Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sad News

Pat and I started remodeling the house, but I'll be continuing it alone. Pat and I are getting a divorce.

I will continue posting as changes are made to the house. It will be a slower process, but it will still get done.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Grandkids are a Great Help

Kayleigh, Emily and Lala have been visiting this week. Lala went home on Friday; Emily and Kayleigh go home tonight. They have been a big help to me. They picked and snapped beans, helped pick tomatoes, and took care of all the dogs we've had around here. (Our two, Emmie and Kayleigh's Bella, and Lala's Tinker Bell.)

Today Emmie, Kayleigh and Reyes pureed a ton of tomatoes so I can make ketchup (my first attempt. Wish me luck.) Each one had a job -- Reyes turned the crank on the juicer, Kayleigh pushed the tomatoes down into the hopper and Emily kept them supplied with sliced tomatoes. I was at the sink, slicing. I could hardly keep up with them.

They were gracious enough to do this before they headed for the city swimming pool for their last swim before the girls went home. They didn't seem to mind. Emmie piped up, "I like this. This is even funner than swimming!" The other two immediately growled, "Bite your tongue, Emmie!"

The kids are off to the pool now and I have the largest amount of puree ever to turn into ketchup and tomato sauce. I do believe I planted way too many Roma tomatoes. The Big Boy tomatoes are finally starting to produce. I have put up six pints of diced tomatoes and have enough ripe to do it again. I'm also getting to enjoy fresh sliced tomatoes at every meal. YUM.

The kids have been very patient with road trips. Thursday we had lots of places to go -- including two meetings in Garnett. They entertained themselves quietly, even when it had to be totally boring. Tinker Bell was content as long as she was on Lala's lap. (Click on the picture for a close up so you can find the dog on Lala's lap.)

On Friday we took Jen to downtown Kansas City for a job interview because she had car trouble. While she was in the interview, the kids, Tinker Bell and I explored the park in downtown KC. We met a lady from Madrid, Spain , her 3-yr. old son and their Schnauzer puppy at the park. She and her family had flown to New York, rented a car and are driving to California as their summer vacation. She said she hadn't realized how much energy a three year old could have until this one had to be cooped up in a car all day. Her little boy ran away from her two or three times and my four enjoyed corraling him. The girls had to ooh and ahh over her puppy, too.

When I told her Reyes was Mexican, she spoke to him in Spanish. He was able to understand a little of what she said, but didn't have the vocabulary to say much. Reyes enjoyed the fountain more. He spotted a Coke can floating in the water and dubbed it the SS Coke. He was sad when the SS Coke sank, never to be seen again.

They had a great time at the park. Tink was as easy going as the day before -- as long as Lala was within hearing or smelling distance. It is hard to be a blind daschund. Jen, by the way, had a good interview. We have our finger's crossed that she gets the job.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

That Horse Shit Was Worth It!

Remember me posting about Reyes and Pat putting horse manure on the garden last spring? This was Pat's third try to get a good crop of corn. In the first two efforts he may have harvested six ears from the entire planting. Now he's a believer in horse manure (also extra nitrogen and side dressing with blood meal when the tassles form). We put up 19 pints of whole kernel corn and 24 ears of corn on the cob. If the entire crop had been planted in Bodacious corn, we would probably have had twice that much corn.

We planted two types of corn. Many years ago my Mom was enchanted by Iowa Chief corn. It was one of the first extra sweet corns she found. Not knowing which kind of corn to grow, I found that and planted it the first two years. Later Pat picked Bodacious from the Gurney's Seed catalog. We put in two rows of Iochief and 2 rows of Bodacious. Hands down, Bodacious is the one to grow! Not only was it sweeter, it outproduced the Iochief all over the place.

Besides corn, we have been busy with peas, onions, green beans and now tomatoes. I'm busy nearly every day canning or freezing what ripened the day before. I have never grown Roma tomatoes before, so it's an adventure figuring out how to process tomato sauces. I have put up two batches so far. One of classic tomato sauce (it came out pretty thick) and one of Italian Tomato Sauce. (runny, but full of carrots, onions , celery and other chunks. ) I have about 1/2 a basket of tomatoes to process today, so I'll have to see what recipe I want to try this time. The Big Boy tomatoes will be ripening soon. That's when I will put up diced tomatoes and tomato juice.

The green beans are going crazy! I have over 30 pints of beans put up and the beans are still producing. I thought they were "spring crops" that died off in early June, but the beans didn't, only the peas did. We will have beans until frost at this rate. I'm not complaining. Pat and I love green beans. Reyes doesn't get a vote -- they are on the table, so he gets to eat them. :) I don't think that's a problem.

The cucumbers went wild and I have put up all sorts of pickles -- Kosher dill pickles, dill pickle chips, sweet gherkins, sweet gherkin chips, as well as bread and butter pickles. I don't eat pickles, so I have to take the kids' word for it that they are good. Reyes and Lala smack their lips over the dill pickles. I do believe they could eat the entire quart in one sitting if they were allowed to do so.

I'm proud of the onion harvest, but frustrated, too. I can't grow large onions. I want them the size they come in the grocery store! Guess that will be one of my winter assignments: read up on growing large onions. Maybe they need something besides horse manure... I wonder if I can plant onions in a fall garden? As much as I'm using them for sauces and cooking, this won't be nearly enough to go through the winter.

The spaghetti squash is our mystery plant this year. My folks always planted one vegetable they hadn't grown before and didn't eat (yet.) One year it was globe artichokes. Another year it was peanuts. Okra became one of their staples after they tried it one year. [Dad had to harvest it because Mom was extremely sensitive to it's thistle-like nature.] So, for us, this year was spaghetti squash. It's doing great! But when do we harvest it? I've read that it is a winter squash, so I'm figuring it will harvest when the pumpkins do. I did pick one this week and cut it open. It was still green around the edges and the seeds weren't properly formed yet. I did cook it and the pulp did it's string thing, but we didn't eat it. I have time to perfect a good spaghetti sauce to eat with the squash.

We also have cantaloupe, two kinds of pumpkins and sunflowers planted. Reyes loves sunflower seeds, so he's been keeping a close eye on them. Next year I'm going to plant them against a building because every time we get a big rain, we loose another plant. We will be lucky to have 4 plants make it to maturity.

The pumpkins are Jack-o-Lantern pumpkins and one vine of Giant Pumpkins. The package said to pick off the buds and let the vine concentrate on producing one pumpkin to get the largest size. I let two pumpkins stay on the vine. I guess that means we will get two 150 lb. pumpkins instead of one 300 lb. pumpkin! It's going to have to hurry. Right now they look like light bulbs, not pumpkins. (That's it on the left.) The Jack-o-Lanterns have grown to be decent sized and LOOK like pumpkins, but those others, well... time will tell.

All in all we have a good garden and are enjoying it. This has been a good year for us.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Look at it now!

The bathroom is 90% complete. The only things left are to build the storage shelves that will go behind the door and to finish the trim work above the window and door. Oddly enough, Pat has a mental block about that trim. He keeps forgetting it. (But I don't!)

I wonder if it is a guy-thing? Dad didn't mind building things, but he wanted Mom and I to paint them. Pat enjoys getting the big jobs done, such as the living room walks and windows, but three years later, the woodwork has still not been replaced. He hasn't added the metal trim to the outside of the windows either. The roll of coil and the break are waiting in the lean-to of the garage. About half of the oak lumber we need for the woodwork has been sitting in the garage for nearly two years, too.

I really think it's a guy-thing. I try not to push too hard (guys get stubborn when you push), but I'll get him back to it in the fullness of time. Right now I want the bathroom finished.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Garden Is Looking Good

Now that I am retired I am enjoying working in the garden. Having Rey here is a big help, too. We have been using the manual tiller that I inherited from Dad. (Rey's Mom called it a Medieval Torture Device.) We aren't certain if Dad found it this way or put two things together, but it appears to be a manual aerator with cultivator tines behind it. I've been the one operating it the most, but Rey likes to run it up and down the rows, as well. Unfortunately, he poops out on me faster than he should. Oh, well, wait till the summer is over. He'll get stronger. We have both lost a few pounds from the work.

It has rained so much that the west side of the garden is still too damp to till. I have been keeping the weeds out of the rest of the rows fairly well. Pat says he's going to rent a tiller again and run it over everything one more time. The "wet side" is where I have the melons, cucumbers and pumpkins planted. I hope they like it wet. Fortunately, the rains aren't coming daily any more. Occassionally we even have to water. Maybe the west side will dry out a bit.

Last year's raised beds are still being used. Three of them will be permanent strawberry beds. The fourth one is the salad garden. The spinach and some of the lettuce doesn't want to come up, but the Swiss Chard, cress, two kinds of lettuce and the carrots are doing well. We'll be able to harvest our own salads by June 1.

When George and I lived in Waverly in the mid-1980s, I found two wagon wheels that I used to plant an herb garden. Mom salvaged the wheels when we moved to Texas. One of them is still around. I painted it flat black and put it near the back porch for -- yes -- an herb garden. I want to grow more than six herbs, but it's a good start. I have dill, thyme, cilantro, chives, and rosemary planted with more to come.

I LOVE My New Door!

Isn't it beautiful? This is the window in the new front door. Taking out the old door wasn't a simple switch. The new door is larger than the old one. Pat had to enlarge the opening.

Half-way through the process he realized of all the tools he owns, he didn't have what he calls a Sawz-All and of course he HAD to have it to finish the project. The old door was lying on its side on the porch. The new door wasn't in place, and we had to run into Ottawa for the tool.

Gee, it's nice to live in a small town. Pat laid the old door crossways over the opening, and we left Max, the Labrador Retriever, sleeping in the living room. He's not much of a watch dog, but he'd surprise anyone that tried to enter. When we lived in Dallas, I would never have left my home without a door while running an errand -- especially when it takes an hour to get there and an hour back! Max didn't even miss a snore while we were gone.

I haven't decided how we will finish the inside of the door. The wood work will be red oak. If I can put a red oak stain on the vinyl door, I'd like it to match the wood work. All that is left outside is to add the "dental shelf", bend the green trim, and paint the door to match. Then it's on to replacing the roof and rebuilding the porch railing!

And the old front door? Pat's going to enlarge the opening for the back door and install it there. It's original to the house, and I like it. I don't want to lose that door. (I won't mind losing the porch rails, but that's another story. Dad planned to replace them all the time he lived here -- 50 plus years. I intend to get it done!)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Garden time!!

Rey and Uncle Joe and Lisa went to one of Lisa's friends in Topeka and brought back half a trailer of dried horse manure for the garden. Pat and Rey spread it the next weekend. It covered 1/3 of our 25x90' garden. Pat says THAT is where we plant the corn! If we don't get corn this year, I do believe the man will cry. He does love fresh corn.

Pat planted the cherry trees and the blackberries that arrived from Gurney's Seed Co. after the manure was in place. We had enough left to add to the holes for the trees and bushes. We now have 8 blackberry bushes planted, a Black Tartarian cherry and a Bing cherry as well as the 4-in-one apple tree we planted last year. The trees are all dwarf trees. They will be a more manageable size when grown.

I'm going to be getting seeds in the ground as quickly as I can. I feel like we are already nearly a month behind for some things. I do wish we had a tiller of our own, but that's still in the future.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring is Here!

Spring is springing and we have the gardening bug. I have several plants (two kinds of tomatoes and lots of herbs) coming up under the grow light in the spare room. Pat has reserved a tiller at the rental store. (Someday we'll get the one that was Dad's repaired.)

Now we just need to decide where we want to move the three blackberry bushes that survived last year. I'm leaning toward putting them along the north property line. We put them in the old vegetable garden last year, and now we realize we want to use the old vegetable garden again. The square foot gardening is cool, but we want more than we can plant in the squares. I plan to make permanent strawberry beds in two of the squares and plant salad greens and herbs in the other two squares. The rest of the vegetables will be planted in rows.

Dad always said you should have your potatoes planted by St. Patrick's Day. We're going to be a week late. I purchased seed potatoes, but haven't sliced them to cure for planting. That's okay. Pat hasn't tilled the garden yet, either. He says he will do it tomorrow.

We did get the soil tested. My folks gardened in this spot for close to 50 years, which explains why the nitrogen level is almost totally depleted. It was at 4 parts per million. Our soil is a little acid. It should be 6.5 and it's 7.4. We're supposed to add sulfur. (I see a trek to the nursery to find that.) Pat has purchased some 45-0-0 fertilizer to restore the nitrogen. I don't want to use chemical pesticides, but I don't have any reservations about chemical fertilizers. It's the food the plants want.

I do love this time of year. Summer gets hot and sluggish, but Spring! It's the best time for a 60 yr. old granny to run out and play in the dirt as if she were 6.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Well Feathered Nest

The other part of the nest that I've feathered is the bedroom. Hey! It's the center of the nest, isn't it?

We bought a new bed. The bed is queen-sized and the room is roughly 9x12 feet. There isn't much room left over. We decided we would share a dresser. It would go at the foot of the bed where Pat has had his dresser. I still need something to hold my hairbrush and a place to hang a mirror, so we figured that left me space for something about the size of a bookcase along the wall on my side of the bed. Pretty tall order, eh?

We found everything we wanted! Pat thought I was into overkill when I fell in love with this chest. Oh,no, it's not overkill. This chest has 12 drawers and 2 cubby holes! If I'm sharing a dresser, I'm not going to try to squeeze everything I own into 2 drawers. This chest is so big, it makes me think of a German shrank. That's a wall-sized piece of furniture that Germans use as a wardrobe or buffet.

For the "bookcase" sized place to keep my hairbrush, we found a drop leaf table -- 12" deep when the leaves are down. Cool, eh? The mirror was found in the Clearance Dept. for $20.00. That helps balance the $$ we spent on everything else. (Fortunately we got sale prices on everything, but damn! furniture is expensive.)

These things had better become heirlooms!!

Feathering My Nest

One thing I wanted from the lump-sum retirement money was some new furniture. With the exception of a kitchen table I purchased about eight years ago, I have never bought new furniture for my house. George and I pretty much lived with family hand-me-downs. (The only exception was the fully furnished house trailer George and I bought in 1980, but still, I didn't get to pick the furniture and it didn't hold up to the test of time.) Pat and I had to decide how to merge two households of stuff! (We're still doing that.) Of course, most of the hand-me-downs were antiques, so I can't complain, but there is something to be said for getting to pick it out yourself.

The first picture is one of the hand-me-downs. It's the Grandpa Herron rocker that came from my Grandmother's father. Joseph Creighton Herron was a farmer, a school teacher, and he served one term in the Kansas House of Representatives about 1901. He raised seven children. When his first wife died in childbirth, he went "back East" to find his high school sweetheart and bring her to the Kansas prairie to help him raise his children. She was the only mother my Grandmother ever knew. Grandma loved her fiercely. It's really cool to have his rocker. I also have his Barrister bookcase/desk. (You can see it in and archway shot in Evolution of a Kitchen.) These are antiques I cherish.

For all of that, I still want some good furniture that I can pass along myself someday. I'd like some grandchild to be proud to have my chair, or bed, or piano.

Pat and I found some pieces that could become antiques. The furniture is solid oak, not particle board. We bought matching recliners, a table and bedroom furniture. We also purchased a futon for the guest room. Yes, they are mission style, just like the Grandpa Herron rocker. See my taste for all things Bungalow started early.

Evoluton of a Kitchen

When my parents bought this house in 1960, the room we now use as a kitchen was the dining room. Two standard, but somehow narrow, doors opened from the dining room into the living room and the kitchen. There was a long window that looked onto the back porch and a door to the porch on the east wall. A third doorway opened onto the south bedroom. It had no door, but Dad built one for it. At one time the south bedroom had been another porch. Dad speculated that the house may have had a wraparound porch at one time, because the bathroom appeared to have also been a porch. (Looking at the roof line, I don't think this was so.)

The room that we use as a utility room now was the kitchen then. (Double click on the above picture to get a clearer view of the utility room.) The sink was a deep cast-iron sink that was not enclosed in a cabinet -- it just hung out bare for all the world to see. Mom hung a curtain around it's base to hid the pipes. It was placed about where the hot water heater is now in the utility room. That sink was really a pain to use because it was so low! Mom was 5'5 1/2" and I had already reached my growth at 5'6 1/2". It seemed we had to bend double to do dishes in that sink. She washed. I squeezed in by the window to get to the drainer to dry them. The gas stove stood on the other side of the bathroom door and we had to go into the dining room to find the refrigerator. Mom placed a metal topped work table in the corner where she would later place the chest-type freezer.

There was a lovely floor to ceiling cabinet on the east side of the window. We had to stand on a stool to reach the top shelves, so that's where Mom put the seasonal items, like the turkey roaster, or canning things in the winter. The cabinet had beadboard doors, and a wooden (or was it metal?) counter top. A large bread board slid out of a slot underneath the counter. There were two fold out bins -- one in the upper cupboard and one in the base unit. The upper one had a sifter built into the bottom of it. The bins fascinated me. Dad told me they used to go to the mill and get 25 lb. bags of flour to dump in them. The sifter let the housewife have easy access to the flour without opening the bin. Mom sniffed. "Yes, and it sorted out the weevils if the flour went bad before the entire 25 lbs. were used up." The lower bin was for beans or other bulk items. Mom hated that old cabinet and was glad to see it go. I've always missed it. It was cool.

Sept. 7, 1960, on my 12th birthday, Dad started ripping the chimney out of the dining room. That marked the beginning of their kitchen remodeling job. He closed off the window and and turned the outside door of the dining room into a window. It became the window over the sink. To give more light, Dad opened the doorways to the living room and utility room into archways. Just for looks, he made the arches triangular rather than curved. They bought new birch cabinets and created Mom a modern kitchen in the old dining room. No more bending over a cast-iron sink! No more antique cabinets! To make certain Mom didn't need to bend over the sink anymore, Dad raised the sink another inch by putting a spacer under the counter. After all, he was tall (6'1") and Mom was tall. They needed tall counters. [Note: You can see Grandpa Herron's Barrister bookcase to the right of the archway to the living room. You can also see my poor, half-naked Furball, who has a nervous conditionon which causes her to over-groom and lick off her own hair.]

In the mid-1970s Dad paneled the walls with a birch paneling. For a while Mom had carpet in the kitchen. She learned quickly she didn't like it. When the dishwasher overflowed and spilled soapy water all over the floor, it was just about the last straw. Even with Dad's indoor-outdoor vac, it was hard to get all the water up. The next day, there was a circle of lighter carpet where the water had been. The dishwasher soap had cleaned that section of carpet. Mom had no idea her floor was that dirty! That was it. The carpet came up and she returned to a vinyl floor.

People only THINK houses are static. They are living organisms, too. They change with the personalities of their occupants. My son lived here briefly after Dad died. He changed the kitchen from gas to electric. Pat and I put the gas stove back in 2008. We have moved the range and refrigerator twice trying to fit the equipment we have into the space available. Expanding the kitchen into the south bedroom will be an even greater change. We are reinventing this kitchen one more time. When we finish, the kitchen that was an afterthought tacked onto the north side of the house will be a dominate feature facing the south. The dining room will be back, but it will be an integral part of the kitchen great-room.

My gas range will be the focus of the kitchen, in an island in the center of the room. We will have a sink that looks out a double window onto Seventh Street. I'll be able to see the children playing in the school yard and watch my flowers blooming. With four windows and two large arches, the room will be open and airy. It will be the country kitchen I've always wanted. And I'll have rocker in the kitchen, too.


The cobbler's kids go without shoes. Pat is a professional handyman, but our own projects get done when we have the time and the money. We have been without a bathroom sink since just before Thanksgiving. It's now the first weekend in Lent. I don't know which of us wants the sink back more -- me so I can wash my face and brush my teeth, or Pat so he can comb his hair and shave.

There only seemed to be two choices for pedestal sinks: dinky or huge. We chose huge. Pat had to go under the house to re-route the plumbing, but everything is ready to install the sink -- except. There is always an "except."

The wall needs to be finished before the sink goes in. I want subway tile in the bathroom and kitchen, so we first had to find subway tile. I thought it would be a big challenge, but we found a tile store in Topeka that sells it wholesale. We did more looking and found it even cheaper at Home Depot.

Pat and I both like blue, so my first inclination was to trim the bathroom in blue, then it registered that the shower stall is beige, not dirty white. (Ok, I'm not that awake when I'm showering. I never paid attention to its color.) Doing the bathroom in snow white tile with blue trim would look odd with a beige shower. Hm... So add bone trim! We can carry the bone and white theme into the kitchen and use blue for the accent color. Dang! I'm good!

The wall behind the sink is now finished and Pat is working on the wall under the window as I type. After the wall is dry, we'll add the grout and be ready to install the sink. Oh, happy day!

Friday, February 13, 2009

New Bathroom Window

It's so pretty! I love it!
Pat put the new window in the bathroom. It's a special order from Symington windows: double casement windows of a size to fit our opening. It also has obscure glass, so I won't have to worry about the neighbors seeing me stepping out of the shower.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

More Windows

I came home from work one day in December when it was really too cold to be outside and found that Pat had replaced the window! He said he loved that he could do it totally from the inside. The trick? Leave the old storm window on until the new window is completely in place.

A few weeks later, Pat replaced the two windows in the West Room. I was able to get a good closeup of the horsehair plaster where he removed the old woodwork. The horsehair doesn't show up too well in the picture. It makes the speckles in the old plaster. You can see the lath that supports the plaster. The insulation in the left corner is between the new window and the wall.

We will be removing the plaster from this room and installing sheet rock this summer.