Monday, March 28, 2011

Busy Day...ish

    Well, it feels as though it's been a while since I last wrote, but it's only been a week, and my goal was for a weekly blog, so I suppose I'm on track! I feel a lot has happened in the past week though, and I hope not to leave anything out.
    This week I bought a bleeding heart bush and two clematis vines for the backyard. I also bought some hanging baskets to plant my peas and maybe beans or cucumbers in. I have a Quinault strawberry plant that I had intended for one basket and while at Home Depot I came across Merlin strawberries which have a light to dark pink flower instead of white, so I bought one of them and hope to hang the two plants side by side over the garden. I purchased a couple double shepherd's hook while at Home Depot as well, but unfortunately the weight of my baskets was too much to bare and the shepherd's hook succumbed, bending right over to the ground which pretty much defeats the purpose of having the hanging baskets. I took the shepherd's hooks back the next day. The money from which, indecently, is what I used to buy my bleeding heart and clematis with! Suffice to say I now have two hanging strawberry baskets which are waiting to find a spot to hang from.

Bleeding Heart Bush (Just a baby at the moment)
Two new Clematis vines
    Saturday I FINALLY finished painting my beehive. I think it turned out nice. I'm not convinced about the foliage on the roof section, but I like my vines and tulips on the body. This afternoon I ran to the bee supply store (Not literally of course. I have a car for such things.) and picked up my hat and veil, hive tool, smoker and a packet of wildflower seeds the bees are supposed to like. I forgot to get a feeder for the bees, though I think I may make my own.

Beehive all painted and ready for the bees!
New Bee Keeping hat!

    Today after breakfast we went to Home Depot again for some cinder blocks for under the hive. While there I saw a patio set I just had to have for our deck, sooo we also brought home the three piece patio set.

3 Piece patio set
    As if all these things were not enough, my bf got our old pump working and we now have a running waterfall! All that's left is to trim up the edges of the liner and gather rocks to put around the border. I hope that you can hear the waterfall as well as see it in this video.

    That's it for now. I may have left something out, but I think I hit the important stuff for the week. I'll leave you with a couple photos of our flowering plum tree and our 5 fruit tree's beginning flower buds.


5 fruit tree starting to flower
Flowering plum tree

Monday, March 21, 2011

Straw Bale Garden

First bee of the season. She's hard at work on my crocuses!

    I'm exhausted tonight, so this post will be brief. Today I spent 3 hours checking out the seeds at Home Depot and Fred Meyers before finally committing to a few flowers for the window boxes, and some veggies that I should be able to start while it's still cold out. This weekend was also the weekend that I had planned to buy my new camera, but everyone is sold out of the model I want, so I had to order it online. Hopefully I will have it in a week. That doesn't help me with today's post, though. I didn't get started setting up the beds and planting until about 6.30 this evening so it was dark by the time everything was planted. My phone takes pretty good pictures, but I doubt I'd get much in the dark. I will add pictures to this post tomorrow.
    I also painted the bee hive this evening. I painted that inside in the basement since it's cold and rainy outside, so I could take pictures of that with the phone, but as I stated when I started this entry: I'm exhausted. Once again, I will be adding those pictures tomorrow.

Bee Hive on the day I bought it. Sans paint.

    Well, it is now tomorrow (if that makes sense) and as promised I have the flower beds and garden pictures. I haven't taken any of the hive, 'cause I decided I wanted to paint my flowers on it before I took the pic. So, those are yet to come.

    I wanted to plant my new strawberries and my peas in hanging baskets, but I still need to purchase the burlap and some extra baskets for those. I'll plant those this weekend along with painting the flowers on the beehive.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pond Part One

    This past weekend we set to work on finishing our pond. I went out and finally spent the dough to buy a liner from a local business. In return they gave us a 20x20 liner for the price of a 20x19. I'm hoping we'll have enough big excess pieces to cover the Pallet Shed roof, but after laying it out, I don't think we will. The bf had a friend over to help us lay the liner and move a really big rock to our center island. We laid the liner and set the waterfall at the back corner, but it was all wrinkly at one end. I finally convinced the boys to fix this while I held the waterfall out of the way. They held the liner up to keep the wrinkles out and I had the task of fitting the waterfall back in place. Well, I couldn't figure out why it wouldn't settle onto its little shelf.
    I should mention at this point that the waterfall is stationed amongst our bamboo. It's the jungley-tropical part of our pond design. Well, as I think I have mentioned in previous post(s), we cut a large portion of bamboo down one year. The old shoots are about 2 - 3 feet tall. I think you all know where I'm going with this. Wouldn't it just be my luck that we were starting to force a bamboo sized hole through my very expensive new pond liner. I noticed the faux pas while the bamboo was still stretching the plastic, so we're not sure if I managed to put a microscopic leak in it or not. If I'm lucky it may even be above the water line. I certainly hope so, because we most definitely have enough excess liner on the other side of the pond to slide everything over a foot or two therefore raising the potential hole above the waterline, but to do this we would have to drain the now almost full pond, and move that big rock again. Oh and that's not all my friends! I managed to make a duplicate impression on the other side of the waterfall as well. Though I caught that one before it started to turn the plastic from black to gray. Needless to say, moving of the liner will solve both leakage issues, if indeed they do leak.
    At the moment, I'm sticking my head in the sand about the potential leakage problem. Right now I'm wishing for rain. Rain rain and more rain. We have three 55 gallon rain barrels around our house and emptied all three into the pond without making barely a dent. So I left the tap open on the hose from our backyard barrel which collects the rain off of the back half of our roof. Chance of rain for current day: 80%. Chance of rain for the next day: 100%. Chance of rain over our house for a day and a half: 0%. I swear we live in a bubble and it's keeping out all the rain. I talk to my friend in another part of the metro area. She tells me it's raining. I watch the news on the other side of town. Lots of rain falling on the newscaster. I open my back door and look outside...dry as a bone. We did end up having a nice downpour yesterday, but alas, our pond is still not full. I won't use water from the tap. Too wastefull and too spendy. So I sit and wait for rain. It's a big pond. This may take a while...

Looked smaller when it was just dirt.
Starting the looooong task of filling.
Almost Full

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Beehives and Rainstorms

    This week has been the week of the bees. Well, maybe more the week of preparing for the bees. Monday afternoon I got out in the backyard and pruned the blackberry bush way back. Never fear, the blackberry bush got it's revenge. Countless times over, in fact. I now have a cut up hand and ripped up skirt as souvenirs. (Note to self, do not wear a skirt while working in the yard. As not only will it get torn to shreds when pruning blackberry and rose bushes, but it will get stepped on and muddy, and sometimes almost pulled off while crouching and standing in the garden.) As I was saying, I pruned the blackberry bush in the corner back, and used some of the bamboo polls and old lattice to rig up a lean-to/arbor for the berries to climb over and shelter the beehive. Come this spring we should have the beehive tucked away in its' own little secret garden in the corner with the bamboo growing on one side, the lilac bushes growing on the other, and the blackberries growing behind and over the top. And to water the bees and keep the dogs away, we will have finished the pond in front.

    Tuesday, while we had a dry fairly warm (50°F) day, I spray painted the roof of my hive copper. This weekend I plan to paint the body of the hive yellow, and next weekend I'll paint some blue flowers on it. We also plan to dig the rest of the pond and either pick up or order the pond liner. I can't wait for our mud pit to become a lovely water feature instead!

     Today I practiced a total disregard for the weather and dug up the back corner of the yard in the rain and hail...OK so in reality I slept in far too late, got up had breakfast, and then wasted an extra hour watching an episode of Green Wing on youtube. All the while the sun was playfully ducking in and out of the white fluffy clouds. I decided I better hurry my butt up and take advantage of this good weather since the forecast called for 80% chance of rain all day, and thus far no rain. Well, sod's law, just as I got some clothes on and grabbed the shovel from the front yard, the clouds rolled in. No problem. Just 'cause it's cloudy, does not mean it's going to rain this moment...
    Not ten minutes into digging up that corner and it starts raining. Not bothered. It's only a light rain, and I'm home all day. I can take a shower to warm up when I'm done, and have a nice hot cup of tea...Who knew Oregon had tropical typhoons?? OK, so it wasn't a typhoon, but it WAS a torrential downpour which came on as quickly as a typhoon. Needless to say, the chickens and I got the huge mound of dirt in the back yard dug up and some of it transfered to the raised beds in the front while the rest got piled around the pond as a dirt wall to give it more depth once the liner is installed. I put the girls in their coop when a waterfall started pouring out of my gutter into a small lake in front of their front door. I think I may need to remove some leaves from my gutter, what do you think? When I finally had enough, and was soaked through and wearing gobs of mud for shoes, I decided to dump the last wheel burrow load of dirt, cover the rototiller with the wheelbarrow (we cover the engine with the upside-down wheelbarrow to keep it dry until the Pallet Shed is complete), close the gate (no latch so we roll a large log in front to keep it closed), and head inside. How could it be any worse than torrential rain, muddy shoes, and soaked through clothes and hair? Why, hail of course! While I'm slipping through the mud trying to rush through all these last minute things it starts to hail. At this point, I'm starting to worry that with my luck this hail is going to become softball size and knock me out, so I rush through these last few tasks and book it inside. My sweater is hanging off of me and dripping all over the floor. I try to get as much mud off my tennis shoes as possible, but there are muddy foot prints all over the kitchen. At this point I can barely see where I'm going for all the water dripping down from my hair and running into my eyes. So I take a nice warm shower. I'm invigorated by my rainy outing and feeling quite warm and cozy after my shower. There's nothing like a shower after a long week of camping. Or a monsoon. I decide that if/when the rain stops I will go outside and measure the pond for ordering the liner...
    Well it's been about half an hour since my encounter with the storm and what should happen? As soon as I finished my shower the rain stopped. By the time I got dressed and put some shoes on, there were breaks in the clouds. As I continue to write this, the sun is out and shining, and the puddles have already disappeared. Hmph!
    Well, at least that back corner that has been bugging me for nearly two years is a little more leveled out finally. I got to have fun in the rain. The chickens caught a few worms. My dogs got to sneak into the front yard for a good bark. And I get to go back to watching another episode of Green Wing, while the sun streams through my window and the wind whips the chimes around outside.

 The girls helping me dig in the backyard...well, maybe they were really looking for worms...

I promised a couple pictures of the coop :o)

Pond in progress (that concrete plate in the center is where our downspout drains to, so we're going to turn it into an island)

The sun has come back out and is shining down on my newly added dirt pile in one of the raised beds.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Straw Bales

    Today was the day for obtaining straw bales for our garden. I guess I should back up a bit and explain what sent us on our quest to acquire these straw bales. A couple weekends ago while at the garden and patio show we came across a display about self sustainably. While looking at their worm composting bins, and chicken coops, just as we were moving on to the next display, something caught my eye. A straw bale with a smattering of rich colored dirt and the sprouts of new plants coming up.  I read the display card to discover that this was an inexpensive solution to a raised garden bed. I immediately recalled my mother telling me about such a technique a few years earlier, but since I was just starting out with gardening back then (our garden that year was over taken by weeds before the first beans or peas came up, and was abandoned before spring was even over) I had taken little notice of this advise and filed it away for later contemplation. Well, since I have begun work on some raised beds this year, but will not have achieved the height I'm looking for until next season (I am adding wooden boards as money permits) and our new raised beds are so large that it will take forever to fill them with planting soil and compost, not to mention that we haven't even produced the amount of compost that would be needed, I thought it may be a good idea to use some straw bales in the largest bed and as they compost down we can use those as filler for my raised beds next year.
    Cut to today's escapades. I have been hoping, since last weekend when I found an add on craigslist for straw bales offered at $2 a bale, to pick up 10 bales of straw this weekend. However, in order to accomplish this we required the use of someone's truck. Normally we have a trailer that's been made from a cut off truck bed (I know, how white trash) but since the bf's trailering vehicle is in absentia at the moment we were in need of a substitute hauler. After trying to borrow one of many trucks from his parents which led to my bf being asked if he was on drugs! and getting the runaround before finally finding out that the reason they would not let us borrow one is because there is currently no insurance on any of them, and trying multiple times to get his brother on the phone to ask to borrow his, we finally got the okay from his brother this morning at 11 am. We had arranged to pick up the bales at 1.30, and the bf was insisting we go bowling with his friends this morning before getting the truck.
    Suffice it to say after winning a game of bowling, which by the way I don't think I have ever done, we were off to get the truck and pick up our bales. After a lot of rules and regulations from his brother regarding the truck we were on our way, and only 10 or 15 minutes late to pick up the bales. $20 later and we were headed back across town. Our half hour journey took approximately one and a half hours. For fear of loosing the bales on the highway, and because we had no tie-downs, we deemed it necessary to take side roads ALL THE WAY. I don't know if anyone reading this has ever been in an old diesel dodge pickup, but I have not. I nearly hit my head on the ceiling when we went over a pothole early in our journey, and by the end I was so carsick I had to stop and buy ginger ale to settle my stomach after dropping the truck back off.
    Well, it was all worth the effort. We now have a nice little raised garden of ten straw bales, ready to prepare for this years planting season. I'm so excited, I can't wait for spring to get here. Next week I hope to get the Pallet Shed's living roof finished and the scooter port up and roofed as well. Lets hope there's less aggravation trying to get that accomplished. Weather permitting.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


    When I was a child, I was raised in a city in Southern California. In fourth grade my parents moved us up to the mountains to a small little community with one school, one market, a central post office, and a population of around 2000. This town came complete with a tavern and an old west type of setting in which rows of buildings had those old wooden plank "side walks" and huge fa├žades. A person could walk anywhere they needed to. Families left their doors unlocked whether they were home or not. It was the perfect setting for an adventurous child. I would ride my bike up and down the street without a worry about cars. My friends and I would hike around exploring endless miles of countryside. My over protective mother even trusted me and the neighborhood enough to leave me home alone without worrying she'd come home to find me kid-napped (after sending me to an after-school daycare for the first 6 or so months while she became acclimated to this wholesome place). In October we would dress up for Halloween and go trick-or-treating without adult supervision, and when we would bring our abundant stash of goodies home, we didn't throw away the homemade popcorn balls and taffy. No, we ate those first! No fear of crazy people trying to poison us.
    Needless to say, I did not notice the town slowly changing and growing while I lived in it (Aside from possibly more traffic). Then I went away to college and I would come back on vacation to find the new digital gas pumps at the gas station, or the permanent bus stop by the post office. Then there were side walks. When I moved out of state I came back less often, but every time something had changed. And most of the time it wasn't something small either. This last visit back was a shocker!
    I had been aware that the town was building a new library. Why they couldn't just expand on the existing one, I don't know; however, they decided it was in the towns best interest to cut down one of the oldest (300, 400, 500 years old) oak trees at my old school bus stop, along with some other smaller oaks, and erect this huge monstrosity of a building. I'm not quite sure why a town with only 2300 people in it needs a library the size of a city library, but apparently this town must be up and coming. Don't get me wrong. I'm very for education, and I love libraries, but I can't justify the destruction and waste this new project has caused. The designer should have taken into consideration the size of the town and the location of the building instead of just designing the biggest thing that would look great on a city block, but has no place in a small country town.

    Well, yesterday I get a voice mail from my mother saying she has a question regarding some bees she has found.  I phone her back and she tells me they are cutting down some more oaks next to this project (though on further clarification, it sounds like they are only cutting some branches and hopefully leaving the trees) In the course of removing one big branch, which people are are all standing around like hyenas waiting to collect the fallen, free lumber, they managed to select a branch containing a honeybee hive. My mother, on her daily walk around the park noticed some broken combs with nearly dead bees in the cells, butts sticking out. My mother tells me that her heart just went out to them, and she knew they were dieing, and seeing as I've recently decided to start keeping bees, and I have been reading up as much as possible before my bee's arrive, my mother was hoping I could give her some advice on how to save them. Well, by the time I had phoned her back she had already gotten a hold of two semi local beekeepers, one of whom sounded knowledgeable, and basically told her there was nothing she could do to help them. He said that they would not survive without a queen and most likely she had been killed in the fall. Of course, from the little I've gleaned so far, there is a small chance they could survive without their queen, as they could make a new one from any of the brood that is under three days old, however, she would not be able to go on a mating flight until spring. Not to mention, their hive is now destroyed and the amount of food they would need to build new comb in a new hive is probably unattainable at this time of year. It takes 8 pounds of honey to make one frame of comb and they need this comb to store food and their new brood.
    I'm glad it wasn't me who came across the fallen bee hive. I think I would have cried. As it was I think my mother nearly cried herself. So now, not only have they cut down a ?00's year old tree, but they've wasted tons of resources on an over-sized building, gallons of water to wash the new parking lot and sidewalk (which, by the way, are in a dirt road mountain community. They're going to get "dirty" again in five minutes!), consumed more resources and fuel to pave a path through our park (which was doing just fine with the dirt path it had), and now they've destroyed a colony of wild bees. I know that realistically in the grand scheme of things one colony does not an endangered species make, but with my new found love of the girls (worker bees are female, and most of the bees in the hive will be workers) it just adds to the ache already in my heart regarding my small little town and its mad dash into the world of progress.