Friday, July 31, 2009

Before and After

I should have posted pictures of the garden before, but I was writing the post late, and it was dark and my pictures ended up looking creepy rather than freakishly large.  

When we first bought there was no garden here, but evidence that our PO had done a little planting (the neighbors said a couple tomatoes and annual flowers). I made a long skinny garden, roughly 2x8 there last year.  It is lined with the Purlington bricks that are from the old street out front. The bricks actually have a neat history.  They are from the street we live on, when, about forty or fifty years ago, the city replaced the bricks with pavement.  They also replaced the sidewalk at that time.  If you look in yards down our block, you will almost certainly see some of these bricks.  Our PO saved a whole pile of broken sidewalk pieces in our back yard too.  Far less cool than the bricks.

This year I went crazy with the tiller and expanded the garden to it's current size, which is about 5x20.  Here is the garden on May 1st.  
Here is the garden today. Note that you can't even see the 4ft high currant bush at the other end of the garden. 
A view from the side:

Here is my tomato cage supported by bungee cords.  These are all heirloom tomatoes I planted from the Friends School Plant Sale. I would give you specifics on this monster, but it devoured its tag and I don't remember which order I planted them in.

I do, however, know what these are.  These are Black Cherry Tomatoes, though by the size of them they should really be called Black Golf Ball Tomatoes. This is my first tomato to begin showing color.  Things seem to be ripening later this year.  This weekend is my nephew's birthday, and I remember trying to get his sister and him to eat the tomatoes last year at this time and they refused.  

This is a picture of my rogue tomatoes.  The ones that mysteriously came up from seed.  They are uncaged and haven't been touched; they are as big as the heirlooms.  They are sweet 100's.

Finally, my coneflowers.  I am really enjoying these guys.  They cheer me up every time I pass them.  

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Is our garden on steroids?

I want to preface this by saying the garden is surely NOT on steroids, or anything else for that matter.  I put some compost in, tilled it up this spring, water it sporadically, and generally neglect it.  The dog, since discovering rabbits frequent it despite the fence (they get in below the neighbor's fence) now considers it his personal hunting estate, hiding under the tomatoes and belly crawling toward the carrots.  This is really the extent of care (or neglect) the garden has received.  

Yet, mysterious things have been happening in the bungle-garden.  For one, ground cherries, tomatoes and snapdragons are coming up.  Which wouldn't be weird, since I planted all of these things, but is weird since I planted them LAST YEAR.  What is going on?  Was it the tilling?  These aren't little tomatoes, either.  Some of these plants are attempting to take over the garden.  They're huge.  They are growing from seed (which up in Minnesota isn't supposed to happen unless you start indoors) without cages. There has been at least ten of these garden crashers this year.  I have let a few live if they are respecting the plants I spent money on. Others have met a much sadder fate (me yanking them out with a dumbfounded look on my face).  

Okay, so ghosts from summer past is the first weird thing.  The second also involves tomatoes, these planted by me this year.  Heirloom tomatoes from the Friend's School Plant Sale.  They are giants.  They have taken my tomato cages that I inherited from the previous owner, laughed at their poor little wired frames, and tipped them over from their sheer girth.  I have had to resort to using bungee cords in my garden to keep the cages upright. Bungee cords!  Our neighbor's garden is on the other side of the fence (chain link) from ours.  They planted the same weekend we did.  Their tomatoes are just barely cresting over the tops of their cages.  

So I ask this, as a novice gardener, WTF is up with our garden?  Anyone?  Again, this garden is completely organic.  No fertilizers, pesticides, nuclear reactions, or performance enhancing drugs.  Just good old sun, water when I feel like it and occasional weeding.  And rabbit eating and dog trampling thrown in for good measure.  

Soon we will be buried in tomatoes.  We will have to eat our way out of the back door. 

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Best Craigslist Deal EVER!

Okay, so Kevin is in the market for a table saw.  (Or was, anyway, he is currently setting up his new find in the basement).

Kevin calls about an ad and is given directions to a tattoo parlor in our old neighborhood.  We walk in and there are two heavily tattooed guys sitting around talking. The owner of the shop takes us to the back, then down a set of stairs into the basement where he has a really nice little workshop.  Kevin looks at the saw and decides he wants it, but here we have two problems: one- we didn't have enough time to go get cash before we left and two- we drive a compact car, and though we have fit a lot of things in it (a wicker couch, a Poang chair with ottoman, lots of lumber, a six foot high tree, and ten currant bushes to name a few) we didn't think it could handle that saw.  "No problem, says Tattoo Shop Owner, "You can borrow my truck." Yes, you read that right. Borrow his truck.  So while T.S.O. and Kevin are taking the motor off the saw, I run to the ATM to get money.

I get back just as they are loading it into the truck and Kevin is getting directions on how to operate the truck (it was old and had developed a few quirks). As we are pulling out, he shouts (with a smile), "Just don't crash it or anything, I don't have insurance on it."  

To make a long story less long, we got it home, drove the truck back and all is well. With all the bad press Craigslist is getting these days, a lot of times you can really feel the mistrust between people during transactions.  This guy let us use his truck!  Two people he didn't even know.  Thanks, T.S.O.


As we were painting the house today, we got into a discussion over which part of the project was our favorite.  Kevin said that scraping was his at first. I think he changed his mind after I pointed out that with all of the respirators and power tools during the paint scraping process, it wouldn't have been possible for us to be carrying on a conversation like we were.  

I had no hesitation.  I love painting.  It's just so satisfying to see the paint up on the house, transforming it into the vision we had all along.   Here is how we left the house last weekend: 

Here is how we left it this weekend:

It is so close to being done.  That is with one coat of paint.  Kevin finished more than half of the shingles tonight.  The new ones show up, but I think with a second coat it shouldn't be too noticeable.  Here is a close-up of the shingles:

I don't know if you can really see it or not.  I'll have to take a better picture.  We would have been done this weekend for sure except on Friday we took advantage of my dad's truck and went on two dump runs.  One for the asbestos siding we took off the side of the house and one for random stuff like The Dryer That Almost Killed Kevin and the fake wood paneling from the kitchen wall (What is with us and only doing one wall?). Factoring in the hour there and back for the truck, the dump runs took 12 hours.  Turns out they like to keep the landfill wayyy out in the middle of nowhere.  The dump runs are really part of our new project... cleaning!  We have a back porch on our house that has served as the dumping grounds for junk that we don't want to deal with.  It also houses our bikes and power tools because things of value don't seem to do well in the garage.  They walk off.  So that needs some major organizing.  I had this thing that unlike other urban folk who seems to have garages too full to fit their cars, my car would always be able to fit in the garage.  That was before the fence project and the siding project.  So that needs to be rectified, because, after six years without a garage, I refuse to scrape my windows in the winter.  We also have an office that is pretty full of crap.  We would totally be kicked out of a condo if we ever lived in one.  

Finally, Arlo's latest garden antics.  I snuck up on him eating the snap peas, vine and all. This might have been my fault, because I've been sharing sweet peas from the farmer's market with him.  

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Is it just me...

...or are rabbits getting bigger these days?  

This is what greeted us after a few panicked minutes of not being able to find Arlo anywhere in the yard yesterday. Finally he poked his head out from behind the broccoli leaves. I think he was a little perturbed that we took pictures and laughed at him before helping him out.

Anyway, on to the house.  We are officially done scraping paint!  And it only took about two months!  We are now onto repairs and cleaning.  The repairs actually are going pretty fast. Here's a nifty one to hide the fact that the facia slipped down slightly (look up at the peak of the roof): 
I also filled all of the nail holes, which added up to quite a few with both the old siding and the tar paper behind it nailed in.  Sorry there are no riveting pictures of filled nail holes. We filled nail holes and repaired damage (of which there was surprisingly little) with this: 

It's pretty smelly stuff (I actually donned the respirator even though it was supposed to be my first day without it), but it worked really well. It's actually an epoxy more than a wood filler.  If you're going to use it, do it when it's shady--it cured too quickly if the sun hit it.  

We're also repairing a piece of the skirting.  It had bowed out, and the siding had come in slightly to make a weird gap.  We used shim to bring a couple of clapboard pieces out slightly, and then took out shims that were behind the skirting (who knows why they were there in the first place).  Here is the spot where the board is removed.  

And here is all of the nasties living behind the board...eeew! That's dust, among other things.

We also had to remove one damaged clapboard as part of the fix on this corner.  I believe these actually aren't clapboard at all, but beveled siding. Anyone know anything more about this? Or where we can get a replacement?  We are planning to take the broken one down to Siwek's Lumber and have a new one milled, though I think this is going to be expensive. Here's the profile.
Another, and perhaps the most involved project (especially since Kevin's parents have our miter saw for the weekend) was replacing the broken shakes.  Here you can see the dog eared edge pieces.  
This is about how we left the house after the weekend, although as a final project, Kevin cleaned it, so it looks much fresher. This picture was taken yesterday.
We would like to have at least a coat of primer on by the end of next weekend.  How exciting!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Not much to report...

But it's been too long between posts, so I thought I would catch up.

We have been working pretty much every weekend (except this last one) on the siding project, and have most of the paint removed. Next weekend we will be cleaning and making repairs. I am really hoping that will only take one weekend, but knowing how this stuff goes, it will probably take two.  Then, we prime and caulk the weekend after, and finally paint.  

We are trying to think of ways to speed this process up a bit, considering at this rate, it will take four years to finish the outside of the house.  I think our problem is only being able to work on the weekends.  Evenings don't work for two reasons: one, Kevin works evenings and two, we both spend our time during the week to catch up on things we don't get done during the weekends (grocery shopping, laundry, dishes, etc.).  Also, summer weekends tend to be busier for us. 
We ended up hand-scraping the entire house because the Paintshaver really ate up the siding.  That is another reason it took so long.  Anyone out there have any ideas on how to make this job go faster??