Friday, April 27, 2012

Seedling Update - Day 41

It's been a while since I've updated you on our seedlings. In fact, it's been a month exactly since the last time you saw them. They looked like this...just little bitty sprouts.

But now, they are more like toddler seedlings:

The tomatoes have true leaves and are starting to smell like tomato plants. (I love that smell!) Against all odds the onions are still alive. The jalapenos and bell pepper plants are also doing well - they look like twins at this point, which I didn't really expect.  The marigold and lavender seedlings never turned into anything. No real loss I suppose as I didn't have high hopes for them. Oh, and if you recall during the lat update, when I mentioned how I had plans to start Brussels Sprout seeds, yay, that never happened. Opps.

I confess, I am shocked at how much bigger these plants are already than my seedlings ever were last year. Turns out, having a grow light, while not necessary, actually has HUGE benefits to starting seedlings indoors. Who would'a thunk it??

I have a wee tip for you that I learned last year about growing plants. See that little leaf I've got my hand on? You will want to yank those little guys off as the plant grows, this will allow the plant to put energy into getting bigger and stronger. If you prune your plants as they grow you will notice a bug difference in how much faster and stronger they grow up to be.

And since I am here, I thought you might also like an update on the garlic. Last time you saw them, they looked like this, little cuties.

And now! Hello!

Hope y'all have a great weekend!!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Kitchen in Progress

Sometimes it's just one small addition that can make a room. Take for instance, our kitchen. I have really been struggling to like our kitchen. Perhaps a bit unfairly, as we have already made some nice changes to this room, but it still felt off to me. It's so WHITE! I know white is all the rage in kitchens right now, but not on the floor. Kitchen floors should not be white! It makes it feel dirty all the time. Also, our counter tops are white and stain easily and our cabinets are white and have been "touched up" with a different white and therefore look all splotchy. I dream of all the big changes we will make to this space one day, but in the meantime I am constantly seeking out small (read inexpensive) changes that will make it not just likeable, but lovable in the meantime. With that said, here is our kitchen:

And then a light bulb turned on in my head! Obviously I just needed to break up the white a bit. I needed a rug! In the kitchen! But not just any rug, something that could handle the traffic of a much used kitchen. Turns out, the fates were on my side, and after a bit of hunting I saw this rug for sale on One Kings Lane.
I read the description and was sold. (The bolded words are my own emphasis). 

What do we love about Fab Habitat rugs? For starters, the rugs render earth-friendly utterly chic, with vibrant designs woven from recycled materials and then finished by hand. They're reversible (for an easy style switch-up) and durable enough for the outdoors yet refined enough for inside the house. Lastly, the rugs are lightweight, meaning you can take them with you on picnics or camping. Redefine your concept of earth-friendly with an indoor-outdoor rug from Fab Habitat. The rugs are made using sustainable practices and rendered in vivid colors to effortlessly combine respect for the earth with a love of high design.

It took a few weeks from the rug to finally arrive, but it turned out to be worth the wait if you ask me. I went from hating our kitchen to feeling like it was a warm, friendly and inviting space that was begging for me to do a little cooking in it:

But, that's not all folks! See the color of the door? Well, when we moved in, our whole kitchen was that color. And it was INTENSE! And by intense I mean, dark and oppressive and it made the room feel really small! See what I'm talking about...

So yes, we have come a long way, but there is, as always, more to be done.

Here is what we have done "in the meantime":
-Painted the walls (the color turned out a little more intense than I wanted, and will probably get repainted again in the future, perhaps with this color)
-Added back splash above sink
-Replace unmatched light switch covers
-Replace overhead boob light fixture with ceiling fan

Here is a working list of what I would still like to do:
-remove the linoleum flooring and refinish wood floor if possible (if not, add new flooring)
-repaint all the cabinetry a crisp fresh white
-put in lower cabinetry on both sides of free standing stove - for cohesion's sake
-put a microwave vented range above stove that goes to the ceiling
-add open shelving in place of upper cabinets on either side of stove
-replace the counter tops - probably with butcher block

Obviously, if you have any suggestions/ideas for improvements, I would love to hear them! 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Building Your Stake

One of our projects for this spring has been to build a third garden bed. Our 2, 4x6 beds, gave us a nice amount of food last year, that is, it gave us enough to eat, but not really much for saving so we decided to expand a bit.  I wanted to grow a few additional items, in hopes of being able to save some food for freezing and canning. So until the weekend before last this is what our "garden" looked like.

But then my handy man husband went out and picked up 4 10 ft 2x8's and got to work cutting the lumber to make a third bed that would run perpendicular to the other two and would be 11 feet long and 2 feet wide. Why these weird proportions you ask? There is a reason! This part of our yard is the only area that isn't covered by the tree's shade for a large portion of the day. If we made it any wider than 2 feet it probably wouldn't get any sun.  Basically, we are utilizing the last of the good vegetable gardening real estate we have.

After cutting the pieces to size Chris anchored them together with 2 L brackets in each corner.

And then he reinforced that by putting a few screws on the outside of the corners. I stood by and shouted words of encouragement like, "nice biceps!" 

Ta-da! That was probably the easier part. And the total cost, $26! Not bad, not bad at all!!

Next up, the soil needed to be removed and then the box needed to be filled with a happy and  healthy compost and soil mixture.

As fun as that part was (for Chris), I failed to take any photos, so now we are now going to move on to the next task. Which is to stake out the beds in preparation for sowing seeds. I have two options for you. We will call them year one option and year two option. Either way it helps to draw little ticks marks along the edges of your bed at 1 foot intervals so you can stake away later without having to measure as you go.

Year one option is to break up scraps of wood and tie strings around them, like so...

The nice thing about year one option is that when you are ready to take them out of the beds you can wrap them up and store them away to reuse next year. This made for fairly quick work this year since they were all already made, but it was not so quick last year. The one thing I don't like is that these guys can be kinda hard to get to stay in place as there really is nothing holding them down. But they do the job, no question there.

Year two option is my new favorite option because it was quick and easy work. I tied a loose loop with my string and laid the not knotted part over my tick mark, like so...

Then I used my handy little staple gun and told that string who was boss by stapling it into place.  

Sinch the knot around the staple...

Then pull the string taught to the opposite side of the bed and staple it down. If you get the staple fully into the wood it is surprisingly secure and you won't have to worry about it going anywhere.

The end result is three beds all staked and ready to be sown with seeds and plants. Year two option, which I used on the new bed, actually hovers above the dirt instead of sitting on it. I don't think this is better or worse, but one or the other might cater to an individuals preference. Also, it just looks a lot cleaner. 

This past Sunday I even sowed some seeds, from left to right we have two square feet each of Kale, Spinach,  Lettuce & Mesclun Greens. The Mesclun greens are new this year and replaced the Swiss Chard from last year. Turns out, I wasn't as into Swiss Chard as I thought I would be. No loss though!

Oh, and out in the front yard, we have the first sign of life sprouting up near our bean pole. I planted some seeds out there weeks ago but with the cold snap nothing ever happened. I guess they were just waiting till now to do their thing. (Disclaimer - this photo is from last summer - perhaps you already realized that since there are no day lilies planted at the curb side).

So, have you planted anything out doors yet? Is anything starting to pop up? Or did you do that weeks ago and already begun to harvest your first bits of food??

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Walk This Way

I present to you another post in which we take advantage of something free to give our little plot of earth some much needed character all while adding functionality. Last May, as our neighbors were cleaning out their house in an effort to sell it, we acquired A LOT of miscellaneous items, like the little shelf I told you about a few weeks ago. Sitting in their garage, intended from some project that never happened, was a pile of red paver stones with a floral pattern cut into them. I like the way they looked and they were free, so we took them and let them sit in our garage for a while before we figured out where we wanted them to permanently reside.

As you can see from the photo above, the garden hose resides on the side of our house. And since most of the stuff that needs to be watered is in the back yard, we do a lot of walking back and forth in that area where I drew "X"'s. See where I am going here?? It really was a no-brainer.

We laid the stones out and walked back and forth on them to make sure there were positioned at a comfortable stride. Then Chris put on his work gloves and started digging. He used the screwdriver method -- trace around the object in question with a screw driver -- so that he would dig only the area where the stone would eventually reside. 

If you look real close in the photo above you can see the outline in the ground where Chris traced around the stone. Trace. Dig. Repeat. x9.

In case you are curious we did not put weed block paper underneath. Additionally, we have yet to fill in the stones with anything. I debated if we should put pebbles in as to keep the maintenance level down, or if we wanted to fill them in with dirt. This internal debate has since turned into procrastination. And the stones have filled up with all sorts of random yard debris, such a leaves. It's not so pretty. So that will need to be addressed in the near future. My thought now is that we will fill them with dirt and in time if grass happens to grow in them we can just weed whip them to keep it clean. And it will created a little bit of a secret garden feel to it like the photo below which happens to be from the DIY Network's tutorial on building a stone walkway...if you are interested in such information.

The cost on this project was just a little bit of sweat and we are very happy with the end result. The stones add so much character and functionality.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Florida Vacation

It's snowing in Minnesota. It hasn't snowed here in I don't even know how long. We have had high 80 temperatures already! I planted seeds yesterday! Garr!

Since I can't actually escape this nonsense, I present to you a post full of pictures from a place that is warm, even hot, and never has to worry about snow. These are (some of) my favorites from the vacation we took in February to visit my family in Florida.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Walkabout

Since I have gardening on the mind, I thought I would take you for a walkabout through our yard and show you some of the improvements we did last year and of course point out the things I would like to do this year.

Let's start out front. You saw the house the other day from this angle. What you don't see in this picture is that where the grass ends in the photo, the yard suddenly slopes downward. We plan to put in a retaining wall there, hopefully sometime this summer. (I happen to know that it is number one on This Earths to do list, so that is pretty promising.)

If you are standing on the other side of the front of the house, and its not such a gray day, it looks like this. The other HUGE project I would love to do, this year, is paint the outside of the house, the stucco part of the house. I am thinking yellow, because it would contrast nice with the brown shingles on the top of the house a give it a nice pop. Just about anything would be better than patchy-tan stucco.

Along the side of the house and wrapping around the front is one long garden bed. It might be more appropriate to call this a "mulched area". When we moved there were two Goldflame Spirea shrubs (see above) in front of the house and along the side was an uncontrolled area of lily of the valley, some ferns that volunteered from the neighbors yard and a ton of milkweed (see below). We cleaned this all up last spring and planted orange and yellow lilies, purple iris, coral bell, a peony bushy, some ground cover I don't know of the name of, a few succulents and at least one other flowering plant that I am blanking on now. All of this came from my mother's yard before she sold her house.  Thanks mom!!



And if we keep on walking on to the back yard, through the side gate, we have another bed that was cleaned up last year. It too was over run with lily of the valley (my arch-nemesis). We planted a lot of the same stuff here that we planted out front plus some hosta's, fountain grasses and a rasberry bush from the neighbors yard.


 And after

Let's pull back a little though and give you the long shot. Which includes the two 4x6 garden beds we built last spring.

In the above photo you see the sidewalk of to the left, that's where we are headed next. This bed was already here when we moved in. Yay! The side in the lower part of the photo is our strawberry patch. The other side is a herb garden that I planted last year and plan to do again this year. Over in the corner is our Rhubarb. Oh, and see that gutter hanging out in the middle of the sidewalk. I HATE that thing. I am hoping to put a rain barrel there and remove that so no one trips over it and dies.

If we pull back from here, you can see the whole of the back yard near the house that we have been talking about. I can't wait for an after picture with the house painted.

The perimeter and the far side and the back of yard are also lined with a garden bed/mulched area, it's about 2 feet deep. (That little line in the image below is meant to help you understand what I am taking about because I don't have any close ups for you). This where our two peony bushes are. And some Purple Clematis which is growing on that white trellis-y thing. The Clematis did not survive the fence building project  of 2011 but is already starting to come back this year. Fingers crossed. We put in lilies, coral bell, ground cover and a few other items last spring. I also planted tulips along this perimeter in the fall. They are coming up now but no actual flowers have bloomed as of today.

And so our walkabout comes to an end with a final photo of the last garden bed in the back corner of the yard. There are lots of hosta's back there and some other green stuff. It's a dark little corner so the colorful plants aren't so happy back yonder, but it's nice still. And how about that tree?? Two of me can not wrap my arms around it. We think she is older than our house. She provides lots of shade, especially in the back part of our yard which we love.

Now, if you are still reading, it's time for a little game. In the back corner garden is a little bird bath. You can hardly make it out in this picture, but it's there, I promise. And it's in a few other places through out this post too. Can you guess how many spots we put that bird bath in before it ended up there? I'll tell you this, it was in more places that you find in this here walkabout.

You can expect a lot more posts about the yard in the coming months, here is a little list of projects I hope to get done this year:

  • -Add a two tiered retaining wall to the front yard to correct slope
  • -Plant lots of flowers in the new bed of the retaining wall
  • -Paint the exterior of the house - yellow??
  • -Fix gutter to flow into rain barrel
  • -Add trellis over the back gate
  • -Add third garden bed
  • -Plant more flowers