Monday, July 30, 2012

Strawberries Galore! And Blueberries to Boot!

In addition to the fig trees, we opted to get some standard fruit fare, starting with strawberry plants and blueberry bushes.


We bought several varieties of strawberries to see what would grow the best and what tastes the best.  We came home with the following varieties: Ft. Laramie, Allstar & Honeoye.

Theoretically, these plants all have different fruit-bearing seasons too - such as Junebearing (crops in June) and everbearing (spring crop and late summer/fall crop)... For some reason, however, all 3 are producing fruit right now, even though it is neither June, spring or late summer. Perhaps it's because I'm a terrible gardener and I planted them all in the middle of July...  Haha!  

Speaking of bad gardening... I'm also a little concerned that the strawberry plants are not getting enough sun where they are, but we had limited locational options due to the soil issues mentioned earlier.  If the strawberries end up showing low fruitage or just really tiny fruits, I might end up transplanting them to a sunnier area (probably after we establish our garden).

We planted the strawberries near the side of the house.  They get great sun exposure until 1 or so, when the sun crosses over the house.  We had to rip out TONS of plants (including yummy mint) to make room for these strawberries, and tossed out a lot of the old mulch so we could put in better aerated soil for the strawberries.

Despite the late planting and the less-than-ideal sun conditions, we did harvest our VERY FIRST STRAWBERRY today! 

Okay, so I know the first year you're supposed to pluck the flowers and the runners to establish more solid root growth... but... like I said, terrible (impatient?) gardener.  Hopefully our incredibly warm summer will also be incredibly long and the roots will still grow sturdily.  Hopefully.

I should have taken a picture of our baby strawberry... but... well, it was very little (about the size of my pointer finger to the first knuckle).  And it seemed like a bug had started to eat it.  So I had to pluck it immediately and eat it!  There was no time to lose!

I took the first bite, and gave Clint the second bite.  It was SOOOOO YUMMY.  Rich with actual strawberry taste!  Yay!


We opted for 3 blueberry bushes, also in 3 different varieties - Duke, Patriot and Berkeley.  The Duke is an early fruit bearing variety, the Patriot yields early-mid season and the Berkeley is a later bearing blueberry bush.  

We already harvested 1 amazing blueberry from the Duke tree (we bought it with a couple of baby blueberries on it), but we haven't really gotten fruit from the others.  Well, the Patriot tree DID have a blueberry... but I think a bird or something stole it before I could pick it, and I was very sad!

We opted to plant these bushes into the ground.  Being in the same general vicinity of the strawberries (they're on the other side of the red stairs), I am similarly concerned about the amount of sun they will get.  I can't remember exactly why we put the bushes here.  

Our 3 bushes.  I thought they all had to be 16-20 inches apart, and then I saw that the outlier had to be 4' away from the others, so we had to put him in the grass.  Where the soil was also terrible.  We'll see how that works out...
I think because the area to the left (that isn't covered in grass) was originally filled with vegetation, we thought the soil might be better there.  WRONG.  It was still awful, haha.  

It was also really hard to dig out.  SO MANY ROCKS!!!  This was made worse by the fact that we had to dig extra big holes to fill with better dirt. And by we, I mean Clint.  I just threw rocks from the dig sites into a sinkhole on the other side of the fence where there used to be a well.

Here's a close-up of the 3 plants.

This guy ERUPTED with massive new growth!  YEAH!

I hope they continue to grow despite their location.  We shall see how they fare.  They haven't died yet... that is at least promising.  :)

Lastly, I took some of the mint that was growing where the strawberries are and threw them into some pots.  Now I have a vigorous mint patch!  I'm thinking mojitos for the housewarming party...

I'm also thinking of throwing some in the yard to let it take over the grass.  The grass isn't THAT great anyways... and besides, I've read that it smells really good when you mow the lawn.  :)

Fig Trees!

Long before we ever bought the house, I began dreaming about our garden-to-be.  A luscious landscape, teeming with a wide array of succulent jewels, straight from Mother Earth's fertile womb. An abundance of nutritious organic fruits and vegetables for us to consume merrily while being simultaneously eco + health friendly...

Well, we haven't quite gotten there yet.  Okay, so we're not even close.  Maybe we haven't even tried...  To our dismay we have quickly discovered that the "fertile earth" here kind of sucks... It's filled with rock hard clay (not to mention rock hard rocks), there's very little drainage and we're going to have to tear up our grass/lawn to put a garden area in.  

We haven't figured out how we're going to work this yet.  There is a good solution.  We are still pondering it. Perhaps this is a project for spring 2013. 

We lost little time, however, buying a small collection of fruit plants to tide us over until the spring! To start - we bought 3 beautiful fig trees!  Figs are DELISH, and so expensive to buy fresh.  When I found out they grow well here in Maryland, there wasn't a question!

We went back and forth with the decision to keep the fig trees potted or plant them in the ground.  So far we've decided to go with potted, for a number of reasons:  
  • As previously mentioned - the dirt sucks. It doesn't drain well (which apparently is very important for fig happiness), but it is also REALLY hard to dig a hole in! 
  • We don't know where to put them.  It's tough to make such long term decisions and we just weren't ready to pull the trigger yet.
  • Figs are tropical trees and don't like the cold winter. Keeping fig trees alive through winter in Maryland can entail wrapping them in plastic/straw/mulch/leaves/other shenanigans.  Alternatively, you can move potted fig trees to a dark basement/shed/CELLAR (woot we have one!), to encourage the tree to go dormant for the winter, but not die in the cold/frost/nasty winter weather.
  • Keeping fig trees potted is a great way to constrain their growth and maintain a reasonable sized fig tree.

Woo!  Behold our lovely collection of fig trees!

This is our 'celeste' fig tree.  I love the huge willowy leaves.  As you can see, it does have a number of small baby figs.. but they don't appear to be growing... I hear celeste trees can be quite 'difficult'.  Right now with the pot, the tree is about my height, approximately 5'10"... (okay, more like 5'4")

This is our 'brown turkey'.  It has recently exploded with new leaf growth, I think its enjoying the new larger pot.  It has a ton of decent sized figs - I hope they ripen.  The figs on this tree are shaped sort of like a drop of water - rounded on the end, but oblong rather than circular.  This tree is MUCH shorter, and was clearly pruned to grow out rather than up.

Lastly, this is our 'texas everbearing' fig tree.  There seems to be some conflicting information - it may (or may not) be the same thing as a 'brown turkey'.  Why a nursery would sell the same thing under different names beats me.  But, from what I can tell - the figs are shaped QUITE differently.  I have noticed one large fig growing into a shape that is nearly a perfect circle.  They are quite rounded!

After much research, we planted them in a mixture of planting mix, compost manure, and perlite, to encourage soil drainage.  We topped the mix with mulch, to hold in some moisture.  

So far, the trees appear to be healthy. The celeste did suffer a spat of yellowing leaves not long after we brought her home, but I think it might have been a massive heat wave that sprung up at the time.  The other two have shown a ton of leaf growth recently, which is good I suppose, but annoying because I would prefer more figs!  Ah well. Hopefully the current figs all ripen up and we can feast upon them.  :)

We are still fig newbies - so please feel free to share your tips and expertise!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Our Backyard

As promised, I ventured out to get pictures of the backyard and the back of the house.  The sun was beautiful this evening.

The back of the house:

The patio is really lovely.  It also has a nice view of the nearly the whole yard, and it's covered.  
It'll be an amazing brunch spot.

We also have an exciting storm cellar which will come in handy if I get into canning...

The yard was a little big to capture in one picture, so I took the first picture from outside our side door, and the rest from every corner of the backyard looking back toward the house.

You can see where the butternut tree was. 
The garden is likely to go here, it gets sun all day. 

 Because I love the big tree, I took a couple more pics of it.  Unfortunately it lost a number of branches in the big storm (that stole my butternut tree) but it's still beautiful.

Kitchen - Painted!

I wasn't a big fan of the yellow/creme color in the kitchen.  Not because I don't like yellow (I do), but it looked... 
dirty? ugly? dingy?  Something.

So painting was the obvious choice.  But we don't let Clint paint anymore, hehe. That was unfortunate though, because painting the kitchen was nothing short of a huge pain in the ass.  :)

But in the end, I think it was worth it.  

We used Behr Premium Plus Ultra (a Paint and Primer in One) in "Misty Morn UL220-9" = a light blue color:

Not only does it help the island 'match' the kitchen, but it really brings out the color pattern in the marble.
It also kind of matches the distressed blue paint on the shelf.

Puff was so tired after a long day of painting.

It seems like blue is probably not a common color for a kitchen, but I find it pretty soothing. I also really like the way the 
stainless steel and cabinets look with it.

On top of the pleasant change of color, the kitchen just FEELS so much cleaner.  The walls were dirty, and filled with cobwebs.
Now the kitchen just begs to be cooked in.  :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Kitchen - post move in, pre-painting

The kitchen is big, and there was basically a whole wall empty of cabinetry. So we decided to fill it. With cute stuffs.

We found this wine rack/wine glass holder for cheap at HomeGoods. We don't drink a lot of wine, but the rustic metal and weathered wood embodied the 'industrial farmhouse' style we are going for
and we couldn't pass it up.
Throw in a few shower curtain hooks from BB&B, and voila!
A perfect 'industrial farmhouse' pot rack.

We also got this wooden shelf at HomeGoods. Ideally, this is the kind of thing we would make ourselves, but we're not there yet.
I'm obsessed with the idea of using wooden pallets to make things.
But for now, this will do.

I absolutely fell in love with this vintage lunch box at an estate sale (we went for an old trunk). Clint let me buy it. Actually, he bought it for me. <3

We also had to buy a microwave:

And awesomely, Clint got this cast iron skillet for free, as an anniversary gift with his company. Woot!

Nothing says country kitchen like a cast iron skillet!

Kitchen - pre move in

When we were looking at the pictures of the farmhouse online (before we bought it), it looked like the kitchen *might* be decent. The previous owner's pictures didn't do the kitchen justice - it's AMAZING.
(On the whole, the pictures didn't do the farmhouse justice. We were REALLY skeptical about even coming to look at the place.)

There is a 22,000 BTU 6-burner BlueStar range, in-wall Electrolux convection oven, and a cabinet-matching Bosch dishwasher.
Not to mention the awesome vent hood (perfect for when you're cooking Korean BBQ at home).

Unfortunately... there was a wildly UNMATCHING KITCHEN ISLAND. Apparently its the vogue thing to do these days?
On the whole though, can't complain.

The cabinetry is custom and from New Hampshire:

The stove is big and lovely:

This is where we've put the table:

Slightly awkwardly in front of the HVAC, a little storage closet and a really old phone, but what can you do?

The kitchen (well the whole house really) boasts the original (pine?) floors.
For the most part they really have a lot of charm.
For the most part...

At some point we will have to do something about the painted plywood mend job where the kitchen and the mudroom meet.

Living room - pre move in

When we moved in, we didn't get power for 2 days. Apparently the previous owner did a hard shut off of the electricity instead of a transfer, so that was a shame. It cut back on what we could do for the first couple of days, and how much we wanted to be in the house. It was hot!

Nonetheless, MOST of the house gets amazing natural light (except for the living room, which is dark as a cave because of the roof over the front patio that blocks incoming light from the windows into the living room). So I took some pictures while the house was still empty.

Here is the living room - there is a really pretty archway going into the kitchen:

Here is the rest of the living room. The inset is a chimney, which I believe was used in the past with a wood stove. Someday I'd like to take down the drywall and expose the chimney.
I'd like to do the same with the fireplace in the guest bedroom... There is also a window, but I didn't take a picture of it.

We have a pretty bannister on the stairs too:

The stairs, however, could use a little bit of cosmetic help. There used to be a runner... the paint is dingy... but one day they'll be amazing:

Man down! (or tree, rather)

Well, the recent storm ruthlessly stole from me one of the farmhouse's treasures - a mature butternut tree. :( Words cannot express my disappointment. I had already looked up butternut ice cream recipes and was getting really excited to harvest nuts!
But alas... the winds were too strong I guess.

Clint contemplates the tree situation. In this angle, the tree doesn't look that big. But really, it is quite big. It's just downhill from Clint, which ruins the perspective.

Aside from the obvious pain of losing my ability to harvest this rare nut (it's related to the walnut), we have to pay a lot of money to have the thing professionally removed... as you can see, it was a very big tree.

At this point, mid-July, the tree has been taken down and cut up and is sitting in our yard... but so far the tree company still hasn't returned to remove the stump or take away the huge sections of tree that are left. But, they haven't charged us either, and (not so) secretly I hope they forget about it and don't come back!

Monday, July 16, 2012

We Bought a Farmhouse!

Seemingly out of nowhere, Clint and I bought a house!! And not just any house, but a 1911 farmhouse settled nicely on .8 acres, complete with a green tin roof and a front patio just aching for some good old fashioned rocking chairs.

Soon I'll be milking cows and churning my own butter...

here it is:

here are some more angles of the front:

and one side of our lovely front yard:

and our very first visitor!

For some reason, I apparently didn't feel the need to take ANY pictures of the massive back yard or the really cute back patio/deck that you can almost make out in picture 3... so those pictures are still to come.

And... no, we're probably not going to get a cow. But maybe chickens. Someday. After we get the garden going.