Wednesday, December 05, 2012

And a Porch, Too!

 Joe was working so efficiently, I didn't get any photos taken of him building the new porch, but these shots show the cosmetic work. He laid down at least two coats of primer before putting the green deck paint down. That's Joe hard at work painting near the picture window.

One problem the old porch had was its brick supports fell apart. (It was only about 110 years old. I don't know why...) That made the porch unstable. Add rotten boards and you can see why I insisted every one use the back door.

Joe didn't want that to happen with this porch. He used treated landscape timbers seated in concrete to support the deck. It took him a lot of talking to convince me to put two full supports in the center to keep the crossbeam from sagging. I was so against it that he didn't use full sized 4x4s when he built the front part of the steps. He had to come back later and scab in pieces to extend to the crossbeam. Come spring and nicer weather, he will sheath this support with some 1x somethings to make it look pretty.

We will add the porch railing in the spring as well. 

Hm... Does this mean folks can start using the front door?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Walls! Fancy that. Walls!

 The summer before Pat left (2009) he gave the grandkids each hammers and let them do their darnedest demolishing the plaster in the utility room. Two months later he was gone and I was not in a position to do anything about the roof leak or the bare lathe showing on the walls. I have lived with that for three years. (After a while you cease to see it, but you never like it.)

Times have changed. The roof is going to be repaired soon. It's time to finish the walls and reclaim the utility room. My friend Brian offered to help with the sheet rocking  That was good because Joe was still an over-the-road truck driver and he wasn't going to be home long enough to do much with the project. He did help Brian get the first two pieces up.

With Brian's expertise and my thumb-fingered assistance, we got the walls up in a couple of days during the first of October. It looks so nice! The entire room is brighter.

Joe and his wife Lisa changed jobs after Halloween. They have been staying with me while they look for a place to live. This has given Joe a chance to do some of my Honey-Dos. Replacing the front porch was one major project and plumbing the utility room was another. I wanted to get rid of the side by side washer/dryer and put in a stacking unit on the other side of the room. This would free a wall to create a pantry.

Joe built a partial wall to protect the stacking unit from the back door. He mounted the new faucet and drain hookups in the wall. There was even room for a trash compactor beside the stacking unit. Hey, I'm getting uptown high class!

The finishing touch has been the pantry. I purchased a base unit for a bathroom sink at the Habitat for Humanities Restore in Topeka. We butted a 3-drawer unit that came from the kitchen against it and Joe built the cupboards above. I have the doors to the base unit in the garage. They will get their last coats of paint when the weather is warmer. (Tape, bed, texture, then painting, will happen then as well.)

Now we are talking about putting a single metal sink in the pantry unit. It will give mechanics a place to scrub that ISN'T my kitchen sink. I'm liking that idea. I can use it as a spot to scrub vegetables coming in from the garden, too. Of course, Joe is going, "I just pulled out the plumbing there..."

My Lovely New Roof

 November 13, 2012! My day of joy! The new roof was started! I have been struggling to find a way to put a new roof on this house since we moved home in 2006. I finally came up with the money and a person who could do it. I was like a kid in a candy store watching the metal going on. 

Once the roof is finished my son is going to rebuild the front porch. I won't know how to handle that. When my folks bought this house in 1960, Dad announced that the front porch was bad and should be replaced. He and Mom lived here till 2002, but he never got around to doing anything with the porch. I took the flimsy railings off in 2010. (It didn't take much). Now Joe will do what Joe Bill wanted to do. But that it tomorrow. 
Right now, let's just admire this lovely new roof!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Road Less Taken

 You might be from the country if you don't mind getting a bit lost on the way from one place to another.

Jen, Lala, my friend Brian and I were running errands in Emporia when we realized we had to get to Jen's bank in Burlington before it closed. I thought I knew a shortcut, so I turned south on a road that follows the Coffey County/Lyon County line instead of staying on the Interstate that angled quite a bit out of our way to the  north. We were enjoying the ride until I ran out of blacktop.


Oh, well. The beauty of Kansas roads is they are almost all laid out in a gird pattern. As long as you are angling in the right direction, you can't get lost. Sure enough, after a few miles of gravel roads through the wildlife refuge and on the backside of Lake Redmond, we came out on more paved road and made it in to Burlington before the bank closed.

We all enjoyed the detour. This drive was more restful and far more beautiful than any Interstate.

Sometimes it's nice to get a bit lost-ed. :)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Canning Budget

   Mom kept a copy of a flyer pinned in the back of her favorite cookbook. It was called Your Canning Budget. We used it to anticipate how much to can each year. My biggest problem is figuring out how much to plant to get 110 quarts of food per person. :) 

FYI: The photo is a section of the pantry shelves my son built me.

Your Canning Budget

From Modern Guide to Home Canning, National Pressure Cooker Company, n.d. (1940s)

Planning your work… and then working your plan is essential to carrying out your canning program. While it is difficult to devise a canning budget that can be followed exactly, it is important to have at least a rough estimate of your requirements before you start in on your program.
          Working out a canning budget need not become a bookkeeping task, nor is it necessary to plan in minute detail the meals you are going to serve for months to come.
          What is important is to make a list of the various foods you want to can during the season. Decide, insofar as possible, whether you are going to put them up in pints or quarts… basing your decision on the size of your family, the types of foods and the containers available.
          Then calculate the approximate number of times you think you will serve each type of food in planning nourishing meals for a week. Multiply this figure by the number of weeks you expect the canned supply to last, and place the result opposite each food on your list.
          As an example, presume that you figure that you use about ½ cup of tomatoes per serving, and there are four in your family. If you usually serve tomatoes at, say, three meals a week – then your family consumption will total 2 cups, or 1 pint, per meal amounting to 3 pints or 1 ½ quarts a week. Figuring 34 weeks out of the year, then you would need approximately 51 quarts to take care of your requirements. Add an additional 14 quarts for other cooking purposes, and you can put down 65 quarts of tomatoes in your canning budget. Follow the same method deciding other needs.
          If you have your own garden, working out your canning budget before you plant is a good idea for it aids in deciding how much to plant and when to plant certain foods. Of course, you must keep in mind that you want a supply for use fresh, in addition to your canning needs.
          Just as a suggestion, the following canning budget has been worked out for a family of five.

Spinach and other greens………   30
Tomatoes…………………………    65
Other vegetables……   …… …… 100
Fruits……………   ……   ……… 220
Meats………………   … .……      100
Soups......................…  …             25                                                                                               
 Total....... ..  ................. ......... 540 
However, while arriving at a figure may be easy, it is sometimes difficult to budget the amount of each type of food needed to fill a pint or quart jar and what the approximate yield will be when you convert fresh foods into canned foods.

          Mom and I estimate that following this budget, one would need roughly 110 quarts of food per person canned for the season. We discounted the canned meats and soups because we do not go in for that kind of canning. These items are frozen, made fresh or purchased at the grocery store

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Gnome and chives
I like alliums: onions, leeks, garlic, chives, wild garlic, wild onion... It doesn't matter what they are or where they grow. They have cheerful flowers and many of them taste good. (We won't address the mild allergy to garlic...)  This year wild garlic was prolific in the shade of the wooden dog pen. I felt guilty digging it up to put in the new raised bed for the cantaloupe and watermelon. Ah, but there are others in my garden. Chives wintered over again and are growing enthusiastically. The garlic that I planted as an afterthought last fall produced nicely.
Dried onions from 2009
Drying onions, 2012
The onions that I planted with my tomatoes last year got away from me. The tops died and I only found about half of them when I harvested. As usual, they were tiny: about the size of golf balls. This spring, all those missing onions sprouted and kept growing. When they went to seed, I enjoyed the balls of flower on the ends too much to harvest them. A few days ago, I broke down, dug them and braided their tops to dry. They are huge! Do onions need two years to make? Was it the organic fertilizer I used this spring that they liked? I know that you aren't supposed to harvest alliums after they go to seed, but what the hey? They were lost last year. Maybe they will be worth something this year. If not? Well, there is always the compost pile.
Leeks in bloom 2012
The leeks got away from me, too. I don't even care. They are so pretty! I enjoy going to the garden and watching the pollen gatherers at work. There are always honey bees working the leek blossoms. Wasps visit, and twice I have seen bumblebees at work. It gives me a charge to see the honey bees. My dad was a bee keeper. He had three or four hives in the garden, not to far from where I have my blackberries. When the hive would swarm, he would have to catch the new queen and her helpers to start a new hive. Who knows? Perhaps the bees working my garden escaped from Dad's hives.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

More Squirrel Stories

Squirrel on red shed roof torments dogs
Our days are spent listening to the frantic barking of two terriers: Charming and Brooklyn. Charming is the most adamant. She MUST catch that squirrel that sits on the garden shed roof. What matters the small detail that she is inside the big dog pen? The squirrel is not impressed. In fact, I'm pretty sure it sits there, slowly eating a walnut, just to torment the dogs.

Furball and Squirrels


My oldest cat, LC Furball, is a character. I found her in Grand Prairie, Texas, in 2002 as a six-week-old kitten. She was caught in the plants on the neighbor's porch. I knew she was lost because that neighbor didn't care for cats. She was raised by our German Shepherd, Hagar. No matter that he was a dog, and a male, to Furball he was Mama. She mourned when he died.

When Furball was half grown, she found a way to slip out an upstairs window and lurk on the garage roof watching for squirrels. She was a mini-panther. She was a fierce hunter. She stalked squirrels.  Until the day one caught her.

The neighbor told me about it that evening. She looked out her back door to see a squirrel sitting on the cable TV wire that stretched across her yard and attached to my house. Furball saw the squirrel, too, and slipped across the wire to catch her prey. She caught him! But squirrels have sharp teeth. Once Furball had him, HE didn't let go. The neighbor said she wasn't sure what would have happened if the wire had been larger. It wasn't. They fell off!

Furball dashed one way and the squirrel went another. Each was happy to escape the monster on the wire.
Watching for squirrels
I found Furball and doctored the bite on her chin. She snuggled close to me and told me what a mean creature that squirrel was. From that day on, the mini-panther did her squirrel hunting from behind windows. She had no desire to return to the roof.

Furball was traumatized when we moved to Kansas. This house is surrounded by trees -- FULL OF SQUIRRELS! She rarely goes outside now. She will lurk at the screen door and peer outside. Where are the squirrels? If it is pitch black outside, she will venture as far as the porch. She rolls around and basks in her freedom. Any sudden noise will send her scurrying back to the safety of the house. Most of the time she follows me from room to room, lounging nearby, keeping an eye on me. Perhaps I am her protector, the new Mama now that Hagar is gone.

Jen says she knows Furball's secret: she's nuts, and she is afraid the squirrels will collect her.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

New Entry

With all the flowers that needed new homes after I dug up the rootbound plants in the old flower bed, I've been sorely pressed to find homes for them.

This new entry solves several problems. It will give more interest to the front door. It gave me a home for several narcissus and daffodils, and it added an edging to the sidewalk that will make mowing easier. To give summer color, I added impatients to the bed as well. Win-win!  I also got an impressive workout cutting out and moving the sod that used to be where those beds are now located.

Instead of turning two wheelbarrows of sod into compost, I patched it into various bare places around the yard. I hope they take root. We haven't had a good rain since I planted the starts. Watering by hand isn't as effective as a good rain.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Potato Update

Here is the volunteer potato growing in the compost pile. It REALLY likes growing in the compost pile. I will be interested to see if any potatoes make. The green part is going crazy.

2012 -- Year of the Yard

Circle Garden at Top of Raised Beds
I have been having so much fun working in the yard this year. The raised beds and circle garden are coming together. I created a rose garden with lilacs on the west boundary of the property. When Jen thought she was buying a house, she purchased 10 small trees from the National Arbor Day Foundation. By the time they arrived, she had changed her mind, so the trees came to this yard. Squeezing ten more trees onto this property has been interesting, but I found homes for all of them. Some (dogwood and hawthorne) are in the east yard. They will eventually replace the shade we lost when the butternut tree died. Some (redbud) are on the front terrace between the sycamore trees, and some (crabapples) are in the orchard and old garden (golden raintree). The lilacs were added to my circle garden.

Raised Beds -- new on far right is strawberries
The two crabapples are near the 5-in-one apple tree. The 5-in-one is about five years old. It was one of the first trees planted when we moved back to Kansas. I saw my first bloom on it this spring. Aunt Roseanna has a similar tree in her yard. She says hers has never bloomed. We speculated that the trees might want a polinating source, even though the seed companies where we purchased our trees never mentioned such a thing. So-- crabapples cross polinate apple trees very well. By the time my crabapples are big enough to bloom, the 5-in-one will surely be producing more than one bloom! :) I may get apples from it sometime in my lifetime. Speaking of polinators, my second cherry tree died last summer, so replacing it is on my to-do list for this year. 

There were a lot of young plants in my yard that didn't survive the hot weather. I planted two weeping cranberry cotoneasters last spring. They appeared to die, but I gave them one more chance this year. They didn't leaf out in the spring, but the trunks seemed supple. I moved them to a more sunny location (in the circle flower bed). They are coming back! I have new growth from below the graft. Hm... I wonder what I will get? Will it be some sort of non-weeping cotoneaster? Time will tell.

The project for moving all the root bound plants from Mom's old flowerbed is over. I have dug and replanted more lilies, narcissus, daffodils, peonies and Iris than I can count. I gave away plants till the neighbors ran when they saw me coming. After starting rows of foundation plantings around the north side of the house and in areas around the garage and the garden shed; adding Irises and peonies to the circle bed; and lining the front walk with dafodils and narcissus, I closed my eyes and tossed the rest of the plants in the compost. The composter is about half full right now. I wonder how many flowers will try to sprout? They can join the potato that is growing there.
All in all, It's a great time to play in the garden. I hope this summer doesn't get so hot I hide inside and barely stick my head out to water. I'd like to enjoy this till the snow flies.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Overflowing Wastub

I have a Pinterest account. One of the ideas I found there was a photo of a clay urn tipped on its side, spilling blue lobelia onto the lawn like water. I love that picture!

Now, I don't happen to have a clay urn. I DO have two old square washtubs. Last year they held herbs and flowers. This year I planted potatoes in one. They drowned, so I retired the tub. However, the other tub was available. I tipped it on the side, propped it up with bricks, and filled it with blue lobelia. Now, this is spilling wash water, right? Hm... A trip to the store and a six-pack of white alyssum later. Viola! Now there are random soapsuds floating in my spilled water.

I can't wait for the flowers to spread. I want to see the tub filled before half the dirt washes away.

I wonder if I should have had the plants well established before I tipped the tub? Hm... Nah. I'd never have been able to tip it if it were full of wet dirt.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Potatoes, Reprise

I DO have one potato plant that survived. It is growing in the compost bin! When I dumped the compost today, several leafy arms waved at me. I am sure it is one of the potatoes we found going bad the other day. Usually tossing things in the compost does not encourage them to grow. I guess things were just right for this one potato.

Since potatoes like to be buried -- it promotes the growth of more tubers -- I'll leave this one in place and see how it does. In fact, I'm going to make a point to keep burying it under compost so more tubers will form. One thing for sure, it will have good soil.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Mom's Blaze Climber

In 1981, I purchased two Blaze Climber roses from the Jackson and Perkins Company. One I planted where I was living in Texas, the other I gave to my Mother. Thirty-one years later, that rose is still going strong. At the end of 2010 I pruned it back severely. It spent last summer growing new canes, but look at it bloom now! I love this rose.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


My effort at planting potatoes in the washtub didn't work. The tub wasn't well enough drained and sitting directly on the ground. The heavy rains we have had this month flooded the tub. There have been INCHES of standing water that just don't go away. I'm going to empty the tub, spread the dirt around the yard and try again another day.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Spring! I love Spring!

          Every March, even if there is a dusting of snow on the ground, I have to plant potatoes by St. Patrick's Day. We made it -- just! -- this year. I wasn't going to plant potatoes, but my daughter found some in the house that had started to sprout. I didn't want to put them in my raised beds, so I tried something different. I planted them in one of the washtubs that are decorative planters in the back yard. Now it is April. I don't see any sprouts yet. I wonder if they have survived?
          Ah! but a lot of things did winter over. Most of my herb garden came through intact. We had a particularly mild winter (only a couple of light snows), so they may never have realized we had winter. I did have to replace the rosemary and lavender. They didn't come through. The tarragon didn't either. I have enough dried tarragon and basil in the cupboard that I won't be planting those herbs this year. Instead I put chamomile in the square where the tarragon was last year. The basil was always planted with the tomatoes. This year I put marigolds with the tomatoes. I don't know if any companion plant thing will go on from it, but the marigolds will be cheerful!
This week I have been outside whenever I could be. I spent all day Easter Sunday working with the herb and flower beds. I installed a new raised bed next to the dog pen, and dug it up. I dug up a small flower bed in front for cut flowers. Then I dug both sides of the circle bed for more flowers. After doing all that digging, I grabbed the trowel and dug some more, making trenches to place the plastic edging that divides my raised beds into squares. Do you know, after all that digging, the things that hurts most are my wrists? They just about scream when I do a turning motion like tossing dirt off a trowel. I expected my back to be tired from all the digging.
Just about everything is planted now. I have two more beds to complete. The strawberries didn't survive the heat last summer. Or was it the drought? Anyway, only 5 plants out of three 4' beds survived.  They are now resting their toes in one of my ornamental wash tubs. I took this opportunity to move the beds.
The painted pine boards that the first beds were made from didn't last past three seasons. I am framing the new beds from landscape timbers. The new beds will be located between my keyhole garden and the asparagus beds. That looks better and will make mowing by the blackberries easier. After the timbers are secured I will dig the beds inside (oh, no! More digging!) and enrich the soil with manure, peat and top soil. When that is done, I'll find more strawberries and get the bed started for next year.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Dog is My Co-Pilot

One reason I traded my Camaro convertible for a PT Cruiser after we came to Kansas was my furry friend. I had a German Shepherd named Hagar at the time. If you browse the files, you'll find pictures of him. In the fall of 2009 I was claimed by a half Chow/half terrier little girl promptly named Charming. She is my co-pilot any time it is possible for her to go along. She even has her own seat belt! There is a short leash that clips onto her harness. It fits into the backseat seat belt holder.

Lala and laughing Shadow
In September 2011, Joe and Lisa became over-the-road truck drivers. I am taking care of Shadow for them. Shadow doesn't mind. He's the family dog for anyone named Evans. Jen and her children rescued him from the Yates Center Pound when they lived in Iola. After they couldn't keep him, he came to live with me. I felt he was too large, too young and too bouncy for me, so Joe and Lisa took him to the farm. Shadow LOVED running free on 30 acres. However, that didn't last, and he's back home with me. (I don't think it will last long. He and Lala are renewing an old bond. He's all hers. She is as smitten as he is.)
Brooklyn, Shadow and Charming

In October 2011, Jen's heart was stolen by a terrier mix named Brooklyn. Brookie follows Jen everywhere. She sleeps on Jen's bed. She keeps Jen company wherever she is. Our canine home is complete.

So now when we go for a drive -- called Ridies by the initiated -- Lala finds the backseat a bit crowded, but she doesn't complain. Her siblings in fur deserve to go, too.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Family Updates

My silly girls
Just a few lines about my kids. Granddaughter Lala is growing up. She is 13 and her mom is 33, but folks who see this picture wonder if they are sisters. Of course, that hurts Jen's feelings. :)

Joe and Lisa's new home
Joe and Lisa changed jobs last September and became team drivers for a long-haul trucking firm. Here is their new home.  You can see Lisa got to settling in immediately. That's a mini-refrigerator she's moving into the cab. We have a friend who is a full-time RVer. He knows the difficulty of pu
Lisa settles in
shing a high profile vehicle down the road. His first comment when he heard the kids were driving a big rig was, "I want to see Miz Lisa drive that thing!"
So here you go, Jesse. Lisa driving:
Lisa drives