Saturday, May 28, 2011

Garten Update

Just a quick update showing some plants in place.

Window boxes:

The wave petunias still have some waving to do, but hopefully they'll get there.



Scotch broom:

Icelandic poppies back and right, Alpine poppies left, edelweiss front:

Partial view of the colesuses around the patio:

Vegetable garden with black raspberry bush in lower right corner (watered it later, no worries):

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Shutter to Think

One of the major projects for the outside of the house is to repaint the shutters. Currently the shutters are a faded blue-ish grey:I'm not sure if this is the original color. The shutter locks that mount the shutters to the side of the house are a hunter green. But the back of the shutters is a charcoal. So who knows. It doesn't matter. We're going to paint them black.

First shutter removed. I used a pair of clippers to cut the heads off the shutter locks and then I could just lift the shutter off the wall:

The tough part was to remove the remaining bit of the shutter locks. I had to use different size drill bits, awl, and needle nose pliers to get those buggers out. There has to be an easier way. Suggestions?

Now for the paint. I scrubbed all the grit and dirt off the shutter and once it was dry I applied a spray on primer:

It should seal the surface, cover over any stains, etc and give the paint a good surface to bond with:
After giving the primer 24 hours to dry, I could now apply the paint. A black satin finish paint:

To minimize any running of paint on the shutter, I applied a light coat of black paint, not worrying about completely covering the primer. Better to apply two light coats with no running than one coat that might run:

First coat finished:
After another 24 hours for the first coat to dry, the second coat was applied. And another 24 hours later (yes, that's three days total), the shutter was finished. Here it is placed next to the next shutter that I removed:

We really like how well the finished black shutter looks. The satin finish really gives it a new look. Now we just need to speed up the process. Doing the math, let's see...three days for one shutter...two shutters per least 11 windows...carry the one...whew, that's going to take a long time.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Buried Treasure

The bonus of buying a house from people who apparently enjoyed garden is plant surprises. We've had irises coming in along the side of the garage for a while now, but, unlike their neighborhood counterparts, they have stubbornly refused to bloom – until today.

Here's an overview:

This is the side of the garage, loaded with irises, and one white bleeding heart right in the middle.

Irises close up. I'm extremely surprised by the colors, pleasantly so:

The bleeding heart:

Love that it's white, not pink.

Now to off to plant my many purchases from the last few days.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


When we went to Germany last year for our friends' wedding, we were struck by a few things in the small northern town where we were staying – the changeability of the weather (comparisons to England were not appreciated) and the lush, beautiful gardens at every adorable home. Fitting, then, that the day I take off to go plant shopping is a day much like the ones we had there, where the weather seemed to be determined by an repeatedly spinning and landing roulette wheel. From rain to sun to rain in 20 minutes? Why not!

This did not keep me from making initial progress.

Fuschias for the front porch:

Truth be told, fuschias are not necessarily my favorite plants. These, however, were on sale, which always warms me up to a purchase. Plus, the outer petals are white and the inside is purple, which makes for a more subdued combo than some fuschia plants. I quite like them.

Alpine poppies:

I had never, ever heard of these before, but ever since we went to Austria for our honeymoon, I am a susceptible to the charms of things labeled as "Alpine" or "Bavarian." Turns out that four subspecies of this very plant can be found in Austria. And now one little plant will be found in my front yard. Next to the edelweiss I found last year and transplanted from the tiny bit of land outside our apartment door.


E saw the red version somewhere and liked it. I was always partial to the purple. Found these on sale and couldn't resist.

"Blue" (purple) wave petunias:

The previous homeowners hung five large window boxes across the top floor each year. The brackets and boxes were left when they moved. We debated taking them down, but I thought I'd try to keep the tradition going and see what happens. This was the most cost-effective solution I could find to filling them. We'll see how it goes.

Foxglove (also known as digitalis):

I am often drawn to clustering flowers – foxgloves, hollyhocks, delphinum (delphinia?), gladioli, lilacs, hyacinths – don't know why.

Morning glory:

My mom harrumphed slightly when I told her I had bought one of these. I know they can have a tendency to take over – my friend Elizabeth planted some in her garden, and they began growing through the windows into the house. The shoots reminded me of zombies reaching for brains. For this reason, I am thinking of planting this at our mailbox, well away from any windows.

I had to get them, ok? They were labeled as a traditional Bavarian variety. Curse you, marketing! Plus the flowers on the older plants were gorgeous. So gorgeous that they silently urged me away from my first choice, its cousin, the very romantic, blooms-at-night-and-smells-great moonflower that, while charming, is simply white. May have to go back for one of these though, as I have now found a spot for it.

False indigo:

No idea what this is, but it looks promising and was voted perennial of the year ... for some recent year, so, I got it.

Icelandic poppies in spring fever red:

Well, they're spring fever green at moment, but as my faux name of choice online is often some variation on Red Poppy (secret's out!), it was destiny.

Pepper plants for the vegetable garden:

One hot kind, serranos, and one sweet kind, a bell pepper in purple. Anyone who knows E and his love for hot sauce might be surprised that there are not more, but he has found it just as easy to simply buy a large basket of habaƱeros from the local pepper farm (just down the road now) and use that instead.


I believe this picture is on its side, but you get the idea, I'm sure. My dad was a tomato enthusiast who grew tomatoes in every conceivable (and some inconceivable) hue each year. He has apparently passed this down to his only child. Four kinds: Sunsugar (little, sweet, yellow, cherry tomatoes), Brandywine (Amish heirloom variety, said to be the best tasting in all the land, and I believe one that my dad grew), Super San Marzano (a trendy paste typer, Roma shaped tomato), and Old German Tomato (another heirloom Amish/Mennonite variety that couldn't be ignored due to the intriguing photos and, once again, the name).

And while this is by no means a new purchase, remember this guy?

This is the lovely shady tree in our backyard. Last time you saw him, he was not, shall we say, clothed, and I called him a maple tree. Once his foliage came in, we realized this was no maple. Luckily, when you know academics, and have a botanist come over to play poker, you can get answers to these questions pretty easily. It is a green ash tree, or fraxinus pennsylvanica – terribly common according to Wikipedia, but satisfying to me because it has pennsylvanica in the name.

Today has, thus far, been the opposite of yesterday – bright and sunshiny all the way through. What does that mean? More plants, of course.


My original plant was to put hostas around the patio in the back, but not having seen any hostas I really liked, and then encountering these coleus (coleuses? colei?), and thinking about the shade situation, I decided to go with them. I have never seen ones that looked like this, either. I think they're beautiful.

Scotch broom (Lena's broom variety):

I had stopped at our local hardware store before going to the greenhouse in order to buy some ant poison (I will get you, my segmented antagonists). There I saw one of these lovelies outside for $24.99. This is a favorite of my mother's and a very pretty plant, but I had forgotten my phone and couldn't call for advice. Plus, $24.99 is a bit steep for someone ... thrifty like me. So I decided to skip it.

Pulling up to the greenhouse, I found my car pointing directly at a display of these ... for $8 each. Sold. In fact, what you're looking at is actually two plants – one for me, and one for mom who asked if I would get her one once I could finally call her. Price coup glee.

Last from today's haul, a black raspberry bush:

E and I have a small black raspberry problem. We are lucky enough to have a farm in the area that allows you to pick your own, which is the only way we can support our annual addiction. We usually pick eight or nine pounds a year. What do we make with them, you ask? Our stomachs happy. That's it. Usually we are eating them unwashed by the hand full on our way back home. While driving. The fanciest we get is putting them on vanilla ice cream. So while this one plant won't chase our personal dragon, it's a start.

And finally, two plants we actually got last weekend but it was too wet until today for me to photograph them:


And basil:

I know cilantro is polarizing – apparently these a gene necessary to appreciate it, otherwise it tastes like soap – but we love Mexican food and find it to be one of the fresh herbs we buy a lot. And the basil just spoke to E, so we got that too. Why is it in a pot, you ask? Because I was under the impression that basil, a relative of mint, would take over a garden like mint does if left to its own devices. Botanist friend, to the rescue again, says this is not the case, and the we should free it into the earth proper, which we will do shortly.

Now that is a large post and if it you made it through, my congratulations to you, and a free tomato or two if all goes well this season.

Friday, May 20, 2011


Nothing really to post. Just a photo of some tomatoes on our counter.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How to Make Your Thermal Exhaust Ports Harder to Hit than a Womp Rat

If our house is the Death Star, then the hot air vent from the dryer would certainly be our Thermal Exhaust Port. While ours isn't two meters wide and located at the end of a laser turret-packed trench, it's still located in an odd spot on the house: inside the garage. Yes, the hot, moist, lint-filled air from the dryer is delivered mere feet away from our cars and other stuff that's in the garage. I'm not sure this idea was fully thought through. So, with the arrival of the washer and dryer, we had to move the TEP so the dryer could properly vent to the OUTSIDE.

With a few trips the local hardware store for supplies and with lots of helpful advice from the guys working there (thanks Weaver's!), we did the following:
1) Removed the exhaust vent in the garage
2) Added a 90 degree elbow where the exhaust vent was in the garage
3) Ran 20 feet of flexible tubing from the elbow to the outside wall where we...
4) ...Cut a 4" hole through the exterior wall's plywood and vinyl siding (I have to tell you, cutting a big hole in the outside wall of your house can be a little unnerving. You can bet I measured MANY times before I cut) and
5) Mounted a new exhaust port in the 4" hole
6) Connected the flexible tubing from the elbow joint to the new exhaust port
7) Used nylon straps to mount the flexible tubing horizontally along the wall from the elbow joint to the exhaust port (don't want too many bends in the tubing were lint can build up - dryer fires, just one more thing to worry about - wee!)
8) And lastly, use some silicone caulkto seal up the gaps between the exhaust port and the wall as well as the elbow and the interior wall in the garage.

Here's the finished result:

As with any projects, mistakes were made and lessons were learned (like once you know of a knowledgeable person at the hardware store, ALWAYS ask them for advice), but in the end we got what we wanted. Here's another view:

Here's an interior view of the outside wall:

The strap is there to provide support to the aluminum sleeve on the backside of the exhaust port that the end of the tubing connects to. There's a lot of unused tubing that is compactly slid on the end of the sleeve that's too heavy for the port to support. Ergo, the strap.

And here's the view from the outside:

There are shrubs around the wall where the port is located, making it hard to see:

And just a few steps back, it's even harder to see:

I like to see you try to hit that thermal exhaust port without the aid of a targeting computer!

Doorbell Upgrade

Short one today. New doorbell!

Old doorbell:

New doorbell: