Sunday, November 5, 2017

Transition to the Winter Garden

Hi
Well it is that time of year again, where the summer plants are still trying to hang on but it is time to pull them out and start the winter crop. It is kind of sad when you have been enjoying the tomatoes and strawberries and well tomatoes... Here is what the tomatoes looked like when I pullled them out. Just a huge tangle of vines, with the last of the tomatoes on them..
The grow so fast!

The big grow bed with the squash plants didn't look much better... the leaves were mildewed and it was just time for them to be done. I got a huge wheelbarrow full of butternut squash though, so it was worth it.




The last of the vines... no ripe pumpkins, they all got eaten.. and the picture below is what it looked like from my deck.
My favorite winter crop is onions and garlic so they went in after ripping out all that mess. 
 They are sold in bundles of 50 for $4.99 - Rising Sun Nursery is my local place and I just love them! One thing I did different this year is instead of cramming them into the 4 x 8 boxes, I put them in the large planting area. They needed to have more space.
I spread the rows apart by at least 1 foot and spaced the plants at 6" apart. I also planted 15 garlic cloves along the back where the blocks are for the wall.


Red onions are in!
All the onions are in! 

I love the winter garden because if you get enough water and you plant at the right time.. you have very little work to do. I have also put seeds out for carrots and beets in one of the other beds. When people say that it is too much work to manage a garden, I suggest winter gardening. The return on investment is huge when you look at the cost of buying organic onions and garlic. I pay 10 cents a plant for the onions and nothing for the garlic, so it is all profit and very little work.

Julie

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Beautiful Weekend ! Sept 17, 2017

Hello!

It has been so hot this summer, that this weekend with only mid 80's for temperatures was just wonderful. I was able to work outside all day and not have to go in by 10 A.M. because of the heat. 

This weekend, I bought some American Wagyu beef from a ranch about 10 minutes away. I was really excited to finally try this and so I bought it online, and met the owner down the road from me to pick it up. Here is the link to the website American Wagyu Beef and some of the pictures of the beef I bought. 
Yes I got a little excited and ordered a lot! Good thing I have a chest freezer.

This sign is what I see every time I drive into Valley Springs

The ranch land where I picked up the meat.
I had a sirloin steak that night and OMG so better tasting than anything I have had from the supermarket. I ate it with a salad that I made of tomatoes, red onions and basil from my garden, with just a vinagrette as a dressing. Great dinner!

My garden this year has been better than ever, and once I finally got a handle on the vole population, things are starting to get ripe. The voles have been a menace in our county this year because the rain gave them so much to eat, their population exploded. Now, after trapping, shooting and poison, the population seems to be back to normal. One plant they won't eat is butter nut squash.. so I have actually picked wheelbarrow full of that!
Second harsvest... lots of squash

The squirrels were eating all my tomatoes so I covered them with bird netting and they finally produced this weekend! The plants are a mess though as we you can see below;

That is 7 plants that grew together

TOMATOES!
I planted 2 kinds of tomatoes, one is a small cherry tomato that is yellow, and the other is a canning tomato called Stupice that has a uniform size of about 2 inches. I had enough to actually try my hand at canning them so i did!
before canning 

Large quart jar I canned them whole
It takes some time to do that, you have to blanch them in hot water to get the skins off and then process them for 40 mins in a water bath canner. They have so much acid you don't need to use the pressure canner. I got 3 jars of them so we will see how they taste.

Julie

Sunday, August 20, 2017

New Project - Installing a Laundry Room Cabinet (July 2017)

Hello!

The projects last year with the bathroom and the kitchen remodel took almost 3 months to complete and were very intense, which led me to not want to tackle anything more than work in my garden. (In fact, some things are still left to do like put handles on the cabinets and touch-up painting, but the outside is too hard to resist!)
However, the laundry/office/back entry space has been mostly untouched since the remodel to my master bedroom. Bedroom and hall remodel 2010 The only thing that was done there was to texture the walls and paint. This room is really just a dumping ground and a pass through room, has it doesn't have a purpose except for laundry. My idea is to take out all the ugly shelves and put in some nicer ones with cabinets and such, and turn the room into an office space as well. Here are the before pictures, this is a big room by the way, so these are large shelf spaces.
This is  me trying to get a picture of the layout for you- large recessed shelves made of chip board and a funky laundry space

These shelves are 94" wide by 82" tall.. lots of space just not pretty.

Laundry room has these bifold doors

Took them off and gave them to Habitat ReStore. 
After cleaning out the shelves and dumping the junk and old tax returns, I wanted to replace the lone shelf above the washer and dryer with a true cabinet. I found one at Lowe's and bought it. Cabinet at Lowe's But to hang any cabinet you really need 2 people, and so I called my favorite helper, my dad, to come over. Mom and Dad have moved to a much smaller house, and don't need all of his old tools or to do all the things he used to do. He is updating some things because no one in our family can leave their house alone! He came over and we assembled it first, which is always the tricky part, and then hung the cabinet.
First we need to move out the washer and dryer.. or maybe just the dryer because the washer is too heavy!

 Tearing out the shelf took about 30 seconds... it was nailed into an support rail but pretty easy to take this out.
Hinge A goes into hole 3 and bracket f screws into the hypoteneuse of the circumference of the square of Pi. 

MORE HAMMER

Final assembly of the cabinet box

These cabinets use a "Z bracket" to hold them up.. I am not making this up! This is a board with a cut at an angle on one side that wedges into the back of the cabinet rail. It is a very strong hold! Important to affix this into the studs.. or your cabinet will fall down. AND OF COURSE MAKE IT LEVEL!

Finished product!
I wish this project went as well as these pictures lead you to believe it did. We actually got through it fairly fast but realized when I was installing the doors that it is too high. We can't open the doors all the way because they hit the wall above the opening. And if anyone is shorter than 5 foot 9 inches, they would not be able to use them. We will have to redo them eventually.. for now it looks good so we will leave it until he comes back to the house for a weekend.


Personal Note

The fire danger is still real up there, and I have had 3 fires that I have seen from my deck this year already. 


It is hard to imagine for those that don't live in an area like this, or who never had to   evacuate from a fire, but there is a kind of PTSD right now. I actually get choked up when I see a fire because I know that if it gets out of control, I can't stop it.  There is nothing that I can do and I could potentially lose everything that I have done to bring this house to where it is now. Whew... this is making me consider selling the house. But then I look at my garden and my greenhouse, my beautiful kitchen and bathroom and everything else that I have done to this house and think.. how can I leave? Sorry about this reflective stuff, it has been weighing on me lately.. HERE IS A SUNFLOWER TO MAKE IT ALL BETTER!


And one more sunflower!


Julie

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Preserving My Garden Crops - July 1st, 2017

Hello!

Summer heat has finally started showing up a couple of weeks ago, which means everything is growing like crazy! The winter crops finished up and I always have way too much to eat at one time ( I would have had twice as many carrots if it wasn't for a vole!) so today I thought I would share some of the things that I do.

By far the quickest and easiest way to keep anything is by freezing it, which is probably obvious to you as well.But how you freeze something really does matter as anyone who has had to throw food out because of freezer burn can tell you. When I was nearing the end of the citrus season and had too many lemons and blood oranges .. still... I decided to go ahead and juice them and freeze them. You can do this using an ice cube tray to freeze them and then pop them in a freezer bag. But I didn't have any ice cube trays so I decided to use my food saver and make a vacuum bag for the juice. Vacuum bags take out all the air and really do work better than a plain "freezer" storage bag. First I washed them all and then juiced them.. and then I measured the juice that was going into each bag. That way if I know I need 1 cup lemon juice for lemonade, I have it written down because I will never remember otherwise. I have used the food saver for freezing meat (of course!),veggies and now juice. It was a bit messy but the end result is awesome!

The other way to preserve your crop is to let it dry out or "cure" and the store it in a cooler dark place. With my onions and garlic, there is so much that I have to store them. The trick with these kinds of plants is to let them cure or dry out a bit before you store them. I have a few racks in my garage and I put my onions with the green stems still intact, on that rack for at least 2 weeks. Don't wash them! Just dig them up and lay them out and let them be.. 

Once they are cured you can clean them up by cutting the stems and roots and brushing them off. This year, I bought a storage bin off of etsy instead of my usual plastic tub. It looks good and there is good airflow which is important. Plus it looks great!











Finally, there is canning which can mean either via a standard water bath, like you would do for jams and jellies, or pressure canning. I was trying to figure out what to do with all my carrots and decided to can them using a pressure canner AND freeze them! I know that is crazy right? But there is a reason for both.. freezing is fast and canning lasts longer...  Here is how I did it. 
First, cleanliness is everything with canning and in case you didn't know this before, carrots grow in the dirt and are really messy. You have to wash them a few times and I like to use a scrubbing brush as well to get all of the dirt off. Now you know I am not afraid of a little dirt, but when you are canning that dirt has micrbes and bacteria that can make you sick. 
To make sure these pretty carrots got cleaned - I soaked them in the sink with a small amount of bleach. Basically a teaspoon and then I was sure they were clean...
Then you just have to cut them up the way you want to have them in the jars and I did both round slices and sticks.
Clean carrots waiting for their turn to be cut
Carrots cut up and being measured for the jars
And finally, after all that prep work, you put them in jars with some hot water and tiny bit of salt, and process them in the pressure canner. 

When you are done, you have jars of pretty carrots that don't need refrigeration and will stay tasty for a long, long time..

There are so many ways to preserve food, that you just need to figure out what works best for you. If you are short on time, freezing is the best way to go. But if you have an extra couple of hours, try canning. I really enjoy it.. 

Julie



Sunday, April 16, 2017

Spring Garden News 4/16/2017

Hello!

I am so sorry that I haven't posted in a while.. I started a new job at the beginning of the year and with all new jobs comes an increase in time allotted to the work "learning curve". It is another "start-up" in San Francisco and I am working with former colleagues from Riverbed. It felt like I was walking into a brand new house with the same old people, and that is great! 

Back to the house news - 

Rain, Rain, Rain! If you are in the USA you have probably heard about the epic proportions of rain we have gotten in California this year. Remember my moaning about the drought? Well it is over for now, but being a native Californian, I know it will return. The rain has been relentless and in fact this upcoming week, we are expected to get a little more. This means that I can have my regular veggie garden this year outside, along with my green house garden. 


Speaking of the greenhouse, I tried a new idea in one of the grow beds, planting strawberries. The one that gets the most light and heat, doesn't work for greens in our hot summer, and I decided to try a perennial there instead. Standard start to the process, go to the nursery and buy some ugly, brown starts and hope for the best. I have some outside as well so this is actually a good little experiment. At this point in the season, very early still, the strawberries in the grow beds are huge with a lot of berries! The true test will be how they taste. Tomatoes grown in the aquaponic bed didn't have much flavor, they really need to be in dirt. Lets see how these do in the taste category against their brethren in the dirt.


16 inches tall and the leaves measure 8 inches across..amazing!





Outside vs. Inside - the size of the greenhouse leaves are about double the outside.















I also had fun and planted a whole bunch of daffodils in the front yard..something I never would have done if the drought was still going on.
This year my normal onions and garlic are still going strong, but I planted carrots and turnips as well. They are doing great but probably the biggest winner has been the citrus trees so far..

Bok Choy, Carrots and Oranges from my garden


Fresh asparagus from my garden is just divine... I most of the time just eat it raw.

Overall, I am hoping for really good year.. and have started seeds for corn, squash, tomatoes... just a lot of things. Not to mention the berry patch! I will still use tight watering rules and my rain barrels as I can.. the wind is starting to howl outside and another bit of rain is coming. This makes me a very happy girl!

Julie

Monday, January 30, 2017

Bathroom Remodel- FINALLY DONE! - 1/22/17

Hello!

Well it is done... the bathroom and kitchen have been completed! (Okay, the kitchen has a few little things still but it is good enough for now!)


First - the Bathroom! 


Remember where I started? The bathroom was open to my master bedroom and it was falling apart. The picture on the left is how open it was and notice the lovely pink tile and the only light was from the hollywood bulbs over the vanity? The picture on the right is now, with a beautiful glass sliding door that leads into a light-filled room.

.

I love the glass door so much, and the fact that I bought it for $350 for the whole kit at Home Depot played a big part in that love. Here is the bathroom with the door closed, just to compare again..this was probably the one find that everyone who worked on the bathroom wanted to talk about! Even the glass guys who put in the shower door were interested in knowing where I got it.
And I can shut the door!

Also, the toilet and the shower were behind a broken pocket door, with a noisy fan that had only 1 bulb in it. The shower had two shower heads but neither was working by the time I started this project and I was actually using the hall bathroom!
Here are the before pictures again - the broken pocket door and the wallpaper and wainscoting.



















And here is what it look likes now!

There is a pony wall that is hiding the toilet and the shower is a walk-in with a tall glass partition. The large shower tile is the same as the floor tile which gives a sense of being bigger than it really is. I didn't enlarge the shower room at all, just made it better.






















I replaced the old fan with a solar tube with a built in fan and light kit. This picture above on the left is during the day with the light off! That is just sunlight coming through. On the right you can see the tile details in the shower. I used the glass tile as an accent and 1 x 1 inch mosaic in the niche and on the floor. Just to give it a little detail.
The old bathroom had a small closet in it, and I tore that out to make room for the new vanity. That is now a double sink vanity and I had enough room for a corner linen closet. These were custom-made for me by a local cabinet maker and I can't say enough about the quality!



Just a great experience overall - was there issues? Sure - like the wrong tile being delivered and then having to wait another week for the right one to show up. But the place feels so nice now, with lots of light and storage and everything works. Things I learned were that you can save a lot of money by working on a "time and material" basis and basically acting like the contractor. I bought all of the materials myself and directly paid the different workman that came in. I had a licensed contractor that was the main organizer, but he didn't buy materials and then turn around and charge me for them with a markup for his time. IF you have the inclination and knowledge, you can do this as well.

I will post an update on the bathroom next time..

Julie