And for the big ta-da, some newly sprouted Thai Holy Basil, for your viewing pleasure:
Yesterday was grueling, but fun. I took up the task of creating a new flower bed on one side of our back yard. Let's just say that it's the side that turns into a mini mud-pit every time we get more than a sprinkle of rain. The grass there was balding and the soil packed and soggy. I spent several hours digging up dying grass clumps, spreading bags of nice new soil, planting some donated plants from my mother (epimedium, varietal wild ginger, bluebells, california poppy, sweet woodruff, and a few others), arranging some donated rocks, and spreading bags of mulch.
Needless to say, it's not done, it's not perfect, but I think it will look much more pleasing to the eyes when I'm finished. I'm going to pick up a load of small boulders in the upcoming week or two so I can line the bed with something definitive. Right now the front border is being determined by a huge cumbersome tree root. I can see why the previous owners never really did anything with the back yard - it was brutual trying to dig around those tree roots. The same thing that I love about Pleasant Ridge will probably turn out to be the thing that gives me back pain - the beautiful old rooty trees.
I've been spoiled up until now - balcony container gardening is MUCH less work than actually sweating over a shovel.