Garden Update: 03.17.19

Relative to 2018, we’re a bit behind. We’ve had so much rain, freezing rain, ice, snow, blizzards, and glaciers this year that it’s been too wet to till up the garden, let alone burn the brush off of it from last year. In the meantime, we’ve had it in mind for awhile to add a raised garden bed between our new patio and the rest of the garden, so we took advantage of one of the first nice days we’ve had in 2019 to get started on it.

We went with cinder blocks to get it started, along with PVC pipes to not only lock it down to the ground, but also serve as places to stick some re-bar hoops in to let us cover the plot in winter. Brooke also saw a post online where we could just put down cardboard to kill off the grass, while letting it biodegrade slowly. We also had some leaves and brush around so…we threw that in there… Why not…

Brooke had me pick up quite a few bags of dirt to throw in this plot. We put 5 bags of topsoil on the bottom layer, directly on top of the cardboard.

This was followed with a layer of peat moss. That stuff was a bit more “solid” than we expected, likely because it was so compacted in those giant bags. Believe you me, that 3 cu. ft. bag took up more space in the car than the 5 bags of top soil did…

Lastly, we put four bags of compost down, followed by a final layer of 5 more bags of top soil.

Finished product! The plan is to put lettuce and some herbs in it as soon as we can. We’ll put the re-bar in the PVC pipes this Fall and then find some thick plastic to cover everything, hopefully to keep things growing into January 2020. As I’m sure you know, more pictures to come as 2019 continues!

New Furniture!

I’ll be honest: I don’t exactly remember what sparked this. It definitely wasn’t me. Perhaps it was Marie Kondo

Brooke wanted to re-arrange the living room a bit, and as she thought more about how that would look, she also started looking at furniture. When we moved to Marshall, we picked up a really nice wooden futon that was just fine for our needs, but wasn’t particularly comfortable. We could have just picked up a new mattress for it, but it also kinda felt like it wasn’t “Real Furniture for Adults.” At the same time, having Sam has meant certain…compromises…with regards to furniture. The cat has claws and has taken them to our couches over the years. We got a pleather couch for Iowa that he made short work of. We had a microfiber couch in St. Louis that lasted a bit, but he still ripped up…

Thankfully, Sam’s a bit older now and doesn’t seem to be scratching at furniture as much. There’s no guarantee he won’t do the same thing to this furniture that he did to other pieces, but Brooke inherited a couch that we’ve had in the music room and, for the most part, it has survived shockingly well. Brooke also ordered a carpeted cat scratching tower, so hopefully Sam will eventually use it. To date, he has hopped off of it every time I’ve put him there. Figures.

Anyway, Brooke did some shopping and decided to visit one of the furniture places here in town. After looking around a bit at prices, talking with the sales folks at the furniture store, etc. she settled on a Lay-Z-Boy couch covered in blue velvet upholstery. So far as we can tell, it should hold up to cat claws relatively well (because the fibers are so tightly woven…he shouldn’t be able to get his claws in there…shouldn’t) The velvet is a “low pile” variety so it feels really nice, but doesn’t seem to catch much cat hair…yet.

Originally, the plan was to just get a couch, but for awhile, Brooke was looking at sectionals for additional seating. After thinking over it, she decided just getting another chair would probably be fine, so we got one of those, too, under Lay-Z-Boy’s England brand. She went with a gray fabric for that one that turned out really nice. I’m not sure how often we’ll actually sit in that chair (as it’s probably more likely to be used when we have company over), but Sam, so far, has liked falling asleep on it. And it definitely doesn’t catch cat hair all that badly…yet.

Anyway, it’s taking some “getting used to,” as the new couch sits up quite a bit higher, making it harder to use the coffee table as a foot rest. I’m sure we’ll make the necessary adjustments eventually, but at least for now, I can say they’re all quite comfortable!

When Is This Going To End……

So, as I write this, we’re going on Day Three of no school in Marshall. As in, Meg, Calvin and I are all off school. Brooke even canceled their office’s activities for Thursday. We had a Winter Storm warning for Wednesday that even included thunder and lightning that evening.

The town has been mostly dead, though we have seen a few cars go by here and there. Trash/recycle service was canceled, power was knocked out on at least one street (though we weren’t affected), and mail didn’t come yesterday. We did venture out to the YMCA on Wednesday, but their Kid’s Gym staffing was reduced because workers couldn’t get in.

So yeah, we’re on a 5 day weekend, at this rate. And if the post that precedes this one is any indication, it’s been a ridiculously long winter. Meg and Calvin were sledding back on November 26th, so it feels like we’ve been dealing with this for far longer than we’re used to. It’s a good thing Brooke pushed for the YMCA membership this year, as I’ve used the treadmill more in the past month than I’ve been able to be outside. It isn’t even that it’s been that cold (though it’s been really cold…it’s 8 F outside right now…), but the icy conditions, the foot+ of snow that lingers on the sidewalks, etc. all get in the way of outdoor exercise.

That and it’s hard to get in a rhythm at work, where we were supposed to have our first exam on Wednesday. Then it was pushed to today. Now it’s pushed to Monday. I ended up sharing YouTube videos of my lectures to make sure the students keep up with everything so we can stay on track prior to Spring Break in early March.

Yes, “Spring” Break is in less than a month. Letting that sink in, too…

I’m so done with this…ug…

Oktoberfest 2018

Last year’s Oktoberfest went well, but attendance was down slightly from the previous year due to putting it the same weekend as Fall Break.  We also consistently hear from some of the usual folks we invite that October is pretty busy because of other school-related activities.  Therefore, for this year’s Oktoberfest, we pushed into September.

Of course, once you start looking at the calendar, there aren’t all that many options for later in the month because a certain someone has a birthday on September 23rd (incidentally, Calvin’s grandmother has a birthday on September 22nd, so he isn’t the only one with a birthday around then!).  Soooooo, the decision was made to try and combine the two: he was turning five and had more friends to invite this year, so we could just invite everyone and try and satisfy both needs.

We spent the usual amount of time preparing for the even the week before.  Thankfully, the weather was solid enough that we could get mowing done and pick up some straw bales for seating.  There was a threat of rain later in the week, but a front came through on September 21st, cooling off the temperatures into the low- to mid-70s for September 22nd.  Near perfect weather, really!

Mimi and Poppy, and Nana and Papa, all came in early to help with some set-up, though Brooke and I had most of it done already.  Still, it was good to visit a bit during “the calm before the storm.”  Calvin and I even went to the MVC Rodeo the night before, so we weren’t so behind with set-up that it was necessary for me to work through Friday night getting ready (the rodeo was fun, by the way).  Before everyone arrived, Calvin opened some presents from his grandparents – we saved the rest of them for the next day.

As part of Oktoberfest, knowing that we’d have more kids than usual present, Brooke looked into getting special activities to entertain them.  We tried finding mini pumpkins, but it was just a bit too early for them to be available at our local stores, so Brooke found some plastic ones to be painted at Dollar Tree.  

We also set up some yard games, including a “throw the ring around the beer bottles” game and horseshoes.  Honestly, I was down with the grill the whole time, so I didn’t see how the “kid games” went over, but it seemed like they were relatively entertained!  Some kids got out chalk for the driveway, others used the swings, and others played cornhole.  No one felt the need to go inside and turn on the TV, so I suppose this was a “win!”

The rest of the party went off without a hitch.  We set up the screen-in tent down where the yucca plants used to be and put some straw underneath (it fit the theme of the party while also covering up the distinct lack of grass from that particular spot).  We ran an extension cord out there for the Crock Pots and turned on our blue Christmas lights for later.  We ended up with plenty of seating for the 38 visitors we had (about 10 more than last year!) and moved chairs around when necessary.  It was warm enough that I didn’t light up the fire until early-evening, but once it was going, it was a welcome addition.

A brief side-note: the Nuremberg sausages we like to get from Aldi didn’t come in until that very week here in Marshall.  I ended up grabbing 15 packs of them from the Aldi in Columbia when I made my run for Oktoberfest beers, just in case, but the Marshall store got theirs in just in time.  Still, if we do it around the same time next year, we may have to drive a bit to stock up!

As usual, most people were leaving by 7:00, which was when the rodeo started that night.  A few couples stayed later than that, one of which hung out until around 9:00.  Calvin sat inside in front of the TV; the adults chatted by the fire; and Meg laid down in the straw under the blue lights.

It was a great day!  Let’s hope the weather is similar next year!

The Saga Continues

Well this looks good…

So, as mentioned in the previous post, we had a bit of rain coming through and had to protect the porch as best as we could.  We hung some tarps from the roof line because it wasn’t supposed to be all that windy and it was more likely that any moisture that did get onto the floor would evaporate faster than it would if we just laid tarps out on top.  For the most part this held true, though the mailman had to walk up onto the porch and tracked wet foot prints, so it wasn’t a perfect solution.  Still, it was better than the alternative.

Eventually, after a few days, the sun returned and we were able to get to work on painting.  We put two coats of primer on and two top coats on the floor, as well as one coat of primer and one coat of a more “cream” color on the columns and previously-white portions of the porch. 

Unfortunately, toward the end of the primer coat on the columns, we noticed something going on down in the foundation…

Brooke noticed it first.  Some of the rocks and mortar from the supports had fallen out overnight.  This happened after we’d been on the porch with our initial priming work, so we’d been on there quite a bit, but never felt any shifting.  However, clearly something happened.

Even the floorboards had separated a bit, so now pine between the boards was exposed and, obviously, wasn’t primed against moisture.  The floor had dropped ~4 inches, so it had also separated some from underneath the siding.

Needless to say, this wasn’t good.  We called the construction folks and had them come out the next morning.  They looked it over and decided the supports had to be replaced.  As we couldn’t prove that this was necessarily their fault (and, honestly, we can’t know that for sure…it could just have been a coincidence, but seriously, we were not wanting to spend more than we already had!), we were going to have to shell out more to have them lift the porch and replace the supports with fresh cinder blocks.  And this was going to take more time, which meant that we couldn’t paint anything because it could move again!

So, they came that same afternoon to remove the supports and replace them with temporary wooden ones while they poured concrete bases for the new blocks to go on.  This part was done the afternoon we first contacted them.

Then, another guy was supposed to come do the masonry work…but he was engaged in another job elsewhere, so it took four days for him to finally come and take care of it!

By the time it was done (on a Saturday morning…the weekend we took the kids to Columbia to be out of our hair while we finished this…), the blocks looked good and everything was solid.  It just took substantially longer than I wanted to get done!

Granted, you can’t make plans around construction, because “things happen.”  Still…I don’t have to like it…

Once the blocks were in place, we could finish the painting of the floorboards and trim, and also do all the landscaping we had planned.  Brooke picked up boxwood bushes, blue rug juniper, and sky pencil holly to go in the front from our local landscaping place, and we also had 100 cu. ft. of mulch dropped off.  (Side note: apparently 100 cu. ft. of mulch isn’t enough, so get 150 next time!) We struggled to find landscaping pavers we really liked, as multiple places in town didn’t have anything in “grey” and we didn’t really want to drive down to Sedalia, but thankfully we lucked into some for $1 each at Wal-mart, so that worked just fine!  

We put those in and did our best to secure them, though we didn’t use a shovel to dig a ditch for them like we probably should.  I’m hoping that they’ll settle out over the winter months and be fine for next year, otherwise I’ll knock them over while mowing…

The landscaping was mostly done by Saturday, but we had to wait until Sunday morning for the construction folks to remove the supports and drop the floor for us to finish painting and put the lattices back up.  Brooke also spent a substantial amount of time with a small paintbrush filling in the gaps in the floorboards to limit the water that could cause damage.  While she finished that up, I grilled some awesome steaks out back… 🙂

The next day after church, we put the railings back on, as well as the lattices.  The lattices went on alright, though they don’t fit quite as well as they did with the new supports.

That part wasn’t so shocking, but the railings proved more difficult than we’d expected.  Apparently the columns weren’t put back in exactly the right places, so we ended up having to saw them down a bit to make them fit appropriately.  I also had to run out and grab a few more brackets that would fit the railings better (because the ones we bought fit some railings, but not all railings…ug…).  Still, they’re a bit wobbly as they’ve always been, but they’re far more secure than they were before!

Finished product!  Those pencil holly should grow up to ~6 ft high, so we’ll have to trim them, but they’ll drive people toward the center of the stairs.  The plan is to remove that center railing once we get some time.  It’s falling apart and a coat of paint isn’t going to fix it.  We also switched around the furniture relative to where they used to be because we realized during the course of work on the lattices that the western side of the porch is actually longer than the eastern side, so it makes more sense to have the couch and chairs/table switched.

Lastly, because we were waiting for paint to dry, Brooke took it upon herself to finally, ultimately, gut the yucca plants.

Seriously, she’s been waiting for years to get rid of them.  When the bees were here, the yuccas provided some useful shelter in the winter, but without bees, we don’t need them!  They’re gone!

That’s it!  It took a lot longer, and a lot more money, than we’d originally hoped, but I suppose that’s to be expected with home improvement projects.  We’re happy with the finished product, at least!

Garden Update: Late-July

It continues…

The garden has slowed down to a degree, mostly because rain has been very scarce.  I’ve watered as best I can, of course, but there’s only so much a sprinkler can do.  The temperatures this week have been great: the A/C has been off for a week and will remain that way into next week!

The green beans are “done,” it seems.  You can see in the picture above, but the middle of the crop just died off all the sudden and we aren’t sure why.  Regardless, Brooke canned 28 pints of beans, plus another 2 pints that didn’t seal correctly, and the 3+ quart-size bags we’ve given away to others.  Brooke has also canned cucumbers as lime pickles and ended up with 7 pints of those, but the cucumbers are still coming so she’ll end up with more.

Tomatoes and soup beans

The tomatoes have taken off and have tons of green ones on, but we have relatively few that have actually ripened.  And by “relatively few,” I mean “two.”  We’ve stolen a few from the Gault’s next door, as it always seems like theirs ripen a month before ours do.  I’m not sure what black magic their casting, but whatever it is, it works.

Mama Tomato and Papa Tomato.

The soup beans are also vining out substantially, though the ones furthest from the trees are doing better. I’m sure it’s the excess sunlight they get over there, but still, worth noting.

Berries, pole beans, sweet potatoes.

The berries aren’t doing much right now.  The Japanese Beetle War of 2018 spilled over to them for a little while, but I’m not sure they actually did much damage.  We did lose all the peaches except for four that I picked early.  After the beetles were done last week (seriously, it took a month this year…), there were still 3 or 4 peaches out there, but when we looked this week, we couldn’t find them.  We suspect the neighbors stole them…grrrrrr…

The pole beans have some nice looking pods on them, so we think we’ll be able to pick some soon!

Peppers!

The peppers keep truckin’ along.  We’ve got Margaret Peppers coming off the plants, as they’re starting to turn red.  They’re bell-type peppers, but they’ve got an ever-so-slight “kick” to them that Meg doesn’t seem to mind.  The other plants are mostly hot peppers of the Coyame variety (I think…they at least look a lot like those from last year…)

An extended walkway!

Last but not least, we added to the walkway over the past few weeks!  Meg and Calvin helped a little bit, but weren’t as interested this year in concrete work.  I think I ended up getting something like 20 or 25 bags (80 lb) of concrete mix to finish this up, though I’ve got a few extra I didn’t use.  The intent is to put a few patio chairs out there and move the chiminea onto the platform, but I’m waiting a few more days for the concrete to harden more fully.  I put sand and pea gravel on today, but I still need to get some more to fill in the gaps a bit better.

Just need some chairs now…

We’re happy with it, but may need to add a few more segments depending on which chairs we end up settling on.  We’ll probably landscape around the patio a bit, but as it’s so shaded there, we need to be careful what, exactly, we plant nearby.  Brooke has a large pot she picked up to get something started for next year already, so that’ll make an appearance once she gets some time.

Ultimately, we want some nice old metal chairs, or something similar, but they’re ridiculously expensive and you kinda need to run into them at antique malls, so we’ll get something for the meantime and keep our eyes open for “just the right chairs” to go there.  It may be a bit before we find exactly what we want.

Also, in the space between the patio and the tomato garden plot, we’re going to put in a raised bed and a make-shift greenhouse for some lettuce.  We want to get that going in the next few weeks so we have time to plant lettuce for the Fall, and perhaps a few other things.  I think Brooke’s going to plant some herbs there, too, but we’ll need to wait until next Spring for those.  We’ll see what she picks, I suppose!

Garden Update: Early July

So many beans…

The garden mostly took off while we were on vacation.  We had some weeds to clear out, mostly from the pepper and tomato plots, but we have everything generally back up to spec after a week.  The corn has gotten taller, though no tassels have appeared.   I feel like they’re doing better than last year, but that’s probably because we planted them late last time around. There were flowers on the green beans when we left and they turned into full-fledged beans in that period of time.

Seriously. So many.

Brooke’s canned 9 pints so far and we’ve eaten on and given away others.  As usual, we can just toss green bean seeds into dirt and grow a ridiculous crop.  You can’t not grow green beans, folks…

Tomatoes! Takin’ off!

The tomatoes have been tied up and flowers are showing up all over.  There aren’t all that many actual tomatoes on yet, but we’ve seen some tiny ones on there, and some romas that are getting within striking distance.  The plants are looking healthy, but rain has been sparse, so we’re having to water them quite a bit.

They’re little. Gettin’ there, though…

The peppers are similar.  We’ve actually got multiple bell peppers that are nearly ready to pick, as well as some hot peppers (no idea what they are…some assortment Brooke planted) that are nearing full size, and on those plants, we’ve also got more on the way.  In the picture below, you can see the remnants of the lettuce in the background that’s getting taken over by weeds, so I need to flip it all over in the next few days.  Brooke’s thinking she’ll plant some more spinach and eventually some lettuce for the Fall crop.  One step at a time…

Mmmm. Peppers.

The pole beans and sweet potatoes are still truckin’ along.  The raspberries are still coming on a few at a time, and we had Sam’s cat sitter eat on them while we were on vacation, so I think she probably got the bulk of them.

Berries, pole beans and sweet potatoes.

The trees are another story.  The peaches are looking really, really good, but the Japanese beetles are terrorizing near everything else.  They’re really hitting the apple trees, cherry tree and almond tree and we’ve been waging war as best we can.  Brooke’s got two traps up and emptied one already, and I’ve been spraying the trees with an organic pesticide that shouldn’t affect bees or other pollinators.  Hopefully this ends quickly, but until then, it’s a headache (as it was last year…).

The Japanese beetles are the worst.

Lastly, Brooke spent some time watering the front porch plants today and pulled down a hanging fern only to find some stowaways.  🙂

And baby birds for good measure.

 

Garden Update: Mid-June

Cucumbers, corn, green beans

As we’re heading off on vacation soon, I figured I should put up an update on the garden, so if the Squirrel Apocalypse takes them, we remember what all our crops looked like…

Overall, everything appears to be coming up pretty well and some of the plants (notably the green beans, tomatoes and peppers) have some flowers on them.  The cucumbers are starting to vine out a bit, so by the time we get back from the Grand Canyon, I expect them to have taken over the yard…  The green beans look great as always.  I’m pretty sure we could plant those in sand and rocks and still have them grow, as we always seem to have good luck with them (despite my hard work at killing them off…).  The corn keeps on trucking, albeit inconsistently.

Tomatoes and soup beans

Again, the tomatoes are starting to get some buds on them, so hopefully we’ll grow some sooner than usual.  We aren’t focusing on soup beans much this year (we still have some from last year and we always end up with more than we need), so they’re just planted in two of the corners of this plot.  Most of the tomatoes should end up being “paste tomatoes,” though we’ve got some “slicer” varieties planted, too.  Hopefully we won’t end up with any weird varieties, but we had to transplant a few “volunteers” from last year’s plot to fill some holes of plants that didn’t make it.  We’ll see!

Green peppers and lettuce

The green peppers have finally taken off in the past week.  We got some rain (1.5″) earlier this week and I’ve been watering them , so they’re looking better.  The lettuce is doing shockingly well still, but we expect it’ll be done by the time we get back.  We ended up getting quite a bit of lettuce this year and I think Brooke’s going to plant another round when it starts to get toward the end of the season.  She comes home from work and grabs a few leaves for her sandwich every day.  Like ya do. 🙂

…herbs?

This plot is still kinda a mess, now that the mint has almost fully taken over…  There’s lemon balm in there still, as well as a random orange flower that came back from last year that I can’t identify (and/or remember).  There are a few other flowers in the northern portion of the plot, but they’re already dying off.  A volunteer sunflower from two years ago has popped up recently, too…

Raspberries, sweet potatoes and “pole beans”

We’ve got raspberries!  Not a ton, but we ate a few last night and there are still some on now.  The pole beans are vining appropriately and the sweet potatoes are truckin’ along.

All the trees!

And the trees.  Still lots of apples and lots of peaches, but still no cherries or pears.  We didn’t expect almonds, though we did see some flowers on there over a month ago.  The peaches are looking especially good, so I hope they make it!

That’s it for now!  The harvest will be plentiful, as usual…as long as the squirrels leave it all alone…

A Memorial Day Weekend Project

Those bushes…

The bushes in front of the house have been there since, likely, the 1950s.  It’s hard to know for sure, but considering how “full” those things were, it had to be for decades.

They weren’t particularly good looking and housed wasps and ground bees from time to time, so we’d talked about removing them for the past few years.  The floorboards on the porch have gotten worse this year and needed replacement, so we were prompted to move up our timetable a bit on removal of the bushes.

We need to do some work on the porch…

We haven’t had much time this Spring so far, so Memorial Day weekend was the best option to try and get some of the work done.  Last weekend in Columbia, I picked up a new reciprocating saw and some blades; we picked up some new clippers for Brooke for her birthday; and we borrowed my Dad’s chainsaw.

We went at them with the clippers first and then employed the reciprocating saw to go closer to the stumps of the bushes.  There were two bushes in the front on each side that we were trying to remove, as well as one pine tree on each side.  The spirea bushes were also overgrown, but we wanted to keep them and our local landscaping company, Springwater, recommended trimming them back substantially and letting them grown out again.  Springwater also gave us some other landscaping ideas that we’ll employ as the Summer progresses.

Demo time!

The first two bushes went down relatively quickly and we had the next two trimmed down before lunchtime, so we made good progress before the temperature increased, though the sun got intense as the afternoon went on.

High of 93 F that day…

We took some breaks, of course.  The kids were in the backyard with the pool up and various water toys, so they were entertained while the grown ups did actual work on their Memorial Day weekend

I ended up using Dad’s chainsaw on the stumps and was able to flatten them out a bit to make it easier to cover them up.  The stumps proved a lot stronger than we’d anticipated and the chainsaw proved useful, but not enough to complete the job.  I hacked at the last stump as best I could but may need to let it rot a bit first before I can take an axe or something to it.

Done for now!

The wood under the porch floor seems to be pretty well intact, so we don’t think we’ll have to gut the whole thing and should just be able to replace the floorboards.  Obviously, that could change (because we’ve never done anything like that before…), but we’re hopeful that it should be a relatively easy project.

We’re going to wait until after vacation before we kick that one off, though!

Garden Update: Early May

Garden 2018, ya’ll…

Well, the garden’s finally planted.  In some ways, I feel like it’s later than usual, but in other ways, I feel like it’s early (probably because we planted popcorn in, like, July last year…).

The tomatoes are in the rightmost plot this time and green beans and popcorn are in the leftmost, largest plot.  New for this year, Brooke put in some cucumbers.  The kids actually eat sliced cucumber sometimes, so perhaps we’ll get something useful…

Looks kinda desolate so far…

Brooke planted radishes, carrots, spinach and lettuce about a month ago now, but there was a massive rain (~4″ in a few hours…), so the seeds she’d just put in the ground shifted out of their rows and/or didn’t come up.  Honestly, they look a little better than we expected, but we need to water the garden and get some grass clippings put in to limit weed proliferation.  Last week was the first time I mowed the lawn (fully, at least), so I’m only now getting to the point where I’m mowing regularly.

Pretty flowers!

The “herb garden” section still needs a little more work, though.  Brooke put some bulbs in last Fall and they came up looking all pretty-like.  Some of the other perennials have returned, but we’ve added some milkweed and indigo from the Botany class on campus.  Again, lots of landscaping to finish off.

Millions of peaches…

The trees have also had their flowers on already.  Like last year, the peach tree had a bunch of flowers (and they didn’t freeze this time…yay!), but new for this year, the apple trees, cherry tree and almond tree also had some blooms.  We’ll have to see if anything comes of it, especially on the apple trees where the buds were on the smallest of branches…

First harvest!

That’s it for now!  We’ve got some radishes ready and the lettuce is moving right along, so onward, summer!