Thursday, October 18, 2012

Tomato Tally Final

For the record,
654 tomatoes harvested by October 16.

see ya next year!!!  (and boy do we have plans!  **wink, wink**)

Monday, October 8, 2012

October's Slow Demise

Gardening is so good for me.  It is truly healing and therapeutic.  If you've never tried it, you should consider giving it a shot.  Nothing helps get through the winter blues like planning next year's garden and perusing seed catalogs! 

Of course, I am a bit sad that the season is coming to an end, but I know that as the wheel turns all things have their time and place.  That's what I love about gardening.  It is a cycle... and renewal, a hope, and a bounty.  It is the very essence of life, vitality, and health.

Our tomato garden, however, is still ticking.  I'm not sure how much longer we can hold out though.  Each night has been a flirtatious dance with Jack Frost and I fear the relationship is getting more serious!

I will miss the tomatoes.  I have not gone a single day without one since the first week of July.  I carefully select a tomato from the window sill each evening, pack it in a reusable container, and place it in my lunchbox to await the next day's journey to work. 

Our current tally is at 621 tomatoes!  We will still harvest more before the final freeze-up.  What will our final number be?  I'll post and let ya know!

last night, we harvested 21 tomatoes, bringing our current tally to 621

old and tired.  these stately plants are reaching their end.

this trellis system finally collapsed under the weight of the massive 7 foot tall plants!  .... and so it goes when the garden nears its end

tomatoes green on the vine.  the vines are no longer pretty, but the fruit remains and puts every last effort into ripening

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Meadowlark Update

A whole lotta diggin' holes!

Slooooow is an understatement.  But we are doing the best we can.  I've come up with a new formula to describe our cabin life.  It is called the "Times Three Theory".  Here's how it works:

We think electrical installation will take 4 weeks... BUT, apply the formula to find the actual time requirement: 4 weeks (3) = 12 weeks

We think electrical installation will cost $300... BUT, apply the formula to find the actual cost: $300 (3) = $900

We think we need 50 feet of wire... yep! you guessed it!  We actually need 150 feet of wire!

Seven trips to Lowe's (and the like) should cover it, right?  NOPE... silly us, 7 (3) = 21 TRIPS

Well, it's all in good fun and I try to count my blessings, because those too apply to the rule.  Happiness times three equals three times the happiness!!!


The cabin is actually wired, though it took most of the summer.  And we've spent the last couple of weeks trenching and running electric wire and water pipes from the source to our cabin. It is a lot of hard work, but it must be done if we ever want to flip a switch to have instant light and have running water at the turn of a faucet.

trench line for the water... that sucker is DEEP! the water line must be buried below frost line to prevent freezing

tough, physical labor. I don't give myself enough credit.  I'm in decent physical shape, if I do say so myself!

I channeled Stanley Yelnats throughout and recited the entire book of Holes at least twice during the process
this is why we were digging the hole.  Our new water line had to tie into the existing water line.  good work, Phil!  Our fittings were tight and secure with no leakage!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Five Solid Days

We could've gone to the ocean, but we didn't.  In fact, we haven't gone for three summers.  It's okay though, my baby is small and I am in the off-season of family vacations. Sure, I know that lots of people take their infants and toddlers all over the country.  That's fine-jim-dandy for them!  ....luckily we aren't all wired the same and we have freedom of choice, or we'd ALL be at the beach.

I do, after all, get twelve-ish weeks off work during the summer.  I have a lot of time to spend with Julia, work on projects, and generally be free and true to myself.  Phil gets much less vacation time, and for him, I was worried that he would not feel a true break.  But he convinced me that he wanted to spend five days of his vacation time working on our cabin along side his best friend, (me!)  I am a lucky girl and feel fortunate to have him in my life.

So, with all of that background info divulged, here is how the week went down:

Day 1 -- arrived at the farm to find.... NO ELECTRICITY!  ahhh.. the joke of the summer, eh?  We were forced to spend a few hours trouble-shooting... walking down the road to look at transformers, tampering with wires and fuses, unplugging and replugging... "does it work now?"   "NO!" ...."well, how about now?"  ...."NO!"   We drove back to Nelsonville, retrieved our volt meter, drove back to the farm, fought the rusty nail heads loose on the utility box to find.... WASPS!  "RUN!" -- a nest of 'em!  ---back in the truck to head to Glouster to the quaint little hardware store.  We bought some foaming wasp killer and headed back to the farm to act like fools while spraying, running, and swatting wasps.   Thankfully, we weren't stung and the nest was small.  Wasps are no joke and had it been a large nest, I wouldn't have messed with it until after dark. --with wasps under control, we discovered that no power was coming from our pole.  We tried for two hours, LITERALLY two hours, to get in touch with AEP.  We got busy signals, we got a recording telling us that we had dialed the wrong number, we were disconnected mysteriously.... dumb stuff that continued on while the clock continued to tick.  FINALLY, we talked to a human and they sent someone out to fix the pole down the road from our farm.  By the time we had to go pick up Julia, the power was restored.  DAY WASTED!

Day 2 -- Phil finished all but three sections of the screened porch.  I cut trim and was his helper.

Day 3 -- Phil finished all of the porch!  It was tough work, but the end result is fantastic!  We started the electricity!  I strategically nailed outlet boxes to 2x4s and Phil installed the boxes for the lights and sconces.  We picked up Julia and went to Lowe's to get more electric supplies.

Day 4 -- borrowed a gigantic extension ladder with adjustable feet and a stabilizer.  Begun the job that I've dreaded since May.... staining the sides of the cabin.  The sun was HOT and the air was HOT.  I was drenched in sweat and quite cantankerous.  Daddy-long-legs clung to our cabin and insisted on giving me a fright every so often.... they blended in so masterfully with the wood siding, only to come alive at the touch of a paintbrush!  ugh!  Then the sweat bees swarmed me.  ugh again!
Phil ran electric wires all through the house while I painted.

Day 5 -- continuing the electricity.  By the end of day 5, Phil had the cabin looking like it had gotten in a fight with a mess of wet spaghetti noodles... wires everywhere!  BUT everything is labeled and precisely in place.  I stained the porch floor.  The porch is now DONE!  all the way DONE!

...and now we rest.  HA!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Meadowlark Cabin

It has been a little over two months since my last Meadowlark update (click here to read it).  We are creeping along ever so slowly and surely.  And since we have chosen to do everything ourselves, we have to be careful with our resources. These sorts of things take a lot of time, energy, supplies, time, money, and time!  We are lacking in all departments!! ha!

I love the color of the stain!  the front and back are finished, but I haven't tackled the sides yet because the roof peak is MUCH HIGHER than it looks and the ground is MUCH STEEPER than it looks!  I need a heavy duty extension ladder, a helper, and a plan.  I have two out of the three.

I was raised to be frugal, resourceful, careful, and creative.  It just goes against my every fiber to hire things done that I can do myself.  To date, I have the front and back of the cabin completely stained, including the eaves.  The porch knee wall has been built.  This involved framing the wall, planing and ripping lumber that we already had, installing about 50 small sections of board, capping the board with a 1x6, and staining.  We will have to caulk and add a trim piece once the entire porch is finished.  We've also had to invest hours of "think-time" to figure out how to install the screen.  The top of the porch is over 20 feet in the air, and neither Phil nor I want to climb an extension ladder that has no strong support wall to brad-nail screen.  Sooo... we had to come up with an alternative plan.  The screen is being installed from inside the porch (rather than from the outside), but it has to be pushed back to the edge of the 2x4 frame and folded inward like wrapping the inside of a box.... THEN we pull tight, fire up the air compressor, and brad-nail... hoping for the best!

All of this sound confusing??  yeah, tell me about it!  Construction requires creativity and skill.  Although Dad is an expert contractor, he is extremely busy and I've tried to be a "big girl" and do as much as I can without nagging him with questions.  Phil and I make an excellent team.  He has more skill than I, but I have more vision.  We get along beautifully and work well together.... and most importantly, we always have a rip-roarin' good time when we are "on the job"!

this is a "before" and "now" of the same view from the back porch.  you can see that we had to add a 2x4 stud in between each original pillar support.  also, notice the knee wall with the upper cap and stringer about six inches above that.  I had to stain everything at least 4 times.  the ceiling required THREE GALLONS of stain... talk about under-budgeting! I never dreamed that I would have to apply three gallons to that ceiling... BUT the ceiling is T1-11 (the rest of the cabin is pine board and batten) and it is very difficult to get an even coat.  I have learned that I do not care for T1-11 at all. I also do not care for a stiff neck, sore back, and paint running down my arms on a 100-degree day.  HOWEVER, it is hard work that is greatly satisfying and I can look at it and say, "I did that MYSELF!"

What else have we accomplished in the past two months?
Well, the interior stud walls are all up.  We framed Julia's bedroom, our bedroom, and the bathroom... which means that the kitchen and living room have been framed by default.  We purchased a stand-up shower unit and delivered it to the cabin.  Even though taking a shower at the cabin seems eons away. The shower was too big to fit through the small doorways we've created, so it has to be physically IN the bathroom before the walls could be built around it.  Thanks Dad for that genius tip!

the bathroom and utility/clothes closet is located at the back right (the big black thing is the shower). our bedroom is back left, and Julia's bedroom is front left.  the kitchen is the open space and I am standing in the living room. 

  Actually getting the shower in the cabin proved to be a bit more difficult than we expected.  As it turned out, our front door was not of standard size.  It was exactly ONE INCH too small to fit the shower through the door opening.  We were completely stumped as to how to get the shower in the cabin.  Phil had the idea of hoisting it up over the back porch railing (about 12 feet up) and then taking it through the back slider.... well, the back slider was ALSO TOO SMALL!!!  Would you believe, the big honkin' window that I insisted on having was how we actually got the shower in the cabin.  Oh, it was a sight to behold.  Since, they are double-hung windows with tilt capabilities, I had to lower the upper window clear to the bottom sash, tilt both windows in, hold them in place with my hips (which got very bruised).... and heave a shower over my head!  OH. MY.   it cracks me up just thinking about it!

Did I mention that the shower juggling happened about 20 minutes before the worst wind storm of my life?  Actually, Phil had said, "we better try and get that shower in the cabin before the rain hits".... yeah!  had we not, the shower might have been blown clear to Nelsonville!

What's next on the short list?
finishing the screen
running electricity
trenching for electric wires

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Great Tally Competition

It is no secret that we are serious about tomatoes here at The Brick Lady!  Yes, we raise all sorts of vegetables and herbs, but the tomatoes always steal the show.

We've got a fairly fierce competition going on -- with ourselves!  Each year, since 2008, we've been tallying our tomatoes.  I don't know why we do this really, but it's a heck of alotta fun! (which I guess, is why we do it!)  The Great Tally Competition is very willy-nilly and definitely less-than-scientific.  We decided to take the easy route and not get too detailed with things like: how many tomato plants were raised, plant varieties, and weather.  Instead, we've cut to the chase and just recorded the real important data: THE NUMBER!

So, this competition is not fair, valid, or reliable ....but, who cares!? it's FUN!

Here's our competition:
2006 - (my first year at The Brick Lady - massive interior gut renovations - gardens not yet built)
2007 - (first year of garden, but no record or tally kept)
2008 - 245 tomatoes harvested
2009 - 314 tomatoes harvested
2010 - 381 tomatoes harvested
2011 - 192 tomatoes harvested - what an embarrassment!
2012 - ?

In the spirit of the Summer Olympics, I told Phil, that we are gold medalists in the sport of tomatoes.  Yeah, there's nothing quite like giving yourself a fake title in which to brag.  I'm humble, really. 

this is the new annex for the year. I call it "front annex" while Phil refers to it as "annex B".  there are 9 plants growing in that tangled mess, Orange and Chocolate Cherry

this variety is called "cavern".  they are hollow tomatoes with a thick outer skin (like a pepper).  they are grown with the purpose of stuffing.  very interesting indeed.  I can't wait to try out some recipes on these beauts!

on deck

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The 40

Garden Update: July 10, 2012

  click here to read the previous garden update

So far, this year's garden has been a happy spot.  No serious complaints amongst any of the inhabitants, although we have lost two tomatoes thus far to bloom-end rot.  ...And that, my friends, can be a very dicey situation.  We are keeping a close eye on it.  I've researched the problem and have found that our soil may be lacking in calcium.  ....but so far, we've taken the lazy wait-and-see approach.

Five tomatoes have been harvested to date.  We have set our goals high for the year and hope to blow the previous tomato tally records out of the water.  I will report on the previous year's tallies in another post.  The numbers are downstairs and I am too lazy to go fetch them.  

Almost all of the cabbages have been harvested.  I believe we have 4 left.  The heat wave nearly did them in... they are cold weather veggies and just can't survive the heat.  Usually, the heads will crack open and rot will set in.  The "stonehead" variety that we grow is the absolute best at surviving the heat.

The salad barrels are kaput, as the lettuce is also a cold weather crop that can't survive these hot days.

I took out most of the broccoli plants just this evening.  They weren't completely done yet... still sending off little shoots here and there, but they were huge and taking up a lot of space... and crowding the brussel sprouts and tomatoes.

And so I've got empty vacancies in the garden.  I've never been good at the second round of planting.  We tried a few years back to do a second round of sugar snaps, but it didn't go well.  We also did a late planting of green beans one year... that too, was a fail.  Hmmm.... I'm not sure what I'll do with the vacancies.  I have to admit, that it feels strange to have vacancies on July 10.  The summer is at mid-point (on the school calendar anyway).  ....time keeps on ticking.

when harvesting cabbage, cut just the head and leave the stalk and the larger leaves.  Baby cabbages will form from the cut stalk. 
hello visitor!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

a fragile society in the aftermath of storm

The calm after the storm has been everything but.  People are hyper and are moving about hurriedly going nowhere to be certain.  The lines at the gas station are as far as the eye can see.  There is no water to be found...  Last night, we couldn't get a pizza because the only two open venues in town had cut-off orders for the evening four hours prior to closing! People are sweaty, hungry, tired, and bored.  ....and it hasn't even been 24 hours.

We live in a fragile society folks.   People are too comfortable in their sheltered lives on-the-grid.   Dependency is not easy to accept.   Basic needs: food, water, shelter, (and communication).  All of these needs can be "shut-off" or taken away or destroyed, in the blink of an eye without any warning.  Then what?

I'm not trying to be an alarmist... I'm simply observing human reaction (my own included). 


Well, Phil and I happened to be at Meadowlark Cabin on our Burr Oak farm during the storm.  Julia was with her grandparents in Athens.  We had been working hard on the screened-in porch project all afternoon.  I was staining the siding and ceiling, and Phil was cutting the support columns for the screen.

Now, keep in mind, that we have witnessed plenty of storms out on the farm.  I really wasn't worried at all as the sky gradually darkened and cool breezes of telling air swept around me.   In fact, I was grateful because we needed the rain and the cool-down.  I continued to stain the back porch and Phil continued to cut lumber.  By this time, we could hear far-away and gentle rumbles of thunder.  Phil asked me if I wanted to pack up and go home.  I said, "why? I'll keep working through the storm, it won't bother me any".  Afterall, we were working on the backporch, which is covered by a roof.

Eventually, I decided to take a break from staining to go around front and watch the final minutes of the "approach".  Little did I know what I was in for... naively, I was still thinking that this would just be a passing soaker with a few rumbles of thunder and flashes of lightning.

It is always hard for observers to describe what they see when it comes to nature.  Nature never seems to want to fit into the available words.  Words like "epic" or "surreal" seem appropriate... or the ubiquitous, "it sounded like a freight train coming".  But there just aren't adequate adjectives to describe it... loud, terrifying, massive, unreal, scary....

What I saw (without too many adjectives), was a wall of "storm" coming straight at me through the state-owned side of our property.  The roaring wind had taken on a life-like form and reminded me of a wild animal overtaking its prey.   I was instantly scared, but amazed at the same time.  I just stood staring at "it".  Never in my life had I seen the trees bend and contort so violently.  I finally came to my senses and yelled to Phil, "What is this? Is this a tornado"? 

No, it wasn't a tornado.  Just a terrifying "gust front".  The temperature had been well over 100 degrees for two days.  The humidity was low.  As the storm approached, the falling rain evaporated before it could hit the ground, due to dry atmospheric conditions.  This caused a very sudden and drastic cooling of the air.  The result was a gust of air traveling at 80 miles per hour.  This explains why there was no rain at the front of the storm. We didn't see rain until about five minutes after the winds had arrived.  I find all of this fascinating really.  I had never heard of a "gust front" until I saw it on Channel 4's (  website.  Once, I found the terminology, I had to learn more.  I googled "gust front" and learned that they are common out west where the air is typically dry and hot... but here in Ohio, we are used to hot and humid conditions, which produce awesome thunderstorms, but rarely "gust fronts".  Interesting stuff, eh?

We lost our largest tree on the fence-line.  A gorgeous sycamore.  It was sprawled out across the road when I drove away.  The township had cut through the trunk with chainsaws and cleared the roadway by morning.
A significantly sized branch fell from the pignut hickory that shades Mom and Dad's cabin.  Luckily, the cabin was not hit.  I haven't had a chance to walk the property or to go down Ovenbird Trail to survey the woods.  I'm sure we have downed trees, but that is the cycle in the woods.  Downed trees give habitat and shelter to mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and insects.  Downed trees open the canopy for new growth and give opportunity for saplings to thrive.  Downed trees give back nutrients to the earth and become the home of fungus.  The woods recover.  We should take note and listen.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Bowties with Broccoli Pesto

Harvest time!  

Although I've been harvesting salad greens, swiss chard, scallions, chives, basil, and parsley for weeks, the time has finally come for me to harvest the first of the broccoli heads!  I really love broccoli and cauliflower (the two always seem to be mentioned together, don't they?), but cauliflower is soooo hard to grow.  I attempted it my first three years of gardening at The Brick Lady. After three consecutive fails, I decided that cauliflower wasn't worth my time or the valuable garden real estate.  However, broccoli is very easy to grow and a beautiful plant to boot!

In past years, I've actually let broccoli go to seed inadvertently.... simply because it was so beautiful that I couldn't harvest it.  Each day, I would tell myself, "tomorrow I will harvest, but not today".. when tomorrow would come, I would again say, "tomorrow".  Finally, the green broccoli tree heads would turn to yellow flowers and go to seed.
I try not to do that anymore, but I admit, it is still hard to chop the head off my beautiful broccoli plant.  Broccoli, like a lot of other garden vegetables, is a plant that doesn't have to be cut at ground level.  Simply cut the edible portion and leave the rest of the plant.  Throughout the season, additional broccolis will form, although the new sprouts will not be as big as the initial.

 I absolutely love cooking with local ingredients and will go out of my way (and spend more money) to buy local.  It is extra sweet when "local" happens to be VERY local... as in my own backyard-local!  Gardening is wonderful for so many reasons -  it is economical, frugal (frugal doesn't mean being a cheap-skate; frugal means using resources wisely), and spiritually rewarding!

What meal will we prepare with our first broccoli harvest?  Bowties with Broccoli Pesto!  This dish is from a Weight Watcher's cookbook, as all meals Phil and I prepare are relatively low-fat and healthy.  If you are a WW member, this meal is 8 points per serving.  I usually eat more than one serving, but less than two.... probably around 11 points.  Phil usually eats two full servings.

harvesting the broccoli

basil.  fresh herbs are so expensive and you never end up using all you buy, so why not grow your own?  most varieties are easy to grow!

harvesting is made extra special if you've got a nifty little basket.  Dad gave me this one and I adore it!

from garden to kitchen counter
Phil chop, chop, chopping!

 since I use very few pesticides, I have to be very careful when washing my garden veggies.  I don't mind eating a little dirt, but I do mind bugs!
fresh basil

processing pesto
boiling whole wheat pasta.  we switched over 100% to whole wheat and I actually prefer it as it gives pasta dishes a richer flavor

mixing pesto with bowties

dinner is served!  we don't set a fancy table... but I do light a candle every single night during dinner.