Pergola Part II

This is such a huge project, that I think it will require a three-part series. I started assembly in the garage. I asked hubby to look things over before I put pieces together and then I did my best to get things moving.

I began on my own because the neighbors had some trees cut down and were nice enough to offer us the wood. When you heat with wood, you need to be thinking about the cold, even when you are sweating your a$$ off in the summer.

I only made it through step 4. The next one required the big posts, so had to wait for the hubster to be available. After a few hot, sweaty and tiring days, the main structure is up.

This was the first big project in a while that we were able to work on together. I really enjoyed it (95% of the time ūüėČ ). I did mess up a bit, but luckily hubby can cover for me. I pushed out of my comfort zone and really worked hard on something that I would have previously thought of as “his project.”

It’s not throwing much shade yet. We’re hoping to have some sort of climbing/trellising type of plant. We do have a shade for the side to block the setting sun, but may need to get something lightweight to cover the top for a while too.

There are quite a few more steps to go, but we already love it. It makes the back of the house more interesting, and somehow homier. Shoulda, coulda, woulda done this years ago.

 

Pergola Part I

As much as I love our house and our yard, one of the big issues we¬†have, and never addressed, is that our patio is unusable much of the summer. The back of our house is bland and there is no cover. What there is, is direct sun all afternoon and evening. IT. IS. HOT!!!!! We’ve had a patio set with an umbrella for 20 years but even tilting the umbrella doesn’t help, it just throws the shade 5 feet away.

For a while, hubby was researching designs and lumber options and the plan was to create and build it on our own. Each year it didn’t get done and didn’t get done, and so on. In order to facilitate this actually happening, we did something unplanned and bought a pre-cut pergola that just needs to be put together.

Three very large boxes of pergola pieces have been in the garage for about 4 months now.

Hubby spent a good bit of time before building the new stecks (yes, that is the correct word), measuring to make certain they would allow room to enter/exit the pergola. If you look at the picture above, you will see there is a bench seat on one side and a high table across the other. We definitely wanted to be able to access the interior without having to go into the yard first.

Hubby had unloaded one of the boxes a few weeks ago, and now, I’ve finished unloading (and inventorying) the other two.

Now, let’s hope the putting it together (and the Pergola Part II post) happens soon!

Panzanella, Potatoes and (a) Porch Step

It was a busy week, but there is some fun stuff to share. We took the new grill on its maiden voyage, moving it from the garage to the patio and then testing it out.

In case anyone is wondering, far left is for searing, next is a gas grill, next is a charcoal grill, and last is a smoker. This is one large monster of a grill. Happy birthday/early Father’s Day to the hubster.

We used the grill to cook ingredients to try¬†a Smitten Kitchen recipe, Grilled Pepper and Torn Mozzarella Panzanella.¬†I mostly followed the recipe, though I used balsamic vinegar instead of sherry vinegar, I didn’t peel off the pepper skins, and I added a few kalamata olive pieces. We put our finished product on a bed of lettuce and let me tell you, it was so good that there were NO leftovers. A friend mentioned that she had never made panzanella (which beat me because I had never heard of it) because she thought the bread would be soggy. This bread was not at all soggy after being grilled. I predict this will be a summer staple.

As for potatoes, a quick check in on the sweet potato slips that, so far, look pretty good.

Other than replacing two tomato plants, we always keep a few extra til we’re sure, the rest of the garden seems to be hanging in as well.

The patio step project is on the list because both of the steps leading from the back of our house are rotting. Here is a picture of the right side step.

Here is the left side, pulled away from the house. Gross. We don’t even use that step and the wood is disintegrating at the meeting point.

So, hubby spent a good bit of time designing new steps, keeping in mind the pergola that is going up (SOON I HOPE!!!). The original design had two steps on each side, one step on the same level as the house. After building the bottom step, we are going to wait a while and see if we think we need two, as we like the way one looks. I do think, however, that we might have made it a board width smaller if we anticipated only doing a single step. It’s a large step.

Maybe we should call it a steck? It’s almost a combination of a step and a deck. Bottom line though, it’s a vast improvement over what was there and hubby did a pretty great job.

Fargo The Perennial

It’s quite amazing that every year I can still be in awe of the amount of weeds in our perennial beds, and how the grass encroaches so quickly. We work so very hard to grow our veggies, but the weeds don’t seem to need any help to flourish. This spring was no different than previous in terms of the hours and hours and hours we (mostly me) spent weeding and pulling grass.

Here is a picture from the day we really went to town (dogwood blossom photo bomb in the top left corner).

This pathway is a bugger to keep clear. It’s not just the weeds and grass, it’s also the bee balm and the black eyed susans, etc. that want to spread between the stones.

It started to feel like we were making some progress, though the opportunity to weed NEVER really ends. I’m not sure Fargo agreed with this assessment.

In one area, the grass was so prolific that we decided the better option would be to just dig it out and start over. I need to research a native perennial or two to add into the open spot, but in the meantime, Fargo The Perennial will keep it warm.

In the few weeks since I took these pictures, the perennials have exploded in growth. I’ll share a few recent pictures in the next post.

Beautiful Blooms 2017

It’s that time of year again when there will be lots of outdoor pictures. In between the never ending hours¬†of weeding, I’m definitely trying to appreciate the beauty of the blooms.

This is a Star Magnolia baby from the in-laws’ tree. First year it has bloomed.

Bleeding Heart

Candy Tuft ground cover

Fargo The Terrible is looking at the flowers on the Flowering Plum Tree

I did get all of the tall grass cut. I’m working my way through the perennial beds, they are all raked out and last season’s growth is all trimmed. I took a first go at the upper third of the veggie garden this morning.

We took a few minutes away from the weeding/project list to get out for a walk yesterday morning. It’s been a while since we’ve taken Fargo, but that’s a longer story for another time.

Wood Furnace Workout

Our house is fun in that it has two furnaces. There is an oil furnace, and there is a wood/coal furnace. For the first few years, we only used the oil furnace. Then the cost of oil went so high that we decided to switch over to using wood once a long stretch of colder weather was in the forecast. When I say “we,” I really mean hubby, because he has done 99.9% of the wood furnace work.

I gained a greater appreciation a few weeks ago, when he was out of commission and I took over the wood furnace responsibilities. I have helped out here and there by loading wood mid day, and by helping with the wood pile a bit in the Fall, but that’s it. You may remember the pictures I shared a few months ago.

wood stacking art

wood piles

The first thing is, if we are using the wood furnace, it is COLD out. The (large/heavy) pieces of wood need to go from the wood shed in the pic right above, to the bottom of the outdoor stairwell.

outside stairwell

Let me tell you, it’s a workout to carry all those pieces of wood down the steps. I was moving 30 ish pieces every day and a half and most of the time, I carried one piece of wood at a time because I didn’t want to fall.

Fargo supervised and watched to make sure I was doing okay.

fargo stairwell

And he was very helpful by moving some sticks.

fargo stick time

Once the wood is (not so) neatly stacked at the bottom of the steps, it’s wasn’t¬†over. Every 6-8 hours, I needed to bring 6-7 (big/heavy) “sticks” of wood inside, one at a time to put into the furnace.

wood furnace

Then, there is a whole process of how to open the door so that smoke doesn’t set off the alarms (still sorry girls, mom, dad and hubby about that¬†happening at 2:30am), letting the wood burn hot, then shutting down the vents, etc.

I honestly could have just shut it down and reverted to oil, but the difference in how cozy warm the house feels with the wood furnace heat vs the oil furnace heat is really pretty amazing. The floors are even warm. Thankfully, by the time the next cold snap comes through, hubby should be able to at least help, even if he can’t do it all on his own. I’ll happily help and be grateful that I’m not doing it all on my own.

Side note: I ran outside this morning. The first time in way too long. One of my young, energetic co-worker friends was nice enough to plod along with me for 3.4. It was a good one.

 

Countdowns

It’s been fairly quiet here in central PA.

I created an Instagram account:

https://www.instagram.com/taughtthemtofly/

We had a nice Thanksgiving weekend with my parents visiting, but there was a definite void without the girls here. We did lots of talking about the future. We took some nice walks, somehow picking the same times as our good friends which meant some extra visiting time with them. We ate yummy food.

I did make a new goody, Chocolate Pumpkin Pie.

chocolate pumpkin pie

I couldn’t find the wafer cookies in the recipe, so I used chocolate graham crackers, and reduced the amount of sugar since there is sugar on the crackers. It was very tasty!

Hubby and I¬†haven’t made much progress on the garage because once you get past the obvious decisions on what stays and what goes, there sits the pile of “what the heck do we do with that?!?” stuff. Stuff that is in good shape so it shouldn’t go in the garbage, but that you will never use. Does it go on ebay? Or get donated? Is there any monetary value to it? I do have a box full¬†to take to a local shop, but haven’t actually made it to the shop yet.

Today begins December. The holiday month is here. It is also the countdown month for us. This blog is turns a year old in a few days, and though the past few weeks have been sparse, I plan to continue adding posts. We are almost to single digits for the eldest and her BFF to arrive and under 3 weeks for the youngest to return from abroad. I try not to wish the days away, but it’s hard.

Getting Ready for Winter (and a sweet potato recipe)

It’s been busy around here the past two weeks. We haven’t gotten much further on the garage, though that is the main project again for today. Most of the daylight hours, which are way fewer now, have been spent on outside projects.

We cleaned out the garden.

garden clean up

Hubby downed some trees, cut them up, hauled them home, split them and then I helped move the piles (this picture does not represent the piles, I had already moved them)…

wood piles

…so he could stack all of the wood. It’s almost a work of art.

wood stacking art

Meanwhile, I used the first of this season’s sweet potato crop in some African Stew, recipe at the end of this post.

african stew

Which we ate with a fresh loaf of bread (almost a year of home baked bread).

bread loaf

We added a new attachmentl to the pretty kitchen power tool. A grain mill, which seems to be heavy duty. I’m hoping to test it out today on some wheat grains I bought and I will be sure to report back on how it went. This is a terrible¬†picture.

grain mill

The African Stew recipe I use is from a children’s cookbook the girls got as a gift years ago. I have not been able to find a replica of this recipe online, so I’m going to type it out longhand. I’m sorry that I’m not tech savvy enough to be able to offer you a “printable version.”

2 T oil (I use olive oil)

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

4 cups vegetable stock

2 cups peeled, diced sweet potato

1 can chick peas

1/2 cup brown rice

1/4 t salt

1/4 cup peanut butter

2 cups chopped kale

2 T lemon juice

1 T soy sauce (I have made it without soy sauce and it was still yummy)

hot pepper, ground or flakes (optional)

*saute garlic and onion in oil until softened, then add 2 T stock and cook 3-5 minutes longer

*add remaining stock, sweet potato, chick peas, rice and salt

*bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes

*remove 1/4 cup of liquid and mix with peanut butter, pour back into stew and mix well

*add kale, cook 5 minutes

*add lemon juice and soy sauce and hot pepper to taste

 

 

Cleaning Out the Garage

As I mentioned in my Hobby Adventures post, in order to pursue a few of the hobbies I have on my list, the garage space needs to also be a work space. Cleaning out the garage is perpetually on the “to do” list anyway, so I encouraged hubby to move it up in priority. We spent many hours on it this weekend and though I know we made progress, it is a way bigger project than I had anticipated and a way more emotional project as well.

Garages (and closets and basements) often become the repository for things we don’t immediately know what to do with, for things we think we may someday have a use for, for things we are saving for our kids to use when they get their own place, for things that have monetary or sentimental value that we don’t want to get rid of, etc. Over the years, there is a subtle encroachment on usable space, and one day, you realize that you can barely fit one car in a garage meant for two.

Some of the decisions are easy. There are things we haven’t used in years, the girls will never use them, time to go. But then the question of garbage or give away or sell arises, and that answer is not so easy.

For example, a perfectly good light fixture from our bathroom. We are not shiny brass fans.

light fixture

Or the sink from last winter’s renovation project that is in great shape (we bought a vanity with an integrated top).

bathroom sink

Believe me, there are way more things that fall into this category, but I won’t bore you. I posted pictures on Facebook and no one local expressed interest. So now what do we do? Does this stuff just go to the landfill? Or do we put it on eBay? Or a local free/for sale page? These are the questions that come up over and over again.

The next category is memorabilia/stuff from grandparents/relatives. We found a box of cassette tapes from when the girls were little. We don’t have a tape player any more. I was on my way to the garbage can to toss them all in when I stopped and thought I should just check eBay. People are selling these on eBay, so they’re now sitting in the house with the little vases and candle sticks and ceramic coasters…

tapes

coasters

bud vase

It’s out of the garage, but in the house, and I’m just not sure what to do with it all. And I’m guessing there will be more as we continue on through the garage.

We also found a journal from when one of the girls was in third grade. There are three entries, much of the entries are about what a brat her sister is (was). It choked us up a little, and made us chuckle because we could totally picture her writing it then, and maybe even writing a version of it now. It choked us up because it seems like yesterday and because even though that daughter thought her sister was a brat, and I’m sure the other daughter felt the same about her, they have become the best of friends. Their relationship is more than I ever could have imagined and I am grateful beyond words. Empty nest is hard on a day to day basis, but stuff like this amplifies the distance and lack of togetherness.

I can’t end this post about the garage without mentioning the 1972 Cub Cadet. Hubby bought the Cub Cadet around 10 years ago because it was a solid tractor, made when they still made real tractors for lawn and garden. ¬†It would be our snow removal equipment, and it was in great shape. Ten years ago was the last time it worked.

cub cadet

I have tried to convince hubby that we should sell it, and I have teased him repeatedly about it decorating the garage, and I have asked him to get rid of it, but he is determined that he will get it running¬†again…

 

Odds and Ends

I took the Rosie’s Workwear (http://www.rosiesworkwear.com/) overalls I ordered at the Mother Earth News Fair for a test run today. I LOVE them!! I had hubby take pictures when they first arrived (ignore the work shirt/socks/shoes which don’t go with the overalls).

overalls

Removable knee pads (I did not use them today).

knee pads

Lots of very cool pockets.

pockets

In other news, I started a top secret cross stitch project. And by started, I thought about how I am going to approach it. I will share pictures if it turns out as I’m hoping.

We made yogurt again, and it came out delicious again. Yes!!

I had a gingerbread disaster cake. I have no idea what went wrong, but yikes!

gingerbread disaster

I had to quick throw a baking dish underneath to catch the cascade of batter flowing over the sides.

baking sheet

The good news is that it tasted fine. Really, no idea what happened.

My friend who ran the Hat Trick with me discovered that our medals had magnets, so they could do this cool thing.

medal magnets

If I had done the Friday trail race, for a total weekend mileage of 26.2, I would have gotten the medal to attach to the remaining magnet. But even without it I think this is way cool!

First frost a few days ago took it’s toll on some of the flowers, which looked pretty in the morning.

frosty flowers

frosty flowers 2

But the zinnias did not look so good later in the day.

dead zinnias