Saturday, July 28, 2012

Updates and Lessons for Next Year

Things are going pretty well. The dried Calypso beans are ready, though a combination of deer, rabbits, and being shaded out by other plants means there will only be a very few of them, which sucks. 

I've been pickling things little by little. Above we have a HUGE cucumber that got away from us, which I turned into sandwich stackers, and two batches of lemon cucumbers I pickled with a jalapeno and onions. All from the garden. Hooray! I think cucumbers and rutabaga are really the only two things we'll truly have enough of to get through the whole year. Tomatoes will be close.

This is what a typical daily harvest looks like now. There are always tomatoes, and either beans or cucumbers every other day. The beans are gorgeous, but we aren't putting any by because we eat them faster than we can pick them. The soy beans did pretty well, but I'll need quadruple the amount next year if I want edamame for the year. I have a serious soy habit.

 The ladies are growing pretty steadily. They are trying to cluck now, which comes out more like a honk, which is pretty hilarious. They are much more comfortable with being petted, and a few days ago one of the girls hopped up onto my arm to perch unsolicited. I didn't even have any treats!


1) French intensive planting is pretty awesome, but for beans the productivity of the plant is lowered since they are so dense. Plant fewer beans per square next year, given them more trellises, and don't do the sisters planting with corn. I need 4-5 times as many bean plants as I planted this year to be set for the year, which is probably not going to happen. I'll try though.

2) Rutabagas are huge, and should be planted much later than I planted them. Same with brussel sprouts.

3) Beets need protection when they are just seeded, because both times, birds ate all the seeds. The few survivors were overshadowed by other plants and then died.

4) Tiger Stripe tomatoes are yummy, but grow too close to the ground. They need to be in a pot so the ripe fruit doesn't rot before I can get to it.

5) I need to start my tomatoes sooner, and not plant cucumbers so close. The cukes are using the tomatoes to grow up, which is great for the established plants, but not great for the little ones I started from seed.

6) Speaking of tomatoes, I need double the amount of Amish Paste tomatoes to make my year quota. The early girls are huge producers, and I want another one next year, even though the tomatoes themselves are not the best, they are still good and I've gotten 30 so far from one plant, no where near done producing.

7) Although the squash worked really well in the raised bed and aren't messing with other plants the way the cukes are, I think I will put them in a separate area next year just for the sake of space. They can go in the new melon mound.

8) Caterpillars are the big April scourge, but now that I have neem I am ready to rock and roll. But the deer have eaten 3/4 of the bean plants, across the board. And all of the Kale. I need to think of a solution for this. More plants they don't like. More of that horrible garlic/egg spray, and maybe a mechanical deterrent, like a motion-detector sprayer.


Normally rain is a great thing. I have not ONCE watered the garden in the month of July, which should help our water bill tremendously. The problem, though, is that is rains. every. day.

We've excavated all the dirt from the wall and moved all the bricks, so our yard has piles of soil and cinder blocks everywhere. But we need a dry day to level the soil, add sand, level that, and put down the first row of bricks, which is what will take the longest and matter the most in this project.

Unfortunately, this is the view from outside my bedroom window. And yes, we are expecting more rain in the next hour.

We've also encountered other cool setbacks, like the builders of the previous wall building it on uneven brick pieces, throwing two tons of broken stone in with the dirt, and not removing a huge concrete slab that was probably a grounding piece for an even older wall. The piece means we needed to pull up some of the brick pavers from the patio to have enough room to re-lay the wall on solid ground. Which also means we'll need to do a lot of work on the patio when we're done with the wall.

We can't find any day laborers in Pittsburgh, so I think it will be Alex and myself hauling 3-5 tons of gravel up the hill. Bah!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Retaining Wall - Day 1

The chaos has moved outside. This morning we took down all the cinder blocks and wall blocks and stacked them elsewhere in the yard. It only took about an hour and a half, but my back is currently indicating that it was a lot of work.

I tried to remain brave in the face of a million huge spiders, centipedes, snake skins (which were pretty awesome, actually) and unknown monster bugs.

Tomorrow begins the digging. Then we'll re-stack and secure with liquid nails, back fill with gravel for drainage, and take a BREAK from home improvements for a week.

Our porch has really gotten a lot classier in the last few hours. 

I think the previous owner just threw all his garbage behind the wall for a decade. 
Battle scars

Where the wall once was.

I have battle scars too.
Alex enjoying a victory sandwich on the porch - which we both agree feels like the most vacation-y part of the house.

New Chicken Tricks

We're trying to get the ladies more on board with human contact. Naturally, the best way to do this is to bribe them with their favorite treat - plums! Good thing we have a plum tree.

Hmm, does he have a treat?

Two are on board. 

I know it's just a piece of fruit, but doesn't this feel like we're witnessing something gory and savage? 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Poultry Pest Patrol!

Hey, what's that fluffy thing in the garden?

The ladies' coop, run, and pen needed a good cleaning. It's really difficult when they're in there, because they are both curious about your shovel, and afraid of it. So today we decided to let them loose in the portable pen around a garden bed. It took them a little while to get the hang of things. At first, they were pecking at the old tires we planted potatoes in. But they they realized the joys to be found in the garden bed itself!

Shade, leaves, and tons of live grub! I hope they are eating all the earwigs that are messing with my corn and leaving lady bugs and spiders alone, but I know that's not how it really works.

"We'll Just Put a Potted Plant There!"

...was the phrase uttered a million times as we attached the trim to the wall yesterday. There isn't a right angle in the whole house, particularly not on "Hell Wall" (which is what I nicknamed the blue jerk between the living room and hallway that refuses to cooperate.) After "potted plant," the second most used phrase of mine yesterday was "time to nail some trim, baby!" which I found hilarious enough to say over and over, but which Alex didn't really think was so clever.

We got everything taken care of, except for those pieces on walls where we still need to move outlets up 1.5 inches (which should be terrible.)

We moved the furniture back in last night and this morning et voila:

And now for the behind the scenes footage of what still needs fixing:

Some of the moulding doesn't really meet with the wall, so we need to fill with stainable wood filler.

Here's a fun place where we underestimated how much wall we needed to finish and what the trim would cover. Oops! This should give a good idea of what the wall looked like originally, though. Yikes!

The cordless nail gun isn't as reliable as the ones where you need a compressor, so sometimes the nails didn't go far enough into the trim. In most places, we'll need to put a little wood filler over the holes. Also in this picture: the existing door casing buckles in the middle, so you can see it. I'm going to stain it the same color as the rest of the wood to make it less noticeable. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

July Chick Pic

They are almost as big as a cinder block! And look at those real chicken feet. The ladies really like to perch on this block (which was originally a security measure during a night when we were away) so we left it in their pen. They also love taking all the gorgeous, clean straw from their run and spreading it around the pen, scratching, and trying to catch moths out of the air.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Yard updates for July

From a while ago: our last harvest of snap peas, first carrot, and the HUGE cauliflower head
Squash blossom out in the yard.

I pulled the snap pea vine out of the garden two days ago and grabbed any unused pods to save seeds.
Corn is growing, but needs to be pollinated and I don't really know how. 

Here is what the whole garden looks like presently.

Two beans sharing a trellis: purple french beans and young soy beans.

Some of the large drying beans, though I don't know which since I've lost my garden diagram. Boo

Here is the bolted lettuce setting little seed pods, which look like mini jalapenos

Get red, you tomatoes!!! You are no good to me like this!

Early attempts at seed saving: green bell pepper, lettuce, spinach, and snap peas

And now for the trim!

After approximately 8 billion years, we finished the floors last Friday!!! This week we've been working on the trim, which proved a bit more difficult than we anticipated (which seems par for the course in this remodel thus far.)
Finished floors with a rug and some cut trim

First, the miter box we had wasn't large enough for any of the trim we had. We went looking for a larger one, but if they make them, they do not sell them at the local home improvement stores. So we investigated how much a miter saw would cost - they are useful afterall. Saws large enough to cut the trim we have run AT LEAST 350$, and generally more like 500$. So that was out.

We rented the saw from Home Depot on tuesday, and made most of the cuts we needed in the 4 hour period before Alex needed to head to work. The thing was huge, and barely fit in the car.
On day 1, I only got this many pieces done before a thunder shower

Next it was time to stain the wood, but it decided to rain for three days straight, which made things a little tricky. I briefly considered using the basement, but the poor ventilation + the pilot light made me reconsider.

I finally finished the staining yesterday, and this morning put on the first coat of polyurethane. I hope to finish the second later today (we got the quick drying) and then rent the finish nailer for tomorrow.
The downhill slope isn't ideal for drying, but our whole yard is a mountain

What might throw a wrench in this plan, however, is that we need to make cuts in most of the trim for outlets, since the new baseboard is taller than the old and the outlets are placed stupidly. We can't do this without extension boxes however, which we don't actually have. Naturally.