My Story

Hello and welcome to my blog.  My name is April.  I’m an artist, gardener and DIY enthusiast living, painting, gardening and DIY-n-it in the Mohave desert in Southern Nevada.

Join me as I transform a once abandoned house into my dreamy cottage-style home and the 1/2-acre lot my home sits on into a productive sustainable garden overflowing with fresh fruits & veggies, honey, wild flowers, and loads of artistic inspiration!

“Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint, and the soil and sky as its canvas.”
–  Elizabeth Murray

About My Blog

Thank you for stopping by and checking things out.  A few years ago, my husband, of 25 years,, and I embarked on an exciting adventure after purchasing a run-down neglected home in an older more established part of town.  Abandoned and begging for new ownership, the small green ranch-style home was in desperate need of TLC and a big dose of love.  With more love and manual labor t0 give than money we were blessed to be able to purchase this diamond in the rough and call it home.

The list of repairs were long and ranged from an unfinished addition to the house and an incomplete 780 square foot garage  (open frame and all) to a 12” high cut-out along the entire bottom section of the exterior walls at the back of the house, exposing the home to the outside elements (and critters).

Backyard (Before)

Another photo of the original Kitchen (after the small wall came down).

Front Yard (Before)

ArtStudio_Before

I’m certain you’re asking yourself… why?  Why not pass on the deal and let the next person take it?  Despite the obvious negative points, the house offered us something we were looking for.  A roof over our heads during a time of financial hardship and a ½ acre lot we could take our time in repairing and transforming into a prolific fruit and veggie garden enabling us to become more self-sufficient.  It was also the ideal space for our young and energetic Border Collie to run herself silly. Of course, before purchasing, we did our homework and talked with every expert in town, or at least it seemed like we did.  The required repairs were lengthy and do-able within our “practically no money” budget and long-long timeline.  We were able bodied and skilled enough to do most of the work ourselves and despite appearances, and a few initial repairs, the home was safe to move-in.

Since moving in, we have been diligently repairing our home transforming the interior and exterior into something livable.  Some day, in the future, I’m certain “beautiful and dust free” will be a part of our regular vocabulary (DIY-er’s, you know what I’m talking about), but for now, a little extra cleaning and elbow grease will do the job.

With sustainable living on our minds, one of our goals was to build a thriving garden and orchard.  We knew it would take a few years to get the fruit trees established and into fruit production so with very little investment (more time and hard work than cash) we planted an orchard right away using bare root fruit trees. And because our irrigation system was non-functioning and in desperate need of repair, I had to hand water my newly planted orchard with a hose.  This was absolutely no problem for me.  It was the perfect excuse to “get to know my trees”.

A big part of our sustainable living is to also live as organically and chemical-free as we can.  Once you start this process, it can take awhile to convert to this type of sustainable living especially when you’re surrounded by chemicals “in everything”.  Even wood mulch and compost!  Both my hubby and I remain head-strong on the subject and continue to read and research everything about it and keep moving forward with our end-goal in mind…  which also includes producing our own “chemical free” wood mulch and compost!

072511_Backyard01

Back Orchard August 2012

Front Orchard - Current

Throughout the transformation, I’ll share my gardening experiences with you, my planning process, important resources, planting, growing and harvest notes, garden art projects and more.  In following my experiences, I hope that it will help inspire you with your garden endeavors… especially if you’re gardening in a hot, dry or challenging environment such as the Mojave Desert.  And if I can get you to smile or chuckle a bit along the way… all the better!

Now, A Little Something About Me

Well, let’s see… I was born and raised in the suburbs of Los Angeles in sunny Southern California and for the past ten or so years I’ve called Las Vegas, Nevada my home.  I share my home and my life’s journey with the ‘loves of my life’… my wonderfully talented and supportive husband, two gorgeously sweet kitties and my super-duper intelligent four-year old black and white Border Collie.

I am a Christian and try my absolute best to live by God’s word and trust in his path for my life. I am also a natural-born artist and blessed with a God-given talent.  My passion is painting. There’s nothing better than oil painting en plein air (a French term for painting in the open air – it’s the real bee’s knees).

Artistic Gardener En Plein Air Painting

I grew up in a family of six and was truly blessed to have a devoted mother who encouraged individuality.  She willingly filled her children’s lives with frequent life-enriching, creative and adventurous experiences (thank you, Mom).  The fruits of her labors, literally…children with a great sense of humor, a huge love for live and all living things, and a big dose of creativity!

My Experience with Gardening

My fondness for gardens may be obvious, but I’m sure the following question has crossed your mind… what is her experience with gardening?

Though as a child I helped my mom tend to a few veggies and a small flower garden that had the most beautiful Mr. Lincoln rose-bush, it wasn’t until after I got married that I became serious about gardening.  My husband and I caught the gardening “bug” when we moved into our first home (about 20 years ago).  Like any other subject we’re interested in, we did (and continue to do) massive amounts of research and reading, then we applied our knowledge toward creating a beautiful cottage garden.  In the beginning, we used all of the typical commercial products to maintain our garden and to ward off pests.  These methods were expensive and dangerous.  It just felt wrong using chemicals around the garden, but our knowledge and understanding of the effects of chemical use was limited.  As time went by, we employed more natural practices in our garden, like ladybugs and praying mantis for pest control, and eliminated most of the chemicals.  It was truly amazing… when we made the switch, we began to see our garden flourish for the first time.  It was such a great feeling knowing that we were properly caring for our plants and the wildlife that visited our garden.

When we moved to Southern Nevada, we created another beautiful garden.  This time a desert friendly garden with xeric plants and a cactus garden, complete with a steer skull.  One regret we had with the garden was the fact that we rushed the process and because of our lack of desert gardening knowledge at the time, we used “so-called” gardening experts to perform the install of our landscape.  This resulted in a very poor irrigation setup and the planting was far from our ideal.  The soil was void of any type of amendment and most of the plants struggled.  We faced the challenges head-on and were able to keep the garden growing and cared for.

With our new transformation project, we’re doing things a lot differently.  I’ve designed our garden plan (a work in progress) and my husband and I will be installing and planting everything ourselves using microbes and good fungi to help build our soil.  Gone are the days of a “groomed landscape” with only ornamental plants and trees.  We’re seriously dedicated to living a more sustainable life – one filled with home grown veggies and fruits using organic gardening methods and practices (of course, I’ll still have to have roses here and there so I can use them as painting subjects in my art). We’ve learned a lot about gardening in the dry hot desert over the past 10 years and have discovered some really great gardening resources in town, which includes belonging to a local organic gardening group that’s led by a very dedicated Master Gardener and volunteering at a local test orchard. So you see, we are confident our project will be a success and we’ll have some great information and experience to pass along to you.

May your day be filled with laughter and joy!

God Bless
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16 responses to “My Story

  1. R. Zavaleta

    Thank you for your blog, I read about your weeping plum and I appreciate your information. I live in Santa Clarita, CA, an area that has poor soul and is basically chaparral. My sister lives nearby and we each purchased a weeping plum. Mine “weeps” in stormy weather, but otherwise is shaped like a vase. I never thought about staking down the branches — a practice so obvious! Thanks again for sharing!

  2. rachel

    Hey there, I see you have an aravaipa avocado, can I ask how it is doing and where you were able to find one? I hope to get my hands on one, do you have any tips?

    • Hi Rachel ~ absolutely. Unfortunately, my aravaipa did not do well. So many things going against it this past year. I do have plans to do a “re-do” next year when I have a better area prepped for it. Thank you for asking. There are a couple folks here in Las Vegas that I know of who are growing them and are doing well. Not sure the trees are producing fruit yet or not. I would highly recommend trying one (or two), but be prepared when you do.

  3. Jason Hamilton

    Hello April
    I really like the wood stand you have for your worm inn mega I’ve been looking for plans for a while now with no luck so you think you could email them if you still have them
    Thanks
    so much
    Jason

  4. Juan Casero

    I have come across your web site several times when googling “backyard orchard”. I also have my own backyard orchard although I live in a more mild climate (Central Florida) than an arid Nevada desert. I found your tips on preparing the planting hole for fruit trees particularly useful. Where I live there is a mixture of clay and sand and I periodically hit some hard clay deposits. The stuff feels like a rock and I have to labor at it with a pick ax to break through it. After reading your hole preparation directions though I went ahead and purchased a similar jack hammer with the spade attachment for myself. It should now be a lot easier to dig wide and deep holes when planting my fruit trees. Thank you for sharing the information.

    Cheers!
    Juan

    • Hi Juan. Thank you so much for the kind words. I’m so glad you found some of the info helpful. Let me tell you, our jack hammer has more than paid for itself! It’s so interesting to hear from others in different areas of the country and the challenges they face when gardening. Keep up the good work. Would love to hear about the varieties you’re growing in sunny Florida.

  5. Ron Marlow

    Dear April,
    I enjoyed your appearance on John Koehler’s video. He mentioned you used a non-toxic wood treatment. I am building raised beds and am interested in how you did yours. John mentioned in his video he would name the treatment later in the video but if he did, I missed it. I am your neighbor, I think south of you. I live near Jones and DI. Thank you. Ron Marlow

    • Hi Ron,

      Thank you for stopping by and checking out my blog. I’m glad you enjoyed the video. The non-toxic wood treatment we use is called LifeTime Wood Treatment by Valhalla Wood Preservatives, Ltd. You can check out more details at http://www.valhalco.com. I believe we purchased the product on Amazon. 1 gallon did about two 4’x16’x16″ raised beds. I believe there is another product on the market that’s pretty much a knock-off of this product. This is great stuff. The first bed I used the product on is a little over 2 years old and is holding up wonderfully with no signs of decay. We mix up a batch (simply mix with water) in an empty gallon jug. What we do not use at that time stores very well in the jug. When you’re ready to use up the rest, just shake and apply. I found that a nice large nylon paint brush (nothing expensive) works well to apply. Dunk to saturate and swipe onto the wood. It soaks in and dries very evenly and starts to darken the wood. Once dry, the wood takes on a beautiful rich dark color. For the ends, I like to soak them for about 10-15 minutes in the product (I use a plastic tub and set the wood up on end ~ just lean it against a fence or wall).

      Jones and DI… you’re definitely a stone’s throw away. I’m so glad to help a fellow gardener 🙂

  6. Hi April, I just came across your blog (a link from ExtremeHorticulture), and was absolutely delighted to find it! Not only do we share many of the same loves in life (Jesus, art, pets) but I feel like we’re on practically the same journey! We bought our first home in the California part of the Mojave desert (guess we spell it a bit differently here, haha) in October of ’08, which is also a half acre, and we are trying our best (moving mountains…of manure, dirt, wood chipper mulch) to transform it into a lush, productive organic cottage garden. We’ve had a couple of successful raised bed gardens so far since living here, but recently changed strategies and expanded, adding in some hugelkultur and sheet mulching principles to help with water retention (less watering) for our arid climate. So far, so good. I’d been hearing about the Brix methods here and there lately, but finally got my questions answered from your very informative post. I kept a blog for a few years, but am gearing up to start a new one up again here when my boys are back in school. I’ll be dropping by often! How wonderful to find a kindred spirit who also shares my same desert gardening struggles! And by the way, the progress you’ve made on your home is phenomenal. Your orchard and garden are beautiful! ~Becky

    • Hi Becky ~ welcome! Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m always thrilled when I get to connect with others who have the same interests… part of the “God’s bigger plan” I’m sure.

      Glad to hear about the goings on in your garden. I was intrigued by your mention of hugelkultur. This is the 2nd time this week I’ve heard that term, but I was unfamiliar with the method of gardening so I googled it. Very interesting. Actually quite beautiful.

      I’m happy to hear that my post answered some of your Brix questions. There will definitely be more posts on this topic in the future as it is something very near and dear to my heart.

      I look forward to many more discussions with you regarding desert gardening (of course with a strong hint of cottage) and please let me know when you’re blog is up and running so I can check it out 😀

  7. Chrisie

    Hi April,
    It’s good to come across your blog. What you & your husband have been doing and are doing is very close to my heart. You are living a dream….
    Will be following your stories..

    Regards,
    Chrisie

  8. The Poester

    Well, Desert Gardener– I must say, this blog is absolutely captivating! I read the whole 31 days — and actually felt somewhat of a sense of calmness coming over me as I read. My apologies for taking so long to finally get to this. You are awsome, talented, gifted, inspirational — to numerous to continue. P

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