Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Maintaining the driveway

Have I ever mentioned how incredibly long our driveway is? We're about 1800 feet off the town road. And we love that - it's very private back here. It's scenic to drive through the trees, to meander through the twists and turns, and to finally come upon the house.

But is also quite a lot of work. It's work in the winter when Chris has to clear snow, it's work in the spring when we have to fill in ruts after mud season, and it's work throughout the year to make sure it doesn't end up a washboarded mess. We've been building up the driveway ever since we bought the land. It started as a skidder track that was a mud slick when it rained. We added culverts and brought in load after load of rubble to fill it in and make it (barely) passable as a 4-season road. Then we brought in smaller stone to smooth it out. Then we top dressed it with "fines" to give it a nice driving surface. That took years. And every year we had to keep adding to it.

So last year we decided to top one section with blue stone mixed with stone dust to see how it held up. The theory is that the stone dust acts like a binder to keep the stone in place. And it held up GREAT! Even through the intense snow removal we had last year.

So we bit the bullet and ordered materials. First we had to drop what I call dirt and what our materials guy calls screened stone to fill in ruts and form a solid base.
It begins.
The difference between dirt and screened stone is that screened stone has a very high mix of small rocks and sand and other stuff that hold it in place. It may look like dirt but it sure doesn't act like it - because when it rained really hard soon after having this dropped, it didn't slime up or move at all.
Doesn't that look like dirt???
Our materials guy is awesome. He tilts that truck and rolls forward and spreads the materials so evenly that it barely needs any tractor work. On the main part of the driveway anyway - up close to the house he had to dump it thick so that Chris could get it in all the nooks and crannies.
Spreading the load
It took five loads to coat the entire driveway all the way to the main road. Once it settles a bit we'll have him bring the mix of blue stone and stone dust to finish it off. Then, if all goes according to plan (hah!), we'll just have to grade it each spring to keep it in shape. And maybe top dress it a bit. You know, work at it.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Preparing for winter

Yes, I'm well aware that it's early-July. But when you heat with wood you start winter prep early. We've actually been gathering our firewood since early Spring and now the pile is large enough to get the splitter in here. 

Last year we put up 162 feet (4 feet high) and ended May with 50 feet left. We tend to have a wood fire at least once a month during the summer if only to dry out the house when it's cold and wet out. Makes me laugh to have every window open and a fire going in the wood stove, but it does wonders for humidity control (this only works if it's one of those cold and clammy days, not when it's 90 degrees and 88% humidity). 

Anyway, we're planning to put up another 100 feet and we'll see how far this pile gets us. We have the hardest time telling how much stacked wood we'll actually get from a big pile of bucked wood, but we're hoping to take some measurements so we can do better estimates in the future.

Ready for splitting

Friday, July 3, 2015

Garden Journal June 2015

Time for another garden update. The weather has been wonderful for growing things - a mix of rain, sun, cool and shady days, hot and sunny days. The whole garden has responded.

Lupins, mid-June
The main veggie garden is doing great. And that's my new water box! The soaker hose connects to it and my hand tools are stored right there where I need them.
Tool mailbox and water spigot
I spray painted my tomato cages red for a nice pop of color. And you can barely see my chicken with all the herb and flower growth. All the tomato plants have small green tomatoes and many new blossoms. I pinched the sucker growth, removed any stems beneath the first level of fruit, and put crushed egg shells around two of the plants (we'll see if they have any effect).

Chris sprouted some chia seeds (yes, he has a George Washington chia pet) and I thought it'd be fun to see if I get them to grow. That's them at the very front left corner. Then I did some research and it turns out the plants get 5 feet tall. Gonna have to move the chia pet soon.

All of the herbs are growing well although I need to do better with my basil. I didn't spread the seeds well. The transplanted starts are better, but I'm still having trouble not denuding the plants with my usage. The sage is crazy good as is the lemon thyme. The rosemary start is okay but not growing fast enough to keep up with demand.
Chia, basil, cilantro, pluto basil, sage, lemon thyme,
oregano, rosemary, marigolds, beefsteaks
My pepper plants look great and have lots of new growth and blossoms.
Jalapeño close, Ace green pepper far
Only one plant has set a tiny little jalapeño so far. These are Craig's Giant jalapeños and should be good for stuffing.
Lonely and destined for the grill
My delicata squash is going gangbusters. Three plants and they've completely filled their plot. Next year I'll plant them in the middle of the lettuce plots so that after the lettuce is pulled up, they can have extra space. This year I'll just need to train the plants to spread that direction.
Lots of unopened flowers and new fruit buds
No flowers have opened yet, but I've got lots of buds and I can easily tell the male from the female flowers.
Tiny female buds
The lettuce is crazy good. It'll be harvested this week and allowed to grow back from the cuttings. I want to collect some seed so will let it bolt in the July heat.
Lots of salads
The arugula has been sort of hit or miss. Several plants either got eaten or didn't germinate. But it tastes great and I'll do some succession planting. I'll also let some bolt as I love the edible flowers. I've started harvesting some of the kale and it's wonderfully tender with great flavor. I've been eating the pea plants in salads. Despite starting them very early, they're only just starting to climb the trellis. I have doubts of an actual pea harvest.
Arugula, kale, English peas
I've cut my garlic scapes (they made great pesto even though I had to supplement with some from the farmer's market). Only about half the plants are doing well. The oregano is going crazy though.
Bad angle on the garlic, it actually looks better than this
Two small lavender plants

One rosemary start and the rest from seeds. Sad.
The front lawn is lush and green and so great at cutting down on the dirt that was getting tracked onto the porch.
Cooper loves the grass
My lupins are past their flower prime but the plants are fairly lush. Need to add some more tall stuff around the bird feeder so it's not to looming. The tree-line flower bed is coming along well and I've got some good ideas for filling it in better and even repositioning some of the rocks.
Mini Iris, impatients, pansies
Iris, foxglove, hostas. Needs more filling.
Deer nibbled hostas
Small driveway bed filling in with perennials
So that's the update for June. Combined with the farmer's market/CSA share, we've switched over to a veggie-centric diet for the summer already. Lots of stir fry, lo mein, green pizza, and quiches so far.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Adding screen doors

Our house is very open to the outdoors. In fact, most of the summer the front doors are wide open - which means bugs fly in and drive me nuts. 

Usually the other door is open too (and I'm going to get
cushions on that barber chair soon - honest)
So I decided this year I wanted to add screen doors. But we needed to make sure the dog and cat could still come and go freely. They love being able to wander in and out at will (and I love that we live so far back in the woods that we can let them).

A blank slate
I stained the doors red and Chris cut and framed a dog door into one of them. Then I sewed a little flap so we wouldn't have a gaping hole in our new screen.

Ta da!
Inside looking out
The wee flap
It's working beautifully. The cat and dog took about 10 seconds to figure out the flap and now we get great air flow with minimal bug incursion. Wonderful! The only down side is the cat gets mad when we close the solid doors at night. She figures that flap should work through both layers.