Wednesday, May 23, 2012

No Grass Allowed!

As many of you know, I hate grass. I hate that it takes several gas-powered machines to keep it short, looks like crap in the summer, and that Silverton fines you if it gets too long. I've been thinking of what to do in the front yard ever since I moved in and every plan I've come up with has including getting rid of the grass altogether. It's not like I'd be losing much- it's really only clover and moss and dandylions, and crabgrass. The same combination that many people in my neighborhood have. It's a waste of space and resources. So, with that in mind, I began to scheme. I was very adamant about having an espalier. I liked the way they looked and how they usually give a lot of fruit in a very small space. I decided that the long stretch of yard along First Street would be perfect for a free-standing espalier for apples and pears. In theory, it was a very simple idea of setting posts, stringing wire, and planting trees. In reality, my house sits on an old river bed and there are little rocks scattered throughout the topsoil, which made rototilling a very difficult task, indeed. Combined with the boulders that were found a foot below the ground made setting posts a labor of love. A big "atta-boy!" for my handymen! Here's the cleared area by the front door:
and here is the cleared area for the espalier and the posts set:
Here is what it looked like after the posts were in and the wire strung:
One of the apple trees in the ground! Soon, I'll start to train and tie the branches to the wire.
I also had the handymen put in a new front walk. Before, it was nothing but dirt and mud leading to the front door. I got these pavers from a friend who is also re-doing their backyard. Yay for repurposing! I think it looks rather sharp. I plan to put in several bulb spirals on either side as well as some nice potted plants along the walk. Something fragrant...
While all this work was going on, there have been some additions to the "Andersen Household- Silverton Branch" this week. One of the Preying Mantis egg sacs finally hatched! There were hundreds of babies waiting to be dispersed outside.
They found homes on the strawberry hanging baskets and pyramid as well as on the grape and columnar apples. I hope they're happy and that I get to spot a few adults come Fall.
The other new addition is a worm bin! I've been wanting one for a while and finally saw a good deal on CraigsList. My one pound of worms are working their way through the first tray. As they eat up all the food, you add additional trays to the top for them to move into. The bottom tray then contains worm casings and compost tea which is great for baby plants in the greenhouse!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

May Sunshine Works Wonders!

We've had an unseasonably nice May here in the PNW and the plants are loving it! My columnar apples actually bloomed this year and I can see tiny little apples starting to form
My bush beans and broccoli are out of the greenhouse and into the ground,
As is my cauliflower.
I nailed left over chicken wire to the fence so the cucumbers have something to climb on. The row of spring onions I planted in this bed are also coming up.
It's the strawberry pyramid's first established spring and it's going to town! All the blank spots I filled in last summer with runners have rooted nicely. I hope to get a bumper crop of strawberries!
And all my potatoes are sprouting. Here are the Russian fingerling potatoes...
And here are the red, Yukon Gold, and Russet Potatoes...
And I even have a couple of voluteer potatoes that I must have missed last year!
The plants in the greenhouse continue to grow like crazy, some of the tomato plants are so big that they are starting to lean over and put out flowers already.
Here are some craft projects I've been working on. I repurposed some plastic soda and water bottles as hanging planters. I've planted salad, thyme, and basil in them. We'll see how well they work- no slugs!
Matt and I built a support for the Raspberries finally. Once they grow tall, we can tuck them in between the wire to keep them from falling over.
My vertical pots are doing well- the larger pots hold water much better and don't dry out as quickly. The parsley I planted should fill out nicely. Again- no slugs!
A nice spring also means lots of asparagus! I bought this batch from Bauman's- a local nursery and market in Gervais. I find it easier to can if I first sort the stalks by size.
Then, I cut the stalks to fit the jars and peel the bottom half of the really thick ones.
Ta Da! Seven quarts of pickled asparagus! I used my brussel sprout brine recipe, since I thought the brine I prepared last year was too sweet. We'll find out in three weeks if it's any good!

Kitchen Demo!

Another original appliance bites the dust!! For anyone who has followed this blog, you know that there is an on-going battle between the original appliances that came with the house and myself. To review, the house came with the following: 1. A washer that flooded the floor and wouldn't spin. 2. A dryer that you could hardly reach, that would catch clothes in a loose piece of trim inside the drum and twist beyond recognition. 3. A water heater that was not installed to code. 4. A toilet that leaked 5. A refrigerator that quit one day while I was at work and ruined all my food. 6. A dishwasher that stalls at the beginning of a cycle and runs unending until you adjust it. It's basket wheels also pop off at random moments. 7. A wonderful gas stove that I haven't had any problems with....yet. Yes. It has been an adventure. Not in a good way. So, I decided to premptive with the stove and replace it with a slightly newer model brought up from the Lakewood kitchen remodel. Over the years, I'd also notcied that splatters and drips would go between the stove and built-ins on either side. As a person with a strong food safety background, the fact that I couldn't get in there to clean really bothered me. That anything in my house could be that dirty bothered me... So, when we pulled out the old stove and corner cabinet, I was not surprised to find this:
and this:
and this:
What I was surprised to find was a water bill from 1997 (their rates have gone up significantly), an old metal rocking horse child's toy, and the head of my broken pie blackbird (which can now be re-capitated)! After using a shopvac, lots of GooGone, and a putty knife, I got the area clean before putting in the "new" stove.
It was installed in time to make homemade lasagna with Matt!
I'm almost there....the only thing left left to replace is the dishwasher and I think it's on to me. It's been on it's best behavior lately...

Monday, May 7, 2012

Kentucky Derby Hat!

My first attempt at making a Kentucky Derby hat. I think I missed my calling as a milliner... I bought a regular sun hat and re-inforced the brim with a wire frame...
Then, I covered it with real moss that had been attached to a fabric backing...
Added other moss, lichen, peacock feathers, and butterflies and voila! An outrageous Kentucky Derby Hat!
I'm proud to say I won "Most Creative" at the party...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Front Yard Needs to be DONE Already...

Unfortunatley, my plumbing disaster in January, followed by my truck disaster in March put the kybosh on landscaping the front yard all at once. Luckily (or perhaps, unluckily), I have a very determined boyfriend.... After mowing the lawn (finally- I thought we might have to bale it instead!), Matt decided that the bush in the corner of the yard HAD to come out. Behold the results: A great big hole in the corner of the yard! Here he is rototilling after he and Bob (my next door neighbor) pulled the stump out with a Jeep and a chain.
The stump!
As the boys worked, I saved as many muscari bulbs as I could find. They've naturalized in this corner of the yard and I'd like to keep some for my bulb spirals.
Here's what the front yard looks like now. A mowed lawn and a great empty spot, waiting to be filled.
I also got two half wine barrels from a very nice gentleman off of CraigsList. They worked beautifully for potatoes! I managed to get all my seed potatoes planted this weekend and I'm hoping for a better harvest from last year!
Here are the two containers I got free from work, full with Red Pontiac seed potatoes.
And since I didn't raise chicks this year, I could finally use this planter for it's original purpose- growing russets!
Some progress was also made in the back yard- mainly transplanting tomatoes into bigger pots, but my columnar apples are also flowering. I hope the bees find them...
Ever since I trasplanted it into a larger pot, the rhubarb has been much happier. These are the biggest leaves it's ever put out.
Mom and Dad bought these trellises at the Iron Works place and couldn't fit them in the car to take to LA. Darn. I'm testing them out with sweet peas...
And here are the tomatoes- in bigger pots and ever growing!
Sunday dinner was special this week. It was the first gathering of the Girls Cooking Club! I was the host for this first dinner and picked a French theme for the night. Of course, I decided to make Boeuf Borguignon. I started cooking at 11:30 and was finished just in time to eat at 5:30. My prep: Onions (pearl and regular), home grown carrots, and mushrooms (yuck).
Searing the stew meat...
As I coooked, the kitties napped...
And voila! The French dinner table!
We had Potatoes Anna,
Braised Leeks and Frisee salad,
My Boeuf Borguignon,
And Almond Cream with Strawberries for dessert! It was really, really good. It was so nice to only have to concentrate on making one dish, instead of a whole meal. Next month- Greek!