Posts Tagged ‘Yard’

Summer’s Last Gasp

Back-to-school happens around here next week, then Labor Day, and then summer is unofficially over. Boo-hoo. I love fall, but where did the time go? Since time slips by so quickly, I’m already looking forward to next spring. I told Andrew I want to have a vegetable garden in 2013, and he’s on board, so we’ve got time to plan ahead.

In the meantime, here’s a little update on the plants around here.

First of all, remember how I didn’t know this plant’s name?

It’s “Mandevilla.”

Check out my cheery little tomato:

I’ve had two dreams about eating this tomato. Isn’t that weird? I keep trying to pick the fruit, but it’s still holding onto its stem pretty firmly.

Here’s my basil plant:

He’ll be yummy with that one tomato when the time is right.

The wave petunias kept out of rabbit-harm’s way:

This one’s going crazy:

And this morning, I woke up to our first gladiola blooms! Amidst this thicket of weeds and yard debris, we’ve got a pink bloom and a yellow bloom.

So those are our plants. I’m glad we managed not to kill everything this year, haha. It makes me excited for homegrown vegetables next year.

Speaking of produce, Andrew thinks I’ve gone hippie because I signed us up for this local service called Friends & Farms. I have looked into joining a farm co-op or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) a few times over the past year; these are organizations where you pay upfront for a share of a farm’s crop, and you pick up your produce each week. If it’s a bumper-crop year, you get a lot of food in your basket each week, but you share the risk with the farm, so if it’s a bad year, you don’t get as much.

All of the local CSAs I’ve found have been pretty pricey, and I’m not sure Andrew and I would be able to eat tons of corns or beans or lettuce by ourselves each week of the season. There are some “premium” CSAs, which might offer meats, eggs, cheese, bread, flowers, honey, or herbs in addition to produce each week, but these are REALLY expensive.

Enter Friends & Farms, which just started service in June. They are similar to a CSA, but they have a full roster of farm providers, so they offer a greater variety of products in each week’s basket, including bread, cheese, protein, eggs, and milk. It’s $51 per week, which I think is completely reasonable for such a variety of food staples, produce, and protein that are sustainably grown. F&F also lets you semi-customize your basket; for instance, Andrew and I opted out of receiving any seafood because we hardly ever prepare seafood at home, and we chose 2% milk over whole or skim.

Our F&F basket won’t replace all of our weekly grocery shopping, but I’m looking forward to having some built-in variety (I don’t know about everyone else, but we end up buying the same things week after week). I’ll let you guys know how it goes. I pick up our first basket on Friday!


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Leaps and Bounds

What a difference two days makes. There are so many exciting bathroom milestones, I don’t even know where to start. I guess we’ll start with the color conundrum.

You’ll recall we were trying to pull inspiration from our new shower curtain:

Landed on bright sky blue:

And hated it. Susiemommy was here on Thursday, and the three of us were discussing it. She pointed out that blue paint can reflect harshly on a lot of skin tones. I don’t know if that’s true, but let’s just go with it. The she said “What about a peach or pink?” and I said, “Ew, fleshy.” Then Andrew said “Terra cotta!” (or something… probably not actually “terra cotta” because that doesn’t seem like a color he would describe) and I said, “Ugh, no.” Then, unprompted by me, Susiemommy suggested gray, and I beamed. Andrew had suggested gray in a separate conversation, so I felt like I now had permission to embrace my neutral-loving sensibilities.

Even gray is tough. The gray in our bedroom goes blue a lot of the time. Fortunately I had just read this blog post by Emily Henderson, listing her favorite grays. We went with Benjamin Moore’s Gray Owl – without even testing it. I was swayed by Emily’s sales pitch: “this gray can do no wrong. Ever.”

First coat is on the walls.

It came out looking very putty-ish and has kind of a greenish tint. I’m not declaring love or hate until the room is done.

Guess what happened yesterday? Two big things. The window wall is tiled TOP TO TAIL.

And. (drumroll please).

We’ve started to lay the floor.

When I say “we,” I mean Andrew and his dad. I helped pick the exact layout, but then I cleared out for the most part. This marble was not cheap, and the installation was giving me heart palpitations, so better that I was not that involved. Especially when Mike (Andrew’s dad) laid the first square foot of mosaic and his reaction was “uh oh.” “Uh oh”!?!?!? The adhesive squished up between the tiles just a smidge, and immediately started to discolor the marble. We pulled up that portion, and I whisked it away to perform surgery, aka wash the evil thinset off. At that point, I wanted to halt the whole production, but I let the boys do their thing and figure it out. I THINK it’s all going to work out. Fingers (toes, eyes, legs, etc.) crossed. I would pretty much be devastated if this marble doesn’t turn out well. Okay, life would go on, but I might cry a little first.

There were a few spots where the stone seemed to be looking cloudier than it was, but the word on the street is that the porous marble sucks up some of the moisture from the thinset, releasing it (and returning to its initial coloring) later as it dries.

We can’t walk on the flooring for 24-36 hours, so work is halted for now.

No doggies allowed either.

Sorry Widge.

One more note about the marble, and then I promise we can move on. When I placed the tile order for the marble mosaic and the ceramic subway, the saleswoman sold me two bags of grout. Both are bright white, but one is sanded and one is unsanded. Sanded grout is more durable, but 1/16″ grout lines call for unsanded grout. So at the point of sale, when the saleswoman at Avalon was explaining this to me, I went ahead and ordered one bag of each: unsanded for the walls, sanded for the slightly larger grout lines in the floor.

Later research revealed NO! WRONG! SO STUPID! That sanded grout can scratch soft marble. Since we’ll be picking up a new batch of grout, Andrew and I have been considering a color other than white for the floor. Maybe a soft gray. Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion to this discussion.

Andrew’s dad was here yesterday to help in the bathroom, but my parents and Aunt Maryann also came down to help out. They spent all day working on the outside of our house. So nice and generous when they have their own houses to maintain! Let me show you my favorite thing that my dad did. There’s a sidewalk that starts just beyond our house, and it’s typically the way we go to walk Widget. Yay for sidewalk, boo for boobie-trapped sidewalk. This big holly tree has a couple of nasty, prickly branches ready to scratch the ish out of our face if you’re not paying attention, right where the sidewalk begins.

My dad is a holly-pruning/removing and weeding pro, so here’s what that patch looks like now:

Wha…? Crazy, I know. It looks like an actual bit of landscaping now. We’re not 100% sure this is even considered “our” property (might be the neighbors’ or public property), but I think the entire neighborhood will thank my dad for nixing that scratchy bugger.

It’s hard to say what my favorite project of Susiemommy’s was, but it might be this:

Yup, after a long hard day of work, she fed us all.

It was a productive day, but now we have to wait to walk on our bathroom floor before we can continue. The mandated wait time might be a blessing in disguise. Andrew and I can try to clean and organize our disaster of a house, finish up some yard projects, and oh yeah, we have a wedding to go to tonight. It’s going to take me even longer than normal to get beautiful (how do I disguise legs covered in bruises?). In the meantime, a little before & in-progress? I think so.

Or did you want to go way back to the REAL before? Okay.

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Gearing Up for Spring Projects

I guess I should attempt to defend myself for not posting since December 7.

As you saw in some previous posts, we had a great Christmas and New Year with family and friends, and as it usually happens with me, I become consumed in January with the NFL playoffs and watch way too much football on the weekends without doing much else.

But, I will say that we have been working here and there since the New Year, and a lot of my work has involved a brush and glossy white paint. If I can remember correctly, in the last two months, I painted the fireplace mantle, the trim for three windows, and the floor trim in the living room, and the window trim in the dinning room. I also helped Katie paint the fireplace wall in the living room. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you’re doing multiple coats and letting things dry, it takes time, and as Katie said, it just seems like this trim-painting project is never-ending.

And, we’re obviously ramping up for the big bathroom project, which is now just 6 1/2 weeks away. Katie is off to pick up our bath and floor tile this weekend, and I’ve made calls and had discussions with our neighborhood plumber on the professional work we’ll need done after we do 2-3 days of demo work. The hope is that Katie, my father and I can clear the bathroom out the weekend of May 19-20, so that during the following Monday and Tuesday, the plumber can come in and help us install the bathtub, bathtub drain and water controls.

We also have made contact with a window replacement professional, who will also come in at this time to replace the window hiding behind the current shower stall.

After the professional work is done, it’s up to us to finish the deal, which means cement board, bath tile and floor tile (there has been some talk of installing a heating mat under the floor tile, which would be tremendous to have), installing the new vanity, etc. etc. etc. This is going to be a beastly project and I can’t wait to document it–and have a new bathroom.

So, there’s that to look forward to, I think. But until then, I’m doing what I can in the yard now that spring is officially here and everyone in the neighborhood is mowing, cutting, planting, and mulching non-stop on the weekends.

I made a big move this past weekend: I bought a riding lawnmower. Check it out, a John Deere:

John Deere RX75

Not my photo, but this is our new riding mower.

Found a guy in Harford County who rehabs lawnmowers and sells them online for his “beer and crab money,” as he told me when my neighbor and I picked the mower up on Sunday. Got what I think is a very good deal when you consider new riding mowers are usually four-digit expensive. Took it for the first cut of the year on Sunday (about 90 minutes) and the lawn looks great; also my back is already thanking me for a summer free from pushing a mower across the lawn for 3-4 hours every 10 days.

Happy spring.

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Last night, we had a snake in the basement. AGAIN. That’s our second one; the first one showed up last year, a couple weeks after we had moved in. At that time, I was really sad that Andrew was out of town, and I had to take care of the little critter myself. Well, last night Andrew was home, but Andrew… has a phobia of snakes. So, I guess I’m the unofficial snake exterminator of the household.

That’s not to say we-slash-I killed it. They’re “good” pests and all that. Plus, killing it would have been gross. So I put on my Hunter wellies (in case Snakie tried to bite my toes), grabbed a broom and a tall trash can, and scooped that sucker up. It looked like this:

NOT my hand

I did find it comforting that Google images shows a lot of people handling these snakes – Northern Ringnecks, if you’re wondering – so I could feel pretty confident that my life wasn’t in danger. When I shared my research with Andrew, however, he told me that a woman down the street from us had recently been BITTEN by a COPPERHEAD. I’m never leaving my house again.

Oh, and Andrew met Snakie once it was safely trapped in the trash can. He was even the one to release the little guy back into the “wild” (aka, our yard), so he’s facing his fears.

Let’s get a wildlife count going. Spotted since we moved in:

  • 4 snakes (two of those were in the basement)
  • 2 mice
  • more deer and rabbits than we can count
  • 1 fox

The woman who did our home-visit before we adopted Widge also warned us about coyotes in the area, but we haven’t seen any of those. Supposedly, people also sometimes spot turkeys (our neighborhood is built on the site of a former turkey farm) but we haven’t seen any of those either.

And for anyone who doesn’t get the post title… It’s half of the most famous quote from Snakes on a Plane – the edited-for-TV version.

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“You will win this.”

Those Target commercials have me thinking. I’ve never done the “real” Black Friday: camping out, throwing ‘bows, etc., but maybe we should do some research.  We might be able to find a steal for an extra-tall ladder so we can keep our gutters cleaned out (thrilling!). I smell a Christmas present for Andrew!

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Not our yard.

There’s no sugar-coating it–leaf removal in the Fall is awful.

I can handle (and sometimes enjoy) mowing the lawn in Spring, Summer and Fall, and I can deal with shoveling the snow in Winter, but clearing the yard of leaves for several weekends in the Fall is simply wretched.

I say wretched, because it’s so time-consuming. You rake piles until you’re sick of raking piles. You bag the piles until you’re sick of bagging piles, or you’re sick of moving your filled bags, or you’re sick of changing your bags.

It’s a never-ending process, and I’ve never performed a homeowner’s chore as maddening as raking leaves.

  • One minute, I feel as if I’m making great process–“Look how clean this 1/8 of the lawn looks! I’ll be done before lunch!”
  • The next minute, I look at the remaining, covered 7/8 of the yard–“I’ll be out here after sunset…”

Last year, I did the entire project the old-school way, with just a rake and a about 300 bags. Thankfully, our county collects unlimited bags of yard junk once a week throughout the Fall, so the bags eventually disappeared. But, it did take three or four full weekends of work in October and November last year. (I can’t remember exactly because I blocked the experience from my mind.)

But this year, I’m determined to make the process less wretched, and after the past weekend, I’m cautiously optimistic I’ll handle these leaves better this time around.

I caved and bought a combination electric leaf blower/vacuum for about $70. While the blower was OK, the vacuum was great. Very powerful and chopped the leaves up nicely into an attached bag (Katie was impressed and even used the vacuum for a minute or two!), so I used far fewer bags and uncovered a lot more ground in shorter time. I still raked piles, but my back felt a lot better without the constant up-and-down of collecting and dumping into a bag.

I uncovered about 3/4 of the yard on Saturday, and on Sunday, with about 1/4 of the yard left (the portion along the street-side of the house), I used my neighbor’s gas blower and blew those remaining leaves to the drainage ditch along the street.

Sure they weren’t bagged, but the last leaves were off the grass, which was all I needed to see by the time football kicked off Sunday afternoon.

Remember jumping into your Dad’s leaf piles when we were kids, rolling around in them and slowing Dad’s progress? I wonder if he was secretly annoyed…

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At our wedding reception, Katie’s father, Butch, began his toast by thanking the guests and acknowledging his wife, Susie, and my parents for their work in planning/preparing for the event, though he went out of his way to single out my father, Mike.

That’s because Katie’s parents hosted the reception in the backyard of their beautiful three-acre property in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. Their home is nestled on top of a hill, surrounded by various tall trees, and it overlooks what seems like a never-ending wooded expanse to the south. A pretty awesome spot to have your wedding reception, if you ask me, even if it took Butch, Susie and others several months to prep for the Big Day on Oct. 2, 2010.

Back to Butch’s reception toast, he went out of his way to single out my father, because my father in unique in a certain way: He loves doing yard work, and he loved helping make sure Butch and Susie’s yard was “ready for its close-up.”

That is no joke. He really loves it, and that was the extent of Butch’s message. He couldn’t believe how much my father enjoyed the yard work, couldn’t thank him enough, and said he was welcome to come back in future years whenever he wanted.

Well, with no backyard weddings to plan for (none that we know of, yet…), Katie and I have had The Real Yard Crasher and his hedge clippers all to ourselves.

Take a look at his work from over the weekend, tackling the overgrown, out-of-control hedges along the street-side of the house. (Keep in mind he did this in only 2-3 hours–I was mowing the lawn and let him do his thing, I promise.)








Thanks, Dad! And just like Butch, I’ll raise a glass and say, “You’re welcome any time!”

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