Life Is Messy

Sweet Miss’ Fella shared an article on Facebook last week. While the source was a mountain biker, it promised to share general truths, so I figured I could relate. It was actually saying what I’ve been hearing from lots of sources recently. What you see online may be true, but there’s a lot of garbage stuff that happens in life that doesn’t make into the story. Sometimes, you just want to show the smiles and not the tears; the beauty and not the mess.

So, in an effort to embrace the messier parts of life, I’m going to share with you a little story I like to call “In Search of the Big Stink.” It all started last Thursday, when I noticed a certain odor in the entry near the powder room after I got up in the morning. Maybe we needed to have the septic tank drained, maybe Cocoa had been very naughty, or maybe something had died. I was leaning towards the last.

As the work week wrapped up and the evil scent remained, the MR got busy. First, he drilled holes, cut out sections of sheet rock, and removed the sink from the powder room. The smell seemed to be somewhere in the walls between the powder room, our bathroom, and the MR’s closet.

After talking to some local plumbers, he was fairly convinced it wasn’t a plumbing issue or a leaky pipe. Eventually, the MR drilled exploratory holes in the walls and found the section where the smell was coming from. Then it was just a matter of locating the source. Eventually, after crawling around under the house, he found a dead rodent, removed it, and we were expecting the smell to subside.

Sometimes things take time. Wednesday, I came home to find piles of insulation outside, and yesterday, the MR sprinkled the remaining insulation in that area with carpet fresh which should help with the lingering odor.

Meanwhile this week, I found mouse dropping on the dryer and upstairs. This has been an issue off and on since we moved in. We’ve decided it’s time to talk to a professional. While I was looking for recommendations, I noticed you can adopt feral cats to deal with mice. You just have to provide some type of shelter and food. It could be worth looking into, but I worry about coyotes, and Cocoa, and other critters. These would have to be really tough feral cats.

Now that the search is over, the MR is perfecting his texturing skills. I hope we have some touch up paint.

See it’s not all goodness and light around here. Sometimes it’s mouse poop and stink. It’s all good, as long as we keep our sense of humor.

I’d love to hear your stories of when life gets messy…we can’t be the only ones.

 

 

 

 

Inspiration and Disappointment

I wanted to call this post the Grapes of Wrath. Not because it has anything to do with the Dust Bowl, starving displaced families, or Steinbeck, but it does have something to do with grapes and wrath. Alas, I thought better of it.

Let’s start at the beginning. Earlier this month, me, and Baby Girl, and the MR traveled to Italy. We started in the beautiful city of Florence, a truly, lovely place we’d never been to before.

id-florence-2

After wandering the streets our first day and checking out the Uffuzi Gallery Museum, we had scheduled a Vespa ride in Tuscany beginning and ending at an ancient castle turned winery. This was the home of the Pazzis who tried to assassinate the Medicis in 1478 and were summarily executed.

id-castle

After a history of plotting and rebellion, it has turned into a family home and winery in recent years. Wandering through the barrel room and other areas of the production, we were reminded of our own wine-making efforts at home.

id-wine-barrels

Sure we only made one small bottle last year, but the MR said the grapes looked great. He thought we might be able to make up to three bottles with our banner harvest. After visiting the winery, it was time for some beautiful scenery.

Not everyone was born to drive a Vespa, so I became a passenger on the MR’s scooter. Just a short drive from an ancient and densely-populated city, we wound up in the rolling countryside the hills speckled with grape vines and olive trees.

id-vespa

This was at the beginning of two weeks of adventures, and the ideas of wine-making were put on the back burner till we got home. Unfortunately, just because we’re away doesn’t mean the rest of the world stands still back home. We had visitors. The MR thinks it was probably raccoons who came, climbed under the netting, moved boards holding it in place, ate the grapes, and tore up the vines.

id-grapes

Oh well, there’s always next year. Now you understand my grapes and wrath.

Any tips on getting rid of raccoons?

 

 

 

 

July Is Gone

I know you’ve heard that all it does is rain in Seattle, that the inhabitants are frightened when they see a yellow orb in the sky, that we have a dozen names for what most people just call rain. Well, there’s some truth to all of that, but that doesn’t cover July.

Sure summer doesn’t start till somewhere around the 8th of the month, but then we have warm, sunny days, with glorious sunshine. Mount Rainier is out in all its glory, and northwesterners are ready to play. But not this year. We’ve had a lot of gray days with just a few true summer days.

When you can’t frolic in the sun, you have a lot more time for projects. The MR, with his summer off, has been a busy guy. One Saturday, while I was working at the yarn shop, he was building the Garden Box Update. I’d love to tell you that the new addition is filled with dirt and overflowing with vegetables. We have a pumpkin doing well in the corner; we’ll wait for next year for the other.

img_7321

That same weekend, the MR took on Bambi. Remember Oh Deer when I found one of our plum trees ravaged?

OD Broken Plum Tree

He’s zip-tied 10-foot lengths of pipe from our well redo to the posts and added taller netting. Friends commented on our fortress. Yes, we are doing battle, and with the number of apples and blueberries we’ve picked this week, we just might be winning.

And now for the truly beautiful, exciting project. It’s Started; we’re on to bathroom remodel number three in this house. All the green tile is gone, Marty the plumber came and dealt with replumbing the shower, the cement board is up, and just yesterday, the MR started tiling. It’s going to be beautiful.

I’m so glad my guy does his homework. When he takes on a project, he researches the heck out of it. He’s redone the showers in every home we’ve lived in and knows a thing or two by now. That’s why he was so surprised when he removed the tile and found dry wall. The experts say, you’re tile and grout will leak, use a protective barrier. What were they thinking?

The slogan on this cement board just makes me smile.

Cement Board

Now while the MR is busy with all his stuff, what have I been doing? I’ve been enjoying the produce from our garden and the farmers market. There’s nothing like fresh ingredients to serve up Good Simple Food. Last night, it was onions and broccoli from the garden, carrots and beans from the farmer’s market, and some leftover BBQ’ed veggies sauteed together to round out burgers for dinner.

With people on vacation, I’ve been putting in extra hours at the yarn shop which leads to lots of knitting and crocheting. You can check out some of my projects On the Needles. (You really should just so you can see Baby Girl and Cocoa modeling my “shoulderette” pattern. I designed it to show off lovely collarbones and add just a layer of warm on a cool evening.)

Speaking of yarn shops, Quintessential Knits moved one block over the weekend. I’ve seen some of the lovely new yarn, and the owner says we have lots of specials and surprises coming out this month. I was rather pleased with this Viroqua Cowl I knitted as a sample.

Umpqua Cowl

And what about A Lovely Jumble of flowers on the hillside or our crazy 5th of July parties? Alas, the poppy seeds are still on my desk, but the Russian sage the MR planted last year is nearly knee-high. If we’re lucky, some day it may look like this—giant, frangrant, gorgeous, filled with bees making honey.

Russian Sage

OK, so that was eastern Washington, which is a much dryer and warmer climate, but I can dream. The MR says if it gets that big, it’ll cover up the retaining wall. Maybe mounds of Russian sage would make a pretty barrier around the orchard—deer don’t like sage you know.

Me and the MR spent a few days wine tasting in Chelan last week. Good wine, good food, nice people, and a few days away with Baby Girl in charge. It was delightful.

Me & the MR

And finally, I just have to show this picture of Sweet Miss.

B Bubbles

She’ll be 22 in just over a week. (That’s years, not months.) I shared with you our deck woes in Not Those Kind of Bubbles. The deck looks great; our deck guy, Isidro, does a great job. Now if the sun will cooperate, I’d like to spend a little time out there.

How was your July? Any big plans for August?

 

 

 

 

 

Garden Envy

I have fallen victim to the sin of envy. My friends post on Facebook about their killer gardens overflowing with vegetables, and I grumble. They live in the country; why don’t the animals ruin their garden, too? So evil.

I bluntly tell Baby Girl that nothing’s growing this year—pout, stomp, grrr. I know I’m acting childish, and I’m totally overreacting, but it’s just been so frustrating.

A young mom I know is trying her hand at canning beans for the first time. My beans looked like this before I dug them up last weekend.

beans

 

That one tiny sprig of green was not enough to give me hope of a harvest, but it could be a sign that the stinky soap I hung on the garden fence is working to stave off animal invaders.

This year hasn’t been a total fail. We’ve been growing a lot of zucchini. Somehow my intention to buy one plant turned into a pony-pack. We’ve enjoyed zucchini fritters, zucchini bread, zucchini muffins, zucchini brownies, zucchini baba ganoush, and we still have plenty more.

The MR mentioned that he didn’t really like zucchini growing up, and I admitted I didn’t either. That’s why I didn’t feel guilty leaving a few zucchini sitting out after a recent rainstorm. I figured I’d use them as bait to see if the soap was really keeping animals away.

zucchini

After four or five days, I haven’t seen any fresh teeth marks. It may be working, or our animal intruder is tired of zucchini, too.

While the garden is a bit of a bust at the moment, you’ll notice my marigolds are looking great. I planted them to keep the slugs away from the beans, peas, beets, and lettuce. Animals in turn have decimated all of the above, but these orange beauties are thriving.

marigolds

 

Ever the optimist—don’t laugh—I figured maybe a late summer planting would fare better. I went through my seed box and planted a few beets, onions, spinach, and carrots. With maturity dates less than 60 days, I’m looking for good things come October.

Amidst all my gloom and doom, I did manage to make a tasty salad with onions, cucumber, tomatoes, and basil all from our own garden.

Tomato cucumber salad

I’ve been picking a pint or two or blueberries, currants, and recently blackberries since June. And the apples I’ve been enjoying with breakfast and lunch, I picked from our orchard. So along with disappointment, we have had many successes. The tomatoes have just begun to ripen. I have eight Roma tomatoes on the counter ready for dinner, and the branches of my plants are loaded.

There’s a special feeling of accomplishment when you eat a meal composed of food you’ve grown yourself. I guess I’ll just have to be content with what we have rather than all I want.

My dad always said farmers were the biggest gamblers; I see his point.

How is your garden? Have any amazing zucchini recipes to share?

Manly yes, but I Like It Too

I grew up in the 70’s. We wore bell-bottoms and fringe. Farrah married the 6 million dollar man, and we practiced the hustle at recess. We bought my dad Old Spice for Father’s Day, and we bathed with the refreshing Irish Spring soap.

Flash forward 30 years, and I’m teaching knots and knives at our local girl scout day camp. When the Ivory soap disappeared, one of the directors made a mad dash to the store and came back with some Irish Spring to carve. After camp, the leftovers were packed up, and we saved the remaining soap for the following summer. The next year, when I opened that box, the stench was overwhelming. We had to air it out for weeks and throw away anything stored with the soap.

So what does all that have to do with today? Remember the rabbits eating my garden? Well, Irish Spring might just be the answer. I read on Pinterest (so it has to be true) that animals don’t like the smell of that particular soap. They suggested cutting it up and hanging it in bundles throughout the garden.

We were out of town for the weekend—my oldest nephew just married his sweatheart. And I came back to broccoli nubs, dead zucchini leaves chewed from the plant, and holes dug into the carrots. We need to step up the program.

Garden damage Collage

Irish Spring was worth a try.

Irish Spring

 

Last night, I tore up some strips of cloth, cut up soap, and made little bundles.

How well will it repel animals? I don’t know. We’ve had mixed reviews. Bogart immediately ate a chunk that broke loose from its bundle. The MR on the otherhand put them downwind when he started getting nauseous.  He did get me moving, so I hung them around the garden rather than just sitting and enjoying the sunset on the deck.

tied up bundles

 

It looks kind of like nasty tissues hung around the garden, but I haven’t seen any new activity overnight.  I’ll keep you posted.

And now for the real reason you’ve all stayed with this post, here’s a few wedding photos from our trip to Kansas.

Wedding Collage

Congratulations to my nephew and his lovely bride. We are all so happy for the both of you.

Kansas in August is quite hot, but we tried to show the girls the sights. We made it to Sandzen Art Gallery—notice how large the brush strokes are up close.

Gallery Collage

We went golfing with the family, a few cousins, and a few cows.

Golfing Collage

 

It was almost 90º by the time we packed it in at 10 am. We spent a lot of time visiting with family and getting to meet my great-nephew for the first time. The girls teased that I sure loved that baby, but I’m not the only one.

the MR and great nephew

 

My youngest nephew is very creative. We were all impressed with his Hobbit and Lord of the Rings stuffed animals that he’s been making this summer.

M and his creations

 

Creativity like that needs to be encouraged. I love the detail of the dwarf’s face.

the dwarf

Let’s be honest, any time I get a chance to spend the weekend with the MR and these two beauties, I’m happy.

streets of Lindsborg

 

Hope you’re enjoying the last weeks of summer.

Wascally Wabbits

I’m feeling a bit like Elmer Fudd out to get Bugs Bunny. Something is eating it’s way through my garden, and it’s not me. 

The broccoli heads are disappearing. 

  
And let’s not even talk about the bush beans. They were lush, and covered in blossoms, and then this. 

  
I found them knocked down with leaves torn off and blossoms missing. 

The MR beefed up the gate with extra wire. 


I cobbled together another surround with tomato cages and netting. 

  

But the bean plants continue to disappear before my eyes. I guess I’ll be heading to the u-pick farm for my fresh beans. 

Over in the orchard, the blueberry and currant harvest is winding down. We’re still waiting on the plumcots. They were supposed to ripen in late June, but they’re still hard as a rock. 

I looked up the variety online, and the color is totally wrong. We’re thinking the tree was mismarked. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Even after I thinned the apples earlier this spring, they are weighing down the branches. We’re looking forward to a banner harvest. 

The MR pounded in some stakes and wired up the branches. We’re hoping this will keep them from breaking before the apples are ready. 

  
One apple fell off during the project. It wasn’t really dry tasting, but we’re waiting a few more weeks to sweeten them up. 

At least the bunnies are leaving the orchard alone. 

How’s your garden doing? 

This Is War

You remember how I showed you a lovely picture of newly sprouted peas? Then I talked about slugs and slug bait, and I replanted. I added forks, but my newly sprouted peas were neatly plucked from the ground even with strategically placed forks.

Well, I’ve decided to get tough. I put together to tomato cages, lined them with chicken wire and have totally surrounded another planting of peas. With nearly 20 years of gardening experience, getting a pea crop has never been this difficult.

Cage over peas     I also added marigolds to entice the slugs away from my precious plants and onions along the perimeter to keep out varmints. These both worked well last year, plus I wound up with a ready supply of onions for months. Sets in the Ground The MR has been staging his own war. The plastic fencing around the orchard was failing, so he replaced it with metal. Last fall we noticed the birds were taking more than their fair share of the blueberries and plums, and they’d made off with all of the grapes.  So the MR set up a system of poles, wires, and netting that totally encloses the lower bushes. 

New Fence

 
 

It’s fully enclosed, easy to access, and whether you’re 5-foot something or well over 6 foot you can move around without stooping.Fence from above     The orchard is really taking off. The Apples are getting ready to bloom.Apple Blossom
 

And one pear tree is decked out in blossoms. The other is still thinking about it.  Does anyone know if Comice and Rescue pears cross-pollinate? We were assured they would. They’re all still quite young trees. I need to learn a little patience.

Pear Blossom   

Is your garden starting to take shape? Have you planted fruit trees for both beauty and function?