Tag Archives: yard

What I Didn’t Plant

What I Didn’t Plant

So, my garden didn’t do great this year.  I’m not sure if it’s because it basically drowned in all the rain we got or me not paying it enough attention to it or other factors that, well honestly that are pretty obvious in the picture above.  Because the one thing that I had a LOT of was sunflowers.  I didn’t plant a one of them.  They all self-seeded from the monstrosity I had last year, in every bed and even in parts of the lawn.  They were everywhere, and I couldn’t bring myself to pull most of them, so I let them go.

Turns out, sunflowers try to kill off all the plants around it.


But hey, at least they’re pretty.  And I needed some of that brightness this summer.  It was about the only sun we saw for months!


Fall Garden

Fall Garden

A picture heavy post today.  Thought I’d document the garden at the end of the summer.


Herb bed #1.  That white sage has already been cut back once.  It just won’t quit!  The two pots will go into the basement come first frost and live there until spring.


Herb bed #2.  The basil has all gone to seed, but the parsley is still going good, and there’s sage and rosemary in there somewhere, too.  Next year I’ll put the annuals into one of the raised beds and save this one for perennials.


The pepper bed.  They did pretty well!  I still have to get the last of the peppers off the plants.  The eggplant got away from me.  I tried planting fall spinach in that empty space, but it didn’t take.  May try again.


Fall planted lettuce.  This was planted a month ago, and the other half was planted two weeks ago, but that planting is slow in coming.


The zucchini bed.  10 plants, 4 zucchini.  WTF.


Late summer beets and beans.  Most of the beans didn’t come up, but there are a couple of beans on that bush.  Scrubby winter squash aren’t going to put out anything.  I should get a second harvest of beets, though.


The big bed.  As you can see, the winter squash ended up a big bust.  But I learned a lot, so I’ll try again next year.  In the front you can see carrots, both ones on the right that I planted in the spring and ones on the left that I planted a month ago.  In the middle I’ve planted parsnips 3 times with no luck.  Grr.  Also, another white sage plant on the front right corner.  Those suckers are stubborn!


The tomatoes have been done for a while except a few determined cherries.  I should have cleaned them up ages ago, but I need to rebuild one of the raised beds first so I can dump the good soil from these into it.


The cherry tree is hidden in the weeds there.  Two twiggy branches, not a lot of growth.


The nectarine did much better.


I’m especially pleased with the apple trees, though!  They seem to really like their new home!

Fall projects include rebuilding two of the raised bed boxes, cleaning everything up, planting next year’s garlic, and mulching everything well.  We also need one last mow and some serious weed whacking.



Spring is here at long giddy last, and after spending the last few weeks sick as a dog (yes, again), it’s a joy to actually be getting excited about getting a handle on things again.

Stage 1 is the yard and gardens.  This actually started at the end of February when I rigged up my grow system in the basement from a metal shelf on the back porch.


Two shop lights, 4 natural light bulbs, a timer and two S hooks and I was in business for seed starting.  I started lettuce, onions and 3 kinds of tomatoes.


Then I got sick and couldn’t remember to water them.  So yeah, another year of crappy starting under my belt.  I’m still going to start Brussels sprouts and try again with the tomatoes and peppers.  At this point the rest can just go straight into the garden.

Getting the shelf off the back porch, though, meant opening up a lot of space back there.  Okay, well, first it meant a big mess.  That shelf had been stuffed full of all kinds of junk: broken toys, half used building supplies, stuff the kids had scrounged, just junk.  Morgan and I filled 3 contractor bags just clearing that off, but we left a lot of stuff on the floor.  And too much of that junk had migrated into the yard as well.  So last Sunday, we all took about an hour and a half and just cleaned up the STUFF in the yard.  Put the wagons away, junked all the freeze-shattered plastic, raked all the wind-blown trash out of the rose bed, put tools away, folded up the tarp.  We filled the dumpster again (at this point our trash guys must hate us).  Got all the junk off the back porch as well and gave it a good sweeping.  No more having to squeeze out the back door to get into the yard.  Once again, just cleaning a space makes it feel that much more inviting.  I also scrubbed out the front flower bed, getting out all the old mulch and trash and weeds to reveal the daffodil and iris leaves starting to push up for the new season.  There’s still quite a bit of clay in the grass from when we dug up the front walk, so I’ll throw some grass seed (and maybe some ground thyme) to cover that over.  So we aren’t entirely the shame of the neighborhood anymore!

This weekend, I need to start rebuilding the garden beds for the season.  I think I’m going to cheat and buy soilless mix for the grow boxes, but I need to make the Mel’s Mix for the raised beds by hand.  I need too much fill!  I’m also going to recruit the kids to start cleaning and repairing the shed.  The main doors are falling off, so we’ll replace the hinges on those, pack up a bunch more trash and donate a couple of bikes, organize the tools and hopefully just make everything more accessible.  Once that’s done, I want to paint it, although I need rubberized paint because it’s currently got a very crumbly coat of lead paint on it.  Once that’s done, I need to design a bike shed addition for the house side, something that we can get in and out of easily but that we can lock the bikes up in AND lock the door of.  My architect skills aren’t great, though, so this could be an adventure.  Expect pictures!

Walking the walk

Walking the walk
Walking the walk

As predicted, pie day did not happen.

It was walk day instead.


I say day, but of course I had to work all day, and got home at 4:15 with about half an hour of daylight left.  I’d warned Morgan by phone what we were going to do, and as predicted, he wasn’t thrilled.  But I got him to work raking away the few leaves and digging up the old flagstones while I got changed.  Then we set to digging.  I marked it out with a flat bladed shovel and we started pulling up the sod.  That was the easy part.  Because under that was clay.  Clay so thick and solid it felt like rock when we hit it with a shovel.  Thank goodness we didn’t have to get too deep or it would have been a nightmare.  As it was, Morgan had no patience for it and ended up melting down trying to dig it up.  We got to have a shouting match there on the front steps.  It’s times like that that I’m reminded forcefully that he is still a teenager, even if it’s only for a few more months.

The biggest problem we ran into was actually a really old one.  100 years old, to be precise.  You see, when our house was originally built, it had had a wrought iron fence around it.  There were still bits and pieces of it lingering when we moved in, but not enough to even be called a fence anymore.  I knew it went along the side of the house, but I hadn’t realized it went along the front.  So when we hit the base for the gatepost, I thought initially it was some pipe valve I hadn’t known about.  Morgan came up with the explanation, and I figured he must be right.  As we got the rest of the base level, I started trying to dig it out.  Got about three feet down and tried giving it a couple of kicks, but that sucker wasn’t moving.  So I’m adjusting the whole shebang over 4 inches, and we’ll just bury it again.  Or something.

By then it was dark, Morgan was unbearable, our shoes were caked in clay, and we were done.  I roped the hole off so no one would fall in and we called it a night.  I took Hero to colorguard and made dinner, fought with Xander over homework, picked Hero up and crashed.  A typical Monday night.

But I did get a little Thanksgiving prep done.  This year I decided to try dry brining my turkey.  I don’t have room in my fridge or my life for wet brining, no matter how wonderful it may make the turkey.  But a couple of weeks ago I found instructions for doing a dry brine.  These call for the turkey to be thawed, and mine never thaws in time, but fortunately it links to permission to do it frozen as well.  Making do with what I had in my cupboard, and in the spirit of the season, I mixed 1/4 cup of kosher salt with 2 tablespoons of poultry seasoning and half a tablespoon of pepper and rubbed it all over that sucker.  It was still too frozen to get any inside, so I’ll do that when it goes in to roast.  It looks a little…green at the moment.


This bad boy will now sit in the fridge until Thursday morning, soaking all the flavors in and drying out a little bit.  Then Thursday around 9 it goes in the oven for 4 hours with nothing more than olive oil and butter.  Looking forward to it!

This morning, I got up bright and early (well, 6:15), got the kids up and went outside to do the next phase.  8 bags of paver base and a cinder block to tamp it all down, and you get the picture above.  That took me about half an hour.  So so far, total time for actual execution of this project = an hour and 15 minutes.  Keep that in mind the next time you think you don’t have time to do something.

At work I found my spatial relations skills failing me, so I printed out some graph paper and during lunch sketched out the design for the brickwork layout.


Simple, and the squares are stamped with a cobblestone look, so I think it will look nice.  I still have a pile of bricks from when the borough pulled up our brick sidewalk 12 years ago, so I wanted to incorporate as many of those into this as I could.  I also have a cement brick making kit that you can put words into the bricks with, so that may be a summer project, to replace some of the bricks with words.

I slipped out of work a little early so I could get started and have a little extra sunlight time.  The sand went down FAST, although three of the bags were soaked, making it a little harder to level it out.  I just took a board edge and went over it just like planing the sides of a sandcastle.  Then I picked over the old bricks and started laying them out according to the plan.  First problem:  It was about two inches too wide, meaning I had to incorporate the fence post into the brickwork.  Okay.  Found a couple of broken ones that fit either side.  I could fill in the gap with dirt and sand, maybe get something low to grow in there.  It took about fifteen minutes to get everything laid out, and it was all going beautifully until I got to the last row by the steps.  I was about half an inch too small.  The bricks wouldn’t fit if I laid them flat, but if I put them on edge, they’d be too skinny. So I shoved some in, lifted the last square paver up to make an angle with them, and then stomped them flat.  It worked!  It was just enough to force everything closer together and make it fit.  It wasn’t elegant, but it was done.

I had a bag of garden soil left from the garden, so I shoveled that in around the edges rather than mess with that godawful clay.  Then I dumped half a bag of the remaining sand on top and swept it into all the joins.  Again, whole thing took me maybe an hour.  And in the end, I had…


Looks like it’s always been there, doesn’t it?  I think the older bricks help.  It’s far from perfect.  It’s not quite level, and it bows towards the middle instead of the edges.  But it’s so much better than what was there, and I think suits the character of the house and the family that lives in it.  And now I have even more motivation to replace those ugly steps come spring!  They’ve needed it for about 5 years.

So that’s it.  Done just in time for the first snowpocalypse of the year.  Oh, and Thanksgiving.  But that’s okay.  It will be easier to shovel.

Garden Update

Garden Update

A picture heavy post today.  The garden is going great guns, so I thought I’d show it off!


This is the melon bed.  It’s going slowly, and I had to replant a couple because the cat kept digging it up (little bugger thinks this is his litter box), but that’s stopped since I put the straw down.


One pot of Blue Hubbards.  They’re inching along.


The summer squash bed is barreling along!  The back row is zucchini, the middle row is yellow squash, and the front row are these cute little round green squash I can’t wait to stuff!  I even already have a baby on one of those plants:


So squee!!


Another squash bucket, this time with the lovely warty squash.  Can’t wait to see what they produce!


The spring/fall bed is just about done.  The peas are giving up the ghost already, so I’ll pull those out probably next week, put down another layer of straw and plant the brussel sprouts in there (as soon as I figure out where I put the seeds).  The leaf lettuce needs to be thinned, and you can’t see them very well, but there are whisps of green onions coming up next to them (again, victims of the cat’s litter box mentality.)  I’ll pull back some of the straw at the front of the bed for a fall crop of beets.


More winter squash.  These are the dark orange ones that Hero insists on calling pumpkins.  She’s going to be really unhappy when she realizes I didn’t actually plant ANY pumpkins this year.


The beans, OMG.  They have EXPLODED.  Which is fun.  You can kind of see that one plant decided its pole was too short and jumped to a taller one.  Grow your heart out, little buddy.  I’ve actually got flowers, so the beans themselves can’t be far behind.


The potato barrels.  Since this picture was taken last night, I went out and mulched them all the way to the top of the barrel, which I think will be the last hilling they get.  There isn’t any room to put more!  I’m astonished at how fast they grew.


The tomatoes are looking good.  I need to string the support poles to keep them in place, but they’re already putting out flowers!


The rest of those planters.  The peppers are doing well, although I had to ditch the first pepper of the season, as it was rotting on the vine.  The bok choi is already trying to bolt, and the spinach doesn’t seem to be too enthusiastic, but I did have to replant that once, so it may just be a bit behind.


The cucumbers.  Another slowly but surely plant.


These guys are disappointing me.  These are all the head lettuces, which haven’t gotten beyond the first leaves stage.  I’m not giving up on them yet, but they sure aren’t showing any enthusiasm.


Nor are the carrots.  Again, these had to be replanted, but seriously disappointed in them so far.


And last but not least, the other bucket of hubbard squash and the last batch of potatoes.  Again, I mulched the potatoes up to the top of the bag, so now we’ll just let it sit and see how it does.

So there we are, the garden at the Solstice.  So far, so good!







I’ve decided I think I want a picnic table.

It would go perfectly in the back of the yard, and be a great place for the kids to do projects or play games outside, for us to eat occasionally, maybe use for ritual work sometimes or just be a place to hang out.  Now that we have the yard in better shape, it might be worth it.

My first choice for something like this would be to find someone getting rid of one and take it off their hands cheap.  But surprisingly, no one in the area seems to be doing that.  I would love to get a square/octagonal one, as it would be more flexible, but buying one of those new runs $300+.

Lowe’s has a 6 foot, build it yourself traditional picnic table for $89, though.  We could get that, paint or stain or varnish it however we liked, maybe drill a hole in the middle of it for an umbrella, and make it truly our own.  A couple of bags of mulch underneath it to keep down the weeds and I think it could be really nice.

Until the walnuts start dropping on it.

Hrm.  I may need to think about this some more.