Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

A New Front Entry

A month flew by and lots have happened. We have been spending time with our first foster dog, Dazumble. She quickly came out of her shell and is now a happy, sweet, dorky, and loyal pup.

Besides working our full-time jobs and taking Dazumble to weekly adoption events, we accomplished a feel-good project at the ranch house – a new front porch.


Below was the front porch when we purchased the house. We tackled this area immediately after moving in, including demoing the awning and the old sinking concrete patio, replacing the storm door and painting the front door a new color, and laying the drainage rocks.


Then the front porch looked like this for the last six years. It was always in our plan to rebuild a concrete front porch. The drainage rock was meant to be temporary, just to hold down the plastic underneath and to prevent water penetration.


To my surprise, this gravel area has worked well for the last 6 years. The melting snow and spring rain flew down to the pathway below and the lawn smoothly, and the 3/4″ rocks stayed in place. We never needed to add more rocks. Overall, this “temporary” solution was functional. However, we still wished for a real concrete patio for better look.



Came around this June, one of our neighbors did a concrete project and brought in some contractors. We had a chance to talk to the contractor about this porch job. In early July, Slav removed all the drainage rocks (and incorporated them into other areas around the house), lifted the 6 mil plastic, and the new concrete porch was poured.


New porch was levered with the adjacent pathway and went around the window well we installed ourselves. It was finished with a nice broom finish to match the pathway.


Just like that, we have a large and leveled surface next to the house again. The new porch patio is in a cooler grey color when compared to the older door steps and pathway, but it certainly looks better than the colorful gravel!


Although we are not interested in furnishing the front porch, we do want to add a couple planters for seasonal colors. Slav also requested some screening plants in front of the pathway, just to obscure the exposed foundation and the window well from the street.


So the same week when the concrete patio was finished, I placed order for eight Green Mountain boxwood. The plan was to grow a low and evergreen hedge to hide all the concrete from the street. It will also to make the front porch look more formal and tidy.


I chose the “Green Mountain” variety for its bright green foliage, resistance to winter burn, and its upright growing habit. Leaving alone, the Green mountain boxwood grows naturally into a cone shape, so it does not require as much trimming as other varieties of boxwood. Leaving untrimmed, these boxwoods will grow into a line of connecting cones, and stay above 4′ tall. We will likely trim the sides and top to keep a more formal, smooth wall-like look.


Here are the boxwood, all planted! We cut away the sod to create a skinny flower bed, then planted all the boxwoods in line. When reaching maturity, these boxwood plants will grow over 3′ wide, so their canopies will completely cover the mulched area.


So, this is our curb appeal as of today. It might not look like not a big change when compared the “before” look just a few weeks ago, but it is a good start for something lush and lively in a few years. Imagine when the boxwoods grow into a 4′ tall green wall, with a couple tall planters behind it filled with summer annuals. The honeysuckle will cover the trellises around Slav’s office window by then. Cannot wait!


Privacy Planting around the Hot Tub




Since purchasing the ranch house 6 years ago, we have been planting trees in our backyard to add shade and privacy. We put five fruit trees along the back fence and two hazelnut trees along the northern fence. Last year, we installed a hot tub near the northern fence. Unfortunately, none of the trees we planted were close enough to provide any privacy.


We considered adding a pergola over the hot tub, but crossed off the idea quickly. I enjoy looking up the night sky while hot tubbing, and did not want any structure over the hot tub. We eventually decided to plant more privacy trees around the hot tub. Although this approach will take a few years to come into effect, it only costs a fraction of a pergola, and we will be able to bring more shade and biodiversity to our backyard.


Creating a wisteria arbor

The hot tub is only 15 feet away from our northern neighbor’s fence. Being on a slope the hot tub sits significantly higher than the neighbor’s yard. People can see us going in and out of the hot tub over the fence. So we really need to screen off the space above the fence, between the two hazelnut trees.


There are only about 8 feet distance between the canopies of the hazelnut trees. We decided to install an arbor and grow a wisteria vine here. This will bring the foliage right up where we needed it, a fast way to block the view over the fence.


The wisteria variety is “Amethyst Falls“. It is a fast grower, but stays relatively tame compared to other varieties. It will reach 15-20 feet tall and 8 feet wide, a perfect fit for the space between the two hazelnut trees. I found a 4 feet wide garden bench from a thrift store for the space under the new arbor. The wisteria leaves will cast some much needed shade on the bench, making it a great sitting spot in the garden.


To offer strong support for the wisteria, we decided to build a permanent arbor made using cedar posts, instead of buying a metal trellis online. Slav and I went to our favorite fence supply store and got a couple 4″x4″s and 2″ x 6″s for the build. I picked the simplest design, and Slav built it in our garage in like 10 minutes.


Three 50-pound bags of concrete (leftover from our 2018 fence build!) were used to secure the 4″x4″ posts in the ground. I racked away the mulch then Slav dug the holes. We had lots of experience setting posts from our horizontal fence build. Everything went so fast that I barely had chance to take pictures!





After the concrete had dried, we took off the bracing of the arbor and planted the wisteria. This spot suddenly looked so cute!


The picture below were taken when I stood behind the hot tub. You can see the a few feet of the space we are trying to screen off. I mounted a piece of cattle panel on the arbor so I can train the wisteria to grow up at an angle.


Planting a weeping Alaskan cedar

While the new wisteria arbor can block the view from the neighbor’s yard, we still need to find a solution for the view for their back windows. In the summer months, one of the hazelnut trees can effectively block this view. However, during winter months, the hazelnut tree loses its leaves and no longer offers the same privacy. To create an all-season screen in front of the fence, I chose a weeping Alaskan cedar.


I have wanted a weeping evergreen for a long time. I have considered weeping white pine and weeping colorado spruce, but they are both too big for our urban backyard especially at a spotย so close to the houses and a fence. Weeping Alaskan cedar trees only grow 8-12 feet circumference when mature, but reaches 20 feet tall in our climate. It is the perfect specimen for this narrow space.

Weeping Alaskan Cedar For Sale Online | The Tree Center

Above is a picture of a full grown weeping alaskan cedar. I like its straight central trunk and dense, pendulous branches. Even the side branches are long, the weeping habit of the branches keeps its footprint contained. I planted the weeping cedar 5 feet away from the fence. So even when it is fully grown, the branches should barely touch the fence.


Once full grown, this weeping cedar will not only add privacy to the hot tub, but also serve as an all-season screen between the two back patios. To save some time, I splurge for a more mature and taller tree. It was over 5 feet tall when it came to our house this Spring. Given its fast growing rate (4-6 inches per year), it should start performing in 3-4 years.

Adding an arborvitae hedge

Last fall, we added six “north pole” arborvitaes in the side yard. The spot is right next to the neighbor’s garage and a small alley, where they keep the trash cans, construction materials, and lawn equipment. Although privacy is not a big issue here, we do want to mask the old fence and the utility alley. The “north pole” arborvitae grows to 12-15 feet tall and 4 feet wide. We planted them 3 feet apart, so they can grow into a green wall when mature.


We planted the same variety of arborvitae in our front yard in 2018. They are now over 6 feet tall and bulked up really nicely. Knowing that these trees grow fast, we purchased smaller size to save some $$$. But after one winter, these little trees already put on some decent growth.


Planting magnolia tree and shrubs on the east side


While building the retaining wall around the hot tub, we added a small flower bed on the east side. It is already 3-4 feet higher than the hot tub patio, so small trees/large shrubs are sufficient to screen the hot tub on this side.


Last Fall, I planted a Jane magnolia as an anchor plant in this area.


The magnolia tree lost all its leaves in winter, but this Spring, it leafed out beautifully, and produced the most beautiful flower in May.


This magnolia tree will grow up to 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide. I will be training its branches to go over the hot tub which should be magical during the flower season. In the middle of the bed, I planted a pieris mountain fire. I first saw this plant in a display garden in Nashville, TN and immediately fell in love. The new growth on this plant is intense red, which gives it such an unique and striking appearance. It should reach 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide, a perfect second tier next to the 15 feet tall magnolia tree.


The very end of the bed is too small for perennials, so I seeded three cosmos to add some color. I really like the pink and purple cosmos next to the bright red leaves on the pieris mountain fire. I think this spot can be used for pink annuals every year.


Adding weeping redbud trees on the east and south side

The last two trees we added for the hot tub are weeping redbud trees, a variety called “lavender twist“. The first one was planted on the east side of the hot tub, close to the shed patio. Although far away from the hot tub itself, it sits right between the east side house and the hot tub. Once the leaves fill in, it will create a 10′ x 10′ waterfall-like dense foliage to block the view from the east side.


Here is how the redbud tree looks from 10 feet back, through the herb garden. It should look really good in a couple years!


The second weeping redbud tree were planted in the patio garden bed, on the south side of the hot tub.


Same as the other weeping redbud, it is already at a decent height and once the leaves are filled in, this tree will screen the view from our southern neighbor. The shrub behind the red bud is a snowball bush viburnum. It will eventually grow into a 6โ€“10 ft tall and wide multi-stem shrub, adding another layer of greenery on the south side.


A quick view of the new garden beds

Walking around the hot tub area, I cannot believe how different our backyard looks compared to last Fall. Although half empty, the new garden beds flew nicely and the anchor plants looked so lovely.



Remember the side yard I planted last Fall? All the bareroot hostas sprouted this spring. There are also six lady ferns. Although they are all super small this Spring, I think they will cover the entire side yard in just a few years.


There is still lots of space to fill, and I am excited to plant more perennials! I would love to add more pink and purple colors to this area, such as gaura, purple cone flowers, lavender, alliums, and maybe some smooth hydrangeas. Now we have the bones of the garden established, the rest is more of play than work to me. We have done so much but there is still so much to do – but this is what makes gardening fun. Do you agree?


Someone must be waiting for me

Happy 4th of July, everyone! If you have been paying attention to my instagram feed, you must have noticed a new addition to our household – our foster puppy, Dazumble.

Slav and I have been talking about fostering for a long time. With all the house renovation going on, we did not want to expose shelter dogs who are likely sensitive and skittish to construction noises and potential hazard materials. Last summer, we wrapped up the interior renovations, and immediately adopted Charlie, a 2-year-old hound mix.

It took Charlie over 9 months to completely bond with us. Once he started acting totally secure and relaxed, Slav and I started to consider fostering again. We visited a few shelters to learn about their foster programs, and eventually settle on Soul Dog Rescue, the same shelter we we adopted Charlie from. The Soul Dog Rescue is a local shelter serving the rural communities on Native American reservations. They come to the tribal lands periodically to offer free spay and neuter services, and bring stray and surrendered dogs and cats back to the shelter in the Denver area. We applied to their foster program in May, went through background checks and a house visit, and got approved! This week, we finally were able to bring our first foster home.


Dazumble was born in the shelter. Her mother was captured while being pregnant, and she and her siblings were raised in the shelter until they were ready to be adopted. Growing up in kennels, Daz had not been exposed to a regular household. Generally, she is scared of leaving a place, and does not want to be put on a leash. Our hope is that by living with us, even just for a few weeks, she can be house trained, get familiar with household items, and get used to seeing new people and spaces. Being comfortable with the big outside world will help her to be more social during adoption events, which helps her to find her new family!


We brought her home on a Saturday. She was a bit scared at first, but started playing with Charlie quickly. Being with other dogs probably helped her to feel safe. By Wednesday, she has mastered the doggy door, slept through the nights, and become BFFs with Charlie and Roxie.


We ordered her a new elevated dog bed just like the ones Roxie and Charlie have, so they can chill outside together.


But she definitely prefers sleeping inside – unless playing, she naps in her crate, on the sofa, or the living room carpet, or even in our bed.



The following Saturday, one week after we first brought Dazumble home, I took her to her first adoption event! She was a bit nervous when I dropped her off, but she let the adoption workers take her inside without a problem. She did well there, and when I brought her home, she ran straight to Charlie and started playing.


So far, Daz has been with us for 10 days, and is doing excellent. I can already tell that she will be an excellent family pet. She is smart, calm, playful, and independent. I am sure the right family will come soon! It is heartbroken to see how many animals waiting behind bars for their forever family. But I see hope in their eyes. “I do not know where I will be, but I know someone must be waiting for me. “

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