Disclaimer: we aren't professionals

Thanks for reading our silly little blog! As the disclaimer says, we aren't professionals in either blogging or house stuff, but we try. This is mostly to let our friends and family know what we've destroyed so far in the house. We post irregularly and usually forget to take pictures, so thanks for your patience, and please feel free to comment with your thoughts and suggestions!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Garden update too!

I am terrible at pacing myself, so if anyone is actually reading this then you get two posts in one day!

This is about our garden plot. We cut down all those trees earlier this year (read: had professionals cut them down for us). Then we had the stumps ground out on a Thursday (I forget which Thursday, but it was in February). Then Chris borrowed a roto-tiller from his boss and we cleared a 20' by 15' section of ground to the right of our deck (looking out from the house). It's behind the garage, and receives TONS of sun now that the pesky diseased tree that was there is gone. It's sort of flat; close enough at least. Anyway over that weekend we hacked out all the remaining tree roots with the cutter-maddock and the axe (that was super annoying; there were tons of surface root clumps). We tilled the plot, and then tamped it down. We laid down 300 square feet of landscaping fabric, and using 8 treated 2"x8"x8's we made 4 raised beds, each 4' square. Then we filled the beds with a mix of topsoil ($14 for a half ton, I think?), Miracle Gro garden soil, mushroom compost, and cow manure compost. I have had a garden plan laid out for ages, and I finally got to start planting things according to the frost date guidelines. We used the mulch from the ground up stumps to cover the paths, and we will probably add a low fence at some point. I have to check with Chris, who has waged a war against the squirrels, but more on that later.
Here's how it looks from the front yard looking over the chain link fence. Not many plants yet; just a few onions. The structures are all in, though. I made trellises out of EMT (metal tubing usually used for electrical work) and remesh (big sheets of wire grid that are used to reinforce concrete). The pea trellis (left) is at an angle; the peas will grow to shade the spinach and kale. The potato towers (far left) are still empty; the cherry tomato trellis (right) is set up but there are no tomatoes yet. 

Here is an excerpt of my plan. This is always subject to change, and will evolve as we harvest spring and summer vegetables and replant with fall veggies. 

This was taken March 31st, the day I had been using as my spring frost date. Technically it's April 14th or something, but whatever. It's been a warm spring. Never mind that today is April 12th and it was 40 degrees last night...
Anyway, the near bed holds squash and zucchini. I still don't have plant markers finished (I'm spraypainting paint stir sticks yellow on one side and chalkboard painting the other side to write in varieties) so I forget which are yellow crooknecks and which are zucchini. Oops. I guess we'll find out in a few months! Chris bought too many pepper plants so he tried to salvage them with the white buckets. The orange bucket holds carrots (which grow too deep for our shallow raised beds). You can see the peas starting to climb the trellis on the left. The potato towers are growing well (they've gone nuts in the past two weeks, too, it's awesome!). The tomato cages are assembled to the right; I got organic tomatoes (some heirlooms) from Pike Nurseries, so I have 6 different types of tomatoes growing. I can't wait to try them all! I have 4 in cages and the 2 cherry varieties will go up the trellis. I planted shortest in front, tallest in back (or shortest to the west, tallest to the east). They will all get tons of sun, regardless. 

We volunteered at a Crop Mob (weekend gatherings of volunteers to help a local gardener or farmer with specific tasks in the fields) and I got some cuttings of a lemon balm plant. It has since died and I shelled out $3 at Home Depot to get a replacement. I planted it in a bucket to try to control it, as well as the two mint varieties. They are known for taking over gardens. I also tried to grow lavender from seed (hah, how ambitious) but that failed too. The mint and lavender I got at half off, though, so $1.50 each. Not bad. I can't wait to make homemade popsicles with fresh sweet mint! 

Here are my tomatoes. We have:
Juliet (cherry)          Sweet 100 (cherry)
Brandywine               Red Strawberry 
Park's Whopper                 La Roma II
 I made an oops, and La Roma II is actually a determinate variety, meaning it bushes; the others are indeterminate, which is what most people grow in cages. We'll see how it grows, though. This garden is one big fun experiment to me! 
 I planted two squash in each quarter, but will thin one so I have a total of 4 plants. That's still kind of crowded, but I used scraps from the tomato cages to make a trellis, and we'll see if I can train them to grow over that. The buckets are for watering. Fill the bucket, let the water soak into the soil through drilled holes. That's how one magazine said to do it so I'm giving it a shot. The squash have sprouted, so I'll probably thin them this next week. Survival of the fittest!
 I totally had fun with google+'s photo editor while making these pics. The herbs are pretty self-explanatory; the cilantro has died and I probably won't try to grow it again. Everything else is happy, though!

 The potatoes have gone nuts since this photo was taken. The little sprouts out the side have grown out and up and leafed out a lot. The 3 planted in the top have exploded. They seem to be pretty happy potatoes. I'll just water them and leave them alone until harvest in the fall. Also yes, I misspelled potatoes. Oops.
 This is the kale/spinach/peas bed. The kale have red arrows pointing to them. Only one is really doing well; the rest are still tiny. Hm. I should water more? The spinach are growing but are still skinny. The squirrels have gotten some of them. We replant, though, and we'll just have staggered harvest that way. The peas are growing, and I help them along by weaving them through the remesh when their little tendrils have trouble finding the trellis.

 Here is the final bed; it's pretty well labeled. I have since planted smaller marigolds in the other beds as well. They are supposed to smell funky and keep bugs and other pests away from my precious vegetables.
The beans have popped out of the soil now so we can expect beans in a month or so! They grow so quickly! The squirrels got one of the bell peppers, and last night when I came home from gymnastics I saw some chicken-wire contraption in the garage. I'll have to see what Chris is up to when I get home from work today.
Oooh and we made a super-cheap compost tumbler! This is your standard 32-gallon Rubbermaid trash can. It is $9.88 at our local Home Depot. We used the flat lid from our shop trash can, and bought a bungee for less than $2. I drilled 1/2" holes around the trash can, sides, top, and bottom. I put two cinder blocks together for a base to allow air circulation, and now we fill it with vegetable scraps, rinsed egg shells, and coffee grounds. When we want to tumble it, we roll it along on the ground. It is sooooo much cheaper and easier than trying to find a big 55-gallon food-safe barrel and modifying it! Seriously, 15 minute project, tops. If you are in the market for a composter, don't bother with the fancy, expensive thingies. If you've got a wooden frame made out of pallets, awesome; if you want to keep your compost safe from scavengers, though, this is a great solution.

And that is our garden so far! There was a little monetary investment, on the order of $150 or so, but I hope the returns are worth it. I would love to finally successfully grow zucchini and tomatoes and peppers and everything. I hope our new, sunny garden will bathe our little veggie babies in light and warmth and they will grow big and strong so we can eat them! Nom nom nom.

OMG bathroom update!

It's only taken 3 months!
So, here are lots of pictures to make up for it.
 We like our OXO tension rod holder; it's super easy to clean, and is very sturdy. No rust after 3 months! Well worth the investment, especially because we can take it with us when we move.
 I love the shower with trim tab. The water is always at the perfect temperature. The travertine is easy to clean; just sponge down with hot water. The tub is acrylic so we clean that with Scrubbing Bubbles but we're careful to keep it off of the tile.
 We love our dual-flush toilet. It was the $98 option at Home Depot, and even though it's not Kohler (it's Glacier Bay), it has clean smooth lines and is easy to sit on (a huge improvement over the tiny, low, 70's toilet in the other bathroom). TMI? Sorry.
 I loooooove my hair dryer holder. This is my space for clutter. I have a little earring tree, a jewelry box, and my makeup organizer. I have my own little light, and it's dark in this picture but that's my cell phone camera's fault. I have plenty of light to do my own thing without crowding the sink. It's like we have the buyer-desired two sinks, but minus the one sink. That didn't make sense... We have two spaces to get ready even though we only have one sink.
 Curved shower curtain rod + extra-long curtain on the outside = ooh hotel spa
Also our sink is awesome and huge and I love the faucet and it has the ledge on the back where we put our toothbrushes and the soap so we don't have to worry about the wood desk. *deep breath*
Our Ikea-hacked desk turned out pretty nicely; it's pine, so there are a few small dents, but the spar urethane we used to seal it keeps out any water, and down the line if the dents become a problem we can just add a granite slab on top (between the sink and the desk). The drawer under the sink is not functional but the one closest to the toilet is, and it's a nice spot for face wipes and our toothbrush charger. We store extra towels in a basket under the sink, and our scale lives there too. I just think the open desk makes the space feel larger, which is important because the bathroom isn't that big (9.5' wide x 8' deep)
I also like the tile around the medicine cabinet. It matches the tile in the shower, and makes the whole thing feel less medicine-cabinet-y. It's not perfect, but only I will notice the imperfections. One blog I read puts it: it's not perfect, but if you do notice then good for you! You get a cookie! You are very, VERY observant.

Someday after we fix the other door to the hallway and add some art, maybe I'll submit it to Young House Love. I mean, not to brag, but it is a pretty drastic transformation. Here, let me remind you of our before:

 The shower is in the same location; the tub, window, and fixtures have been replaced and we've obviously retiled.
 The view from the bedroom.
 Note the mirror resting directly on the vanity. The mirror is currently in the garage; the front frame has been spray-painted an avocado green, the sides are going to be painted gold, and then it will hang in our living room.
 The big sink vanity has been replaced by my little cabinet/make-up station.
This corner now has the toilet. Glamorous. 

Anyway, technically we are not done with the bathroom yet because we still need to paint a teensy bit of crown molding on the tub/towel hook wall. We will also replace the door to the hallway with a 6-paneled door. In the interest of full disclosure, we did have a few floor tiles come loose as well. We suspect it's because the leveling system we used has little plastic clips that exert an upward force on the bottom of the tiles, and so if there was any weakness in the thin-set the tiles would come loose. We will evaluate them over the next few months and possibly repair them. Right now they're hidden under the bath rug though, and so we're hoping the plastic clips lose some of their springy-ness and then we'll re-mortar them.