Archive for the ‘Garden’ Category

It’s strawberry season and we have a nice little crop from our garden. This morning in my usual Saturday morning tradition I made a batch of my oatmeal pancakes and served them with strawberries and cream.


Yummy cakes. Pottery by Upham Street Pottery

The recipe for the pancakes is very easy and forgiving to experimentation:

Oatmeal Pancakes
1 1/4 cup of buttermilk, plain kefir, drinkable yogurt or milk
1cup rolled oats (avoid quick oats)
A handful of ground walnuts
2 eggs
2 tbl canola or other flavorless oil
1/8 to 1/4 cup spelt flour or other light whole grain flour
1 tsp baking powder
Oil for the pan

Mix oats with milk/ yogurt/ kefir and let stand for at least 5 minutes. Add nuts and other ingredients. Use wisk or spoon for mixing. Ladle onto hot griddle or pan, cook until golden brown. Serve with strawberries and cream.

I often add frozen and lightly thawed raspberries right into the batter and just serve the cakes with syrup. This is really our staple version.

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I often need to look at previous posts or older pictures to remind myself of how much progress we are making. It’s been two months since my last post and although progress is slow, I can see that some things are getting done. Some have more progress than others.

Gutters: We ordered the gutter materials back in March so we could be ready to work on this project as soon as the beam was at a good stopping point. We have gotten one section of the porch roof installed without a down spout for now. This first section is our learning section. How much pitch do we need, rivets vs. crimping of the end cap and down spout transition, height of the gutter in relation to the roof edge, etc. We are very happy with this first section. The color is a perfect match to the trim and fascia and the gutter fits well. We may need to flash in the gutters but we figured that’s something we can do any time. We also learned that on the north side of the house, the long straight run, is higher in the front than the back. We installed the gutter parallel to the roof where it will have the right pitch.

First section of gutter along on side of the porch. No downspout yet but a splash block at the bottom.

Temporarily installed gutter along north side of house.

Beam: all the new beam parts and posts are in. We still need to connect the old beam to the new with bolts and threaded rod and put in spacers between the two parts of the beam but we are saving this work for a rainy day or a too hot to work outside summer day.

2 sets of double posts.

Two posts on one side and 1 post on the other plus a new beam under each side of the walls of the stairway.

Porch ceiling: I took down the porch ceiling last summer. The exercise started with me just planning on scraping the ceiling so we wouldn’t have lead paint chips in our dinner. I got so frustrated scraping that I promptly switched to pry bar and hammer and took down the ceiling. This spring we had a lot of birds visit our exposed rafters and one bird couple stayed and laid eggs. The European Starling is now raising four baby birds in our ceiling. We think the babies will fledge within the next week and we have started installing the ceiling. We got fir bead board that I finished in the same stain as the soffit. All I do is run the belt sander across the sides and hand sand the grooves. Then I just apply one coat of stain and let it dry. A. has been using trim screws through the tongue instead of nails. The ceiling joists are long and bouncy and nailing would have been too hard. A. also put in hurricane ties and other ties to bring our porch up to building standard.


Porch ceiling almost done, just waiting for the birds to fledge

I like the warm color of the natural beadboard finish

Garden: I have been plugging away at the garden. I built two small raised beds for the top of the retaining wall. I planted beans here in a row and will probably add some winter squash with a trellis. The idea here is to have the beans grow up on supports to make a visual screen from the ugly apartment building on the other side.

Raised beds with trellis for beans

This method seems to have worked well for our neighbors so I thought I’ll give it a try. The one thing I don’t like about our backyard is that it is totally exposed and that we have zero privacy back there. I don’t mind it so much for the garden but I would like to eventually have a permanent screen for the upper portion so we can hang out back there. In the garden, I am creating more space for vegetables. I have more tomatoes this year and I am utilizing more of the space around the perimeter for veggies. I have been removing more Daylilies and I am also trying to kill more grass by covering it up with cardboard and hay. I would like to not have to mow back there at all and even though the hay paths will require some maintenance every year, I hope that it takes less overall time than mowing every week.

Garden with more space for veggies. Paths are not quite done yet but getting there.

Some apples on the espalier Honey Crisp.

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We worked on putting up the posts and wires for the espalier trellis this weekend. We ended up buying metal conduit to go over the fence posts which also allowed us the level out the top of the posts.

Posts which I primed today and wire.

I bought some flat bamboo privacy fencing that I will cut up and wrap around each post. I think that will be a much better look that the metal posts. I also bought the trees yesterday: Honey Crisp, Haralson and a Collette Everbearing Pear. I hope to plant them tomorrow but it depends a bit on how much rain we will get tonight.

A. also worked on the window trim for the upstairs window. It looks really good.

Almost ready for siding to go up.

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I don’t have a very good before picture for this project but in the photo below you can see what looks like a hedge between the neighbors and our yard. The hedge is really one grape vine plant that gets covered with a volunteer climber every year. The grape vine grows very rigorously all summer long. When it runs out of vertical space, it grows along the ground. I cart loads and loads of cuttings to the yard waste site every summer and I am sick of it. It is not a good use of my gardening time.

The grape vine covered chain link fence is visible toward the lower left center.

My plan is to use the existing fence posts to support wires for 3 espalier apple trees. Last night, I started removing all the plant material from the fence. To my surprise, it was much easier than when it was actively growing.

I got this far:

All of the grape vine is removed.

Then today I decided that I should take advantage of the nice weather and get some more done on this project. Armed with diagonal cutters and sawzall, I removed the chain link and top fence bar. I also started digging out some of the roots, finding that the ground is still frozen in some spots.

Chain link removed

The posts are pretty ugly so I am trying to figure out if there is a way to dress them up. I am considering painting them, boxing them out with cedar or wrapping them with some kind of material.  Since I would like them to be a bit taller anyway, I am heavily leaning toward the wood option, which is also the most expensive version. I haven’t run my ideas by A. yet so maybe he can come up with something better.


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First tomatoes

It seems like tomatoes have been getting red really late this year. I am already battling blight and haven’t had a harvest yet. But finally last week, I spotted some red.

First sign of red.

First sign of red.

And then on Thursday, I just couldn’t wait any longer:

Two yummy Cherokee Purple tomatoes

Two yummy Cherokee Purple tomatoes

We ate them right away in a salad with basil and balsamic vinegar. Tasty.

Maybe due to the wet and cold we have been having, Wisconsin CSA and commercial growers have identified late blight on their crop. Here’s an article. I’ll have to do some research to better understand the difference between early and late blight.

The cool weather has been good for some plants, like brussel sprouts and peas started a second flowering. And we have lots of peppers, carrots and cukes. I also spotted eggplants. I can’t wait.

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