When you're dealing with a project of this scope, and waiting on plan approval from the city so your contractor can pull permits and start working, you take progress anywhere you can get it. Right now, that means working on the overgrown, oversized yard.
And it means meeting Berta:
We were unloading this morning's Home Depot run, the beginning of the guacamole garden: a lemon tree, a lime tree, a Haas avocado tree and (completely unrelated to guacamole) a pomegranate bush. The plan was to plant the lemon and lime trees on one side of the front walkway; when they're large enough, they'll be trained on a trellis over the walkway--it makes harvesting easier, and walking underneath it when the trees are in bloom smells fantastic. The pom bush (and another we'll buy) will go in front of the wheelchair ramp, an enormous concrete structure the previous owner put in so the office building he planned would be accessible. We're leaving it so the side entry and rear apartment also will be handicapped accessible.
But before we could plant anything, we had to deal with the weeds.
It's been raining in Monterey County for what seems to be a month straight and the weeds were out of control. I didn't want to spray them with weed killer and wait for them to die before we could start cleaning up, because the house already looks like crap and I didn't want to add to the blight. So the plan was to chop and wack and deal with murdering them on another day.
I dragged Grumpy the Teenager and his baby brother over to the house around noon. We were getting out of the car when this tiny, oldish Mexican woman wearing a hot pink "Flirt" t-shirt approached.
"Honey," Chuck said, "This is Berta."
(And her cicle! )
Berta lives a few blocks over and was out for her morning walk. She wanted to know if she could help.
I tried to explain to her that I had a couple of guys coming over shortly to do the heavy duty stuff, but she was fairly insistent. And given my Spanish sucks, I ended up asking, "Ok, how much?"
"Not too much," she said. I shrugged and said "ok," and for the next two hours, Berta hand-cicled the weeds from the side yard.
The boys and I were working on the side bed along the wall, where weeds with thick stalks and deep roots had taken hold. Bobby took the shovel away from me to work on the bigger roots and Sam wandered around in a sweaty little haze. Berta came over to help. At one point I turned around and she was gnawing on one of the weed stalks.
She must have caught my look, because she said, "No, it's ok, It's not bad." I asked her if it was sweet and she said, "No, but it has water in it." (D'oh!) I offered her a bottle of water and she took it with a grin. With a little Spanish from me and a little English from her, I learned her son works for the city motor pool, she goes to an Evangelical church, she does some housecleaning on the side and she's interested in renting one of the apartments when they're ready.
The comedy team of George and Tony (Jorge and Antonio to each other, George and Tony to their customers) came over to knock down the big stuff. They were working on a house near my mother-in-law's so I pulled over and asked them to come and take a look at the yard and give me an estimate. They just started doing yards because as George put it, it's hard to find a job right now and he's got kids to feed. They did half the yard today (equivalent to my remaining checking account balance after kids' tuition and tuition deposits for next year) and will come back at the end of the month to do the back half. They asked if they could take a picture of the before and after. ("My girlfriend won't believe we got a job this big," George told me.) Snap away, George, snap away.
Next week we'll do the layout for the actual vegetable gardens and lay out the weed barrier. We're doing raised beds in the front with tomatoes (cherry, paste and some heirloom), eggplants, peppers (sweet and jalapeno), cucumbers, zucchinis and strawberries. I'll take better and more frequent pictures as soon as I figure out where I put the camera charger.