Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The ups and downs of this summer's garden.

I am feeling grateful this week as just about every evening we've included something straight from our garden with dinner - a fresh tomato sliced on top of a burger, crunchy cucumber slices, zucchini in some way, shape or form.

But I mentioned in a post the other day that it has been a weird year for gardening, and that's true for my vegetable plants and my perennials.

My tomato plants, which I am still impressed with because I grew them from seed, hardly have any leaves left on them. Either there is something funky in the soil that splashed up on them, or it's just been too darn chilly a summer here. The leaves started getting brown spots and it spread quickly, then eventually the leaves would just turn crusty brown and fall off if I didn't pull them off first.

Interestingly, the plants still produced lots of tomatoes and they are turning red. And they taste good. So ... I don't know. This is one of those times when I shrug and decide maybe my garden just wasn't meant to be perfectly pretty this year and I should be happy with what I get.

I am on my third planting of green beans, and having gotten a full day of rain yesterday I am hopeful these will sprout and my dear daughter will get to pick and eat some beans - her favorite - from her own garden.

The bean situation started out great; I had planted seeds and they were sprouting, but we got a lot of rain early in the season and my gutters got clogged up and overflowed, sending a stream of rainwater straight down into the raised garden bed below and washing out much of what was planted. The few bean plants we had I dug up and gave to my parents, as their beans had never sprouted. They gave me what seeds they had left, and when I had cleaned up the garden bed I replanted. I got two plants.

Those two plants now mark the rows of where I planted a new crop ... hopefully.

I planted, watered, and prayed. If we do get some plants we should have a nice fall harvest of beans. We shall see.


 Going like gangbusters. I've got some beets and carrots looking good, too.

This year's cucumber crop is the best I've ever had. They are beautiful and they taste amazing - not bitter like I've experienced in the past. Tonight I combined a couple of those fresh cukes with some red onion and a dressing made of olive oil, lime juice and cilantro (also from the garden).

When I dished some up for myself I tossed some avocado in there, too. Oh. My. Gosh. It's like SUMMER in a dish. Yum.

My jalapeno plants look sad. Last year I had jalapeno trees - tall, wide, and abundant producers. This year? The first four plants dried up and died. I bought two more. These are alive and green and leafy, but only about six inches tall. Stunted. Again, I throw my hands in the air. I suppose I have a few weeks to try to nurse them along, maybe fertilize and see what happens. Or I could go buy $1 worth of jalapenos when I need them, but store bought just isn't the same.

Such is the life a gardener, I suppose. Trial and error, ups and downs.

Elsewhere in the yard, my hostas are absolutely gorgeous and several plants and shrubs are blooming for a second time. Even those early bloomers that say they "might" bloom later in the season rarely do, it seems. I guess it's a good year for those.

And then there's this guy ...

Cilantro that sprouted right up in the walkway between garden beds. It's got to be from seeds that I harvested from last year's plant. I intended to put them in an envelope late last summer to keep and plant this spring. Most of them got blown off the patio table before I had a chance. I did pull a couple of cilantro sprouts out of the cracks in the patio earlier this summer. But this one ... I guess if it has the will to sprout and grow in the gravel, I'll let it stay. It'll be really yummy in my cucumber salad in a week or two.

Monday, August 11, 2014

I love it when a plan comes together. (A before and after.)

I completed a project!

This is a big deal. I am the queen of leaving things half-baked when is comes to up-cycling and repurpose-ing (am I making up words with hyphens now?). Ironic, considering my children's tendency toward the same half-baked-ness drives me absolutely batty. *ahem*

I'm really not that bad. It's a matter of lacking storage, really. If I had a garage or barn where I could store pieces until I had a chance to work on them, nobody would notice. As it is, my dining room is my work space and often my storage space - I paint, saw, and sand there if it's too hot, cold or humid, or the piece is too heavy or cumbersome to take it outdoors.

So it was with this latest project which involved a heavy wood door that I turned into a headboard in our master bedroom.

 Before - big bed, no headboard.

Let me give you a bit of a timeline.

Sometime this spring I brought 3 old interior doors home from work. I saved them from the Dumpster after they were torn out during a renovation project in our 100-yr-old building. For a few weeks those doors leaned up against a wall in my house. Two of them are still there awaiting future projects. The third was the perfect height to turn lengthwise and use as a headboard.

So I set about making plans. Surfed Pinterest boards to find a simple design I liked. Picked up some paint stripper thinking if the wood underneath those layers of (probably lead-based) paint looked any good I would give it a rich-looking stain.

Over weeks I had paint-stripping and scraping sessions which involved me carrying this heavy door outside, spraying or spreading paint stripper on it, waiting oh-so-impatiently for the stuff to do its magic, scraping, sanding, and eventually moving the door back inside, frustrated that I couldn't remove the paint as easily as I had hoped.

(I took pictures during this process and promptly lost them when my cell phone went kaput because who really backs their stuff up to the cloud?)

I finally abandoned the idea of staining the wood and sanded the old paint off as well as I could (wearing a mask, of course ... which makes me sweat just thinking about it.) I even got out the Dremel to sand the intricate little corners ... which I then abandoned because it would have required more time and effort than I was willing to give on this project.

I decided to re-paint the door using the bright blue paint I had purchased for our master bathroom (another item still on the to-do list).

I painted it. Painted again. Did a little distressing with sandpaper. Realized the door had a sour/musty smell that did not go away with layers of new paint. Googled it. Discovered shellac was probably the answer. Bought some shellac. Got busy with life in the height of summer and moved the door so I wouldn't be tripping over it. Finally decided it was time to knock this sucker out and vowed I would complete it by the time I went to bed on Sunday.

So I went to town after church yesterday and bought a $3 piece of wood for the ledge and $2.36 worth of heavy duty wood screws. The crown molding I already had - it must have been an extra piece because it's been floating around in our closet since we bought the house. I grabbed a scrap 2X4 from my in-laws', which I would use as a little extra support for the door to sit on.

There were a couple of casualties.

I broke off one of those 3-inch screws that was supposed to hold this large piece of wood on the wall above my head. My fault. Because of course the walls in this house are not straight, and of course I had to push my luck and try to use a 59-cent screw to bend a solid wood door to the shape of the wall. FAIL. Don't try that, kids.

Also? I need a new level.

We should have a moment of silence for this guy. I remember buying this when we installed the tile floor in our front room. It has been with me through many a project, but I didn't realize I had left it on the bed and I sat on it. Oops.

Once I made up my mind on the paint scheme - Paint over the shellac? Leave the shellac as the top layer with the aged/yellowish look? - it was relatively easy going. Here's a shot after the door was up but before I installed the ledge:

The ledge was easy - cut to size, paint, and tack it on. The crown molding? No. Crown molding is from the debil. If you are a whiz at cutting and installing crown molding please don't tell me how easy it is. I will never do it again. I will buy those cheater pieces so I don't have to figure out any corners.

Fortunately I'm a whiz with spackle and sandpaper. And paint. Paint covers a multitude of mistakes.

Voila! The finished product.

I have some finish work to do on it - a little more spackle and touching up the paint, but I think it looks pretty cool. I'm not sure yet what I'll put on the ledge, but I love the idea of some large black and white family photos.

We have lived in this house for 14 years. We have added character with paint, wallpaper, flooring, furniture, etc., to every room of the house except this one - until just a few months ago when I finally painted the dirty white walls a soothing green (it really is pretty, but the lighting in these photos makes it look kinda' drab). More and more as the kids get older and stay up later I tend to retreat to my bedroom for some quiet time; now it feels less like a punishment and more like a haven where I can read a book, watch what I want on TV, take a snooze, or on the rare occasion that he's home, enjoy some quality time with my husband.


I love it!

Now if I could just get that master bathroom painted ...