Sunday 21 June 2015

Changes and a few projects

Life has been a little busy lately..... our baby girl was supposed to arrive April 12 but she decided she was going to be fashionably late.  This left time for her crazy parents to go look at houses, one of which we decided to buy!  So in the span of a couple weeks we bought a new house, sold our house and had a new baby join the mix.  We are now counting down the days until we get to move into our new house but before talking details of the new place I thought I would share a few projects around the old place that I've never posted about before.

Sundeck planters:
Our current house is on a corner lot and our sundeck faces the ominous side of  blue vinyl of the neighbours house.  I designed some patio planters that HH built to distract from the big blue wall. 
The planters are constructed of marine grade plywood and cedar. They are a few years old and have held up pretty well.  The cedar trim around the base has been replaced as they previously had mitred corners that split apart and were quite sharp now they have butt joints.

Sidewallk to the frontdoor:
Last year we dug out more sod and dirt for a paver walkway leading to the front door.  We compacted approximately 4 inches of stone crusher dust and added the pavers.  We filled in the gaps with pea gravel. Pea gravel is a bad choice if you have children.  They love to play with the pea gravel so it ends up on the pavers and driveway and as part of rock collections in pockets. I'm all for making yards kid friendly but this was not intended to be part of the play scape and is really annoying to step on rogue rocks in your bare feet. 
I was planning on building a short modern cedar fence along the paver pathway to provide a little more privacy in the yard and to prevent slow kids down from running on to the driveway/roadway but that is one project that is not going to be realized!

Our latest project:
Our baby girl born April 22, 10 days late.


Monday 30 March 2015

DIY play area stepping logs

Spring is here and the dirt digging sisters are back in action.  Shannon has completed a very early prep. of her vegetable bed, turning the soil and doing some planting.  She is 8 months pregnant.  I guess some people "nest" at this stage while others garden. 

On my side of town I started a new backyard project.  My parents recently had some trees taken down on their property and I spotted some nice sections of a log.  They looked like they would make perfect stepping logs for the kids in the backyard.  Dad dropped them off and I hauled them to the back yard.  I also had a stock pile of other logs from a friend who took down a large pine.  Below is me digging the last hole for the last log. 

Below: I am placing a log into one of the hole.  If you look closely you can see my fresh manicure.  I'm glad there is a picture of it for posterity as my purple nails did not last long.  The final step, not pictured, is me jumping up and down on the logs to make sure they were settled into place.  This took more balance and skill then I imagined.
Some people may view this structure as a bit risky for kids, it has  uneven and rough surfaces which could pose harm.  Even my Dad who seemed more than OK with his own kids playing in the creek, tree tops and a fire pit without supervision warned me that the surface of the logs could get slippery for the grandkids.  With reports of swings being removed from playgrounds for fear of injury (and liability)  the counter viewpoint is recognising that kids need to have opportunities for some degree of risk  in  play and exploring. Here is an interesting article that reports "emerging research suggests that imposing too many restrictions on children’s outdoor risky play hinders their development."

Interestingly my almost 3 year old son, enthusiastically, wobbly stepped from log to log.  He paused on the lowest log (about 3 inches off the ground) smiled at me and successfully landed a jump.  He beamed and I smiled back as he raced to do it all over again.

Sunday 14 December 2014

Euphorbia Christmas Wreath

Today was a clear and lovely December day.  Earlier in the week I had picked up fallen evergreens left behind from the previous night's storm. While walking home from my daughter's school I used my son's stroller as a method of transporting all the greenery. I guess my pile of storm refuge on top of stroller looked a bit odd and I was teased by one neighbour on my way home.  I decided to make use of my windfall of evergreens to make the base for my wreath.  While constructing the  wreath I decided it  needed something more then the usual evergreens and I spotted some euphorbias in the front garden that still looked fresh and had a nice bluish hue in their green.  This particular Euphorbia is a herbaceous perennial, meaning a plant that comes back every year and usually has finished and rotted to the ground come winter time. It also usually drips a lot of  sticky white sap when cut, however, it seems at this time of year there is not much sap left to contend with, not that it would have stopped me anyway.

Below you can see the plant lowest in the picture is the euphorbia going strong beneath my evergreen magnolia.

Below is a picture of the finished wreath and my newly painted red door, BTW the red  is a Benjamin Moore "Canada Post Red".
Below is a close-up pic of my Euphorbia Christmas Wreath.  I like that it is natural looking, as if the euphorbia has grown out of the wreath.
Well I may not have my Christmas shopping, baking or cleaning done but I do have a Euphorbia Wreath hanging from my red door.  MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!

Tuesday 11 November 2014


When we built the cedar pergola in our yard, we always planned to grow grapes and kiwis over it.  Our plan has come to fruition and we have been enjoying grapes off of it for a couple of years.

The grape is a hybrid named Himrod.  It is a seedless white grape that is sweet, juicy and tasty.  Himrods ripen in our climate around late August early September.

I'm not really sure how to properly prune a grape but it didn't stop me from climbing up a sketchy step ladder this past weekend and trimming away at it.  From a quick google search of grape pruning it appeared you need to cut back a large percentage of the plant and so that is what I did. 

I only left a few main branches.

I'm still waiting for the kiwis to produce....maybe next year!

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Late Harvest Pasta

It is surprising to see zucchini still growing in the garden in October!  I suppose this is just more evidence of the lovely warm Autumn we've had this year.  The following recipe came out of necessity on Sunday evening when the cupboards were bare but luckily I was able to pull a few things from the garden and make this quick and tasty dinner.

Picture above is Zucchini with blooms on October 21, 2014.
Late Harvest Pasta with Zucchini, Garlic and Red Cabbage from the garden
1 package of fresh or dry linguine
1 can of clams (with juice)
3 cloves of  minced garlic
1 small zucchini diced
1/4 small red cabbage finely shredded (with mandolin if you have one)
1 heaping tablespoon dried basil
Juice of half a lemon
1/4 cup of parmesan cheese
Splash of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Get water boiling in pot for linguine.
Meanwhile in a sauté pan on low heat add olive oil and garlic.  Leave this for a couple minutes then add the clams with juice followed by all the other ingredients except the cabbage and parmesan.  When the pasta is cooked scoop from the pot directly into the pan using tongs or whatever scooping method works for you.  Stir ingredients together for a minute or two and turn off heat.  Add lemon juice parmesan and finely shredded cabbage - serve immediately.

Twirl and enjoy!

Thursday 31 July 2014

DIY removing grass to make a garden bed

Over the last 6 years I have removed a lot of grass to make new garden beds throughout my yard.  Once a bed is in place, by the next year I've decided it needs to be expanded.  Making more garden bed space is not just an obsession it makes for a more appealing bed that has enough space for tall, medium and low  height plants.  The first 4 years of garden making, me and my trusty spade became an efficient grass removal machine.  If you gave me 30 minutes and a napping child,  I could cut out a 10 ft sq swath of land.  If you've never removed sod,  the process involves jumping down with one leg onto your spade to cut down as deep down into the earth  under the roots of the grass and then pushing the shovel and sod up.  This jumping down action in addition to childbirth has done a number on my pelvis, I won't get into pelvic anatomy but let's just say I end up in quite a bit of pain when I forget I am not a machine.  So last summer when I realised my back yard bed needed to be expanded I decided to try out the "lasagne method" a gentler form of turning grass into a bed.

Below is a picture of the first step.  Just the perimeter grass of the bed needs to be pulled up. My trusty spade can be seen in the foreground.

Step 2:  Cardboard is laid over top of the grass.  A layer of organic matter is put overtop of the cardboard, in this case lawn clippings and fresh compost.  Another layer of soil is placed over top.  The idea is that the cardboard will work to smother the grass and then eventually decompose.
Step 3: Patience.  Once your layers are in place you can really only plant shallow rooted plants until the grass is smothered and the cardboard layer has decomposed which will take at least several months.  I cheated a bit to plant a lemon cypress, cutting through the cardboard.  Below 2 pics of the bed one year later.

You can see from the first "before" picture that some plants have been shuffled around.  Shannon gave me some rudbeckia  and I added the lemon cypress which really glows in the winter time.  I've grown some carrots at the apex of the bed for easy access for kids needing a snack .  I'm quite pleased with the result of the new bed and found the "lasagne method" to be kinder to my body. I would recommend this method to others looking to eradicate grass in order to establish more garden space.

Friday 18 July 2014

Stone versus Steel

Lauren started landscaping her front boulevard slope recently and she decided she needed some boulders as part of her design. So we loaded up all the kids in the back seat of my truck and headed to the quarry in Pitt Meadows.  The entrance into the quarry was sketchy and we had to pull over to let tandem dump trucks pass but this did not stop us.  Lauren convinced somebody in the office to sell her a boulder even though they don't normally.  They drove her up to the rock pile so she could pick out the perfect boulder. 

It turned out the perfect boulder weighed in at a hefty 600 kg (1300 lbs).  It was loaded in the back of the truck with a giant machine and we were off.

Back at Lauren's we unloaded the kids and set them up in front of the TV, we figured boulder moving isn't the safest thing for children.  I suggested we take off the tailgate but Lauren confidently said that I wouldn't want my truck bumper to be damaged by the falling boulder so we left it on.....  Our first attempt to move it resulted in panic, after both of us pushing on it with all our force we were not able to budge it, and the possibility of us not getting the boulder off before our husbands got home began to loom.  Lauren asked an inquiring neighbour if we could borrow a large metal pry bar and she kindly obliged.  We grabbed some scrap plywood and were able to pry up the boulder high enough to slide the plywood under.  Then with a combination of prying and pushing with all our might we were able to slowly move the boulder out of the bed of my truck and onto the tailgate. Then forward movement halted and that is when I saw the tailgate start to slowly bend in the middle.  We pushed and pried some more but the tailgate continued to bend essentially making a nest for the boulder to sit in.  Somehow we gathered all our strength and had to pry and block the bolder to inch it off of the tailgate.  After letting out a few hollers of success a couple neighbours came over to congratulate us and asked us how the tailgate faired.  I was able to close it but there was a gaping 3 inch space between the truck bed and the bottom edge of the tailgate.  The next day we were at my brother's house and he was able to bend the tailgate back to a much smaller gap of only an inch and a half. 

Luckily the truck has a few injuries besides this one and a 2x4 fills the gap very effectively. 

So at the end of the day Lauren got a boulder and I got a bent tailgate.....I think I came out the loser. I understand Lauren wants a couple more boulders, anyone game to help her out?