Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Camp garden

We've been working diligently on building up the Camp Garden, you know - the garden that will occupy the old camp site? No one ever said I was imaginative in my naming conventions.

The old camp was actually more of a cabin. It had a stone foundation, lots of metal and glass, and the former occupant apparently suffered from a severe cough if all the old patent medicine bottles are anything to go by. We've slowly exposed whatever stone foundation walls still existed and then began rebuilding the rest of them. The goal was a raised garden plot and Chris has done a great job making that a reality. I've mainly cheered him on and made planting plans. 
Part old and part new wall - greenhouse hole in foreground
It's taken a lot of lifting to get the stones in place properly. And a real willingness to start over when something went wrong.
Rebuilt this corner - twice
The plot is 15 feet wide by 23 feet deep. The rear section has no wall. Instead it slopes out to level ground so we can easily get the tractor, wheelbarrow, whatever up into the garden area.
Looking north toward the chicken coop
I'm so excited! We've picked melted glass, rusted metal, and way more nails than could ever be expected out of here and we're finally ready to plant. I've laid a bed of cardboard and layered on compost. Topsoil arrives Friday!
Looking at the east side. Stone stairs middle-left.
Still on the agenda is getting the pit greenhouse built and running a water line up there. We're also going to move the little garden shed up there and put a rain barrel in place. Really coming along now!

All the things

It's been a busy month. Individual posts to come with photos but here are the highlights:

The grove garden is growing nicely - the peas all came up and are now about 8 inches tall. Hooray! I've got two potato plants coming up out of the eight mounds. I dug down a bit into the mounds and the plants are on the way but I think I planted them too deep, or mounded them too early not sure which. So I'll change that next year.

The kitchen garden has kale (one that survived winter, five starts from the malfunctioning cold frame, three rows of seed), arugula (seed), basil (seed and starts), oregano (perennial), lemon thyme (perennial), dill fern (seed), and lettuce (starts) planted. I'm seeing some seed germination, especially in the kale.

The hill garden is no more. We've officially killed it off and moved or spread the soil. Why? Because the camp garden is ready for planting! Well, almost ready. Definitely need photos of this one because we cleaned up the site, rebuilt the rock wall foundations, and have topsoil on the way. So cool.

We've started the chicken pasture (orchard?) fence. Will also be cool.

Also, I've now got six new chickens. Added them when they were a week old and they're now six weeks. All are growing and doing well.

We adopted two adult cats and are now battling ringworm. So extremely not cool. Anyone have suggestions on how to eradicate this? I'm working with my vet to treat the animals, but I've read the spores can live for up to a year (!) in the environment. I can't bleach the whole house and I'm not sure bleach would help anyway. Help!

Chris is looking into doing a volunteer stint in Puerto Rico with MDS rebuilding houses. Will definitely have photos of that if he ends up going.

Finished the upstairs bathroom! Including a door!

We've also had some fun with bleach dying and more tie-dying. I'm working on an upcycle project involving old blue jeans (ooh, mysterious) and Chris is carving a decorative fridge handle. All the usual stuff!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Putting soles on

When last we left the great shoe creation experiment we had one pair of shoes without soles and one pair of slippers in the sewing stage.
Chris's shoes and my partially sewn slippers
It didn't take long for me to finish the slippers, do a test fit, and then quickly make another pair in a wool/poly blend. I ended up increasing the length slightly from the original test slippers but didn't make any other changes. I love the color combination of the green exterior and red interior. The insoles were a bit of a challenge because finding material was more difficult than I expected. Purchased insoles come pre-shaped and they didn't fit well. Ultimately I decided to purchase yoga mats - a thick exercise version and a typical thinner yoga one. The prices were low since you can still get mats in the under $10 range and they cut easily. I sewed on some cotton fabric and installed insoles custom fit to the shoe. Awesome!

The exterior soling is a heat moldable material that comes in a sheet. You cut a sole, heat it, press it to your foot, and it conforms to the shape. Pretty cool, right?
Laying out the shoes
Cutting soles 
Pressing hot material to the shoe 
Molded bottoms 
See the arch swerve? Cool.
 We did Chris's first and then mine. The process was simple and worked quite well.
Once the mold cools completely you do a bit of trimming then lay your shoe on it, carefully mark sole and fabric so you can match it up again later, and then use contact cement to attach them.
Test fit 
Cutting away excess 
Smooshing on contact cement
 Once the soles are glued on you do more trimming and then sand the edges to get a good bevel.
Sand, sand 
Sand, sand, sand 
Ta dah!
Some stuff to note:
~Chris wore his shoes on our cruise and walked many, many miles on cobble and hard macadam streets. They performed beautifully even walking downhill in steep Madeira.
~I used puffy paint on my yellow/purple slippers and get plenty of traction, no issues there.
~None of the shoes are waterproof. We purchased spray waterproofing and will try it soon.
~My green shoes are a bit wider than I'd like. The slippers tie tightly since they have no sole but the felt shoes can't tighten enough because the glued sole holds them open. I need to cut a more narrow soling material and be more careful with the molding. I also have to do better with stitching as you can just see the front seam at the toe.
~Chris likes to pull on his shoes without untying them. Unfortunately that stresses the back heel seam stitching and it split on one shoe. I'll add reinforcing to his shoes in future and see if I can get him stretch laces too. 
~The yoga/exercise matting is super comfortable to walk on but does compress permanently after heavy use (see first note). The good news is it's very easy to cut and insert new insoles. 

I definitely have more shoes planned. I got some leather working tools and scrap leather recently and will be experimenting with those. Plus I want to reverse the colors on the green/red shoes since I have enough felt left over to do so. Chris too has already made requests for future pairs. He loves how these fit and feel.


Friday, May 11, 2018

Garden update - onions and taters and whatnot

On May 8th I planted 80 onion sets - a mix of red, yellow, and white. What the heck am I going to do with 80 onions all coming mature at the same time?!? That's assuming the chipmunks don't dig them up and make salsa. I gotta make sure Cooper stays out in the garden more this year.

I also planted 8 hills of potatoes. That won't be as many as it sounds especially if they perform like they did last year. And if it does turn out to be a bumper crop, well at least potatoes store well.

The cold frame is doing nothing. It's been 10 days, which is supposedly the germination time frame for the seeds I planted, and the darn thing looks empty. Well, except for one pansy that somehow overwintered from last year. It looks great.

The peas I planted are just starting to poke up their little green heads. The Alaska peas anyway. The Early peas are stubbornly staying hidden. Of course they are - that's what I planted two rows of as opposed to just one of the Alaska. Oh well, I'll switch the ratio in the next planting.

The orchard trees are doing great. Everyone is leafing out and so far no deer have jumped the fence. The blueberry bushes I transplanted last fall are greening up as well. The wild blueberries look stressed but I'm hoping the fertilizer I added helps.

Did I mention the peach trees down in the Grove garden? They survived the winter without deer damage thanks to the fencing but I just noticed that rabbits went to town on the trunks. They've pretty well stripped them of bark and I'm fairly certain the trees won't survive. We planted the darn things when we built the house so they were just hitting 5 years old and now, kaput. ARGH! So I'm going to have to purchase rabbit guards for all the orchard trees before this happens to them.

We've got "build a better fence around the chicken pasture" (also known as the orchard) high on the list of things to do. For the trees and the new chickens.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Cruise - Barcelona

Whew! Nearly done with the cruise posts.

Barcelona was our disembarkation port but we had an overnight on the boat before we had to get off. Since we arrived in overcast and rainy weather we decided to spent the day lounging on the board and enjoying the last day of cruise-related service and activity. After all, we had two more days to explore if we wanted them as we had an extra day before our flight home.

Cool terracing - it is an old fort?
Huh, looks like little windows...
Wait, are those crosses? It's a cemetery!
Day 2 was officially the day we had to leave the boat for good and we used the transfer to the airport. From there we went to our airport hotel as our flight wasn't actually until the following day. Fortunately our hotel offered a very inexpensive shuttle service into the city. So off we went to La Rambla - the walking and shopping section of Barcelona.
Nice pedestrian area
La Rambla was pleasant but frankly crowded. Barcelona is a big city and it's flooded by cruise tourists on a daily basis (yes, I realize we were part of that crowd). It does a good job of absorbing them but it still feels like they're there around you. You thread your way more than you walk.

We ended up in the Barri Gothic (the Gothic quarter), an old section full of twisty lanes and pretty plazas. Loved this area and found a nice cafe to enjoy the sunshine and the streetscape. Given the size of the city and how touristy the area is, we expected exorbitant prices but they weren't too bad. About double Cartagena but not unreasonable.
Very pleasant cafe
"Black beer" Bock Damm and black coffee
Empadillas and cod fritters - yum!

Also just off La Rambla is the awesome marketplace La Boqueria. Permanent market stalls full of fish, meat, vegetables, fruit, and shoot, just everything edible. 

I bought some Catalan EVOO and some truffle oil. According the stall owner, the olive oil from Catalonia is a bit milder than Spanish oil. I can't wait to try it on my garden tomatoes this summer.

After all that gorgeousness in the market we decided we needed a pick-me-up and went back to the cafe for hot chocolate and cookies. Wow. Just wow.

So thick!
Cool touches. But why an umbrella???

Barcelona was nice but felt far too much like a big city for me to really enjoy it. We much preferred Madeira and Cartagena. But that's why we travel, right? To see what we like, what makes us uncomfortable, and figure out where we'd like to go again.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Cruise - Palma Mallorca

The weather was perfect coming into Palma and we looked forward to just wandering the port city. It was a fairly long, though certainly not strenuous, walk from the cruise dock to the main part of the city. There were dedicated bike lanes embedded in the walking area and both were well separated from the multi-lane road so it was quite pleasant.

The massive Catedral de Mallorca
Harbor full of gorgeous sailboats
Castell de Bellver overlooking the city
So many sailboats!
One of several old windmills, now defunct
Roads and gothic churches - a mix of old and new

I wish the wisteria had been in full bloom

As the photos show, Palma was a very nice mix of old and new architecture and convenience. The waterfront is obviously prized as a pedestrian/cyclist space which makes walking a real pleasure. And even moving into the more commercial section of town, motorists were very polite and crosswalks were plentiful.

Overall we found Palma a bit too modern for our tastes. It's obviously a favorite spot for tourists and the city reflects that.