Today I spent nearly five hours working in the yard. I never raked all the leaves out of the yard this fall, because we got so busy with the painting. It has bothered me all winter that I never did that chore, along with the other major chore of not pulling up the lily bulbs. So today I decided to do it. Matt brought up the fact that the leaves are actually protecting the plants, but I had to counter the argument--we are going to have more painting to do in the spring, and if I don't tidy up the yard now I will be so far behind that I'll never get it done. Plus we have a whole compost bin full of good soil, so I will spread that over the now-clean garden and that will protect the plants.
One catch--we didn't have any lawn bags...so rather than go to the store (on Super Bowl Sunday--are you kidding?!) I used kitchen trash bags. I raked out the garden as well as around it by the fence, the patch by the shed door, under the Buddha bush, the patio around the chicken coop, by the garden swing, cleaned the chicken coop and the back patio, and raked up the giant pile of leaves in the middle of the yard that the kids raked in the fall but didn't pick up--so instead they have been jumped in and raked twenty times or so. Please note that this is only half the yard--albeit the most important half--I didn't get the whole side of the yard where the pine tree, rhododendrons, lilacs, rose of Sharon, spirea bushes are, around the compost bin and under the forsythia at the back of the yard or the holly tree. However, the yard looks much neater and cleaner.
Everyone joined me after an hour or so, which definitely sped the process up. Emma carried sticks to the fire kindling bucket, Ben tilled in the garden to get the bulbs loosened, Rachel and Julia held bags open, filled bags themselves, and hauled leaves to the curb, refilled the Buddha pond and pulled unwanted plants up by their roots. All the kids tidied up the outdoor toys and played with Sophie, who was excited that we were all outside. We also had the music going--the Beatles, Jewel, Paul Simon and even Madonna, so I was happy.
I have decided that the patch by the shed will become the vegetable garden. I don't know why this didn't occur to me before--it's small, but I can fence it off very easily and keep the chickens from destroying our plants, plus it gets wonderful sun. I pulled the daisy-ish flowers out by the roots, though I couldn't bring myself to dig the daffodil and iris bulbs out. I have asked advice about whether I can leave those in place along with the veggies. Since it's a small area I think we'll stick to tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, maybe one other thing. I have had so much more success with flowers and local produce is pretty cheap in the summer anyway. The vegetables are really more because I don't feel like a "real" gardener if we don't have some vegetables, plus the kids get such a kick of eating what we grow.
I can practically smell spring!