Friday, May 19, 2017

Cleaning and clearing out the stuff, so much stuff!

I've been mentioning here and there about clearing out kitchen stuff in anticipation of the kitchen being done. I've found some cool stuff, some weird stuff, and some useless stuff (at least useless to me). 

One thing I've realized about all this stuff is that cleaning up first requires making a huge mess. How huge? Take a look:

My Room: wrecked again
Cooper making use of assorted blankets/linens 
Dining room? Maybe?
It's supposed to be a dining room!
The good news is I got so much done. Emptying the boxes and really going through them resulted in actually putting things away instead of just shoving it into another room or closet. I donated boxes of stuff and feel good that someone else will get use out of it; and I love the fact that it's out of my house. My project room is better organized and I even cleaned out the dressers in there, sorted the items by type, and labeled the drawers so I have some hope of finding the pillow fabric when I need it. The upstairs bathroom, which has been treated as a big storage room for four years, now contains only bathroom related items, and we'll be able to work on the room when it's time to install the actual bathroom. 

All-in-all, it's been a pretty good May.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Catching up on May

May always feels so busy. Getting the gardens ready, enjoying sunny days and pleasant weather (okay, not so much this year since it's been so cold but there have been some nice days), spring cleaning the house, and all that stuff.

The yellow delicious apple tree has blossoms! Definite win there. The McIntosh is just starting to leaf out, and the honeycrisp has leaves but no blossoms. The cherry tree has lots of little leaves and the plum tree looks dead. Hopefully it's not.

Pretty artsy, eh?
Chicken meet blossoms
 The Goldfinches are really enjoying the thistle feeder. I wish I'd gotten one of these years ago.
A typical view
And since I'm now having to keep the chickens in their pasture more often I decided to build them a salad bar. Basically you make a box and cover it with hardware cloth. Then set it on the ground, plant seed, and let it grow. The chickens can't get to the seed so it has time to actually germinate and when the plants get big enough you move the box to a new location and repeat. The chickens get to eat what you planted.
Building the box - did I mention the cold weather in May?
Inside the pasture
It's been a couple weeks since I planted it and the seedlings are coming along nicely. I'll move it after Memorial Day and get a new plot going. If this works really well I'll probably build more boxes so I can have multiple grazing areas growing at once. 

The cold frame I planted isn't exactly setting records for germination. The cilantro has come up great but very little else. Looks like the seed was just too old. So I'll get starts and plant them Memorial Day weekend instead. And I'll refresh my seed supply.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Planting the cold frame

This post is documentation for the cold frame - boring to all but me. Sorry.

I banged together a quick & dirty cold frame the other day and decided the dirt inside was finally warm enough to put in the seeds. Here's what I planted (on April 28th) and the seed packet info so I'll know when to harvest stuff.

Zinnia: height 12"-18"; days to germinate: 7-14; blooms summer to fall

Pansy: not a bit of info on the packet.

Crimson Sweet Watermelon: plant in hills, days to germinate: 7-14; maturity 85 days; harvest when bottom of melon is yellow and when the little "curlicue" of the stem dries up (and how cute is it that the seed packet actually put curlicue in quotes?)

Mammoth Russian Sunflower: height 9'-12' (yes, feet); days to germination: 7-14; blooms midsummer to fall

Compact Basil: height 10"-12"; days to germination: 5-7; maturity 70-80 days

Sweet Basil: height 12"-24"; days to germination: 5-7; maturity 65-75 days

Cilantro: days to germination: 7-10

Parsley: harvest in 40-60 days

Rosemary: days to germination 15-25; maturity approx 150 days(?!?) (and they want the plants 36 inches apart. 36! No rosemary in upstate NY is going to get big enough to need 36 inches between the plants; obviously I need to apply a big of gardening common sense).

So, a mixed bag of info on the ol' seed packets. I'll pick up starts for most of my veggies or direct sow them at the end of the month. I plan to scatter old seed for the chicken garden just like I did last year. Hopefully it'll do just as well - I got a decent harvest of squash and corn for the birds.

Friday, April 28, 2017


Another find while cleaning out boxes was this terra-cotta bird feeder. Had a hard time using it at the old house as rain always managed to get into the feeder cups and soak the food. But now I've got it under our protective eave and it's staying nice and dry.

The chickadees seem to love it - they use the perch and even sit on the very top. But they're the only birds that do. Nothing else is frequenting it. 
A very happy sun
Of course the red feeder is seeing a lot of action. And new this year is this fella. Depending on the identification site it's either: a Rosefinch, a House Sparrow that's been eating things with red coloring, or a Purple Finch. I'm never going to be a birder...
I see you
It's a very open community around the feeder. All are welcome.

I can at least identify the chickadee
Here's another view of the mystery bird. Quite a bit of black on his back/wings. Maybe a Pine Grosbeak? Humph.

We typically get American Goldfinches too but I didn't get a shot of one this time. I need to pick up a thistle feeder as that's their preferred food. Would love to attract more variety - and maybe I'll eventually figure out how to identify them. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A creative use for wooden wine boxes

While trying to clean up and put away all the kitchen stuff lately I found a couple of wooden wine crates that I've been hoarding saving for a special project. Deciding that I really needed to get some items off the countertop I figured I could make a couple wall boxes out the lids and some hardware cloth (one advantage of getting chickens? I now have scraps of hardware cloth all the over the place). 

I sealed the box lids with poly, attached some end boards, trimmed the hardware cloth to fit, and then used small fence staples to attach the wire to the boxes. A pretty quick and simple project.
The materials
Tall storage
Flat storage 
Taters on the left, garlic and herbs right
I really like how they came out and I'm already getting good use out of them. Wondering where I got the crates? Ask at your favorite package store next time you're buying wine. They don't always have them (and even if they do have them they don't always give them out), but I've been lucky enough to score some great looking boxes a few time. Just gotta ask. Now to figure out what I'll do with the bottom portions of the crates...
It's starting to come together

Monday, April 24, 2017

Spring Update

Typical for our area, the weather has been all over the place - cold and windy, cold and wet, warm and sunny - pick a temperature and you'll probably get it (yes, we hit 86 one day). I like this type of topsy-turvy weather though as it gives me a chance to pick a project based on how looks outside. Spring cleaning is actually pretty pleasant when it's sunny but cold out. And there is no better feeling than getting out when it's finally warm enough to do some winter cleanup. So far I've raked the yards, torn down a raised bed that was in a bad spot, used the lumber to build a cold frame, cleaned out the chicken coop, cleared off the porch, got out the patio furniture, and planted trees. 

The streams aren't running as hard since all the snow has melted off. We had to do a fair amount of maintenance on the runoff area as water had spread out into the woods with all the leaf litter filling in the drainage ditches. Even with all the snow we got over the winter the thaw was quick and the water level has already dropped considerably.

Normally gushing this time of year
Outlet area under driveway
Barely see the waterfall on the left
Cooper and the chickens have been enjoying any chance to get out into the sun. 

Cleaning up after I raked
Don't panic! These chickens are not dead! They're loving a dustbath in the sandy soil of the east yard. 
Rubbing her head in the sand
I have a bench seat out here and they'll gather at my feet, dig into the sand, and coo. Actually coo. It's the most pleasant, peaceful, and contented sound I've ever experienced.
Indoor projects have involved lots of cleaning. I've dug out most of the kitchen boxes that have been waiting patiently for unpacking and actually managed to empty 12 of them. And, as expected (after all, it has been packed away for 4 years), there is stuff in them that we don't really use. Why do we have so many drinking glasses??? However I have found some items that I've actually been missing. Pans, utensils, fun decorations, it's a mixed bag, er, box.

Friday, April 21, 2017

A craft project - drawers into shelves

I got a couple of old drawers from my Mom. They were kinda ugly but built really well and I thought I might be able to turn them into wall storage in My Room. 

I washed them thoroughly, put on a coat of primer, and then painted and stenciled them. I chose a couple colors that bring out the blue butterflies in the curtains. 

Spice jars full of office supplies
I'm still figuring out what I'm going to store on the shelves. Looking for function here, so I don't want to just decorate them. I did know I wanted to hang my ironing board though so added hooks to one. Worked a treat.
Too bad my iron doesn't fit...
And I think they add a nice touch to that corner of the room. I'll likely add little shelves to the tall one so I can store sewing thread there. Or maybe tension rods that I can use to hold ribbon or lace. Something will come to me I'm sure.
Ugh, need a new cover on the ironing board!