Monday, October 21, 2013

Bringing in the Sheaves

Frost's a comin'. Garden evacuation time.

Longkeeper tomatoes
Basil hanging to dry
Poblanos galore.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Vole Truth

For some reason, I thought voles were something found in another part of the country. I think they merged in my mind with the boll weevil, an entirely different cause for increased aspirin sales. Well, this year, I found out I was quite wrong.

This spring, before the grass really grew back, I noticed surface trails through part of our lawn, two-inch wide tracks that looked like long, narrow cave-ins. "Moles," pronounced Mom. "Well, what do I do?" "Let the grass grow in." Fair enough. That did seem to do the trick, for the most part, and only a true student of turf would notice the difference.

Until I dug up this year's potatoes.

Yes, look closely, my children and you will see, the midnight noshing of voles hungry. True, that was not ideal, but the point stands. E came home in the midst of my sad potato retrieval mission, took one look, and said only, "voles." "Not moles?" "Nope, voles." Apparently, D, vanquisher of Roses of Sharon, just had similar problems in her own garden. I did a little reading and found out not only was she right, but that we had done this to ourselves. While heaven only knows what made them move into the front garden – and it was definitely voles in the lawn, as I found they are surface diggers – we invited them into the vegetable garden by planting the super-enthusiastic sweet potatoes, which grew so much that they acted like ground cover around the potatoes. Voles love ground cover. I noticed this as I pulled away enough of the vines to dig up each potato plant – holes and disturbed earth aplenty. So, due to both poor sprouting of my potatoes to begin with, and the subsequent in-vole-sion, this is the sum total of my potato crop this year:

Live, learn, get stronger, cliche of choice. Basically, the sweet potatoes are going to have to get their own digs next year. And if the voles got to them this year, we may not bother at all come 2014. We'll have to wait until after the first frost to find out.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

When the River Meets the Sea

It's been a summer unlike others here at the House of C and E, and one that has not lent itself to blogging. I know we've written more "we're back" posts than regular posts for a while now, but with luck, and perhaps a little guidance from unanticipated quarters, we are, really, back.

So to restart, how about a bit of a recap? This will mostly be outdoors, while E hopes to post some indoor shots shortly.

This way, friends:

This is a bit of a sneak preview, as the cushions were safely tucked away from the rain when I took this picture. But it is indeed a real patio set that is comfortable enough to linger which is what I hope will work best for us. We got it on on sale for the end of the season, but I think we should get some use out of it before we have to put it away, unless we have another Major Storm. Let's hope not. Pictures of the fully kitted set to follow.

Garden news now:

Sweet Jesus.
The vegetable garden as of September 1
The tomatoes are so tall and heavy that they're breaking through their cages.

The sweet potatoes that ate...well, everything.
As a point of comparison, here is the garden in May:

Now I realize this is not the first time I've posted Wild Kingdom photos of the garden. This does happen, in some form or another, every year. But really, new levels. The good news is, the weed barrier is doing its best to counteract the rampant growth that results from the mushroom soil we use as compost - growth which is great for our plants but a pain in the weed department. It really does work well, and though there are always renegades, they are much more manageable.

This year, the true accelereant has been the amazing amount of rain we've had. Though we still lag far behind our friends in the Pacific Northwest, our July/August dry spell never came. My theory is it's all because I actually put a soaker hose in the garden this year. 

So our crops include:
  • Three Sunsugar cherry tomatoes
  • Two Opalka roma tomatoes
  • One Longkeeper tomato
  • Two habaƱero peppers, one orange, one Caribbean red, which is said to be twice as hot as a typical habaƱero
  • Two serrano peppers
  • Two poblano peppers
  • Six bell peppers
  • Four Anaheim peppers
  • Two overgrown basil plants
  • an unknown number of potato plants - I had problems with my cuttings this year, and, as a result, they came up sporadically, and now I have little idea of where they are now that they've started to die back, mostly due to...
  • three sweet potato plants, our experimental crop of the year that started out as the saddest little striplings you could hope to see and, after playing possum until the first good rainy period, proceeded to play pool hustler and tru to strip the rest of the garden for all it was worth; I finally had to get in there and rip out feet upon feet of vines. Beautiful, but we'll be looking for a new system should we try again next year
  • A little onion patch (Stuttgarts) which met with about medium success. Some didn't grow much at all, others rotted, a few thrived, the rest were middling. As my mother said, upon viewing them, "Inever really understood planting an onion to onion." I know what she means, but I don't think that will stop me from trying once more next year.
  • And this baby:

Can't you just hear its slow-rolling, Orson Welles laugh? It's positively glistening with menace. This is a Ghost peper, or Bhut Jolokia, 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce. Some like to say it was "discovered" about five or six years ago, but as our friend from India says,"Discovered? We had those growing in the back yard back home. I could have made a FORTUNE." He explained that they simply touched their food to the peppers to get flavor and heat. We Americans are still in the process of putting our hands on the burner to make sure it's hot, apparently.

You're thinking, why? Because I have a little devil on on shoulder who is also a real person who stands behind me and insists I do certain things.

At the Garden Center of Wonders (actual name temporarily misplaced) which said devil and I just found this year, that has so many odd and fantastic plants:
C Mom: Get it for E, he'll love it.
C: He'll have no use for it, it's too hot.
C Mom: Have you ever actually seen one of these plants for sale before?
C: No, but...
C Mom: Get it. You're getting it. Here this looks like a nice one.
There it is.

Oh, and we're growing cilantro, both because we use it and it annoys my cousin who is genetically deprived of liking it.

Some may have noticed an absence in the vegetable garden - the black raspberry bush that once thrived in the northeast corner was cut down to size and relocated to the south side of the house where it can throw its mad lines where it pleases, within a certain amount of reason.

This is the least visible and, thus, least ornamental, side of the house, so it's a good fit now that I know how eager this thing is.

We also moved one of its offspring, which at the time of transplantation was no more than 10 inches high. Now:

Trellis-worthy by next summer, no doubt.

On the more ornamental side of things, some sale acquisitions and some old favorites:

A new tree! E grew up with a mimosa in the yard, and it's the one thing he wanted at our place. It took some doing, as some nurseries and garden centers consider them invasive, but not the Garden Center of Wonders, which had a little two-footer for $8. Said two-footer is now easily eight if not more, but since it grew sideways, it was a few months until we realized it had changed at all.


Red peony, Karl Rosenfield, courtesy of Esbenshade's wonderful parking lot sale

Bloomerang reblooming lilac, on sale at the Foliage Farm; I bought this in May but didn't get around to planting it, with E's help, until August. It seems perfectly happy, though, and is flowering now.
Mazus ground cover, Esbenshade's

Green Santolina, Esbenshade's

Spurge, which I am convinced was on sale at Esbenshade's mostly because it's called Spurge.

And now for some returning favorites:

The lavender patch, which started as three of these:

The morning glories...

...which have relocated themselves, and started out our first year here as this:

The beautyberry, purchased last fall, which made me really nervous because I planted it somewhat far from the house and late in the season, but is doing very well indeed:

More to come as we ease back into things. Thank you for coming back, and please stop by again.

Though our minds be filled with questions
In our hearts, we'll understand
When the river meets the sea

With love.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Kitchen Cabinets

So E called C at work today. "So those cabinets...." "Take them out. Do it. Just go."

We've been wanting them down since we moved in, to open up the space between the green/family room and the kitchen. A deal was struck to take them down on or after January 2, once the holidays were over, in case, there was any scarring beneath. January 2 became July 12, but no matter.

It's glorious, no two ways about it. C's fears of underlying glue marks, major holes, or other atrocities were unfounded, the whole back of the house is airier, and that feeling of progress, no matter whether it be slow or halting at times, is in the air. Baby steps.

We intend to put some kind of lighting there to help at what has become the primary prep counter, as well as to light the bar (also known as the other side of the prep counter. Lighting decisions are pending.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Spring is Springing...

"Ah! Up then from the ground sprang I
And hailed the Earth with such a cry
As is not heard save from a man,
Who has been dead, and lives again.
About the trees, my arms I wound;
Like one gone mad I hugged the ground;
I raised my quivering arms on high;
I laughed and laughed into the sky"

Ah! Up then from the ground sprang I And hailed the earth with such a cry As is not heard save from a man Who has been dead, and lives again. About the trees my arms I wound; Like one gone mad I hugged the ground; I raised my quivering arms on high; I laughed and laughed into the sky, - See more at:
Ah! Up then from the ground sprang I And hailed the earth with such a cry As is not heard save from a man Who has been dead, and lives again. About the trees my arms I wound; Like one gone mad I hugged the ground; I raised my quivering arms on high; I laughed and laughed into the sky, - See more at:
Ah! Up then from the ground sprang I And hailed the earth with such a cry As is not heard save from a man Who has been dead, and lives again. About the trees my arms I wound; Like one gone mad I hugged the ground; I raised my quivering arms on high; I laughed and laughed into the sky, - See more at:
Ah! Up then from the ground sprang I And hailed the earth with such a cry As is not heard save from a man Who has been dead, and lives again. About the trees my arms I wound; Like one gone mad I hugged the ground; I raised my quivering arms on high; I laughed and laughed into the sky, - See more at:
Happy Spring from the House of C and E!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Catching Up...

Ok, it's been too long since we've posted anything to the blog, and we've heard you.  The BOTH of you (you know who you are).  But message received and before another season passes, here are the latest updates on recent projects:

Project #0: H.A.L. - COMPLETE
This project is getting the "0" designation because it was never really a project, at least not in the regular sense that projects tend to go in this house: long, drawn-out, potentially over-thought endeavors.  This "project" pretty much came together quickly and was executed relatively effortlessly.

We needed a new thermostat.  The one that came with the house was an old school mercury dial switch.  Classic. However not programmable (which isn't a deal breaker) and not calibrated.  When we first moved into the house and the first hot weather hit, we turned on the AC.  The dial was set to about 72 degrees and we went to bed.  When we woke up the next morning, the house was a frigid 60-something degrees.  Over the months, we've deciphered the conversion factor relating the temperature that we'd like to the temperature specified on the thermostat.  And we were ok with that arrangement until last fall when I got bit by the techy-gadget bug.  The culprit: the Nest learning thermostat.

I saw it at a Lowes months prior.  It looked so cool.  Then I saw the price tag: $250.  How the heck can you justify spending that kind of money when there are perfectly good programmable Honeywell thermostats sitting right there for $75?  It was a pass on the Nest.

Then Black Friday hit and I got an email from Lowes saying that the Nest (first generation) was going on sale.  And we had gotten a gift card from friends for Lowes.  Those two money-saving opportunities made the Nest much more competitive in price.  So we bought one.

Installation was a breeze.  When I removed the old thermostat, which had a bigger footprint on the wall, I had to paint the wall first before I could mount the Nest.  Even with that extra step of painting, it took almost no time to install the Nest.  Once it was mounted and powered up (and connected to the WiFi) it immediately updated to the latest version of software.  That's too cool.  And then the learning began.

After about a week of us just using the Nest like a regular thermostat, it learned enough of our habits to program a schedule for heating, etc.  It makes recommendations for lowering/raising temperature settings to help save energy and money.  It gives you daily reports of how much energy the house used the previous day.  It even senses when people are home.  That's almost too creepy to handle.  Therefore we named our Nest thermostat (yes, you actually have to give your Nest a name when setting it up): H.A.L.  When a glowing red eye on a wall wakes up when you walk by and gives you suggestions about how you should live certain aspects of your life, you must name it H.A.L.

Here he his, keeping all systems nominal:

I'm half-expecting to come home one day and find that none of my keys will unlock the doors.  And then through a window I'll call to H.A.L., telling him to open the doors.  And he'll reply very calmly and coldly: "I'm sorry, I can't do that."

Project #1: Dining Room - COMPLETE
As you remember, we got the table and chairs last October from "Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Roy Martin" and they're just lovely.  We finished all the painting - white chair rail and below (see the post on how to get clean straight lines) and hung curtains in the windows.  We're pretty happy with how the whole room came out:

Project #2 - Kitchen fume hood/microwave - COMPLETE
We've been itching to replace the fume hood/microwave shelf over the stove since we moved in.  It provides good light and ventilation, but it really does protrude into the space over the stove.  Using some Christmas gift money, we found a great microwave/fume hood replacement.  Here's the old hood:

It was more difficult to remove than I was expecting.  The hood was supported by hangers mounted on the wall and the fan/exhaust extended up into the cabinets above it.  After much tinkering combined with simple brute force, we got the hood out:

The new microwave-range needed to mount into framework of cabinetry above it.  Since our cabinets were facade only, we needed to build some framework into the fake cabinets:

And we had to wire in an outlet box so we can plug the microwave to a power source:

Once the framework was in place and mounting holes drilled, it only took about three attempts to get the microwave mounted:

It really has freed up counter space.  So nice.

Project #3 - Painting the Powder Room - STARTED, IN PROGRESS
One project I wanted to finish before classes started up in January was to paint the powder room.  It's a very small room, almost closest-like.  How hard could it be?  As you can see from the status, it ain't done yet.

In the past, when trying to determine the color to paint other rooms, we usually would get about 10 samples and paint test spots on the walls.  I didn't want to do that much work for painting such a small room like the powder room.  So, we went to our local hardware store, got some paint swatches and brought them home.  We decided on an aqua-blue-ish color.  The next day, I bought a quart of said blue paint, brought it home, and painted some of the walls.  Nope, not a good color.

So we decided to give the sample-free swatch method one more go.  Changing gears, we settled on an orange.  And this is ORANGE.  On paper, it's looks like it's too vibrant to look good on any wall (but if you're going deer hunting, then you're in luck).  The color is called 14 Carrots.  And I really liked it.  I just didn't know if it would look good on a wall.  The powder room is a small room so we figured it was worth the gamble.  It took a few days of looking at it, but we're digging it now.  I still have to finish up some edging work, but here's the (almost) finished product:

We realize the intensity of that orange can be overwhelming so if nature calls while you're here and this color is too much, rest assured, we do have another bathroom at your disposal.  As long as you don't mind walls that have been stripped of their wallpaper.  Failing that, we have some nice trees out back.

So that's a quick rundown of the latest projects.  There is another painting project we hope to get into the works in the near future.  And hopefully we'll post about it before the next Pope is elected.