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Archived Entries from April 2010


Green Thumb Sunday

Sure was a busy weekend, especially considering it rained most of the time.

I moved the fish outside, finally. I was going to try to use an old 10-gallon tank that used to have Alex's lizard in it years ago to move the fish. I started emptying water from the big 35-gallon tank of Jeff's, and had probably a couple of gallons in the small tank before I realized that it was not seaworthy and was leaking water all over the carpet in the Nerdrium. Yikes. I tried to pick it up and get it to the bathroom but water was really coming out of and I thought I'd rather have it leak all over carpet I'm throwing away in a month than have it burst open as I'm carrying it over the new laminate floor in the basement.

At any rate, the fish survived the night. I may get a few more from my friend Melissa who apparently has gobs of them that she wants to get rid of.

I got my pepper pots planted. A couple of weeks ago Betsy got the lettuce started in the whiskey barrel and in one of the larger pots (to the left). The two orange (unpainted) pots have jalapeno plants in them. The big green pot is actually not a pepper, but a cherry tomato plant. The two front-most pepper plants are cayenne peppers with the one in the back a green pepper plant. Much, much easier than starting from seed, and the total I spent on all the plants and dirt together was like twelve dollars.

While I have my new spiffy garden bed, I'm concerned about how much sunlight it will get throughout the day. The plants will still grow without enough sun, but without seven hours of sunlight the fruit won't grow. Right now the bed gets fewer than seven hours, but the sun is also still progressing further north in the sky (relative to us, yes, I know how it really works) so for all I know in a month we may be around the big pine trees and getting more sunlight than expected.

Rather than count on that, however, I planted tomato plants back where I planted the majority of my garden last year. In fact, no matter how the raised bed works I may as well plant tomatoes here every year because I have the room and this probably gets a dozen or more hours of sunlight a day. The plants need to be 24 inches apart, so I did some diligent measuring and determined that yes, I could fit 8 plants there. I planted three (I think) varieties so as not to put all my eggs in one basket.

I planted some stuff in my new raised bed as well. In the front there are two rows each of peas, carrots, and broccoli. Then I planted a few tomato plants on the right (north) side hoping to catch some sunlight in a month or more. The other cherry tomato plant is on the left. Then the rest are peppers--whatever was left over from when I planted the pots. I think a couple of jalapenos, a couple of cayenne, and maybe three green pepper plants. This is still the experimental year, so we'll see how it goes.

I took pictures when I was planting the hosta out around the river birch, but they really didn't do it justice because there are two varieties out there and only one of them was coming up when I did the planting. Both are now up and growing, so I thought I'd share another picture of that project. I love the way it turned out. I think in a couple of years we'll expand the mulch ring further and do another ring of hosta. Awesome.

In the background of the previous picture is a redbud tree, and I think I may expand the mulch ring around it and plant phlox. We have plenty--the redhead planted some in front of the garage a few years ago and it has been spreading like mad. It's starting to overtake my azalea bush, so I may cut a bunch of that phlox out of that and move it to around the redbud.

I finished up a couple of other projects around the house as well this weekend. I attached a couple of boards to the kitchen floor so that we could set the bar/island over it and it won't slide around anymore. I also put an outlet in the floor way back when and one in the side of the island a year or more ago. Yesterday I put a plug on the cord inside the island, drilled a hole in the bottom, and now that the island is stationary it is also plugged into the floor now so we now have an outlet on the island. I might have to cook something in the crock pot on the island today just because I can.

I need to go hook up the network cable for the panel behind the television. The Sox game starts in a half-hour. I should be able to get that port wired in that time. Go Sox!

Posted: Sunday, April 25, 2010, 5:36 pm
Mood: Very Good | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


New Appliances

Over the past couple of weeks we have upgraded our stove and refrigerator, so I thought I'd share some pictures. My in-laws rock.

We've been cooking on an old Tappan electric stove since we moved into the house. Not a bad stove, of course, just old. Over the years I've replaced three or four of the burners and also re-did the wiring harness things that the burners plug into.

When the discussion started about a new stove I expressed that I'd love to have a gas stove instead of another electric one. Our house originally had a gas stove but the first owners didn't like it and replaced it with an electric one (which might be the stove we just removed).

I figured there was already a gas hook-up behind the current stove, along with the 220V outlet. I was wrong. When the electric stove was taken out they removed the above-floor gas connection and capped it off in the crawl space.

Not being one to pay $500 for RC's to come run a gas line two feet, I took it upon myself to do it, much to my father's dismay who was convinced I was going to blow the house up. I did some research on-line and bought the pipes and tools I needed, and went to work. At first I just went straight up from the capped end in the basement, but found that you couldn't move the stove all the way back, so I had to re-do it slightly and go back and then up. You can see the first hole (with the wood from the second hole filling it) where it was the first time I made the attempt.

I turned the valve above the floor off and turned the rest of the gas back on--no leaks. First try. Yay for me.

While the fridge was purchased first, the stove actually arrived first. And we love it.

We got the model with five burners. Can't wait to make pancakes this weekend! (Even though I don't eat them--yuck).

I got to cook the, er, maiden (?) dinner.

Garlic chicken and shrimp with pasta. Fantastic.

Nothing burned, the water heated up right away, and best of all, when you shut a burner off, the heat goes away instantly. MUCH better cooking on gas.

I've also made some spicy chicken stir fry several times since we've had it.

Next up: new fridge.

Being the planner that I am, I looked ahead to future expansion of the water lines in the house five years ago.

I cut off the cap (after shutting the water off, of course) and ran new 3/4-inch copper pipe across the top of the crawl space and up through the floor to the corner behind the fridge. I put a cap on the end of that because we weren't sure when the fridge was coming.

Well, once we found out that it was finally going to be delivered, I needed to figure out how to attach the water. After all that work I did, I really didn't want to have to drill or punch a hole in the pipe and have one of those saddle valve things. So I went to Menard's and talked to the guy in the plumbing department. I told him I needed to hook up a fridge and would rather use a flexible water line than that thin 1/4-inch copper that crimps easily, and that I ran all this new pipe and didn't want to do the saddle valve thing unless I absolutely had to.

"You did absolutely the right thing." Sweet!

He confirmed that I was comfortable sweating pipe joints, which I am, and got me a 3/4 to 1/2-inch threaded reducer, plus a shut-off valve that attaches to that, and then a flexible braided water line that has an added feature of having a shut-off valve inside of it so that if it or any of the tubing in the fridge itself burst it will detect the increased water flow and automagically shut it off--how cool is that?

After letting that joint cool I taped up the threads and attached the valve to the top. Unfortunately, I turned it as hard as I could but when finished the nozzle was point out, and not to the left. I took the valve back off, heated the joint back up, gently turned it 90 degrees with a wrench, and let it cool back off again.

I hooked it all back up again, but it leaked where the valve attached to the threaded reducer. Grrr. Then I remembered the TFE paste I had from doing the gas line and knew that I could use that instead of the stupid tape so I cleaned it all up, gooped it up with the TFE, and put it all back together. No leaks!

The flexible hose with connections on both ends is infinitely easier to work with than 1/4-inch copper tubing and those awful compression joints. Got the water hooked up, the line flushed out, and a little while later was able to hear the fantastic sound of ice being dropped into the bin.

Of course I ran a bunch of water through the dispenser and dumped out the first few batches of ice, just to be sure. By this morning we had a fair amount of ice and I was able to enjoy my first glass of filtered ice water from the fridge.

Some hard work involved, but it definitely paid off in the end.

Posted: Thursday, April 22, 2010, 10:42 am
Mood: Awesome | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Busy Saturday

Lots on my plate today.

Let's see. I need to change the oil in the Torrent this morning. Get a big thing of peat moss and several bags of dirt to fill the garden bed the rest of the way. Buy and plant tomatoes. Peppers?

I should wash the car.

The recessed box thing for the plasma tv arrived a few days ago--I should try to get that installed so that we don't have wires going everywhere like we do now.

Laundry?

I would like to get to Lowe's and get ceiling fans for the kitchen and living room, but that may wait until next week.

We have friends coming over tonight, which will be fun.

I need to get to the dollar store and get dishwasher detergent and get the dishes done. Busy, busy, dreadfully busy...

Posted: Saturday, April 17, 2010, 12:37 pm
Mood: Busy | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Green Thumb Sunday

Hey, and it is actually Sunday. Busy day today. I weeded, and weeded, and weeded.

I moved yet more hosta.

I sat and watched the entire Sox game, which was cool, because they won for once and saved going to 1-5 before an away series at Toronto. It was a fun game, even if Thome almost caused me to have heart failure in the top of the 9th.

Lastly, I maybe killed a couple of birds with one stone. We get a lot of volunteer redbuds in our yard, mostly in very inopportune places.

Oh--there's a redheaded woodpecker that just landed on a tree in my neighbor's yard! I don't know that I can get inside and get the camera without scaring it away, and it is maybe too far away for me to get a good shot anyway...

Got him! He kept moving around the tree to keep me (and probably more likely the dog) on the opposite side of the tree, but I was patient, and while it's not a very good photo, I'm no photographer.

Anyway, so we usually get a bunch of volunteer redbuds, and they are a pain in the neck because they have tap roots that go for miles and, well, redbuds are more prolific than the local bunnies, and the dog doesn't kill the redbuds.

One such redbud volunteer is underneath the front step/deck of the playhouse, or as I'm starting to finally refer to it--my gardening shed. I've cut it off at ground level every year for probably four or five years, and it keeps coming back.

I also have a spot in my yard where I'm having a hard time getting anything to live. It's a weird corner between the timbers marking the edge of the pool landscaping, and the chain link fence between us and our "good" neighbors. (And I don't mean "good" in a sarcastic manner--I say that to differentiate them from our "other" next-door neighbors, who are anything but "good."). I've planted a lilac bush there that died, and most recently put a dogwood tree there--the other day it looked dead and I just easily snapped it off at ground level with my bare hands. Sigh.

The redhead was commenting out how nice one of the flowering trees in our neighbors' yard looks and we talked about how pretty the redbuds are looking right now, and for a second something clicked and I added two plus two and got four.

What if I take the "tree I cannot kill:"

...and plant it where I can't get anything to live?

Prepare for the battle royale! As expected, I had to dig and dig and dig. And I still wasn't even close to getting the redbud out from under that deck. I tried to hack at it with a hatchet but the cramped space made that difficult. Finally after tugging and tugging I twisted it several times until I got the main root to break off and yanked it out of the ground.

The tap root is broken but still quite substantial considering the above ground part, and there are several good-sized secondary roots. And if I couldn't kill this before, I'm sure I won't kill it now. Here's our contender:

At least the digging was easier with the new location--I've already dug a hold there on numerous occasions.

Well the new seedling is planted and we'll see how it goes. Personally, I've got my money on the redbud.

Hopefully in a few short years we'll have something beautiful to look at in that spot of the yard. Here's a redbud that I started from a volunteer shoot maybe three or four years ago:

Spring has been fantastic! I have lots of work to do, but I've accomplished so much and my spirits are very high right now.

Posted: Sunday, April 11, 2010, 10:56 pm
Mood: Awesome | 2 comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Green Thumb Sunday

Yeah, I know it is Wednesday, but I'm a few days late. Must be jet lag (that was a joke...).

I was in Raleigh, North Carolina for a meeting last week from Tuesday through Thursday. That was a treat. The plane I was supposed to take to O'Hare early Tuesday had a bird strike when it was landing, but of course didn't wait to check it out until after we were all on board, only to find out that the engine needed repairs and we all needed to get off the plane. Fantastic.

Enough of that. I made it home safe and sound, the meeting wasn't too bad, and I had a nice four-day weekend afterwards.

My seasonal depression is officially over for the year. I spent most of the weekend digging in the dirt, and it was wonderful.

I accomplished a couple of projects that I was looking forward too, and of course took lots of pictures throughout. Rather than do one of my "prev - home - next" sets of pages, I'm just going to put them here. The page will stretch way long, but so be it.

We hatched a plan last year to expand the ring of mulch around our river birch and to plant hosta around it. I have lots of hosta on the north side of the house that were started by my mother-in-law years ago and I have been gradually dividing and replanting over the years so now I have oodles of them.

My initial thinking was to make the grass-free area like 12 feet in diameter. After digging up grass for a while my 40-year-old body decided that maybe six or seven feet was more appropriate. Maybe I'll increase it by another couple of feet each couple of years or something.

We have at least two kinds of hosta. There's a shiny light-green variety that comes up earlier than the rest--the leaves are narrower and taller. We also have a variety that has thick, dull, dark green leaves (which Betsy and I both like the best). I planted five of each around the tree, but the dark green ones are hard to see because they aren't really coming up yet. I planted the light green ones sixteen inches from the tree and the dark green ones 20 inches from the tree, with 15 inches between each plant. I'm not anal retentive at all.

I'm very pleased with the results. And again, it looks like there are only five plants, but it will be lots cooler once the other five grow a bit over the next couple of weeks.

My next project was to build a raised garden bed to increase our tomato production this year, and also have a place for the redhead to plant peas and whatever else it is she has in mind. Next to the playhouse we used to have a wooden fort/swingset thing. On Easter while we had the family over it was a good time to horse the thing into the front yard and onto a trailer, so that's what we did. Underneath where the fort had been is a mixture of rock and dirt from, well, I'm not exactly sure I remember why all that was under there. But that was part of the motivation for the raised bed--we could spread the rock/mud layer out on the bottom and it would provide good drainage.

I bought three 10-foot green-treated 2 x 12s, planning on cutting one in half and ending up with a 5' x 10' bed. Measure twice, then three times, a fourth time, and maybe a fifth, then cut once.

The ground there isn't level (I didn't expect it to be) so my choices were to either raise up one end of the box or lower the other end into the ground. I opted for the latter, because I think if I try to raise up one end, that rain and watering would eventually flush out the dirt there and make a mess, to say the least. So I had some digging to do to get the whole thing level.

It actually really didn't take that long to assemble, and when I was finished it was pretty much level, and pretty much square.

I spread out the rock and dirt and now just have to fill it the rest of the way up.

The next level of dirt will be what's left of my compost heap. I started a compost heap years ago when I still bagged the grass when I was mowing, and we would also dump pots full of old dirt back there as well. I didn't do a very good job with the whole compost thing, but it's mostly dirt now and I'm going to put all of that into our garden. Once this area in the back corner of the yard is leveled out I think I'm going to plant cucumbers along the fence where they can climb up. I need to figure out what to do about the pool pump outlet though. Hmm.

Anyway. After I get the compost put in there I will probably empty all of our various pots of dirt into there (and put new dirt in all the pots) and then add a huge thing of peat moss and then bags of dirt to fill it the rest of the way to the top.

I also got my water garden up and going over the weekend. One of the problems I had last year was that the spout/fountain thing would come out of the top of the pump. Not that big of a deal, but I went ahead this year and drilled a hole and threaded a small piece of wire through there, almost like a homemade cotter pin of sorts. I could have just taped it on there or otherwise permanently attached it, but it needs to be able to be removed because I put the filters and screen over the top of the pump and then reattach the spout thing. I thought it was a pretty clever solution, anyway.

The last thing I did this weekend was propagated a couple of forsythia. I did hydrangea last year, and hope to again this year, but I don't know if the people I gave them to actually planted them or not. Since I'm giving up on the growing tomato and pepper plants from seeds (way easier to just buy the plants...) I can spend more time propagating things. Looking forward to getting the playhouse gutted and turned fully into my new gardening shed. Can't wait for next weekend to get here...

Posted: Wednesday, April 07, 2010, 10:40 am
Mood: Happy | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Awful Blogger

I've been a bad blogger lately. I failed miserably at the NaBloPoMo thing for March.

Is blogging dead? Has Facebook and Twitter ruined it all? Two bloggers that I followed somewhat religiously (heh) have all but stopped blogging. Am I going down that path?

It used to be so new, and now it seems like so much work. I have cool photos to post of my gardening escapades this weekend. I want to post them here. But if I post them to Facebook, more people will see them out of morbid curiosity. Or something.

I still don't want to give up on my blog, but it is getting harder and harder to come up with the motivation to update it.

Sigh.

Posted: Wednesday, April 07, 2010, 1:52 am
Mood: Sad | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


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