.. 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


Beautiful (and Busy) Saturday

(All photos are clickable thumbnails.)

The sky has been this amazing blue all day. Seemed like a good evening to take some pictures of the gardens..

A few weeks ago I was at a friend’s house and couldn’t come up with the name of this plant. Of course, now that my own are blooming, I remember that they’re Hollyhock. These bloom in the rose bushes by the garage…

..almost done for the year, but still lovely and fragrant. There’s been a slight breeze running all day so the whole yard smells of the roses.

We’ve wanted for awhile to clear out the old raspberry patch and Jack got motivated by our plans to have friends over Friday to get it taken care of. It’s created a really gorgeous spot in the backyard that has shade most of the day.. it’s where we spent a large part of yesterday afternoon with our guests.

And this, the tree behind the apple tree, is apparently a Mulberry Tree. Who knew?! *smile* Jack cleaned up some lower branches on both this and the apple tree and we’ll eventually seed grass in the dirt from the raspberry patch to finish things up.

The phlox are starting to bloom in the side garden, and the lilies – nearly as tall as I am – are out in force.

I love the combination of colors in the side garden, and how they stack up when you look up the walk toward the street.

Unfortunately, that was about all the time I got outside today because we were busy inside painting the dining room. Below is a set of before pictures – not terribly exciting, but nice for comparison:

The second corner was hard to get a shot of with decent light – the dining room, while it gets the most natural light of any room except the bedroom, is on the north side of the house, so the light is all indirect. It seems I only took a couple shots after we’d done the first coat..

.. but got the full set again while the second (and final) coat was drying..

The colors are true (enough) on my monitor, but on the camera’s little screen, some of the pictures looked frighteningly bright orange. In reality, it’s a deepish butterscotch color and neither really too orange nor too brown, nor does it really glow. I was afraid it might look more like mustard once we got it on the walls, but I’m very happy with how it turned out. Once it’s really fully dry (tomorrow) we’ll pull the painter’s tape and put the furniture and such back in, which will be the real test for how we like it. I also have plans to stain the doorway into the laundry room (finally) and if I’m going to have the stain out, I’ll also pr’bly do the two closet doors and the top trim from the closet in the bedroom.

How does your garden grow..?

This will be a photo-intensive post, just as a warning for those who may be on dial-up and/or using an RSS feed reader that doesn’t pull the photos through.

I took advantage of some sunshine and nice weather over the weekend and on Monday to get some photos of the early blossomings in the garden. In no particular order (and, as usual, all photos are clickable thumbnails)..

The apple tree in the side yard:

We removed a large and dying tree from the front boulevard last year and replanted a new baby (maple) tree; around the time we were replanting the new tree, our mail carrier left us some daffodil bulbs, so I decided to plant them around the base of the tree. I’m very happy with that decision!

When we removed the large and unsightly bushes from the front porch, we were worried about losing the shade from the afternoon sun on the front porch. The solution we tried last year was to put some garden boxes on the front edge of the porch and plant morning glories but as we weren’t sure it would work, we didn’t want to invest in new garden boxes. It worked well, though, so dad built us some nice new cedar boxes that we installed just below the front edge of the porch:

They’ve been filled with potting soil and I planted morning glory seeds Tuesday morning; I’ll put up some mesh for the vines to climb on in a few weeks once the plants start coming up.

The front garden is still coming in, so I decided last year it needed a little color while things grew. I really liked the Gerber daisies, so got some more for this year:

I hated our mailbox – it was a metal mailbox that had been painted with the same paint they’d used on the house and jerry-rigged to the porch and just altogether ugly. But I also balked at spending upwards of $50 on a new mailbox. Dad came to my rescue and made this one for me for Christmas:

It’s not secured to the porch yet – still need to screw it down – but I’m trying to decide if we want to wait until we re-paint the porch first.

Every year, there’s a lonely little tulip that pops up in the side garden to provide some early color before the rest of the flowers come in. I keep meaning to get it some company…

Again, we needed some color in the front garden, and I wanted to put one of the bird feeders out there for the songbirds that like to nest in the bush by our front door. Last year, I put a basket of Johnny-Jump-Ups out there, but this year I couldn’t resist these deep purple violas:

We have clover all over in our yard, and I love when it blooms before we cut the grass for the first time, so I snapped a couple pictures before Jack mowed Tuesday:

I’m sure as the spring and summer progresses, there will be more pictures from the gardens, but that’s the first batch!

Campus is also a-bloom and I really loved these two, which are right outside the door to the building my office is in, so snapped a couple quick pictures so I could remember them (and if anyone knows by what name I might find either of these, please chime in (yes, I know the flowers are tulips, but I like the multi-colored petals)!):

Up next (like either later today or tomorrow), I’ll prove that I am still (sometimes) knitting! Watch this space for a sneak preview of Cookie A’s new pattern, Ornette!

Saturday in the garden

It’s a beautiful day here in southern MN and after having been away for a week, I decided to take a stroll around the gardens to see how things are doing. Admittedly, it was the appearance of this lovely little blossom that started it all:

(All pictures are clickable thumbnails; click them to load a larger version.)

That’s one of the balloon flowers we planted last month and our Garden Guru(tm) told me when we planted them that they may not actually bloom again this year, but not to worry if they didn’t as long as the plant stayed green. I was quite surprised to see them bloom, therefore, and happily reminded of why I wanted them in the front garden as I truly love the shape and color of these delicate blossoms.

Also in bloom in the front garden are the cosmos:

Such a lovely brightness always brings a smile to my face! I have to admit that I didn’t think they’d be so tall, but I’m glad of them all the same.

And speaking of tall, our biennial hollyhocks are the magenta and the white this year and they seem to be doing just fine back by the garage:

The vegetable garden, of course, is going strong and we’ve already started harvesting some of the onions:

We should be able to start using some of the basil (right middle section above) soon, too, but the peppers (right top section) might have been started too late to actually produce anything this year.

The tomatoes are *huge*! Much larger than I anticipated. And all of them are currently bearing fruit, albeit all still green:

Sungolds (sweet cherry-sized)
Yellow Pear (yellow (obviously) cherry-sized)
Big Mama (large, red, paste tomatoes)

I’ve let the side garden go a bit this summer and haven’t been as good about clearing out the bits that we don’t want to encourage, especially the walnut trees that we can’t quite seem to completely kill, but it’s still in full bloom and doing just fine:

Even the apple trees are happily producing fruit, though I’m still unsure if it’s harvestable given that we don’t do anything to keep worms and bugs and such away from the trees

Small tree in back yard; this is, we think, only the second year this one has produced fruit
Large tree in side yard

I have a goal of actually harvesting apples one of these years and doing at least one pressing of cider to use to make apple wine and/or hard cider. I made a couple gallons last fall with bought cider and would like to do so every year so we always have some in the cellar for those crisp fall evenings.

“That’s funny.. the damage doesn’t look as bad from out here.”

First, I need to distract G because the main part of this post is likely to make her confiscate my pavilion for mistreatment. So here are some photos from my garden at the moment (click the picture to load a larger version).

Yellow daisy-like flowers (no idea what these are; they’re tall and perennial and bloom like that all summer long)

Magenta hollyhock (we have several colors of hollyhock scattered in amongst the rose bushes that line our garage)

Stray morning glory? I just noticed this little guy this morning over along the side of the house by the water meter.. the vine doesn’t look like a morning glory, but the flower sure does!

These are the Gerber daisies I got for the blue pot for the front yard. They’re doing wonderfully there! I really love how much color they add to the front yard.

This is how I know the little stray guy along the side of the house looks like a morning glory. 😉

The first garden box – Walla Walla sweet onions are really the only things visible, but there are also three kinds of pepper plants and two types of basil planted in there.

Those are tomatoes in the middle (Big Mama variety, I think) and garlic. I think there’s also maybe carrots or radishes in there, too.

The last box (far left) has the Yellow Pear tomatoes and some summer squash; the other has the Sun Gold tomatoes and either carrots or radishes, what ever’s not in the second box.

.. and here are some photos of the mildew/mold/something nasty chewing damage to our double bell wedge pavilion.*
Before any treatment:

This is the back center panel, in the lower right as you’re facing the tent. This is the smallest of the actual holes and is surrounded by some canvas that while not actually torn is structurally weak.

This one’s the other side of the back center panel. The damage is much worse here and this is actually the most badly damaged place. The seam that runs through this patch is seamed around a piece of canvas strap which has also deteriorated in at least one place. You can still see the duct tape we used to patch the hole this past weekend in this shot.

This appears to just be stained.. the canvas does look or feel weakened, but we’ll need to keep an eye on it.

Ditto here – no apparent damage, but something we’ll need to watch.

This spot lines up with the spot that’s the most damaged on the back when the pavilion is folded and in storage, but it’s in the door flap, so it’s somewhat less critical. Still, the entire bottom of that panel will need to be patched.

And after some scrubbing with a 1:8 mixture of chlorine bleach and water (as recommended here, from a referral from G), rinsed and left to dry overnight:

The scrubbing opened up the hole a bit, which I expected given how deteriorated the canvas was, but the stain is significantly reduced and I’m pretty sure that anything that might have still been living in the canvas eating away at it is now dead.

Again, this is the worst spot; it’s about 18 inches across to get to solid canvas and at least 40 inches high.

So far, this one still appears sound. The spots above the stain are grass, not holes!

Not to bad. I think this is my “favorite” of them just because the black squiggles from where whatever it was died.

*cringe* Yeah.. not as bad looking as the back, but still a pretty major patch.

The canvas on the front right and back left appears to be fully sound, but the holes in the back center left and right and in the door will need to be patched. The smaller patch is only about 10 inches square, but the two larger patches (the back center left and the door) will require a patch about 18 inches wide by about 40 or so inches tall. The back center left is complicated by the fact that it spans one of the seams of the pavilion (but fortunately not the seam that bears the bulk of the stress from the ridgepole) and I don’t think I’m brave enough to try that one on my own, but we’ll see how I feel after doing the others.

*We discovered the damage last weekend when we went to load the car to attend our first camping event of the year. It’s entirely our own fault – we have a hard-packed dirt garage floor and left the canvas bag the pavilion was stored in sit directly on the floor over the winter and spring. something decided to eat it. The pavilion is structurally sound (we used it last week with just some duct tape to seal the holes in case of rain), but that’s mostly because the rot missed the four main seams that bear the most of the stress. It also helps that we use a swingset pole arrangement (I’ll likely post some pictures of that in a few days) so unlike a normal bell wedge, the stakes don’t have to put the canvas under as much stress for the tent to be stable. Yes, if we leave the stakes loose at the points of wear, the tent sags a bit there, but I’ll deal with a little sag to not have to replace the entire pavilion!

On gardens.

Yup. Gardens. It’s mid-March, there’s still at least 10 inches of snow on our yard, and I’ve been pondering garden thoughts for some weeks now. Now, before we wander off down the paths of my mind, let me remind you that I’m by no means what any sane person would call a gardener. But I am learning, and we have plans that will help me learn more.

I don’t recall if I talked last year at all about the plans for the front yard when we pulled out all the bushes, so bear with me if this is old news. Basically, there’s no real grass in the front yard – it’s all weeds and dirt with just enough of a smattering of actually grass-like substance to require us to mow it. We find this annoying (really, Jack finds this annoying since he ends up mowing more often than I do) and decided that it would be just lovely if instead of a front lawn, we had instead a nice little garden area there. Something that is mostly perennials, with maybe room for an annual or two as the mood strikes us.

So this past weekend we met with two greenthumb-enabled friends – who themselves have an absolutely beautiful and self-sustaining garden for their front lawn – to plan what to put in there. There were some rules – for instance, given that we just tore out several monstrous evergreen shrubs that were as tall as the first story of the house, we didn’t want any bushes that would get unmanageably tall or dense. We also didn’t want it so dense that it was just a patch of vegetation with no rhyme or reason. Finally, we wanted it to “flow” or “transition” well visually into the grass of our neighbor’s lawn, without threatening to overtake said grass.

After flipping through lots of catalogs and books, we decided on the following to fill the approximately 15 foot square space:
*Closest to the porch, where the old bushes used to be, we’ll plant three weigela bushes. The two on the ends will be of the Wine & Roses variety, and the middle one is Variegated.
* In front of the weigela bushes, from the left to the right if you’re standing on the sidewalk in front of the house, sort of on either side of the Variegated weigela (which is bigger than the other two), will be some mixed foxglove.
* The front left corner will be a combination of Bright Lights Cosmos, a smidge of Evergreen Vinca, and a fronting of either sapphire blue or white delight creeping phlox.
* The rough center of the patch, in front of the variegated weigela and between the two patches of foxglove, will be a Blue Star Sea Holly.
* By the sidewalk to the porch, from the corner of the porch to the main sidewalk, will be a patch of Ipomopsis Hummingbird Mix, with more of the phlox in front of it, then some more of the evergreen vinca and another corner of the phlox. Tucked in behind the phlox and to the front right of the Sea Holly is a small patch of Balloonflowers.

In terms of height, it will be shorter as you work toward the front corners and sides, and we’re pretty sure that we’ll have something blooming most of the summer. The weigela and ipomopsis are both attractive to hummingbirds, which will work well considering I have a hummingbird feeder on the porch.

I ordered all the plants today (they won’t ship until they’re ready to go in the ground – likely the last week of April or the first week of May). We’ll need to rent a sod cutter to get rid of the weeds and such that are currently in the yard, and put down some gardeners cloth and edging to keep things from getting too invasive where they shouldn’t be, but I’m hoping that by mid-May the front lawn will be more or less set.

We also planned a rather extensive vegetable garden – 3 different types of tomatoes, blue potatoes, sweet potatoes, french radishes, purple carrots, garlic, chives, watermelon radishes, three kinds of peppers, three kinds of basil, and Walla Walla Sweet onions – that will go into raised beds that my dad’s coming to help me build the second week in May. Oh, and a couple different kinds of squash, but we’re going to train those up the fence in the back yard. At least half of the crop from the veggie garden will go to the friends who are helping us with the planning (they’re also going to come help get things in the ground and teach me what I need to know to maintain and care for everything), but I still expect that I’ll have more than my share of fresh veggies this year.

The raised beds will run the length of the yard where we took out the bushes-gone-wild last year, with a space between them that will have a smaller raised bed where I can plant something that will vine – maybe clematis or trumpet vine? – and an arbor over a sitting area across from the apple tree in the side yard. I might also try to plant a row of sunflowers on the street side to give a little privacy screen, but I haven’t decided on that yet. I’ll be ordering the plants and seeds for the veggies in a week or two, once I have a chance to confirm with dad that we really can make the beds as large as we planned.

So now that the plans are done, we wait. Fortunately, I know the time will just fly! Dad’s coming down next week to help us rip out and remodel the upstairs bathroom and we’re trying to pick out paint colors for the dining room to get at least one of the interior rooms painted something other than white before summer hits, so between that and work, I’m sure it’ll be planting time before I know it. Yea!

Good Monday Morning!

I walked into my office this morning to this gorgeous sight:

Quite lovely! It’s been blooming more or less continuously all winter, but this is the most blooms it’s had at any given time. There are still a few more buds that have yet to open, and I suspect it will continue to bloom for another month or so and then go dormant again for the summer. In the meantime, though, it’s a wonderfully welcome splash of color in my office, especially with the sunlight streaming in behind it.

In other news, I whipped up another Felted Bucket Hat this weekend for my mother-in-law. No pictures – I forgot to get any before I wrapped it up – but I might try to get one of her wearing it tonight when we meet them for dinner.