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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Front yard dilemma-part 1

So here is one of the many challenges i face in my garden- The front yard

This is how the place looked when we bought the house in April of 2008. The house faces East on a busy road. The lovely shade is from 4 huge "live oaks" that looked like they were never pruned for ages. There were a lot of branches that were reeling under the excess weight.

Right underneath the oaks were some very leggy shrubs and some very leggy jasmine that did not get any sunlight.

In the last year or so we have been busy working on fixing up the inside of the house and never got around to planting or doing anything.

One thing i figured out early on was that the grass had to go....period ! I had turned off the entire sprinkler system in the house. The pipes in the back were broken when the pool and all the asphalt and concrete was removed. The front yard does not have anything nice that i want to keep. I also added a good few inches of fresh wood-chips that came from the pruning of our oaks to get rid of the grass. Late this summer when i moved the wood-chips i was glad to see all the grass gone. There are a few that are sprouting back after the rains in the past few weeks.

Here is how the front yard looks after the oaks have been pruned.

One of my biggest challenges in the front yard is the lack of privacy and my options to plant under the oak that might give me some much needed privacy on a busy road.

Any suggestions fellow bloggers...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Welcome Spring 2010

It is spring and I am trying to live up to my "new" resolution of updating out blog.

This is my submission to the photo contest at GGW

This is what is going on in "the Brindavan" in the Spring of 2010

Lemon blossoms ....fragrant as always

Seedlings for the vegetable garden

The mulberry sprouting out new leaves. Hopefully we can figure out a way to harvest them easily this year

The Tulips (or are they Hyacinthus) just about getting ready to emerge. We are glad they are even coming out (they were planted only a few weeks back and went in and out of the refrigerator for barely 3 weeks.

The flowers on the Nectarine are giving way to new leaves

The Saucer Magnolia flowers also giving way to new leaves

And last, but not in any way the least.....the curry leaf plant that i almost killed when it was left to weather the frost in November

Thursday, March 11, 2010

TamBrams and Americans - Fundamentally the same?

I have always wondered if one could identify a society or culture by a defining trait, thing or habit. It need not be just one thing but A something that so strongly ties into the roots of its people. Roots? hmm... something that brings me to the title of this blog. Living in the US I have always come to believe, if there is one thing that appeals to one's AMERICAN-ness if you could call it that, was their affection quotient for the All American drink - ROOT BEER! You either love it or absolutely detest it. Every US "alien's" nightmare is to be offered root beer with no other drink option. What alien?; as The Daily Show's Jon Stewart remarked, you are a foreigner in any country in the world if you are not from there but only in America are you not even from their planet! Moving 8000 miles east to India, we meet a small sect of Tamil speaking Dravidians called the TamBrams, short for Tamil Brahmins. As many an Indian knows, You can take a TramBram out of India but you can never take the Thayir Saadam (Yoghurt Rice) out of him. In the eyes of a TamBram, no dessert stands a chance to the smoothness of Thayir Saadam. The perfect end to any meal, be it Dim Sum, Pizza, Pasta or Pulao. This perfect ending is complete with the best accompaniment: Pickle. If there is one defining pickle that goes well with this dish and brings fond memories to many a TamBram around the world, its Mahani Kizhangu (MK). There are no two ways about one's affection towards MK. One either loves it or hates it.

So what elicits this stark "black and white" response from people. Turns out the root cause of these two geographically distant food choices is in fact the same root! Say hello to the root of the Sarsaparilla plant. So one begs to ask the question if our root beer loving "hard-core" as-american-as-can-be Americans would love Mahani Kizhangu pickle in their Bloody Mary and would the thought of thayir sadam with mahani help the TamBram gulp down root beer?

Friday, March 5, 2010


After almost 2 years of planning and reviewing quotations we figured what was a good price for the kind
of fence that the city regulations would approve and share (the city is our neighbour)

Here are the before and after pics

We went with a 8ft fence(read privacy), "Con hart"(read quality)

We also changed out the gates. Oh my god...what a relief. The gates were on wooden posts and were a pain to open or close. They are now on metal posts and have a very easy to use lock mechanism and are a breeze to use.

This was how the North side of the front yard looked like

One of the changes I wanted was to have an area in the front 4 ft section that would give us the option to put up hanging baskets and add a cottage charm

This is how they turned out. We still haven't put up the hanging baskets

And we finally hung baskets in the last week of March 2010. The plan is to have Lobelia's planted here. In an ideal world it could have been done a couple of months earlier, but is yet to happen.

Mail Man

I hate my daily commute, too long with too many mad and impatient people on the road and a route that is congested pretty much from 6 am to 10 am.. The evening are even worse, wonder how...maybe it is just because it is the end of my day and am too tired and worn out to endure it. One of the bright spots to the commute is KQED that i listen to without fail. It has such wealth of information and not to mention the lack of commercial interruptions.

This one NPR story that aired yesterday, stirred up some old memories, on different fronts. One part mentioned that in times past, postmen would find iced tea left for them in the mail box. I immediately thought....oh how so impersonal. Well....I come from the world of Malgudi days and R K Narayan, and I immediately remembered the small short story ("Missing Mail") that was in our school curriculum in grade 3 or 4. I also related to a personal story pretty much along the sames lines as the one in the R K Narayan's story. Our postman was very much like the protagonist Thanappa in the story, who always had the nice work for everyone and who went the extra step to help out people even if it was in the smallest way possible and would be offered a glass of buttermilk with all its seasonings when he makes his afternoon mail service in the midst of the sweltering Indian summer.

I remember this one time when i was waiting for my admit card to take my Chartered Accountancy exams and they never showed up. My uncle in Delhi went personally to the examinations department and figured out they had lost the check for the exam fees when they were processing the application. As with almost all professional bodies at that day and age, nobody remembers the student who is going to loose out because they can't take the exams. With just days to spare, I eagerly awaited it everyday. The day our postman spots it in the morning, he headed to our place to hand over the card to me before going his usual route. Not that it is of a lot of significance to most, but it did to an eager 17 year old who was all anxious and ready to take on the first professional examination.