Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Fall decorating

Nothing like growing your own fall decor.
The stalks are from the sweet corn that was harvested a month ago. These ones had dried enough and I'd pulled all the pole beans off them. And my two pumpkins have been bright orange since mid-August. So out front they go.

The wreath is from Pier 1. Pretty fall wreath for under $20? Yes please!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

New garage shelving

There is nothing I love better than a good purging and organization. And when you have a hoarder husband and 2 small kids, this is a thing that has to happen on the regular.

We've generally had enough shelving in the garage. But as the kids have grown, they've introduced more and more large wheeled items that require a lot more floor space, making the standing shelves a huge space hog.

Additionally, we had all this empty wall space going to waste along the wall next to the door. Here's what it looked like after I tidied last spring.


Which, wonderful! But you know it doesn't always look like that. And they added 2 bikes to the mix in the interim, plus a wagon, plus a bike trailer/stroller....

So! Off to the Container Store website to put in the garage measurements for a space solution. I ended up having to call and talk to a human being, though. He took all the info, designed the space. I ended up calling back to make a few adjustments for better flow, since a lot of what he'd put in place didn't really make sense from a functional standpoint.

When reviewing it, we decided to install it a section at a time, starting with the most immediate need - the massive row of shelves to the right of the kitchen door.

However, I missed when reviewing the design that the person had put in the wrong measurements. So when I got home on Monday afternoon with the material I realized that the track was WAAAAAAAAAY too long. By, like, a foot and a half.

So I had to haul the track back on Tuesday afternoon to be re-cut and re-design the space, which resulted in some returns (swap three 4' shelves for 3' shelves, return a vertical support). Then pick it up Wednesday afternoon/evening. Which was annoying, because I had taken half days Monday and Tuesday to get this installed. But c'est la vie. Wednesday I got the longest track up and the smaller track marked. And then I spent Thursday afternoon putting up the final top track and installing all the uprights.

The result:
Yesssssssssss my precious. The best thing is this leaves the floor space for the 3 scooters, the tricycle, the batting tees, etc. without sacrificing shelving space. Other toys go on the shelves in various buckets. The one blue recycle bin on the shelf is all balls. The one on the floor is larger items like bats, tennis rackets, etc. We've talked about adding some of the Elfa utility panels to the space where you can see the vertical supports extend down to hang things like the tennis rackets, maybe garden tools, etc. but we'll see.

The first long series of shelves is gardening supplies and (for now) seasonal items like our hammock, the sled, etc. The second shelf from the top is all hazardous items like wasp killer, fertilizers, automotive supplies. Stuff that needs to stay out of little hands.

The very top will be for items we technically need to keep but rarely ever use, like lawn mower bags, sump pump emergency venting hose, chicken wire, etc.

The second best thing is that I could move all of the items that had been on the large wire shelving off and completely free this space up for more child vehicle parking. Wagons and bikes are currently here. Eventually we'll mount the bikes on the opposite wall, but this will serve for now.
Finally, it frees up some space over here as well. It doesn't look it at the moment because bikes and stroller. The plan is to move the items on the plywood panel over the workbench and window to the top shelves along the wall.

The bikes will be mounted for seasonal storage on folding racks. There's no point in buying them now, since it's September and they'll go up on the ceiling hooks for overwinter storage. And the kids are going to grow out of that bike trailer in a year or so. 
But a vast improvement. We'll live with this for the next 6 months and see how it functions. We have the full plan done but I think we'll probably want to make a few changes just based on discussions yesterday, like instead of more shelving to the left of the door adding an outdoor mudroom for snow pants and boots (so small children don't go traipsing thru my kitchen with their wet, snowy, muddy gear).

Monday, August 22, 2016

Cherokee Trail of Tears beans

Yesterday I harvested about a third of the beans. Some I just didn't get to, some aren't ready. But what a lovely sight, all those glossy black beans. My chili is going to be awesome this fall.

Monday, August 8, 2016

West Fence Bed and Randoms

It's amazing what a few years growth can do



A closeup of some phlox with coneflower and brown-eyed susans in the background.
Rosehips! I have 9 bushes equally laden.
From the veggie garden, we have homegrown cukes and dill.
Which, of course, means pickles! Plus some beans that I flash-steamed for freezing.
Orange and purple carrots similarly steamed. I'm in love with these Purple Haze carrots.
Remember a few weeks ago when I made my first batch of dilly beans? We cracked open our first jar and they were PERFECT! I'm so happy! We finished the jar within two days. The liquid was so pretty I ended up saving it for the next time I make brined chicken.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Garden photos

Black-eyed Susans and native coneflower. 
Shasta daisies, daylilies, roses and dogwood
More daisies, daylilies, roses and grasses
The galliarda are finally blooming.
Behind the chicken wire, protected from the dogs, the switchgrass is finally taking hold.
Purple coneflower
The transplanted phlox is really taking off 
New fireplace bed is looking good.
Veggie garden is really productive this year.
Cherokee Trail of Tears beans on my trellis
Lots of purple things blooming. Russian Sage, Liatris.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Kid's Bathroom, take 3.

So, last October I re-did the shelving in the kid's bathroom. Which was great! Until the bottom shelf literally ripped off the wall. Fortunately no one got hurt when the whole thing came crashing to the top of the toilet.

And the train shelf just was not up to the task. So. Out it came. Blank slate. I decided this time I couldn't go for the nice minimalist brackets and needed something more heavy duty. Something that also would be able to screw into the wall stud.

Et voila! Shelves and brackets are from Rubbermaid. They were easy enough to install in an hour or so. The middle bracket both top and bottom are screwed into the stud. Along the top row on each outer bracket I used Elfa screws that I had left over from the boys' closet installations. The kind where the anchors expand behind the drywall to distribute pressure and provide a more secure fit. Another alternative would have been a toggle bolt, but I had these on-hand so in they went. 
My kids climb on their Elfa shelves, so I figured this, combined with the middle bracket being secured to the wall stud, means that these things shouldn't be going anywhere. I hope. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Processing the harvest

And so it begins.

I turned about a pound of beans into dilly beans. I have been repeatedly warned against doing water-bath canning on my glass-top stove, so I just do lots of refrigerator pickles. Fortunately C and G adore them. I used my mom's recipe, which came from her Aunt. This is one of those wonderful family recipes that gets handed down and it's not your typical format. It started off with 2 lbs of beans; the amount of brine specified was for 3 pints; a final note indicated that 3 lbs of beans makes 9 pints. You do the math! And woe be unto the person who didn't read it all the way thru.

The color looks different because I was using my Royalty Purple and Dragon Tongue beans and the hot brine "cooked" away the purple! You can see the smaller jar on the right the purple beans still in place. I think that brine was cooler when I poured it in. We'll see how these turn out in a week or so.
For the first time ever, I have a surplus of yellow squash and a dearth of zucchini. So I made several batches of large and mini muffins using that instead. G loves the mini muffins in his lunch.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Beans, squash and corn

Lots of beans and squash. Corn is looking nice. Here's our "Sugar Buns" hybrid sweet corn.
And our popcorn is also coming along.
Busy bees bouncing about the corn and pumpkin flowers.
For those of you not familiar with how corn pollinates, the tassels are the male flower on the plant. They produce the pollen that then drops down on to the sticky silk on the corn ear (the female flower).
Corn is technically considered wind pollinated, but bees can also knock pollen grains down as they work the plant.
Further down you can see we've got our female flower (the ear of the corn) all ready.
Our pumpkin plant is also putting out these MASSIVE beautiful flowers.
A nice view of our Three Sisters - squash below with beans climbing the corn stalks.
I found at least one pumpkin! I need to look for more when the bees aren't quite so busy.
In other parts of the garden - Royalty Purple Pod beans.
The morning's harvest. Lots of beans. Lots of summer squash. Two cucumbers. One eggplant. One zucchini.
My favorite beans to grow with little kids - Royalty Purple Pod and Dragon Tongue. I can't wait to pickle these up into dilly beans.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Pergola canopy!

We've been wanting a permanent solution for a sun screen on our pergola for years now. In the meantime, we've made due with some cotton fabric, weaving it thru the boards, but it always comes undone in the wind and it's not flexible in terms of moving it as the sun moves, much less easy to put up or take down. I wanted a system that was all 3 - adjustable, easy to set up, easy to take down.

I'd scoured Pinterest for ages, never finding quite what I wanted. Most were permanent installations, which doesn't work when you can have storms with 70mph gusts as a routine part of your spring/summer (much less tornadoes). So I decided to make one myself based on my own designs. 

I went and bought a ton of fabric in a color and pattern we all (including the kids) agreed upon. Two 3 yard stretches that I then sewed together so that the pattern matched up.
It's a lot of fabric and I don't have a designated crafting area in the house. I use my dining room for sewing. But it turned out pretty good, I think. At one end, for about a foot or two the pattern gets a little bit off. But it's one of those things I think only I'd notice.

So then I went out and bought the supplies I thought we'd need. Basically my thinking was we'd put the screw eye in on each side, create a loop on each end of the cable using the ferrule and stop, then attaching the cable to the eye with carabiners.  
Originally I'd planned to just attach the fabric using ring clip hooks. Those, however, proved too flimsy to hold up to the wind - the fabric was bunching up and pulling out. And it didn't let us pull the fabric taut at all. Additionally, once the fabric was attached to the cable, we ended up with a large sag on the cable length due to the weight. So the fabric came down for the night and we planned Version 2. It had been a long day of 90ยบ heat and we were all hot, hungry and tired.

The next morning I sewed in two 2" pockets to run the cable thru. We also had ended up purchasing two turnbuckles to better control the tautness of the cable. The end result?
Not bad. Not bad at all. A view much improved.
Here's a closeup view of how it's connected. You can see the setup on one end with the screw eye, turnbuckle, carabiner and cable. 
And the carabiner attached to the cable and eye on the other. This allows a flexibility to remove the canopy within seconds should the weather require it.
I'm really quite pleased with how it turned out. Yesterday was a pretty breezy day, but the fabric stayed put all day long, just gently blowing in the wind. 

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