blk: (axial)
Happy first day of spring. It has been snowing all day. Today I'm thinking about spring cleaning. Well, just cleaning. And it happens to now be spring.

LJ: I decided that I could convince myself to write more if I worried less about making things fit for public consumption, and also if my f-lists reflected the reality of LJ these days slightly better. So I went through and removed a whole bunch of names - basically accounts that don't appear (to me) to have logged into LJ in well over a year. And I may be writing more locked posts sometime. If anybody actually reading is not added and wants to be, let me know. There are some LJ-ers I miss a lot. Most of them I have contact for elsewhere. Some not. I wish I liked FB for more than just fluff.

Yard: Yesterday I filled the back of the CRV with huge piles of branches, sticks and other deadwood, and then shoved two bags of other yard waste in the front seat, and dropped it all off at the yard waste collection site. Pittsburgh sucks for not having this be a regular curb pickup. Unfortunately, I was dumb and didn't use a tarp, and now the car is full of dirt and debris. Oh well, it was also due for a cleaning. I'll get to that soon.

Closets: I'm using the excuse of a friend's upcoming clothing swap to get rid of stuff I don't wear. This is a very overdue cleanout as I have been nearly overflowing my allotted storage spaces for a while now. So far I have three large bags full of mostly me-sized things, mostly in very good condition. If anybody I know wants to come by and go through it first, let me know. Today's cleanup involved the lingerie box. My roll against nostalgia flopped and I failed to get rid of my fishnets and corsets, even though I'm not sure I know how to wear them anymore.

House: This is the part where I accept that this is an ongoing and neverending project and just keep on hacking away at it. But I absolutely have to stop procrastinating because the state of some of the places around here has my anxiety at annoyingly high levels. Currently I'm working on my desk and closet. Future small projects include pantry, bookshelves, gaming consoles, kitchen cupboards, drink shelves. Future big projects include camping supplies, laundry room, underporch, and the rest of Jim's space, which will probably mostly be done by him. This summer will involve Justin's bedroom(s). Balancing out my (and the family's) packrat tendencies from my "must get rid of all STUFF" anxiety reactions is an interesting and tiring endeavor.

Office: I'm moving offices at work, after merely not quite 6 years in one spot. However, my current office hadn't been cleaned out before I moved in, nor before my officemate moved in 2 years before me. Last week we dumped a huge amount of stuff into the hallway for trash pickup. I pulled out the books that looked like they might possibly be of interest to someone, either for technical value or nostalgic value, and set them out in a more traffic'd area. This weekend I stopped by and took a trip of personal stuff out with me. I'm really looking forward to having a view of the outside world during my workday again.
blk: (braids)
This week, having finished projects, costumes, college application, and the time of daylight saving, I briefly reached a point of feeling Caught Up On Life. It was glorious. Ways I used up my fleeting free time included:

- braiding my hair! I've been craving yarn braids for several months now, but I wanted to wait until after the super sweaty season and also until I had a full day or two to spare, as although I've gotten the process fairly efficient through practice, it was still about 8-9 hours of work. But I love having them, it's so much fun. I have so much hair! Well, "hair." I used the variegated color "Artist Print" and I like how the colors look. I suppose it's more spring than autumn, but oh well. I did have the very odd experience of going into work with it newly braided and getting zero reactions on it. None. No comments, no raised eyebrows, no nods of acknowledgement that something was different, nothing. I guess I have enough of a reputation of doing weird hair stuff that nobody thinks it's anything out of the ordinary now?

- biking! Beyond my enjoyable expanded daily commute, I also went on my first Weekend Hills ride since, oh, sometime last year when I almost swore off it forever because I was so frustrated. Specifically, since before I made some big diet improvements, so this was a reasonable comparison. Biiiiig difference. I could actually mostly keep up with the group, which meant it was finally the socially enjoyable experience I kept hoping for instead of just an exercise in managing anxiety (along with being a tiring workout). I also ran errands on bike yesterday, which made it really easy to stop by a bike shop and see if the techs could figure out an annoying tinking noise that just started (probably bad wheel bearings. grn).

- cooking! My officemate gifted me with a few frozen deer shoulders that he didn't want, so I put in my first attempt at making venison stew. Turned out very nice, got compliments from guests, leftovers are still tasty. Will make again.

- yardwork! In the last few weekends I've managed to collect 10 bags worth of (mostly) dead leaves. The city yard waste pickup is next Saturday, and thanks to the end of DST no more after work yardwork is happening so I'm considering myself done. Of course next week when the other half of the leaves fall everything will be covered again, but maybe slightly less so. And I can put the family to work clearing off more in a few weeks.

- reading! I've started a habit that whenever I see someone whose opinions I respect recommend a book, I check the library to see if it's available in ebook format, then check it out (or put myself on the hold list). Eventually I read it. This year, I've finished Lilith's Brood (trilogy) by Octavia Butler, The Inheritance (trilogy) by N. K. Jemisin, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, and am currently working on Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. (I also reread the three main B5 trilogies, just because.) I thoroughly enjoyed all of the above. I have another dozen books in my queue, which should keep me busy for quite a while (since I sometimes go for weeks without picking up my book). I plan to get to several over the next few months of darkness.


My week of peace and quiet ended tonight when younger kid showed me an infected abscess on his leg, so I elected to have it seen at the just-opened, conveniently-located emergency clinic down the road. Sigh. Seems like it should be fine in a few days, at least. And the front counter staff person had a nice sense of humor and agreed that I could sell them my kid in lieu of payment for services.

Then for the next couple weeks I get to bear down and attempt to do some serious house cleaning and meal planning in preparation for at invasion of thanksgiving week turkeys, ah, I mean visitors, as well as replace our apparently missing car registration. But first, a bit more reading.
blk: (house)
Sometime last year, Xuth and I agreed that we wanted to create a pathway next to our driveway that would serve as a way to reach the house when the driveway was in use that did not involve walking over the yard (or through snow, in the winter). After pondering a variety of options, including browsing paver patterns online and in hardware stores, and not finding anything that caught both our eyes and seemed doable and durable, we came across the idea of getting plain, cheap, concrete pavers, and coloring them ourselves. With that idea in mind, a bit more searching let me discover Patio Paint, and a plan emerged.

So! In September, after a couple months of browsing Google images for interesting, paintable geometric patterns, ordering all the materials, and getting a ton(1) of concrete and rock delivered to our driveway, I started work.

steps and pics )
blk: (flower)
The sidewalk is finished! (1)

(Yes, there will be pictures; I'm waiting for a day when I'm home and have time during high sunlight to take some nicer ones, so probably this weekend.)

I'm feeling a lot of relief, and suddenly everything else on my todo list is feeling more manageable. I'm kinda looking forward to being able to accept a few more of my social invites instead of feeling like I have to reject 95% of them or nothing would get done. And maybe I can plan my own social outings!

I've learned about myself while doing this thing. First off is that I undervalue my own work. I note that in just the way I refer to this, both externally and internally, and hesitate to call it a Big Project, because, well, I _only_ spent about 1 month of time doing actual physical labor. But I spent many hours in the couple months leading up to it in discussion, planning, research, shopping, and sketches. And we've been talking about wanting to do this for, um, at least 6 months. Maybe a year. And that one month of work involved me spending large quantities of available daylight hours (2) working on it. So yeah, it's big, at least for me. And that's really what counts.

Another thing, although this is mostly not new, is that interesting project like this really push the buttons of my existing perfectionist/completionist tendencies, possibly to an unhealthy extent if this were any bigger. I frequently worked all day, regularly through mealtimes, redoing bits multiple times that were flawed in my eyes, a couple times finishing something up after sunset with a headlamp on (not ideal). It became most of what I was planning my life around for a while. Now I did this in part because I had a limited time to actually finish it (needed daylight, dry, non-freezing weather), but also because I hate unfinished things. If not for the latter I probably could have allotted three times the time (and started earlier) and not been stressing out about it so much or pushing myself as hard.

On an upside, I also learned that I do, in fact, have an "artistic" streak. Creativity doesn't have to be about doing something that's never been done before anywhere, it can be copying things from everywhere, putting old pieces together into a different product, and sometimes just following instructions well. I also reinforced that I'm a badass, as I physically moved well over a ton of materials over the course of the project, including much of it once in a single day when I installed the blocks.

Now onto the next thing(s)...


(1) Well, finished except for cleaning up tools and extra pieces, returning the tamper, dispersing the rest of the extra dirt somewhere, and doing a few more sweeps of sand over the block edges between rains. But that's pretty much done.
(2) Maybe 50-60 hours total? I kinda lost track after the first few big chunks and it involved a lot of smaller bits of time here and there.
blk: (house)
Due to laziness plus vacation I skimped on making any State of the Yard posts for the last month and a half, but now we're totally back in business. Today's SOTY edition: ALL APPLES ALL THE TIME.

In the last two months, everything grew, and about half the things died. Tomatoes started ripening RIGHT BEFORE I went on vacation, which is kind of annoying, so I brought them around to gatherings and made several plates of tomato-mozzarella-basil stacks, which are delicious. Squash plants are delightfully happy and continuing to grow at the ends, while drying up and wilting from the base. This makes them look like a very slowly moving rootless squash vine, and it's hilarious. Of the 8 mystery squash i planted, it looks like I have two pumpkin vines (with three small pumpkins), 4 butternet squash vines (with about 10 squashes), and 2 some unknown variety (with about 6 squashes). The fruits are yellow with green stripes, and about the size/shape of my fist. Delicata is still my first guess. Eventually I will cut one open and see if that helps clarify things. Potato plants all fell over, like they do, which means I need to go and dig up a bunch of potatoes.

Most of our grass died because of late-season dry spells, which happens every year. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted. The all the weed-grass types started growing great, so our lawn, despite not actually needing mowing, looks extra messy.

Things I have done:
  • APPLES. Last weekend I made the whole house pick up two week's worth of windfall apples, to their great complaint. It took about 30 minutes, and I got maybe 100 lbs of composted stuff and 10 lbs of usable apple out of it. Those went into crockpot sauce, muffins, and a cake. I have about 6 more lbs ready to be chopped tonight, which might be another cake.
  • SIDEWALK. I finally picked a period of time to work on this project (the next two weeks), did all my research, bought materials, made people vote on designs, started digging up the lawn, and tonight I'm hoping to put in a good start.
  • Weeded/cleaned out the lily patches, partially in prep for digging up half of that area and partially because I could. It looks much better now, and can be mostly ignored until spring, now.

Things to do:
  • APPLES. Time to explore more recipes, maybe borrow a dehydrator, can up a bunch of sauce, and invite people over to pick what they want. Last week I saw an old guy I'd never seen before wandering around my front yard picking up apples off the ground. I stepped outside and told him to take all he wanted and showed where I thought the best selection was. Maybe he'll come back.
  • SIDEWALK. Yeah, this is intimidating but hopefully will be fun. Last night while shopping I ran into a neighbor-down-the-street, and she commented on our house lights, saying "I love our street because of YOUR HOUSE!" which was super awwww. Hopefully the new sidewalk will get similar compliments.
  • Trim blueberries bushes because they are way overgrown and annoying.
  • Harvest all the things including maybe drying some herbs or possibly trying to move some of them indoors before it freezes. Some of it will just die, though. Anybody want an avocado tree (or five)?
blk: (house)
The thing most worth noting in this SoTY post is that it hasn't noticeably rained in over two weeks, a major departure from last month. I attempted to remember to water things that needed watering, but I'm not very good at that, and I think some of my patches of baby grass are now dead, and none of the seeds I planted last month have done anything.

Not much is blooming currently, except for the neighbor's Rose of Sharon, which just serves to remind me that I want to cultivate it somewhere instead of just letting it grow as a weed. For food things: applets are approaching apple size and color. By the end of this month we should get something edible. I'm just barely keeping up with the kale, and it is tasty. The cherry tomato plant has ripe tomatoes, and the other ones have large green ones. The mystery squash plants are doing fabulously, and I count 11 fruits so far, of 3 different varieties. I think one is a pumpkin, 6 are probably butternut squash, and 4 more look kind of like delicata. I see the beginnings of the inevitable powerdery mildew, so I don't know how much more I'll get, but this is far more than any squash I've planted in the past, so it's kind of fun. Weirdly, this past week has seen a couple ripe strawberries and a few bunches of blueberries that look just about to finish ripening, a month past when I'd usually expect it.

Things I have done:
  • Trimmed some branches. I did a few in the front and Jim did a whole bunch in the back. Now I have to go figure out what to do with the mulch.
  • Yeah, that's pretty much it. I did make a little time in the hammock. I should do more tomorrow.

Things to do:
  • Almost time to start the fall cleanup. Namely trimming back bushes and cleaning out the lilies which are done blooming and are starting to brown and die back. Next month will be busy with apples.
  • That sidewalk thing.
blk: (flower)
I keep meaning to post other things but that keeps not happening. At least SOTY posts are keeping me writing, even if this one is late.

The orange lilies flared for weeks and are now done. At least they finished before the bindweed crawled all over and strangled them. The yellow lilies are still finishing up. The hostas have cute little purple flowers on a few stems. Coreopsis is still blooming. Herbs are starting to flower, although I've been successfully keeping the basil from bolting too seriously yet.

The garden has three squash-like fruits of various types from the squash plants which are TAKING OVER. One looks like a pumpkin and the other two are some double-bulb type of squash. Tomatoes are still ripening. With my luck they will all come ready when I leave town at the end of August. Raspberry bush was a delightful snack but I think I finished them a few days ago. Never did get any blueberries. Phooey. Apples are falling and it's hugely annoying. Hopefully this means we'll get a crop this year.

The last few weeks have involved a very cluttered house which I couldn't do anything about, so I took out my stress by cleaning the yard instead.

Things I have done:
  • Weeded out gardens, strawberry patch, squash patch, side patio full of weeds, and other places where weeds were annoying me. Actually sprayed chemicals on a small area of the really irritating ones (the ones with huge taproots stuck under bricks or sidewalk that I can't dig out). Also cleared out the dead columbine husks from the front, and now i have a big space there I should do something with.
  • Trimmed hedges, including front sidewalk (again), azaleas, and side bushes that I didn't do last month, and forsythia which was about to attack the trampoline, then turned trimmings + grass into mulch for gardens. Xuth additionally cut down a bunch of branches from trees that were overgrowing into neighbor's yard and made me another box of mulch that I need to spread soon.
  • Edged, after the teenager mowed. Not carefully, just enough to make things look kinda neat and pretty.
  • Picked up all the applets. There were a lot. I didn't keep track, but maybe half of an 18 gallon bucket total? 5 days later and the ground is partially covered again. I wish it didn't annoy me so much to just leave them where they fall but I like walking around my yard and not stepping on bumpy rotten things.
  • Planted things: second seeding of cilantro to herb garden, ornamental kale for the front to fill some empty space, radish just because, spare iris rhizomes into a spot where dead hedge used to be, and clover/grass onto more bare patches. I've killed off some of the previous stuff I planted, so this time I mixed it up with compost and am hoping for better results.

Things to do:
  • Sidewalk still needs to happen, probably next month.
  • Trimming more low-hanging branches from our trees so as to not annoy neighbor too much, and also possible to let more light into the garden. Possibly remove the awkward dogwood tree. Ongoing but probably more next month as well.
  • Mow lawn. Because we just lost half our free labor to his own apt.
  • Put up the hammock and take a nap. Forgot to do that last weekend.
blk: (house)
People have been asking me about those pavers I talked about planting, so I went back in time and took pictures of what I did.

cut for pictures )

Two weeks later it's still holding up nicely, the dirt hasn't washed onto it too badly, and the baby clover is growing. The main problem so far is that it appears I put one of the pavers a fraction lower than the others, and it tends to collect water in heavy rains. And of course, come winter will be the test of whether it actually holds up to frozen ground. I suppose worse case is I dig it up and do it again. Total time working was about 2 hours, and now I know the theory for when I want to do something similar (on a much larger scale) in the front yard.
blk: (flower)
Hey, it's time to do State of the Yard posts again! Yay!

Springtime seemed to come suddenly in the second week of March. The first croci in my yard appeared on March 18. Somewhere around April 1 the next flowers bloomed: some mini daffodils ("Little Gem"?) I acquired from a sale easter pot last year. A week later, and most of my regular daffodils are also blooming. Wild alliums are out in full force. Forsythia is bright and shining. Hyacinths are... well, they're supposedly blooming, but the few I have really don't look very happy. Ah well. Two of my aspargi clumps have sent up shoots! But only two. I was worried last year that'd I'd lost half of them to the winter; it's looking like I lost more than half. Boo.

Things I have done:
  1. Fill a bag of yard waste. I had done a decent job of de-leafing last fall, but winter and wind means piles more get stuck up around things. Additionally, I finally got around to trimming the dead growth from the coreopsis and the sedum.
  2. S&D the bittercress while it's still early and I can defeat it. This year is looking pretty sparse on that front! Gardens not terrribly overrun.
  3. Plant cilantro and basil seedlings. I was too lazy to grow my own so I got some from geagle and dumped them in the ground. They are still alive.

Things to do:

  1. Mow. Not so much the lawn but the leaves and the wild onion, so I can bag it easier and also get a nice layer of mulch to dump in my compost over the mounds of un-decomposed food that's been sitting in there all winter. Est: Today!
  2. Clean off driveway. Now that the dead car is gone, I can do something about the old mounds of dirt and leaves and debris that has been covering the driveway, hopefully in time for people to play on it during pie party. Est: Today!
  3. Acquire plants! I neeeeeeed rosemary. And I'm mentally planning what vegetables to grow. If I was smart I would have planned two months ago, but I'm not. Fortunately I have several friends who are better gardeners than me who have spares. I'm currently craving kale, blue potatoes, and more brussels sprouts. And probably a pepper or two for Jim. Est: Next week through May
  4. Seed bare spots. We have a lot of them. Also the side of the house is nothing but weeds. I tried to grow grass last year and it mostly really didn't do well. I think I will try clover this year. Do something with the strip by the driveway which is mostly dirt and mud. Est: May
  5. Trim blueberry. I forgot to do this last year and now it is huge. I think I will wait until after it produces berries this year, then hack it back down to size. Est: July
  6. Plant rocks at shed entrance. It's basically a pit of mud and a leaf collection area. I think if I put some pavers down that will help it a lot come next winter. Est: Later
  7. Plant a sidewalk. We need a walkway between the sidewalk by the road and the sidewalk by the house. This will take planning. Est: Later
blk: (adult)
In just 3 more days, the Boy moves out of this house and into his dorm at Pitt. His mother is up here this weekend working on a massive bedroom cleanout project with him, which I am incredibly thankful for, because omg does it need it.

To help give a little sympathetic motivation, and also because this is the last weekend before school starts that all the kids are here, I also declared it bedroom cleaning day for my boys. "Day" only because this is the culmination of telling/warning them all summer that they were expected to do a full room cleaning like last summer, and they had all week to do as much cleaning independently as they wanted, but that today at noon I would actively get involved. I am very adamant that _I_ am not cleaning their rooms, but I do go in, sit down, and direct them as much as needed. This often involves detailed, step-by-step instructions such as "Pick up everything on your desk, one item at a time, and decide if you are keeping it or getting rid of it" and "If you are keeping it, where should it go?" and "OK now do the same for your shelves. Let's start at the bottom." It also included a dresser cleanout to get rid of unsuitable clothes, whether too small or unwanted1, and a good dusting and vacuuming.

This year's cleaning went MUCH easier than last year's cleaning, which was really nice. I think very much because 1) the rooms had been cleaned well only a year ago (and roughly cleaned occasionally in the middle), so there wasn't a huge backload of cruft, and 2) the boys knew a lot better what to expect from the process, and handled it better emotionally. All that cleaning was still pretty exhausting, even with a treat out to a nearby seafood buffet in the middle of things for a mid-afternoon break (mmmm, ayce salmon sashimi). I have a fantasy that this is also teaching them how to do their own housecleaning when I'm not around, but I'm not actually sure this will affect that at all.

This evening I contributed to the cleanout effort and rewarded myself at the same time by making up a fresh batch of blueberry lemonade (using up the last of the lemons and blueberries), and also finishing off two bottles of vodka2 so now all my liquor fits on one shelf again.

Mentally, I spent a while Friday and Saturday wrestling with myself, because since it's summer and nice weather and weekend, there are of course a zillion events happening that I skipped in order to clean house, several of which I was considering attending up until this morning. But in the end I accepted that if I didn't do this cleaning today it probably wouldn't happen this year, and it was something that I really feel better about having made happen. Between a lot of things happening lately (internal and external), I've been feeling like there's way more of a mess in the house lately than usual, and it's been stressing me out a lot. I'm hoping that this is the start of some improvements. And tomorrow I go back to making plans for myself again.

1 Current giveaways include a large bag full of size 12ish boys stuff, and a year 2000 Robobuggy tie-dyed T-shirt, size adult small. That shirt got a lot of use, and is still in reasonably good condition. I kind of hate to just ditch it, but I don't know who might want it.

2 That sounds more impressive than it was. There was a total of less than 3 oz in them.
blk: (flower2)
State of the Yard - May!

Columbine blooms are open! They started a couple days ago, just as the last of the muscari is dropping off. It turns out I have small patches ALL OVER the place. I am planning to offer bits of it to friends at the seedling swap this weekend. That, along with the mass of lithodora and one of the azalea bushes means plenty of pink and purple this month.

In upcoming, the front irises are purple buds, and the other azaleas have white and red buds. The lupin really took off this year and I see the green start of its buds. I don't know if I will get multiple colors or just one this year, as I'm not sure I have more than one plant. Peony bush is back with a vengeance and looks healthy. Apple trees have blossomed, blueberry bushes have blossomed. Teeny raspberry bush is slightly bigger than the few sticks it was last year. I have an accidental tree in the corner that I don't know what it is but I suspect it needs to be cut down.

Apart from the basil seedlings which got half chomped, the rest of them are doing well. I found things which looked a great deal like tomato seedlings in my flower garden, but now that they are taller I think I was mistaken. I don't know what they are, though. The planted grass is actually looking like grass.

I think it's late enough into spring that the things that were going to come back should be back. Which means it looks like, weirdly, I lost half my asparagus, as several of them are showing zero signs of new stalks. The large spirea against the back porch looks half dead and needs to be aggressively trimmed. Marigolds look have not successfully reseeded. Surprisingly, thyme seems to be not growing yet, although I'll give it another while before I am sure. Chard is not returning. Sad but not surprising.

Maintenance is back on summer schedule. Regular mowing. Hedge trimming soon. Attempting to keep up with the bindweed, at least among the strawberries and vegetables. Mostly resigned to letting it climb the lilies.

Almost smoothie (strawberry) season!
blk: (house)
omg it's been too long since I've posted and I have so many things to say. But mostly not now.

First State of the Yard post for 2014!

It was a late spring this year, and yet some things are tracking really closely to last year at this time. The daffodils have been blooming for a while, and this week I have muscari, lithodora, and yellow tulips that I bought at a sale last week. I mowed today for the first time this year, and parts of the lawn were actually long enough to need cut, although other parts were mostly just for mulching up weeds and dried leaves and wild allium.

Apple blossoms are appearing, and the pink azaleas look to be pretty close. Asparagus has been slow so far, but I finally saw the tip of a new stalk yesterday, so eventually it will come back. I found what looks like a few zillion cilantro seedlings in the herb garden, and about a half dozen tomato seedlings in my front flower garden (???).

When spring did come, it seemed to happen all at once, and last weekend we were finally in town and done with Carnival and weather was good, so I've been working at a bunch of stuff. In the past couple weeks, I've raked out and cleared dead stuff from the herb garden, planted new basil and rosemary (two basils have been completely nibbled so far), dug up a pile of some kind of weed, dug up a bunch of purple irises for redistribution next to the new retaining wall; raked out the front flower garden, dug up a ton of wild onion, planted some yellow tulips, dug up and moved the spirea bush I never liked, planted some purple hyacinths; raked the vegetable garden, planted some tomatoes and brussels sprouts seedlings (which have not been nibbled up yet), dug up the jungle of what I think is goutweed that had utterly taken over half my strawberry patch, planted new strawberries, uprooted a bunch of dandelions, trimmed the dogwood, and planted new grass in a large section of the front yard. Whew.

I seem to have mostly won the battle against the bittercress (!), as I've only seen a few stray plants here and there so far this year, and pulled them all before they seeded. I seem to be pretty doomed in my war against the bindweed, as it is already poking dozens of tendrils up around the vegetable garden, ready to start choking the plants there. Sigh. Steady dandelion patrols is keeping them under control pretty well.

Still to do: spread the leftover christmas wreath into the strawberries, spread other mulch into the flower garden, plant something along the side yard (clover?), plant more things into the vegetable garden, move the rest of the creeping iris patch, and line the new front flower patch. Bigger projects for sometime later (hopefully this summer) include building a walkway next to the driveway, installing rain barrels, repairing the compost heap, and removing the dogwood tree completely.
blk: (house)
Several months ago, we realized that our bedroom closet had a mouse+.

This is a large, walk-in, cedar-lined space that had been somewhat of a catch-all for various stuff over the years, including less-frequently used things like old luggage and winter coats as well as long dresses, art supplies, various things from our remodeling that hadn't found a new home, and other boxes of stuff. It was already overdue for a good cleanout, and the mouse evidence just made it slightly less ignorable. We put out poison to deal with the immediate problem, and continued to ignore the closet for a while longer.

Just before break, Xuth made the mistake of digging into it to get some bags to pack for vacation, and found a dead mouse, but also found that it and potential company had been quite comfortable back there for quite some time prior, living like kings off stolen cat food, stashing it in open bags, chewing on various things, nesting in the back, and doing some wood damage in the corners. So the cleanout task got bumped up higher. Finally, a couple days ago, I decided to attack it.

First task: remove everything. Closed boxes and bags had survived intact, but opened ones had been infiltrated. A box of old gear turned out to contain a live mouse. We successfully invited the mouse to leave the house, and discarded most of the box and its contents as toxic waste. Then I started pulling out clothes, only to notice that they dropped cat food when shaken. Horror dawned as I realized the mice had used the entire wardrobe as their personal amusement park for a long time. Food was everything, everything smelled, and many things had holes.

Second task: clean everything. For the clothing and some bags, I divided stuff into "washable," "not worth washing," and "survived intact." The last category pretty much was limited to a few leather things, a couple rain jackets, and some heavy canvas bags. I started on the first half dozen loads of special laundry while Xuth vacuumed, removed the closet moulding and sanded down the mousey areas. The closet survived with a few cracks but was returned successfully to a non-mousey closet state with some hard work. The clothes had more dubious success. Fortunately most of the things I cared about came out clean and intact from the wash, but a good number of things are significantly worse for the wear, including a now-chewed tapestry I hadn't figured out where to hang yet and one dress I took a chance on and ended up accidentally shrinking in the wash. I only had one significant loss, a beautifully colored sundress I'd only acquired (new!) a month or so ago, and had never yet worn, and now has significant holes. Parts may be salvageable, but I'm going to wait until I'm less upset to look at it carefully. Various other holey clothes were things I hadn't worn for years anyways.

Third task: refresh the closet. Since we can't do anything half-way, I figured that as long as the closet was empty and clean, it was way overdue for a real refreshing. Teh Intarwebs suggested the best way to do that was to clean, lightly sand, vacuum, clean, and rub in cedar oil. So on the 1st, in between other parties, we went to town with this. Xuth took care of the sanding, and I went to town with the rest of the cleaning. Rubbing the oil in went a lot slower than I realized, but I wanted to get it done so it could sit and dry thoroughly for a couple days before the weekend. I finally finished that up (with sore, cedar-smelling hands, an accidentally oily shirt, and a headache from fumes in a confined space) shortly before midnight. I vented the room a little while showering and fell into bed, glad to be done.

Fourth task (still to do): clean the bedroom. Figure out what will be kept and what will go elsewhere. Post items or schedule pickups for things that aren't trash. Organize the stuff that has been piling up on my desk for the last couple years and file things that need to be kept. Vacuum like mad. See about patching the tapestry. Put up more moulding to block closet guest entrance. Clean up all the other crap around the room that has accumulated. Occasionally glare balefully at the malfunctioning cat (who snoozed adorably under the covers on our bed through it all).

Whew. Happy new year?
blk: (house)
After a rather large amount of rain a couple months ago, my neighbor's retaining wall that keeps his yard from sliding into my yard finally crumbled and fell down. This was bad, as it meant the annoying business of replacing it needed to happen on a more immediate timeframe. On the other hand, it was good, because that damn wall had been leaning and slowly crumbling ever since I moved in 5+ years ago, and this past summer it had cracked so much we deemed it too unstable for small children to play near. (You can see the lean in the small part still standing in this picture.)

As a result, for about October there was a bunch of minor construction from my yard, and at the end of the month they finally finished. It's a lovely new wall! The crew even did a reasonable job of cleaning up my yard, although there are a lot of dead spots where things were piled, which I expected. Unfortunately the stubborn fennel is NOT one of the things that died. Oh well.

In the course of all this digging, the construction crew finished up with a small pile of extra topsoil, which, as a result of some conversation I wasn't part of and don't remember much of, ended up left on an 8x10-ish tarp in a corner of our yard, to use in some useful way. That much topsoil doesn't seem like a whole lot, until it's sitting on a part of the lawn I DIDN'T want to die, and needs to be moved. Kind of like just ONE apple tree doesn't seem like a terribly awful amount of apples, until they all fall. Urgh.

I started digging at it last weekend, putting some in a large bin, only to realize that I then couldn't move the bin. Further realizations were that a) this needed to get moved somehow if I wanted that grass to have any hope, and that would take effort and time, b) not only that, but I still had cleanup to do in the garden to close out the year, c) also the lawn needed another mowing, if just to get some of the leaves, d) the last city yard waste pickup day for this year was in a week, and e) I was completely out of daylight hours before then, as it's near dark when I get home after work now. I did some math with my work calendar and decided it would be worth it to take a day off work to tackle some of this, which I did today.

With the help of a cheap wagon acquired this week, I succeeded in spreading some of the dirt around to other parts of the yards, and the rest of it moved to a new pile in a place where I didn't mind it sitting for a while. Between all the trips and the bin I used, I estimate it was somewhere between 15 and 20 cubic feet of dirt, not counting all the rocks and concrete bits and roots (and glass) I dug out of it. The googles tell me that a single cubic foot of topsoil can be estimated around 100 lbs. Sheesh. I, um, might be sore tomorrow.

BUT I got all the gardens cleaned up, and the lawn mowed, and when the jboys came home they helped me stuff three bags full of leaves for pickup tomorrow AND I made myself process a bunch of the apples that have been sitting out there for way too long AND I did a shopping trip and made three meals and cuddled a cat. (And stayed mostly off of social media since it's been making me vaguely unhappy lately.) I feel productive and accomplished. The list of things to do tomorrow is still reasonably long, but it's all much easier stuff. Also doing stuff helps motivate me to do more stuff. It's a nice loop, that.
blk: (summer)
I don't have any one thing to say; I have a lot of little things.

1. I lost my ability to enjoy spinning in circles about 5 years ago, and as since have given up on things like contra dancing, which [livejournal.com profile] xuth enjoys regularly, but which will make me headachey and nauseated for the rest of the night after about half a dance. Upon recommendation from a friend, I took some dimenhydrinate and went dancing last night to see how it worked. I made it through 4 dances (not all in a row), and while the dizziness still came on strongly, it didn't make me feel icky, and it gradually went away without ill side effects. Hurray for science! Now I just have to figure out if I like contra dancing enough to go back.

2. I spent almost all of this summer helping the [livejournal.com profile] jboys clean out their rooms. By "clean" I mean, I'd sit down in their room, say "ok, today you're going to clean off your [desk]," and for every single $thing that existed in that area, we'd decide keep, give away, or throw away. Repeat dozens of more times for each other piece of furniture and drawer and box and area in the room. We went through toys and school artwork and old shoes and found things and organized things and talked about things. It was an exhausting process, but ended up with a lot of trash and a few boxes of things that got sold at a yard sale last week (along with a bunch of my stuff, and clothing from two different households). End result is more space in the house, a lot of stuff happily re-homed, about a dozen bags of clothing donated, a small amount of money made, and much, much cleaner kid bedrooms.

3. As part of my housecleaning project, I acquired a larger sectional couch and got rid of the two cushy green couches I've had for years. I moved two chairs into the place where the loveseat was, but now that they are there I've decided at least one won't work. Not sure yet if I'm on the lookout for another cushy armchair or another small loveseat.

4. On top of the bedroom cleaning project was a project to switch bedrooms between the oldest boy (who had a small office for a bedroom) and the youngest boy (who had the largest bedroom). I told them that I would support and help as long as both rooms got super cleaned and STAYED mostly cleaned. The switch happened successfully last weekend, and I stayed up late helping the younger one pack and moving his furniture. So far they both claim to be happy with it. I am SO done with cleaning other people's stuff for the next long while.

5. Due to the magic of multiple overlapping vacations and custody schedules, I am going to have Three! Whole! Days! All! To! Myself! next week. Nobody to clean up after or remind to do chores. Nobody to tell my schedule to or arrange things around. Nobody's food preferences to cook around. A totally quiet house to read in and wake up to. I am giddy with anticipation. I also have no idea what to do with myself. Got any suggestions?

6. My gardens have tomato, basil, and garlic growing in them (among other things). That, combined with our propensity towards rosemary bread, means I've had a lot of bruschetta lately. Deeelicious.

7. My compost pile, once again, has baby avocado trees growing in it. Four of them, this year. Anybody want them before they die in a few months? Also, apple season is about to start.

8. The last week of social and activity has involved several days of informal meals, eating leftovers and going out to be active in the evening, and has resulted in my dinners for several days being not much more than light snacks interspersed throughout the evening. Probably relatedly, my weight is slightly down and my body has felt particularly good and less-in-pain in the mornings than usual. This is somewhat unfortunate, as it's really difficult to just skip dinner when we have sit-down family dinners (which is most of the time). Also because I really like eating.

And your last tidbit for the day:

9. Observation I had lately: as a casual transitive verb, to "mother" someone is to care for, protect, and provide for. To "father" someone is to, well, simply take part in their procreation. Neither word has the connotation I particularly care for when talking about how to raise a child ("mother" is closer, but i feel as sometimes it gets too close to "smother"), although Marshall Jones (slam poet) has a nice take on it. I prefer to use "parent."
blk: (flower)
So many things to write about, so little time spent sitting and typing. I'll take the low-hanging fruit and do another State of the yard post: summer edition.

Things have continued to grow like crazy. For the flowers, the blooming purples and pinks seem to have given way to the oranges and yellows of daylilies and the coreopsis. The orange lilies, as usual, are tall and dense and are midway through their blooms. Haven't seen any taller than me yet but a few look close. The yellow and red lilies are later and have only just started. The sedum is sending out pre-flowery-looking ends, but is still all green.

For the edibles: the tomatoes had a brief aphid problem but are otherwise fine, and currently have many green fruit on them. The cilantro bolted some time ago and I'm just getting the straggler leaves and coriander now. Oregano is trying to take over everything, even after I ripped half of it out. I traded a clump for a tiny raspberry bush, so maybe next year we'll have additional berries. Applets are falling from the trees in large quantities, and many are over an inch in diameter - big enough that they get chipped up by the mower, so we have to weed them regularly. I picked up a hundred or so on thursday, as my slave labor doesn't get back here until next week. I transplanted a bunch of mystery squash things from the compost pile into actual dirt and two of those are doing quite well, and looking close to flowering.


Three varieties of blueberries
I have blueberries! I think this might be the first year in many where I haven't had a long vacation weekend right at peak blueberry time. I was a little lax about pruning the bushes last year, which basically means now I have infinite blueberries, as I just keep finding ones I'd missed, and climbing around in the brush is a bit annoying. I picked about two quarts in the past few days, almost exclusively off one of our sets of bushes. The second (x-large) kind is just starting to be ripe now, and the third (small) ones come a bit later. Anybody who would like to come over and do some more picking in the next couple weeks is welcome.

While in Schenley Park last week I happened across a women picking snacks from a tree. I investigated and found they were white mulberries, which I hadn't even known existed, and were quite tasty.

Temps have been in the 80s and lows in the upper 60s for the past week (and looking into next week), which is almost perfect summer weather for me: just a little uncomfortably hot during the day, but with breeze or clouds and a cold drink in the shade, it is pleasant. It could be improved with lower evening temps or more thunderstorms, but I guess I can't quite have it all. Unfortunately, most people I know (and live with) don't quite agree with me on the niceness of the weather, so we've turned on the (wimpy, mostly ineffective) AC a couple times so far on extra sunny days.
blk: (flower)
State of the yard post, late spring.

Last month:
Columbine flowered for almost all of May. Turns out I have two patches of dark purple and two patches of light purple. Might want to split those next year. I gave away two small starter patches. Irises bloomed a lovely purple in time for my parents to visit. Azalea bushes spent about a week each blooming pink, red, and white. Hedges started growing like crazy and I attacked them fiercely after they didn't listen when I nicely asked them to cut it out. This other flowery thing that I remember planting from seed last year but have no recollection of what it is started blooming pink (see pic) [edit: lupin].

This month:
Absolutely none of the things I planted came up this year, except for the lettuce, which is growing well and I've been snipping it off for salads. I suspect my seeds are all bad. So we acquired seedlings instead, from the store and from friends, and now the main garden has five different kinds of tomatoes (including some that were garden volunteers so I've no idea what they are, but probably the same type) and jalopenos. Cilantro reseeded itself splendidly, and that's nice and bushy and starting to bolt. We added in a couple new rosemary plants as it wasn't certain the big one survived. Swiss chard and marigolds both reseeded, and got transplanted to more useful locations. Garlic I forgot about is big and floppy and green and scaping. Radishes look to have reseeded (or I missed digging them up last year). Strawberries are berrying, but the crop is really quite wimpy and disappointing this year so far. Planning to try a pine needle mulch.

Around mid-May I noted that some new guests had moved into one of the apple trees in the front yard. I was a bad neighbor and climbed up every few days when it looked quiet to check on the progress. Just earlier this week I saw a birdling standing up on the edge of the nest. The next day it was empty.

The front yard is starting to fill with tiny applets which have fallen off the trees above them. In another couple weeks I'll make it another job for the boys to pick them up and compost them, as it gets messy when they turn to mush and get stepped on. Hoping that the large numbers on the trees will translate into Too Many Apples again in the fall, because that was a lot of fun last year.

Upcoming:
Blueberries are tiny and green but should be pickable within the month. I noticed a few squash-type things growing in the compost that I might transplant somewhere. Lilies are just growing their buds and should be in full bloom sometime next month. Neighbor says her mulberry tree is ready for picking, so we might try to do that this weekend.
blk: (flower)
Approximate state of the yard post, mostly for my records, since I found myself going back for years to try to figure out when things bloomed in the past.

Earlier this month:
The yellows start things out, with daffodils and forsythia starting their blooms. Most of the perennials have green stuff showing. The war against hairy bittercress starts up again. Chives growing quickly.

Last week:
Muscari blooms purple. Lithodora starts to bloom pink. Tulips in other yards bloom, but mine don't seem to have. Mowed the lawn for the first time this year, although the front yard long parts were primarily wild onion. Cut and ate my first homegrown asparagus stalk (yum). Began the yearly battle against the dandelions. Herb garden spontaneously re-sprouts little cilantro dicots. Oregano is already fully bushed out.

This week:
Apple blossoms appearing! Sampled a few more pieces of asparagus. Bittercress looks mostly under control as I haven't seen any new ones in a few days. Bindweed attacking the garden with a vengeance, grr. Mint appearing in impossible places. Our young birch tree, which had lost a few limbs to wind/snow last winter, suddenly dropped a big section of its main branch without provocation, which makes me think it's actually dying. Likely going to get a cherry tree to replace it, if we can get our act together soon enough.

Upcoming:
Columbine stalks reaching up and will probably flower next week. Pink azaleas look nearly ready to open. The white ones follow, and the reds after that. Still waiting to see signs of the other edibles I planted, although I saw a few dicots in the compost earlier today (before I tossed it).

I <3 spring!
blk: (sandwich)
There was this silly kitchen gadget meme going around a while ago that reminded me I was many months overdue to clean out my kitchen Stuff drawers and sort through things. Over the weekend I finally did so, and succeeded in thinning things just slightly. While everything was spread out on my table I decided to make a rough listing. So here are the various implements that we have in our kitchen.

this is kind of ridiculous )

And this list is AFTER the pruning session (I decided we didn't need a melon baller, for example), and not counting any of the camping stuff (which we keep separate). The part of me that wants to de-cruft my space and get rid of single-purpose Things looks at that list hopelessly and just boggles. But the other part reminds me that we actually USE all of these things! With the exception of about four things (skewers, zester, thermometer fork, and pressure cooker), everything on these lists has been used for its intended food-related purpose at least once in the past year. Some of these I don't use but others in the house do. Some of these things only get used rarely, but they do the job better than anything else. Some of these things I could not imagine being without anymore. (#1 for me: probably electric kettle. What's yours?)
blk: (house)
It has begun! Apple trees are producing apples again! First time since my first summer here, 4 years ago. Logging for my own history.

Applefalls from the last week yielded 5 lbs 3 oz of usable apples (and slightly more than that of underripe, rotten, eaten, or otherwise unusable ones). Only one tree appears to have ripe apples at the moment; the other one's are still smaller and green. No idea what kind they are; ripe ones appear to be about 2-3 inches in diameter, medium reddish. Texture is somewhat crisp; flavor is reasonably sweet. Perhaps Gala? Would match taste, color and est. ripening time period, so best guess so far.

As these apples wouldn't keep well, I decided to Fix Things. After a mad dash out to re-acquire my borrowed apple thingy (and borrow a cup of walnuts) from [livejournal.com profile] jude, I came back home and made mango apple salsa, Waldorf salad, kielbasa apple pasta casserole, and two trays of apple slices for dried apples (or possibly apple chips, although I think I made them too thick for that). I also made another batch of southwestern pasta salad, since I had leftover garden tomatoes, but that didn't have any apple. Of the 5+ lbs, I ended up with one apple leftover, which I cut up and ate dipped in honey. Yum.

I don't have Grand Plans for two trees full of apples, so if you are interested in coming by to say hi sometime in the next couple months, and want to bring a couple lbs home with you, I'm sure that can be arranged. As a caveat, these are not great for straight eating, as none are without some amount of bug-warping, squirrel-nibbling, and/or bruising. But if you are going to chop them up and can just cut around some of the less-good parts, they're just fine.

Alternately, do you know any good apple recipes? I'm somewhat more interested in non-desserty ones, as I'm sure there will be a pie, a crisp, sauce and butter at some point, but if you have one you swear by, send it my way! I also like experiments (as evidenced by dinner tonight), so odd-sounding ones could also be fun.

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