Sunday, April 23, 2017

Landscaping & Big News

In between (numerous) weekend rain storms, we've been working on the landscaping in the back yard.

These photos are a little hard to see, but I took some of the especially insect-damaged timbers from the old back part of the house -- stuff too big and too damaged to do much else with -- and created a raised area for a swing in the back corner and a raised garden bed next to the new wall:

Big thanks to our houseguest Corrie Jo for her ideas! She is a genius. That is a fact.

We planted some dahlias in there, and some California poppies. And six snap peas. Because snap peas -- even just a handful -- are essential for summertime happiness.

Meanwhile, the radishes, lettuce, and carrots in the gutter are very happy:

And the sedum in the other gutter is also very happy:

Thank you to Momma Arave for the advice on transplanting the sedum into this gutter! Another genius!

While Corrie Jo was here, enjoying beautiful weather in the hammock and directing my efforts at landscaping, I also got started on a tiny tiny patio for our tiny tiny grill.

It's about 2 feet by 3 feet. Tiny.

And yes, made out of materials left over from other projects.

First I made a form and poured the rest of a bag of concrete into it:

Not quite enough to fill the form, but that's ok, because I had plenty of mortar left over from the kitchen floor to fill up the rest of the space. And, of course, plenty of left over terra cotta tiles:

That was a couple of weeks ago now. If it ever stops raining for more than two days in a row, I'll be able to finally grout this sucker and call it done.

Speaking of done, as you know, 2017 is The Year of Finishing Things. Here is something big I just finished: this morning, at 11:30am, I officially turned in the last assignment for my last MBA class (please click here). I am completely done and on my way to graduation!

Looking forward to a less break-neck pace to my week, and to having some time on the weekends to relax and have fun doing projects.

Onward & upward!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Laundry Table

Continuing on the theme of meeting furniture needs with stuff left over from the old kitchen, I bring you...

... Laundry Table:

Monday, March 20, 2017

Vertical Gardening, v1

Having such limited space, I've been interested in vertical gardening for a while. This weekend, I finished the planters for my first go at it.

I took an old 10' gutter that came down in The Big Project of 2014, and some short lengths left over from a recent replacement, and mounted them all to two 9'-long boards left over from the kitchen demo last year. Then I put them up on the new fence.

Lettuce will go in the top one (new materials) and succulents will go in the bottom one (old gutter) -- I'm not putting food in the bottom one because there is old roofer's tar in it.

Very interested to see how it goes!

In other vegetable garden news, I have held off on planting because I made a large pile of dirt digging the hole for the brick path that I need to deal with first. I am going to use it to level the yard a bit, but I can't do that until the rain stops long enough for me to do the work & then spread more mulch on top to prevent muddy paw prints. Maybe this weekend we'll get lucky.

Pickles doesn't care about the dirt pile problem. She thinks the brick path is the best, warmest bed ever:

Holding off on planting has given me a chance to consider the virtues of self-watering planters: improved yield with less work. Based on Farmer Wasserstrom's recommendation, it seems like they are worth a try. And no, I won't be building my own out of recycled materials. I'm actually going to *gasp* buy them new.

Anyone else try one of these systems (ex. EarthBox or Growbox)? Any pros/cons to share?

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Brick Path

Forgot to post this last week. The sun came out, so I finally got to put in the brick path!

Dug a big hole:

Put sand in the hole to give the bricks a bed to settle into:

Put bricks in the hole:


Monday, February 20, 2017

So many vegetables, so little space

Now that the failing concrete wall is gone, and the kitchen is as done as it can get until the weather warms up (the finishing touches involve paint & stain), we have turned our attention to the yard.

A few weeks ago, we took some time to plan out the space -- roughly what will go where & when. We had planned to put in a brick path at the entrance to the yard today, but another rain storm has come in, so that's out. Only one thing to do: plan the vegetable garden!

Now that we have the area along the wall to work with, we can expand from about 20 square feet to about 40. I'm spending the morning looking at seed packets and notes from previous years, trying to remember what did well in various parts of the yard, and researching dwarf lemon trees. First planting on March 4!

In related news, even though I didn't officially plant anything last year, I had some random carrots come up in the carrot box. We ate them every now and then, but mostly we left them for Pickles -- she loves to nibble carrot tops. The other day, I decided to pull one just to see how big it was:

Dog for scale.

It's about six inches long, which is about two inches longer than this variety gets if you pull it in a reasonable timeframe. This thing is so old, it had next to no flavor. It pickled well in the Japanese rice bran fermenting bed (read about that here) that AJ gave me for Christmas, though. And note the well-trimmed top. Good job, Pickles!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Kitchen Furniture

Over the past several weeks, I've been (slowly) building the final pieces of furniture we need to finish the kitchen.

Everything is, of course, made from...wait for it...recycled materials from other projects.

Dog stuff area:

Table top and legs are materials from The Big Project, shelves are made from pieces of the original kitchen cabinets.

Thing for towels and the dish drain:

The top is a spare part from an Ikea cabinet, the bottom is one of the old kitchen cabinets (I'll paint it when the weather gets nicer).

Silverware and utensil drawers:

Chest of drawers is a nice piece of furniture AJ found on the sidewalk. I built the stand it's sitting on out of pieces of the original kitchen cabinets.

Main cooking area:

I built the table on the left from materials left over from The Big Project. The cutting board on top of the wheeled cart on the right was actually part of the original kitchen cabinets -- I just refinished it and attached a collar to make it sit snugly on top of the cart.

A few final touches (mostly paint) when the weather warms up, and the kitchen will be 100% finished.

Next project: now that the concrete wall has been replaced, we can get the yard back in shape!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Another festive Christmas was enjoyed here on Mars.

As usual, we began our Christmas decorating by hanging Momma Arave's festive glittery bough:

And Mama O'Brien's stockings:

More holiday doo dads:

AJ's special purple lights:

And our traditional set of winter-themed paper cut outs on the dining room table:

On Christmas Day, our friend Brian came over, bringing his famous homemade cranberry-chocolate rugelach for breakfast:

We went out for a movie, and then returned to Mars for lunch, and started cooking dinner.

Delicious cheese, crackers, pickles, and nuts to tide us over:

For dinner this year, AJ made a crab curry, accompanied by slices of the world famous king of all breads, the Tartine country loaf:

The finished crab, potato, okra, coconut milk curry, complete with crab meat piled on top:

For dessert, AJ once again made a salted honey pie, with homemade crust:

Thank you for all that effort, AJ, and thank you, Brian, for your usual sharp wit, good company, and delicious rugelach!

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a very Happy New Year to everyone! Looking forward to seeing what 2017 has in store!