Summer to-dos done

Is anyone else mourning the passing of summer like I am? While it seems like summer ends with Labour Day, I’ve been holding on to my favourite season. However, as of yesterday, I can no longer pretend. Fall is officially here.

Three months ago, I posted four projects that I was hoping to accomplish over the summer. You know how I like to hold myself accountable. So let’s see how I did.

Project #1: Build a closet in the basement

Done. This one felt so easy it surprised me. Doing the drywall in the basement the first time around was a massive job. I was not looking forward to doing any drywall at any time ever again. However, this time around I was doing such small areas that it seemed like it took next to no time to put on a coat of paste.

This area has given Matt a tonne of extra storage, and the basement is (almost) tidy and organized. I’m only sharing a progress shot because the closet holds Matt’s stuff and I like to give him his privacy. But trust that it is done.

Drywalling the laundry room

Project #2: Sand scrabble tiles

Done. I can’t wait to share these with all of you. Sanding 16 wood tiles was the definition of not fun DIY. However, the end product is (spoiler alert) awesome.

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Weekend craft project underway

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Project #3: Strip paint off the guest room bed

Done. Okay I’m calling this one done, but it’s more like I gave up halfway through. The metal underneath the drippy, chippy spraypaint is not in good shape. So after stripping the headboard and side rails I decided to skip the footboard and just repaint everything. I’ve just been waiting for the weather to cool down enough to be able to paint (not a project for the summer to-do list).

Stripping paint off a vintage metal bedframe

Maybe project #4: Makeover office cabinet

Not done. This was a maybe project from the beginning, so I don’t feel bad about not finishing it. Although I do really, really, really want to put my office together.

Perhaps a project for the fall to-do list…

However, I’m still in denial about it being fall, so I’m not prepared to write a list quite yet.

How are you feeling about the changing seasons? What did you accomplish this summer? Are you thinking about fall to-dos yet?

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How we installed a waterline for the vegetable garden

A big to-do on the garden task list is now done. We finally have a hose at the garden… and I’m so happy to cross this one off the list.

Hose in the vegetable garden

With the lack of rain we had this summer, we watered the garden a lot. However, the closest hose was at the driveshed. That was three hose-lengths away. I had screwed the hoses together back in the spring, and most of the time we kept them laid out across the yard. But any time I had to wind them up (like every time we cut the grass) it was a heavy haul.

Adding a tap at the garden was one of my Home Goals 2016. I already shared a bit of the misery that was digging the trench from the driveshed to the garden (ground so hard, summer so hot, rocks and roots so many, garden so, so, so far away).

Trenching a waterline to the garden

When I measured the trench, it came out a bit more than 100 feet. I spent a week visiting various home improvement stores and then specialty plumbing suppliers trying to find someone who would sell me 110 feet of irrigation pipe. All I could find was 100-foot or 400-foot coils. Ugh.

I bought 100 feet and crossed my fingers that we could splice on a small extra piece we had at the farm already and still make it to the garden.

But it turned out I was worried for nothing. When Matt and I unrolled the pipe and laid it in the trench, it easily reached the garden. Thank goodness for small wins.

The other thing I was worried about was our plumbing abilities. I had a plan, but I wasn’t sure if it was actually going to work.

We dug down to the waterline that ran to the hose at the driveshed. After turning off the water, I took a deep breath and cut through the waterline with the hacksaw. So much for my brand new work gloves.

Cutting a waterline with a hacksaw

Then we inserted a T. A note about these connections. They fit super, super tightly. We boiled the kettle and then Matt poured the hot water over the pipe and that softened the plastic enough that I was able to wedge the fitting into place. The clamps on either side provide extra insurance to hold everything together and prevent leaks

Adding a T connection on a waterline

From there, it was easy to connect our new 100 feet of pipe.

Running a waterline for a garden hose

At the garden, the pipe sneaks under the brick threshold at the gate and up the post. Look how much pipe we had. Exactly the perfect length. And look at the water flowing. We did it! And there are no leaks! Big wins all around!

Adding a hose at the vegetable garden

Backfilling the trench was much easier than digging it out. Wiley helped which was huge.

Backfilling the trench with the tractor

Baxter did not help. In fact he staged a sit-in (lie-in) to protest when Matt started to put the sod back down. “Dirt is good, dude.”

Baxter lying in the dirt

The finishing touches were clamping the waterline to the fence post and then installing a hose hanger.

Rather than a typical hanger, I wanted to try a metal bucket. I’ve seen a few other people do this, and I figured it would give us a place to stash nozzles or maybe even some garden tools.

Again, I spent some time running around to various stores trying to find the perfect bucket. Then I remembered a rusty old canning pot–one of our many gifts from previous owners. I knew there was a reason I didn’t throw that out.

I drilled a couple of holes in the bottom and then bolted it to the fence.

Using a pot as a hose hanger

Then I dragged the hose out to the garden one final time (except for seasonal shutdown, but don’t burst my bubble, okay?) and coiled it up.

Hose in the vegetable garden

Such a great addition to the garden. And this is actually our final to-do on our garden to-do list. This year has been all about adding the structure (raised beds, trellises, perennials) and functionality (gate, trellises, hose) to the garden. I think all of this is going to make a huuuuge difference next year.

The other thing that is going to make a huge difference–and that we have yet to do–is clean up. We have a whooooole bunch of weeds that I want out of there before winter sets in. That’s still a few weeks away though, as harvest is still going strong.

 

How is your garden growing? Does plumbing make anyone else anxious? How do you handle irrigation in your garden?

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September garden update

Look! We grew a puppy again!

Baxter in the garden

We grew a lot of other things too. Yet again, this garden is crazy productive.

Sicilian Saucer tomatoes

Purple peppers

Butternut squash

First year grape vines

Watermelon

Watermelon

Asparagus

Acorn squash

Red potatoes

The puppy didn’t fit in the basket.

Not pictured are the zucchinis that just won’t stop and hundreds of cherry tomatoes (I roasted a bunch last night for all kinds of goodness).

What’s growing in your garden?

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How to grow tomatoes vertically

This season in the garden, we’re all about growing vertically. I’ve shared how we’re keeping our raspberries upright. Today, I’m talking tomatoes.

How to train tomato plants to grow up a string

I love training my tomatoes to grow tall. They take up less space in the garden, and I think they’re also more productive due to increased air circulation, better sunlight and less contact with the dirt.

Since moving to the farm, I’ve used various methods to stake or cage our tomatoes, but this year for the first time we had space to build a proper trellis. This method is not new for me. I learned from how my Dad grew tomatoes in his garden.

How to train tomato plants to grow up a string

I used 2x2s to build a frame. Matt hammered three 2×2 posts into the ground leaving about 8 feet between each post. The posts were about 5 feet long, and he hammered them in about a foot, giving us a final height of roughly 4 feet. Then we screwed 8 foot pieces of 2×2 across the top of each post. This gave us rows that were 16 feet long.

Here’s a photo from back in the spring of the trellises in place.

How to build a simple tomato trellis from 2x2s

We then planted our tomato seedlings underneath the trellis. Once they grew about a foot tall, it was time to tie them up.

Using twine, I tied a very loose knot around the base of the tomato stem. It’s important that the knot is loose as your tomato plant has a lot of growing to do, and you don’t want the twine to end up too tight.

How to train tomato plants to grow up a string

I then wrapped the twine around the stem a few times, making my way up the plant. Leaving a bit of slack, I tied the other end of the twine to the 2×2 crosspiece directly above the plant.

From then on, it was about basic maintenance. Every few days, I’d walk the row and continue to wind the tomato plants around the string.

I’m also pretty vicious when it comes to suckering my plants. I remove the lower leaves plus any “suckers” that sprout in the crotch between branches and the main stem.

Tomato sucker

Suckering allows the plant to put its energy into producing fruit rather than more leaves and keeps the plants a manageable size. Suckering usually depends on whether you have determinate (bush) or indeterminate types of tomatoes. I always just assume I have indeterminate tomatoes and rip those suckers off.

However, we tried a new kind of tomato this year–Sicilian Saucers–and they did not take well to suckering. They kind of rebelled when I started pulling off their leaves, so I backed off and tried to let them do their thing a bit more.

I was still able to wind them up the strings fairly well, which is helpful because these plants and their fruit are super heavy. Our giant tomatoes would definitely be lying in the dirt if they weren’t supported by the trellis.

How to train tomato plants to grow up a string

Now that the plants and the fruit are very well established, I did go through and clipped off a lot of the lower leaves. I’m trying to get a bit more sunlight onto the Saucers to encourage them to ripen.

As the plants have grown, some of them have exceeded the height of the trellis. I’m tying them along the top 2×2 and just trying to support them so the stems don’t bend or break.

How to build a simple tomato trellis from 2x2s

So far this season, we’ve had a great tomato harvest. From the looks of our Sicilian Saucers we have much, much more goodness ahead.

Do you grow tomatoes? Are you into suckering or do you leave them alone? Have you ever tried to grow tomatoes vertically? What method do you use to trellis tomatoes?

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Mid-summer garden update

Basket of potatoes and zuccini in front of marigolds in the vegetable garden

It’s been awhile since I shared what’s up in the vegetable garden. Deep in the middle of summer, lots is up. As in lots of beautiful vegetables.

Looking back at my last update from the end of June, I’m amazed at how much things have grown. Here’s the tour ’round the ring.

Quadrant #1, where the first three of the five rows of potatoes are ready to be dug.

Potatoes in the garden

The raspberries along half the centre axis. I think that the black raspberries (the mess on the left) will be coming out to be replaced with either more raspberries or something entirely different. We have enough growing wild around the farm that we don’t need them in the garden too. And they do not seem amenable to being tamed.

Two rows of raspberries

Quadrant #2 which continues to be weed central as there’s nothing planted here beyond asparagus and grapes in the perimeter beds. I actually broke down and mowed this section last weekend. Let’s pretend I’m a really sophisticated gardener and we’re intentionally letting this section lie fallow this year, okay?

Weedy section of garden

Quadrant #3, which also continues to be quite weedy. However, no mowing is happening here, as this is home to our watermelon, which have totally taken off (more on this below).

Watermelon vines growing in the garden

The other half of the centre axis is our squash A-frame. The vines are climbing! I’m very excited that the trellis seems to be working. We have baby butternuts, acorn squash and gourds.

Squash growing up an A-frame trellis

Quadrant #4 is the best looking, especially after Matt spent hours last weekend pulling weeds. It’s home to our very bushy tomatoes, peppers, beans and more zucchini.

Vegetable garden

I tried to pick a few highlights to zoom in on a little more. A few is hard, as I’m super excited about everything.

Most exciting is our watermelon. As in we actually have watermelon! They’re about the size of softballs right now, so they’re not quite watermelons, but they’re on their way.

Baby watermelon

Another vegetable that is exciting just by its presence is our yellow bush beans. Last year all of four plants sprouted. This year we have a whole row and each plant is loaded with beans and blossoms. We’re going to have more than enough beans to freeze for the winter.

Yellow bush beans

Also on their way are our Sicilian Saucer tomatoes. I picked up these seeds on a whim, so I’m not sure what to expect. The blossoms were huge, befitting the “saucer” name. We have some catfacing on the bottom of the fruits, which I’ve learned is common with big tomatoes. The fruits aren’t saucer-size yet, but I feel like they’re on their way to being quite large.

Sicilian Saucer tomatoes

The plants that I’m watching most closely are our grapes. A few of the vines have finally reached the top of the fence, and some tendrils have even started to wind themselves around the wires.

Grape vines

These are the highlights, but there are a few lowlights.

I planted the bunching onions in the raised bed, which are filled with the dirt we bought this spring. The onions did not like the dirt at all. They’ve looked like blades of grass ever since they sprouted back in June. Last weekend we transplanted those wee little sprouts into the main section of the garden. They’re already looking perkier.

Green onion sprouts

A few of the raspberries have been hit by Japanese Beetles. The damage hasn’t been too bad, and we have so many canes that I’m not miffed to sacrifice a few leaves. However, that doesn’t mean I’m not on a campaign against the beetles. It only took me a couple of days to get over my squeamishness at the crunch they make when I crush them.

Japanese beetle damage on raspberry canes

This one may not be a lowlight, but some of the tomatoes that we purchased as sprouts are growing oddly. The plants are all the same type, but the fruit are all different sizes. Everything from the size of a marble to the size of a pingpong ball.

And then we have a few plants where the stems that support the trusses have taken a turn and branched up into “suckers.” You can see the stem looping around and up in the photo below. I’ve never seen this before. Have you?

Sucker on a tomato truss

One final highlight that I have to share. As I was photographing the garden, I came across this guy in the watermelons. A frog in the garden is a good omen, right?

Frog in the garden

What we’re loving most is eating the garden–the vegetables and fruits only, no frogs. We have so much desire to cook in the summer, and our meals are so fresh and full of variety.

How is your garden growing? What fresh produce are you enjoying this summer?

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How to build a raspberry trellis

Raspberries are a pretty easy crop to grow in my opinion. Last year I transplanted a whole bunch of raspberry canes from my parents’ garden to ours. The canes have grown and spread like crazy.

This year, the object of the game is to contain the canes–a little bit. Raspberry canes don’t bear fruit until their second year, so the first year is all about letting the canes grow… and grow… and grow.

The taller the canes grow, the more likely they are to fall over. A trellis can help to keep them upright and also keep the row a manageable width.

Here’s how Matt and I made the trellis for our berries.

How to build a raspberry trellis

We started with metal T-posts. We happened to have a large quantity courtesy of past owners–free materials, yay! And I liked that the metal won’t rot like wood.

The posts were about 7 feet long. Matt hammered them into the ground leaving about 5 feet sticking up. We used six posts, three on each side, for our rows, which are about 18 feet long. The width of the rows is 2 feet.

Then I strung wire through the holes on the T-posts. There are three rows of wires, each about 16 inches apart.

How to build a raspberry trellis

At the final corner I doubled the wires back and twisted them around themselves.

How to build a raspberry trellis

The raspberries grow between the wires staying nice and straight. About once a week, I walk along the row and make sure all of the growing canes are tucked inside the wires.

Any canes that sprout outside the row can be transplanted to inside the boundaries.

How to build a raspberry trellis

So far, we’ve had just a handful of berries, as we only started our canes last year. Our plants, though, have become thick and lush. With our trellis in place, we’re set to have a great crop of raspberries next year.

Have you picked any raspberries this year? Do you grow raspberries? Have you ever built a raspberry trellis?

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Home Goals 2016 mid-year report

Six months ago, I shared my Home Goals for 2016. We just crossed the halfway point of the year, so it’s time for my mid-term report.

Beyond sharing my Home Goals, I also started the year by sharing some of my ideas for the major renovation that we want to do… someday. And the first goal on the list was to get an idea of how much the reno is going to cost to help us figure out when that someday might be.

We consulted with a contractor, got some feedback on our plans and got some numbers. They’re big numbers… as in not any time soon numbers… but it was helpful to give us an idea of where we’re at.

In terms of specific projects, here are the rest of our goals.

Guest room

Robin's egg blue country guest room

The guest room was our first project of the year, and I’ve already done the official “reveal,” so I’m feeling pretty good about crossing this project off. However, there’s one task left on my original to-do list, which has also made it onto my summer to-do list.

  • Paint the walls and trim
  • Replace the light fixture
  • Make window treatments
  • Refinish the desk chair
  • Strip the paint off the metal bedframe (and maybe repaint)
  • Decorate and personalize

Finish the basement

Building shelves in the closet under the stairs

The basement was essentially finished a looong time ago. However, those niggly finishing details are still hanging around. Plus, we have two new summer projects, one that you know about and one that you don’t yet. (I’ll be talking more next week about things that are going to affect our basement progress).

  • Trim around the cold cellar doorway
  • Finish the built-in storage area in Matt’s bathroom
  • Make/buy art to finish off the space
  • Build shelving in the closet under the stairs
  • NEW Build a new closet in the basement
  • NEW Mystery project (more to come next week)

Furniture

Vintage china cabinet

I’m always on the hunt for a few key pieces of furniture. So far this year, I’ve found one piece–the china cabinet for my office–but it’s still awaiting its makeover.

Vegetable garden

Centre axis of a round vegetable garden

My all-consuming summer project every year has become the vegetable garden. Thanks to Dueling DIY this spring, the garden is in really good shape.

  • Hang the gate
  • Edge the garden
  • Build raised beds around the perimeter
  • Build trellises for the raspberries, tomatoes and squashes
  • Plant perennials: grapes, asparagus, rhubarb, more raspberries
  • Run a waterline out to the garden
  • NEW Spread hay mulch over the garden

Outdoor clean-up

I ambitiously added another outdoor goal to the list, although I realized I’d have to pick my battles in terms of which area I chose to clean up.

Thanks to a bit of distraction at the start of the garden Dueling DIY, I’ve cleaned up the large lumber pile on the north side of the centre field and burned the long grass and weeds on the south side of the garden. Matt’s been mowing the burn, and it almost looks like a real lawn already.

Burned lawn

I’m feeling pretty good about what we’ve accomplished so far. Work on a farm never ends, but I love seeing the progress we’ve made.

How are things going at your house? Do you feel like you’re making progress on your goals?

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Garden at the end of June

Garden at the end of June

Much progress has been made on the garden. You might notice in the photo above that we have a gate! And it’s not just propped in place. It’s actually on hinges, and it swings and everything. It’s only been 10 months since I built the gate. Not at all unreasonable to wait that long to fully protect the garden, right?

Inside, things are slowly filling in. I’m trying to remind myself to be patient and things will grow… eventually.

Let me take you on a tour of around our garden as it’s growing right now.

Quadrant one is our most well-established. It is home to five rows of potatoes–three red, one Kennebec and one Russian Blue. Although I really could have done two Russian Blues given how many we had and how much space there is in this quadrant. There are also three zucchini plants. Then in the perimeter beds there are onions, beets, carrots and a selection of herbs.

Quadrant one of the vegetable garden

I’m a bit disappointed in the onions. They are spindly, some of the ends are brown, and I’m not confident that they’re going to size up. But I keep watering them and sowing new rows for my attempt at succession planting. (The beets in the background are doing excellent, however).

Green onions

Quadrant two is bordered by our perennial crops: raspberries, grapes and asparagus. The middle is empty however, and we don’t have plans to plant anything here. One of the things I’ve realized is that we can only handle so much with this large vegetable garden.

Quadrant 2

The asparagus isn’t that much farther along than the onions, but I’m beyond excited by it. I’m trying to grow asparagus from seeds, and I thought I wasn’t going to be successful. These seeds took so long to sprout. Almost three weeks. I thought it wasn’t going to happen. So these little tiny ferns are tremendous progress.

Asparagus sprouts

Quadrant 3 has a lot of growth, but not the kind I want. Welcome to weed central. Ugh. There are some watermelon seedlings in here, but I’m not sure they’ll last that much longer without some defense. The outside edge has our sunflowers which are growing incredibly.

Quadrant three in the vegetable garden

Quadrant four is slightly better than weed central, but not by much. This is our first year planting this half of the garden, so it’s taking more effort to clear out the weeds on this side. In this quarter we have two rows of tomatoes (under the wood frames), one of peppers, one of beans and three more zucchini plants. The outer edge has some more herbs, more sunflowers and our hollyhocks.

Quadrant four of the vegetable garden

You’ve caught glimpses of the centre axis already, but here’s the view that I’ve been working towards for the past two years. A long look between our two rows of raspberries, through the squash A-frame and out to the back fields.

Centre axis of a round vegetable garden

On Monday I posted about vision. The vision for this vegetable garden has been a long time coming, but it’s oh so wonderful to see it come to life.

 

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Summer to-do list

Summer officially arrives this evening. While I have grand plans of sunshine and hammocks and hikes and gardens and lots of time outdoors, I also have a handful of projects that I’ve been saving up for my favourite season.

Build a closet in the basement

Enamel basins and infant sleepers hanging in the laundry room

Our house has fabulous storage. However, none of it is a match for my husband. I’m not sure Matt’s office ever successfully contained all of his stuff. Over the winter I had a brainwave. Remove some of the cabinets that are tucked between the dryer and the freezer in the laundry room (they’re already filled with his stuff anyway) and replace them with a full height closet. I think I can just about triple his storage space. And it should be a pretty simple build with some basic framing, drywall, bi-fold doors and shelves.

Sand scrabble tiles

Scrabble art for the basement

Source: insideways

One of my Home Goals for 2016 is adding some art to the basement. Going with our fun and games theme, I want to DIY some Scrabble tiles. I’ve had the wood cut for months. Months, I tell you. I just need to sand them and then paint the letters. Sanding sounds like a good way to enjoy some time outside in the sunshine, doesn’t it?

Strip paint off the guest room bed

Robin's egg blue country guest room

The only thing missing from our beautiful guest room makeover is a proper bedframe. I have a great rustic metal frame in the barn, but the finish isn’t the greatest. I’m planning to strip it back to bare metal and see what it looks like. Paint stripping is an outdoor job IMO, so another good way to enjoy the outdoors.

Makeover office cabinet

Vintage china cabinet

Last week, you saw the china cabinet I’ve bought for my office and heard about my plans to rebuild the upper hutch. I’m so excited to have my office organized that I can’t wait to get started on this project. However, I have to put this lower down on the list, as other projects have been hanging around much longer. So this one’s a maybe summer project.

Puttering on some projects, keeping up with the gardens and relaxing on the farm. That’s my recipe for a good summer.

What’s your recipe? Do you have a summer to-do list? What are you looking forward to this season?