Tomayto Tomahto

It has begun…

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One days harvest.  And then two days later I came back in with this…

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And in another two days that basket will be full again.  And in another couple of days…you get the idea. I think some salsa making is about to ensue.  I am still dreaming about that salsa I made two years ago.  Yes it is weird to think about a salsa for that period of time.

So why so many tomatoes? 

I would like to say it is my excellent watering, fertilizing and weeding skills.

But that would be a lie.  In interest of full disclosure here is what the garden/weed patch looks like right now.

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Good thing tomatoes are red otherwise I would never find them in there. It is a mess.  And we have not had rain in weeks (hence the hose and fried grass).  Oh and it is has been over 100 degrees for a very long time. And it will continue to be for a very long time.

So maybe it is the heat.  Or my sporadic watering.  Or my non fertilization. Or the fact that our winter was so mild that three tomato plants came back from last year. Or the square foot gardening soil mix we added this year. Or the Bee Balm.

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This happens to be planted right next to the garden (you can see the dried remnants of the blooms in the weed garden pic above) .  And bees love it.  Especially bumble bees.  And I am thinking that when they are enjoying the pretty pink flowers, they could be moseying on over to the boring yellow tomato flowers and helping me out. And no stings yet.

That is just my idea though…it could be totally false.  I am just going to enjoy all of my tomatoes and pretend like I knew what I was doing when I planted it there.  Anyone want some salsa?

Finally

I have been promising this for awhile, but the outdoor space it finally ready.  But next time I want to finally get an outdoor space together, I need to actually make progress before August when it is too hot to be outside even at night….. and when all the flowers and herbs are looking a little wilty….well because they are hot too.

Anyway it would not be an After without an Before. So he is the unofficial before (stolen from the raised beds how-to).  Basically when we moved in we plopped a table in the middle of the deck with cheap plastic chairs and hung lights very very straight on the pergola.  Oh and Derek  installed outdoors speakers as soon as the wire was discovered.  Priorities.

Here we are now:

Outdoor space 8/10

I swear I did not have Winter pose…that is where she was laying when I walked out with the camera.

The other side-

Outdoor space 8/10

My reading corner-Outdoor space 8/10

The umbrella gets moved frequently to shade the plant and the sectional.  I can’t decide if I like it better with or without….hmmmm.

Outdoor space 8/10

The long view.  Yes I am aware that it leans.  I swear this is the only angle you can tell.  A couple of people have given us ideas about how to fix it but frankly none of them sound that fun and we have not cared enough to pursue it yet.  10 points if you can spy the shell pink mini blinds in the ugly master bath in this picture.

Outdoor space 8/10

On a daily basis I use our rolling cart for gardening stuff, but it multi tasks for entertaining or BBQing-

Outdoor space 8/10

Some herbs and the grape trellis.  Hopefully the grapes will be higher than the first level and able to be seen next year.  Outdoor space 8/10

And at night (without a tripod obviously).  I like how the sectional area is less lit but still bright enough.

Outdoor space 8/10

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And to prove they were not nearly so cooperative the entire time….

Outdoor space 8/10

In case you are wondering, here is where I got stuff (on a budget of course):

Tile-Top table and umbrella- Lowe’s or Home Depot years ago on clearance

Sectional: Wal-Mart (blogged here)

Rocking Chair- Jo-ann’s (blogged here)

Outdoor Rug: Home Fabrics and Rugs (blogged here)

Garden Stool: Homegoods (here)

Blue side table- hand me down transformed with the power of spray paint

Outdoor Pilliows-made by me

Rolling Cart- made my Derek (tutorial here)

Painted Pots -another DIY project (tutorial here).  The non-painted pots are from Homegoods.

And the final DIY project- the canvas panels on the pergola (here)

So what do you think?  Now I am starting to get the itch for fall and cooler weather so we can start spending time out there again.

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Buying Fabric at a Hardware Store

You would think that I would have at least some Italy pictures ready to go by now.  But I don’t.  You see my old laptop was out of space and no matter how many pictures and music I moved to the external hard drive it was still too full and s…l…o..w.  Luckily my brother (whose major is computers) was still in town after dog-sitting for two weeks and officially condemned it and told us what we needed.  So we did what every jet-lagged person does…go buy  a new computer.  We decided on a desktop because of amount space and power I wanted while still keeping the cost down.  I love my new toy that is running amazingly fast….and I now have photoshop.  I was so excited to get to making all the vacation pictures super pretty.  Then I tried to use photoshop…..and then started googling “basic photoshop tutorials”….and then went to the bookstore to buy a how-to book.

So while I attempt to understand the very basic functioning of this program, I wanted to share with you my guest post from Remodelaholic a couple of weeks ago.  I am happy to report that they have been in use over a month with lots of sun, wind and rain and have held up beautifully.

 

Our deck was hot and sunny….a combination that did not bode well for spending time out there.  Especially because I am not a fan of sweating.  We had a rickety pergola that the previous owners had installed but the slats were so far apart that it did not do much in terms of providing shade.  Oh yeah we also installed lights when we moved in for some ambiance.  I still love the light set, but our installation method…..well let’s just say it was straight and rigid.  Not exactly evoking feelings of summer casual fun.  Behold the before-

Before/After sailcloth project

Before/After sailcloth project

But how could we get some shade without adding a roof or another layer the the questionably stable pergola?  Ultimately we would like to have plants climb it and provide shade, but that will take years.  And patience is not one of my virtues.

And then when I was admiring the famous drop cloth curtains I had an idea.  Why couldn’t we use cheap paint tarps as the canvas to cover the pergola with?  Brilliant!

So I head to the nearest home improvement store and bought two 4x15 drop cloths.

IMG_1175 I worried that if I left them this size that rain and wind could have negative consequences.  So I sliced them in two and did a quick seam in heavy duty thread.  No measuring or preciseness…..I cut where they were folded.  I am not fast on the sewing machine and got four done in in 35 minutes.

Then I added two grommets on each end to attach to the pergola.  Again this step did not take very long at all.

With the husbands help, we took down the lights and wove the four strips of drop cloth into the pergola all the way across.  They were attached with screws through the grommets that can easily be taken down in the winter.   An “above” pic from the window.

Before/After sailcloth project

Again no measuring was involved….we just eyeballed the spacing.  Then we added the lights back in a more casual way to get this-Before/After sailcloth project

Before/After sailcloth project

And at night…

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The table is now shady and we can pretend we are in a fun restaurant when we are just eating in our own backyard.  It would have been easy to add another two strips to bring the shade to the end of the pergola…..but you see that green tarp?

Before/After sailcloth project

That would be the BBQ and I do not think flame and canvas are a good mix even in the name of style.

The entire project cost less than $50 and a 2 hours of time.  Will it fade…..yes but I do not care as a lighter color will still work.  Will it last 20 years….no but it was cheap and easily replaceable.

Well worth it for some shade and ambience in my opinion.  And even if you do not have a pergola in your backyard, drop cloths could still be used on other structures or even between a couple of poles.  Who knew that they could be so multi-functional?

Did the Miracle-Gro Work?

Last year I had dreams of a beautiful bed of sun loving perennials.  Visions of cut flowers were dancing in my head.  I decided to go with a color scheme of yellow and pink and worked everything I wanted to plant.  Then I started up adding up the numbers realized how expensive plants are.   Ouch. To help ease the budget, we ordered from Bluestone Perennials and got tons of plants in lots a great varieties for not much money.  Last year they were a bit small when we planted them-

 

Yeah pretty puny.  I was a little worried.  OK I was a lot worried.

But this year it has turned into this-IMG_1222

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Still have a little growing to do, but I am amazed what a difference a year makes.  We lost a couple of plants to dogs and rabbits but that was an excuse to feed my plant buying habit for some fill ins.  So if you have a little patience, you should definitely give plant mail-order companies a try.

That and because they send you magazines in the dead of winter for spring ordering.  It’s like plant porn.

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Good….Bad….Good….Random

Good-

Overall things are going very well in the garden.  Other that the *^#@ rabbits that keep eating everything.  But I told myself that I need to get over that, so moving on.  One of the things that has taken off the most is our first tomato plant…IMG_1181

Yep the middle half of an entire bed is a single tomato plant that has already taken over two cages.   Good thing the rabbits ate all of the peas because there was no room for them anyway.  I can’t wait to harvest the tomatoes and start making my salsa.

Bad-

Which brings me to the bad news about the next salsa ingredient…..the cilantro is not looking so hot.IMG_1176

Hmmmmm….   We thought if we staked it up that it would help with more delicious leaves and less of this-

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Not so much.   Then I thought maybe cilantro was supposed to look like this at this time of year.  But I read Kim’s post over the NewlyWoodwards and that burst that bubble.

So now I am thinking to cut my losses and replant.  Unless the blogworld had any brilliant ideas to salvage this.

Good-

In case you are interested, the how-to page has finally been updated.  I struggled getting all the columns to line up correctly and therefore have not been adding to it and worrying about it “later”.  So I finally did away with the columns to make it more user friendly. And I promise to keep it updated this time.

Random-

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Jack is digging the new sectional and this is his nightly position.  The pups are not allowed on furniture in the house, but since the outdoor furniture gets rained on a regular basis, we decided to let them cuddle on the cushions if we invited them.  Jack thinks this is a good choice on our part.

And I am thinking that the outdoor space will be ready for the big reveal by the end of the week so stay tuned!

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And So It Begins (Edible Edition)

I just may have the garden planted.  Took awhile and I still may add a couple of things here and there, but overall it is ready for the “before” picture.

Last year was a lot more labor intensive with building the raised beds and planting everything from scratch.  So compared to that fun, this year was pretty easy.  And I even had some of my plants come back.  And I strategically moved the others around to help combat disease and bugs.

I also stuck pretty closely to the original plan.  Except there was no room for cantaloupe and asparagus…and Derek threw another random pepper in the cart.

So I will stop babbling and share the beginning of the 2010 gardening season-

Bed #1: Raspberries

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Yeah this is the “before” picture.  They have really taken off and I am so excited that I will be able to get fruit of them this year (and that they are hiding ugly the electrical box per my plan).  Tying them up to the trellis was a long and thorny morning so if the birds get to the berries first I will be very peeved.

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Bed #2- jalapeño, other random pepper, beans, red onion, yellow onion, spinach, and leaf lettuce.

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I planted the beans from seed and they are just starting to sprout-IMG_0961

 

And the Bed #3- strawberries, tomato, bell pepper, more beans, green onion and snap peas

Let’s just say the strawberries cam back with a vengeance-IMG_0967

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As did the green onion.  The flowers look pretty….IMG_0964

But it needs some serious dividing as it is taking over other plants.  Supposedly the best time to so this is after flowering and I am counting the days.IMG_0966

Speaking of flowering edibles…who knew that sage could be so pretty?  Good thing looks good because I have no idea how to cook with it.IMG_0956

All the other herbs (cilantro, lavender, oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, sage, tarragon, and mint) are happily in their pots on the patio.   But already are so much larger than when I planted them.

We also added a grape trellis to the side of the patio….I am a little nervous because from what I read the pruning protocol is very specific to get fruit.   So this falls in the “experimental” section.  Hence the tags still on the plants….once I take them off I am committed in my mind.  I know….weird.  So they just might be on there all summer.

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And to go with the beginnings of the garden, I am happy to report that we have already eaten a small portion of this years bounty.  It rained  a l l  weekend here, but I sloshed through the yard to get this to add to dinner (and dessert).  Note to self-backyard drainage is probably another upcoming expensive yet unglamorous project.

First garden harvest 2010

First garden harvest 2010

First garden harvest 2010

I am so excited to start the almost daily trips out there to add to our meals.  And I can’t wait to see the “after” pictures.

Stay tuned for the spring pictures of the rest of the landscaping….I am happy to report that the perennial beds are looking a lot more full than last year.  Not that would take much.

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How-To: Outdoor Rolling Cart

In re-designing our outdoor space, I realized we were lacking some storage.  Sure there were tables, chairs and a sectional, but no place to just set stuff. And while the garage was just a few steps away through the interior of the house, I learned quickly that it was just too far in the summer and therefore I just plopped things on the ground.

So we needed a flat surface to set stuff.  And it as luck would have it, we had a perfect awkward space for this storage to fit into.

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It had to be pretty and look like furniture.  I was envisioning a simple slatted console-table like thingy.  That I could set stuff on. In a fun color. 

That was the very thorough description I gave to Derek.

He took it a couple of steps further and designed and made this-

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A double decker rolling cart.

Backing up……

After I explained my master vision we headed off to the hardware store for some lumber and outdoor stain.  After much debate and price comparison we decided to go with cedar because it was not that much more expensive than pressure treated wood and I could treat it with color right away.  And it smelled nice.

And by much debate, I mean we put wood on the cart and then exchanged it for a different kind three times.  The Home Depot guys would have thought we were crazy if they did not know us so well from our frequent visits.

Anyway, we spent about $60 on wood.

Now for the Jenny version of the how-to (with pictures of course):

We made the frames for the shelves-IMG_0926

Added the slats-IMG_0927

Screwed on the legs-IMG_0928

Assembled the layers and added the wheels-IMG_0929

Simple right?

Well for the more technically inclined here is the Derek version with fancy schmancy measurements-

The cart is three main pieces.

The upper shelf is made completely of 1 x 4 boards.  The slats are 1x4 of 16 ¾ in length.  There are 9 of them spaced approximately ½ inch apart.  The long sides are two 1x4 boards hooked together.  The outer board is 7 inches shorter than the inner board (29”).  The inner board is 36” long.  This allows 3 ½ inches on each end for the vertical 2x4.  The short sides are connected with a 1x4 that is 11 ¾ inches long.  When looking at it from the short side you would see the 1 ½ inch side of the 2x4, then the ¾ inch side of the inner 1x4, the 11 ¾ inch 1x4 and then a mirror of the other side.  This totals out to 16 ¾ (1 ½ + ¾ + 11 ¾ + ¾ +1 ½)

The lower shelf is made the same way except the two outer slats are cut shorter to fit within the vertical 2x4’s. 

The vertical 2x4’s are however tall you want to make them.  Our cart is 37” from the bottom of the vertical 2x4’s to the top of the upper shelf (not counting the wheels).

OK enough of that…back to the pictures.

After the cart was assembled, it was my turn to take over with filling the nail/screw holes and sanding-IMG_0933

But happily we were going for a rustic outdoor look so not that much sanding was required.

Which is good because sanding is not rated as one my favorite DIY tasks.

I then finished it in an opaque stain in Shipmate Blue.IMG_0935

Ultimately I would have loved to do a semi-transparent stain in blue, but I could not buy it in a quart.  And I did not feel so strongly about it to justify the extra cash.

After two coats of stain we got this-IMG_0947

Or should I say this-IMG_0949

On a typical day I plan on housing most of my gardening supplies here so they are not just scattered around the deck. 

But it also can be used for this purpose-

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Or for sangria...or a bucket of beer…..or lemonade.  Or setting the mint plant on there and whip up some mojitos.   Or a serving table for food.

Or a fiesta…

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Confession- I was tempted to set up all of these those little vignettes and take pictures to illustrate the many uses of the outdoor cart.  But a) it would have been obvious that I had a little too much free time and b) my neighbors were in their backyard….they probably would not look at me the same after seeing me rearrange beverages on the cart six times and then snap pictures.  Especially at 8 on a weeknight when it was just the two of us outside. 

But I did capture the cart in all of it’s wheeling glory without causing neighborly concern.  It makes a perfect BBQing accessory-IMG_0954

It was super easy to construct (or so I am told) and cost less than $70 for all the materials.  And I love the pop of blue. 

It looks perfect in the completed outdoor space and I love the functionality.

Outdoor space 8/10

Outdoor space 8/10

 
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Herbs on the Move

Know what my favorite thing about winter is?  How much it makes me appreciate spring. 

Because who can appreciate the absolutely gorgeous weather we have been having without going through the cold and incredibly long winter?

That is what I tell myself at least during the winter.  Sometimes it actually works.

Since spring is in the air, gardening is on my mind.  We are still in the iffy part of planting in good ole Zone 5 because we have been known to still have a random freeze this late.  But being the rebel I am, I decided that I could start planting my pots last week.  I know I am living on the wild side, but I figure that in the unlikely event we have a freeze, I can always pull them inside at night.

Since I am freeing up garden real estate this year, I decided all the the herbs were going to planted in pots on the deck.  There are two added bonuses to this.  First, most of them smell heavenly which brings a nice ambience to the deck space.  Also, all the flowers I planted in pots last year did not do very well so hopefully the herbs will succeed  much better.  And flowers can start to add up in terms of $$$.  So by replacing most of them with herbs I would be buying anyway, we are saving some money.

But then I stumbled onto a problem- pretty pots are expensive, especially when I plan on planting tons of herbs and some random flowers. 

I did have a stack of old terra cotta ones  in the garage and they are inexpensive for new ones as well…..but orange rust does not mesh with the color scheme of the outdoor decor I am going for. 

So I turned to my favorite thing for sprucing something up…..I bet you can guess what that is…..

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But terra cotta is not a material that you can just slap some paint onto and call it good.  It took some prep work and specific materials.  So of course I am sharing the how-to so that you can also score some cheap and springy pots.

The How -To

1. First, gather all your posts and scrub them with soap and water.  I used a combination of new and old pots and definitely spent a lot more time scrubbing the mineral deposits and grime off of the old ones.

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2. Let them dry for at least 24 hours.  Learn from my mistakes and do not set them on a cement garage floor if there is any moisture at all in the ground.  The terra cotta will suck it right up and they will never dry.  Which is not fun to discover when you are ready to start painting them.

3. Spray with a water proofer.   Terra Cotta is porous and when holding plants will suck all the moisture in from the dirt into the clay.  Which is bad news for your paint if you are expecting it to stick.  There are a lot of water proofers out there and some people suggest painting them with oil-based polyurethane to do the trick.  But we had cans of Thompsons spray water sealer laying around from some past project that I now have no memory of.  The terra cotta absorbed it right away and did not appear any different after spraying.  Spray every surface with this stuff- both inside and outside.  We went though a can and a half for all the pots pictured after applying one heavy coat.

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4. Paint with Patio Paint in your desired color on both the outside and the inside.  All terra cotta surfaces must be covered so that no water permeates any part and causes your paint to peel.  This includes the inside of the water hole.  I found my patio paint at a local craft store next to the terra cotta pots and not next to the acrylic paint which caused me a little bit of confusion.

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I covered everything with two coats of paint using a foam brush.  The yellow and the white did not cover as well, so I added an extra coat.  This paint dries really fast so the process did no ttake very long.   I also used the green on the lower inside part of most of the pots because I knew you would not see it but it covered very well.  And I had a big bottle of it.

5.  Let dry for at least 48 hours per the paint’s instructions.

6.  Fill with plants!

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We put a coffee filter at the bottom the pots so that water could seep through but the dirt would stay put.

7. Color coordinate where you want particular herbs and enjoy!

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Budget Breakdown:

$37 for pots (I already owned some)

$16 for paint

$0 for water sealer (already owned)

=$53 total…..which I think is great for 11 pots and some of them being large ones at that.

And I love what the color brings to the deck….I am so excited about how it is coming together.   Now I just need to figure out what I can cook with that monstrous sage that came back with a vengeance this year…..

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Spring Steals

So I am taking a big step and taking a personal day today.  I have never taken one before, but I am so proud of myself for taking a day to myself and all the projects waiting to be completed. 

Well let’s be honest…..half a personal day.  I have things scheduled at work in the morning but I will get out of there by noon.  Promise. 

Small steps.

While I use my extra couple of hours to work on the ten different spring projects that are partially done, I wanted to share all my great spring buys that I have found recently.

First, has anyone else noticed how expensive outdoor furniture is?  Ouch….especially when you are looking at comfortable outdoor sectionals.  Even at all of our favorite cheap places were were looking at least $1000.  Sigh. I will admit I was frustrated and thought that our outdoor space would be bland and not as functional for another year.  And what fun is that?

But then Wal-Mart.com came to the rescue with this-

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Any guesses on how much?  Under $500.  Yeah, so it probably won’t last a million years and become a family heirloom but oh well.  A couple of summers of enjoyment is all we are asking for.  It was also free to ship to the store. 

The box barely wedged into my small SUV.  And by barely I mean we had to take out the carpet in the back for that last centimeter and actually take the sectional out of the box piece by piece while it was in the car because it was so snug in order to extract it.

I am in the process of buying fun fabric for pillows to make it more summery and bright.  Because the throw pillows it came with were pretty ugly. Add that to the project list.

And did anyone spy the other thrifty find I scored this past week?  I will give you a second to scroll up in case you missed it. 

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Yep a garden stool for 20 bucks at Homegoods.  I am thinking to use it as a little side table right now but as the outdoor space comes together we will see where it ends up.  Anyway I love it.  And the color.  And the price.

I can’t wait to put together all the details and make our deck an extension of our house.

But in the meantime I will pretend that I am going to spend my afternoon of freedom stopping and smelling these-

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(and because of my spring fever I not able to resist at least one flower pic in every post….it will pass soon I promise)

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