Friday, July 16, 2010

The Garden: An Update in Photographs (part I)

Part I: Driveway & Front Yard

These were all taken right around July 4th. Welcome to our garden...

As you pull into the driveway, you'll see our quickly growing sunflowers running the length of the driveway. Here they are at the very start of July:

And here again about a week later:

Currently, they are about an inch away from the bottom of the hanging pots! It's absolutely lovely.

Right by the kitchen steps are a few more flowers:

Moving towards the front yard, our little herb garden complete with guard kitties:

Two different kinds of basil, both ready to eat, cook with, and dry for storage. You can see some of the chives too - there's a big clump of chives here that came originally from my parents' home in WI.

Moving to the front corner of the house, our strawberries!

Recently they have begun putting out runners (all over the place!) so it'll be interesting to see what the strawberry bed looks like next year. Also, we'll need a fence or cage or something, at least to put on during the night when visitors come to nibble. So far we've had moderate success - half of our berries make it into our mouths, fully intact. The other half suffer bite wounds from either squirrels or bunnies.

More views of the strawberries:

Now to the front of the house! This area has also changed a little since these photos were taken - the pumpkin plants are exploding out and over the bed and there are baby pumpkins in our "patch".

This is the bed where our spinach is also growing. It's not a problem that the pumpkins are taking over, because last week the spinach started to bolt. I still pick leaves off every so often, but they aren't as tasty as they used to be. Here's a view of 1/3 of our spinach around the 4th, a week before the plants began bolting:

Turning out to face the street, you can see our asparagus (okay, you can't *see* it very well because it blends in, but it's about a foot and a half in diameter and a few feet tall. Looks healthy!

And our apple tree. We'll put a second apple tree in either later this Summer or early next Spring.

Thus concludes Part I. Stay tuned for the Backyard Tour! That is where the real garden insanity resides. (No, not the bunnies...)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What I've Been Up To

or, rather,

Where I've Been.

For this:

(in Bethel, not in Anchorage)

That included this:

(can I keep him?)

Followed by the enjoyment of this:

(I only harvested a rock, so I didn't break any of the rules)

at the Botanical Garden, where they have the following:

Zombie tulips (really.. have you seen a more undead flower?)

Me, photographing the zombie tulips (and normal tulips, seen in the background)

Gender normative flowers (can't we escape this dichotomy anywhere?!)

And what visit to Anchorage would be complete without the Saturday Market? (two words: salmon quesadillas)

So, that's what's been up with the lack of posting my postings.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

More Food!

Okay, so I know that you're supposed to pick & eat the broccoli before it blooms. Well, I know that now, after receiving sage advice from Facebook friends. Because when I have a garden related question, to whom do I turn?

BUT - and here's where my buddies from afar were wrong:

Broccoli that has already begun to flower is actually still very good. Also, did you know that broccoli could be so pretty? I bet more people would eat broccoli if it came with its own bouquet. Maybe not. But consider this a Public Service Announcement: broccoli in bloom = most definitely edible (and still yum).

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

That one where I post about things that are delicious...

The first berry of the season.

Backyard sunsets.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

More Love.

da Vinci, the early years:

We love it when the kids visit! It gives us a great excuse to be "off the clock". Even though it may not look that way here... this picture shows the only child labor involved the entire afternoon. The rest of the time it was sprinklers, sandboxes, and snacks, I swear. But hey, kids gotta earn their keep somehow, right?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Day Laborer

Very dissimilar to a "Day Tripper".

8 cubic yards of compost:

Moving it to various vegetable beds:

Task completed.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sewing (in our new back door!)

Also, love. Love the seamstress, love the door, love love love.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Campfires in our backyard.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tuesdays are for Making Blisters

I had a load of compost delivered this morning (8 cu yards, which is a LOT of compost). I spent the morning vacillating between filling garden beds, supervising our backyard door construction, and installing the 4 rainbarrels we earned from the Recycling Association of Minnesota. Here's this weekend's Elk River site and Laura "earning" a rainbarrel. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it! In fairness, she did work hard when there was work to be done.

Today was a different story. Talk about hard work! The compost hauling and shoveling nearly did me in today. We have 10 raised beds total - the one that's in the front of the house and the one with the peas & beans were already filled earlier this month. The other eight need some serious filling and will suck up all of the 8 cubic yards of compost - and then some. I filled two of the eight beds completely and got a great start on a third (the long one that stretches all the way across the back of the garden area). So I have five and a half left. My goal is to have them done by the time Laura's friends come tomorrow night. Yikes. My hands ache from today's shoveling and cannot bear the thought of tomorrow morning's job.

What is it about wheelbarrows and shovels that entice ugly, mean blisters to angrily pop out of soft, delicate hand skin? I wore gloves today. I did, I swear! But I still managed to come away with four reddish-white burning mounds of misery protruding from my upper palms.

To take my mind off of the pain, here are some pictures of our rainbarrels and compost bins:

Compost bins: large for everything except food, small for food and bunny poop/dried alfalfa hay mix

One of the rainbarrels, pre-installation.


Next up: How a Window Became a Door: A Story of Courage, Hope and Transformation.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Bursting into Life

This was an even busier-than-usual weekend, what with bonfires, May Day celebrations, and a visit from my mom (and the accompanying carload of "here's-boxes-of-your-junk-from-my-basement").
Despite that, we managed to get some things done around our house. Laura brought out our push-reel mower and mowed the lawn without polluting the air. Have I mentioned our push-reel mower before? My almost-90 year old grandma gave it to us when she cleaned out her garage this Spring. I was under the impression that it harkened back to olden times, but apparently my grandma purchased it shortly after my grandpa died - less than 10 years ago. Why on earth would a frail 80 year old lady buy a push-reel mower? It's true, her lawn is small, but still! I don't even think she'd ever mowed the lawn before, let alone with a push-reel lawnmower. Those things are way more exercise than an elderly person needs. Needless to say, she used it no more than twice and decided maybe it would be better off as a dust-collector in her garage. Now she has a local kid mow her lawn, which is totally the way to go. I think when I'm 80, I will be hiring a neighbor kid to mow our lawn. It's a good tax-free job for kids and will give me more time to rock in my rocking chair and sip lemonade with Laura as we gossip, reminisce about the good ol' days, and bitch about how everything's going to hell in a handbasket and just what is it with kids these days, no respect for their elders, listening to that rock 'n roll devil music.

Anyways, as I was saying - we did get some things done around the house this weekend. Bachman's had their 125th anniversary sale, so I picked up strawberry seedlings, raspberry canes, and a few free tomato plants. Then, feeling productive and wanting to enjoy the beautiful morning weather, I planted the strawberries! They are happily growing in front of our house now, hoping that the neighborhood bunnies will pass them by with nary a nibble. We'll see about that.

More details on the strawberries: 2 different types, one is a June-bearing variety and the other is something I'd never heard of before, called a "day-neutral" variety. The day-neutral strawberry plants are supposed to be relatively similar to ever-bearing, but produce throughout the growing season (while ever-bearing, despite their name, typically produce only two crops during the growing season). I don't recall the names of the two varieties that I chose, but I'll add that soon along with photos. I can't wait to update on how they do - and more importantly, how wonderful they taste!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


The peppers have finally sprouted! I planted them the same time I planted the tomatoes, but it took the peppers 2 full weeks longer to sprout. I thought for sure they were rotting in the soil, completely failing.

This garden is just about ready for business. Now if my school would just go on a second Spring Break, I could get everything planted and finish up our backyard. Of course, that'd be the day before we have a freeze or get a freak late April blizzard, so maybe I should count my blessings and remember how ahead of normal planting season we are. It's just been so summer-like already that my brain is convinced I should have more done in the garden, that I'm running behind schedule. Seriously, it's been in the 70s most days this month. That is unheard of. This is Minnesota! Land of the near-eternal winters!

Okay, back to the progress report:

All sprouts are now outside, soaking up the sun.

Firepit and embers grill has been dug and partially completed. I even found free firebrick posted locally online! And surprisingly, not on Craigslist, which is my usual go-to. Now all that's left is picking out the right stones from the lake house and bringing them home to outline the pit.  And then invite everyone over! We already had our first private fire (pre-digging), and it made my heart so happy. We cooked sweet potatoes and onions over the embers, that was a grand success. I loved every minute of it... like camping, but with a real bed to climb into after the embers died down.

I've been schlepping concrete all over, setting up raised beds here, there, and everywhere. That part is almost over, whew! What a workout. Who knew that concrete blocks were so heavy? :) I just hope they last forever and that we find bright colors to paint them, so our garden beds can emulate some sort of Caribbean paradise. I do feel a bit hedonistic enjoying fresh, juicy veggies... or when we blend some of the fresh berries into margaritas.

Oh, and we're getting the "green" gardening tools ready too. Laura & I both volunteered with RecycleMN and earned 2 rainbarrels and an enclosed outdoor composter. That will help with watering the veggies (if we ever get rain) and we can be legal composters of food waste now. Before, we were going rogue and throwing our food waste in with the composting yard waste in an open backyard bin, which is a big no-no according to city ordinance. Of course, we'll be going rogue soon enough anyways with egg-laying hens (also a big no-no), but I do try to follow the rules if they aren't too inconvenient and/or ridiculous. The "no-poultry" rule is one that is ridiculous, because our hens will bother our neighbors far less than next-door-neighbor's 2 loud obnoxious face-eating dogs. Or our across-the-street-neighbor's ghetto-blastin' crack house.Anyways, things that I love:

Rain Barrel


(photos soon)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Busy Spring!

Well, Spring kind of snuck up and pounced upon us, so our household is bustling to and fro working on as many projects as we can juggle at the same time. We have made SO much progress. It is exciting times in our backyard right now! Details to follow when I have a chance to catch my breath. That might not be soon.

In the meantime, here's a glimpse of the backyard - you can see some of the progress.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


My delivery came today! Lowes has a great deal if you need a delivery. For less than $60 (set fee, regardless of how big a load), I got a huge delivery of concrete blocks and topsoil. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 4-5 tons, seriously. There is no way I could've hauled it myself for less than $60 in gas money, let alone all of the extra physical labor and time that it would've taken to do it myself.

I'd rather spend the energy on putting the blocks & topsoil where they belong in my landscaping design - that will take more than enough hours, I know!

Today was a beautiful day for delivery. With temps hovering around 70 degrees (unheard of in MN in March), I was able to start hauling - brick by brick - the concrete that will become a series of raised vegetable beds. Also, during the delivery, I finished setting up the compost bin and re-installing the lockbox in a better location. Laura & I have finalized plans for the fence, and the previous location of the lockbox no longer made sense.

I'm taking a break right now, but I'll get back to it after I make supper and have something to eat. Carrying heavy blocks around really burns a lot of calories! I can only imagine how much my upper body strength will have increased by the time I'm through with this project. But it sure is exhausting. And I'm only about a 10th of the way finished. Yikes. I'll be working into the cool, refreshing darkness of the night tonight, and hopefully finishing it up tomorrow morning. Or at the very least, by tomorrow evening before Laura's dad comes over to put up ceiling fans and get things ready for the bathroom exhaust fan install next weekend.

In other news, I got a hitch installed yesterday so now my FT Wagon can hook up a trailer and bring free compost home! I'm excited!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Resistance is futile!

We did it! We bested those ugly ol' shrubs that were plaguing the front of the house. They are officially done in. Well, kind of. They are now cluttering up the front of the garage, waiting to be cut up, dried out, and burned in a fiery pit. Or, if they get too annoying to be too much of an eyesore, maybe they'll end up at the local compost site. If I only had a chipper/shredder/mulcher...
Speaking of fun, fancy toys, guess what quasi-impulsive purchase we made yesterday? Let me give you a hint, the weather was gorgeous, it was warm, sunny, and all around beautiful out. Give up? A snowblower! A John Deere snowblower! Yeah, no wimpy machine for us. This baby is a commercial grade beast that cuts a 36" path. What? Our driveway is kinda long. Of course it warranted dropping a grand on. Hey, if it were new, it would've cost us three times that much. Might as well get something high end that (hopefully) is going to last until we have kids and they are big enough to be our shovelling slaves forever. I know my dad is going to give me grief about it, but in my defense, it is a John Deere. I know he'll dig that.
Did I mention that my initial plan was to spend no more than $100 on a snowblower?

Yeah, sometimes I don't stick to my plans.

But back to the topic at hand: shrubs and how to destroy them. Yes, we are becoming experts at that. Just ask us when to throw hedge clippers at the problem and when to bring out the big saws. We've got that all worked out. Laura's a quick learner (and thankfully, a strong sawer).

So the front is all ready for the raised beds. The backyard mostly is too. I put down cardboard boxes today to kill the grass so I can till it under. Wait, do I need a special toy for that? Is this where one would typically use a rotatiller? Is a rotatiller necessary? Putting the nagging questions aside, my hope is to use the soon-to-be-dead grass to help nourish the soil that my foodie plants will grow big & strong in. But, despite the piles of boxes set aside after our move, I ran out. I was dumbfounded. I thought I'd have enough and still have a pile left over, but I'm in need of another 40-60 boxes. I think I'll be able to scrounge up another 20 at best though, so I'll need to figure out how to improvise on that.
 I also finished tying the wire for the compost bin. That was a long, monotonous task. I think next time I'll pay the extra $15 to get the taller wire, instead of being thrifty and tying up two shorter pieces. Oh, who am I kidding, no I won't. Anyways, the compost bin is almost ready to use. I just have to figure out how to get the metal pieces I'm going to use as support "posts" into the ground. The ground is a solid mass and doesn't seem to want things stuck into it. It's not being cooperative. Wonder if it'd work if I brought the drill out and drilled holes in the ground? I think I might try that tomorrow, I'm at a loss for other ideas.

Our backyard is a bit of a mess from the landscaping-to-garden project we're working on. I am beyond excited to start growing tasty treats, but looking at how much is left to do exhausts me.

Our criminal days are behind us

I installed the lockbox today. The air tastes much sweeter knowing that we can prance around outside, carefree and without keys, if we so desire.

Although just to be clear, it is an "emergency-only" designated lockbox. We'll see if it stays that way for long. :)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Breaking and Entering

This past weekend, we started the physical labor of cutting down the uglier-than-sin bushes that decorated the back of our house. It was the first time that we had spent any amount of time outside (not counting the hours of shoveling snow in our way-too-long driveway). One of the first days of great weather and the snow finally melted away for the first time since we owned the house. We were having a lot of fun, despite the hard work, until Laura slipped as she was hauling the bin of branches over towards me. She got a nasty gash on her hand, so we decided to put the kibbosh on any more yard work for the day. Yes, it's all fun and games, until someone loses an eye*.

As we headed for the door, we both realized that we didn't have keys. To our dismay - and to start my freak out - the door was solidly locked up tight.

So let's recap: injured loved one, both of us locked outside the house, cellphones and car keys inside the house.


I sent Laura across the street to our kindly old neighbor's house so she could at least clean her gaping wound while I freaked out in private about what to do. Or, in my head, WHAT to DO?!!

 The only two options we had were to call a locksmith to come and get us in (about $70) or break a window and solve the problem ourselves (unknown cost but likely less than $70).

If you know me at all, you know that I am definitely a do-it-yourself problem solver. And frugal to boot.

Clearly I did not choose Option A. Since we had a basement window that was partially broken, I decided that would be the unlucky window that would soon be smashed. All of our basement windows have two panes of glass, so I knew it wouldn't be a quick smash and enter. Plus, I didn't want to get any gaping wounds of my own in the process, so I set up shop and took my time carefully breaking the first pane and removing all of the jagged pieces into a bucket, and then the same with the second pane. All said, I did a pretty decent job, and only ended up with 4 or 5 smaller pieces of glass falling inside the house. Turns out I'd make an excellent burglar! But I already knew that**.

To make a long story short, I got inside, got the house unlocked, and retrieved Laura from the neighbor's house. No more yard work that day. Instead, we drove to her parents' home nearby and had Dr. Mom look at the wound. She declared it "merely a flesh wound", at which point we turned our attention to the broken window. To the Hardware store! After dropping $40 at the Hardware store and waving buh-bye to our window***, we needed to do something more conventional in terms of fun. Laura's parents have a Wii and WiiFit, so we had ourselves a gay ol' time flapping like chickens, rhythmically kung-fu-ing, and doing other weird but ridiculously entertaining "exercises". I love it. I want one! But it seems such a waste to spend the money when nearby family has one for all to enjoy.

 I did, however, purchase a lock box today. Take that, house!  Try locking us out now!

*No one lost any eyes. The hand wound looked absolutely horrifying though.

**I had some kid adventures back in Junior High that gave me a little experience. 3 that pop readily into mind: one involving my parents' house, one involving a friend's house, and the third involving an abandoned old school in a small town up north. Kids sure do dumb things! Little did I know, I was preparing myself with an important life skill!

***Did you know it takes half a week to get regular, run-of-the-mill glass installed? Sheesh. And $40? Please, it took you all of 10 minutes. And less than one sheet of glass. I suppose it's still better than me spending an hour or two trying to figure it out myself!