Path, Finale!

I have been working very hard to complete the garden path and it is done!  I am very pleased with how it came out.  I am waiting for a good rainstorm to finish cleaning the rocks as there was a fair amount of dirt that came along with them, but given how the weather has been lately, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Completed path, reverse view             Completed path

Most of the bricks are a grey-blue but I included two red bricks.  I am crazy enough that I pulled out a lot of the reddish rocks and surrounded this brick with them.  It’s really too subtle for anyone but me to notice.  People won’t know unless I tell them.

Path detailMy flower beds in the back have been terribly neglected and need weeding.  Well, properly, they need mulch.  If I’d mulched them back in May when I cleaned them up they’d still be in great shape.  (Mental note: buy mulch).  After that I will be freed up to finish working on the front flower bed where the pebbles in the garden path came from.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Strawberry season

Prices are coming down on strawberries so I’m buying up what I can so that I have stock to turn into jam.  I might have gotten too much.  This is me preparing part of 25 lbs of strawberries.  I washed, hulled, sliced, and froze all of them yesterday.  It works out to five 1-gallon ziptop plastic bags.Preparing StrawberriesOrdinarily I wouldn’t recommend freezing strawberries as they turn to mush when defrosted but since these will become jam the mush actually works in my favor.  When I’m making jam from still-fresh strawberries I will sprinkle them with some of the sugar and allow the sugar to macerate them; it makes mashing them so much easier.  This is what the twenty-five pounds of berries looks like.  It doesn’t seem like so much in the photo.

25 lbs of strawberriesI also took stock (ha ha ha) of my inventory of preserves.  The top shelf is strawberry jam and applesauce, next down are pureed tomatoes and apple cider jelly.  The last shelf has salsa, roasted and pickled bell peppers, and chicken stock.  Based on what I know of how we use them, I know I will also need to make pureed tomatoes, salsa and chicken stock.

PreservesMaking jam or preserving vegetables is fairly straightforward but it is important to follow a reliable recipe.  I’ve seen some fairly unsafe canning suggestions out there.  In a home kitchen you just cannot safely can pureed pumpkin, or flavored oils.  You also need a pressure canner to preserve products containing meat, like the chicken stock.

The rules for chicken stock are different from the jam.  not only does it have to be done in a pressure canner but you need more headspace at the top of the jar.  You can see that space in the photo above.  The white stuff in between the stock and the lid is probably a combination of chicken fat and “scum”.  The scum is what rises to the top of the pot as the chicken is cooked into stock, and clearly I was too lazy to properly skim off the scum and later to lazy to properly remove all of the chicken fat.  Too much fat can compromise the seal on the jar so even though I check the seals when I move the jars to the basement for storage, I check them again when I pull the jars out.

If you ever have a jar that hasn’t sealed properly you will almost certainly have to throw out the contents.  The only exception is if the seal fails in the original canning and you catch it right away.



Posted in Cooking | 5 Comments

Path, Part 1?

I am tired.  Seriously tired, but for a good reason.  I am half way to a new path next to the driveway!  Once again I didn’t properly get a “before” photo.  These were taken when I had already started at the street end and had removed the existing stone wall and started digging the base.

Before    canon 003

I  think it was almost two years ago that I asked my friend J to help dig out this path.  We struggled with a rented rototiller and after an hour gave up and confessed our butts were kicked–not something we readily admit.  It was only on returning it that the store clerk said, “well you know you need to remove this piece so it will dig properly.” Uh, no we did not. He also said, “and they told you at pick up that it will run more smoothly if you do…” Uhhh, that would be negative again.

We were so mad.  And tired.

In order to buy some time while I decided what to do about the path I put down some red mulch and ignored the problem.  Well, the time to ignore is over!

I dug the path, and then went back and re-dug it deeper to allow the gravel to actually stay on the path and not in the driveway.  I started at about 10:30 am and the digging was done a little after 3:00 when M came home from school.  I lost count at about 20 5-gallon Home Depot buckets.  I am very grateful to DH for taking the buckets from the driveway and putting them on my dirt pile.  We sort of ran out of room for more dirt but the other places to stash it were too far to carry.

dirt pileI think I can start thinking about that raised bed now.  I’ve got the dirt to fill it now.  The pile is almost waist high.

I rebuilt the stone wall.  It is tucked into the cutting I made in the ground, which means I could make the wall about 3 rocks high and it still lies flush with the grass.

Stone wall

The black layer is landscape fabric which is supposed to stop weeds from growing while allowing water to pass through.  In reality I find that some weeds work their way through the fabric, and others simply grow on top of the landscape fabric in the dirt that ends up there.  So why did I put it down?  Because I had some in the garden shed and it does not need to be there for the mice to nest in, and because perhaps and maybe there are some weeds it will 011

It still needs gravel between the bricks, that will be Part 2, but that is a whole ‘nother project as I need to collect the rocks from elsewhere in the garden.  I’m not sold on the pattern of bricks but it’s a start and I still need some more bricks to complete the pathway.

Posted in Gardening | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Oh Deer Fence!

Is this where I put the joke about the best defense is a good deer fence?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.  Deer can be a big problem for gardeners–you open the shades and your plants are cropped to the ground, or you are left with Addams Family-like shrubs.  Our yard is fenced, and one side has tall forsythia shrubs down the length of it, but we lost a section of fence last year and the deer have found us out.

I can see there is a deer trail running down the hill past our house, so my hope is that by protecting the gates and fences at the top of the hill I will prevent most of their visits.  To that end I have attached bamboo poles, harvested locally and donated by kind friends.  I used plastic conduit straps and decking screws to allow them to with stand the weather and I’m hoping they won’t create too much additional strain on the fence posts.

Bamboo deer defence

Some people say that 7 feet is height enough, but I’m not taking chances, these poles are much higher.  Since the goal is to deter the deer I’ve left some of the cross branches intact. If I find the deer are still coming over the fence and through the bamboo, I can add deer mesh at a later date.

Another option that I saw this weekend, and provides a nice rustic look.  Branches are trimmed to the central pole and crossed through metal mesh netting.  Baling wire holds the fence in place.  Since the support poles are pushed through the wire mesh, you could have the mesh extend higher than illustrated below.

Deer fenceI’ve seen a number of the black plastic mesh fences and I must say they do disappear quite well, all you can see are the posts holding the mesh.  Other elements that I am considering using are trellises and lattice panels.

Posted in Gardening | Leave a comment

Stealing Ideas: Garden Paths

I once had a teacher tell me “if you like something, steal it!” Her larcenous ideas were for when you see a dance movement you like, that you should copy it, but the same applies for gardening ideas.

This weekend I went away and saw some wonderful gardens and stole some great ideas.  This collection is of interesting garden paths.

This first example is made from timbers and adds to a Japanese atmosphere in front of a very American Colonial style house.

Japanese-style wooden pathPlease excuse the quality of the photography.  I was in a rush to get a photo the path, omg the path is so awesome! that camera technique sort of lapsed.

I’m guessing it’s cedar or other untreated hardwood.  While one could use pressure treated wood, it would leech some serious chemicals into the ground.  I love the staggered line and the grand curve of the path.  Since it rained the whole time I was visiting, I didn’t get a chance to see how the wood looks when dry.  I’d love to see how that changes the way it looks.

Another path idea I like is one I’ve thought of using in the garden here.  I created a path along the driveway and it needs finishing.  I love some of the ways people use stepping stones through gravel.

Stepping stones in gravelThis path has a Japanese air to it as well, albeit a modern Japanese one.  Purely coincidence, I assure you.  This path is made with perfect squares, but I’m inclined toward irregularly shaped rocks.  Unfortunately, I have learned from experience (ahem) that the irregularly shaped stepping stones are irregularly flat on the tops and bottoms and are difficult to lay firmly flat.

The last path is photographed from a formal garden.  Although it’s at a non-profit, their budget for materials is clearly higher than mine.  They used slate edging stones to divide the gravel paths from the formal planting beds.

Gravel pathBack at home the gravel paths are lined with rocks of all lumpy sorts and sizes but of course my rocks are free since I’m forever digging them up.  I can create a similar look with concrete bricks, but perhaps red brick would look better.

I also was noticing that in this formal garden they hardly need to use mulch because the plants are so closely planted together.  This is something I am striving for but am really not yet there.  This pair of beds is densely planted with lavender.

Posted in Gardening | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Gutters and gutter covers

I’ve been putting it off for long enough.  The gutters get pretty awful this time of year because the oak trees drop those string things.  They get pretty bad in the autumn too.  When I peeked my head over the edge of the roof this is what I saw:


Oh my that’s gross.  I’ve come up to find the gutters full to the brim, and once the gutter was full of teenie tiny maple sprouts in a lovely pale green from end to end.  Can I tell you something else about the gunk that gets in the gutter?  The bottom is always wet and it smell of poop.  Not the phrase “it smells like poop” but that it smells like a pack of dogs came up and relieved themselves here.  I know the neighborhood dogs are talented but … not that talented.


DuringI had another shot of the length of the gutter before I’d put any of the gutter covers but not only did I manage to have my finger in the photo, but I didn’t realize it until just now.  That’s a special kind of smart to do that.  As you can see I installed gutter covers while I was up there.  They slip under the shingles on one side and the other side clips onto the outside of the gutters.  They go in pretty quickly, the difficulty predictably being getting up to the gutters without getting the willies.
AfterLook at how clean and white the gutter covers look.  Enjoy it now because I’m sure they won’t stay that way.  I’m not altogether sold on the white mesh on top of the diamonds–I fear it will catch the oak string things and make the rain just roll off the gutters altogether.  I do feel confident that any water that makes it to the gutter will drain away properly and if needed I can use a utility knife and strip the mesh away.

I have a lot of other gutters that need cleaning and covering.  I did everything I can reach and I will need an extension ladder to get the rest.  And I will need a large dose of chutspah since some of the gutters are waay up.  Those are the ones I really want covered since they will hardly be cleaned very often.  Forza!

Posted in Home improvement | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

About Spades

Someone asked me what makes an edging shovel an edging shovel–because aren’t they really all the same thing?  Not exactly.  You can use them interchangeably but you won’t get great results and you will probably work quite hard if you have the wrong tool.

These are three of the spades I have.  On the left is one I don’t use very often.  It works best for picking up things from a hard ground, like for putting mulch into a wheelbarrow.  Its flat edge allows you to scrape along the ground to collect stuff.  Next is my favorite one (nerd!) and it is best for digging holes.  The pointed edge allows you to get the blade into the ground more easily.  The one on the right is the edging shovel.  It has a thin and flat blade that isn’t very wide, and when you look closely you can see it has a slightly sharpened edge.

004Each of these has a spot to put your foot for greater leverage, and each is angled so you can pull the handle down to lever your payload if needed.  They also have a D-shaped handle which is also helpful.

You can use hole digger for edging but the smaller point means you will get more of a scalloped edge.  The flat mulching shovel is too dull to be an effective edger.  If you use the edger to lift mulch or dirt I think you could actually bend the blade since it is so flat.

Come Winter I will discourse on snow shovels and the merits of ice choppers, if you are so inclined!  LOL!

Posted in Gardening | Tagged , , | Leave a comment