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Friday | 23 October 2020 | La Quinta, California: When we decided to buy this house, we asked Arnold Castro - the contractor (Desert Isles) who built our casita at the Motorcoach Country Club - to have a look. Arnold has lived in the area for years, knows the developments, and somehow can notice a possible problem that we would have never noticed. Arnold knew who built our house, and which company installed the pool at a glance. He knew the house had good bones, but needed a little cosmetic and landscaping help.

The house is built around a central courtyard, accessed from the street, through a covered walkway with two exterior gates (a complete mezuzzah placement nightmare!). The courtyard has doors leading to the kitchen, the living room, and the guest wing. However, it was most uninviting. Nothing had been done to even remotely make anyone feel welcome upon passing through the two gates, nor would there be any reason to linger or relax in the large space. The only thing visible upon entering was the roof expanse. Ugly.

Even with flowers in the pots - the space was uninviting. The cement was ugly.
Door to the kitchen area

So... since the kids have gone back to Los Angeles for a few weeks, we took the opportunity for Arnold and his crew to get to work - transforming the ugly courtyard to a functional, shady, inviting, pretty space. I was also interested in re-creating the pots we have at the Motorcoach Country Club to grow herbs and tomatoes.

The kids left Saturday. Monday morning, two guys showed up with a jackhammer.

Tuesday afternoon

On Day 2, we had a blank slate. Let the fun begin!

On Day 3, a deep hole was dug in the middle of the courtyard:

Then a crane showed up...
... followed by a nursery truck (we get one of the palms).
Last-minute cameo of Arnold Castro during last seconds of video - in blue shirt

That was a lot of work for one short-ish palm, but this is how palms are planted in the Coachella Valley, and we have witnessed this scenario countless times at the Motorcoach Country Club.

The palm was flooded with water for two days. The fronds will remained tied-up for about a month - then the palm will act as a shady umbrella for our courtyard. Pavers will go down soon, followed with more plants and pots for my herb garden. Irrigation and lighting will also be installed. All of this had to be approved by the HOA, even though it is completely enclosed and unseen from the street!

And then we drove to La Quinta City Hall and exercised our franchise!

Happily, dinner was ready. Several years ago, I found a lamb+eggplant recipe from Mark Bittman, and it is now one of our favorites.

Of course, I cheat - making it RV-friendly. Chunk-up an eggplant, plop some ground lamb around it. Salt and pepper, drizzle of olive oil. Roast. Then, instead of making the ragu from the recipe, I add a jar of really good (I used Rao's) marinara and a glug of wine, and dinner is ready. Dinners, actually. Half of the lamb-eggplant ragu went back into the sauce jar and is in the freezer. I added the remainder of the ragu to boiled penne, sprinkled a little Parmesean over, and baked.

(Blurry, oops.) Parsley: Must. Garnish.

As I type this Friday morning, the crew are leveling the sandy dirt around the palm tree, prepping for paver placement. We did not choose our pavers. This design element is best left to a person with good taste: Arnold.

Until my next update, I remain, your dusty correspondent.

5 thoughts

  1. Terry, you are so right! My parents have had a home in the desert since the early 80’s and those court yards were such “afterthoughts” when it came to design. But there’s so much potential (especially when those winds kick up and having a walled off area would be a great! Looking forward to the “Taylor Manor South Oasis” transformation!

  2. Court yard should be cool and inviting when finished. Do you have a fire pit?
    Your grandkids seem to love s’mores so don’t forget to have Desert Isles add one for them

    1. We have a firepit in the back of the house – poolside. The grandkids love it for S’mores!

  3. The courtyard is so important, it should look welcoming and inspired. But I can’t get that frosted glass door out of my head. It suggest a bathroom or tool shed. Even more so if that is the main entrance. Maybe a geometric stained glass insert? If you must have total privacy, maybe a sandblasted design of a bird, palm trees, or sunset? A hotel in San Diego had doors with full length jalousie windows, except instead of glass they had wood inserts. Open they provided ventilation, and closed total privacy. Partially open they offered privacy and ventilation.

    1. Phil: the heavy metal door is the SECOND entrance to our courtyard. It is open all day – leaving the simple wrought-iron (see through) gate as the entrance all day. We close the heavy iron door at night because it locks.

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