sectors of their yards. But in my hands, it keels right over and dies.

101 Centavos January 4, 2013 at 6:41 pm

Sure…
Juice of half a lime (or a whole lime), sugar (or sweetener), crushed mint leaves, and bourbon of choice over crushed ice.
Is verr’ nice-ah.

funny January 4, 2013 at 6:46 pm

@ 101: oooohhhhhhh! I just happen to have all of those laying around the house right this minute….

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