The Summer of the Deck

I’ve been MIA for a bit—you may have noticed. I’ve been pouting. Sometimes I wonder how I ever got so naive when it comes to construction projects.

Let’s call this the summer of the deck. Not the lovely summer where we host barbecues, enjoy new deck furniture, admire the view, and while away hours. This is the summer where month after month after month, we have guys working on the deck; doors and windows closed to keep out the dust, dirt, noise, and toxic fumes; plants and deck furniture littering the living room, so they can recoat.

Remember back in May when me and the MR went away with my brother and sister-in-law for a long weekend? I was hoping to myself that the deck guys would be done—nope. Then we visited Sweet Miss and moved Baby Girl home—still working. Next we went to eastern Washington to look at wedding venues—not done yet. After a few weeks in Europe they’d have to be finished—what were you thinking? Finally on our last trip to visit Sweet Miss and see the eclipse, the end was in sight.

What we thought was a fairly simple job of replacing the soffit exposed a lot of rot, poorly designed drainage for the railing posts, and extensive rot on the stairs. Sometimes one thing leads to another, and so on, and so on.

So here’s a few highlights from the summer of the deck. We removed the hot tub and now have a large space for plants, sunbathing, and a shower that we’d like to make into a dog washing station. (That’s for you Cocoa the mud hound.)

All the work on the lower deck revealed some major problems with the box supporting the landing between the two sets of stairs.

So that long run of stairs down to the meadow was held up with posts for a while. I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t feeling very safe.

Next they found problems with the stair risers, so we told Cocoa to stop using the stairs.

Cocoa, we said you can’t go down the stairs.

All of this in record-breaking temperatures with the heat radiating off the deck.

It looked like things were nearing completion.

And then they found more troubles with the lower stairs. When the stairs were reattached, the workers noticed that they were sagging and the railings where pulling away from the stairs. Guess what had to be replaced next?

All of that created a lot of dirt and disruption.

You may be asking yourself will this ever end. I’m right there with you. Currently, the box supporting the landing still needs to be textured to match the rest of the house, and there’s an issue with caulking on the soffit that started this whole mess.

The cost of the job more than doubled across the summer. Initially the work was to be completed in a few weeks, but with each new problem it was extended. Unfortunately, other jobs were also on the schedule, so the work was a bit hit-and-miss.

Is our deck safer? Yes. It’s a lot of time and money, but we’re hoping this will help keep it in good shape for many years to come. The MR laughed and joked that we paid a lot for our deck to look exactly the same minus the hot tub.

In all honesty, we did enjoy many afternoons and evenings on the deck when the workers weren’t around.

Me and Cocoa now feel safe walking down all those stairs.

Note: the skies are pink. It is not sunset; it is smoke from forest fires. We also have patches of red dotting the inside of the house from the sunlight. With forest fires and hurricane victims, our troubles are few.

Having a wrap-around deck in our climate comes at a price, but we do love it.

And just to prove it wasn’t all deck frustrations and duldrums this last month, we enjoyed dinners with friends, found Sweet Miss’ wedding dress, and had a great time in eclipse totality.

Best of all Baby Girl made it home safe and sound from her European adventure, and we’ll be all together next weekend. I do love my family.

Any construction horror stories you’d like to share?

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

You Can’t Always Believe What You Read

Saturday, when I was doing dishes, I asked the MR if he thought those were apples on the ground out in the orchard. Neither of us were quite sure, and somehow I never made it down to check things out that day. By Sunday, it was clear I had apples everywhere.

But you say isn’t that kind of early? Well yes, yes it is. According to four out of five websites, Chehalis apples (a derivative of Golden Delicious) don’t ripen until mid-September or early fall. This is August. What’s going on? The one website that slated harvest for August was based on California’s climate. We never get that hot. Sometimes you have to embrace reality over what you read.

Now that I have about 15-20 pounds of slightly bruised apples, I decided it was time to make some applesauce.

I love homemade applesauce because it’s just apples pure and simple. First I washed and quartered the apples and cut out the bad parts. Then onto the stove they went with a cup of water.

After about an hour, with frequent stirring, the apples were cooked, and soft, and ready to be milled.  A friend of mine was talking about processing apples a few years ago and extolling the virtues of her Kitchen-Aid mixer’s food mill attachment. After peeling and coring apples for years, I thought I’d give it a try.

She let me borrow hers, and I wound up buying my own. Your applesauce won’t have the chunks that give it character, but the mill has cut down on so much of the prep work.

Once you’ve cooked your apples, you run them through the mill—seeds, peel, and all. Then your left with sauce.

Meanwhile, I had jars boiling in my water-bath canner ready and waiting. Fill jars, wipe rims, add flats and rings, and your set. Process for 15 minutes at a full boil (for pints), and enjoy.

The half-filled jar makes a lovely addition to lunch. I figured this is a good start at dealing with my glut of apples.

I’ve got quite a few blueberries down in the orchard, so I was eyeing a recipe for blueberry-apple jam, and I have an Italian inspired canning book that has a recipe for apple-pear paste. With a name like paste, it’s go to be good. Seriously, it’s more intriguing than it sounds.

We’ve eaten all the red beauty plums, but I still have a bowl of yellow ones to find a use for. They’ve been a great addition to fruit salads lately. And we’re at the tail end of both the currants and blueberries. You may have noticed the large zucchini in the photo of my jars. I think we’ll be having blueberry-zucchini bread before the week is  out.

I always get such a sense of accomplishment when we’ve had success in the garden or the orchard. We still don’t have any ripe tomatoes, but the farmer’s market and farmstands have come through while we wait.

Another week, and we’ll be enjoying green beans and lettuce from the garden. I do love our long growing season. We’ll be in harvest mode through October if all goes well.

How does your garden grow? Any favorite apple recipes?

We do love our Sweet Miss. And yes, I did make her pose like that.

In other news, Sweet Miss celebrated her birthday this week as did The Fella. Wishing both of them many happy returns.

 

 

 

 

And That Was July

Me and the MR have been playing hooky for the last few weeks. We’ve been in Europe with Sweet Miss seeing the sites and visiting Baby Girl, and it was wonderful.

Now we are home playing catch up with laundry, and gardening, and grocer shopping, and dead mice, and harvesting. And finally, I’m getting to my blog. So while it’s a little late, here’s what July brought to the Big White House on the Hill.

  1. The MR’s folks were in town, and Papa Larry (aka the Handyman) needs projects to keep him busy. The Handyman Can get the job done…hanging shelves, servicing the lawnmower, replacing a sink. You name it; he’s done it, and we are so grateful.
  2. While the Handyman started this project, the part for our leaky shower didn’t arrive until after he left. Isn’t it amazing The Power of Technology? You can take a photo on your phone of a 20-year-old, leaky valve, send an email to the manufacturer, and someone thousands of miles away knows exactly what you need and mails it off. It’s a crazy world we live in.
  3. Currant Events featured some of our red gems and some of the delicious recipes I want to try this year. Since I’m feeling generous, I thought I’d share one of the new app’s I downloaded recently.  It’s Yummly. One of the great features of this app is the filter system. Since me and the MR can’t eat constant cake and sweets, it’s really nice to be able to select main dish or sides when I’m searching for currant, or plum, or blueberry recipes.
  4. I’m really liking the laid-back vibe of our new linen shams featuring A Little Contrast Please. And the cute bag they came in was the perfect way to wrap up my sandals before putting them in my suitcase. Those ancient cobblestones get pretty dusty.
  5. Now before we left, the garden was looking good. I was like, The Garden Fortress Has Come to Fruition copping attitude and all. Then we came home. Gardens do need a little attention. The lettuce is up, the beans are up, the peas are toast, and the broccoli has bolted. At least nothing seems to be messing with my vegies. And me and the MR enjoyed a lovely zucchini orzo dish our first night back. I predict that this baby is going to make some fabulous vegetable fritters with smoky tomato sauce.
  6. In the Orchard life is good. I’ve been enjoying blueberries and plums in my breakfast yogurt, and we had chicken salad with plums and blueberries for dinner last night. Remember my fears? Remember the stinky string? I was sure I’d find a demolished tree or two, but so far so good. In another year, most of the trees will be big enough to withstand some major deer attack. I’m glad we’re finally getting to that point, and even happier to be enjoying some tasty fruit.
  7. And that brings us to The Mystery Unwrapped, my own personal journey towards using less plastic and making my own waxed fabric alternatives. They are still in the drawer. Apparently after starting with Czech meat-and-potatoes,  enjoying Viennese cake for breakfast, and healthy doses of Italian pasta, we don’t have much in the way of leftovers. The homemade wraps do seem a little stiff, but I’m sure they’ll work out. I’ll keep you posted.

Castles, churches, and museums are great, but the best part of our trip was being together.

I love this bunch. Hope you had a wonderful July. Good luck with all the back-to-school stuff; fall’s just around the corner.

In a side note, my friend’s dad was a farmer and grew carrots. She remembers planting season, and she knew exactly what my green, lacy bouquets were. Check out Changing Perspective to see how pretty carrots can be.

 

 

The Mystery Unwrapped

 Once you've reached a certain age, you've probably learned a little bit about yourself. For instance, I know I tend to procrastinate; if you can put something off to the last minute, I'll do it. 

That's why when I saw a blog post about making your own reusable food wraps, I was quick to buy some beeswax. If I had the materials on hand, I'd be sure to make it happen. I have tons of fabric, a paint brush, an oven; I'd have food wraps before you could bat an eye. 

The beeswax only sat on the desk in the kitchen for about a year. All the what-ifs plague me. What if it doesn't work? What if I make a mess? What if the cloth isn't organic? Will it make us sick? You know by now that I'm a worrier. Someday I'll be fearless. 

So the other day, I gathered my supplies and got busy.  Using the tutorial from My healthy green family for cotton wraps, I set the oven to a low temperature and got to work. 

First you sprinkle the fabric evenly with the wax. Then you put your tray in the oven. 

 When, the wax has melted,you smooth it with a paint brush, and then hang the clothes to dry. 

 I didn't want to steal My Healthy Green Family's thunder. She shows great, step-by-step, detailed instructions. but I would encourage you to not be afraid to modify things slightly. 

I bumped up the heat and added more wax than the directions recommended. When I put a cloth on the cookie sheet to absorb the excess wax, I just ended up with a mess. It's not rocket science, so don't be afraid to mix it up a little. 

And now after waiting around forever, I have a bunch of new cloths to use in place of plastic wrap. I even refreshed one of my beeswraps that's been around for quite awhile. 

What steps are you taking to reduce your use of plastic?

In the Orchard

 
Since we visited the garden in our last post, I thought the orchard deserved equal time.

It’s been five years since the first batch of trees was planted, and we’ve had some hits and misses. The plumcot is a big zero in the fruit department this year. It’s one of the few trees that’s escaped leaf curl and deer damage, but it’s not producing.

It’s supposed to be self-fertile, but maybe it needs a friend. The new nectarines that replaced the dead nectarine tree are also a hit and a miss. One died, and the other is starting to take off.

The liberty apple is covered in fruit—I forgot to thin it this year, so the apples are a little too thick. The MR has braced the branches, and the mature fruit will just wind up a little under-sized. And our Chehalis tree has a couple apples as well. I think apples are a success.

 Pears are a big nothing just like the plumcot. We have a comice tree and a rescue tree. They’re supposed to cross-pollinate, but seem to be having issues. A deer did knock down half of the rescue pear early on, so it’s been playing catch up. Maybe it’s time to add another pear to boost pollination.

That’s what we did a few years back with the plums, and we immediately saw a difference. While the young weeping Santa Rosa has yet to produce any fruit. The Shiro is going to yield quite a few this year.

 I used a filter on the picture of these light green/turning yellow plums amongst light green leaves, so you could see them a little better. We do not live in a strange psychedelic world. 

And just look at the beauty plums coming on. I’m so glad the tree has recovered from its deer mauling last year. The ripened plums will be bright magenta soon.

Me and the  MR have been trying to ensure that the deer stay out of the orchard. Earlier in the spring he extended the fence posts using old galvanized pipe we pulled out during some well work and then adding more netting. Now that the fruit is oncoming on, I soaked more jute twine in patchouli and tied it near the fruit and along the fence. 

With the new high fence and the bad smell, maybe the deer will stay away. Cross your fingers; were hoping to enjoy some plums this year. 

Do you have fruit trees in your yard? Any local farms as a great source of produce?

Garden Fortress Comes to Fruition

There are good remember whens and bad remember whens.

Remember when the deer high centered on the garden fence and took out the corner post? Yeah, that was a good one—ugh.

Well, the MR replaced the post that had fallen and smashed the broccoli, and added a new higher layer of fencing, and all is well for the moment.

We have broccoli.

The beans are up, and peas are producing well.

And we have a few zucchini coming on.

Maybe a 10-foot tall fence is all we've needed to enjoy some home-grown vegetables in deer country.

What's growing in your garden?

A Little Contrast Please

So remember last month when I showed you the new bedspread with lots of pattern that made the textured shams look less exciting?

Too much pattern, not enough contrast, something had to be done. Well, the new linen shams have arrived. 

They came in this sweet little bag. 

 Don’t you just love it when stores take the extra effort to make their product feel special? 

I went with plain dark gray linen shams that don’t fight with the pattern in the spread. 

 They’re less fussy, more relaxed, almost “schleppy” in a good way. Maybe they’re a reflection of us?

Maybe this will be our summer look, and I’ll get all fussy again come winter. For now, we’re just enjoying the comfort of a good night’s sleep. 

Making any changes to your well-dressed bed?

You can see the before at The Trickle Down effect or go way back and see The beginnings of the old shams