Thursday, January 12, 2017

It's snowing and 20F yet I'm planning my gardens for later this year.  Spring comes in late March in my area (zone 5a/b) which means I need to start seeds soon.  This will be our third year in this home and each year, we've dug up more grass and added more plants and trees.

When we bought our home-our fourth-in the spring of 2014, the only thing growing in our yard was grass that had endured years of herbicidal treatments.  Growing grass just to cut it with a lawnmower seems like a ridiculous waste of my time and our resources.  So I have slowly been getting rid of it.

I ordered two more apple trees-bare root- for our backyard.  We have a city lot that is maybe a 12th-15th of an acre.  It's a decent size for the neighborhood, but it does take more planning for tree placement than our larger suburban yards ever did.  The two new apple trees will make for a total of four apple trees in the backyard.  Last year, I planted 2 apple trees in our front yard.  One is underneath the neighbor's aging silver maple.  Planting a tree there was optimistic as his maple drops a lot of long skinny branches and does need to come down (hopefully not on my house).

I also planted a sour cherry tree near our property line next to the rental on the south side of the yard. I really like the people who live in the triplex next door, but it is a rental and who knows what type of neighbors we will have in a year or five years.  So the tree and the large trellis will do a good job of screening and giving everyone some privacy, while looking beautiful and giving us food.

We built two more large trellises on the north side of our yard to give us a bit more privacy as well and I transplanted some blackberries that will hopefully climb them.  We have a chain link fence along the property in the backyard but that is see-through and I really want a less open and more private backyard.  As the trees and shrubs grow in the next few years, I know it will look fantastic.

I'm planning to build two raised beds in front of the two trellises on the north side that will this year house my tomatoes.  Last summer I grew 16 plants on the south side of my garage and need a new spot for them this year.  I probably won't be able to fit 16 plants in them, but crop rotation is important.  Green beans will get planted in the former tomato bed.

My seeds for tomatoes and peppers are on their way and I'll start those at the end of February.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Wooden Plank Subfloor

The second floor of our home is a large converted attic that we use as the master bedroom.  I'm fairly certain the carpet is from 1984.  It is disgusting, old, and stained.  I have seasonal allergies and after 2 years of dealing with whatever nasties live in that carpet, we are going to rip it up.

I pulled up a corner to see what was underneath 30 years of grit.  Turns out there were many layers of crap: carpet, padding, more padding, tile, underlayment, and wooden plank flooring that appears to be unfinished. 

We had planned on installing real wood ourselves, but this was a good find.  It will be a lot of work, but my labor is free. 

We have lucked out with our house-wood floors under all the carpet and decent bones in the house.  The yard has 6-10 inches of topsoil.  We had the unexpected expense of removing 2 storm damaged 70 foot tall silver maples this summer (thousands of dollars, and a crane and no, insurance does not cover that).  However, now I've got a sunny, no longer shady, backyard which translates into a larger vegetable garden for the next year.

Monday, April 11, 2016

"So...what do you do all day?"

I get this question a lot.  FYI, it's an incredibly rude question.  Dafuq do YOU do all day?

I do not leave my house to go to a place that pays me money to be there and do the things.  I teach piano 3 afternoons a week, in my home.  Luckily, I do not have to leave the house to go to a place that pays me to do the things.  Instead I do the things that need to be done in my house and yard during the week and there is very little for anyone else to do at night or on the weekends.  Because I did the things during the day during the week. 

My house is very clean.  Not just "tidy" or "organized" but it is damn clean.  The only house cleaner than mine that I have ever been in is my mom's and that's only because she is a militant cleaner.  However, she is a collector and has a lot of stuff all over the place.  She would say it's artfully arranged and home-y.  I rebelled by detesting collections displayed all over my house.  She once came over and found dust on top of a door and I heard about it for weeks, so there you go...I clean daily.

I do not have laundry that piles up.  Laundry always gets done on Mondays and Thursdays.  Add in another day if I'm washing bedding or curtains.  I hang everything but towels either outside or in the basement.  I'd hang towel but the hubs doesn't appreciate the exfoliating benefits of line-dried towels.

I make 250% of our food from scratch.  Okay I made that up, but I cook almost exclusively from scratch except for things like the frozen pizzas that the hubs brings into the house that I don't actually even bake so I'll go back to "I make 250% of our food from scratch."  Making 250% of our food from scratch takes some time but it's healthier than that Roma pizza the hubs keeps buying.  I think cardboard is healthier than those pizzas...

I also grow almost all of the fruits and vegetables that our family eats during the growing season.  "Almost" because I haven't figured out how to grow bananas in Wisconsin.  What we don't eat gets dried, frozen or canned and we eat that until it runs out and then I relent and buy stuff at the store.  So all of that planting, weeding, harvesting, and preserving takes a couple of minutes each day from May-October.

Sometimes, I sit on my butt and get lost on the intertubes.  The interwebs are full of odd things and I can't always look away.  I also don't try very hard to look away so that's on me.

Grocery shopping, toilet paper buying, pharmacy pick-ups, I do all that during the day.  Occasionally I have to go to a store after supper and just yuck.  No thank you.  They're full of cranky parents and cranky kids.

Once all of those things are done, then I might go for a run or work out.  Most of my errands can be done on foot, which takes more time than driving maybe but that counts as exercise.  If I have any more time, I'll paint.  Sometimes, I even manage to fit some volunteering in.

Which brings me back to the "What do you DO all day?" and the ever helpful follow-up of folks wanting to "help" me be a "productive" member of society.  If you ask me that, I'll probably answer with something like "Oh a lot of things..." but know that I'm thinking "F off you sanctimonious bastard."

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Dishwasher Broke and I Don't Care

Note so that no one accidentally loads it.
A weird melting plastic smell permeated the kitchen one night last week.  The dishwasher had begun it's cycle just 10 minutes earlier, so I opened it thinking that someone had loaded plastic in it which had fallen onto the heating coil/element/whatever it's called.  Did not see a thing.  The next night, about 10 minutes into the cycle, the same smell.  My husband opened it up, found nothing, so he hit drain and nothing happened.

His diagnostic mind determined that the pump had died.  This dishwasher is maybe 18 months old.  Our refrigerator died at 13 months and our washing machine has cycles we cannot use after 16 months.  They're all Kenmores and all from Sears.  Don't buy anything from Sears, apparently their stuff breaks after the warranty is up.  He ordered a new pump and when it shows up, he'll replace it and hopefully problem solved.

Meanwhile, we are back to hand-washing dishes.  This isn't much of an issue for me-I once measured the water I use hand-washing and the water the dishwasher uses and I use less hand-washing, plus in the summer I pour that graywater on my flowers and shrubs.  While I don't particularly enjoy washing dishes, I prefer it to dirty dishes, so...

Hand-washing dishes or anything for that matter, does make me pay attention to what I am doing.  I am more mindful now when I pull a glass out of the cupboard. Do I have a glass sitting somewhere else in the house?  Can I just reuse the plate that only had toast on it?  Without a machine to do the washing, I am finding that I'm becoming a bit more efficient in my use of mixing bowls and pots than I was when I'd just load them in the dishwasher.

This may be a stretch, but if we all did more things by hand, perhaps, we would appreciate our resources more and be less wasteful. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

My Urban Garden Plans 2016

I spend most of January and February researching, okay, dreaming, about my gardens.  The seed catalogs have arrived and the seed packets have arrived and I've even begun some seeds.  Herbs, only, as they take so much longer to get started than tomatoes and peppers. 

We've decided that this year, our third in this city lot, we will build a 3 by 20 foot raised bed on the south side of our white garage.  It gets sun most of the day and is a somewhat unusable space for anything other than storage. Tomatoes should do really well there. 

I've already enlisted the help of my mom, a landscape designer, in how to change the lawn on the south side of my driveway into a very very VERY long, 3-4 foot wide garden bed.  I told her I plan to plant two apple trees, a couple of lilacs and perennial herbs in it but need her help choosing perennial flowers and possibly more shrubs or grasses.  Luckily for me, her suburban yard is basically a nursery and most of the plants will be free.

It's important to me that my front yard, even if it has vegetables growing in it, look nice.  I'm an artist and I hate ugly-to me it denotes sloppiness and/or laziness.  If it looks wrong, whether it's a paint color on a wall or a shrub next to the house, fix it and start over.  That means you, neighbors, who call Kentucky blue grass gone to seed and creeping charlie your front yard "prairie". 

It may only be 5 degrees outside (gross) but my hands are already itching to get into the soil.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


Pictured above are the herb seeds I started a couple of weeks ago.  My husband put 2 shelves up in front of a south facing window in our stairwell.  The basil on the far right were the first to germinate and I will be replanting them in some bigger containers soon.  One the left, I have peppermint, lemon balm, and rosemary started.

This year, I'm digging up more of the yard and herbs will play an important part in the landscape. Rabbits and squirrels leave them alone for the most part, which is important. I would like to start blending my own herbal teas and will need lots of herbs to do that.  Plus, I hate lawns.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

January Blahhhhhh

Winter came late this year, not arriving until after Christmas.  However, with a windchill now of -16F, it feels like it's been here a long time.  At least it's sunny?

I ordered seeds from the Jung Garden Center catalog.  It's a somewhat local seed company that also has several garden centers in my state.  More herbs this year, more vegetables, more gardens.  Always more gardens in every yard of every house we've owned.

January and February are my quiet months when I slowly go crazy from mostly indoor activities.  December, which is often cold, is full of holiday plans and baking to keep my mind occupied.  January is just cold.  That's garden planning time.  There are plans for two more large gardens this spring: the south side of the garage (3 x 20') and the south side of my driveway, which is even longer...I have no idea how much.  I could measure it now, but it's' -16F windchill so that's not going to happen.

The garage garden will be a tomato bed this year, with other veg planted in it.  The driveway bed will mostly be for privacy from the rental next door.  It isn't an eyesore by any stretch of the imagination, but adding some height with fruit trees and interest with small shrubs and plants will give our house the illusion of privacy. My mom was given the task of designing that bed.  She's a landscape designer, so it'll look fantastic.

The only other activity I have going on, besides garden planning, is teaching piano.  Three afternoons a week of teaching does not take up much time.  Every year I hit this time and am adrift, trying to be productive. I love being outdoors and digging, so learning patience is probably good for me.

How do you get through the cold days of January?