Category Archives: home

Spring!

While Krista wastes no opportunity to tell me that this January is unseasonably warm and not really spring yet, I can’t help that familiar pitter patter in my heart. I know, I am always rushing the seasons, but it is hard for me to follow the arbitrary law of the calendar when I spend some time in the yard and all signs point to spring. My master gardener class starts this week, the seed catalogs are pouring in, and my most beloved plant in the universe has started blooming. Behold: my contorted filbert has survived the winter.

Do you see that tiny pink explosion on the tip of the bud? Very springish. And do you see the pale greenish catkins behind it? Tell me that does not look like spring. We’re not building the beds yet, though, so I try to be content with my endless spreadsheets, plants, diagrams, piles of seed packets and catalogs. What are you looking forward to growing this year?

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This weekend, Krista was like “What the heck! You haven’t blogged about the Master Gardener program yet?” Well, I have been holding out on you because clearly I prefer to talk about Levi, our pets and our house to discussing my own personal triumphs. So, here’s the overdue blog entry.

A few months back I applied for the local Master Gardener program through the county’s extension office and Washington State University. The MG program is a combination of training and service. You spend months learning tons of stuff about botany, integrated pest management, soil science, plant identification, pest and disease diagnosis. Then you do a lot of volunteer work, mostly in demonstration gardens, clinics, outreach programs, etc. The program is great for developing your personal knowledge about gardening, but better than that, it’s a rare and wonderful opportunity to become a trained education and help deliver messages related to water-wise gardening, composting, and low-impact landscaping. In case you don’t know me very well, I majored in environmental science & minored in botany, and I’ve been experiencing minor “career conflict” lately as I feel pulled to spend time planting and growing things. The obligations of being a new homeowner encourage me to maintain regular employment, however.

The Master Gardener program only accepts 50 people a year. Gardening is increasingly popular as the green/environmental movement picks up speed & the economy pushes people to reconnect with the concept of victory gardens. I was nervous about whether I’d get in or not, so I didn’t tell many people about it. For whatever reasons, they accepted me! Classes start the first week of February. I’ll spend about 4 months in training, and then a year completing the Apprentice (volunteer hours) portion of the program. I’m super excited about the whole thing, but I couldn’t have done it on my own. My co-worker Kate got me excited about it, Krista urged me to apply, and my boss agreed to be flexible with my hours during the training period. Many thanks to all of them for being the support I clearly desperately need!

Yes, I am happy to help you with whatever you need in your garden. I’m going to be way overbooked for awhile, since I’ll be working full time, doing the MG training, and renovating our own garden. Have I mentioned lately how excited I am to start work on our yard?!? Krista & I already started a spreadsheet of our 2010 garden plans. And yes, somehow I still plan to start a bee hive & a flock of chickens. 2010 is going to be a “hold onto your hats” kind of year.

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Snow!

Did you know that it snowed in Olympia on Sunday? Yes, it did. My coworkers tell me that it did not snow in Seattle, but it snowed most of the day in Olympia. The roads were pretty treacherous, but we did get to see our house in the snow for the first time ever.

And I was also reminded of how very, very much tiny dogs hate the snow. Cash has been wearing his new sweater, which was purchased locally and handmade from organic wool. Clementine, however, refuses to wear any sweaters, even if they are organic, handmade wool. So she’s very cold.

Speaking of people who refuse to dress weather-appropriately, Levi insists that wearing a blazer is good enough for wintertime temperatures. He is quick to point out that winter does not even technically start until December 21, and a blazer is perfectly adequate for the fall. Fortunately, the snow melted the next morning and heavy rains set in, and a blazer is adequate for that.

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Applewood

Before & After

Just a reminder: Our apple tree fell down. Fortunately, my friend Kate knows how to use a chainsaw. She came over Sunday and we spent the morning in the backyard. She missed her calling as a lumberjack, because she dissected that tree into “manageable pieces” in a matter of minutes.

The apple tree has been reduced to a pile of apple sticks and apple logs.

Now, we just have to decide what we’re going to do with the manageable pieces.

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december, the first week

So, first of all it’s 9 degrees. Fahrenheit. Not like how I speak in hyperbole and I say, “It’s like 9 degrees!!” and I mean, “It’s really cold,” but like the real NINE DEGREES outdoors. I feel totally and completely lied to, since I left the east coast for promises of “mild winters,” a promise that remains unfulfilled.

Pittsburgh winter (two years ago):

Olympia winter (last year):

The only difference I see is that in Pittsburgh, they plow the roads.

Of course, inside it’s plenty warm, partially because we have small, warm pets who love to cuddle and partially because I am in love with our programmable thermostat and high-efficiency furnace.

This isn’t about our updated energy-efficient heating system, however. This post is actually about our apple tree. Really, the apple tree is barely ours. We’ve only lived here a few months, and I don’t think anyone in our house even ate any of the apples. It was sorely neglected by the former owners, and I was probably going to try to prune it and break my limbs working on it, and then pay not only my medical bills but also a certified arborist to come finish pruning it. So basically, this was going to be an expensive old apple tree. But it’s an apple tree, so what can you do? You certainly can not just cut it down, even if it is right in the middle of what might otherwise be your perfectly lovely garden space with raised beds and a little footpath. No, you can’t cut it down. You have to keep it and give up the dream of gardening in your apple tree-shaded backyard.

Unless there’s a big wind storm and the tree just falls. Then, it’s the best of all possible options. You are alleviated of guilt, and the garden space is returned to your green thumb’s ambitious care.

Here is the tree, just a few months ago, with children laughing nearby, apples ripening on its branches, and small dogs scampering in its leafy shade.

And here is the tree today, just resting on its side in the morning sun like it hit snooze and overslept the night after a raucous partying.

So, Rest in Peace, old apple tree. I hope you have a long, quiet winter in the big orchard in the sky. And thank you for missing the garage, the house, and even the compost bin. We’re super grateful that your downfall did not become an insurance claim.

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Wee House

Krista found this small wooden sign at the Lighthouse Antique Mall in Olympia, and both of us instantly thought “OH! We need that!” It is nestled between an old toy typewriter & one of our many favorite pictures of Levi. We don’t have a truly tiny house, but it often feels wee. Especially when there’s a cat-dog tornado tearing through the place….

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New Skills

This was our dining room when we moved in. First, we eliminated the maroon trim, the pale green walls and the hanging blinds covering the door. Our next order of business has been finding a light fixture to replace that perfectly functional and perfectly hideous light up there. My dad is right: it’s wasteful to replace a perfectly good light fixture, but we’ll be donating it to a good cause, and we replaced it with a recycled/reused fixture (i.e. no new carbon footprint). I don’t think he ever reads this blog, but you can tell him for me. You are right, Dad.

I mentioned a few days ago that we were spending hours searching all of the webs for new light fixtures, but we haven’t been able to find something we both love and adore. Both of us really wanted an antique fixture. This weekend, we drove to Tacoma to shop (not in the Black Friday way). There’s an area in downtown Tacoma (Broadway) that is lined with antique shops. We spent several hours checking out each store without much luck. We were about to call it a night, but decided to check out the only store we hadn’t been to yet. I’m glad we perservered, because we found an industrial/commercial grade farm fixture from the 1940s for a wonderfully low price (which became even lower with some bargaining). The dealer told us it had been salvaged from a small, old farm.

It’s the perfect combination of everything we were looking for, and neither of us could be more pleased. I will readily admit that I get a little uncertain when it comes to tackling house projects. I’m always afraid we’re going to start a fire or break something expensive (my two worst house fears, clearly).

There is a process we go through for each project:
1. google research/book reading 2. collaborative brainstorming. 3. visit the hardware store. 4. call my dad. 5. decide to trust your gut and just go for it.

Most of the time this process works quite well, actually. And my courage was bolstered after reading some words of support on a blog, Making It Lovely. Nicole and Brandon changed six light fixtures! Certainly we can do one!

There’s always a “hold your breath and jump” moment. This time, that moment was when Krista grabbed the electrical wires. They stick out of the ceiling in an ominous fashion! They transmit deadly voltage! We used a voltage tester to be sure they weren’t live, but I still panicked! (Viva la neurosis.) And of course, everything was fine, and the light fixture is now brilliantly attached with all the skills of Krista’s secret inner electrician.

When we left the store, carrying the new light fixture, the guy said, “You know, you could have a bar fight and that light wouldn’t break.” That’s exactly the sort of durability we’re looking for.

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Stop the presses

Levi is cleaning his room. I even heard the vacuum going a few minutes ago. There was some minor screen time restriction that preceded this amazing event, but even that has not always been an effective strategy in the past. If only that pesky orange paint would remove itself from our bedrooms, we’d be the champions of the world. Couple all of this with the mountain of laundry that I conquered this weekend and the gloriously unpacked and cleaned front rooms of our house, and we’re practically ready for Better Homes & Gardens to stop by.

If Better Homes & Gardens is busy, perhaps you could send Dog Fancy.

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exit night enter light

OH GLORIOUS DAY! We’ve killed all the cardboard boxes in the living room & kitchen, so now there’s a little space/time to “cute up” the place. Getting through the cardboard has been a challenge – we’ve divided it into “good reusable boxes” that we plan to give to someone in need of cardboard boxes, and “end of the line boxes” that are then further divided into boxes for the compost pile and boxes for the recycling bin. Good thing we’re staying in this house for a while, because the cardboard guilt is a little overwhelming! Yes, it’s the year 2009 and you have to think about the carbon footprint of your cardboard moving boxes. We reused some friends’ boxes, so many of them were already on their 2nd or 3rd or 4th life. I discovered something interesting, too. Using sheets of cardboard on top of the worm bins and the compost bin has resulted in total annihilation of all flies and pests around our compost areas. The cardboard breaks down and you can just work it into the pile. (but, from experience, don’t forget to remove all the tape and staples first!)

Anyway, enough compost nerdery. We’ve been working on our home. Here’s a photo of our entryway during our home inspection (Featuring our beloved Home Inspector)

And Krista has had a nice weekend of free time to work on the house, so here’s the entryway I come home to after work these days. This tableau includes my latest obsession: a vintage paint by number portrait of two standard black poodles. I can’t explain why I’m so obsessed with this painting, but it shows up in my dreams! Seriously! I spent a year debating whether or not to buy it from a local antique mall, and finally Krista said “JUST DO IT!”

We also have a fantastic print (“Space Garden”) from Apak!’s etsy shop and two vintage needlepoint gnomes from an antique mall in south Tacoma with a mysteriously large gnome population. Oh, you want to see the gnomes more closely? Fantastic! Because I want to show them to you.

Perhaps someday soon we will take some photos of our living space, and the beautiful giant empty space in the middle of the room that used to be filled with unpacked boxes. We have so much to be thankful for this year!

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A Big Reveal

We’re working on the house again, since Krista has finished training at work (yay!). She’s nearly finished painting the bay window. I had an afternoon at home finally, so I took all the painter’s tape off the tiny windows, which was a phenomenal pain, but it was worth it.

before:

during:

after:

i was so inspired by the transformation, i even made a sculpture from the painter’s tape (right before i threw it into the garbage).

Yes, I need to get those leaves raked, shredded & into the compost bin, but there’s a phenomenal shortage of time around here lately.

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