I got a little dirty yesterday.

by Kristen on July 7, 2011 · 30 comments

in Gardening

Actually, a LOT dirty. And a lot smelly.

But it was for a good and frugal cause.

First, I used a pitchfork and wheelbarrow and put wood chips all around the swingset (I’m still working through the ginormous pile of wood chips we got when we had our dead tree removed).

Incidentally, you should know that most tree-removal companies are dying to get rid of wood chips so that they don’t have to pay to dispose of them.* So, if you need mulch and it doesn’t have to be the beautiful dark brown hardwood type, call a tree-removal company and have them dump a load of chips in your driveway.

*those same companies are also often looking to give away wood, so if you need some to burn and you’ve got a chain-saw and a way to split the logs, you should definitely call them!

There’s some controversy over whether or not you should use these wood chips near your house, since they’re not treated to be bug resistant. So just to be safe, you should probably only use them to mulch areas that aren’t right by your house (like my swingset).

Aside from the swingset, I’ve got a number of areas that need mulching in my backyard and sideyard, and I plan to never buy mulch for them again, given that I can get wood chips for free.

Anyhow, after I did a bunch of mulching, my landscaper neighbor told me he had a bunch of landscaping rocks in his yard that he wasn’t going to need, and he said I could have as many as I wanted.


First I put some around this little bed near my driveway. I bought the grass that lives there, but the mulch was free from my neighbor, and the marigolds are grown from seeds I saved from last year’s marigolds. They’re kinda small right now, but I think they’ll look quite lovely by the end of the summer.

The smallest rocks went around my mailbox (Sonia and Zoe mostly did this border since the rocks were a perfect size for them).

The plants growing here are my purple hyacinths (see them in full bloom last summer).

See the dead one on the right? It was my best-looking plant, but a dog walker let her dog get all tangled up in the plants, and in the process of pulling him out (rather uncarefully, I might add), she killed it.

I’m kind of sad about that, but I’m hoping the other vines will flourish enough to make up for the deceased vine.

And I am trying not to think crabby thoughts about the dog/dog walker.

I have not been entirely successful in that effort.

Moving right along….

I used the bigger rocks to line the edge of my front borders.

It looks about 1000 times better than what we had before.

What we had before = nothing.

I don’t think there’s any helpful takeaway for you from my rock project, except maybe that it’s wise to live by a kind landscaper who often has extra stuff to share.

Actually, scratch that…there’s something else there. Part of the reason my neighbor gives me stuff is that he knows I’m willing to take freebies, even if they’re not perfect or need a little TLC.

When people know this about you, you’ll often find yourself the happy recipient of cast-offs and not just of the rock and plant variety. I’ve received bags and bags of hand-me-down clothes (yay!), old furniture, and even food.

So, don’t be shy about letting people know you like being on the receiving end of this kind of deal…for instance, when someone asks you if you like hand-me-downs, say yes, and let them know you’re always happy to get more. Once word gets out, you’ll be delighted at what people will give you.

And of course, be a grateful recipient. I usually offer some homemade bread to my landscaping neighbor…last night, it was this French bread. :)


Today’s 365 post: I love it when tomatoes and mozzarella need to be used up.

Joshua’s 365 post: You know you’re in a rush when…

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Diane July 7, 2011 at 7:55 am

Looks fabulous! Definitely a perk having a gracious, landscaping neighbor…great job!


2 Ellen July 7, 2011 at 8:21 am

Looks great…. hopefully it wasn’t too hot down by you guys yesterday….


3 Kristen July 7, 2011 at 8:26 am

It was fairly hot, but the main problem was that it was v e r y humid. So then of course that makes it feel about 100% hotter than it really is.

I could hardly stand to get a whiff of myself by the time I was done. Hauling rocks in a wheelbarrow is quite sweat-inducing.


4 LeeAnn @ Living the Dream July 7, 2011 at 8:32 am

Beautiful! And great idea on the free wood chips. I had no idea. Unfortunately most of the spots in our yard that need it are next to the house. I wonder if there is any way to treat them yourself? I hate buying mulch, it’s just so expensive.

Anyway, you’re inspiring me to do some landscaping in my yard. Now off to find a landscape company owner with freebies….


5 WilliamB July 7, 2011 at 10:21 am

There isn’t. But what is your house made of? And how close do you want to put the mulch? It doesn’t have to be all or nothing: if you insist on treated mulch you can use it for 12-18 inches next to your house, then use chips for the rest.


6 Kristen July 7, 2011 at 10:25 am

Plus, whether or not untreated chips are dangerous near a house is a debatable issue. If I lived in a brick house in an area where termites weren’t common, I’d probably just go for it.


7 Molly July 7, 2011 at 8:58 am

No gym needed yesterday!


8 Kristen July 7, 2011 at 9:30 am

That’s EXACTLY what I told Mr. FG. A pitchfork, mulch, rocks, and a wheelbarrow take the place of weight machines very nicely.

Can’t beat working out and getting something done at the same time. ;)


9 laurie July 7, 2011 at 9:09 am

Lotsof work but so worth it,,beautiful!


10 adventuresindinner July 7, 2011 at 9:21 am

Looks fabulous-we packed more of my father-in-law’s house yesterday but it looks like you had way more fun.

I’m now off to phone some tree companies instead of buying wood chips as planned, thanks to you!


11 Elizabeth S. July 7, 2011 at 9:31 am

Quite lovely. I think rocks are so pretty as a border. Quite a useful neighbor you have. And I will totally mention the free wood chips tip to hubby.

You remind me of a certain friend of mine, as you seem, uh, not-a-fan, of animals, from what I’ve gathered while reading your blog over several months. I would hate to lose a beautiful vine too, but I would say it’s the fault of the dog walker; a dog doesn’t know vines from weeds, or cute yards from thickly overgrown fields. I’m sure you know this; I just wanted to comment.

As I do with my aforementioned friend, I will endeavor to overlook this sizable gap between our respective attitudes toward four-legged fellow creatures, and continue reading your great blog, which I do enjoy. =) And please, correct me if I’m wrong.


12 Kristen July 7, 2011 at 10:17 am

Haha! Yes, I’m not a big fan of having animals in my own personal sphere. I totally don’t mind if other people have them as pets, and I don’t have anything against animals, really. I just don’t want them myself! And given that, I think it’s wise for me not to inflict myself on a poor innocent animal by having one live in my house…I know myself well enough to know that I wouldn’t be a good pet owner.

And you’re right, it’s the dog owner’s issue, just like it is when someone lets their dog poop in my yard and doesn’t clean it up, or when someone doesn’t train their dog and it chases one of my children down or when I visit someone’s house and their dog is jumping all over me (hmm. Perhaps my life has been lacking in positive dog experiences??).

Since you and I don’t have to share a house, though, and since I’m sure that you would properly train your pets, we can be good friends. lol


13 Kristen July 7, 2011 at 10:30 am

I just realized I sound like an anti-child person, except I’m talking about dogs. lol

I’m like someone who realizes they really, really don’t want to be a parent, but I just know I really, really don’t want to be a pet owner.

(I don’t mind fish, hermit crabs, or Joshua’s gecko, because they’re smaller, less messy, and less responsibility.)


14 minders July 7, 2011 at 3:00 pm

I can sympathize with you on this issue. I was just about livid one day I was raking leaves in the back yard and got dog poo on my shoes! And one day mowing grass in the front yard hubby got dog poo on his shoes. We don’t own dogs! We shouldn’t have to wach our every step in our yard. People need to learn to clean up after their animals and keep them under control.

Don’t even get me started on the “outside” cats that come dig up our mulch and crawl on our vehicles, etc… I’ve had about all of those I can handle.

P.S. I am an animal lover, I grew up with dogs and cats, but I don’t choose to have any at my own home and shouldn’t have to deal with all this.


15 Ban Clothing July 7, 2011 at 9:33 am

I wish I knew someone who was frugal who would benefit from my hand me downs. I would rather give clothes and household stuff to people for free than bring it to the thrift store.


16 Mairsydoats July 7, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Check out Freecycle in your area!! It’s the absolute coolest – you post stuff, and then get to choose who to give it to. Every once in awhile someone flakes on me (or, heaven forbid – I flake on someone else), but mostly it works like a charm! And nothing’s as cool as getting exactly what you need for free… My fav freecycle finds: cordless phone and answering machine-in-one, elephant candlesticks to give as a gift, and a queen bedframe. If you have a neighborhood listserv, you can also list stuff on there for adoption, which is how I adopted my mattress & boxspring, from people I know well-enough to trust that they didn’t have bedbugs. :-)


17 Sarah July 7, 2011 at 10:23 am

Your garden and swing set look great!

We realized a few years ago that our dump offers free mulch. We jsut call ahead to make sure they have some available. I know a lot of people think this is a bad idea due to bugs or poinon ivy, but we’ve done it a few years with zero problems. This year, we got two truck loads and mulched around my kids playhouse/shed, and the perimeter of our yard. Not only was this mulch free, but my kids and I had a fantastic time shoveling the mulch throughout our yard.



18 Kristen July 7, 2011 at 10:28 am

Yes, Sonia and Zoe think mulching is a whole lot of fun. They’re not much help, but I’m not about to discourage them from joining in.


19 Jenny July 7, 2011 at 11:59 am

I’m thinking that next door landscaper is about to receive some nice homemade bread or cookies!

I’ve found that’s a helpful ticket to continuing to receive stuff–when folks give me all their unwanted jam jars, I give them back one or two full of jam. And when people tell me to come pick their extra berries, I do the same. I appreciate it when I set someone loose in my rhubarb patch and they bring me some rhubatb muffins!


20 Kristen July 7, 2011 at 12:05 pm

He did! And I was going to include that in the post but forgot, so thanks to your comment, it’s been added. :) He always loves it when I bring him some home-cooking (he’s a single guy).


21 natalie July 7, 2011 at 2:28 pm

looks really really nice!! so you have a green thumb too eh?..lol


22 Connie July 7, 2011 at 3:13 pm

That looks absolutely beautiful! Maybe at the end of the season you will write a blog about how to save seeds like you did with the marigolds. (hint hint) ;)


23 Karen D. July 7, 2011 at 3:48 pm

The french bread looks delicious! Is your recipe on the website somewhere?


24 Danielle@sixtasteschef July 7, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Those stone borders look great!! My neighbor is having work done on her front yard and she’s giving me some of her landscape rocks she’s not using, so I’m getting inspiration from seeing your pictures. They ones I’m getting are not at all like what you got, more porous and rounded, but hey – can’t complain, right? They’re free! I love free.


25 Sarah July 7, 2011 at 8:05 pm

Too cool!!


26 Keely aka The Richest Girl in Bondi July 8, 2011 at 3:48 am

The garden looks great – and so much money saved! I did a bit of turfing myself (instead of getting someone else to do it) and ended up saving hundreds of dollars. It’s a great workout too! I never shy away from hand-me-downs and have been a fan of ‘sharing the love’ since I was a schoolgirl and used to get my mates round to sort through my clothes.


27 Cynthia July 8, 2011 at 7:52 am

That is such an amazing idea! I will definately try that for next year. Unfortunately I already purchased mulch this year. Thank you for sharring the great tip :)


28 kimberly July 8, 2011 at 8:47 am

Wow! Great job! The stones don’t look like rejects to me…


29 Brynne July 8, 2011 at 6:55 pm

Wow…your yard looks amazing! I’m sure it was a lot of hard work, but I think part of the fun of frugality is seeing all the things you can do yourself and being able to take pride in them. That being said, the flowers in my single garden box are dying despite my best efforts to water, space, and provide sunlight. Haha. Well done!


30 Margo July 9, 2011 at 8:57 pm

oh yes, I get a lot of free stuff too. My policy is to take it even if I don’t think I can use it – pass it on – so as not to dampen the flow of castoffs!

Good reminder to give a gift back. I can make bread. Most people love a loaf of homemade bread.


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