Archive for category Green
It has been a sweet summer in our small garden. Stamps-With-Foot has really stepped up and has been planting, weeding, watering, picking fruit, staking dahlias and has even once turned the compost and added chicken manure. I have been both shocked and impressed. She even talked me into having some corn planted in the raised boxes this year. She bought the starts, planted them, made sure they were well hydrated and is now about to harvest 15+ ears of yellow sweet corn. Her squash has been prolific and we will have more soybeans this fall than we will know what to do with. Happily surprised at my bride’s greening thumb…
So far this season, we have harvested 25 heads of garlic, 10 sweet yellow onions, 30+ yellow and green squash, a few Roma tomatoes (still very early in the season), 4+pints of raspberries (late summer crop just starting), 3 pints of wonderfully sweet blackberries, figs, apricots, 1 apple (more to come), a gallon+ of cherries, spinach, 5 beets, more Swiss and rainbow chard than I care to remember, 2 pints of small strawberries, a pint-ish of blueberries, and we have supplied three households with rosemary, sage, pineapple sage, thyme, basil, Thai basil, Moroccan mint, and spearmint. We have been trading produce with some other members of our family for eggs and with two sets of neighbors for veggies and flowers. Stamps-With-Foot mentioned the other day that she felt like Marie Antoinette with her little Austrian Hobby farm in the shadow of Versailles.
The amazing amount of flowers (except for the lavender and roses) have all been cared for by my sweet wife and a neighbor from across the street. Both front and back yards have been perfumed since early spring.
It has been roughly eight months since my shop was robbed. It is just now that I have found the will and desire to start building furniture again. I have let projects and repairs pile up and let my garage shop digress into a sawdust filled junk-room. There have been parts for Adirondack lawn chairs in my basement and shop since December. I finally got around to gluing them up and screwing the pieces together when my son was here this summer. That little project led me to start cleaning the shop and find all the stuff that has been waiting on me. I dabbled with a couple of boxes, then started making pieces and organizing tools and supplies to tackle the larger stuff. Below is a list of current projects that are in work:
- Painting the Adirondack chairs
- Re-build of my father’s 1971 bookshelves
- Kitchen cabinet doors
- Misc. Lathe tasks
- Kitchen cabinet pullouts
- Camp Kitchen box build and paint
- Campaign furniture for luxury car camping
- Hall mirror
- Copy of a 12th Century Abby oak door
- Fireplace surround and mantle
- New Kitchen cabinet pulls and knobs
- Garden tool shed
- Christmas gifts
- Garden table
The above are started and in-work. I have plans to also build the below items soon:
- Small basement work bench (reloading and winter projects)
- Rebuild bookcase in master bedroom
- Murphy bed for my home office
- Box ceiling for master bedroom
- Home office bookshelves
- Chicken coop
- Ornamental planter box
- Cookbook shelf in kitchen
- Rebuild my standing desk
- Basement stairs rebuild
I “discovered” Monocle Magazine while living in Hamburg. As I was perusing my favorite bookstore there after work one day, I happened upon a new glossy – interesting title, bike wheel on the cover, quality paper, hmmm… I have a mistress and she has two wheels, so anything that is smartly bike related catches my attention. I sat down, read a little and fell in love. There were articles about bikes interspaced with design, global politics, a Japanese comic, well-designed fonts (I grow nerdier every day…), lifestyle, city profiles, travel, branding, craft and men’s accoutrements.
The premiere issue of Monocle was launched in February 2007 and the bike issue happened to be the third issue of the magazine. Monocle is headed by Tyler Brûlé, a Canadian-born journalist who also writes/wrote a good weekly editorial for the International Herald Tribune and has some serious chops as a journalist and writer: BBC, The Guardian, Stern, The Sunday Times, Vanity Fair, runs a design firm, and was shot by a sniper while covering the war in Afghanistan…
One of my guilty pleasures in life is buying Monocle Magazine at a specific magazine stand near “C” concourse at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport. Which sounds snobby, but I am SOOO unsnobby (except for coffee and beer…). It is just happenstance that for the last couple of years, I travel through Amsterdam every couple of months and it has coincided (give or take a week or two) with the release of each new issue. On one of my recent trips to England I got to spend an off-day in London. I made it a point to detour into the Marylebone neighborhood and into the first Monocle retail store (there are now five along with podcasts, a radio show and a TV spot on Bloomburg) to buy the most current issue. The shopping experience was great: small, but well stocked store, attentive staff, my purchased was wrapped like I was in a Tokyo stationary shop, and I had missed a visit by Tyler Brûlé by 20 minutes. The Monocle HQ is close by and he apparently stops in from time to time.
Magical Spring has finally come to Le Maison du Talley. Our rhododendrons are back and in full pooping bloom after they were hacked back last year. The tulips, daffodils, and poppies have all decided to bloom at the same time. The Spanash, English and Provence lavender has taken root and flourished along the front fence. After a two year struggle with blossom-rot, the two cherries up front are full of flowers and green cherries. We have Mandarin orange blossoms, apple blossoms, apricots, figs, raspberry buds, a fence line of blooming roses, and 3 Meyer’s lemons on the dwarf tree in our backyard mini-orchard.
Stamps-with-Foot and I planted garlic and onions in the fall that are close to being pulled and we spent an afternoon planting tomatoes, squash, corn, and zucchini in two of our raised beds. After in initial problem with early blight last year, our two full beds of tomatoes went NUTS! and we had more that we could use or give away. We were more selective this year and planted just a couple varieties and only 7 plants. I hot-housed a bed of spinach, Swiss Chard, and beats all winter that is now in full production mode.
I plan to be home more this summer and really spend some time tending and harvesting, although one wouldn’t know it from all the traveling so far. I can’t wait until mid-August when I can sit in my cotton hammock, gently swinging over my Ireland-green grass, drinking a Dunkel Weissbeir, snuggling my wife, and patting our puppy while gazing out onto our yard and garden.
Spring has finally decided to show up in Seattle! I am all giddy. Yesterday was Easter and the sun was out, birds were singing, my flowers are blooming, and my grass in Ireland green. I spent the morning, edging, mowing, raking, reseeding and assaulting my hated foe, the dandelions. I spent ALL DAY outside working on projects, fixing stuff that has waited for me all winter, working on a bookshelf for Stamps-With-foot’s sewing room, sharpening garden tools, and soaking in as much sunshine as possible. Brodie took up residence in his favorite patch of grass and alternately munched and napped. The end of his short snout got a little pink. I think that he is happier than I am about the sunshine. I am sitting inside at my J-O-B and I can see a little sliver of sunshine. I want to make a break for it!
As for Easter celebrations: There were chocolate & peanut butter eggs from my pretty wife, a Cadbury egg from my sister, and I purchased a hollow chocolate bunny, which I savaged, starting with its cute bunny ears… Brodie and I had a wonderful lunch of ham and ham, oh and more ham at my family’s place. Pork is bad for both of us and I was careful not to have any open flames around the house last night. Stamps-With-Foot is in Northern California visiting her sister and best friend in the world, so she was spared.
I am sitting in our breakfast nook, drinking coffee and getting mentally prepped for my J-O-B. As I sip my needed and delicious cup o’ joe, I can see the winter sunrise reflecting off the tips of the frost covered grass in the front yard. It has me ruminating on the intensity, goals, minor failures, and harvest from this years garden and yard work.
I spent our very cold spring getting our raised boxes ready for a bumper crop: perfect soil mix, irrigation lines, compost, etc… The tomatoes were planted a little early and they got an early blight that stunted them for a time, but they came back in force and we had more tomatoes than we new what to do with this year. I didn’t get the onions in the ground soon enough or plant garlic at all, so e ultimately gathered 2 medium white onions and I left the rest of the shoots in the ground this fall, planted winter garlic and covered them with straw so the we will have a summer crop next year.
We feel our biggest success was with our greens. Planted spinach, butter lettuce, and chard that fed us all summer. There was an unfortunate incident with the broccoli (bugs, microwave, crunchy dinner…), but on the whole our bed of greens was were most of the bang for our buck came from.
Fall hurt a little. I was away a good bit traveling for work and the garden was neglected. My very first apple was stolen by a squirrel, the slugs went NUTS on the last of the tomato crop. Fvcking slugs… There will be a battle next year and I am planning on a plan of full slug eradication. There was some definite success though: we gathered almost 2 gallons of raspberries, made mint mojitos and mint juleps from the 6 types of mint I have growing in containers. There were probably 3 bushels of tomatoes that came out of one 3×7 raised bed – really. We had our first lemon, first fig, cherries, huckleberries, strawberries (also hurt by the squirrels though), a full cup of blue berries, beets, greens, and lot of knowledge gained through screwing up.
Thoughts for this winter and next year:
Death to all slugs!!
Need more bees early in the season for fruit trees – hang some mason bees in a warm area.
Grow starts in basement and do not plant too early.
Mulch raspberries and roses.
Cut all blackberries out.
Need more drip irrigation hose.
Raise kitchen herb planters up another foot off the ground.
Raise strawberry pots up as well.
Prune tomato flowers so that crop is smaller and fruit larger.
Use apple bags to keep apple pests at bay.
Spray fruit trees early!
Spray roses with anti-rust/fungal early and monthly.
Spend more time in garden.
On a recent weekend, Stamps-With-foot and I met some friends at a campsite on the slopes of Mt. Rainer, situated next to a clear, cool, rushing river. It was a welcome vacation from my iPhone, computer, the J-O-B, projects at home and was an adventure is truly luxurious camping: glamping. We had soft warm double beds, million dollar views, canvas recliners, teak side tables, flowers in vases, steak for dinner, champagne both nights, a hardwood fueled fire, fresh pastries, good wine, table cloths, linen napkins, and a curtained canopied dining room. There were even antique Japanese pearls presented and worn (thanks for upping the b-day present giving bar Dave… you dick). The only thing that separated it from a Victorian safari was the absence of white jacketed & gloved natives and the whole killing of endangered species thing.
All we brought to this gathering was a family sized tent, an air mattress, a set of cast iron Dutch ovens & griddle, some yummy food, good booze, and very sharp kitchen knives. Our Portland friends added all the rest of the good stuff. My normal camping experience often requires a nasty 10+ mile uphill hike (both ways), carrying all my junk (with most of the wife’s as well) & 25+ pounds of climbing gear. Evenings and EARLY mornings are often spent hovering over a tiny stove to warm up some dehydrated crap-surprise, sleeping in a tiny tent, on a thin short blow-up pad, pumping my own water, and waking up to instant coffee. It might be age talking, but I think that I might prefer the linen napkin approach. I am now plotting my own glamping plush set up. Next time we all go camping together, it is going to look like a Moroccan Pasha has come over for a weekend – walled tents, plush pillows, curtains, chests, and feasting…
I feel the need to mention that the next time I see Dave I am going to hit him square in the taint for upping the ante with the amazing pearls… Stamps-With-Foot is now expecting antique Japanese pearls, wrestled from the jaws of a giant clam by a tiny woman diver who held her breath for like 15 minutes and fought, almost to the death, for the prize… Yep, SMACK!! right in the baby-maker for this one David. I hope your wife treated you well for the thought and originality of your beautiful gift, as you will soon look back on those halcyon nights of pleasure with non-functioning fondness.
Sometimes I get reminded that my job really isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things and that I am a dumb-ass. Such was the case when I got pulled over for talking on my cell on the way to work. The police officer asked me why I was talking on said phone and I told him, “because I’m and idiot.” He nodded in agreement and handed me a ticket for $240. I am not the least bit butt-hurt about this ticket. I fully deserved it. I will not be talking on the phone while driving again and I hope the funds go to schools or the library.
Speaking of good laws: the City of Seattle now says it is a crime (fine included) to not scoop up after your dog. I couldn’t be happier. I hate to find a big steaming pile of dog deuce on my fresh mowed grass (it happens a lot) and I curse both the dropper and their owner. No, like a real curse, not just dirty words, but I do throw a couple of those in for good measure. It usually sounds something like: “May your kibble forever taste like the poop you dropped on my lawn, may fleas torment you, and my your dog snack on your warm corpse after you have a painful demise alone at home…” I do what I can for the cause…
After 100+ days of rain, spring is finally here. I only really know that because my lapin cherry tree and the ornamentals on the block are in full blossom. Hopefully, all the hard work done in the rain and mud till now is about to start paying off.
Prep has been the theme for the past few months. I spent some quality time killing yard moss, reseeding in the front and back yards, adding weed and feed, conducting property-wide dandelion genocide, planting 70+ bulbs, and getting the soil in the garden bed ready for the tomatoes, carrots, onions and garlic. In addition to finishing the raised beds and converting the cat litter-filled pond into a flower planter for my wife, I have cut all the trash trees, vines, and blackberries from my south fence. My neighbor on that side keeps his home and yard in the Miss Havisham fashion. I have taken three loads of branches/leaves/vines to the dump and I can now see from one end of our property to the other. So far this year his pine tree has delivered three 5-gallon buckets worth of pinecones in my front yard and I have had to clean my gutters three times. I have a sneaking suspicion that the particular pine tree in question is not long for this world… There is a holly tree of some relation that is not looking all that well either...
I finally got a great espalier apple tree in the ground, two columnar apples to flank it, and an additional cherry (a glacier) up front. There is now a fig for Laurel, a dwarf Helena apricot from Dave&Sarah, a Satsuma, and an Improved Meyer lemon – all in containers so we can hot-house them this winter. For the side yard, there are two huckleberries in bloom – ready to plant. The last rose bush (a J&P Radiant Perfume) has been planted on the back fence and irrigation lines have been run to the roses, garden boxes, raspberries, and fruit trees.
The Apricot and citrus trees will stay in containers so that I can
move them into a hot-house when the temperature drop in the fall.
The multiple weird cold snaps this year have been decidedly unhealthy for my strawberry pots, but the kitchen herbs planted last spring are doing well. The orange-mint has taken over a rectangular container and the rosemary is starting to bloom tiny baby-blue flowers. The two sunshine blueberries in pots are covered in small white blossoms and the grass in front and back is thick, healthy, and Ireland green – I can’t wait to string up the hammock and snooze gently swinging above my lawn. Although I still have dandelion farms on either side there have been very few that have dared to peak up in the grand lawn of Le Maison Du Talley this year. Their appearance has been followed with swift and forceful retribution. Speaking of the weed farms adjacent to me: It seems that someone sprayed them in the middle of the night with Scott’s liquid death. Now all the yellow-orange flowers that they were cultivating seem to be shriveling up. I think it was the gnomes. -I have a couple of English garden gnomes that are leftist lawn militants. The local dogs give our place a wide berth – narry a singe poop on the parking strip this year and there is a racoon living over at Miss Havisham’s and they are preparing to hunt safari-style…
The second of three loads of branches taken to the dump in the last month. My neighbor loves me so much that he shares his trees and yard waste with me…
Stamps-With-Foot and I went down to Portland for Easter weekend… as if we had all the freetime in the world – no projects looming over us – and a pot of money. We have some dear friends there that have just had a baby and we went down to meet him and hang out with them. Holy Pork Chop on a Stick!! The weather was AWESOME!! I am talking 65 degrees, blue skies, sunshine – the works. Saturday found us in a green city park, sitting under a tree, having a picnic, and swigging mimosas! It was a really laid back day and just what the doctor ordered. We spent Easter Sunday with an old family friend who happens to be Jewish – I always imagined the Easter bunny as having Hasidic roots… After a lazy morning, yummy coffee, and a terriffic breakfast, we drove into downtown and went to the Portland Chinese Garden. Our friend is on the Board of Directors there and we got in for free. Although the rain came back, we had a phenomal time walking the paths, finding nooks and alternate views. There was a late lunch at the tea house and the ladies partook of sake and plum wine.
The wife and I strive to have as little impact as possible on the world around us. My green lawn is chemical free, our firewood is shop-scrap and blown-down timber, our garden is organic, we conserve water and electricity, I compost our kitchen and yard waste, we are looking at honey and egg production this year, we recycle or reuse over 92% of our waste (real number – I calculated it out over a three month period by volume), I build furniture and cabinets from recycled and thrown away wood, and we either carpool or I ride to work most days.
However, we have a dirty little secret that needles at my green-bent little soul at least a couple of times a day – the massive 1942 oil-fired heater in our basement. We burn diesel to warm our home. Worse, we burn it in an antiquated heater that our service person said was “…about 30% efficient…” I feel like I and wearing a scarlet H (hypocrite) on my chest. We HAVE to do something about it!
I had considered switching to biodiesel, but so much oil is used in the production of bio-crops (tractor feul and fertilizer) that there is actually more oil used to produce most available biodiesel than regular fuel. I do not have the time, room, and am not zoned properly to produce my own biodiesel from used fryer oil. We have instead decided to replace our war and famine-fueled antique oil guzzler with a modern heat pump. I wanted a closed-loop geothermal system and we have the ground space for it, but the $25K price tag put it out of reach. We have instead opted for an above ground model that will have an electric booster for when the outside ambient temperature falls below 30 degrees Fahrenheit. It will increase our winter electric bill some, which now sits at ~$40 a month, but it will give us air-conditioning for the one week a year that we need it and the projected price increase (~$20 a month) will be offset by the $2K+ savings on oil every winter. The system has a 20 year warrantee and will pay for its self in fuel savings in three years J I wanted it installed last fall, but it looks like it will go in this summer.
Additionally, I am installing a fireplace insert upstairs and am building an electric “fireplace” for the basement family room to help out when the temperature drops. We have only lost power once in the year and a half that we have been in our home, but just in case I am having an auxiliary generator adaptor wired to our main panel during the kitchen remodel so that our heat pump, fridge, freezer, stove, water heater and a few lights will be available if a storm or wind knocks our power out.
It seems that La Maison du Talley is in constant project mode. There are two furniture refinishing projects happening in the unfinished side of our basement, there is an inch of sawdust on my shop floor, the front and back yards are still in various stages of completion, and my project idea/sketch book is quickly filling with new stuff.
I have finished a good number of things on my plate and have vowed to finish everything currently under construction or re-construction before beginning anything new. I decided that as winter closes and spring dawns to take advantage of the better weather and rising temperatures (better for painting and finishing) and get some stuff knocked off. In that vein, I had a very productive weekend:
I built and installed an irrigation system for the backyard made with ¾ PVC. There are drip hose attachment points, ball valves, and splitters for ancillary hose attachments. I built it so that I can later install a timer for watering the fruit trees and veggies when we are out of town and a coupler to flush the pipes with compressed air before the first freeze every year. The total cost was less than a $100, I spent maybe 8 hours of labor from concept design to finish, and the shear convenience of it will pay off in spades in the years to come.
Last spring I acquired the top half of a built-in dish cabinet/hutch that had been ripped/sawed out of a 1920’s house. It was missing one side, had no back, covered a thick coat of unknown layers of paint, and scrapes and gouges all over it. I looked past its current state and saw some potential for some period appropriate and beautiful basement storage, so I picked it up for a steal and brought it home. It languished there in the basement, covered with plastic and accumulating junk on top through my shoulder recovery, the excitement of the summer, and during our fall of rest and relaxation.
I got serious about it a couple of weeks ago and after, squaring the cabinet with joined pipe clamps, I installed a beadboard back – real beadboard and not the plywood facsimile. I had Stamp-With-Foot help glue and drive a few nails so she would get an appreciation of the scope of the rebuild. I also took her with me to the millwork store and she picked out some decorative edge molding that I incorporated into a built up crown detail. I really appreciated her input as it made the project seem more like ours than just mine. After re-gluing and adding screws to all the joints, I installed a new side piece and 3” structural beams for mounting it to the wall – it will be holding a good bit of weight and I wanted the load evenly distributed on the whole piece.
My little wife helped me man-handle it into place and attach it to the walls. I spent an evening last week gluing up a custom top with clear grained popular and pine – it will have additional recessed storage in the top. While milling the edges on the top edge, I realized that I had used my father’s tools to do almost the entire job. I made me both smile and a little sad. My father helped give me the skill to build cabinets and furniture; he taught me that doing something right and making it beautiful were one and the same. I am using his tools because they became mine when he passed away and it made me wish that he were still here to see my adult ability to build and create, to help teach my son (his namesake) the same lessons I learned, and to just sit quietly and listen to him talk about his day and experience his warm smile.
I spent Saturday night and Sunday evening installing the new top and bits of trim. I built all the pieces perfectly square and there was a hiccup during installation as the walls of our 1928 house and the actual dimensions of our “new” 1920 cabinet are anything but… I called the wife down, she gave me her opinion (better than my own in this case) and I spent some quality time with a razor-sharp draw knife, a svelte jack plane, and creatively used a couple of long shims to make it all both work and look good. All the trim is now installed and the whole thing turned out really nice. We will do a little more scraping before priming the bare wood and paint it all with a gloss white trim paint. I will ost about it again when the finished cabinet is ready for unveiling.
Note: Stamps-With –Foot has now informed me that this is the last project that I will do in the house until I install a dishwasher and build the additional cabinets in the kitchen. I will NOT complete the 1942 Philco Radio refinish, nope to reseeding the grass, the nook table remake will wait, no new fruit tree planting, the crown and headboard in our bedroom has been pushed and gym entertainment/storage cabinet is nixed until the Kitchen is done…
I have spent something like 40 total hours of labor over the entire summer and spent ~$250 to build the most over complicated raised garden bed boxes within a four mile radius. I have obsessed over the design & materials, changed the layout and location no more than 4 times and used child labor (my 9-year old son) during construction. We now have Garden Boxes that can support the weight of our entire house and my wife mentioned that I might need an intervention.
It all started when we decided to grow some veggies and I didn’t want to use treated lumber from Home Depot. I considered landscape bricks, but the total project cost would be over $700 for three 8X3X2’ beds. I wanted to use 3-inch thick cypress beams, as that particular wood is rot proof for 50+ years, but that type of wood is outrageously expensive here in the Pacific Northwest ~$1000 for the needed lengths. I considered redwood, but it was also too pricy to be left out in the yard, half covered with dirt. The predicament was solved for me when I happened upon a bunch of 4”X10”X8’ fir beams that were end cuts from a beam roof construction project in the neighborhood. As they were “scrap” I picked them up for a song.
In addition to the boxes, there will be an espalier apple tree and two columnar apples on that side of the yard. I wanted the garden boxes to mesh with that plan and still be functional, pretty, and to fit in with the style of our house & yard. To help with that goal, I decided to lap joint the corners of the boxes and use hardwood dowels to both keep the joints together and as homage to the period craftsmanship of our home. I know I have OCD. Since I was already using dowels, I wanted to marry the planks together (see drawing) so that the whole structure would be stronger and resist and bowing in the middle as the dirt pressed on the sides of the beds. I felt it might also be nice to add replaceable cedar top rails to shed water and to take the brunt of any abuse. I may have over-thought the concept and might have been better off just using concrete cinder blocks…
The finished product with espalier apple trees cartooned in.
Here are the exact steps to take in building raised garden boxes just like ours:
Buy lumber – get great deal
Bring home and cover with tarp
Let sit for a month
Measure and layout each joint with son’s help
Let son drop board on your shin
Try REALLY hard not to say curse words
By son ice cream.
Limp for a couple of days
Carefully cut all end notches with son
Tell him no when he wants to run the circle saw
Tel him no when he asks again every 10 minutes
Lit it all sit for 2 more weeks
Find really expensive combination square your son left in the grass
Smile because you love him anyway
Drill all dowel holes in the middle of the individual sections with spade bit
Let sit for a week in rain because you forgot to tarp it
Assembly all sections dry for 1st box
Realize that the pieces are now warped and twisted more than a bit
Say a LOT of curse words
Hand-fit each joint with a mallet and chisel
Cuss some more
Purchase ¾” X 2’ auger bit
Assemble 1st box with glue and dowels
Get HUGE splinter in palm
Say hurtful, mean things to the lumber & loudly question the legitimacy of its parentage
Cry a little while digging the jagged hunk of wood out with utility knife
Use Super Glue creatively as first aid supply
Spend a full hour getting 1st box square using one hand
Call it a night
Make sure the thing didn’t move while you were sleeping
Drill corners for dowels
Almost burn up drill
Look at sky and count to ten
Run out of waterproof wood glue
Say dirty words all the way to Home Depot
Buy bigger drill, glue, and more dowels
Apply glue and hammer in dowels with wooden mallet
Look over to see puppy chewing on your hat
Say the F-word
Retrieve soggy hat
Clamp box up with 8 huge pipe clamps
Let joints dry/sit for a week
Construct next two boxes with minimal dirty words
Let sit a further week
Ask 15 year old daughter if she wants to help
She will look at you like you are insane for the mere suggestion
Try not to break her phone when she returns to texting
Look up and count to twenty – repeat
Spread out boxes in yard and turn over
Apply two coats of white primer to bottoms of boxes
Get paint on favorite pair of shorts
Let wife help paint over primer with green outdoor paint
Look up and notice that wife has painted halfway down the box…
Take paint brush from wife
Say sweet things to her and laugh about the extra paint coverage
Let boxes sit for two days
Finish painting bottoms green (keep ground moisture out and blends with grass)
Let sit a week
Position in yard where they should finally go
Ask visiting friend for his opinion
Take his advice (as it is better than your plan) and reposition
Let wife see
Move 3 more times to make wife happy
Move back to position friend suggested
Let sit for a week
Get married to wife a second time and almost loose mind to stress
Have house full of guests for a week
Try not to kill Ross when he makes fun of your yard
Drink lots of beer
Buy gravel and hardware cloth for box foundation
Cut sod from under box locations and move to bare patch in front yard
Wife will work hard in front planting lavender and arranging sod
Lay hardware cloth and pour gravel footings
Spend Saturday with wife finally placing boxes
Drink beer and wine until you hurt the next day in celebration of your hard work
Let sit another week
Cut top rail on table saw
Decide to really complicate things by adding hardwood splines to top rail joint
Devise special spline jig for table saw
Cut last rail too short
DO NOT throw anything, close eyes and count to ten
Revert to cussing
Trip to Home Depot for extra cedar
Re-rip and re-miter last rail
Glue joints of rail and try not to glue rail to box
Wait 3 days and cut away spline waste
Find “cute” little ceramic tiles from the 1920’s that wife will love for boxes
Spend 2 nights in shop making custom cedar frames for the tiles
Add corner splines to match boxes just because
Measure twice to find box center
Attach tiles to front of the boxes with proper outdoor screws
Coat top rails with food-safe clear coat
Wait 2 days
Apply another coat and repeat
Show wife your handy-work and wait for her to swoon
Point out the joint details and all the thought that went into the build
Wait for batting of eyelashes and the swoon…
Mention the period tiles and their perfect symmetry
I got up semi-early Sunday, went out for a little yard work and noticed that 5 bright red ripe raspberries were waiting for me. I gave ‘em a little squeeze and decided to give them another 24hours before moving them from cane/stalk to my cereal bowl. I thought about them as I cleaned the garage and finished up a few little projects during the afternoon. My mom called and we were talking yard/garden stuff and while I was in the middle of telling her all about the raspberries, I looked out our bedroom window at them and a fvcking bird swooped in and started pecking away. Holy swamp-crotch!! I dropped the phone and ran out of the back door barefoot to save Monday’s breakfast. I was too late – only one of the ripe ones survived the avian assault. I MAY have eaten it greedily while hunched over glaring about with murderous intent for any feathered “friend” who happened to have flown by… It looks like I will be off to the Garden Center in the morning for netting. At least it was only a few berries and not a whole crop.
My strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries are all comming along and it will be July before most of them are ready, so I have some time to set up my anti-bird blockade.
We spent some serious time in the yard this past weekend. I was “asked” by my lovely wife to move the compost bins for the third time… Then, I spent an hour with a chainsaw cutting stumps off below ground level in the spot where we plan to install our raised beds. The last stump gave the saw fits and I ended up having to attack it with a double bit axe, splitting maul, and pry bar. Holy crap! - it was work. It has been a long time since I swung an axe at something other than ice and snow. Following the defeat of the stumps, I mowed, raked moss from the grass, cut vines from the back fence, planted some shade-loving grass in a bare spot, removed three ferns, sweep the garage roof (don’t ask), watered the kitchen herbs and took care of the normal weeding/edging/mowing in the front.
My better half, helped me clean up the mess from the stumps, level the ground were they were removed from, move some of the cedar rounds left from cutting a tree, water the herbs, and she planted some begonias in a stone planter near the one fern that gets to keep living.
After all that, I took a nap in the hammock under our vine maple and had a dream about garden gnomes while laurel cranked up the grill. We had a pic-i-nic on the grass just before dark. As a note: I slept like a stone that night and woke up feeling 114 years old.
The smell of fresh clipped grass is one of those scents that transports you back in time to a summer making extra coin cutting the neighbors lawn or slaving away on your dad’s golf course green of a yard. It can either bring a smile to one’s face or twist the mouth into an outward sign for an inner loathing. I have a touch of the OCD when it comes to lawn care and have left every yard in every rental house I have ever lived in exponentially better shape than when I moved in. Today, I got to cut the grass for the very first time in my very own new home. It was magical for so many reasons: My house, my yard, my grass – not a rental and not my parents. The yard has so much potential to become a small, well-kept carpet of medium length green, shaded by a fruit tree, edged with flowers and lavender, and fenced with wrought-iron. Edging and mowing our own little patch of Heaven made my dark little soul happy, well that and I got to spend some time murdering dandelions. That weed has no place in my universe. They are a hateful green grass-cancer that has to be pulled up by the root. I even have an assortment of special tools that make their demise faster, easier, and thorough.
Along with the house came an electric lawn mower and I have been itching to give it a try all winter. As I lived most of my lawn cutting years in the heat of the South where the grass is thick and the yards can be expansive, I am most familiar with 2 or 4-stroke, blue smoke belching push mowers. They all seem to conch out either just as you start when you have a tiny patch left in the very middle. Our yard now is small and the electric is the way to go! It was quiet, light, height adjustment was a cinch, and I didn’t have to suck in exhaust fumes for an hour. I also have an electric edger that I paid $5 for at a garage sale. I used it once at our rental place and now here, so I think that it has now paid for its self. I figure that every time I use it from this point on is just gravy. I have a heavy-duty weed eater/trimmer that I picked up cheap and it ran for almost all of last summer, but it has a carburetor issue. After experiencing the sweetness of electric yard maintenance, I will put $10 bucks into the gas unit and sell it, applying the funds to an electric model.
|It has begun… We have started the transformation of our yard from mossy dark over-grown warren to bright open space. There was a 40’ cedar growing into the garage and casting its pall on ¾ of the back yard. We had a guy come in and take it down 16” at a time a couple of Saturdays ago. He brought in a wood chipper and I spent the day cutting eighteen 2” to 8” trees/bushes down and feeding them into the chipper. Laurel and I planted our strawberry pots, and ½ of our kitchen herbs. I am pulling some stumps this week/weekend, planting our new Espalier apple tree and laying out the three raised garden beds – the Territorial Seed Company catalog and I have become the most intimate of friends.
I finished building stack-able ceder compost bins on Saturday (Laurel liked VERY much!) and my next major build is the planters. The raised beds will be enclosed with wall block. It took some soul searching as I REALLY wanted to do them in carefully joined wood, but cypress lumber in the Pacific North West is crazy-expensive. Redwood is almost as good as resisting rot, but to get true clear pieces that are untreated I have to special order them and for three 3X7X1.5 planting beds I would have $750 in wood. The block will last a LONG time and is a quarter of the cost of building in wood. After removing an old pond filled with used cat litter (??), the addition of a hot tub, some stone, and small green house will make my own small urban farm/park/orchard/retreat just about PERFECT.
|The front yard is a project for later this fall – just before my last shoulder surgery. We want to extend the yard to the sidewalk. Right now there is 8’ between the fence and walk were the property slopes down and the space goes to waste. We will also remove the chain link and install an iron fence, cut down the over grown rhododendrons, add a Belgium Fence Espalier, plant a Lapin cheery tree, add Provence, Lady and Spanish lavender at the fence and add azaleas (my daddy’s favorite) under the front windows.
Spring and summer projects for inside the house are vast in their breadth: new built-ins for the living room, a fireplace surround, a new heating system, addition of period appropriate kitchen cabinets, built-ins in the basement, Man Cave construction, rework of basement stairs, a new bathroom vanity and WC cabinet, rewiring of attic, attic subfloor and stairs, etc… etc… As you may deduce, we will not be traveling to any exotic locals this year. Vacations will be spent with children at home and putting sweat equity into Case Da Talley.
Laurel and I have become farmers and we have about .00008 acres under cultivation right now. We are farming worms, that’s right – Vermaculture. We noticed that 40% or so of our weekly garbage was kitchen waste and didn’t quite know what to do with it all so into the garbage it went. While visiting some family in Seattle we spied their worm box and were impressed with how much the worms ate and how little maintenance they needed. We Googled worm farm instructions/problems, checked out some How-To videos on YouTube, and ordered a 2kg box of exotic red worms on the net. I built a simple worm box as per all the instructions, and they are happily munching away as I type.
I also built a compost bin out of old pallets and so far it is eating yard waste like a champ. We have a 15 gallon trash can and there is never more than 10” of trash in the can and it feels good to push a mostly empty can to the curb every Wednesday morning.
“…The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out…”
My single speed on the edge of Interurban Trail with Mt. Rainer in the background. click on for large image
My 3-5 times per week commute to work on the bike is going great. Even when it rains, it is still a good time out and offsets the amazing amount of time spent in a chair in front of my computer at work. I have just put new wet-condition specific brake pads on my road bike as well as removable fenders and treaded commuter tires. I will swap out the wheels and remove the fenders for long fast road training rides or for any races that I do this year. In addition to my regular road bike, I have been riding my single speed into the office part of the time. I take off after work along the river trail and do 15 to 20 miles of flats before meeting Laurel in the valley after she gets off and put the bike on the roof for a hill-less, pain free ride home. On clear days, Rainer sticks up and I get to look at the snow-capped mountain for ¾ of the way home. There are worse views. “The Hill” is still there. It gives me a small sense of accomplishment everyday when I top it, but that fact doesn’t make it any less of a beast. I have tried a couple of other ways home (will try one more this afternoon). It is the same overall elevation gain from work to home no matter which path I choose, some routes have longer, more gradual ascents. The longer ride to the house is great on pretty days and lessons the chance that I will keel-over from exhaustion one fine afternoon.