Friday, September 18, 2015

Yeah, Yeah I know

Remember when blogs were a thing? We originally started this blog to document process of renovating our first house. Now that we've moved on and renovated our second home, have two kids, a dogs, cats, and numerous projects, the time for blogging is gone. Yeah, yeah I know it's just a load of excuses. We aren't permanently shuttering the blog but it is going on an extended hiatus. I hate when blogs just go silent so this is it for a while.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Harvest Tuesday?

It's been years since we posted a Harvest Monday. Well it didn't happen yesterday so I guess we will keep trying. Unlike many parts of the country, we are having a coolish and wet spring. Actually its been a great spring with three months now of very nice weather. The hot weather plants in the garden are still just hanging out. However, the cool weather plants are putting in overtime.
Since we didn't have a garden last year and a fairly mediocre showing the year before, I've had lots of time to plan and plot. This year we planted some outstanding lettuce and greens. Everything is from Baker Creek and the selection is delicious. We mix spinach, baby kale, various Asian greens, swiss chard, and spinach in with the lettuce so the texture is quite varied. Here are a few of the standouts.
Parris Island Cos (A green romaine that can be cut as loose leaf or as a head. We do both. PIC tastes great, is sturdy, and a great grower. If I only planted one lettuce, this would be the one.)
Rouge d'hiver (A red romaine that turns deep red during colder weather. Again a really nice flavor.)
Mascara (A red oak leaf type. Grows very fast and is good mixed with chicory.)
Speckled (A romaine-ish lettuce which is very pretty green with spots of red. Flavor is much like a regular romaine but you really grow it for the color. This is our favorite of the new varieties. We may give these seed packets for Christmas since it is such a distinct variety. )
Tatsoi (This is a rather odd Asian green that we have never grown before. I meant to use it in stir fry but it has been ending up in the salad mix. The texture and flavor is similar to spinach. I have a difficult time growing enough spinach for us to eat and anything that helps fill the breach is appreciated. The bugs don't seem to like it as much as spinach either. Although given the option, the dog will eat both the tatsoi and kale down to nothing. He's such an odd dog.) 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Mid-May Garden Post

At this point in the year we are averaging a post a month, not that great. There are some big project to dos on the list so posts should pick up. After getting the garden installed and all of the mulch hauled I took a bit of a break to just enjoy.
The garden is almost completed planted now. I thinned the sumac and used the sticks for pea supports. So far it seems to be working. The peas have pods and are filling out. The bamboo behind is a trellis for the cucumbers. It's been cool the past couple weeks, cool and rainy, so the lettuce is happy but the tomatoes and peppers are just holding steady.

The lettuce patch still looks full even after some significant trimming. We have had plenty to eat and have been giving away bags of extra. Who knew a 4x4 patch would be so productive. Since the last house didn't get more than a couple hours of sun, I'm still getting used to things growing well and being relatively short.

The tomato production bed interplanted with beets. The tomatoes have had weeks of rain and should shoot up a foot on the next warm day.

A shot facing out. The cool weather crops are close to being done and the warm weather ready to take off. Everything is probably planted a bit too far apart but better that than too close.
Bed 1 - eating tomatoes, green onions, basil, bush beans, spinach; Bed 2 - Cucumbers, peas, lettuce; Bed 3-Broccoli, bush beans, peppers, greens, shallots; Bed 4-Radishes, canning tomatoes, beets, sweet corn

Broccoli is starting to head up. We have had a couple cuttings from the broccoli raab so far. At the old place I could never get the broccoli to form heads before it got hot and bolted so this is definitely a win. 
This weekend Sam has arranged some help to get the trailer skin on. That will look like some big progress. In the near future it will get moved to the new garage so I will have a much harder time ignoring it. I guess it's time to get back to work. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

April Showers

Today it's raining on and off and the yard is looking very green. Thursday we got our first batch of lettuce from the garden and probably could use another cutting already. I'm fighting grass and weeds from below and random weeds from the soil in the new beds so it looks rather unkempt right now. A few hours of pulling grasses should get things cleaned up.  
Some of the radishes are ready. I've planted enough that we should be able to make some radish salads or even pickle them.
The peonies are doing quite well after removing all of the wild onions that were crowding them out. Last year they were crushed by the roofers and we didn't get to see their color. Looks like they are going to be white.
I was hoping to get the tomatoes to May 1 for planting, but they have other plans. The pop up greenhouse has allowed them plenty of space and heat. I have a few that are thinking about blooming so it is time to get them in the ground. We are past the historical last frost date and the next couple weeks looks to be warm so they should be fine.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Kitchen Project Pictures

I've been (finally) putting together some kitchen pictures for our powder coaters to have for their catalog and also for the website (awesome resource for refinishing steel cabinets) and since we didn't have many good pictures of the kitchen previously, I thought it was time to share.

We kept all of the original 1950 GE steel cabinets.  They were in decent shape, but needed to be refinished.  The sink base needed a complete overhaul, which our powder coaters did for us.  I cannot sing their praises enough.  They were honest, fair, and did an amazing job.  If you are in the Kansas City area and need powder coating, check them out:

The cabinets were my baby.  I knew when we first walked into the kitchen I wanted to keep them.  I stripped them all down and took every handle and hinge off, which took several days and a whole lot of cursing.  It's amazing what 60 years of corrosion and paint overspray will do to screws. 

The upper hardware was in great condition and only required a little cleaning.  White subway tile was economical and keeps the look clean.  I had thought about something more exciting, but I decided that 1) we didn't have the money for exciting and 2) I really didn't want the backsplash competing with the cabinets.  Turquoise cabinets are exciting enough.

The lower hardware was...OK.  Several of the backplates were severely cracked or chipped and all had been painted over.  Several of the pulls were highly corroded.

I luckily found a guy on that was selling backplates and pulls in nearly mint condition.  Score!  They weren't cheap: $25 a set.  But considering none of this is manufactured anymore and the backplates are some bakelite-esque plastic that is over 60 years old, I couldn't complain.  A little paint stripper, elbow grease, chrome polish, spray paint, and a whole lot of patience and I had hardware that looked... like well taken care of vintage hardware.

I chose "vintage turquoise" for the lowers and white for the uppers, both high gloss.  I love how the white backplates pop against the turquoise.  They were all white cabinets when we bought the house.  We vaulted the ceiling and moved a wall by 1', so the new kitchen feels much more open.  The open shelving and large window over the sink help as well.  The countertops are concrete, but if you follow this blog, you knew that already.  Appliances are new, as are the light fixtures.

Here's a closer view of the fruits of my hard work.  If you get up close, you can still see all of the imperfections.  But I think that adds character and what separates true vintage from reproductions.  I am incredibly happy with the results.

We had some additional cabinets and a pantry made out of walnut.  At the end of the kitchen, we found a perfect spot for a bench and an Eames hang-it-all.  The entryway is just beyond the partial wall.
It's funny that when we bought the house, the kitchen was my least-favorite room.  It was small, dark and cramped.  It functioned, but not well.  Now, it is open and airy.  The kitchen is second only to the lounge as far as design impact goes.  No one walks into this kitchen without commenting on the cabinets.  And I love that no one else I know has turquoise cabinets.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

That Time of Year

One of the best things about living in Kansas City is that most years we get really nice and long springs and falls. We are now two weeks into a gorgeous spring. The last couple weeks have had highs in the 60s and lows in the 30s. Again, we spent the entire weekend outside.
Our yard near the house had been professionally landscaped at some time in the past. Unfortunately, the previous owners of our house (all of them) didn't take the upkeep and maintenance portion of the homeowner's class. Everything in back had become so unkempt and overgrown that drastic measures were required. We had several fountain grasses along the back patio, same as the old house. Except these were planted over soaker hoses and had gotten really, really big. One day of digging and cutting later and they are history. I cut apart and replanted some along one of the property lines to remind our next door neighbor about such things. One of the previous owners had also planted some wild, blooming onions. These turned out to be exceptionally prolific and I'm surprised they aren't growing in the house too. The problem is that they are too soft to pull so a hopefully a couple gallons of roundup did the trick.
The garden beds are finished and now contain peas, radishes, and green onions. It's a little early yet but I thought I spied a radish seedling today. I'm still getting used to the idea of a garden getting sun all day. Such a novel concept.
We still have lots of planting to do but the house is loving a little care. Not to brag, but we are enjoying the full southern exposure on the back of the house too. We had a window in our last bathtub. Since it faced the front of the house we never used it. Our tub now faces the rear and opening the window in the shower is a treat in March.
Without a basement it's difficult to start many plants. I've read enough posts from Mark Willis to be convinced into some sort of low-cost plastic greenhouse for the beginning of the season. When Mavis posted one on sale from Amazon I decided to give it a try. I mean this thing cost less than $60. I'm giving it a week trial on the bad porch before moving it behind the garage and into more sun. I repotted the tomatoes into 4" pots and moved them out along with some wildflowers and the citrus. It gets hot enough in the daytime that I have to open the door and the tomatoes aren't showing any stress from the couple 30 degree nights. Since the tomatoes went directly from the grow light out to the greenhouse they did get a little sunburnt but nothing too bad. The nice thing is that in a month I can break it down and stow in the garage.
Winston has been crucial helping in the yard and garden this weekend. He has had a rough week. He took a plastic shovel to the head at daycare and bled like a stuck pig on Thursday. Yesterday he managed to hang a toy dump truck up on the sidewalk when he was going full speed. His face broke his fall. The only saving grace is that he can't see it and seems to be a tough little guy. Needless to say he has gotten a bit more cookies and ice cream the last couple days.
We didn't want to cook this evening and I have been wanting to try Il Lazzarone since it opened Wednesday. After a perfectly awesome lunch at Port Fonda and even better margaritas on Friday with Sam, I was excited to do two great restaurants in one week. Il Lazzarone is one of 12 restaurants in the US to be certified to make authentic Neapolitan pizza. Their wood-fired oven is straight from Naples and pretty spectacular. Winston enjoyed watching the pizzas go in with the long stick. If you are in KC I would highly recommend stopping by. The food is fantastic.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Spring is HERE!

We had a weekend in the 60s and took full advantage of it. Spring has definitely sprung and with the temperatures in the 60s all week, plants will take off this week.
I'm starting some plants using a pretty ghetto grow light setup. Although the 4 bulb t5 seems to really work for the tomatoes, it's supported with a very rough 1x2 frame. I've had the hydrofarm 2ft, 4 bulb t5 setup in my office now for a couple years. I've successfully bloomed lemons and coffee there using it. I moved it home for a time to start vegetable seeds. If I had room I would be buying a 6 or 8 bulb 4 foot setup. There is no comparison of t5 bulbs to t8 and definitely not to t12.
I found out that between not having a garden last year, moving, and random storage conditions, the peppers have a zero percent germination rate this year. Oh well, I will buy some plants to get us through and new seeds next year.
I purchased a bunch of wood for a front door planter at the old house. Since we moved shortly after, that didn't happen and the wood has been in storage. Luckily, the 4 inch cedar boards were just the right size for the new garden. The bed design has changed several times but I've finally settled on a design. The back of the house faces south. Everything from the beds to the house in this picture will end up being a butterfly garden minus space for the cedar of Lebanon to grow.
This is a pretty good shot of our overhang. The lounge has 10 foot windows with no covering. The overhang allows full light at the height of winter and doesn't allow any light through the windows at the height of summer. Pretty neat.
Winston is full on into construction equipment at this point and jumped at the thought of helping me scoop and dump dirt all day.
Since my dirt was delivered in January, it has been more than frozen lately. Today the pile was thawed enough to get all of it to the garden, but some pieces were still frozen. Win had fun smashing the frozen pieces to break them up.
In all I ended up with 8 beds, 3-4ft by 16ft, 1-4ft by 12 ft, and 4-4ft by 4ft. This is represents an 88% increase from the old house. Couple that with a great increase in daylight and we should be in for a huge amount of canning come August. Since the baby is due at the end of June, I guess I'm in for a big canning run. It's ok, I like to can.
 I know they say worms thrive on neglect, but seriously? I pulled 5 gallons of sieved worm casings from the worm inn. During the move the worms just got stuck under a tree out by our hobo camp (see shanty town just beyond the previous picture). They got way too hot and way too dry, and probably way too wet. I gave the worms a big feeding about a year ago and then loaded them up with decomposed leaves somewhere around May. Once the garage went up I moved them there in November. Even yesterday when I checked there was a huge frozen ball in the middle and I figured that was it the worm experiment was coming to a close. Nope, today everything was thawed and I harvested a load of gorgeous casings. Not just that but the inn is crawling with worms of every age. In all the years of having worms I haven't seen so many babies or toddlers (pre-juveniles). I'm going to divert our compost from the nature mill for a while to get things filled back up. Our worms are caffeine addicts and could live on nothing but coffee grounds and cardboard egg cartons. Hey, it seems to work just fine.