Monday, April 25, 2016


Lovely, lovey, lovely spring blooms. I'm just going to share some of this short-lived beauty here. Hopefully it heralds a deliciously different kind of beauty - fruit! - in short order.

The prettiest garden blossom of all!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Art of War... I Mean Gardening.

With a sudden burst of perfect weather, it's officially feeling like spring around here. And in spring, a young family's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of war. Full-blown, bloody war.

Our garden, completely neglected since last year as we focused on the interior, has been conquered by weeds. Armed with thorns, seeds, and taproots, the enemy was rapidly advancing across the vegetable beds. 

The battle begins.
For advice and support, I turned to the only gardening guru with the chops to tackle these invading hordes.

Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.  
- Sun Tzu, The Art of War 

I could identify blackberries, dandelions, and some creeper vines. But what are those spiky purple barbarians?

Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.

A little Google-fu revealed its identity: purple deadnettle. It doesn't sting (it's actually related to mint, not nettle) and it's not hard to pull up. It's just everywhere.

On to tactics. My weapon of choice is the hoe, followed by the spade if I need heavy artillery for getting at deep roots. Brett eschews my siege weapons in favor of hand-to-hand combat with gloves and a trowel. Between the two of us and a very dedicated little boy from next door, we cleared two beds and half the pathways in one day. For the rest, we adopted scorched-earth techniques - literally. We covered the ground in black plastic and are leaving it to bake for a week or two.

To the victor go the spoils, so we got to spend the next day planting our newly-cleared beds with strawberries, peas, beets, kale, and lettuce starts. I knew this was all meant to be when Brett went to a neighbor's house to return a borrowed tool, and came back with a huge bunch of her extra strawberry plants. (And flowers. And sugar cookies. We have the best neighbors ever.)

But in a final twist, the weeds had their revenge. After two days of romping in our weed-filled lawn, Hermione has been licking and chewing her paws almost raw. It seems that our dog fits right into this allergy-prone family.

An unhappy Hermie in a paw-soothing oatmeal bath.
We may have won the battle, but I think we're losing the war.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Tileman Always Rings Twice

Yay - the bathroom floor tile arrived!
Boo - it looks like this.

Thankfully, even though this tile isn't being produced anymore, the supplier had more in stock. And only a few of the tiles were broken. So we're getting our second tile shipment in the next week or so.

Hopefully second time's the charm...

Sunday, April 10, 2016


Breathe easy - we installed the exhaust fan in our bathroom.

I had absolutely no idea how many options there are in the world of vent fans. Brett spent several weeks geeking out over terms I'd never heard, like "CFM" and "sones." (I'm still not totally convinced that last one is a real thing.) We needed a fan that we could install in the wall instead of the ceiling because we have skylights, a requirement complicated by our unusually shallow walls.

After what even this librarian thinks is a mind-boggling amount of research, Brett settled on the Panasonic WhisperFit. It fits in our walls, is inhumanely quiet, and is uber energy efficient.

He named it Wilbur.

Nice to meet you, Wilbur.

Installing Wilbur was fairly straightforward - just a few steps - but definitely not easy.

First, we had to overcome the emotional trauma of drilling a large hole in the side of the house.

Here we go...


Second, this operation required several trips onto the roof. We had hoped to drill the hole from the outside, so we weren't pushing out on the siding. Brett's first trip up quickly revealed that there wasn't enough room under the eaves to wedge the drill in.

Then he needed to go up again to install the vent and flap. I stood inside holding the fan duct in place, while he attached the vent to it from the outside.

It's a little bit eerie to have a conversation through the second-floor wall. With the interior of the wall open to the studs, there was only an inch or two of plywood and siding between us. Brett and I could talk easily and even work on the same piece of duct. But I'm safe inside and he's balancing on the roof, and we can't see or touch each other. I imagine this is what it would feel like to be haunted.

Two days, a borrowed ladder, and lots of swearing later, we have an exhaust fan!

And now we're exhaust-ed. (See what I did there? I crack myself up.)

While we were making a mess, Hermione was getting all cleaned up. Here she is right after grooming, complete with adorable little bandana!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Singing the Blues

Remember my last post, when I mentioned going to get antiseptic spray and bandages for our injured chicken? Well, gather 'round children, while I tell you the story of a little life lesson learned.

I went to the local feed store, browsed the first aid area, and picked up a bottle that looked like what I needed. I carefully read the label to see if it would treat the cut appropriately, and if it could be used on chickens. I even double-checked with the clerk that this was the right thing to get for this purpose. She said yes, and we swapped a few chicken-raising stories. (I seriously love this town.)

So I thought I'd done my homework and all was well.

The next morning, I scooped up Henry, took aim with the spray bottle, and spritzed his toe. It instantly turned black. I started to have hysterics - and then I noticed that my glove was also black. When I slipped off the glove, my fingertips were black. WHAT. IS. HAPPENING.

So I looked at the bottle again.

And for the first time, I actually thought about the name of the product I had purchased. You know, the largest words on the bottle - the ones have been staring me in the face, but that I ignored. Blu-Kote. Say it out loud with me: Blue. Coat.


It's blue. And not just a little bit blue. Opaque, deep, indigo. Blue that seeps through your gloves and stains your fingers, that makes your chicken look like he stomped a smurf to death.

This is actually a very good thing - chickens peck at anything red, so turning his wound blue will hopefully discourage bullying.  That said... anyone have any tips for getting dark blue dye out of white chicken feathers?

Ha ha, Mom is dumb.