Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Plant Extravaganza

We hit the town plant sale held by the Garden Club, and we managed to score some plants, though not as many as I’d hoped to get. I was looking for tomatoes, and they had a few, but they seemed to be more focused on decorative and landscaping plants. There were a few tomatoes, but they had some of the gourmet heirloom variety which I wanted to avoid. I really wanted just two types: beefsteak (or some facsimile thereof) and canning tomatoes, which I’ve been told are plum or roma tomatoes.

They only had beefsteak at the sale, so I got one. Now I also wanted to avoid cherry tomatoes. Though they can be fun, when we’ve planted them in the past, they overwhelm us because we can’t eat them fast enough. Plus, I get a little tired of them. Of course, being the sucker that I am for a sales pitch, CS talked me into getting an heirloom variety (wasn’t I trying to avoid that?) that supposedly produced heart shaped tomatoes. This excited the kids and they convinced me that we needed one. They also picked out a plant for themselves, and it’s kind of cool. It’s called an Elephant Ear, and it looks like, of all things, an elephant’s ear. Can you tell which one it is? It’s actually a tropical plant bulb, so we’ll have to bring it inside once summer is over.

After the sale, I headed over to the Clay Hill farmstand and got some more tomato plants, ending up with 6 in all. I could probably use more, but it’s a start. CS told me that some of them will grow to be 5 feet tall, which is hard to imagine, but she knows what she’s talking about. I asked about herbs and bush beans, which N wants in his garden, and she told me that herbs you can get at the Coop, and beans should be started from seed and planted right now. Live and learn.

All in all, we did okay on the plant front, but there’s always room for more. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Back in Business

I got my chainsaw back, and I’m ready to rock and roll. It’s a busy time at Joe’s, so it took over two weeks to service the saw. Now all my good planning is out the window because I missed out on the cool spring weather. It’s getting warm, but not excessively hot, though some days it tops out in the mid-80s, which makes it somewhat uncomfortable to cut wood because of all the protective gear. Not that I, as a real-man in training, would ever whine about such a thing.

I have about 20% of the wood pile cut, so there’s plenty of work to be done. My original plan of moving the already cut blocks while the saw was in the shop failed miserably, but that doesn’t mean I can’t start moving the wood now, right?

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to mil_es for the pic.

It’s Official, Sort Of

Even though we’re well into spring, with signs even of summer, I like to think of the end of the cold season as the day that we stop burning wood, and the sooner, the better. In years past we burned wood well into June. This year, we had a mild winter, and spring has been warm, so we stopped burning wood in mid-May. In fact, for the first time since we started splitting wood, we actually have wood left over from the previous winter. That’s a first. Either we’re planning better, or just not burning as much wood. Again, we had a mild winter with little in the way of snow, but it was still cold. It doesn’t take much in terms of cool weather for the house to be cold, and even though we’ve stopped burning, there’s a slight chill when we get up in the AM. Nothing real New Englanders (in-training) can’t handle.

Also, they recommend delaying planting tomatoes until June 1, and I’ve heard this from several sources, because we can still get a cold snap. Enough to stunt tomato growth. I find it difficult to fathom, but again, several people in the know have alluded to this. Who am I to argue?

Either way, it makes my morning routine that much easier when I don’t have to build a fire, even though I like it... a lot. Plus, it’s nice waking up and walking around in shorts and a t-shirt. You can’t pull that off in January. For now, we’ll make the most of the warm weather, because in a matter of days I’ll have to start cutting wood for next winter.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to sjb4photos for the pic.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Container Gardens

It’s hard not to completely avoid the gardening bug when you live up here, or maybe it’s just being surrounded by gardening commandos, of which there are plenty in our area. Whatever be the case, once spring kicks into full gear, the urge to get your hands into soil is hard to resist.

Now we decided not to do our garden for assorted reasons, and instead opted to do the community garden for other assorted reasons. The idea of doing container gardens also came up, and my first thought was “no thanks.” It seems like you would need either a lot of containers, or a few big ones. Would that mean buying them and then having to deal with them? While I tend to bite off more than I can chew, I wasn’t so keen on taking this one on. However, R and the kids mentioned the desire to do at least something around the house.

Then A came home with some lemon thyme, and wanted to transplant it. This inspired us to grow some herbs at home, and in container gardens, no less. I’m not completely clear what sort of containers are required, but it’s one of those things I probably shouldn’t over-analyze. Yeah, right.

It just so happens that we had a bunch of scrap wood in the barn, and I was a little unsure as to how to dispose of it. It was a support beam for the second story floor, of all things, so you can imagine its size. KB replaced it with a strong support, making it easier to do the sheetrock and also enabling him to remove a column that was in the middle of the floor. The only issue was, what to do with the old one? KB said to cut it up with a chainsaw and burn it, which I was prepared to do, but the wood was in decent condition.

The beam was made of two 2X8 boards that were nailed together. If I wanted to use them, I was going to have to pry them apart, which was no easy task. I had to use two crow bars simultaneously. Once that was done, I had boards that could be cut and then made into square boxes. In these we could grow our herbs. The beauty of this plan is that it also helped to clear some space in the barn. One less piece of clutter.

I screwed the sides together using 3.5 in screws, glue and long clamps (which I’m finding to be amazingly useful in the construction of wood furnishings), then put in a bottom, and we were good to go. The boxes are a bit heavy, but they should work fine. We have the monster bag of potting soil, so I think we’re good to go. The next step will be to transplant the herbs, and watch them grow.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Chainsaw Woes

This bums me out to no end, but I was having chainsaw issues, and it turns out it’s kind of serious. We’re talking in the $150 dollar range of serious. I may have mentioned this in the past, but when I release the trigger of the saw, the chain doesn’t stop. This happens only after I’ve used it for about half an hour, so it’s not an idle adjustment issue, which would occur even when it’s cold. I took it in and they said it’s an air leak, which means taking the entire machine apart, resealing it, and then putting it back together. The saw itself probably cost about $400, so it’s a painful fix.

That does not mean, however, that it’s time to get a new one. As much as it pains me, I told them to fix it, because we need the saw, and it surely has many more years of life on it... I hope. When I first shopped around for chainsaws, I knew nothing, and listened to everyone around me who said get a Stihl or Husqavarna. The key seemed to be to get one that you can’t pronounce. Nobody really endorsed the Japanese brands, and I took that to heat. In retrospect, however, I wonder if Japanese was the way to go, because they may not have as much personality, but they are famously reliable.

Now if the Japanese brands were cheaper, I probably would have gone for it, but the one I looked at, Shindaiwa, was not, and I’m not sure how much Echos are. Either way, I went with Stihl, and it’s a nice saw, but maybe it’s like VWs, performance oriented but not necessarily the most reliable.

Oh well, no sense in dwelling on what’s already been done. If I ever got another saw, however, I might consider a Pacific Rim variety.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Inserting a Bathroom Window

The electric cable is in, and the walls have all been framed. The next step will be to install heating, finish the plumbing, and then insulate. In the meantime, I want to have a window installed in the downstairs bathroom, and I think it’s something I can do. Ha, famous last words. I figure since KB is nowhere to be found, there is down time where I can do some stuff. Think of how impressed he’d be if I pulled this off, and how proud my Mentor would be.

The situation is complicated by the fact that the walls are sheathed, so I have to either remove the sheathing, frame the window, then re-sheath, or cut out a section of the sheathing and insert the window frame. I’m not positive, but I think I can frame the window within the sheathing, and then simply cut out the hole for the window. This would simplify the framing because I could rest the boards against the sheathing, nail them into place, and then cut out a hole. Things are always easier said than down, however, so we’ll wait and see.

I feel inspired to do this, so the next step will be to see what sort of small windows they have at HD. I’m thinking atrium window, which would look the nicest and let in the most light. Once that I figure that out, I’ll need to find a way to transport rough cut boards to our house. I think I can manage 8 footers in the hatchback, though they’d stick out the back. I might also be able to tie them to the roof of the sedan, if I didn’t have to travel very far.

Life sure is complicated when you’re training to be a real man. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Alexandrehuang for the pic.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Clearing the Leaves

If you can believe this one, I finally finished raking the leaves in the backyard, and it only took me about 6 months. In retrospect, it worked out fairly well, because as the leaf pile sat through assorted spring storms, much of the debris was cleared out to who knows where, just not in our backyard. Out of sight, out of mind, as the saying goes. Also, after being pelted by all that rain, it sure did compress, so it wasn’t as daunting as it was earlier in the season. Finally, wet leaves don’t blow away, and this was a problem that I encountered trying to haul away piles of leaves to the compost area, they would blow and fall out of the wheelbarrow, leaving a trail of leaves that had to be cleaned up.

In the end, I’m not condoning putting off raking the leaves. As much as I dislike doing it, I think it’s better to tackle most of it in the fall. It’s just that this year, as I mentioned, we got an early snow in October and that pretty sealed our fate for the winter. Once the snow melted, I started raking the leaves into a massive pile, and then got distracted, so it sat. When I finally cleaned it all up, there was a massive bare patch on the ground. This is not such a bad thing since that section of the lawn is all weeds, Creeping Charlie and dandelions. My lawn rejuvenation plan hasn’t reached that section of the yard, yet.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Kevin D. Hendricks for the pic.