Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Long Shot

My daughter and her husband marked a major milestone this past week.  They closed on their first home.  Now, armed with the energy of youth, they are ready to take on the fun and hard work of making their "new" home, their own.  Their quest for this house began in January.  They had decided they wanted to buy a place of their own, and had started their hunt. One day I got an email from Jenn entitled, "we are in love with this house."  She included the link to the listing and I took a look.  I had to laugh when I saw the name of the road -- Longshot Lane.

In Jenn's mind, certainly, actually getting to the point of owning this home was a long shot. And here they are, just a few months later, starting the million projects process of home ownership. The listing touts it as being 1905 era, but Jenn said the home inspector indicated he believed parts of it dated back to the 1700's.  One BIG difference between their ancient home and ours.... theirs has already been renovated!  I cannot wait to see it in person.
Circa 1905
With Extra Cool Buildings
And a long drive
Meanwhile, back at the old farm house, the gardens are really starting to come alive.  The peas are filling their pods, while the spinach and strawberries continue to produce sufficiently for daily picking.  The zucchini and yellow squash have started producing, though their offerings are still TINY...  The beans are flowering and the cauliflower and kohlrabi are starting to take off.  The asparagus mocks me with the tall feathery stems, knowing full well that I cannot eat any of it until year THREE!  Still, it looks lovely and I have planted tomatoes between the rows of asparagus, just so I can pick SOMETHING from the asparagus patch this year!

The melons, all volunteers from last year's crop, are popping up everywhere and are flourishing.  The carrots, black carrots which I gave NO chance of surviving when I direct sowed the seeds in the ground, are thriving...looking very carrot-y.  Cucumbers, cantaloupe, and honeydew are SLOWLY gaining ground, though they are not the most promising looking things.  In the "so-far-we-are-a-total-flop" department are the eggplant and peppers.
Yellow Squash
The grapes, after what seemed forever, are FINALLY "showing."  We became convinced we'd purchased a bunch of dead sticks, so we supplemented our original plants with several hearty looking specimens from the local Southern States.  Once the happy healthy ones were in the ground, those original sticks decided they too could put on some buds and even some leaves. The potatoes, several varieties, and onions are going to town in a major way.  We might not have any crop to eat but the plants themselves are sure pretty!  Corn, on the other hand, is looking suspiciously like it wants to join the eggplant and peppers in the total flop department.
Original grape (stick)
Mulching Gardens
Joe Loading Mulch into Van -- Under New Fig Tree
Loading the Mulch onto Pallets
And in between the veggies, the berries, and the fruit trees, are the variety of flower experiments.  If nothing else, by the end of this summer, we should have a pretty good idea of what grows well here and what is simply a waste of time.
Vulunteer Sunflowers Dwarfing Returning Rudbekia
Moonflower first set of leaves
On my morning walk today, I spied what I thought was a big shovelful of dirt near the fenceline.  I wondered whether Joe had been digging a hole to plant something, and had left the hole open, awaiting that plant.  I decided to examine the hole a little more closely and discovered the "shovelful of dirt: was actually a large turtle.  He was climbing out of the hole HE had dug...right where I had planted bulbs.... He was not the least bit shy, and kept his head out and his eye on me as I snapped his photo.
Big Guy
Climbing out of hole he dug
Keeping his eyes on me
Besides the farming, of course, I am engaged in the ridiculous process of "staging" the pond house.  I have concluded that if three different people tell me how to "stage" the house so that potential buyers will be able to envision themselves and their "stuff" there, I will get three VERY different opinions.  In the end, I opt to simply let the house show as is.  It is spotless, and in like-new condition...

And Saturday I played and sang at a wedding at our church.  The music was wonderful.  However, I have to say, I have never seen a church full of people who looked so unenthusiastic for a wedding... INCLUDING the bride and groom.  It was odd. Nevertheless, they said their vows and will live, I have no doubt, happily ever after.

Another "big thrill" for me this week was picking up my new glasses.  My prescription changed only slightly, but I went ahead and purchased the new glasses.  They came with "snap on" sunglasses, which actually attach to the glasses magnetically.  They are WAY cool, in my book!

Yes, I think last week was a very good week.  This week started off with the start of what promises to be a heat wave (in the 90's all week) so working outside will be exhausting...at least MY outside hours start after my office hours, so I get the cooler temperatures to do my planting (yes we are STILL planting).  Joe is trying to wrap up the trenches and the water lines, etc. so he can put up the pool (end of the day cool down) and the 660 feet of fencing we have ready to go......
More Cosmos
Interesting Sky

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Already Mid-May?

Are you kidding me?  Seems like just yesterday we were freezing our butts off and whining about the entirely too long winter.  And here it is, half way through May and LOTS of plants are growing in the gardens.  We knew Spring had arrived for real when we each found our first tick, trying to catch a free ride, and we've already suffered through blistering hot days.... But last week was nice weather -- Spring weather, for the most part -- mid 60's and 70's during the day and 50's at night. Perfect working weather -- and work we did.

Last week brought the return of our contractor who is SLOWLY helping us rehab the old farm house.  One day soon we will actually decide we are ready to pour the cement slurry to provide a better moisture barrier, and then will begin the installation of the new floor.  I have become so accustomed to walking around on the dirt floor, that once a real floor is in place, I suspect it will feel "odd."
Wendell demonstrates to Judy and Betsy (his wife)

So, as Wendell worked inside the structure, Joe worked on completing trench filling, digging more gardens, clearing of underbrush, felling trees, and burning PILES of brush, and I worked inside, managing to get out to help in the gardens and the brush burning after my "real" work days were complete.  Things are shaping up around here, but with every task completed, we add five to the list....
Brush Burning

Meanwhile, (in ring number three) the pond house is back on the market -- different realtor -- hopefully with better results.  Naturally, selecting a realtor means interviewing several.  Eventually, I decided to go with the realtor who's brother actually built my house, and whose husband was the developer of our small subdivision.  I was not thrilled with the numbers she suggested for the asking price, but she, and all of the other realtors I interviewed, are convinced the reason I had no potential buyers even LOOK at the property during the first listing, is that it was overpriced.  She showed me sales comps and current offerings comps, and in the end, I agreed to list it at her suggested price (gritting my teeth as I did.)

I did get an appraisal of the property, since everyone seemed to think the assessed value was too high, and hence, the original asking price was also too high.  Imagine my surprise, when the appraisal came back at two thousand ABOVE the assessed value.  The house is back on the market...now being offered at 50K UNDER the assessed value... they had better be beating a PATH to my door!

Nevertheless, since this realtor is all about actually MARKETING the house, she scheduled a photographer to photograph the house and property.  The appointment was for Saturday, so I took Friday off from work to prepare.....

I started at 6:00 AM Friday ... and worked until nearly 1:00 AM Saturday.  I managed to pressure wash the front porch, vinyl siding, porch steps and sidewalk, treat the weeds that would like to take over the driveway, declutter closets, take down all curtains and window toppers, vacuum and dust the house.  Washing windows I reserved for our return trip on Saturday morning.
De-Cluttered closets = DAV Donations

Pressure washing with SMALL pressure washer -- very slow going

Saturday, after a VERY short night's sleep, we were back at the pond house, taking the first load of donations to the local DAV thrift store.  Then it was the mad rush to wash 21 windows and windowed doors, while Joe put the final touches on the "yard" and detailed the garage.  I was only two windows shy of complete when Joe announced the photographer had arrived.  Joe directed her first to see the pond, buying me enough time to finish the window cleaning project before the photographer made her way inside to start her shoot.  Two things:
1. Thank GOODNESS for double hung, double tilt-in windows, or I would NEVER have been successful in cleaning 21 windows, inside and out, in three hours.
2. I am NOT as spry as I used to be.... standing on short ladders, bending backwards at odd angles to CLEAN double hung tilt-in windows just is NOT the simple task it is cracked up to be!

CLICK HERE to see the virtual tour of the pond house

Still, we survived, and after the photographer left, we treated our overworked selves to a late lunch at the local Chinese restaurant.  It was great!  And after lunch, we stopped by Southern States to check on the availability and price of cattle panels.... and left with three flats of flowers and vegetable plants, several grape plants, golden raspberry, and gooseberry bushes.... we just NEEDED more work, right?
Chinese food hit the spot!
Trunk full o' more plants!

Sunday afternoon and evening were spent in the gardens...planting, weeding, watering....

Grape Baby

Pea Pod Baby


Watermelon and Hosta


Looking for sprouting seedlings

Today it was back to work for me. After my work day was done, we made the run BACK to Southern States to pick up the cattle panels, and some bales of straw.  We managed to get back to the old farm house with only what we went for -- PLUS one more flat of seedlings and 80 onion bulbs.......

By the time it was too dark to work outside, we'd managed to spread all of the four bales of straw around the plants in the gardens, plant onions, tomatoes and a couple of the grapes.... there's always tomorrow, right?

Loading bales of straw on top of cattle panels
Spreading the straw
Drip hoses on front gardens
And here it is.... already halfway through May.  We are enjoying daily salads of fresh baby spinach from the garden, and daily bowls of fresh strawberries (with maybe a little ice cream?).  The peas are putting on pods and the rest of the vegetables and fruits are growing....  It will be interesting to see the transformation by summer......  Slowly but surely!
Turtle on Driveway

BIG turtle in grass

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Miles of Pipes

It's been a busy week.  Last Saturday we spent the day dividing and transplanting a huge clump of ornamental grass we'd dug up a few weeks ago.  We also started taming back the woods at the front of the property, opening up the cement pad that will, one day perhaps, have a little fruit stand.
Joe dividing ornamental grass

Transplanting Ornamental Grass
Judy Clearing Trees from Cement Pad
I quit working at 5 PM so I could get cleaned up and make the hour drive to Newport News, VA to see my son and daughter-in-law perform with the Virginia Choral Society.  The concert was excellent, with the second piece being absolutely beautiful.  I just closed my eyes and listened.
My Favorite was the Second Piece
From WAYYYYY at the Back
Stephen and Kristen, after the Concert
This week has been the week of installing what seems like miles of pipes.  Joe dug the trenches a couple of weekends ago with the rented torture trencher, and to me, the maze of trenches looked like some sort of crazy etch-a-sketch...but to Joe, who knew what he was trying to accomplish, it was precisely what he needed.

Now, to be honest, Joe and I walked around and around the property, seemingly for months -- Joe "explaining" his plan to me, -- me not really understanding exactly WHAT he was talking about.  All I knew for sure was that one day we would have one heck of a lot of trenches, with a goal of running water to various parts of the property, and directing excess water to ponds from other various parts of the property, and running extension cords through conduits to provide "plug-in" capabilities around the property.... I added nothing to the planning, figuring Joe knew what he was doing and certain I'd be happy with anything.
Maze of Pipes
Hose Connect at Pipe End
Joe Cutting the PVC Pipe
Laying the Pipe
And this week, many of those trenches, and the conduits they were designed to carry, have been completed.

Meanwhile, we have been planting -- planting seeds, planting seedlings started in the makeshift greenhouse.  I think we have managed to plant about 900 of the 1300 cells in which we started seeds.  The gardens are starting to look like they might grow something more than the weeds that THRIVE in the tilled soil.  I've been enjoying spinach from the small patch I started six weeks ago.  I have no idea why, but the baby leaf spinach from the garden has NO bitter or irony taste like the baby leaf spinach I get in the grocery store.  This is delicious!  I've been eating at least one salad a day for more than three weeks now, courtesy of the single pack of seeds I planted.
Front Garden -- Several Rows Seeded
Strawberry Snack
The berry patch is coming along.  We have a lot of red strawberries (which we have a habit of snacking on while working outdoors) and the currents are putting on fruit.  I don't think the cherry trees will fruit this year, but they are growing vigorously and look very happy. The plum, cherry, apricot, peach, apple and pear trees are all looking great.  Only a couple of trees look as if they are having a hard time.  One of the peach trees is loaded with peaches, but it does not look like it is strong and healthy.  I'm happy to report that the fig trees, which we thought had been killed by the hard freeze after they had put on buds, have made a comeback.

The peas FINALLY started flowering today.They are very sturdy looking pea plants, but I was beginning to think they were never going to flower.  The big disappointment to-date are the grapes.  Of the dozen or so plants we put in, so far, only one is putting on leaves.  Hopefully, they will all eventually leaf out, but right now they look like a bunch of sticks in the soil.  I haven't yet given up hope.

We have, of course, MANY more plants, trees, seeds to plant, but there is just NOT enough time in the day.  I look forward to my morning walks to see what is budding, what is blooming, and what is fruiting. Ten of the twelve tiny little sticks we received when we ordered wisteria, and three of the twelve trumpet vine are now putting on leaves.  All of the forsythia is taking off, and only one of the butterfly bushes is still without leaves.
Morning Walk
Fig Tree Lives
Single Miniature Rose
Flowering Three-Leaf Clover
Peach Babies
Only Grape Leafing Out
Benson Hunting Under Azalea
Another of my "big thrills" around here is seeing the variety of birds that call this place home.  This morning, from the window, as I looked over the back garden I saw a turkey meandering around -- not in my garden -- yet.  The bluebirds are in what I thought was a purple martin house, left behind by the former residents, and they are not at all shy around us.  While we work in the gardens, they fly in and out and help themselves to nest making materials and grubs.  I saw the first male goldfinch yesterday and he was brilliant yellow.  He looked tiny next to the dove that was checking out the ground around the back garden, and when the dove decided to share the same square foot of ground as the gold finch, the gold finch took off.  I hear the whippoorwills, and the owls, though I have not actually seen them.

Tomorrow is supposed to be another lovely day -- perfect weather in the mid -70's after morning showers -- and I'm sure we will spend many more hours out in the yard, weeding gardens and finishing trenches.  Suffice to say, by nightfall we are exhausted, but it is well worth the hard work.  I especially look forward to the weekends when I can actually get out and work in the gardens before 5 PM.  I suppose it might seem a bit odd that I have seriously considered scheduling vacation time from work.....so I can garden all day!

Happy Mother's Day!!
Dorothy Rose Columbine -- Bloomed Today