Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A little Pick-Me-Up for the Kitchen

We have a kitchen that has seen many renovations over the years. Some of these renovations have been terrible, while others were great for their day but old and dated now. The countertop is old, warped, and in some places chipped. The cabinets themselves are a mix of 1970's wood and DIY nightmare from sometime prior to us purchasing the house.

I want to renovate the kitchen but finances and other priorities have prevented me from getting started. Those priorities do not prevent me from spend a few minutes and some cash to dress up the kitchen a bit. This past weekend was one of those days where everything just seemed to work out perfectly to do just that.

We went to Home Depot for from stain for another project and found a great deal on. There are these little 4 x4 acrylic stickers to go onto tiles to change the colour or to add some flash to dull white tiles. Normally these stickers run $3 or #4 a piece. This weekend they were $1. They also carry packs eight stickers that create a scene. While some of them are very pretty I'm not going to spend $40 a set. I will spend $10 on a set. So I picked up a nice looking country kitchen rooster, that just happens to match my kitchen clock.

The new look definitely perks the look of the kitchen up. We will still be renovating sometime in the future but for now the kitchen has a new look. If nothing else the brightness of the decorative stickers draws the eyes away from the cabinets and countertop.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Garden Journal: June 17 -24, 2007

The garden is crusing along quite nicely. Right now we are in the maintenance stages between planting and harvesting. We pull a few weeds, water, and pick the occasional ripe produce. Our biggest concern right now is the number of earwigs, squash beetles, and other noxious pests we have in the garden. This is the time of year where we spend more time in pest control than in enjoying the fruits of our labour.

I have read that an effective earwig trap can be made using a tin can. You bury the tine can so that only the very top edge of the lip is above the ground. Put a small amount of water, about a quarter inch, in the can and sit back. Apparently, the earwigs are moisture seekers and will fall into the can trying to get to the water. In the process they get trapped in there. When there are more bugs and water you throw the can away and put another in its place. I guess it is time to test the earwig trap.

Other than mainenance on the garden, there is maintenance on the yard and this is the time of year we get all those other warm weather projects started. PeterC primed the cedar siding we installed a few weeks ago. It will dry until next weekend and as long as it isn't raining he'll get the painting done. After that he pulled out the mower, hedge trimmers, and spin trimmer. The yard always looks so nice the day after he finishes mowing and such.

While he was working on the yard, I was busy with my own projects. I now have three window braces in varying stages of complettion, waiting only for the stains and polyurethanes to dry. I also started the next stage in finishing the dining room table and chairs we bought last year.

The wooden table top and chairs were oiled over the winter using Tung oil. Yesterday, I applied the first coat of Oak stain. I'm using a stain that has polyurethane in it to make a nice durable finish that will hold up to years of abuse. I plan to put a total of three coats of stain on the wood and to finish it up with a clear coat of rub on polyurethane and finally a good old fashioned hand buffing.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Garden Journal: June 10 - 16, 2007

It's been one of those weeks when the temperature gets up to 30C in the shade but cools down to 15C at night. The tomatoes are loving it, as are the beets and carrots. The peas, lettuce, and spinach on the other hand, have stopped growing. Today we had to pull up spinach that had already bolted, gone to seed.

Luckily, I found a solution. We bought two sheets of shade cloth from Lee Valley in Ottawa and installed them so that they give a very light shade to the entire bed. It is a loose weave of some kind of nylon. THe plants still get plenty of light, and rain can drip through when we get some of those "Pop Up Thunderstorms" they are always predicting on the Weather Network.

PeterC is very proud of "his" potatoes. I must admit they are growing quite well and seem to be tolerating the heat well. Earlier this week he added a few shovels full of soil to surround the young potato plants. This is called mounding and is supposed to give the developing tubers a place to grow completely out of the sun. Some sources suggest this will let the potato plant produce more. We shall see.

It's been so hot, so early this year that we decided a small pool would do wonders for those hot humid days when we can't get up enough energy to care, much less do any real work. Swimming used to be an option down at the river but the number of boats, seadoos, and fishermen have made it impossible to swim there any longer.

Unfortunately, we have discovered that squirrels and swimming pools do not mix. Our little Lost Soul has still been hanging around the yard, though not as bold and tame as he once was. At some point yesterday, after PeterC came inside after starting the pool filling up, Lost Soul either got curious or slipped off his high wire highway while over the pool and went for a swim.

When PeterC went out to check on the progress he found a very wet and very tired squirrel swimming circles around the outside edge of the pool. Either the poor thing was out of his mind or something told him he could get help from the human staring at him with a rather dumbfounded look on his face. Either way the squirrel swam straight to where PeterC was standing. PeterC quickly grabbed a nearby flower basket and gently scooped the panting furling out of the water.

PeterC tipped the squirrel onto the ground where he lay panting for few minutes. Once he was able to move again, he climbed 2 feet up the trunk of the Horse Chestnut and there he stayed for several more minutes. When PeterC took the picture the squirrel moved further up the tree and found a safe crook where he could recover from his adventures. We've purchased a tarp to cover the pool, but I suspect this squirrel will be a little more careful with his footing from now on.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Upper Canada Village

We made the first of several trips to Upper Canada Village yesterday. We like to visit the village at least twice a year but three times a year lets us visit the village in each of the important seasons. The village is closed during the Winter except for a special Christmas lights show.

For us, UC Village is a link to the past of the area but it also gives us ideas on ways we can do things if our dream of owning a homestead ever comes true. It is a a place to dream and scheme, and learn. Every trip to UC Village brings on a new bouts of insights, thoughts, and questions. Luckily, most actors in the village are willing to answer your questions and most are very knowledgeable.

Each time we visit the village we spend time in different ways. Last year it was the gardens scattered throughout the village. This year it was the tenant farm, the shoemaker's shop, the ladies spinning and dying, and finally the ladies making a wedding quilt for one of the village girls. Don't get me wrong, we visit almost every location in the village. But, we tend to spend more time in a few locations whereas the others we look around and leave again.

The thing about the village is your lose yourself and the outside rat race for awhile. We had only planned on being there for a couple of hours during the coolest part of the day. When we finally decided it was time to go we looked at our watches and realized we had been there for 5 hours already. I suspect visiting the village is the closest I will ever come to time travel, and I love it.

If you want to see more photos from yesterdays trip just click on the link where you can point and click to view the images individually. Or, you can Choose View Slideshow if you want to see all the photos, each for 3 secs.-> UC Village June 2007.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Garden Journal: May 28-June 3, 2007

It feels strange to go days and weeks without writing a garden entry once spring arrives but in all honesty, once the seeds are planted there isn't much you can do except weed and feed. That is exactly what we've been doing this week. When it isn't to hot out we spend 1/2 hr each afternoon weeding the garden or watering it if it has been dry.

This week I have at least an update on how the garden grows. With the heat and the rain of late, the tomatoes are really starting to bush out. As are the potatoes. The peas and spinach like the rain but not so much the heat. They have grown quite a bit in the last week, and it looks like a proper garden instead of raised beds of dirt.

The lettuce is, well sitting there. We have one plant that is several inches tall. We have a whole row of plants that are the same size they have been for over a month. They are barely past the sprout stage, half the size of the spinach. I think it has to do with the heat so I have placed a row cover over the lettuce and one row of spinach. The sides are pushed up so it gets plenty of light but no direct sun. I'm crossing my fingers this solves the problem and the lettuce begins to grow soon.

I do have a contingency plan, in case the lettuce decides it is to much trouble to grow. We have three containers by the garage that get only 3 or 4 hours of sun a day. Today, while it was still cool and the boxes were still on the shade, I planted Prizehead and Grand Rapids varieties of loose leaf lettuce along with a few radishes in each box. The loose leaf lettuce matures faster than the head lettuce I planted in the garden and is a little more heat tolerant. If luck prevails we'll be eating our own home grown lettuce in 45 days.

The rest of the plants all seem to be doing pretty well. The herbs are starting to put out new growths and I have only lost one planting of Sweet Basil. Of the three butternut squash we planted, one has died and another was broken during a high wind. The broken plant was propped with with some dirt and is putting out new leaves, but it is only half the size of the final plant. This last plant seems to be growing very well indeed and I look forward to our own squash this fall.

The thunderstorm doesn't appear to have caused any damage to the garden at all. There is a little dirt splashed up on the lower leaves but otherwise everyone has pulled through. Considering how much all the plants have grown in the last few days I suspect they enjoyed the heavy rain as it penetrated the layers of mulch and dirt to feed their little root systems.

Speaking of mulch. We tried a new kind of mulch this year that I had high hopes for. The shredded pine has a tendency to not hold the moisture in as well as I would prefer. The new mulch, Cocoa Shells, has done a great job of that. The soil is very moist underneath. The only problem is the sour smell the shells give off when disturbed and the white mold inside the mulch layer. It doesn't seem to be affecting the plants any at all but it is definitely something that has to be put on only after all digging and planting has been completed.

One final note. I have added a link in the sidebar to a website that allows you to diagnose tomato plant diseases by choosing the appropriate picture. I found it very useful and not only does it tell you what is wrong with the plant but it also gives you a treatment. Unfortunately, the treatments are all non-organic in nature. But, in my experience knowing what is wrong is half the battle to solving the problem.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

12:45AM

I was dreaming happily of future projects and plans only to be awakened by the Mother of All thunderstorms at 12:45 "oh my god, I've only been asleep for 2 hours!" am. I lay in bed watching the flashes and listening to the thunder, counting between the two so I would know when the centre of the storm was over us. The rain was pounding on the roof so hard I couldn't hear the fan in our room and the flashes were bright enough to blind a person even through a blind and closed eyelids.

I'm almost afraid to look at the garden tomorrow morning. A rain this hard could easily flatten my new sprouted plants, or worse bury them in mud. I'm really wishing I had not been getting off work so late this week, and had actually managed to get the mulch laid in the garden. Oh well, many a garden as weathered storms in the past and I'm sure mine will too. I'll get up tomorrow morning and salvage anything I can.

It's now 3am and I am still awake. I spent several hours looking at my favourite websites and even a few minutes making this post but no luck yet. Maybe I'll just go lay down and see if my body is more tired than my brain.