Winter Update #2 Panel Begone!

Just as we were struck with the curiosity of what was under the kitchen paneling when we first moved in, the long winter led us to wonder the same about the living room panel that we painted over.

ImagePulling it off the wall revealed an awesome 60s throwback color of Avocado.

ImageBut alas it didn’t go with the decor of the room, so we decided to remove all the paneling and sand and patch the gritty surface and found an even more exciting paint color.

Image

So we painted it using Behr Ultra’s Sage Grey.

ImageWhat we were left with was a great looking accent wall:

ImageNext on the painting list: The Bedroom!

Post by Lanny

Winter Update #1: The Basement Brick Eyesore

So do you remember this?

Image

We even asked you all what you thought we should do with it.  Although the koi pond was inspired, the wine cellar was fabulous, and the whelping box sounded practical, the winter ran too long and we needed so “break up” the monotony of snow in our lives.  So we had a good old fashion demolition party!

ImageBeing frugal, I thought it best to salvage as many bricks as we could to repurpose for a future fire pit?  So armed with a small hammer and chisel, we slowly chipped away at the mortar holding the bricks together, collecting along the way.

Image

It was messy and dusty, and lots of sweeping was required along the way.

ImageBut slowly, it began to disappear under Willa’s watchful eyes.Image

Until we were left with an empty space and holes left behind in the wall.  So I decided to take the opportunity to appropriate the paneling from another renovation project and redo the section of the basement wall.

Image

So after paint matching the wall color at home depot, buying trim, finding the old paint for the flooring, and buying a new outlet cover,

ImageTa DA!!! A plain old boring wall!  It may not seem that exciting, but with the added space, we can set up a future entertainment center.  Remember, it’s winter, so even the most mundane task can be exciting when there is several feet of snow outside.

Saturday Mornings

This morning, I watered the garden thoroughly, weeded, added to and turned the compost, played with Willa, harvested tomatoes, pruned the tomato plants, took out the recycling, unloaded and loaded the dishwasher, made myself a breakfast of 3 fried eggs, a side of black beans, a Black Zebra tomato, toast with some melted cheddar and a cup of pour over decaf coffee, then assisted my lovely wife in canning 2 quarts of tomatoes all before 10 am.  What are some productive things y’all do that makes you feel like champions of life?ImagePost by Lanny

Just a Simple Workbench: a Lesson in Home Renovation

What I originally thought would be a 30 minute project actually transformed into a 2 week long venture in the basement.  Thus illustrating the point: when you start a home project, be prepared to get more than you bargained for.

I received a vise to use for woodworking projects and set about to attach it to the countertop of the already existing workbench in the basement.  I quickly realized the countertop was actually a thin piece of particle board attached to a solid frame and would not stand up to the stress of long term use.

The before view of our shop.

The answer seemed simple enough.  Go down to the local Habitat for Humanity Re-Store, and purchase an appropriately sized board that would be far more durable.  I found an old slab of butcher block that was a bit larger than needed, but I thought I could simply cut it down to size.  When I came home, I began to remove the old wood surface but then realized I would need to also remove the back pegboard to get to the last nails holding the surface down.  So, I was prying the pegboard back when mouse droppings began to roll out from behind it.  I opened it up to reveal this:

Ew.

It seemed the little fella passed away some time ago, so I wasn’t worried about an ongoing problem, but I still had to clean it all out.  Buried under the rubbish was also an x-rated 8mm film reel and a flyer for it, a relic from the early 70s it seemed.  It too was discarded among all the other mouse droppings and nest scraps.  But not before Amanda ran upstairs to get us these “sanitation masks.”

Dad supervised.

Once I had swept up the area, it was clear that some deeper sanitation was required.  I cut and threw away sections of the old wood frame and applied vinegar and KilZ to areas that were obviously nasty.

At this point, it was clear to me that the frame would have to be rebuilt as well.  After a long dismantling period, I salvaged the bulk of the wood and nails from the existing bench.  At this point, I decided to rebuild the frame larger to accomodate the larger sized butcher block surface. But not before accidentally breaking a light bulb, adding broken glass to the list of clean up duties.

Exactly like the old frame only slightly bigger

The completed bench minus the vise

So, all of this over two weeks was for this:

And that’s why when you start a simple thirty minute project, don’t be shocked when two weeks of your life fly by before it’s finished.

Post by Lanny

Gardening on the Urban Frontier

As previously mentioned, a major item on the must-have list was a large enough yard that received adequate sunlight and could handle a significant amount of vegetables.  I passed on many a fine house because the yard was either too small or too shaded.

Our cluster of potted herbs

Due to the timeframe, we weren’t able to get earlier growing veggies into the ground in time, so we kept the selection small, or so we intended, i.e. the Tomatoes and more Tomatoes post.  We ended up planting Tomatoes, Peppers, Kale, Swiss Chard, Cilantro, Onions, Chives, Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary, Spearmint, Lettuce, Spinach, Arugula, and Raspberry Bushes.

Newly planted Raspberry bushes

While this did exceed our “keeping it small our first year” gardening strategy, nature had its own way of regulating my potential harvest.  Six weeks of no rain and frequently hitting near and over 100 degree temperatures took care of the spinach, onions, and all but one chive plant, as well as severely thinning out the lettuce, sections of newly planted grass, and many flowers.

Amanda watering some thirsty Tomato plants

Doing our best to not be distressed by the actions of Mother Nature, we’ve been selectively watering our plants to carry them through the dry spell.  Most of them are hanging on remarkably well considering the harsh conditions, but I just keeping thinking about how if we didn’t live in the 21st century in the U.S. with access to water and respite from this heat, we’d all be dead along with the plants.

Post by Lanny

Unfinished Projects

Basements seem to be the universal place for bizarre doings.  Some of our homeowner friends discovered odd things in their basements (my favorite is the fold-out-of-the-wall toy train track), and we found all sorts of odd things in most of the basements during our house hunting.  Here is the first interesting relic we found in our basement (another post to come on more basement “treasures”).

We’re not quite sure what it is, but my best guess is that it was intended to be a fireplace facade.  However, it seems that after the base was laid, the project was abandoned.  And what was under that big brown lid?  A giant pile of rubbish which the sellers were kind enough to leave for us. It was mostly mortar and bricks, but I also found a toy car, marbles, cigarette butts, and broken bits of plastic.

After several bags of garbage swept out from the inside…

I was left with an empty, awkward brick box in the middle of the basement floor.

 Now we have to figure out what to do with it.  I’m considering just taking a sledge hammer to it, but I’m willing to take suggestions on repurposing ideas.  Leave your vote in the comments!

Posted by Lanny 

Tomatoes and more Tomatoes

After getting the space for the garden established, it was time to get some veggies and herbs in the ground.  In the spirit of keeping things simple this year, I intended to have a small selection of plants to manage.  A co-worker whose parents own Happy Valley Farms, a veggie farm which does CSAs and sells at area farmer’s markets, asked if I would be interested in taking some tomato plants since they would have more than they need.  I happily said yes, thinking I could get 4-5 plants.  She replied that she would get me an amount closer to 10.  I knew I wouldn’t use them all but, you should never look a gift tomato plant in the mouth  (that phrasing doesn’t quite work, but you catch my drift).  I knew I could always pass the extras onto friends and neighbors.  I assumed they would consist of a couple varieties and welcomed the small selection.  3 weeks later I went to pick up what I thought was a large amount of plants, only to be very happily shocked.  They had given me 28 tomato plants consisting of 23 varieties.  Many I had never heard of, which is always exciting to me since I often flip through seed catalogs searching for the best tomatoes to plant.  Tomatoes like Indigo Rose, Paul Robeson, Striped German, Black Zebra, Big Rainbow, and etc. were laid out in front of me.  To a tomato nerd, this truly was every major holiday rolled into one.  The selection!  I had expanded the garden space to accommodate 11 tomato plants, which meant the careful process of selection.  Once I had my line-up,  I planted them in my newly established garden plot, but oh, what agony looking at those 17 other plants I would have to find good homes to go to.  In a moment of true weakness, I couldn’t give them up, after all, there were so many I had never seen before.  I wanted to know what they would all become in color, shape and flavor.  With the permission of Amanda I set off into the backyard, digging out more spaces until all 17 orphan tomatoes had found a home.  Combining those tomatoes with the two plants I received from our local farmer’s market a few weeks earlier, I had a line up of 30 plants and 24 varieties.

The beginnings of a beautiful tomato crop

The orphans I couldn’t stand leaving behind.

Making room for all!

I figured since I would never have such an opportunity again to grow so many varieties at once, that I would take notes and monitor the progression of each variety.  That way, I would have first hand knowledge of what varieties of tomatoes are best suited to grow in the garden.

I did not plant any Yellow Brandywine Tomatoes, which in my opinion, is the best tomato I’ve ever eaten.  But since I was given all my plants, I have no regrets, in fact I’m always excited to try growing new things.

Now I dream of rainbow colored salsas, tomato soup, and quart jars upon quart jars of tomatoes being canned in the fall.

…and so does Willa!

Posted by Lanny