Pre and Post.

This year’s big project (or at least one of them) with the house was the siding and the front porch. I had been planning on doing the porch with dad, but the contractor (Brian Olson, out of La Crescent, for those who may be interested; I would recommend him!) gave me a quote for both the siding and the porch that was equal to all the other bids I got just for the siding, so I decided it was worth it to have his crew do the work.

This post is pretty picture heavy, because I wanted to do some before/after comparisons, so I’ll throw in a cut here for those who may not want to deal with the pictures on a feed reader. Continue reading

Mmm.. welcome back.

*contented sigh*

I’m reading more or less regularly again. By which I mean I’m actually reading printed-on-paper books as well as listening to audiobooks in the car (which I’ve been in a lot lately between the commute and a more-than-usual amount of weekend travel). Like many things in my life, reading sometimes ebbs and flows, and lately I’ve not had the calmness of mind to slip into a story and just let it take me away. It’s a sign of some peace and predictability returning, as I settle into the new job a bit more as well as make some decisions that, while not exactly weighing on my mind have been bouncing around the back burner for quite awhile. All things considered, this is a Good Thing(tm) and somewhat of a relief – for some reason it always makes me worry when I lose the desire to read.

I plowed through Santa Olivia, Jacqueline Carey‘s newest non-Kushiel novel, in a couple days last week. It lacks a lot of the depth of the Kushiel series, but was still a well crafted story with enough counterculture to satisfy. Feeding off that momentum, I started Galileo’s Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson and though it started a little more slowly than I’d have preferred, it’s progressed into the combination of well-researched history and plausible near-future that I love about his work. About the same time, I downloaded Bright of the Sky by new-to-me author Kay Kenyon and have been thoroughly sucked into it to the point where I actually finding myself wanted a commute longer than the 50 minutes it already is!

I’m also beginning to plot for the garden this year.. so far all I know for sure is cukes and tomatoes and pr’bly onions and peppers again. I’d do herbs (oh, right, I’ll do dill again) but that always seems like a grand idea until I realize that I have no real idea how to cook with them. *shrug* I’ll pr’bly do peas and beans again, though in the back yard this time instead of one of the boxes so they’ll get more shade and possibly vine up over the pergola. Lettuce would be good, if I actually manage to tend the garden well enough to stagger the planting (and therefore the harvesting) well enough. Pr’bly no squash this year as I don’t seem to go through as much of it, but I might give in and do a summer squash anyway. I’m learning that I’m a sort of haphazard gardener, which I’m honestly okay with, but sometimes means my follow through suffers. *smile*

Signs of life..

Just as I was starting to wonder if my asparagus experiment was going to be a complete and utter failure, on my way to the garage this morning, I noticed some very encouraging signs of life!

Lonely little stalk Asparagus! (As usual, clickable thumbnails.)

The stalks are teeny tiny – really more slender than the grass in my lawn – but they’re definitely asparagus. Next spring I should be able to do a light harvest of some young stalks, and the following year I’ll be able to do a full harvest. Mmmm.. I *love* asparagus, so the idea of being able to walk out in the morning and harvest some fresh to pan sear with a little butter and some scrambled eggs for breakfast is simply divine.

The strawberries have been showing more regular signs that they’re getting well established as well:

Strawberries 051809 More strawberries 051809

I am not sure if I should expect to actually get fruit from the strawberries this year – they’re an everbearing variety, so it’s definitely possible – but even if not, the prospect of a nice full bed of beautiful red fruit next summer is rather exciting.

Late last week I finally managed to get all the seeds in the raised beds – cukes, radishes (yes, I know, terribly late), snap peas, summer and winter squash, and lettuce. I have one bed still empty for tomatoes and peppers (which should arrive later this week), and room still in the other beds to do another sowing of lettuce, radishes and peas, so here’s hoping I planned better this year and don’t end up with the jungle of tomato doom that overshadowed everything else I planted two years ago.

Unfortunately, I also have one quarter of one of the beds that’s been overrun by grass; I dug out as much as I could, and have covered the area up with big rhubarb leaves in hopes of starving it of light, but the roots are so embedded in the soil that I think I may just have to resign myself to Round Up at the end of the season to kill it all off.

I also, for the first time since I moved into the house, harvested some of the monstrous rhubarb that grows in the side patio bed. I brought 8 or 10 stalks to my sister’s yesterday since my brother-in-law is a rather avid cook and I figured he could find something fun and tasty to make with it. I picked that much again tonight, cut it up and stuck most of it in the freezer. I’m planning to¬† make at least some rhubarb cordial*, but may also do a rhubarb cake or some such as well. I expect that I’ll be able to harvest quite a bit more over the next couple of weeks, but I’m pretty sure it freezes quite well and frozen fruits (though I’m pretty sure it’s not a fruit..?) are always good to have on hand.

I’m also thinking ahead a bit to later in the summer when the cukes start coming in and contemplating making dill pickles. I’ve never done it, but I *love* crunchy dill pickles and I will likely have more cukes than I’ll ever eat fresh, so I’m thinking this might just be the year to try it out. Hrm. Which pr’bly means I should plant some dill, too.

* Cut up rhubarb. Fill a quart jar with as much as will fit. Pour 1 c. or so of sugar over fruit. Fill jar with vodka or white rum. Shake daily until the sugar is fully dissolved. Let age until it tastes right or the fruit turns white. Strain out the liquid and bottle for a taste of early summer in the dead of winter. This general recipe – cut up fruit to fill a jar, 1 c. sugar, fill with vodka – will work with most fruits to make cordials and I’ve found it considerably easier than the recipes that require simple syrup.

*love*

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Done!
(All are clickable thumbnails.)

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Isn’t it beautiful?

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I feel like I have a brand new back yard now.

Pergola on the left, extended deck on the right, strawberry and asparagus bed in front of the pergola.

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This has to be the perfect place to spend a warm spring evening.

New “cure” for rain..

I’m afraid I may have found a new cure for bad weather. It’s not one I’m likely to attempt regularly, though.

This morning dad and I awoke to overcast skies that quickly opened up into rain. Given that we were planning to start the deck construction this morning, we were a little concerned, but decided to run into town for breakfast and to run a few errands and see what things looked like when we got home. Some $300 later, the sun was breaking through and we were back on our way home to begin the framing for the deck. I’m trying not to think about how monetary “sacrifices” to the weather deities might work, but I am hoping the storm we’re getting now moves through before morning!

Even with a somewhat truncated working day, we did get the deck framed and the decking down:

Photobucket View standing at the back door (As usual, all are clickable thumbnails.)
Photobucket View standing under the pergola on the patio, with a bonus shot of the little black pig

Yesterday dad pressure washed the existing decking, so while the color shift from the old to the new is noticeable it’s not nearly as glaring as it would have been had he not taken the time and effort (thanks, dad!). He also built the railing between the house and the stairs and on the stairs, all while I was at work.

At the moment, the deck is quite lovely and even though it’s only 8×16, is rather large enough for my tastes. Here’s a shot with the deck furniture (a decent chunk of the “sacrifice” from this morning) we assembled this evening for some scale:

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The table is 42″ and there are four rocker chairs, all of which fit comfortably on the new part of the deck. It may feel a little more enclosed tomorrow once the rest of the fence and the railing is in place, but even so it’s a grand little spot to sit and watch the birds. I can’t wait to be able to step out on a sunny morning with a cup of coffee and watch the neighborhood wake up!

.. and then some!

It’s been an absolutely beautiful weekend here, after a dry but slightly chilly end of week; all of that was much appreciated, however, after the rain from last weekend prompted some jostling of plans. (We had been intending to pour the concrete footings for the deck extension last weekend, but the rain (which was much needed and therefore will be spared the full force of my wrath *smile*) delayed that.)

Note: I’m beat, so this post may be lacking in poetic phrasing and.. yeah, all that. While the tone may not convey it, I’m rather terribly excited and happy with everything we’ve accomplished! Since this one has lots of pictures, I’ll throw a jump in here for those using a feed reader. Continue reading

Since I can’t be in my garden this weekend..

.. I might as well post about it. *smile*

I’m a few weeks behind, but I’ve spent several evenings the last couple of weeks out in the yard clearing out the deadfall from last year. The side and front garden got cleaned up first as they’re the easiest and are the only ones with perennials that are starting to come up. I bagged up I think 5 bags of yard waste from just those beds, though, since there are a few places in them that like to collect leaves. I’ve also cleaned out the deadfall from the raised beds and cleared out all the rose canes, but did that after the deadline for the County to still pick up yard waste from the curb, so I’ll have to run all that down to the green dump myself at some point.

My plans for the weekend changed at the more-or-less last minute. I had intended to sink the footings for the expansion to my (currently not really) deck with my dad, and he was going to bring the pieces of my pergola down and put it together on the back deck. Unfortunately, southeastern Minnesota is now sitting smack in the midst of a weather system that is promising thunderstorms and rain all weekend, and digging 42 inches into rain soaked ground, and then trying to fill the holes with concrete while dodging rain (and possible hail) storms didn’t seem like such a wise idea. As much as we really do need the rain – and the storms so far have been awe-inspiring – I’m a little bit bummed that we had to shuffle things around.

But, since I’m more or less homebound on a dark, grey, rainy weekend, I’ve been planning a bit for this year’s garden. I found an interesting blog post, via foodgawker a few days ago, about a victory garden; the interesting part is the “deer guard” and it has me wondering if you could use a similar technique to train vining plants up over the dome. It’d have to be small enough to fit inside the box, which might then be too small. If the plan I have for this year doesn’t work out, I may investigate further. For this year, though, dad’s built me a frame similar to (maybe made from.. can’t remember) an old window screen frame with larger-mesh screen. The intention is to prop it up at an angle so that the vines will grow up the topside, and still be able to plant shade-loving things underneath it. I have to plot out the garden boxes to figure out what’s going where still – I have most of an idea, but need to actually sit down and write it all out – but I think that this should let me grow the lettuce “underneath” the cukes or squash, at least until the vines get so large the block out all the light (which may not be an issue if I set the frame up in the right direction to still let in light through the open end).

In areas unrelated to the garden, I think I may need to give in and buy a small printer for home. I normally try not to print things as I can usually make notes on a smaller piece of paper and therefore prevent wasting several whole pieces for something like directions. But sometimes, like when I find recipes I want to try, there’s more information than I want to translate. Unfortunately, I really don’t want to add a printer to my desk space, but I may shop around and see if I can find one of the teeny tiny ones that are made for folks who travel with them so I can stash it away discretely when I’m not using it.