Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend, or That time we hauled a lot of dirt

So ever since we moved into this house with it's ginormous backyard, we've known that we wanted to create a vegetable garden to teach the kids about where our food comes from, truly grow locally and seasonally, and mostly, just to enjoy (literally) the fruits (and veggies) of our labor. And ever since we started getting bids on landscaping the backyard and a lady suggested a terraced area in that corner, I knew what we were going to do. It took us the entire 4 days of Memorial Day weekend to complete it, but I think what we came up with is far better than I ever imagined. The specs on it are that it took nearly a pallet of bricks, 6 yards of planters dirt, 7 bags of compost, 2 strings of soaker hose (that doesn't get used), many sections of portable fencing (borrowed from the neighbors), the top section is 13 feet from the corner, the bottom is 16 feet, and the total planting area is approximately 201 square feet. Here are about a million pictures of the process and what all we're growing in this thing.

Kale really loved the wheel barrow. "Ride? Ride?!" He would ask, then when it was full he would "help" Jeff push it back into the back yard.

Working on the first layer of bricks. Amazingly it's pretty level all the way across.
What 6 yards (or two hydraulic trailers full) of dirt looks like when dumped on a much too small tarp on our driveway. Dumping the dirt was pretty easy, but getting a pallet of bricks off of the same trailer was quite the experience - it's a wonder we didn't break the entire load of bricks.

Haley had to go in and change her outfit to wear a cami top "like mommy". Then just for good measure made sure she had her butterfly wings on so that she could be our garden fairy. Also, she has on her good patent leather white shoes - they're highly conducive to working in a garden.

The diagram of the garden. If you're having a difficult time reading it, you should be able to click on it to make it bigger.

The top level all finished, and with Kale's pinwheel that seems to be keeping the birds out of the garden. Or, "Critters" as Haley calls them.

The bottom level.

We went to Harding Nursery for all of our plants. The starts were the biggest we'd seen in town and also really healthy (until I got my hands on them). This is my Roma tomato plant, all of my tomatoes and the Anaheim pepper came with fruit budding on them already.

These are the "Sweet One Millions" a hybrid of the Sweet One Hundreds, that's supposed to be heartier and produce more fruit. I don't know if there's a cherry tomato plant in this world that will produce enough for me plus the kids.

My "First Lady" tomatoes, also a hybrid of the Early Girls.

A blurry but point making photo of my first bloom... a sunflower.

As we call them in our house, the Greeny Beanys. We're going to get some wiring or mesh for the fence right there so that they have something to climb. these have taken off already with their blooms and buds. We have 4 total of these plants.

One of my beans closer up. This should give you a better idea of the blooms they're already starting to get.

Hopefully soon there will be some buds in this area too. It's supposed to be three rows of Sugar Snap Peas, or as Haley calls them Sugar Peas. It's only been about a week and we needed a bit of a learning curve to figure out watering out here, but hopefully they'll be popping up soon.

They called this a Salsa Pepper, but upon further review, it's an Anaheim Pepper. You'll note that there's already a pepper that's pretty big on it. Hopefully we'll get it to produce a few more. Aside from onions our garden is pretty set to produce everything we need for making our own salsa.

This is our red pepper - these things are so expensive in the grocery store, but really quite cheap to grow our own. As of this morning there were about 5 flowers and two tiny peppers starting to emerge. YUMMY!

These are our radishes. They had a pretty rough start, bearing the brunt of our watering skills (or lack there of), but have made up for lost time and are really starting to take off and do well. You can almost see them grow.

The strawberries. We were told that this year we might get 10 berries, but to pinch them off and next year they'll take off in my garden. Our goal is to be able to make our own jam out of these next year (and also snack on them). So it looks like we'll be buying them for one more year, then we should be seasonally self sufficient next year!

Many years ago, Jeff picked Atlas up from training in Idaho and the trainer had a gaggle of bush beans that grew like crazy into HUGE beans. He saved some seeds and we're giving them a shot this year. Another item we're praying pops up soon.

This is our Jack-O-Lantern plant. We bought this one started, but we also have planted a seed from our pumpkins from Halloween 2009 - we'll see what happens. I wish I would have taken this picture this morning, it has a HUGE orange flower that pops out on it in the morning but closes up by the afternoon.

My Zukes! We gave these and the Cukes a wide berth to grow and spread in the upper area and I hope that's what they do... I really want some homegrown zucchini with olive oil and garlic on the grill! Oh, and at dinner the other night we told the kids that the zucchini on their plates came from our garden and they ate it right up - this just might work!

The cucumbers. Yes, they look pitiful, but if you had seen them the other day, this looks like they've come back from the dead. Everyday as we water the snot out of them they look better and better.

I think I was most excited about doing basil. I had some last year but never ended up transplanting it out of it's bucket. This year they made it into a full garden - this is the sweet basil, and I've already used some of it in cooking... Oh Yummy!

I also did a start of Italian basil just to taste the difference... I definitely like the sweet basil better for most cooking, but it'll be fun to have some to put into spaghetti sauce.

There were some other projects that we completed over the course of Memorial Day weekend as well. Things that just needed done around this house to complete the overall look of things.
This is a lilac bush on the side of the yard we only see when we visit the neighbors. Our neighbor, however, sees it everyday and it's pretty plain, and covered in utility stuff. She has a gorgeous front yard that she has really improved this season and she found that she bought an extra lilac plant. Guess where it ended up? Hopefully it'll grow (quickly) and cover up all those utility things on the wall.

With this 4 day weekend, came heat like most people in Washington won't see in a lifetime over the course of a 4 day weekend. It was great! So we decided to finally install a ceiling fan in our room to help circulate the air conditioning. Sooo nice.

Our home has a large, tall front porch and the light that came with it was just disproportionately small, so we bought a nice bigger one. The funny thing is that it came with three lights up in there, and we had to unscrew two of them because when all three are lit up it's like daylight on our porch.

Since we were replacing the big light, we figured the rest of the lights probably needed done too. So this is the one that's just to the right when you're looking at the garage - it has a motion detector which is kind of nice, even though our room is on the other side of the house. On our (Jeff's) to do list is to install another one on the other side of the house (which will require drilling a fairly large hole in the house and playing with electricity - so glad I married a handy guy!), and replacing the cruddy jar lights by the two back doors with a smaller, non-paned version of this one.

After quite a few summers of backyard s'mores, our old fire pit was looking pretty sad so we decided to replace it with this one, which should look good on a patio someday.

And finally, last but not least, was this project. If you know one thing about Atlas, it's that if it's bigger than 1 foot vertical it's his by means of marking it. Ever since we got an air conditioner we've had chicken wire around this to keep him from peeing on it. I'm neurotically convinced that if he pees on something that sends air into my house, the air coming into my house will smell like pee eventually, thus the need to protect the A/C unit. Jeff built up an adorable cedar picket fence (he's kind of a pro at this), to keep him out of it. It still needs to be stained or painted (an ongoing discussion around here), but there it is, and it's so much better than the rebar and chicken wire that was protecting it.

So there you go, you're mostly caught up with what's going on around our house. It's taken us a year and a half, but we're finally starting to settle into this house and make it a home.