Letting The Garden Fallow

I thought this post was scheduled to go up last week, but it wasn’t. This is what happens when vacation brain kicks in. Without further ado, a new post.

—————

August is a big month for us around the house. It’s my last full month before another graduate class starts, but it’s also the month we harvest a significant portion of produce from our gardens and start planning next summers garden.

2014BlueberriesExcept, next year, there won’t be a garden. At least not in the same format that we’ve had our six gardens in the last seven years we’ve lived here. Here’s why: the soil. I’ve found the most important part of gardening is learning to read the soil. This is something I’m still learning every year with every garden we have. It’s a science and an art. The soil tells me just about everything I need to know about my garden, and this year it’s screaming for mercy. We do crop rotations (i.e. planting a nitrogen fixer where the previous year was a nitrogen feeder) for both insect infestation control and soil management. I care a lot about our soil as it’s own living structure and don’t believe in perpetually placing synthetic petroleum based amendments, or even organic, to force it to continue to produce when it’s so clearly needing some rest.

This year we’ve had a pretty intense weed struggle, more so than any other year to date. The weeds are OUT OF HAND.

DSC_1249-01This is the same side of the garden we had the worst trouble getting anything to grow before the weeds announced themselves. Take a look in the bottom left corner. Those are basil plants. It’s the one area I’ve managed to keep a little bit weed free. Those basil plants should be double the size they are, and they almost haven’t changed size at all since being planted. The other side of the garden also has basil plants which are doing fabulous. Along with the better basil, the rest of the garden is growing healthy and with minimal soil pests, so we’re happy about that. Still, the weeds need some serious control throughout, not just in the horrendous “I give up” patch above.

DSC_1247-01After six gardens in the same (but slightly expanding every year) plot, we’re going to do a controlled fallow of the garden. Our plan is to use black plastic to starve most of the weeds, but we’re still going to plant some items through the black plastic like garlic and potentially tomatoes. We’ll be building a bean fence or tent somewhere else in the yard, and we’ll use another 2×40 ft bed we have to grow squash, cuc’s and some greens in. We’ll figure out the rest for the things like cabbage, radishes, broccoli, basil, etc. Perhaps raised beds somewhere else, perhaps another garden plot, who knows.

Here is, more or less, the proposed fallow plan:

  1. Prior to tilling the garden this fall, take soil core samples and send them to the University of Maine for soil testing to get an accurate reading. This has needed to be done for years. It’s about time.
  2. Spread manure and compost on the garden and till the entire plot.
  3. Cover the entire garden in black plastic.
  4. Cut slits in the black plastic and plant garlic in the side of the garden with the least weed damage.
  5. Early spring pull up the black plastic over the asparagus patch and heavily mulch with mulch straw or second cutting hay from the previous year.
  6. Hope for a hot spring and cook the garden until late May, early June.
  7. Repeat for a second year if needed.

There’s nothing quite like seeing a large beautiful garden filled with food in the back yard. However, taking care of the soil is vitally important or there won’t ever be food growing there again in any kind of quality or quantity. It will be nice to get more of our land into production anyway, and this is the perfect issue to force us into it. As for right now though, this beautiful August month in Maine, we’re going to keep harvesting, weeding, and enjoying the fruits of our labor.

DSC_1228-01Heck, worst comes to worst, we join a CSA for the summer to supplement our smaller garden. We’ll get to try veggies that we potentially don’t grow yet while also supporting a local farm. I’ll call this a win-win.

xo,

Heather

 

The Master Bathroom Begins!

Back in April I wrote all about our master bathroom, with plenty of before photos and a “I don’t know when we’ll start, but hopefully this summer” clause at the end. That may not be verbatim despite the quotation marks, but it’s pretty much what I said.  I’m super excited to now announce that the master bathroom, and the final piece of the interior renovation to be completed, is now underway!

DSC_9025-01

As noted in the previous post, this bathroom is insanely hard to photograph. Also, this is a master bathroom only in the sense that it’s in our master bedroom. Remove all expectations and notions of a large, grand bathroom, and replace with a teensy-tiny, grand bathroom. We knew we’d be limited with space because of the layout we had to work within, and we decided not to eat up a bunch of bedroom space just to make the bathroom a little bit bigger. It might be tiny, but it will be pretty and simple and perfect for us. We’re actually very okay with the size of this bathroom, but it’s different strokes for different folks.

The plan right now is:

  • Finish plumbing shower, toilet and sink in
  • Drywall walls and ceiling
  • Cherry floors
  • Douglas fir ceiling
  • Built in medicine cabinet
  • Custom douglas fir frame to fit over the medicine cabinet, need to get mirror fitted into frame at local frame shop
  • Custom build douglas fir vanity
  • Undermount sink
  • Bull nose moulding to extend around the wall, incorporating into the casement of the window
  • Hooks for towels under the moulding
  • Sliding barn style door on a track
  • Small corner shower, no tile
  • Fan with light built in for above the shower
  • Toilet

As of right now the first bullet point, plumbing, is being done. What was a clean bathroom (seen above) was a crazy work zone this weekend.

DSC_1290-01We did have one incident during this process while the floor was open under the shower and before those pipes went in. Apparently Andy dropped something in that hole, which hit the drywall, which popped a drywall screw in the ceiling of our living room. I apparently didn’t noticed for a few days, but it’s on the roster to be patched once the bathroom is done. C’est la vie.

Overall the progress is going well. The plumbing seen above is completed, and as of yesterday when I got home the base to the shower was put in and all plumbing pieces for the shower were attached as well.

DSC_1373 DSC_1370 DSC_1369Andy has also finished up the wiring (I think?) but unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a picture of the box yet. Hopefully I can get that for you guys soon. HEY. Woah. Calm down, I can feel your tangible excitement from here.

I’ll let you calm down over the excitement of the wiring by moving on and showing you the framing for the built in medicine cabinet and the two electrical boxes for our lighting above it. The bathroom is cleaned up now, but this was a weekend photo when that place was crazy looking and the wiring wasn’t completed. Also, the hangers are now removed. I replaced our plastic hangers with wooden ones and what other place to hold hangers in the mean time than in a construction zone on wire.

DSC_1292-01 Are you calmed down yet? Good. Because I’m about to BLOW YOUR MIND.  This photo made me laugh. This photo could be a timed photo so I could get some width OR it could be a realistic interpretation of how friggen fast Andy moves all the time and gets things done. Both are true. 

DSC_1300-01Well, I’m totally losing it with this post. It started off so well, and now it’s just all gone to hell. So, I’m going to leave you with super human blurry Andy above, and go before this gets any weirder. Keep it weird, the tagline of the other Portland, and also apparently this blog.

xo,

Heather

 

Oscar and the Cedar’s

“Oscar and the Cedar’s” sounds like a band that might open for Mumford and Son’s, but I am much more literal that that. I’m heading back to this blog after a month hiatus, with an update on the cedar we sawed from my mother-in-laws property this winter, which you can read more about here. Oscar, our sawmill, is making an appearance this round.

DSC_0992I should start by saying that on the day we skid the trees out of the woods, I not only forgot my good camera, but I had neither my long-gone-missing point and shoot (found on the Fourth of July in my tackle box from the previous year) or my cellphone camera since my phone had long since lost all battery power. This is not a complaint in the least, more just to let you know that I have absolutely zero photos of the skidding process (getting the trees out of the woods) with our logging winch and tractor, loading the logs onto the trailer to bring home, or driving the logs over two hours home. I indeed totally failed on this front, but I had a great weekend so that counts for something.

That aside, this cedar is going to be the planks for our porch. It’s pretty fun being able to take a tree from standing to finished decking without any third party, or second party. Each board is five-quarter by six rough. The finished size will be approximately one by five for each deck plank. Here are some shots of Andy processing the cedar we brought back home.

DSC_1103 DSC_0979 DSC_0988 DSC_0993 DSC_0995 DSC_0998 DSC_1010 DSC_1019 DSC_1021 DSC_1095 DSC_1093 DSC_1062 DSC_1097 DSC_1108 DSC_1100 DSC_1024 DSC_1023 DSC_0986 DSC_1110Andy has laughed and told me I haven’t covered this nearly as intensively as I should be, and he’s totally right. I may never live down completely not getting any footage of the initial skidding.  We will likely be cutting, winching and skidding a few more out though so I should be able to redeem myself.

Until I have that chance, maybe I can distract you with photos of cute dogs in a field. Here’s to hoping.

DSC_1053 DSC_1004

xo,

Heather

 

Good Fire, Good Marriage, Free Download

I was going through some old design work recently, and came across a very simple piece I made with the intention of hanging it in my house. Despite the fact I have yet to print this off, or indeed hang any art of any kind in my house, I still love it. The work is a quote by Marnie Reed Crowell, discussing the merits of how a good marriage is like a good fire. Considering we only heat our house with wood, it seemed fitting. I thought you guys might appreciate this as well as a free download. As always, this is for personal use only and not for resale in anyway. I want to make a note that the fire emblem on this was an image that came from somewhere which I then turned into a vector file. I made this so long ago though I cannot for the life of me find where it was from. If you stumble across it, please let me know so I can give proper credit!

To download simply click on the image, and then right click and choose “save image as”. That’s it!

Untitled-1

Have a happy Tuesday! I’ll be back next week with some around the house updates.

xo,

Heather

 

Oatmeal Truffles {Vegan Friendly}

I used to be terrified of failure. Then it hit me that failure is the only way to learn, and that at least I tried and can say I gave it my all. I still struggle with it sometimes, but this acceptance of failure has led me to do some pretty ridiculous things that sometimes work out, and sometimes don’t. Like, starting my own handmade soap company because why not (worked out), and building a super classy potato box last year just to see if they were any good (sort of worked out, but decided against one for 2014 since we’re trying a new method).

One of the places I’ve learned to accept and love failure is in the kitchen. Love might be a strong word, but I love that it forces me to just go for it, experiment, try something new, and learn from it when it dies in a blaze of glory and curses. It’s a growing opportunity. Sometimes things succeed exceptionally well which of course makes me feel like I could win “Worst Cooks Ever” on the Food Network, and sometimes—just sometimes—the happy accident happens. Which is, of course, my very favorite thing to happen in the kitchen because it means you end up with something better than you intended. That’s a straight up win in my book.

Oatmeal Truffles (1)This weekend I had a happy accident which started with the following train of thought, all in about 2 minutes.

“I can make granola. I bet I can make granola bars.”

“Ohh, what if I made chewy granola bars?”

“How on earth do you make chewy granola bars?”

“Where’s my phone?”

“Oh, that’s how you make them? Wait, this ones different. So is this one.”

“I’ll wing it. What’s the worst that can happen? I’ll bake whatever happens into granola clusters or something.”

That, my friends, is how delicious Oatmeal Truffles were born. You are welcome.

The granola bars were on par to be pretty delicious, but I must have added too much agave or not enough coconut oil or something. They were just a little too sticky and drooped in bar form. I started squeezing the bar to see if it was just a compression thing. As I did that, I ended up with a ball. At that point I genuinely did not care that I didn’t have granola bars anymore.

Oatmeal Truffles (2)This is where, in happy accident land, a light bulb went off. I ran into the pantry and grabbed my raw cocoa powder and shredded coconut while I completely and blissfully forgot about any granola bars that might have been in another space and time.

Oatmeal Truffles (5)You get where this is going, right?

Oatmeal Truffles (6) Oatmeal Truffles (7) Oatmeal Truffles (8) Oatmeal Truffles (9)I even put my fancy pants on and did a single line of chocolate around while leaving the ends plain. Then I ate it immediately after taking a picture.

Oatmeal Truffles (10)I’ve got to tell you guys something. These are delicious and surprisingly filling. They taste like no-bake cookies but without the butter/dairy. I ended up deciding the best combination was a mix of chocolate and coconut together, which you can see below. One other happy accident I found, but isn’t pictured here, is that if after you coat the balls in chocolate you can keep rolling them in your hands and the chocolate absorbs into the peanut butter oils and makes a nice non-powdery coating.

Oatmeal Truffles (1)At the end of the day, I’m pretty excited I didn’t end up with granola bars. These are so darn good. I’m going to wing giving you guys a recipe just like I winged these. Pretty much once your mixture can easily hold together in ball form you’re good to go. Remember one tip though, it’s kind of a compressing into a ball motion versus a quick roll to make it all stick. These are vegan-friendly and even raw-vegan-friendly if you use raw nut butter! I think what I like most about these is that they are not overly sweet. I’m not huge on sugary sweet desserts and these fit the bill. It’s also pretty easy to be satisfied with one or two, since they’re very dense and filling.

I know these won’t save the world, but happy, not hangry, people make good decisions and express kindness to others. That’s got to count for something, right?

Oatmeal Truffles
A delicious happy accident that tastes somewhat like a no-bake cookie, and is vegan-friendly and raw-vegan friendly (if you use raw nut butter).
Write a review
Print
Mixture
  1. 3 cups thick cut oats
  2. 1/4 cup agave nectar
  3. 1 cup peanut butter
  4. 1/4 cup coconut oil (I'm not sure this is definitely needed, experiment!)
  5. 1/8 - 1/4 cup dried blueberries
  6. Few tablespoons chia seeds
  7. Few tablespoons shredded coconut (I use dried shredded, not moist)
Exterior
  1. Shredded Coconut
  2. Raw Cocoa Powder
  3. Baking Chocolate
  4. Whatever else dried product you want to roll them in
Instructions
  1. If using coconut oil, melt before adding. It helps to add in the peanut butter to the coconut oil to melt everything down before mixing to coat the oats evenly. Add all "mixture" ingredients in a bowl and combine. Set mixture in the fridge to cool for an hour. Test to see if the mixture can hold ball shape by grabbing a small handful and compressing into a ball and then rolling around in your palms. They should hold up pretty solid. If they don't hold add more peanut butter (or play around to see what works best for you).
  2. Once they hold, roll into balls and roll in your mixtures to coat. Place in a single layer and put back in the fridge to fully set up.
  3. Now, eat!
Notes
  1. You want these to be cold when you're working with them. The heat of your hands will begin to melt the peanut butter/coconut oil. If they get too warm just put the mixture back in the fridge to chill again before continuing.
Like A Cup Of Tea http://www.likeacupoftea.com/
xo,

Heather

Page 1 of 69123456...101520...Last »