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!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My Bleeding Pockets

To get my gardening plans kicked off, I needed some supplies. And by "some" supplies, I mean a semi-load. 700 bricks and 4000 lbs of soil, to be exact. Luckily for me, I had recently scored a 10% off total purchase coupon from Lowes. Which meant that, in addition to getting delivery of these 700 bricks and 4000 lbs of soil for $59, I got a great deal on their price. I ended up below budget - well, maybe I'm being too quick to speak here, since I know there will be other things I'll need to purchase before this project is completely finished. But I had estimated that the costs would be about $900, and my total (including taxes and the delivery fee - and a lock box, which is another story altogether) came to $877.02.

Hooray! I came in under budget! And someone else is going to schlep a few tons of bricks and another couple tons of soil all the way to my house, which is, coincidentally, right where I need it!

How's that for a bargain? I am seriously oohing and ahhing over the delivery bit, because that is so much labor - and wear & tear on my station wagon, not to mention gas costs of the multiple loads it would take - and all for $59. Best $59 I ever spent.

My pockets gladly bleed for gardening expenses.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ghetto Blastin'

Let me start by saying that I absolutely love our neighborhood. It's a hop away from an amazing nature trail that goes on for miles. Our street is not a main drag, so it isn't busy - the streets couldn't be more safe.

But, we have a ghetto neighbor. What do I mean by that? I mean that in the "ghetto blaster" sense, because they are the most noisy, inconsiderate neighbors around. They blast their music from their cars - when they're driving, when they're playing in the yard, whenever. At all ungodly hours of the night, although during the day as well.

Fortunately, the city we live in has fairly strict noise ordinances. I need them today! After the police came and talked to our noisy neighbors, they turned down their music.

For 10 minutes.

Then they cranked it right back up. So I called again - because seriously, that is some major rudeness. I don't know if the police will come back out or not. I hope so, but then again, it didn't seem to do much good last time. But maybe a second visit would convince them to knock it off and be good neighbors.

I know, I know. I'm naive to think that they'll change their inconsiderate ways - especially seeing their reaction to the first cop's visit. But sometimes, all you can do is hope.

And invest in quality ear plugs.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

March Madness

Now that we're more settled in our new home, my thoughts are brimming with plans. I'm a planner by nature, and owning a house brings with it so many opportunities for planning different home improvement projects!

This will be the first summer we have a garden. Big plans for that! Tomatoes, onions, peas, beans, pumpkins, squash, peppers, cantaloupe, watermelon, raspberries, blackberries... yum! My dad claims that St Patrick's Day is the perfect time to start the seeds so they'll be ready to put in the ground. I forgot to ask him when exactly it is that they go in the ground. 4-6 weeks later? I'll Google it or give Dad a call (my human Google when it comes to all things grown in a garden)
That will take care of the backyard. The front yard, on the other hand, is a whole 'nother ball of wax. We have enormous, hideous shrubs along the front of our house. Those monstrosities will not be around much longer. Hit the road, Jack! We'll try something else in their place.. maybe sunflowers, or Laura's ancestral peonies, or.. ? No decisions have been made yet for that. Also in the front yard are three trees of varying sizes. I hope that we can get rid of at least two of them, and plant fruit trees in their place. 2 apple trees (so they pollinate) and then maybe a pear tree (if they don't require 2 for pollination like the apple trees).

Also in the works: painting most of the inside of the house, painting the shutters on the outside (from a bland black to a more lively candy red), ripping up the dining room carpet, installing a bathroom exhaust fan, installing a wood stove, and building a tandem, semi-attached garage.

And painting the entire shed.