Monday, April 29, 2013

Rites of spring

We watched the Morris Men dance. They tour this area every year-- dancers from Binghamton and Boston and New York City and Toronto, and it is a real joy to mark the season with their annual performance. We went to look at more shelter dogs, and admittedly didn't "fall" for anyone. This is going to be a long process, I think. We completely shirked off responsibility (and our rapidly growing lawn) on Sunday and drove to Syracuse. We hadn't been to Syracuse together in over a year. It used to be an hour away, and now it is the better part of two, and that makes a big difference. But. Syracuse has a zoo, and some genuinely good restaurants, and is near a state park second-to-none for spring wildflowers (Clark Reservation State Park) and so it was nice to be there again. It was seventy degrees, and I pinked up my shoulders nicely, and we were home in time for dinner and an evening campfire. 

It was lovely to pause from homestead work and do something just purely fun. And now, under a soft gray blanket of clouds and a little bit o drizzling rain, I'm going to get out there and get back into it. A gentler sort of week than last, to be sure, but still one full of projects.

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Friday, April 26, 2013

These guys.

So, we didn't get the sweet golden retriever-shar pei mix. But we did get THESE GUYS. Emmy, June, and Maybelle, one barred rock (like Patsy) and two Buff Orpingtons (like last year's Dolly and Tammy). I didn't expect that we'd be raising chicks this year, but since we are, I'm pleased. It's enjoyable. Watching Pete covet them might be the best part.

After recovering from my compost/chicken yard fencing marathon, I took a load of garage debris to the dump, built supports for the raspberry bushes, planted twenty broccoli seedlings and one long row of potatoes, and swept out a corner of the garage. I'll show you pictures of all of that next week.

My parents are coming for dinner tonight, which I'm excited about. I love giving "homestead tours," especially in this season when so many things are recently finished or about to be in the works.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

An improvement

Well. I had intended to give you pictures of our chickens enjoying their new yard. Today was their first day in it, so I let them out as I always do, then went to make tea and eat breakfast, and came back outside to photograph the scene just in time to see Loretta clear the fence in one winged leap.


Oh well. Picture three rascally chickens scratching in the dirt on the other side of the fence, here. 

This was a pleasing project. I spent $49 on fence posts, two of which I didn't even use. I had plenty of welded wire fencing left over from last year's garden fence project, which I used for the compost bin area. Those great framed wire panels came free from our neighbors. I agreed to take them before I even realized they fit the scope of this little project like a glove. I needed about 30 linear feet of fencing, for the chicken yard, and our neighbors were giving away just over 34 feet. That is serendipity.

Here's the old yard area, for reference. It didn't look so bad when it was first constructed, but then it started to droop... and I had to add a droopy chicken wire roof to keep Genevieve in, before she had a flock...

Much better:

The rest of the materials I culled from the burgeoning lumber-pile that has taken up residence in the greenhouse: a deconstructed shipping pallet, a few spare 4x4s, etc. That's one thing they don't tell you about being a DIY-er. Materials accumulate in unsuspecting places.

Now, to move those haybales-- which I think served as chicken launchpad this morning-- and hopefully keep my charges inside the fence tomorrow morning. Darn feather-jumpers.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013


We had such a good weekend. Usually, we get Saturday together, and Patrick has a most-of-the-day band rehearsal on Sunday. And usually, that's fine by me. But when a Sunday comes along with no rehearsal, I am more than happy to spend another day relaxing (or, as it turns out, getting stuff done) with Patrick. 

This weekend was a good one to have an extra day. Saturday we went to look at some shelter dogs. It has been a long, cold, lonely winter without a dog. I have been telling myself I'm ready for weeks, (Patrick, naturally, took longer to feel ready) but now I'm so glad I waited. We walked the loud hallway down between the cages of wishful dogs and I got SO teary. Immediately teary. I'm glad we waited.

Anyway, we fell a little too much in love, as I supposed we might. There was a golden retriever-shar pei mix named Dale. There was an application in ahead of us, though. We are waiting to hear. We are hoping, which is bad, but we are.

Sunday we worked around the old homeplace. Spring's a-comin on strong. Patrick put a new set of tires on the mower while I dug and transplanted a bunch of peonies, and planted some rose-of-sharon volunteers a neighbor had given my parents. It feels wonderful to be on the receiving end of everyone's giveaways-- and to have the room for them. I felt so daunted by the enormous blank slate of our yard when we moved here, but now that I've conjured a plan for every corner it all just feels like so much delicious potential. 

I spent yesterday working on our new compost bin, and today I'm going to work through yesterday's sore muscles and continue the project, adding to it a new and expanded chicken yard. It's looking good.

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Strong and finally

There's a point in every spring where my blog-barometer swings quickly from "nothing to write about, lots of time" to "WAY too much to write about, no time!", and I think it's safe to say I crossed that divide this week. It was so sudden. It had me completely hoodwinked, to be honest. All last week was cold and uncharitable, and I spent it scrubbing plaster dust and grout off every horizontal surface (and most vertical ones) in our upstairs. Sunday was cold and gray, and I walked around halfheartedly, looking at the totally uninspiring progress everything was making-- barely any daffodil buds, crocuses still trying to open in slow-motion in the front flower beds, lots of dead stalks and last year's weeds to address, and still no sign of anything I'd planted recently in the garden. I had the better part of the afternoon, though, so I made myself break out the edger I'd bought new last year and never used, and I edged this bed by the driveway.

It was amazing. It's like someone had flipped a switch. I guess it was the first immediately gratifying outdoor work of the season, and it set the tone for the whole entire week. 

(Arguably, the fact that it was sunny and mid-60s every day ALSO set the tone for the week.)

My spring mojo, which arrived so quickly and so completely last year, has been sluggish this year, but edging that bed set it free. On Monday, I crouched in the garden prepared for a frown, and saw kale seedlings instead. I crouched in the orchard and saw the False Indigo (Baptisia) I'd planted last fall coming up, its pointy purple shoots so dark I'd missed them against the moist ground.

I worked hard. I repaired the greenhouse roof, a third of which blew loose over the windy winter. I turned another 4x8 bed in the garden, repaired the back fence, hauled beaucoups horse manure and finished compost to the garden, built and filled two cold frames, hauled fence posts, and spent more time with that magnificent edger.

In between, there was rejoicing.

The lawn is fairly electric green, the chickens have roamed part of every day this week, suddenly everything is coming up. Peas, spinach, kale, arugula, mizuna, radishes. 

Crocuses. Lupines.

We have turned the corner. Jody tilled for us on Thursday, working in all that wonderful horse manure and compost and piled last autumn's leaves, and next week planting broccoli and potatoes is on the agenda. Also: rebuilding this shambly chicken run/compost pile area, which I built very quickly and nearly for free our first summer here. That was a big summer for "quickly and nearly for free." Now it's time to slow down, step back, and spend time thinking permanently. 

I am going to try very, very hard to resume three-times-weekly posting here. My photos are better than they've ever been (thank you camera!), this place is prettier than it's ever been, and spring's a-comin, strong and finally.

Happy Friday.

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Getting out

Saturday was sunny and almost fifty. Sunday was sunny and almost sixty. It was lovely. Both days, we hiked. THAT has not happened in, I think, years. Saturday we went to Gilbert Lake State Park, where it was still winter, apparently, and hiked around in the snow-slush. We saw a beaver, which was super neat. 

Sunday, we walked down along the river, just a few hundred yards from our back door. My memory card was full, so Patrick took pictures with the panorama mode on his phone.

I love that when we want to, we can just point our boots in this direction and be here. Big open fields, mergansers on the river, hints of spring in the skunk cabbage pushing their rubbery beaks up out of the mud. 

This is the time of year when I start to say, "I love this time of year!", because everything is still ahead. The snowdrops and crocuses are still in full swing, we haven't missed anything. Daffodils and tulips will come, when they're ready, and for now it's warm again, and the time is right to celebrate with river-walks.

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Friday, April 5, 2013

My new favorite room

Are you ready? Really ready? First, start a little Eye of the Tiger going on in the back of your mind, while I re-visit the Befores, and the Durings, for the last time.

Here we go.

Let us never speak of all that horribleness again. Now it is time for the Afters.


Guyssss. I'm in LOVE. I actually painted the room twice-- first, a very unfortunate aqua I'd mixed from leftover paint around the house, and then quickly-- very quickly-- this soft dusky gray-beige. (Or, okay, I'll unofficially admit that it's really purple. I wasn't going for purple. The color is called "London Coach." It didn't LOOK purple at Lowe's, but the good news is, I don't mind its purple-ness.)

It ties everything in so well-- the rug and the shower curtain, the warm wood of the buffet, the purple tones in the art I've had forever and been planning to hang in here. I'd gone on a BIG shopping trip last Friday in Binghamton-- it was one of those stars-aligned days of Good Shopping Karma, and given that it'd been three solid months since I'd shopped at all, well, I was due. I went antiquing for old hardware (to replace what was broken on the buffet) and to find a giant vase for that corner (check!) and a giant mirror for above the sink (check check!) and then I ended up coming home with that coat rack to use for towels, and found a bunch of great sweaters at Goodwill, and... well, it was just one of those awesome days.

And I found the shower curtain at Goodwill, too, still in the box from Target. Six bucks.

And did I tell you the mirror was $25? I spotted it and fell in love, and was bracing myself for the guy to tell me $60. Because it looks like a $60, right?

The room was coming together in my head, SO FAST, driving home from that shopping trip. 

(Had to sneak one more before in there, just for good measure.)

Whew. Of course, not everything is crossed off yet, but it's going to take a little while for that. First, I'm going to install two narrow little shelves in the alcove above the toilet. They will be stained dark walnut and varnished. I want to make a faux Roman blind for the window. I am totally at a loss for what sort of fabric I should go with there-- any ideas? Then I'm going to spray paint the heating register glossy black, and Dad's going to modify the middle drawer of the buffet to accommodate the plumbing, and then we can put it back in place.

Last but not least, I'm going to save my pennies for a ceiling fixture from Rejuvenation-- I think, unless I find an antique or reclaimed one I like before that-- to jive with the deco-ish-ness of the mirror. 

Oh, and we still need a threshold. See? It never, ever, truly ends. But at least now I get to smile with glee every single time I walk into the room. It feels like a hotel-- and damn, is that a good feeling.

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Monday, April 1, 2013


Saturday brought us sunny and mid-fifties, finally. The thing about this winter is not that it's lasted into April, but that it's been so continuous. Most winters, we get a break. A warm spell, a quick thaw. Not this time, buster. This cold weather has been Puritanically stubborn.

So catching a break, as we did Saturday, was marvelous. Patrick and I cautiously decided that since we were going to be home all day, and outside, it was okay to let the chickens range. So range they did, and happily.

They walked out the hole in their fence and stopped to chow down for about twenty minutes straight, without pausing or looking around or walking, and that was wonderful to see. 

Patrick spent his day doing the brakes on his car, and I spent the day getting one of my punch list items crossed off. Remember those bricks I laid last spring? Of course you do. Well, I never got around to filling in the cracks between with sand, like I was supposed to, so weeds aplenty grew in and around everything. I spent Saturday grubbing them out, all of them, and pouring and sweeping and tamping sand. Much better. 

I also spent time planting: carrots, and beets. I also have peas, spinach, shallots, scallions, radishes, kale, mizuna, and a few other cold-weather crops in. Plus, arugula seedlings in the cold frame. This spring, I have hoed snow off the garden in order to plant. This spring, I have worn long underwear while planting, while tying trellis, while digging. It has been stubborn, but today I checked the ten day forecast, and after Wednesday it looks like we're finally about to be released into the land of warmth. Pete will be happy for that, for he has developed a love of hunting the small rodents which have colonized the hugelkultur beds I made last spring...

While it continues to be cold and rainy/snowy Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, I am going to work on the bathroom. It is ready to be made splendid, and I am ready to get it there.

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