Loose Ends and a Recipe Review

I kind of spent 3 hours torturing myself yesterday.  I planned the menu for the 4th of July BBQ, drafted invitations, and then spent the rest of the time eating cereal and quietly sobbing as I scrolled through cute outfit after cute outfit on ModCloth.  There are a lot of events coming up, and not enough outfits, and definitely not enough money for new outfits.  Then, by some miracle, a box arrived in the mail with clothes from my sister’s neighbor.  And she happens to be my size.  And she is a shopaholic.  And the clothes are barely used.  And there are two shiny bathing suits and summer skirts.  So, again, while I may lust towards new clothes, I can’t complain.  I just wish this lady had my shoe size.  Sigh, I’ll never have enough shoes and dresses.

Colorado is still rainy and dreary.  The sun came out for a little bit yesterday, but it wasn’t enough, in my opinion.  Not to mention, everyone is freaking out for fear of another flood.

Which means, unfortunately, we still cannot make more progress (read: finish) the garden bed.  It’s so close to being done, but the weather will not cooperate for us to finish and plant the rest of our seeds.  I’m glad that I was able to plant the flower seeds before all the weather, because they are all starting to sprout up now.  Yay!

Since our garden bed is so large, I didn’t just want to put chicken wire up around it to keep animals out.  It would have been a really tough feat to even do simple gardening.  So we decided to create removeable panels all around the bed, that way I can easily remove sections to get to the garden.  We used this guy’s tutorial on it HERE.  Ours are a little taller, but we did everything else the same way.  Since our garden is shaped like a “U,” we are building a short gate for the front, so we don’t have to create panels for the inside of the “U” (less panels to create).

And since the weather is kind of dreary, I’m going to share my favorite stew recipe.  It is from the Frugal Foodie Mama blog, and it’s the Slow Cooker Balsamic Beef Stew.  I adapted it at home to be gluten free (gluten free flour/sauces), I added considerably more carrots (the stew is a little meat heavy) and I omitted the celery because my husband hates celery – and it went over really well.  It’s simple, but has a “higher end” taste than normal stews.  That’s definitely the balsamic vinegar reduction.  Holy crap.

I will say, since I’m linking to another blog that’s highly promoting Sam’s Club, I do not endorse that place.  I have many reasons, but the biggest is how they treat their employees.  There are plenty of other places you can get ethical, high quality meat that doesn’t cost a fortune (and they don’t have really fucked up, backwards attitudes on how people who work their asses off for their company should be treated and paid).  If you have a local butcher, they also have a lot of bulk deals, and frozen stuff is usually discounted quite a bit.  So, get a freezer and stock up!  Also, for families looking to save some money, don’t make meat every night.  I know it’s usually an easy food to work with when you’re busy, but meat is expensive, and really isn’t all that great for you all the time.  Sorry about the awkward rant, but even though I might be almost done with this blog, I will never endorse places I don’t like, and I am NEVER paid for my endorsements.  So yeah… love this recipe, but not the love affair with Sam’s Club.

Well, folks, it’s almost the end.  Tomorrow, I have a great movie that I’m reviewing, and I’ll be parting ways with this blog.

Until next time.

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Dirt! The Project

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You know how when you clean a room, I mean, really clean it, organize it, etc, and it seems to get worse before it can get better?  Doing a big yard project is like that, but worse, because there’s dirt everywhere.

And so continues our outdoor projects.  I was a little disappointed on Saturday because Zach and his dad spent most of the day doing this:

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Stump removal.  It looks like a bomb went off in the corner of our yard right now.  And it took a lot longer than we all expected, and it was a lot harder than expected.  But, at least it got removed, mostly.  Zach was happy his dad was there to help, and I was happy I didn’t have to be there with the noisy chainsaw.  Apparently, the dogs didn’t mind though.  The Wii terrifies Penny, but not a chainsaw, so I have no idea what goes on in her head.

So by the time they finished that, there wasn’t a whole lot of time to work on moving the garden dirt.  Plus, Sunday, we were going to have to bathe the dogs and take them to get their nails clipped, so I was a little stressed, initially, that we weren’t able to do more.

To top it off, we woke up Sunday to a super windy day.  Moving dirt in the wind is not fun.  Not only that, but all the cardboard I had laid the evening before had blown all over the place.  And trying to lay newspaper down in high winds, even when you wet it, is one of the most irritating things ever.

All that said, Sunday was amazing.  Our awesome friends showed up to help move dirt, and that made all the difference.  We got more done than I had even planned!

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We were able to even cover most of the area we are using for a front flower garden.  Totally unexpected, but very welcomed.  My only regret is that I didn’t take a picture of the dirt, but we were so busy, I barely had my phone on me all day, so I forgot to take any pictures.  Most of these were taken by Zach.

We are almost ready to plant.  We are building removeable panels this week so we have something to keep the dogs and rabbits out of the garden, but are easy for me to remove when I tend to the garden.  I guess a lot of people will get short chicken wire and then bend over it to weed and harvest, but my back is way too bad/I’m too short for that.  We need something nicer and easier.

I already planted wheatgrass in a planter box because I was impatient, and it’s coming in already.  I need extra green for my smoothies!

Until next time.

Monster Raised Beds

IMG_5048We’re getting started!  This was our first day of major yard work/yard construction.  It was a ton of work, mainly because Zach is a bit of a perfectionist, but also because we built a huge garden bed with huge 6X6 lumber pieces.  We wanted a bed that would last, not bow out eventually from the weight of soil, and we used cedar because it’s safe for the food, and won’t rot nearly as fast as other woods (which are generally treated with cedar to prolong their lives).  Surprisingly, it wasn’t much more expensive than building a nice regular raised bed, because we called around to lumber yards and found one with great deals on shorter, 4 foot-long pieces.

The only things we have left to do with this particular bed is to build up a stone retaining wall around it, to keep the dirt from falling, to fill it with garden soil (and prep it for that), and to create a mulch path around the bed so we don’t have grass around it, and so it’s nice to walk around.  We will put in the irrigation system in May, along with a new sprinkler system in the backyard.

Anyway!  I’ll just post pictures and let them mostly speak for themselves.

My dad drilling holes for the rebar.  We used the rebar on the bottom level of the lumber to secure it to the ground.
My dad drilling holes for the rebar. We used the rebar on the bottom level of the lumber to secure it to the ground.
It took quite a while to level out the ground.  That was actually the most work.  Shoveling and tampering for hours...
It took quite a while to level out the ground. That was actually the most work. Shoveling and tampering for hours…
Zach and Layla finally agreed to the outline and dimensions.
Zach and Layla finally agreed to the outline and dimensions.
Zach putting in the rebar.
Zach putting in the rebar.
I was terrified that my dad's duct-taped axe was going to kill someone as we used it as a hammer...
I was terrified that my dad’s duct-taped axe was going to kill someone as we used it as a hammer…
The dogs used the wheelbarrows as shade, even though we have a covered deck and plenty of shade elsewhere.  They were committed to the project.
The dogs used the wheelbarrows as shade, even though we have a covered deck and plenty of shade elsewhere. They were committed to the project.
The "semi-final" product.  It was a long day, but it looks beautiful, and makes me want to create a garden labyrinth.
The “semi-final” product. It was a long day, but it looks beautiful, and makes me want to create a garden labyrinth.
We are mostly doing seeds, but we did get this strawberry plant for the back part of the garden.
We are mostly doing seeds, but we did get this strawberry plant for the back part of the garden.

There is still quite a lot to do, and I’ll try my best to document everything, at least via pictures.  Thank you for taking this journey with me!

Until next time.

 

 

Yard Work Begins

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Finally a new post!  The past two weeks have been insane for me.  It’s all been a blur.  One week leading up to my trip to Arizona, and then a week there.  I’m drained, to say the least, and have never been so happy to do yard work.  I love road trips, but two days where we spend 16 hours each in the car can get rough.  I’m all off on my eating schedule, and my sleeping schedule.

So for the next several weeks, I’m going to share my progress with the back yard (and a little with the front).  It’s pretty exciting, really.  We are doing a complete overhaul.  Last night, Zach dug up one of the sprinkler lines (which was not something he planned on doing) because it ran through where we want to put the raised beds.  But while he dug it up, we discovered they didn’t bury it deep enough (it was buried around 2″ deep, when it needs to be 6″).  In fact, there was sprinkler line running in a lot of random places in the yard, with seemingly no reason.  There aren’t a lot of heads, but damn, they zig-zagged the hose everywhere in the yard.  What I wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall when they had that conversation on the best way to install a sprinkler system.

So, basically, after the yard is tilled, we will lay down a new system.  One that is up to code, works, and will actually carry water to the grass…

One of my “demands” after we bought the house, was I wanted every area in the yard to be groomed and safe.  I know this might seem like a weird demand, but I grew up in a “wilder” setting, as in the outdoor space blended into the woods.  There were always spots in the yard that were scary, and probably contained a trillion black widow spiders.  Even parts of the yard we don’t see/use often, I wanted to look nice, and I wanted to be able to access them without issues (like spiders, of course, but also overgrowth and weeds).  When we bought the house, the outdoor space hadn’t been taken care of in years.  It’s totally wild.  That’s why we’re doing work now, so it’s all done before summer comes and we have no chance of winning the fight against overgrowth.

The first thing we had to do was move the pea gravel out of what used to be a dog run area.  We are putting a raised bed there, and the area needed to be cleared and leveled.

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We also have an insane weed problem there.  They survive so well in that gravel.  I pulled weeds there every week last year and they just got worse.  Nothing worked.  I used both natural and chemical weed killer, to no avail.  When the gravel was moved though, they all died.

Since there was a billion pounds of gravel, we decided to reuse most of it for one side of the house.  On the east side, we have our A/C unit, and that area was used as a dog kennel and they let it get out of control (there used to be a crazy bush back there, but it was removed last year.

The ground also did not fall away from the house, which might cause water damage down the line.  Zach dug at the ground to even it out and make sure it set against the house correctly.

Then came the cardboard.

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Why cardboard?  There were so many weeds on the ground.  Too many to pull, and too many for me to be comfortable slamming it with chemicals.  The cardboard is to kill the weeds, and act as a buffer for the weed block so it didn’t get punctured.

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And finally!

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It was a ton of gravel.  We spent a lot of the time cleaning it up, taking out weeds and worms, but it paid off!  Now it’s cleaned up, and when we eventually go back there to clean the A/C we won’t have to bring a machete to bush wack.

It’s such a tiny space, but at least that part is done.  We reused the dog run gate and have this area gated off, mainly because I worry about the dogs so close to the A/C unit.  And they can’t be trusted.  We will most likely do the same thing to the west side of the house.

Speaking of which!  Next week, I’ll blog about finishing the west side of the house, repurposing bigger rock from other parts of the yard (this house doesn’t lack in the rock department), and I’ll also talk about actually building the raised bed.  It’ll be a picture heavy blog for awhile.

This week, I’ll continue to show our progress with prep work.

Until next time.

Planting a Garden: Part One

This weekend we embarked on one of our biggest adventures yet: building our garden.

Let me clarify.  Not so much garden, as gardenS in both the front and back yards and also putting up a new fence.  It is a daunting task, and we’ve only nicked off the tip of the iceberg.  This weekend we came up with some plans, got supplies, and starting taking down the enormous bush in our front yard.  Before we can do anything, we have to clean out everything.

We have three main goals for this project:
1) Make the yard safe.  Right now, we are dealing with several years of neglect from previous owners.  Cigarette butts littered about, trash, sharp object ranging from… everything, and lots and lots of cat poop from the neighbor’s cat.  The fence is also a complete mess on one side (pictures next week), enabling our dogs to be able to jump over.  On the other side, the fence has nails sticking out everywhere.  This is not only not safe for our dogs, but also not ideal for kids.
2) Make the yard functional.  Right now, there’s not a whole lot you can do in either yard.  The back has a tiny place to sit, but there’s not much else to do.  The back gardens will be dedicated to food production, and the front will be dedicated to Colorado friendly flowers and plant-life, so as to not kill our water bill.
3) Make the yard aesthetically pleasing.  I have a feeling this will fall into place as number one and two are accomplished.  Yes, curb appeal is important, especially for the front.  For the back, it’s nice for when we have company over.

We didn’t originally plan on taking out the bush this weekend.  It just sort of happened.  We had planned on going for a hike with the dogs, but instead woke up, made a huge yummy breakfast for everyone, and just sort of wandered outside and started working.  We wheeled everything to the back yard, because next week, we are getting a huge dumpster (or two) to removed all the crap in both yards.

The beginning of the project was easy:

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This is my dad chopping up the bush.
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Even Layla was bored at how easy it was going.

But then we got to the base of the trunks and roots.  My dad and husband took turns chopping at it.  It took a few hours.

My husband and dad trying to shovel a spot to hit the trunk.
My husband and dad trying to shovel a spot to hit the trunk.
Husband mid-swing.
Husband mid-swing.

Eventually we got it out, and now we have a clear space.  Apparently our neighbor was none too happy, but that is probably because they were able to hide their garbage and store other things under our bushes…

The bare spot.  Now we need some dirt and mulch and clear out some rocks!
The bare spot. Now we need some dirt and mulch and clear out some rocks!

I also found out I was incredibly allergic to this bush.  I could barely breath after helping move it to the back and any place that it had contact with my skin I developed a huge rash (still have a bit of a rash left over).  So I’m even more glad it’s gone.  I can literally breath easier.

Here’s a couple pics of the bush in the mulch pit in the back:

It takes up almost half of our giant mulch pit!
It takes up almost half of our giant mulch pit!
Close up.
Close up.

You will also note all the debris from when we got rid of our shed last weekend.  Boy, what a project!

Next weekend will be fun though.  We will have some friends over and have a dumpster party, grilling and all!