We will have to try to get a close-up of the flower boxes – they are decorated with swags of real greens and holly, each with a faux-cardinal perched on top. E's family is originally from St. Louis, so it's a bit of a nod, what with their big year and all, but what bird says Christmas more than a cardinal?
So it's our first Christmas in our new house and we are just atwitter with possibility. So much space to decorate! But we're keeping it simple, both because we prefer that, and also because we are still working on acquiring surfaces to gee-gaw up with Xmas-y things.
I am always torn this time of year because I simply like too many Christmas decorating styles. European/Austrian/Alpine woodsy greenery, Victorian postcards and sparkles, modern retro mercury glass and shimmer – so many directions at once! But as my Annie would have recommended, I gave myself a talking to and decided to keep it simple, Martha-Stewart-esque magazines be-damned. If the place is only semi-fab, I'm sure we'll muddle through just fine. So it all began today as E and I set for the to get the greens and some old-school C7 incandescent (you heard me – INCANDESCENT) lights. Can't you just smell the fossil fuels burning? Yes, I'm all for saving the earth but DO NOT make me do it with garish LED fairy lights. Get back in the lab, science types, and come back with something that doesn't look like it belongs in a club or a used car dealership and we'll talk. In the meantime:
Much more to do, but we're pleased with the start!
So you may remember that, as part of our freak early snow storm this year, our old mailbox post met a slightly untimely end (although it was rotting and listing to port, so I suppose the heavy, wet, snowplow spray was only somewhat to blame). Anyway, we quickly replaced the post and returned the undamaged mailbox to its right, now less slanty, place.
We next needed to put our house number on the box or post as it appears nowhere else. We looked for post numbers but couldn't find any we liked. I had seen vinyl decals on Etsy meant to be placed directly on the mailbox, and I preferred that, but the silver mailbox had a slight ridged texture that would have made a decal wonky. In a "darn-it, this-is-our-house-and-we'll-get-what-we-like" moment, E bought a new black mailbox with flat sides that would accommodate a decal. The silver box has been added to our growing yard sale pile.
So here's the new box:
I wish I could show it to you in all its glory, but I simply must obscure the address. Instead, here's the example photo from the woman who made it:
So now just squint and mentally merge. Pretty, no?
Plus it matches our spray-painted shutters. It all coming together! Slowly.
Today is our second wedding anniversary and our first in our own house. Buying the house has made it seem like our first anniversary all over again. Each year since our wedding, our Thanksgiving comes a little early.
(Like our red door? The paint color is literally called Front Door Red. Love.)
Anyway, this is out of the norm for our part of the world. There have been winters in recent memory in our part of Pennsy where it didn't snow at all until well into January. As for snowing before Halloween, it is simply unheard of. And appropriate havoc has been wreaked. Extremely wet and heavy snow mixed with still be-leaved trees = broken limbs and power outages aplenty. It's kind of heartbreaking for a tree fan like myself to see all the mangling.
We were pretty lucky – our trees were unscathed and we only lost power for about 12 hours, most of which we could sleep through. Plus, we had a fire going, so that was helpful But this happened on Saturday, and as I write this, it is late on Tuesday, and there are still many powerless people, some of whom are being told not to expect anything until Thursday or Friday.
But the unexpected snowfall gave us a chance to try out a new acquisition:
We bought this little beauty just last weekend. Mostly because when I get something in my craw, I sometimes can't let it go. So E went along with it, agreeing with me that it might be best to be prepared, even though he was still on the fence about snowblower vs. shovel.
While we were wheeling this out of the big box home store, one of the employees remarked to E that some people must know something because they had sold a lot more snowblowers by that time this year than they had by that time the year before. We assumed that since we bought it, it wouldn't snow at all. Um-hmmm.
Anyway, after learning the ways of the new machine, E isa convert. It's really not meant to handle such heavy snow, but it did so regardless. It cleared our driveway and extensive pavement handily, and E had chosen his side of the fence. Wonderful.
We did have some casualties. We lost about four big branches off the butterfly bush out front, though it will survive. And as I was backing out of the driveway in the middle of the storm, I saw this:
Well, not precisely this, since, in this photo, it's been moved from the scene of the incident and the mailbox itself has been removed. Essentially, our mailbox and post were laying in the middle of a snowpile in the street. It had been leaning for a while, and we knew we'd have to replace it, but just hadn't gotten around to it. The snowplow and it's heavy spray, plus a bit of rotting at the base, forced our hand.
On a mission (my craw was acting up again), I went to the local hardware store in mid-storm to get provisions to fix this. E took the rest in hand on Halloween:
I originally wanted a black post, but all the store had was cedar in the style I wanted to buy. So cedar it was. So far, I actually like it better. I'm thinking about painting it, but who paints cedar? We'll see. But for now, I'm happy to have a solid, functional post that's actually better than what we had. Thanks, aggressive plow...?
As of today, most of the snow, except the largest piles in major parking lots, has melted. I'm hoping we can hold off on future snowfalls until it's actually winter.
Postscript: We did learn at least one fun fact during the snowstorm from our neighbors: nothing warms you up after snowclearing like a cup of tea in one hand and a cordial of amaretto or cognac in the other. Thanks to you both!
We haven't had a frost yet here, and probably can't really expect one for another two weeks, at least. In fact, it's been in the 80s for the last three days, and E and I have the mosquito bites to prove it.
Regardless, it's beginning to look a lot like autumn in some areas of the garden:
These is the Sunsugar cherry tomato nest. It began life as the two little plants in the back left of this picture:
As you can see, it is now a dense thicket of quickly dropping mini tomatoes. Next to it and unpictured were the heirloom tomatoes. One big lesson this year is that heirlooms, as fantastic as they are, became so for a reason: they are difficult to grow, or at least they were for me. True, we had a challenging summer weather-wise – no rain and extremely high temps for one month, followed by tons of rain on and off for another, so that may have been part of the problem. Combine that with a new-out-of-the box, throw-it-in-the-ground-and-don't read-anything gardener, and the outlook was probably not a good one. I had some rot on the vine, and others expand, ripen, and slide down the sad little bamboo poles I thought would be enough to support them. So I might try them again, with a better support structure, and hopefully a less extreme summer.
The Sunsugars were great, though – delicious enough to convert people who don't really consider themselves tomato-eaters, mostly resistant to the weather issues (though they sometimes split easily after a deluge, but who could blame them?) I would definitely plant them again, and once more, use a better support system since they ended up taking over the tomato portion of the garden.
All is not chaos. If you stand where I stood to take the first picture, and pivot just a bit, you see the other side:
Peppers in the foreground, Raspberries and basil in the back.
The serrano hot peppers have been extremely plentiful, to the point that we're not entirely sure what to do with them. We tend to throw them in anything that seems remotely appropriate – maybe serrano chocolate chip cookies for Christmas?
The purple bell peppers were a bit of a disappointment. They were purple on the outside, but remained green on the inside no matter how long they stayed on the plant. And I don't approve. I love a ripe bell pepper (although points to my mom for roasting green peppers and pairing them with Genoa salami for a delicious sandwich.) And to have them, essentially, never ripen? No bueno. Also, they remained rather small and thin-walled. My mom told me that my dad often had the same problem with bell peppers. I will try them again, but will go for a more traditional variety next year.
As to the raspberries, we didn't expect berries this year, which was a correct expectation, but we also didn't expect this growth:
That's a six-foot trellis there, and some of the vines are going over the top and snaking down the other side. Some have begun to die back, and I have to determine if I should get the rest back or not – I've had conflicting reports.
This odd and not easily photographed plant is a purple raspberry, a hybrid of a black and a red raspberry developed in a shadowy lab somewhere. It has been more sedate that it's cousin next door, refraining from issuing tentacle-like shoots in all directions and instead choosing to focus on one long, contour-ruining growth. But it seems healthy and happy, so I'm leaving it alone.
Now to the front of the house.
The homestead is situated at the intersection of two streets in such a way that cars driving towards our place are momentarily headed toward us straight-on. The previous owners developed a nice corner patch to frame the front of the house and distract from some unfortunate cable placement. I worked on this thing diligently throughout the spring and early summer, but despite hours of weeding, it was overrun. I really wanted to do more inside the house. So, once the daylilies started blooming, and the vegetables started coming in behind the house, I conceded defeat, hoped the pretty orange flowers in the front of the patch would distract from the chaos behind them, and got to harvesting, painting, etc. I rarely looked too closely out front, fixing only the most egregious botanical offenses.
But enough eventually was ENOUGH.
On some free and much appreciated advice from a local lawn care professional, we decided that we would eradicate much of the front area in the fall. Although there were some plants we wanted to preserve, there were far more weeds, and terribly invasive, woody ones at that. So yesterday we got to work on Herbicide 2011: The De-Plantening. Sadly I neglected a before picture, which would have been far more instructive, but here it is, post siege:
E went through with a weed whacker (and hedge trimmers and pruning shears as needed), then raked, and I followed with a lot of weed killer. We tried to preserve the day lilies, and a few other plants, but things were too far gone. And was it cathartic. E seemed to really enjoy himself. He said "It looks SO MUCH BETTER" when we were only a short way in, and kept saying it repeatedly until it was too dark to really see out front anymore. The aforementioned mosquitoes were out in droves, presumably for a feast before dying. I was smashing them on my leg and leaving blood smears. But we were bound and determined that we were getting. this. done. in one shot. I ended up by just pouring the weed killer on the last patch, then running inside with by back ablaze with bites under my shirt, manically declaring that I needed a shower, stat.
I hope it doesn't look like one of those panicked at-home-the-night-before haircuts on a kid in an old school photo, but we both feel better. In the spring, earlier, that we would have been able to this year since we bought the house in mid-April, we hope to mulch the whole thing and add new plants we'll choose for ourselves. For now, we'll tend to our welts and look out the front windows as long as the light lets us.
Yesterday was Oktoberfest Christmas here at the House of C and E as this little number appeared on our doorstep, courtesy of St. Fed Ex:
Isn't it glorious? Found it refurbished, and thus much cheaper, online, courtesy of a Facebook post from a friend. It's a slightly older model, but from what I understand, it's all you really need.
Isn't it saying something about me when this is a thrill?
Here it is after about 90 minutes of work:
More to the point (and I'm almost embarrassed to show you this. Almost.):
Oh yes, it's cruddy, there's no denying. But how satisfying is it to see the fruit of your labors like this? I have a hard time cleaning things that already seem clean. As some of you who have been to my house may have noticed. (But hopefully have not, and if you did, have been kind enough not to tell me. But all is well now – we're all Dysoned up!)
And where to put the crud once collected? Behold:
It is ok to think that this is an even more pitiful thing to be excited about than the Dyson. I understand, really. But you will not rain on my parade. No indeed, because while we had a fine green trash can for the kitchen, E and I both agreed that it was a little too utilitarian and not quite purty enough. So on a jaunt to my new favorite store, HomeGoods (no reimbursement provided) on Friday, I found this beauty. It is faux-stainless steel, and by that I mean plastic, so it is both light and very fingerprint resistant. It also has two handles on the inside that, after much fruitless tugging on both of our parts, E realized, were meant to hold the bag in place without having it visible. I unwittingly bought a truly superior can. My kudos to the makers.