Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Finale

Hello all! I hope that you enjoyed our backyard transformation.  It's days from its completion and Eric and I still find ourselves wandering out there to make sure that we didn't just dream that our yard looks so good.  Pinch us, we cannot believe it!  Today's front yard update isn't quite so expansive, but it sure does make a difference.

Just like our backyard, our front bed had a lot of great plants growing in it  (lavender, succulents, iris and columbines to name a few), but they just had no organization. There were tall plants growing in the front of the bed, a couple of trees had actually seeded themselves and started growing, and we had a bit of a weed issue.


We also had tons of tulips planted in here.  Don't get me wrong, I love tulips.  However, I do not love that they bloom once and then just leave a mess of "flags" behind.


So, just like the back yard, we started by digging out everything that we wanted to move or compost.  This took some time because I am pretty sure that there were about 50,000 bulbs in here.  Who knows if we actually got all the bulbs so next spring may require some additional digging.


We carefully ran our tiller through avoiding the plants that we were keeping in place.  The final preparatory step was raking out the debris and getting the bed nice and level.

My dad working away.


Then it was time for the fun part- planting.  We started by adding back our existing plants that we were keeping.  We lined the back wall up by the brick with our tallest plants- irises, and went from there. 
The final step was laying down sandstone and some decorative rocks.


We wanted to create pathways in the bed with the sandstone so that we can get in there and weed.  Also, this bed is not looking near as great as it will.  Digging up the bulbs caused flags to droop, but they will stand up pretty when they come in next spring.

Here's what we have going on in there (I am sure I have missed some):

Irises
Lavender
Salvia
Penstemon
Tulips
Daffodils
Columbines
Hens and Chicks
Vinca
Black-Eyed Magen Cranesbill
Bloomerang/ Purple Lilac


The Vinca and Cranesbill will create some nice ground cover and give the bed some color.  I cannot wait to see how this looks this time next year.



After four days of work, we were a bit tired...


And we had toes that you could grow potatoes between (how does so much dirt manage to get through shoes and socks?).



Yuck...

But it was so worth it.  How often can you say that in four days and with $500 you completely transformed a 1/3 acre yard?  Now it is time to sit back, relax and enjoy for a bit (or until next weekend when we start our next project).


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

It's Alive!

Happy belated Memorial Day all!  Hopefully, you had a wonderful weekend filled with BBQ and lawn games.  We did minimal relaxing, but got a ton of work done.  I am happy to say that our yard is now transformed!  With the help of my parents, we did four long days of trimming, hauling, digging and planting.  Here is what $500 in plants and four days of elbow grease will do for you.  I will post on the back yard today and the front later this week.

Starting from the back, we basically had a jungle growing back here.  Super snaky territory...


Lots of overgrown and/or dead trees.

 
Beds that were a mess of plants and grass was growing into them.


This bed wasn't too terribly bad, but was still needing some work.

Day one was spent clearing and hauling.  It's funny, Eric and I thought we did some prep work for this and had already cleared tons of branches and pulled grass before my parents even got here.  Even with the prep, we still had to make two trips to the dump with truck loads full of discards.

We also took inventory of plants that we had and wanted to save and created a list of plants that we would need to buy.


Day two, we had a clean slate and it was time to start creating beds.  Luckily, we found tons of beautiful rocks in our yard.  We were able to create bed edging from materials that we already had on hand (but we did also put in the plastic edging as well).


We used the tiller in the beds to get the weeds and bulbs churned up and get the dirt all nice and ready for planting.




Day three was the big shopping day.  We went to a local nursery called The Tree Farm, which is unbelievable.   Here is a breakdown of what we got (note that this wasn't just plants for the back yard, but also the front).

Crimson Pygmy Barberry x 3
Bloomerang/ Purple Lilac x 1
Goldfinger Potentilla x 3
Daub's Frosted Juniper x 3
Black-Eyed Magen Cranesbill x 4
Delft Bl. Riding Penstemon x 2
Purple Ice Plant x 2
Periwinkle Vinca x 6 (six packs)

All are perennials, and all are fantastic for our zone (Zone 5).

So, on day three, we finished up the back yard.  The first step to planting was just setting all of the plants out and seeing how they looked.


In this bed, we left in Eric's hops, which are climbing up the trellis on the house.  We also left the climbing rose bush and a large clump of irises.  Otherwise, everything else got composted or transplanted.


We added some rocks for interest and a sandstone path to get back to our hose.


Quite the difference from this, hugh?


In the back bed, we added three juniper bushes and a barberry plant.   We also left some lilac plants in there so they will eventually grow to cover that cable box.  We still plan to get some nice rock and fill in this bed with that, but it looks a million times better.


The front little bed right by our deck, got transformed as well.


We made the bed a little bit bigger than before, but basically just did a lot of cleaning up here and added a few plants and some rock.


The final cleanup was in another side bed (back behind the chicken coop), where we again just used what we already had and added some rocks for interest.


So on Sunday evening, we relaxed and enjoyed our hard work.
My sisters dog confirmed that our chicken coop is in fact predator proof.


We celebrated my parents 40th anniversary!


And just enjoyed family time in our newly transformed yard.
Apologies for the photo quality.  This was taken on my iphone.

Day four- the front yard is coming up later this week!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

We're Spiffing Up Our Acts

Looking back over previous posts, it seems that Eric and I have a habit of overlooking small projects in favor of big ones.  I think it has something to do with Eric's love of demo, but every once in a while we get tired of the major construction madness, sit back and think, "wow, one day of work in this location would make a world of difference".

After last Saturday's deck assault, we had the need to take on a smaller, less stressful project and decided to focus our energy on our front door area.  We have a solid wood front door that has been repeatedly stained by previous owners incorrectly.  In order to re-stain a door, you have to get the old stain off first; just like a deck.  Unfortunately, it looked as though previous owners had just stained over old stain creating a patchy look on our door.  Add to this the fact that our original storm door had an open screen on top which allowed for weathering of the door.  Long story short, our door was not looking so hot:


I consulted with the paint department at both Home Depot and Lowe's about how to handle this door and they all said that the easiest way to go would be to lightly sand the door and then paint over it.  Personally, I was happy to divert away from stain and toward paint.

Then the dilemma began as to what color to paint the door.  My inner HGTV watching self wanted to go nuts and paint it some bright color, but then I got realistic.  We have a lot of different colors going on in the front of our house with brick, cedar, dark trim and a putty colored garage door and storm door.  Also, our style of house doesn't really lend itself to a bright red or blue door (but I hope to have an adorable house with a red door someday).

So, I went with a neutral chocolate brown.  Some may call it boring, but I call it safe.  This is a temporary fix for now because we will either (a) move within the next five years (our house is not kiddo friendly) or (b) pop the top on the house and completely re-do it, which would  mean that an entirely new front door could be included in these plans.

One light sand and two coats of paint later, I had this.

Fresh and clean, but still needing the new hinges installed.
We also added a new facing under our front door because the old one was looking awful and left a gap between the bottom of our storm door and the door jam.  I was panicked that a snake could potentially slip into the house through the opening so I was thrilled that Eric got this done.


So, here we are today:

Not a huge difference, but it makes a difference to me.


Up next, landscaping those front beds.  Come next week, our house should be looking pretty dang good!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Success

Well, persistence does in fact pay off.  The plan for this weekend was to finish up stripping the deck no matter how long it took.  I am happy to say that we didn't in fact end up spending the entire weekend working on it, but with the help of a fabulous power tool we were done in four hours!

So now we come to the second lesson learned from this deck stripping experience:

FORGET THE CHEMICAL STRIPPERS, RENT A POWER SANDER

Novel, right?  But, had we done this to begin with we would have saved hours of time, hundreds of dollars and I wouldn't still have chemical burn scars on my arm.  You live and learn.

Anyway, on to the sander.  We rented the most aggressive sander that Home Depot had.  It was essentially just a huge belt sander. We used 80 grit sandpaper (and went through five of them). In preparation, we screwed all of our deck screws a bit deeper so as not to rip the sandpaper and/or take the finish off the top of the screws (I do not know if masks are necessary, but I was already having asthma issues and didn't think inhaling deck stain would help this).

Whew, this girl needs a tan.


We took turns (because this does get a bit rough on the shoulders).  While Eric sanded the top, I would work on the sides with a hand held belt sander.  After getting off all of the old stain, we switched to a 150 grit sandpaper and smoothed everything out.

Four hours later, the deck looked perfect!


At this point, we would have loved to have started staining again, but the weather was threatening.  Plus, we have some more staining research to do before application.  We are not going to make this same mistake twice.   

So instead we headed out to the garden to get a bit of work done- weeding is a constant process.  It is looking good though.


Things are starting to grow!!!

Eric also got his bean tepees up.  I actually have no idea what the bean tepees are about, but he seems to have a vision.  I personally am envisioning Jack and the Beanstalk with the size of these tepees.  I think he just wanted to use a sledge hammer on top of a ladder (while drinking a beer which is sitting in the foreground).  Always testing the safety limits...


This is a little mini greenhouse for our okra.  We haven't had much success growing it in the past and we are hoping the the additional heat created by the greenhouse will help us out.  We secretly southern Colorado folk are craving some fried okra.


My parents arrive this Thursday to help us landscape portions of the yard!  We are in a race to clean up the yard more prior to their arrival and clean up the house.  It should be really interesting to learn about planting beds and flowers and I promise to recap all that we find out!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Crops are Planted

In addition to working on the deck last weekend (I am still trying to mentally recover from that), we finished up planting the garden.  The weekend started on Saturday morning with a new addition to our tool family.

Quincy is learning young to appreciate tools too!
Eric and his brother Nathan decided to go in on a tiller together and within about 30 minutes of purchase, it was already fired up and being used in our garden. 


Eric in his element...


Then we got to work making our rows off tilled dirt and planting.  Here is an overview of our garden that I created through GrowVeg.com .
It's pretty hard to read, but here is the summary of what we planted:

  • Raspberry bushes
  • Pumpkins- Atlantic giants, baby boos, baby bears and Cinderella pumpkins
  • Birdhouse Gourds
  • Summer and Winter Squash- hubbards, patty pan and crock necks
  • Beans
  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Garlic- actually planted months ago
  • Assorted Herbs
  • Okra
  • Beets
  • Onions- planted months ago
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes- Beefsteak, Cherokee Purple, Pineapple and some Black Cherry
  • Peppers- jalapenos, green, red and yellow bell peppers
  • Irises- to line the front of the garden

Once things start to sprout, I will post some pictures.  Right now it is looking like a lot of dirt with little signs of lettuce and peas starting to peak out.  I cannot wait for fresh tomatoes though!

Monday, May 13, 2013

We Fought the Deck and the Deck Won

Yes, it was one of those types of weekend...  A weekend when we sit back on Sunday evening and say to one another, "what the heck just happened?".  This weekend dealt us some big time DIY lessons.  What is this DIY lesson we have been dealt, you may be asking?  Here is goes, you ready for it?

DO YOUR RESEARCH BEFORE EVER TRYING TO STAIN YOUR DECK FOR THE FIRST TIME.

No, reading the stain can does not constitute research.  The can lead us astray, in fact.  It made staining seem easy (like how I am displacing blame onto a paint can?).  Dang you stain can.

Moving on, this weekend was spent attempting to strip (god only know how many) layers of stain off our deck.  It turns out that even though it is suggested that people roll stain onto a deck with a paint roller, you CANNOT roll over a surface that you have already gone over once.  This is makes no sense to me though because you usually touch the same surface multiple times when using a roller.  Anyway, our rolling technique caused a patch-work quilt affect on our deck.  Some spots looked great and others looked red (we used a semi-transparent light cedar stain).  The multiple stain layers had also started peeling.


Our initial plan of attack was to use a deck stain stripper, mop it on and spray it off with our garden hose.  We started off by dragging out our enormous tarp to protect all surrounding plants.  Deck stripper is some really nasty stuff; I know because one side of my face and my arms are covered in chemical burns.  Attractive.


Then we lined up our chemicals and go to mopping it on.  Also, we moved Chloe into the house for those of you that may be worried.  We may have some chemical burns today, but Chloe was very well protected inside.


Round one was unfortunately, not successful.  It was time to call in the big guns, and by that I mean a pressure washer.  Sunday was spent like this:

Like those overalls?
Note- pressure washing is generally not good for your deck.  It can destroy the wood.  We however, had no other option.  
Eight hours and three coats of stain stripper later, we had this:


Ugh...  What a mess.  The deck won for this weekend.  Progress was obviously made, but not what you would expect after 8 hours of work and $300 in chemicals and pressure washer fees.  Last night we gave up and recovered from our lack of success the best way we know how- guacamole and mojitos.

So, here is our new plan of attack for next weekend- sanding.  Today, I will be heading over to Home Depot to buy copious amounts of sandpaper and next weekend you can pity us as we go at this deck once again.  This better work.  I did mention to Eric though that in the time we have spent stripping, we probably could have ripped off and flipped over every board.  I guess that is our back up plan if the sanding isn't successful...





Friday, May 10, 2013

We Are Going to Turn Into Green Chile

Although Eric and I are Colorado people, part of my New Mexico upbringing has definitely ingrained itself in our Rocky Mountain life- green chile.  Oh green chile, how I love thee!!!  Luckily, Eric is hooked now as well so MANY of our dinners (lets be honest, breakfast and lunches too) include green chile.


So, today I am going to share the recipe for another of my favorite green chile recipes, which also uses a lot of eggs!  Bonus points for anything that uses eggs because in a few short months our chickens will be laying and we are going to need some egg laden recipe ideas.  It's a quiche; no, not one of those fru, fru fancy quiches.  This is a meaty, spicy, heart quiche.  A "man" quiche if you will (that is what I told Eric the first time I made it after he turned up his nose at the idea of quiche).

Green Chile Corn Quiche
1/4 c. green chile
2 c. frozen corn
1/4 c. cooking wine
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 c. chopped green onion
1/4 c. butter
5 eggs
1.5 c half and half
1 c. jack cheese shredded
1 c. cooked chicken chopped into bite sized pieces (optional)
pie crust (I use the frozen version for this rather than making my own)

-Remove pie crust from fridge and follow preparation instruction per box
-Cook one large chicken breast in boiling water until no longer pink inside.
-Saute all veggies in butter for 5 minutes
-Pour in wine and cook until the liquid evaporates.  Remove from heat and let cool off a bit.
-Blend together eggs, half and half, and salt and pepper
-Insert pie crust in quiche pan and spread shredded cheese over pie shell, then chicken, veggies and finally egg mixture.
-Bake at 375 degrees for 50-60 minutes.
-Let cool for a few minutes prior to serving.

Enjoy!



Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Is Spring Finally Here?

That is the question that we Colorado folk have been grappling with these past few weeks.  Let's face it, the weather has been WEIRD this year in Colorado.  One day it will be 70 degrees, the next it is 30 degrees; we had snow in May and it now seems that we are having April showers in May.  Needless to say, there has been a lot of planting going on followed by frantically pulling planters inside for the night or putting up walls of water in the garden.  What a mess...

I am happy to say though that it seems that we have finally turned the corner to spring.  No more freezing temperatures in our forecast!  Wahoo!  This means that a whole new load of projects are coming Eric and my way.

For those of you that do not know Eric personally (anyone other than family read this blog?), he is an avid gardener  We truly grown our own food in the summer.  Case in point:


This is one of the many pumpkins that Eric grew in our garden (you should have seen the size of the pumpkin seeds).  I actually think of it more as a jungle than a garden.

Photo credit- Jenna Noelle Photography
 Here is my nephew picking pumpkins and Eric would literally have to pick him up and carry him through to get to a pumpkin.

Anyway, spring time means that we have to get to work gardening.  Last weekend we started with our first gardening preventative measure.  We have tried electric fences and liquid fence to keep the bunnies from eating our crops, without luck.  This year, we are getting serious so we spent a half a day last weekend installing a bunny fence (we still need a gate).

It is a bit hard to see (which I like), but the fence has smaller openings on the bottom then on top.


No bunnies squeezing through there.  Also, this is a more cost effective option than our previous bunny fortification plans.  The fencing and posts only cost about $120.00 verses the $300 we paid a couple of years ago for an electric fence.

We will keep you posted on how it works.  We know we will never be able to protect the garden completely (squirrels and raccoons), but it is a start.  Now it is time to till and plant, but I will let Eric explain that. Until next time!