After five rainy days, the sun just came out this evening. It’s finally, really for real spring, and the grass is growing like crazy. Yay.
The last few days have been so beautiful, weather-wise, that I’ve spent all my free time outside instead of tidying up all the boxes the movers brought last week. I’m resigned to having a mess in the family room for a while, but I wanted to get the upper level fairly tidy before Rob arrives tomorrow. So I decided I would dig in today, since it was gloomy when I woke up and rain was expected.
I had to make room in the cupboards for the stuff I brought up from Minneapolis, which meant rearranging the pantry a little. Half an hour into my cleaning ‘spree’, I found the bags of German bread mix I bought last year (I was disappointed with the first loaf, so I hadn’t made any more) — obviously making bread right that minute was more important than dumb cleaning! It actually didn’t take up much of my time, although it definitely resulted in more dirty bowls for the dishwasher.
I went for a free-form loaf this time, baked on a cookie sheet (not in a loaf pan), and it worked better than before. It still didn’t rise much until it hit the oven, but the texture seems better this time around — it’s more like dense German bread should be. I had two thick slices for lunch, one with a sloppily fried egg and another with sharp Cheddar. I guess some people have a problem with partially-melted cheese (I just put it on the hot bread and let it do its thing) — I feel like cheese loses some of its flavor when it’s melted, but a little heat brings it out just right. (Plus attractive cheese sweat.)
I did get the kitchen cleaned up, in the end, but now the sun has come out, and I do have some broccoli and other starts to plant. So much for productivity.
Here’s my empty garden again! Well, a little less empty, but still not planted. I went out for a bit this morning to put together the storage shed I bought yesterday — it’s not too big (a little less than 3′ x 2′, and about 6′ high), but I needed somewhere to keep the tools that I use only in the garden.
I also got my hose ‘system’ set up. The garden is a little over 100′ from the house, so I buried a good quality hose just under the grass last year (it’s on a slope, so it drains with gravity and was fine staying out over the winter). But the end nearest the garden would pop up when I pulled on the loose hose to water plants, and I wound up catching it with the riding lawnmower at the end of the growing season last year. Dang! A couple of weeks ago, I got a new connector — I just cut the hose above where the mower had torn it up and attached the replacement end (and reburied everything). Now there’s a 10′ extension hose that comes out inside the garden fence (and it’s held down with a yard staple). I added a two-way splitter to that, and one side has just a regular hose with a shower nozzle/wand at the end, for hand watering. The other side is attached to two lengths of soaker hose, which is ‘stapled’ around the perimeter of the garden (a couple feet in from the fence). I’ll be able to turn that on and do other outside chores while most of the plants get watered.
I don’t know if it will be of interest to anybody, but I thought I’d share how I set up the garden storage shed (I’m going to call it a shed because I technically can fit comfortably inside it, and that’s my arbitrary standard for a shed vs. a locker or something). I didn’t want it sitting on the bare earth, but I forgot to buy pavers, and then I realized this small pallet was the perfect size.
I didn’t want it to be such a high platform, though, so I dug a couple of trenches for the ‘feet’ to sit in, and it’s quite solid in the ground now. The surface isn’t flush against the ground, so I can only imagine there will be three hundred or so shrews living underneath it within a month. (The were lots of shrews in the garden last year, and surprisingly they never seemed to do any damage, aside from helping themselves to the end-rot tomatoes I would throw on the ground.)
And then — bang! — a shed appears. I’m not actually sure whether the shed or the fence is less level — clearly both are on the wonk. I took the shed’s giant warnings to build only on a level surface as a sort of casual suggestion (but it really only looks this screwy from this particular angle — whoops). I want to drill a couple of holes through the back to attach it to the fence. It’s probably heavy enough (especially once it’s filled with things) that it won’t blow over, but it does have a lot of surface area, and the wind can really get going over the fields. I also want to put a shelf inside (there’s a ledge for it and a template for cutting a shelf), because a lot of my garden stuff is small and doesn’t need to be haphazardly piled up on the floor when it could just as easily be haphazardly piled up on a shelf.
And I think I need to keep a good battery-powered radio out there. Gardening in silence is for rookies.
My mom and I spent the weekend in Grand Marais, MN, and this was the view from our hotel suite — not too bad, right? People who aren’t familiar with the Great Lakes often don’t realize how huge they are. I’ve taken friends to Duluth before, and they’ll say, ‘Oh yeah, big lake,’ and then I have to say, ‘No, you don’t understand — this is the narrowest part, where you can actually see the other side on the horizon. It gets bigger!’ I was even amazed to see how tiny the distance from Duluth to Grand Marais (110 miles) is when you look at a map of Lake Superior in its entirety.
We drove up to the Gunflint Lodge during what was, unfortunately, the worst weather of the weekend. Nothing terrible (just a tiny bit of snowfall), but it wasn’t very attractive. That’s Canada on the other side of the lake, though, so there’s that. So we turned around and came back to Grand Marais, where we had some awesome nachos and split a ‘puffy taco’ (so called because the fresh tortillas are deep-fried). I’m convinced that the people of Grand Marais spend the long winters coming up with amazing things to eat and then perfecting their cooking techniques, because all the food we had at restaurants was delicious. And they’re pretty good about offering vegetarian options! I’m betting it’s due to all the hippies who come to canoe and hike the trails.
I came back to a freshly-tilled garden, thanks to my dad. Isn’t that nice? I had put down a lot of plastic last year in an effort to kill the grass/weeds below. I had hoped that would make tilling easier this spring, but I guess it was still tough going. The results are great, though! I’m going to do my best to keep the garden weed-free this summer, although that’s a million times easier said in May than done in July. But we’re nearly over what should be the last cold snap of the season — let the planting begin!
I am a happy camper today. We had a stretch of cold, rainy/snowy weather again, but I was holding out hope that today would be warmish and sunnyish, so I could get at least my rhubarb out of pails and into the ground. It was chilly and grey this morning, but it brightened up nicely and was just the right temperature for digging. I had to pull up some sod to make a place for the rhubarb, and that can be a miserable job if it’s properly warm out.
I had two rhubarb plants (one regular and one ‘strawberry rhubarb’, which has thinner stalks), and I divided them both when I dug them up. I was going to plant all four clusters in the 7′-long area I’d dug up, but I paused for a moment and remembered how HUGE they are when they get going. So I planted two in my prepared area and then put the other two in the ground, but I haven’t dug up the grass around them yet.
Having the snow gone and gardening season approaching feels like gaining a sense that I lose every winter. Or a limb — some part of me that I kind of forget about for six or more months of the year. Gardening, especially when it’s physical work like preparing beds, is so different from anything else I do. The moving around, lifting, decision making, inspecting the plants. I honestly feel more like a human when I’ve been outside, playing in the dirt. I think that’s a big, big part of why living in the country suits me so well. Some people can’t do without being able to walk to their favorite restaurants or being surrounded by people. I need real earth under my feet instead of pavement.
And the water doesn’t hurt, either. Actually, it helps a lot. Even though the pond is spring-fed and doesn’t have an outlet, there always seems to be a ‘current’ in the water, thanks to the wind. There’s something nice about that — a real stream or river would be fun, because there’s that sense of connection with whatever’s upstream, but this is almost as good. And I love having waterfowl come to stay. There’s a pair of Canada geese right now, who I suspect are waiting for the right moment to nest (this time last year, the goslings must have almost/already hatched, but it’s been so much colder this year). There’s a pair of mallards that I sometimes see, although they didn’t nest here last year. And there’s a pair of (I think) ring-necked ducks, which did breed here before. Two swans came by the other day, but I suspect they were just passing through. And although they’re not exactly waterfowl, the sandhill cranes have been flying overhead a lot lately. I love seeing them around — they’re big birds, but I just read that they weigh only 5-8lb! I guess they’re all skinny legs and long necks, but that still seems crazy.
Henny came out with me while I gardened today (Nova hid under the sofa because she doesn’t like fun). Now that the dogs have a fenced-in potty area, Henny doesn’t get to sniff around as much as she used to (but it’s SO much safer for the dogs). She seemed at least as happy as I was to get out there today — really in her element. She must have trotted around for an hour, checking out all the smells, listening to me when I told her not to get too far away. It makes my heart swell to see her so excited and at ease.
So, yep, I’m a happy camper today!
– Hey, friendpals! I forgot to share this photo with you. When we got back from Minneapolis this latest time, a deer was the welcoming committee. I’m not sure why she was alone (I think it’s a she; the males are just starting to grow their antlers), since the deer have been roaming around in a pack lately. Maybe it’s getting to be time to birth some bouncy, bouncy fawns. The deer have been coming up to the south side of the house, so it’s easy to watch them through the living room windows, which are probably 8-10′ up. They often spot me, look alarmed for a second, and then go back to nibbling grass. But the one time they saw me through the basement windows (at ground level), they freaked out and ran away. I guess deers don’t worry too much about predators from the sky.
– I have never known a dog as cuddly as Nova. I’ve known plenty of friendly dogs, but never one whose security is so physically tied up with her person (me). She was outside one of the times I was digging up plants in Minneapolis, and after a long stretch of sniffing things, she appeared at my side, wanting to be picked up. I don’t always give into that sort of request, but I did lift her up, since I wanted a break. Instead of twisting around like usual, to look forward, Nova stayed belly-to-chest with me, her back legs hanging down against my stomach, and then she rested her chin on my shoulder as we walked around. It was the sweetest and most ridiculous moment. It’s possible that she doesn’t realize she’s a dog.
– I made the mistake of looking at photos from May of last year. By the middle of the month, it was looking pretty darn green, and it’s hard to imagine that much progress happening in the next couple of weeks. It’s in the 40s right now (Fahrenheit), and the lawn is starting to green up, but barely. The trees are starting to bud out, though, so they might stay on schedule. And at least it’s not snowing in Hinckley (it is further south)! I brought up my rhubarb and some perennials from Minneapolis, and everything is living in the garage right now, waiting for the nighttime temps to get above freezing. And for the daytime temps to be high enough that I actually want to go out and plant them!
The Minneapolis house is ready for the movers next week. I wound up with more boxes than I was hoping for, but fewer storage bins that I had expected. So there shouldn’t be a big problem with storing stuff — I’ll just have to find room for all the ‘everyday’ junk. Good luck, me. There’s some furniture that I don’t have room for but that I want to hang on to, and that will go into the barn/garage. None of it is upholstered, so I’m hoping it won’t get too gross if it’s wrapped in plastic.
When I got back to Hinckley, I found that the builders had put the windows into Rob’s new room above the garage! They’ve been drywalling it, and it’s starting to look like a real room now.
Hey, guys. I thought I’d post some photos from the past couple of days before I spring to my feet for the last push of packing this morning. And I’ll be sure to take a few more photos of how weird the house looks with most of the furniture in the living room and the piano room full of boxes. I had already finished most of the packing before I got here on Thursday, but there was still a lot to do during this round — the nice weather definitely kept me motivated.
Here’s Nova with a toy kitten. Later in the day, I discovered a mountain of fluff and the kitten’s disembodied head. Whoops.
More of those Beyond Meat ‘chicken’ strips, this time tossed in BBQ sauce while in the skillet. I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to get these anywhere near Hinckley, but I suppose that’s what visiting city folks is for (uh, and the visiting part).
Lastly, Beany’s idea of helping me pack. I suppose she is more neatly stored away and easily stackable this way. All the pets have seemed really vivified (there’s a word I don’t often use!) by the packing process. It must be all the novelty — new places to crawl under and over.
They’ve also enjoyed the nice weather, although being here makes me glad that there aren’t immediate neighbors in Hinckley for Nova to bark at. She tries really hard to behave herself (she’ll sit on my lap or ask to be carried if there are people out in their yards), but she usually eventually snaps and runs to the fence to bark. Which means she goes inside. There are a lot of barky neighbor dogs (not obnoxiously barky, just protective), but I don’t stand for that sort of behavior. Beany did some gardening with me (or ungardening — I was digging up plants to bring with me) yesterday evening, with just the two of us outside, and she had a nice time rolling in the dirt. I hate to break it to her that it’s supposed to be back in the 40s (Fahrenheit) tomorrow.
I’m in Minneapolis for another packing spree (it’s a pretty slow and procrastinate-y spree, to be honest), and we’re finally getting some nice weather around here. I started my morning with a slice of banana bread (with dark chocolate chips) and a hard boiled egg. The eggs were a surprise from the Hinckley neighbors — they dropped off 1.5 dozen the other day, so I guess their hens must be laying well! I made the banana bread yesterday morning (I recently finish a loaf of pumpkin bread, because this has been a typical breakfast lately). My discerning recipe selection process was to pull cookbooks out until I found one with banana bread in the index. I wound up using the Veganomicon‘s recipe, and it’s fantastic. I added a quarter cup of dark chocolate chips, which is just enough to make it interesting with it being too chocolatey for breakfast.
I took the dogs for a walk to the dog park this afternoon. Henny was unimpressed with both the dog park and the walk itself (I can tell she would rather be wandering around the Hinckley property without a leash), but Nova had a great time. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her happier; I couldn’t even get a photo of her full doggie smile. There was one other dog there, a really sweet pit mix, who lay down and waited for Nova to approach her. They played together the entire time, mostly chasing tennis balls that I threw. Nova loves to chase anything that’s been thrown, and she was actually much faster than the big dog, but she has zero interest in ever bringing a ball back. I think I’ll take her back tomorrow without Henny, so she can see more dogs.
Before the dog park, I went to Whole Foods to stock up on fake meats. I’ve never been a regular shopper at WF, but it’s even more of a treat now that I live so far from one. I can get the usual Morningstar suspects at local supermarkets, but I get bored with them. Today I saw Beyond Meat products for the first time, and I came home with the ‘Grilled’ variety. They have three fake chicken products (Grilled, Lightly Seasoned, and Southwest Style), and if disturbingly real-looking faux meat is your thing, keep an eye out for these! I cooked them up plain in a skillet today, just so I could taste them without any added flavors, and they’re really good. There’s a smoky flavor that’s not overdone (sometimes fake meats have obviously used liquid smoke to mask the actual flavor of the product), and the texture is… well, I’d say spot on, but I don’t think I remember what real chicken is like. At any rate, it’s not stringy like Morningstar’s fake chicken strips nor sponge-y like Quorn. Two thumbs up, fine family fun.
Despite all the snow on the ground, it’s starting to seem like spring might actually come around soon, so I made the dogs new coats. I used the same pattern as the jackets on this post, but instead of binding the outer and lining layers, I sewed them right-sides-together, turned, pressed, and top-stitched the coats. Much quicker! They still have a clip for a leash on the back, but I didn’t put velcro on the front closure. With the winter jackets, I always left the front stuck together and slipped it over the dogs’ heads. So with these ones, I sewed it in place and added a decorative button.
Also, is Henny not the cutest dog ever in this photo? I think I’m being pretty objective.
You can’t see it on the photo of Henny’s coat, but both of them are monogrammed — N for Nova and H for Henny. The coats are slightly different sizes (Nova still wears a small, as she’s so skinny. Henny has a medium because of her long body.), but it’s hard to tell which is which when you’re trying to get them on the dogs in a hurry. It was just a quick bit of cross-stitching, but it looks nice.
These coats are a lot lighter than the old ones — just thin wool with a cotton lining instead of the fleece that’s in their winter jackets. I like them for car rides; the dogs can still be strapped in, but it’s not as uncomfortable as a harness. Otherwise, they don’t often wear coats. Neither of them has any interest in going for a walk until it’s 40-50F outside and not too damp, and they’re happy to be out with no sweater at that point. They may be Chihuahuas, but they’re Minnesotans, too.