Race to Fall

It has been a race, 500 Km style. We have been everywhere in the past few months, it seems. Massachusetts, California (twice), Wyoming, Austin, and camping in the mountains. Canning and preserving the summer harvest have consumed the weekends at home. And work, including a couple invitations I had to speak in conferences, have accelerated the passing of summer.

In the midst of all the traveling and summer craziness,  we decided to start a backyard landscaping project, done exclusively by us. Including digging out all sprinkler system pipes and changing their routes, removing the old, dried sod, tilling the ground, digging a 9’x11′ area and building a patio, planning and planting a brand new xeriscaped garden, shoveling 4 tons of sand and 8 tons of rock, and planting new sod.

basil plants

The project is partially done, after 5 weekends, plus numerous bruises and blisters. But the patio still looks like a junk yard, with shovels and other tools scattered around, piles of dirt next to trenches holding the new pipes, half dead plants after the first freeze of the season, and ghost-like tomato plants covered to force the fruit to ripen before the season is over.

picklingcucumber zucchiniplantwithfrostbite

Why such a drastic project you might ask?


Colorado has a semi-arid climate and we see rain maybe once a month in the summer, except 2015 when it rained so much the tomatoes died green. On a regular season, our water bill jumps three times due to the beautiful, useless green grass we, so much, care for. Denver Water reports that a single-family home uses 50% of their water outdoors in the summer months. We water and water, and then water those sweet blades some more, just so we can buy gasoline to mow it. Pretty unproductive.

After years of trying to talk Mr. Thomas into changing our landscape, forcing him away from the grass {sometimes i wonder if he is part goat}, he took the initiative and said “Let’s xeriscape,” WOOHOO! Perseverance does pay off!

Stupidity doesn’t. Those videos on YouTube make all of these projects seem so easy, “Oh that will take just a few hours,” we think, then three days later we wonder “what were we thinking!” Way into October, we need to speed up. We choose fall for its cooler days and mild temper, but didn’t plan for rain and dirt.

calendula plant

Fall’s arrival is gentle. One leaf at a time. Slowly drifting in the air, laying softly on the garden beds. Plants give in. Yellow tips consume the leaves, one by one. And then, there is the occasional brusque move of winter browning leaves in a single night. But even in the unsettled back and forth of fall and winter life flourishes. Peas and strawberries flower and give fruit, beets and kale are ready for harvest, and garlic begs me to plant it.

strawberry peasinthefall

Time is ticking, winter threatens to arrive with every temperature drop and the idea of puddles of mud around the house scare me more than shoveling tons of rock. While Mr. Thomas finishes the sprinkler portion of the project, I plant bulbs, sow poppy, calendula and wild flower seeds, and research for drought-resitant plants, like blue sage, native grasses, cone flower, and more.


Summer is gone. At last, I’m home. Calm, quiet, relaxed, back to my routines. Writing, cooking, eating, discovering and sharing.

~ Paula


6 thoughts on “Race to Fall”

  1. How exciting…happy xeriscaping! I’m sure you will have a great appreciation for your new landscaping knowing all your thought and hardwork went into it…and when you see your future water bills too!

    1. Thank you! Yes, we are excited to see the final design, especially next year when all of the flowers come up and fill in the landscape, and the water bills are not outrageous for no reason. Hope all is well with you.

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