Thursday, December 27, 2018

Christmas Eve 2018

This was as close as it gets to a perfect day!  Sunshine without frost to start, and time to work on a garden project.  I could have cleaned my house, but as a native Washingtonian, when the sun shines, I can't stay inside.
So it seemed a perfect day to tackle my grape arbor/garden fence. Nothing puts out more vines than grapes and when they are covered with leaves and grapes, and even the netting I put over them to keep birds out, they are impossible to contain.  Even now, they are  a bit daunting.....but since I only use them to have leaves for my pickles, I figured I couldn't go too far wrong.  My main goal was to keep them from covering the driveway and the garden.  So when I prune them, I am pretty ruthless.
So after the first step of cutting back all the vines to the fence line, I used the tractor to pick up all the downed vines.
So my burn pile is maxed out and the next step is to burn it.
I have winter rye planted in all the tilled garden areas except for my little garlic patch.  You can see the garlic is coming up nicely.
The swans are back on the lake.
We've collected a pile of rocks for the children to toss in the lake this summer, the grass is coming up, 
We have a new carport with a view,
a few trees came down in the wind storm, but missed all the buildings,
and my two week old Christmas bouquet is still bringing me joy!
We made it past the shortest day of the year, so every day gets lighter and brighter.  New Year's resolutions are in place, and we're looking forward to 2019!

Friday, October 5, 2018

Deferred Maintenance

        Our log house on the lake was built in the 1940's and our family has been connected to it since my folks went out on a limb to buy it in 1959.  At that time, it was a vacation cabin with stumps for a foundation, and constructed with whatever building materials could be found.  The road to access the house was a narrow dirt lane with blackberries overhanging it to where you scratched your car to get to it.  My folks sold the house in 1975, and it was out of the family hands for the next 10 years.  However it always held a place in our hearts because my siblings and I spent a lot of our formative years struggling to live without electricity or indoor plumbing.  While my parents commuted over 60 miles each way to work, us kids planted the gardens, canned veggies, did maintenance tasks, and most importantly swam in the lake and played in the woods. 
       My folks saved the house the first time by digging under it and putting in a proper foundation and a daylight basement in 1963. At that time electricity was brought from the road, and the old power plant and kerosene lamps were replaced with bright new lights.  Luxury in those days seemed pretty simple. My folks retired and sold the house in 1975, and deferred maintenance piled up everywhere.
       When my husband and I were able to buy the house in 1985, we saved it a second time when we replaced the failing, sagging, original roof with a completely new one - all the way from the top of the walls to the peak. All our spare time was spent either inside on the house or outside on the property to make it better.
We finally had to get rid of one problem tree that hung over the power line and whose roots had grown through our water lines twice.  Ron spent a couple of weeks splitting all the firewood from the tree, I've been moving the mulch from the branches to all the flower beds.  The mulch pile is down to a fraction of where it started, and the flower beds are looking pretty good.
I used a lot of the mulch to mulch the raspberry patch and cut back my dahlia garden and mulched it too.  
After we finished the massive job of chinking the entire house (for the first time ever!) we stained it all.  We managed to do both jobs without either one of us falling off a ladder, so it's all good. 
In the meantime, we've painted the entire basement - I'm liking the color in the bathrooms - until now, we've painted walls everywhere in some shade of white.  
The built in breakfast nook settee is out to the upholsterers for repair and recovering, but it should be back soon.  Then we can finish the work on the upstairs interior.  We should be ready to offer the house to the vacation rental market by the first of November.
In the meantime, I've been harvesting in the garden - this sunflower is ready, but I may need a ladder to get to it.  
I did harvest one of the smaller ones, some pumpkins, and the last of the cucumbers to make my last jar of dill pickles for the year.
We should still have tomatoes for quite a while as I bring a few in from the greenhouse every day. It definitely has been a busy couple of months.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Let the chinking begin

Chinking these days is done with foam material.  We ordered a 500' roll of 1" foam to do our chinking.  In the past, chinking was done with rocks, sand, hair, leaves, old rags, whatever was at hand to fill the cracks between logs.  We cut some of the foam lengthwise to fill cracks that varied in size.  Some had to be nailed in with a nail gun and finishing nails, some could be stuffed into the crack with a putty knife.  
Once the chinking was done, we moved on to "daubing".  For this we used a material called "Permachink" which is a mortar mix that is a bit more pliable than cement mortar as it has a silicone additive.  We bought a couple of essential tools:  A refillable caulking gun, and a plate with a screw hole the size of the end of the caulk gun that fit over the 5 gallon bucket of Permachink. This tool moved down in the bucket as the material was sucked out, so it kept a seal on top of the mix in the bucket. I wasn't strong enough to fill the caulk gun so that became solely Ron's job.
We developed a procedure that worked pretty well.  We both worked on chinking, then Ron squeezed the Permachink material over the foam.  I followed with a putty knife smoothing out the material and then used a paintbrush and water to give a final touch to seal the edges and make it look nice.
  While not rocket science, it is a huge job to chink an entire house! We used up the first five gallons of Permachink on the little section under the window on the back porch.  We ordered 10 more buckets of chink.  It took us four days to do the first side - but at our age, we only work about 6 hour days.

We moved onto the other "easy" side of the house facing the lake on the 5th day.  We were coming down a pretty nice improvement curve and finished that side in three more days.  So far we had been working on nice flat decks, with a little overhead work, but all could be done from a nice safe step stool.
Now we got to the steeper part of the house and bigger ladders became a part of our work.  But we've got the work down and are working faster and better, so we finished this side in just two days.

The final side of the house is without a doubt, the scariest. 
Probably not OSHA approved - but it was surprisingly stable and we are nearly done with the last side of the house.  It takes about 2 to 5 weeks to completely cure, so when it's ready, we'll restain the entire house and it should be good to go for our lifetime.  It is becoming much more clear why the previous four owners of this house never did chink it.

Monday, August 13, 2018

You never miss the water until the well runs dry.

We woke up at midnight to find we had no water.  Yikes!  So we wandered around in the dark looking for faucets that could have been left on (no luck) and realized that the well had run dry.
Fortunately, we have a backup system where we can turn a valve and switch to the lake irrigation system water.  When we switched, the lake pump never quit running, so we knew we had a serious leak somewhere.  The lake is an unlimited supply of water, so we left the pump running all night so that we could still have water.  After we did that at midnight, we tried to sleep while we waited for light. When we got up this morning, we isolated the problem to the log house, so we started digging.
Fortunately we have tools so it wasn't all done by hand, but we had to avoid propane lines, phone lines, and power lines that also cross the yard where we have water lines for both the lake system and the well system.
That tiny yellow line is the propane line - we managed to find it and the phone line without damaging them.
 The exposed pipe is from an old water line - this house was built in 1940, and water piped from the lake in the years before the well was installed.  As we dug, we had to identify every line we found to avoid destroying something we still use.
We found the leak at the very end of the line - when we were just about ready to give up - When you have the most perkable soils in the history of the world, you have to be within a foot of a 5000 gallon leak to see any evidence of it. 
The leak is repaired, but both of us may need a few hours of rest to get ourselves repaired.  We can cover up our digging tomorrow!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

A Visit to "The Key"

My sister, Anne, who had lived in Alaska since she was a teenager (30+ years) has the greenest of green thumbs.  Even in Alaska, she had a garden that rivaled anything I saw anywhere.  Now that she is living on Key Peninsula in Washington State, her horticulture skills can really thrive.  This wall of tomatoes she started from seed and has to have thousands of tomatoes ranging from green to ruby red.  
She has made this little campsite wonderfully welcoming.
Notice the queen size bed - there is also a couch, and a nice camp kitchen.  Comfortable chairs surround a campfire, and woods surround the campsite.  Glamping at its best!
Her garden area last year was a thicket of blackberry and salmon berry brush. She has an amazing variety of vegetables ready to eat, and many exotic flowers that she started from seed!
The decorative artichoke in the center has a beautiful lavendar bloom:
Here's one in bloom.
Anne and Scott have brought an abandoned house and overgrown acreage back into a beautiful small farm, and I can rest easier knowing that my step-dad, Dick, is in good caring hands. 
He has always loved animals, so it is wonderful to have him surrounded by people and animals that love him.  Scott has totally remodeled the old house to have handicap access to everything and Dick can be safe both inside and out.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Flowers that Thrive on Neglect

I've heard that the acidity of the water you put on hydrangea makes the color.  So no water at all must mean bright blue. This one is at our old house, and I can barely keep up with watering at the new house in this hot dry year.
I used to have over 50 different dahlias, but I used to dig the bulbs every year and carefully identify them and store them in the basement.  When I quit digging them, the varieties narrowed to the ones that can survive in the ground all winter.  This is one of my favorites - Called Key West when I bought the bulb years ago.
This one is called Oenesta - very hardy and the bees love the abundant blooms.
This dark red nameless dahlia came from my friend, Bill.  It is very hardy, has abundant blooms, but kind of weak stems so it isn't that great for bouquets.
Plate dahlia - I've forgotten the name - very strong stems, lots of blooms, and it comes back every year.
Duet - I used to have a plate dahlia with these colors, but haven't seen it bloom for several year.  This one bloomed for the first time this year after several years without blooming.
This one might be a cross - don't recall it from the past.
My friend, Karen, gave me several lilies, and I'm just loving them!  Easy to grow, they smell wonderful, and they are very drought tolerant.

Gladiolas are showy and don't require much tending.  I have many varieties blooming and many more that haven't bloomed yet.  It really is my favorite time of year, even though it keeps me very busy keeping some water on everything.