Planting Tomatoes

Saturday was another garden day.

I cut down more cover crop (we really need a scythe next year!), weeded, and then was finally able to get some of our tomato starts in the ground. We have roughly 70 plants that have been hanging out on our deck just waiting for a place in the ground.

I also tackled trimming brambles and weeds on the far back side of the garden fence. There were blackberries coming through the wire and I knew it was now or next year that I would be able to address them. This pregnant body does not work too fast anymore, and I hit a wall before I got as far as I wanted, but listened to baby and called it a day with about 1/3 of the tomatoes in the ground.  Things are looking good!

Beans and corn are up, garlic is starting to turn yellow, peach tree has fruit and has been thinned. Very few apples are out this year. Some of the tomatoes are in. I could call that more of a garden success than I was anticipating the summer our first baby arrives! 4 weeks to go!

Update from Sunday: Matt spent the day in the garden and prepped and planted over 40 more plants! We are set for the year with about 75 in the ground and it looks great!

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Kitchen Demo

Memorial Day weekend Monday the first bit of granite tile was smashed in our kitchen. By Wednesday afternoon, demo was done! There were a few (very frustrating) snags, but overall it was quick and successful!

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The biggest snags were what were supposed to be the easy quick parts: taking out the gas stove and sink. Disconnect, lift up and out. Right? RIGHT? Wrong.

For both of these, the attachments were in too cramped of a location to utilize tools to loosen connections. Both ended up being cut and will be a repair job later. Not ideal, but that is what you deal with when you remodel (and want to save things!). We really like our stove, and ADORE the wall mount farmhouse sink and did not want to repurchase either of them…never mind that replacement was not in the budget!

The sink was also grouted in place rather than calked, which was a large concern for additional chip/cracking damage. It is successfully out in one piece though and waiting to be reinstalled.

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Backsplash and counter came off pretty easily and cleanly. The plywood is still in good shape so that is some time and cost savings.

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Now we are on to the rebuilding phase. New drywall and backerboard, then we can lay the counters and tile backsplash. Cabinets are ready to be sanded and painted. The end is nearer than it has ever felt!

34 Weeks Pregnant without a Kitchen

And the remodel journey continues…

Today I hit 34 weeks in my pregnancy with our little Grain. Belly is big and sleeping is not great. This week baby found that he/she gets a few extra inches by stretching feet into my ribcage at night. It is painful!!! As if it were not already hard enough to roll over or get up to pee every hour! Luckily as soon as I am up the pain is gone and I can generally go about my day, with a slight waddle of course.

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nearly 34 weeks pregnant, prepping the garden!

For the long Memorial Day weekend we took a break and played!

Ha, just kidding. We do not feel like we have time for a break right now. Although a day at the lake sounded perfect with 80 temps, we remind ourselves how good it will feel to have the house back, but to get there we have to keep plugging along. So we did.

It took a day and a half to empty the kitchen and remove cabinet doors/hinges. Then we paused and took a day to seriously get the garden started for the season. Matt broadforked the areas where we pulled out the overgrown winter garden while I prepped for and planted beans, zucchini, squash and zinnias. We moved some kale starts, and prepped a bed for corn. The garden looks SO much more under control, at least for the house facing half. We will need to get more space cleared for 60ish tomato plants, but that is likely a few weeks out. They are happy on the deck for the moment.

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garden prep day

After killing ourselves in the sun and garden (oh boy did an Epsom salt bath feel good on this pregnant body!) we slept like rocks. Good thing, because Monday was full too. Matt bottled hard cider in the morning, I planted corn, and then we started on the kitchen demo.

Demo on the kitchen counters and backsplash have been a looming milestone for months now. The final really messy piece of this remodel…and a time critical one since it means a stretch of living without a kitchen. It is also an unknown of how easy (or hard) the removal of these old materials would be…while preserving the sink, appliances, and cabinets.

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kitchen ready for demo!

I am happy to report that the counter tops came off easier than we were expecting, and the backerboard and plywood under the old granite tile is in great shape! That will be a time/cost saver. Taking out the sink was not an easy task. It was a) grouted in place (ugh!!!) and b) the plumbing is soldered copper that is tucked way up behind the sink where we cannot disconnect it. This will require cutting and more rebuilding when we go to put the sink back. Figuring that out took more time that we anticipated, but this week Matt should have a whole lot done! We are anxious to see how the rest of it goes.

So yes, we are living without a kitchen, 6 weeks away from our little Grain’s due date. Luckily the sunny weather has made evenings on the deck a perfect retreat from the chaos of the house, and Matt and I are riding the happy wave of progress, sunshine and excitement of our growing family.

Tales of Cover Cropping

We started using cover crop on our garden two winters ago, and have evolved our approach and process. The first year, we used a 3-way mix of rye, vetch and peas, and simply broadforked the matured greens into the soil when it was time to plant. This year we are taking a slightly different approach.

Our 5-way cover crop is TALL this year…like shoulder height (!) and beautiful and lush thanks to a long spring with epic amounts of rain. Instead of broadforking this year, we are going to try a direct plan totally no till method. First step is cutting the cover crop (I used some old hedge trimming shears…a scythe would be MUCH better!) close the ground and letting it dry out for a week or so in place. At 32 1/2 weeks pregnant this was a hard job but not impossible. Then we will plant starts directly into the soft moist soil below. No tilling, no broadforking. It “should” keep in the moisture and retain the lighter soil structure that the cover crop helps develop. Also, the fallen greens will be a natural weed barrier for the growing season.

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Honestly this plan is coming 50% from farming practice research, and 50% from a lack of time. Our garden is usually a huge focus this time of year, but this year with baby around the corner and the remodel taking 100% of Matt’s time…well, we are lucky to have a few things actually get in the ground.

If this green mulching, no till method works it will really change how we work with our garden in future years. We are already loving that the areas where cover crop was planted all winter has ZERO weeds (!) and the soil is soft and dark. After breaking down all this decomposing cover crop  it should just continue to get better and better…not bad for what used to be a lawn!

State of the Garden

Two years ago we rebuilt our garden from scratch. Installation of a 45×65′ 8 foot tall deer fence was only the start. We then had to rip out well established grass, add tons of compost, and start to figure out a useful layout.

That first year we only planted about half of our usable space. Last year we changed prep methods again and planted 3/4 of our fenced area. Winter cover crops became part of our routine and the soil is dramatically different than when we started.

What is also dramatically different this year is the amount of time we can devote to this garden. We are 9 weeks out from Grain’s due date (eek!) and we are pouring 100% of our time and focus into the house. So, as you might imagine, our garden is a bit neglected. The cover crop is waist high and very happy (and thankfully doing good things for our soil and keeping weeds at bay!), our garlic that was planted in the fall looks great, and the raspberries are taking off like crazy. We have been harvesting the spring greens from our over wintered kale and chard…but the whole thing looks pretty messy. Bolting kale “trees” are tall and buzzing with bees.

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Messy, overgrown garden this spring. but check out those second year asparagus in the raised bed! We are looking forward to our first harvest next year.

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Matt taking a house project break with Alki

We do have roughly 70 tomato starts in our living room, alongside zucchini and pumpkins. We plan to get them in the ground towards the end of May (it is still pretty chilly at night). Tuck in some of our favorite beans and call it good for this planting season. Whatever we don’t plant we will (hopefully) at least scuffle hoe to rip up weeds and throw down some more cover crop. It may not look “pretty” but will be a garden that still works to improve the soil and make next year even better.

If anyone wants to come work in a garden, you have an open invitation!

PS – baby Grain update. We are 31 weeks. Baby is moving a TON, and I felt hiccups for the first time today!

Wood Floor Inlay & Garden Planning

While the rest of the country is running straight to summer, our little corner of the PNW is having a much colder winter than usual. Cold and wet to be more specific. Even this morning I saw snowflakes as I was waiting for the bus. I want to get out in the garden but it is just not quite the season here yet.

This weekend Matt finished laying the wood floor inlay around the fireplace and built ins…such an accomplishment and it looks A-MAY-ZING! We can now move on to the next area of the house, and will come back for final painting of the mantle and trim when it is warm enough to open windows. And for good measure, a cute photo of me and the baby bump checking on daddy’s progress.

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I spent my weekend dreaming of the garden and working on a crop rotation plan. We are starting to hone in on the crops we like to grow that we actually use…which is not always obvious when you start. Spinach for example? We did not reach for it. Bush beans were prolific but we preferred the climbing romano beans so bush beans are out. Matt does not like beets. All the learning that goes into a maturing garden! This year we are focusing more on sweet corn, tomatoes, squash, kale and beans. Those are our staples and I want to optimize our soil and production with lessons from crop rotation.

I am still refining this model in Excel, but here is the basic idea that I am working from. First box is last year’s garden, with the second box one option for this year. For some scale, our garden is 45×60 feet and has been divided roughly into quadrants.

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Native Hedging: Pacific Wax Myrtle

Last summer our neighbors to the south underwent a massive yard overhaul. Unfortunately, it resulted in us loosing a lot of our privacy…grrr.

Since then, Matt and I have considered fencing, shrubs, evergreens and every other kind of hedge/barrier/privacy screen possible.

After calling some nurserys and doing some online digging we found the ideal plant for us: pacific wax myrtle. This native plant is deer resistant, hardy, evergreen, and grows FAST…exactly what we wanted! However, it is hard to find. We called nursery after nursery, looked online, everything was not in stock. Our island nursery said it had been over a year since they could get any in because they are in such low supply.

Then finally, I found a supplier. Local guy, super friendly, and he set aside twenty, 1 gallon pots for us. I loaded them up in the mini (this poor car gets a workout!) and took them back to the island. Since they have been in pots, they needed some trimming this first season to encourage bushing out.

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We planted them along the property line and are so excited for them to grow up and bush out over the next few years!