Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Answered Progress

Remember this post?

God provided the shredder!  Okay, it's not exactly what we had in mind:  it's pretty old; it's only a shredder and not a chipper, so we can only shred branches up to 1/2  inch in diameter; it doesn't work.  Yet.

Here's what we've learned from this: when a person offers to sell you an item whose functionality is unknown for a certain price, offer half that amount until it is known if the item is in working condition.  If it works, pay the full balance.  If it doesn't work, fix it, then negotiate a lower price and pay the balance of that reduced amount.

We thought of this after we discovered that the shredder doesn't work.  Paul's still working to fix it.

But we don't regret the $20 we spent on it.  With the trimming we'll continue to do on the fruit trees, we'll have plenty of opportunity to use it.  And wood chips are far more useful to us than a column of smoke and a pile of ashes. 

Yeah, it's pretty old.  Pray with us that replacing the coil will be easy and cheap.  =)

Floating Row Covers

They might not be pretty, but Paul made them from the materials we had on hand, and they will provide the greens that extra layer of protection that they'll need when it gets very cold.

And just what are the floating row covers protecting?

Lettuce (without that little weed in the foreground; I plucked it after I saw it in the photo):

Spinach, with onions in the background:

The successive plantings of radishes:

And the mâche:

We've read that it's important to keep the plastic from touching the leaves so that the condensation won't freeze the leaves to the plastic.  Our row covers float over the large raised bed about 15 inches from the box and about 12 inches over the narrow bed.  Hopefully this will be enough to keep everything protected from both the harsh winter and the moist plastic.

Monday, October 31, 2011


I never knew that raspberries would flourish so well in the waning days of summer.  This second flush of berries impressed us far more than the first: they're bigger and they're more plentiful.

All told, we've picked almost 10 pounds of raspberries.  I realize that berries are most often sold by volume, and not by weight, so it's hard to compare the value of what we find in a supermarket.  Of course, we all know that there is no comparison between homegrown berries and supermarket berries.  =)

However, if you sadly do not know this for yourself, drop by our place sometime next September, and we'll share the pleasure of allowing you to experience it for yourself.  MmmmmMMM!  Words cannot describe it.

The hard frost is coming soon, and our harvesting days are drawing to a close.  We praise God for the blessing of the bounty.


Pile o' Cat comes in sizes S, M, L, XL, and LOL.
Size shown: M.
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Monday, October 24, 2011

Stink Hole

Under that board lurks a hole.  In that hole skulks a tank.  A septic tank.

It sounds sinister, but it's actually good news:  given the age and the purpose of this building, we weren't completely sure we had one.  The previous owner absolutely refused to allow a septic inspection before we purchased the place, so we went ahead on the assumption that it would absolutely need a new septic system installed, and we settled for a percolation test to see how suitable the land would be.

Talking to the neighbors in the old parsonage one day, it became crystal clear why the previous owner refused that inspection: he thought the church and the parsonage were on the same system.  This seemed to be common knowledge with the renters and the landlord of the property next door, but it seems not to be so.

Talking with the owner one day, he indicated that his tank was on the opposite side of the parsonage yard.  However, we could see very plainly from the hole that Paul had already dug that we also have a tank on the opposite corner of our building.  This was very welcome news to us.

The question now is whether or not we can have the tank pumped.  On one hand, it is an old steel tank and if it is not sound, it could collapse.  On the other hand, if the rest of the dirt is dug out, there won't be any significant weight to strain the integrity of the structure, and pumping it could be safely and easily done.  Then, after a few showers and the tank has been filled, the hole can be refilled.

While the septic system really does need to be brought up to legal standards, we no longer feel like we're living on borrowed time.  It would just be really nice to be able to deal with this before winter arrives, so we're praying over this project, too.

Thanks for joining us.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Leaf Mold: A Real Windfall

"Mom, please don't take a picture of me.  I haven't had my shower yet."

And since it was her birthday, I said, "I'll just take a picture of what you're doing."

So here she is, helping us create gardening gold with a resource so cheap that it falls when the wind blows.  It's a real windfall!

Mowing the leaf pile chops the leaves into small pieces for a quicker decomposition.

She collects them onto the tarp and carries them... to the compost?  No, we don't want them to compost with our other plant material.  Since leaves break down through fungal action instead of the bacterial action like the compost pile does, we put them into a pile of their own, where they break down into a beautiful soil amendment that can improve the moisture-retentive quality of soil by as much as 50%

We had exactly enough fencing leftover from our compost bins this spring to make this cage for the leaf mold.  Perfect!

Aelsa dampened the leaves to get the process started, and now all we have to do is wait for more of this windfall to come our way.  I have a feeling that it will:

From the maple tree in the front corner,

from the fruit trees in the back,

and from the burr oak tree in the back corner.

Join us for raking, anyone?

Saturday, October 22, 2011


What happens when the window is wide open so the paint on the window sill can dry?  Is this a trick question?!  Of course the cats try to escape.

Yes, Mama Catt climbed head first down the entire ladder... three different times.  She became pretty quick at it, too.

Pipes really wanted to follow, but she was too timid.  Robin tells her to "Get off."

Elliot brings Mama back,

 but even this couldn't keep her in:

Since she lived on the street by herself for a year, I often wonder if she would leave for her freedom and never come back.  I don't really want to find out.

Mulch to Think About

Some weeks ago, a friend of ours sent us this link to a film featuring the woodchip-mulching technique that a man uses to sustain his garden in the rain shadow of a mountain--without ever watering it.

Ever since, we've been praying for a wood chipper to borrow.  After all, God seems to have provided us with plenty of raw material to work with:

The tree we cut down to allow more light to shine on the patch where we'll transplant our strawberries:

The part of a clump of trees that fell down when the boys were climbing on it (no worries; no one was hurt):

And the vines that grow so obnoxiously on, over, and around the southeast fence:

A man in town told Paul he thought he might have a chipper we could borrow, but we're still trying to get connected on that.  So we're still praying.

Pray with us?

Undo, Redo

If only it were as easy as ctrl-Z and ctrl-Y; we would be able to get all six windows done before winter strikes.  But by now we'll be pleased if we can strip and then repaint the frames and trim around just two of our windows.





If it looks like I don't know what I'm doing, it's because I don't.  However, I've glazed a few panes since then, and I'm much handier at it now.

And while I'm dreaming about ctrl-z, I sure wish I could tap my fingers and undo the breaking panes of glass. For one, those old panes reflected back little wavy distortions characteristic of old glass.  For another, replacing them will cost us more money than we'd like.  Finally, missing panes of glass delays the whole project from being completely finished.

But we're still making progress.  Undoing.  Redoing.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Radish Tops

The radishes looked like this before we left at midday on Wednesday. Can't wait to see what awaits us in the 3-H when we get there!
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Cats' Eyes

Given our absence for the past few days, do you think they'll be looking for us?

Or hiding from us?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Getting the Stains off the Glass

Water and a wet rag took the window from this:

to this:

The principle at work is to start mild and then use increasingly heavier cleaners only as needed.  I really wanted to see what wonders the #0000 steel wool would do to it, but we don't have time for me to be picky.  It does look better than it did, anyway, and that's good enough for now.

The Last Pear

They look like a cross between apples and pears, and Asian pears taste and crunch that way, too. So sweet. Mmmm....

Paul found this pear on the other side of our back fence after we thought we'd seen the last pear on the tree. It's a perfect specimen, completely unmarred by epicurean insects. What a fitting way to signify the close of a fruitful season.
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Saturday, October 1, 2011

I Can See Clearly Now

The stuff on the window panes refused to go quietly with a razor blade, so I did some research.  A professional window cleaner on the internet recommends using #0000 steel wool in cases like this.

Boy, does he know what he's talking about.

(That's not a crack you see in the window; it's the arched window resting with the rest of the windows that don't have cracks.  *sigh*)

Now I'll have to ask someone like him about the best way to safely clean stained glass windows.

Friday, September 30, 2011

All Digits on Deck

Yes, the cats helped measure the plastic for the 3-H.  I'm sure they did.

Oh, Is It Autumn?

I prefer to think of it as late summer.  And under the double protection offered by our 3-H once it's completed, it will still feel like late summer.

Paul installed part of the plastic on the 3-H today.  We needed to get all the spinach and lettuce seeds in the soil today.

We also planted the first of our radishes and onions.  Only two more weekends are available for successive  plantings.  In the meantime we're waiting for seeds to plant our mâche, which is known as corn salad in the United States or lamb's lettuce in England.

If all goes as hoped, our winter garden will mature enough in the autumn for us to harvest in winter, when our boxes will be further protected with floating row covers.

Can you imagine dining on fresh homegrown salads in the winter?  We can.

As we bask in the glow of hope, it's time to call it a day.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Not Framed: I Really Did It

The height of the windows from the inside is one thing.  The height from outside is just a little bit more.  Look carefully, and a small person in navy blue should be visible next to that red space elevator leaning against the building.  Near the top of that ladder is where I've spent two of my recent afternoons.

In preparation for winter and to protect the wood storm window frames and trim from its effects, I've been scraping out old glazing and paint while trying to balance comfortably on the narrow ladder rungs.

The view from there isn't always pretty, either:

What is that cloudy stuff on the inside of the glass?!  I don't know, but I really didn't want to leave it there.  We hadn't been planning to take the storm windows down, and Paul was reluctant to undertake that project, even though it would be the only way to clean it up.  What to do?  Leave it there to spoil the look of the freshly painted windows?  Or spend a lot more time on each window than we'd originally thought?

The answer came in a way I would have rathered it didn't:

Yes, that's a crack.  I applied to much force on the putty knife in trying to get out that old, stubborn, dried-out glazing, and I cracked the glass.  Argh.

Long story short, Paul climbed the ladder to take a look at the situation and began taking out the panes of glass.  Now I'm cleaning the windows (I still don't know what that stuff is, and it's awfully stubborn about coming off!), and he's being more particular about removing the old paint from the wooden frame.

It would seem that to do the job right we can't just paint the weathered wood; because of its age and condition we need a wood restoring product that will allow the paint to properly adhere for years to come.

It's not that I don't like hanging out with a paint scraper in the upper strata of the troposphere, but I'd really prefer to do the job right the first time and do something more enjoyable a second time.

Wouldn't you?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Introducing the 3-H

Remember this?  This past spring it became this:

and this:

Then this:

and this:

What a great spot this is for growing things, and what a great blessing it is to have fresh, homegrown greens!  We've enjoyed it so much, in fact, that we decided to enlarge on it.  Now it's become this:

and this:

It's what I call "The 3-H", or sometimes "The Triple H".  I confess I can get a little funny with household acronyms, but you can imagine how cumbersome it would become to keep calling it what it is:  a half of a high hoop.  Not a greenhouse, exactly, because there won't be any artificial heat or forced ventilation; just wind protection and solar heat retention.  Then, coupled with some floating row covers or some full-fledged cold frames, we hope to someday plant some cool season crops for a winter harvest.  Paul holds out hope that we aren't too late to try it this year, but I'm not so sure.

Work is still unfolding, so I'll continue to post pictures so you can see how it all comes together.

And now that the temperatures are cooler, we have a lot of work projects going on.  I should have plenty to write about!