June 30, 2011

Project One of Two: Patio!

Okay, the image above is a 'before'. We've got TWO big outdoor projects we're trying to complete before July 4. Mission One (accepted): create a DIY low cost but elegant and functional patio. Our patio materials? Compacted stone dust lined with the cobblestone pavers. We chose stone dust because it can be used as a base for the blue stone patio we can't afford yet. First, Mr. Man dug out about 12 inches of dirt following the edges of my garden beds, pitching the slope away from the house.
He analyzed the elevation of the yard (our entire yard slopes significantly) using a laser level and determined we needed two steps down to the grass (based on 5 inch stone risers). He marked key elevations using bamboo stakes and put down weed blocker fabric. Then we (were you wondering where I came in?) unloaded a 1/2 pallet of antique cobblestones into the backyard.
Our cobblestones used to be in a road in Holyoke and were dug up many moons ago when asphalt was put down. Mr. Man has kept these lumbering large pieces of granite for over a decade. They are beautiful and HEAVY. I must be in better shape than I thought, because moving all these out of a basement wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. USE YOUR LEGS, NOT YOUR BACK!
Then we hauled in and dumped (via Mr. Man's SERIOUS truck) 3 cubic yards of stone dust. We temporarily removed part of our fence to get the stone dust actually IN the backyard.
Stone dust is great for now, because we can put blue stone on top of it eventually.  Mr. Man  leveled the surface with a long 2x4 and compacted it to make a nice steady surface for a table and chairs. Very Italian (we hope.) We still have a lot of work to do, but I didn't want to make you wait any longer for a general idea of what's going on. Here's where we are now! Ask any questions you have in the comments!!!!

June 29, 2011

Project Two of Two Reveal - SNEAK PEAK!

As I mentioned in a previous post, Mr. Man and I created an artificial deadline to kick our selves in our respective ASSES. An upcoming large(ish) fourth of July gathering has us working like cuh-razy to finish two large(ish) exterior projects.

I am 2/3 of the way through a long post explaining Project #1 (see dump truck above). And I just. can't. finish the last 1/3 right now. Maybe not enough coffee? Maybe because I can't lift my left arm without searing pain? Tomorrow, I swear. But to tide you over? A sneak peek reveal of Project #2. More tomorrow. I promise.

June 27, 2011

Artificial Deadlines

Mr Man and I created an artificial deadline to kick our selves in our respective ASSES. An upcoming large(ish) fourth of July gathering has us working like cuh-razy to finish two large(ish) exterior projects.

This plan is brilliant because? Work we would have picked away at all summer - like a mediocre dessert you were really excited about but fails to live up to your expectations - will now be complete and we can actually enjoy the fruits of our labor.
This plan is que stupido because? I am no where near a calm enough person to get through this with grace. Instead of 'om shanti' my brain frequents the path to 'ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod' land. Not only is being a freaky shallow breather not attractive? Apparently it's not good for your health either. 
So I dangle shiny things in front of my brain to bring it back to 'om shanti' and remember that no matter what my backyard looks like on July 4? I'll still be above ground and picky about tiramisu.

I'll explain the two projects and the photos in posts later this week.

June 24, 2011

Friday Farm Share: Camera Bag Edition

*Every Friday through the fall, Holyoke Home is sharing images from our weekly farm share at Mountain View Farm. I hope you enjoy seeing what the farm has to offer.*

In 5th grade, we'd head down to the library once a week for lessons on a Mac computer - probably donated to the school in an effort to create 'early brand support'.  It worked, because I've used Mac products ever since. When I got an iphone this year, I was eager to play around with the camera.  I recommend Camera Bag for iphone (I am not being paid to say this.) Their filters' cinematic qualities and retro-funk attitude does it for me.

For this week's farm share, I'm posting images I took with my iphone and edited in Camera Bag. And honestly? I think one of them looks WAY better than the original image.
 Bread! The staff of life! The perfect thing to have peanut butter on! We buy our bread at the farm from local baker El Jardin. They used to be located in Holyoke and we're getting close to forgiving them for leaving. Close. Very close.
 Mountain View planted this darling annual and perennial bed next to the share barn. It's been fun watching the plants get bigger each week!
This week was the first week for BEETS. Yum.  There are tons of ways to prepare beets, but 90% of the time I go with roasting, because a caramelized beet? Kind of amazing. What's your favorite thing to roast?

June 23, 2011

How 'Bout Here?

Hey Morgan! I'm sorry to interrupt your sun bath, but I need to finish painting the porch floor. Can you move please?
 (moves one foot to the left) Morgan: How 'bout here? Here good?

June 21, 2011

My List of DIY Skills Expands. To Six.

Delta Faucet Company paid for my airfare and travel expenses for two days in Indianapolis last week to participate in a blogger event. Delta did not require posts or content about their products. The opinions in this article are my own, and are only slightly influenced by Delta's smart and interesting staff, the free loofah and slippers, and the delicious food they served us. Delta, can I have that spinach/pea risotto recipe? Also? I swear in this post, so there's that.

My home renovation DIY skill set just grew from five:
1. Scrape/sand/prime surfaces 2. Demolition 3. Garden the *shit* out of stuff 4. Paint surfaces, and 5. Decorate interiors.
to six:
1. Scrape/sand/prime 2. Demo 3. Garden 4. Paint surfaces 5. Decorate, and 6. INSTALL PLUMBING FIXTURES. Speaking of counting, did you know Sesame Street's Count himself sings this song? 

So, what's the big deal, moving from five to six skills? It's this: Mr. Man is the silent partner here online, but frequent readers know he's in charge of the may-jah stuff. Who designed and installed our kitchen? Mr. Man. Who is working through our master bath venting/plumbing/electric, etc? Mr. Man.

I'm not belittling my contributions, I'm just saying there is a clear division of labor. But then I visited Delta and actually installed one of these in less than 15 minutes without the help of anyone but two other lovely ladies:
I rolled my eyes when they asked us to divide into groups because we were going to install faucets. I made peace with the fact that my only contributions would be to read the directions and provide witty commentary. I want to tell you something: if I can do it? You. Can. Do. It.

I came home inspired to not be fearful of power equipment, and (with the exception of things that require electric or plumbing permits) to just try it. Just try it. Because I might be surprised. So you? You try it too. But DON'T do the other thing I did while at Delta Faucet: have a scandalous affair with one of these:
Handsome devil. We'll always have Indy.

June 20, 2011

From 'High Security' fence to Lush and Green

When we moved into our Holyoke home two years ago, the front garden (contained by a bizarre fence) included one giant, well-trimmed rhododendron dying to be fertilized, a multitude of lily of the valley, a big green hosta or two, and lots of sedum.

We pulled out the fence, fertilized the hell out of the rhododendron, divided the hosta, and moved the sedum to three big clumps in the backyard. We also dug up the lily of the valley and donated it to a local plant sale. Here's what it looks like today:
I decided on a purple/chartreuse/orange color scheme, and I tried to think about when things bloom, so there would always be something pretty to look at. Here's what's what:
The tulips and daffodils (spelled wrong in the photo - I am too tired to fix it) bloom in the spring while the hosta are making themselves known. Then day lilies (orange) and echinacea (pale purple and orange), butterfly bush (purple) hardy hibiscus (white and deep orange), and finally the mums (deep orange.)

Now that the garden is kind-of decent, all I can see is how much I hate the front porch colors. But that project will have to wait. I'll share 'why' in a few weeks. Later this week, I'll tell you about a few really nice days I spend in Indianapolis.

June 17, 2011

Firday Farm Share, Week 3

Before I get back to the front garden, it's time for Friday Farm Share - Week 3. Every Friday through the fall, Holyoke Home is sharing images from our weekly farm share at Mountain View Farm. I hope you enjoy seeing what the farm has to offer.

Mountain View adds sweetness to our visits by putting beautiful flowers here and there.
 It's not at all unusual to find tiny bouquets around the share room - of flowers from the cutting beds.
 New this season? Local grass-fed beef and I-don't-know-how-they're-fed pork.
Have you ever had roasted Cauliflower? 450 degrees, some EVOO, salt and pepper, maybe some Mediterranean spices? Yum.
New this week? Chinese cabbage. I could LIVE on this salad during the summer: Chop a head of Chinese cabbage, add some chopped peanuts, cilantro, mint, scallions and cucumber. Then make a spicy vinaigrette with rice wine vinegar, fish sauce and sesame oil. Toss everything together and season to taste with salt and pepper flakes. Yum!
 Have a great weekend!

June 15, 2011

Enough of the Back Yard, What About the Front?

You guys. Guess what? Holyoke Home also has a FRONT yard! I know. You haven't heard bupkis about it because I've been all about the back yard lately. Well - That trend ends now. Mr. Man and I tore out the ri-DONC-ulous fence last year.
 WHY would you put a 4 foot fence around a front 'yard' that's maybe 40 square feet? Whatever. Here's what we were left with. Say hi to Morgan!
I planted LOTS of perennials. Here’s what it looks like now.
I'll break down the plants in the next post!

June 10, 2011

Friday Farm Share: How Does Farm Share Pick-up Work?

Picking up a weekly farm share is easy. But if you're having a week like I am? You accidentally leave your farm approved share bag (for measuring your veggies) at home and slap your forehead mightily in the car whilst saying: "D'OH!" Then you remember the farm usually has a few extra bags around and feel kind of silly for slapping yourself.
When you get to the farm, check the u-pick board and gauge how much you will sweat while picking.  Weigh the 'sweat quotient' against the 'yummy/pretty quotient', and decide what you will pick.
NOTE: unless strawberries or raspberries are on the u-pick board; you pick those no matter how sweaty you get.

Then you go inside and see what's on the share board and pick up your veggies!
On the way home, you have a little tradition of stopping for iced coffee. Because that's how you roll.

June 9, 2011

A Closer Look at the Garden III

Earlier this week, I started an up 'close and personal' tour of our garden and offered you a second segment yesterday with sangria. BOY! You ladies can DRINK! Okay, now that we're a little tipsy, let's finish the tour and go lay down for a nap.
The south side of our garden gets the most consistent sun throughout the day. So no shade-preferring hostas or heuchera here. Instead, lots of bulbs (daffodils, iris, tulips, allium) and sun loving clumps of coreopsis, camomile, lavendar, black-eyed susans, and sedum.
Columbine is another favorite plant. Like heuchera, columbine make their appearance in early spring, and stay vibrant through hard frost. These pink ones are wild columbine seeds my dad collected on a walk in the woods. AND, I just received seeds from a lovely orange variety that I planted in some bare spots. Having guests over for July 4. Think they'll be up by then?

Okay. Time for a nap.

June 8, 2011

A Closer Look at the Garden II

Earlier this week, I started an up 'close and personal' tour of our garden area. Today, we continue our lazy walk around my small(ish) backyard. If you were really here? I would offer you a cold adult beverage. Do you prefer white or red sangria?
Today, we're at the back of the garden. The back of the garden is tricky for a few reasons. First, it's where our backyard begins a verrry precipitous drop-off, so plants must..........not be lean-y. Second, the back of the garden is under TWO Norway maple trees.
*****Norway Maple Aside*********Norway Maples are an invasive species in New England. Their canopy of leaves is SOOOO dense as to pretty much prohibit anything native from growing underneath. The soil under a Norway maple is PARCHED because very little water trickles through the dense canopy.
******End of Norway Maple Aside*******
Third (remember, we are counting reasons why I have backyard drama), the sun passes OVER the Norway maples in late afternoon and shines it's hottest sun on the SAME plants that must tolerate shade and dry soil. So the back of the garden is a work in progress. The only plants that have thrived? Ballsy phlox, one stubborn fern, and something else that I didn't mark and don't remember.
Boy! You finished that sangria FAST! Ready for a refill?

June 6, 2011

A Closer Look

Usually I show you the garden from up on the back porch - the forest through the trees, so to speak. But down IN the garden has an entirely different view.  This week, let's take a walk around the garden while I highlight a few plants.
That frothy green mound close to the camera? That's our new GREEN Japanese maple. Isn't it cute? The feathery leaves provide a nice contrast to more substantive plants nearby, and the branches tend to aim toward the ground, creating a droopy but airy effect. I think it grows to 10 feet tall? Don't quote me. Behind and to its right is rhubarb. I planted it last year, which means we can start eating it next year. Rhubarb likes a few years to get settled in before you start pulling stems for pies and compote. I've heard rhubarb is fussy - so I'm very pleased it seems so happy.
My goal is to have the beds FILLED with plants. Remember, this garden is only two years old, so I still have 'holes' with plenty of mulch showing. One trick? I put pots in the garden to cover empty spots while I wait for everything to fill in. (In two more years, I'll probably whine about the lack of space.) That's coleus and purple sweet potato vine in the red pot. In front of the pot? A plant I HIGHLY recommend: heuchera (a.k.a. coralbells.) Heuchera comes in many colors, is as hearty as a Cuban sandwich, and is one of the first plants to perk up in the spring, providing highly cherished color after all those months and months of brown.
This is the back left corner of the garden. This part of the garden sits under not one, but TWO Norway maple trees, so everything here needs to be drought tolerant, shade loving, and willing to live through 2-3 hours of hot late afternoon sun. That's a lot to ask of a plant.

I LOVE the anise hyssop bush closest to the camera. They are a pretty chartreuse, smell lovely, and bees and butterflies dance around their long-lasting pink flowers in late summer. I've heard hyssop spread like crazy, but haven't experienced that (yet.) Behind the hyssop, I created a hosta menagerie, putting three different kinds of hosta in a clump. Not sure about the effect (yet.)

That's all for now!  More garden in the next post. In the mean time, I'm happy to answer any questions you have about plants in the pictures!

June 3, 2011

Friday Farm Share! Welcome to the 2011 Season!

We are in the car. We are giddy. Giggling. Smiling.

We are on our way to the farm.

For those of you new(ish) to Holyoke Home, every Friday through (roughly) Thanksgiving, we will post pictures from our weekly CSA share pick-up at Mountain View Farm in Easthampton, Massachusetts. We began this tradition last year and our 2011 season started this week. The veggies were to die for. I wanted to NOM NOM NOM this clump of radishes.
 Mountain View added some darling art to the kids area.
 The U-pick flowers are coming in beautifully.
 And I am still drawn to the farm machinery, be it well worn:
Or shiny new!
Come back next Friday to see what the farm has to offer!