Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Well, now that Ms. Huis has let the proverbial cat out of the bag, I guess I'd better come clean.

I'm a yew lover.

There I said it. I hope you can all accept me and will support me now that I've come out. I'm no longer a closet yew lover.

My path toward yewdaism began when I was 17 years old, before I even knew about yews. My mom and I took a trip to Europe for a month where we visited Blarney Castle, in Blarney, County Cork, Ireland.
Blarney Castle has extensive gardens attached to it with numerous old yew trees. I have a picture of me, at 17, in a black, stone-washed, jean jacket sitting in the limb of this tree.

At the time, I didn't know that this was a yew tree. I just knew that it was a really cool tree. Then as I grew older and started thinking about the tree more, I started wondering what kind of tree it was. I was able to confirm that it was a yew tree when I went back to Ireland with my wife in 2003. I was hooked.

This yew tree is a major pilgrimage site for yew lovers. We even moved to Blarney for two years where I lived within just a few miles of it. I have since returned to the rest of the world to teach others and evangelize about the joys of yewdaism.

If anyone is going to Blarney Castle, this tree can be found at an elevation of 127 feet at north 51 degrees, 55 minutes, 45.54 seconds and west 8 degrees, 34 minutes, 4.09 seconds. Once you get into the gardens, follow the main path through the tunnel under the road. Stay on the path, past the elephant ears and it will be on your right.

There are a lot of yews in the landscape of the current community we live in, but they tend to be used as accent plants. This is good, but there is so much more that can be done with yews! Too many people have fallen sway to the false Society of the Arbor Vitae (treasonous splitters), somehow believing that they make a better hedge.

I have begun my evangelical work by starting a yew hedge around the House of 42 Doors. To date, I've put 66 yews (195 feet) in the ground, and more are coming this fall or next year.

Long live the yew!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sworn to secrecy

I'd tell you how many yew trees Mr. Kluges has purchased this summer, a few at a time, both spreading (maybe this one?) and Hicks varieties, but he says I can't.

But I am going to tell you that it's more than the number of doors in our house... :)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Et tu, Brute?

While I was in charge of the girls last weekend, I tried to make a point to get out of the house and do something fun with them each day. On Friday, we went to a nearby state park for the first time. My plan was to do a bit of hiking and have a small picnic before we went back to the house for nap time.

We found a nice, flat broad path perfect for a two year old, an almost five year old and an out of shape dad. We were really enjoying ourselves when I started to notice the local flora.

What did I see? Tartarian honeysuckle, buckthorn and garlic mustard.

I guess that when they say "invasive", they really do mean it. It makes me wonder though, what exactly is to be done about invasive species? Is it inevitable that the Wisconsin understory will someday be buckthorn, garlic mustard and honeysuckle? Will we lose all of our ash trees to the Emerald Ash Borer, just as we lost our elm trees to Dutch Elm disease? It's really very sad.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I Lasted 30 Hours

Last Thursday Ms. Huis left for a four day vacation away from me and our two girls. I was left in charge. Since we've moved here, we have assumed the very traditional 1950's roles. I get up every morning and go to work. She takes care of the kids, does most of the cooking, cleans the house, does the laundry and generally runs the household. I come home from work, eat supper, help put the girls to bed and then often head out to the garage to tinker on things.

So for the last four days, I was Mr. Mom (which explains why there was no Friday update). The experience underscored for me what I already knew. That if it wasn't for Ms. Huis taking care of all the things she does (laundry, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, etc.), I'd have no time to work on the rest of the house.

Her vacation was well deserved. It was the first time she's spent away from her family in over four years. I know I'd be a bit upset if my work told me that I was down to one vacation day a year.

Sometimes it becomes necessary to get things done in the house - dishes, laundry, cleaning, whatever. And sometimes there is a two year old and a four year old that are not playing together nicely. And that's when, against my better judgment, I ask the question, "Girls, would you like to watch a video?"

It took 30 hours from the time Ms. Huis left to the time my resolve wore out. I guess stamina is something you build up over time.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Long Slide Down

The days are getting shorter now. Enjoy them while you can. There are about six to eight weeks where I can still get things done outside after work. Then the days will be too short.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Thump! Supper's ready!

Summer is here and our first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share has arrived. We also opted to put in a relatively small garden this year, so depending on how much we end up feeding the bunnies, we may have an overabundance of a few things when combined with the CSA produce. We very much enjoy our CSA and I encourage you to look into it if you aren't already a member of a CSA.

On the rodent front, we've seen no mice in weeks, but the rabbits are eating our garden and a few of our hostas. This weekend we may try the old box, stick and string trick to see if we can catch one and relocate it elsewhere. If it works, the kids will talk about it for months. If it doesn't, they'll talk about it for days or weeks. Either way, I think it's worth trying.

A little known fact (to me) about bricks with recessed mortar is that they are laughably easy for squirrels to climb. Tuesday after work I found two squirrels busily chasing each other around the outside of my house. It appears love is in the air.

My wife succeeded in scaring one by opening a second story window, leaning out and yelling at it. [MHH says - Actually, it was the bathroom window that opens onto the second floor balcony. So I climbed out and yelled at him!] It took a 12 foot jump to the ground and ran off. The other one had the temerity to hang from the corner of my house and scold me for evidently getting too close to his home. I asked him for rent, but he just twitched his tail at me. Cheeky.

Wednesday morning, as I was brushing my teeth and looking out the bathroom window, who should look around the corner and peek at me through the window? You guessed it, my freeloading renter. I didn't have time to deal with him, so I let him have free rein for the day. That night though, I chased him off again, and there was another fabulous twelve foot free fall. There's something very satisfying about hearing the thump of a squirrel on the ground. Maybe it's an ancestral memory of the days when we were hunter gatherers and that thump meant supper had fallen from the tree. In any case, I haven't seen him since then.

I am of course concerned about the squirrels and the numerous holes in my soffit. I've seen no evidence that they are nesting in my soffit, but seeing them makes the soffit repair a bit more urgent. I'll have to get something over those holes this weekend, beadboard or no.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Guesses Anyone?

Oh look! Its a...a...ummm...err...right. Anybody have any ideas what this is?

The house was far from empty when we purchased it. This happened to be in the garage on its side and was used as a shelf. It's made of wood. The picture above is the front. Or at least I presume it's the front. The three boards in the middle slide out completely and are grooved.

The holes throughout it are perfect ovals and extremely well done. The bottom of it is cut at an angle, which is why it is leaning so precariously.

At the top, written in neat handwriting across the four sections is Driver's left side, Driver's right side, Passenger's left side and Passenger's right side.

This is the back of it.

I'm utterly baffled. Does anyone have any idea what this is?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Back into the Fray

There was no Friday update last week as we went back to my home town for a graduation (Congrats Mz.Blu.Eyez!) The graduation was in my old high school, which I haven't been to in almost twenty years. Very little had changed and short of the people attending, it could have been me up there so many years ago.

The event was cause for a good deal of reflection on where I was, where I've gone and where I'm going. The conclusion I came to was that I don't have time to wallow in melancholic self analysis that would inevitably lead to a mid-life crisis.

So it's back to the house, where I have soffits to repair, gutters to patch, porches to level, hedges to plant and piles of dirt to level out.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


I'm looking for a rose with characteristics similar to a good wife/girlfriend.

  • Low Maintenance
  • Local
  • Non-invasive
  • Pleasant smelling
  • Nice hips

Suggestions anyone?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

In a perfect world, I'd have a little place in the country, with views of the ocean in the front yard, and views of the mountains in the backyard. I wouldn't need much land, maybe just a half acre to an acre, so long as the view was unspoiled.

But I don't live in a perfect world, so I'm planting hedges.

Our lot is 100 feet by 265 feet, which means that if I surround the entire place in a hedge, I'd need 730 feet of hedges. Due to driveways, garages, sidewalks and pre-existing vegetation, I think we only need about 450 feet of hedge. Putting in this hedge is a multi-year project of the ten-year plan, and short of one small area, it's all intended to be yew.

Last night I was planting six more of the 150 or so yews along the front of the lot when the southern neighbor pulled up in their truck to chat. A little back story is necessary to appreciate the rest of the post. Ironically, I was planting the yews just a few feet from the scene of last spring's tree cutting crime, perpetrated by yours truly.

We exchanged pleasantries for a short amount of time (she is a very direct sort of woman), before she began telling me that she had found a great landscaping guy. She was looking to contract with him for several years to slowly replace the buckthorn in the "woods" between our place and theirs with native shrubs. In addition, she would maybe expand the woods making it larger. That's fantastic I said.

But then she said she was hoping that she, the landscaping guy and I could meet sometime so that we could come up with a plan for the woods, one that we could all be happy with. Then she asked if I was still set on putting up a yew hedge? (As I'm planting yews along the front).

Clearly what she wanted to hear was that I wanted a naturalized woods on my lot. Instead, I tried to assuage her fear of change by saying that a yew hedge with several large trees and understory trees on her side would blend in and be completely unnoticeable from her side in the summer.

The entire time this conversation was going on, what I wanted to tell her was that it was my damn land I'd damn well do what I liked. As a matter of fact, to avoid these sorts of arguments, I've placed the hedge three feet off of the property line, so that it remains my hedge.

I may need a higher hedge.