The Deck is Back!

We spend a LOT of time on our deck. It is a race track, drawing surface, and more. And it was looking, well, a little sad.  After nearly two years of heavy use, most of the stain had worn off of the high traffic areas. Our lovely landlords had it refinished, but the deck guy was very unreliable and it took a long time. Thankfully, it is finished now and the weather is nice enough that we can start playing on it again!

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Rex and Chloe romped up and down the newly finished deck yesterday before we put the furniture back on it.

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I also rearranged a bit, pulling some new toys outside. The basketball hoop previously lived at the end of the hallway.  The red rolling bin was downstairs in the play room, gathering stuff. We picked it up at a yard sale last summer and it lived next door as a sand/water bin. I’m planning to put sand in it again, as we had the idea to turn his little sandbox into a garden bed. The green/blue basket I bought last year, but never found a good use for it. Now it’s housing the outdoor balls. The white milk crate has a set of “dig digs” (bulldozer, excavator, and backhoe) that haven’t seen much love lately. I’m hoping that moving them will give them new life.

We also bring out a couple of ride-on toys when we’re playing, but since it is still raining fairly regularly, they have to live inside when they’re not in use. I have some ideas for building a covered “garage” so the vehicles can stay outside without getting ruined.

Also on the docket is a new gate to keep the kiddos safe (see half-assed gate in the first picture) as the old one was removed when the deck was repaired. (It was broken and due for replacement anyway.)  But more on that later.

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Complete, with Compost

The new garden beds are complete and filled with compost.

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With rain in the forecast, the urge to get outside and enjoy the last of the warmer weather today was overwhelming. It’s been a rough week around here for a variety of reasons (and it’s only Wednesday, Oy!), so some manual labor was a great anxiety-relieving activity.

The beds are filled with compost from a great local place called McFarlane’s Bark.  We picked it up a couple weekends ago when we took a load of yard debris for drop-off. Since then, it has been sitting in my garage, making it smell very… earthy.

Rex loved scooping and dumping dirt out of the trailer.  (Not that much of it actually made it into the wheelbarrow…)  He climbed the compost mound and spent a lot of time talking about the colors of our shovels. (“Mama shovel red! My shovel blue! Me up here! Me in dirt!”) You don’t know how fascinating shovels are until you’ve seen them through the eyes of a toddler.

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I think his favorite part was riding in the wheelbarrow. He had a total of eight rides back and fourth to the garage. (We paused in the middle to air up the tire and that just made his day.)

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The day culminated in a bubbly bath and tv with dinner. Sometimes, you have to go off-schedule for a day to reclaim some calm. I’m feeling much better after some time in the dirt and Rex does too. Give it a try. You won’t regret it.

New Garden Beds

We’ve been in this house nearly two years, but we’re coming up on our third planting season. I had success with Straw Bale Gardening last year, but my bales will not last a second season. The garden beds that came with this house have been sadly inadequate. They are small, differently sized, falling apart, and quite shaded. While I can’t change the placement, I can fix the rest.

I tried to repair them first, but the wood kept splitting and popping free. So I hit up a local cedar place and picked up some fencing boards on the cheap. I decided to up the bed size to 3’x6′ (they were 2’x5’2″ and 3’x5’2″) and just replace the rotting boards completely. I bought 1″x6″ standard grade cedar boards in 3′ and 6′ lengths. I also bought some 2″x2″ railing boards for the corner supports.

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I brought them home in the car (which smelled awesome) and dropped them in the garage. Now, the projects in the garage are lining up and there is still compost waiting to be unloaded in the trailer, so  I knew I needed to make this a priority project.

The allure of the garage for a two year old is incredible. He loves playing out there while I work on projects. I was able to saw the supports and screw the whole thing together in just a couple hours, even with the help of a toddler. He even handed me screws when I did the last parts on the floor. I made both beds 3’x6′ and used 1 1/4″x#8 wood screws that I had on hand, putting three in each end of each board.

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The beds won’t win any carpentry contests, but they’re sturdy and made from good material. It was getting dark as we finished, but we pulled up one of the garden beds and laid a new one down.

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This one is replacing the 2’x5′ bed.  You can see the second deteriorating bed to the right there. The ground is a bit uneven, so I need to purchase or fashion some stakes to hold the bed tight to the ground. The previous bed was built onto integrated stakes. I’ve got some landscaping style ones in mind, so a trip to the hardware store is in my near future. In the meantime, I can mark these guys off my list as built and move on to the next project.  Which, Rex informed me, is his train table.

But more on that soon.

In the Garden: July 18

I watched a seminar on straw bale gardening earlier in the year at a Home Show. The premise was fascinating and seemed pretty solid. With living in a rental, installing garden beds and killing large swaths of lawn is not an option. So, I bought the book and four straw bales and gave it a go.

The bales are positioned between rosebushes in the decorative border filled with bark that edges the yard.  One set of bales has tomatoes.  The left three plants are Mortgage Lifters from Liisa and the one on the far right is a cherry tomato variety called Juliet.

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The other set is half cucumbers (lemon and burpless bush varieties), half zucchini.

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I used yarn in place of wire between the fence poles and put old CDs on the top string to help fend off birds. The CDs are also doubling as plant markers.

I’m pretty pleased with the straw bale garden so far.  The cucumbers plants are huge and happy, the most success I’ve ever had with them! The tomatoes are a bit small, probably because I planted them a little late.  Now if I could just figure out what keeps eating the ends of my baby zucchinis, we’d be doing great. I’ve already lost three baby veggies to whatever is nomming on the ends.

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Besides the bales, I have one tiny garden bed that isn’t completely overrun with strawberry plants.  In this bed are two snap pea plants and one edamame plant.  The greenery not in cages are beets.  I also have a banana pepper and basil and mint plants in pots, but I forgot to get pictures of those.  I enjoy gardening, but I am thankful that I don’t have to try and feed my family on just what I can grow.

So what are you growing this year?

New Sandbox

Seven months ago, Woot had a fantastic sandbox for CHEAP.  Normally $129, they were selling it for $59 plus their normal $5 shipping/handling.  $65 for a kickin’ covered sandbox? Yes, please!  Since we acquired the sandbox in September, it hung out in the garage in its box for a while, waiting for the sunshine to return.  Yesterday, during naptime, I assembled the sandbox and today, we filled it!

2014-05-02 16.56.31Looking perplexed because the sandbox has no sand.

2014-05-03 16.59.16Digging in the sand happily.

 We also scored him a bicycle helmet for $10 from a great local bike store called Bike Gallery. They were clearancing last year’s colors and we found the perfect fitting one that just happened to have excavators and dump trucks on it.

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Little does he know, he’s getting a balance bike for his birthday. Please admire my self control for not giving it to him early.  I’ve had it assembled and stored downstairs for over a month. Patience is not my strong suit and it has taken a lot of control to leave it in storage…

Operation: Summer Fun

We spent the last three days helping assemble a play structure at our neighbors’ home. We had lots of “help” from the toddlers and all the parents participated.  Since we live right next to each other, this will be used a lot by both families. Chloe enjoyed spending three full days outside with lots of people throwing her frisbee and ball.


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The boys are thrilled and started climbing it before we could put the last screw in! It was totally worth the effort and (minor) injuries.  We have a couple accessories on order to add to it, but it is 99% complete. (I just realized that Sam isn’t in any of the pictures.  He was at work during a good portion of the building and spent the rest of the time helping manage overly “helpful” toddlers.)

Peas and Light

I don’t know about you, but I’m already dreaming of spring, sunshine, and the gardening that comes with it.  The seed catalog is dog-eared and marked up, there are gardening books littered around the living room, and I’m spending way too much time on the Pinterest gardening boards.

I took a seed inventory a few weeks ago and visited nearly every gardening/urban farm store in town. (Two of them had chickens, one had shop cats, one had a shop dog.  Rex had a great time.)   I held myself back and only purchased a few packs of seeds to add to my collection.  Some of those seeds happened to be the ones I could plant first: peas! (I know, I know.  I’m a little early for my growing zone.  But I just couldn’t help myself. And yes, I know I could just direct seed them when the time comes, but I like starts so much more.)

I planted on January 19th and BEHOLD!  It’s alive! MUHAHAHHAHAHAHA!

wpid-IMG_20140126_114414.jpgCascadia Snap Peas (Uprising Seeds)

wpid-IMG_20140126_114407.jpgMaestro Shelling Peas (Territorial Seed Co.)

Want to check out my super fancy seed setup?

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I spared no expense with my dollar store bins, newspaper pots (I used this tutorial on YouTube), and recycled lamp that was destined for the Goodwill. I purchased some “natural spectrum” CFLs ($12 for a 2-pack) to give my little green babies some happy light and keep my power bill down. (Seedlings need at least 12 hours of light a day, and there’s no way we’re getting that yet.  Plus, all of my well-lit windows are not plant friendly, aka dog, cat, and kid accessible).

What are you growing this year?