Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

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My First Rose | How to Install Plastic Garden Edging

I am always drawn to English cottage gardens – green hedges, lush garden beds filled with cut flowers, and roses and peonies wherever possible.

Tasha Tudor’s Garden

I want my garden to be informal but intentional – a bit messy. In this spirit, I’ve chosen to plant perennial flowers and blending them in with the surroundings with nature-looking wood mulch.

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We also plan to grow evergreen hedges. If you remember our backyard layout, we neighbors four properties with long stretch of fences that needs to be covered.

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I always knew our back fence will be the perfect place for a wall of climbing roses. It is west-facing and the majority of the fence receives full sun, ideal for growing roses. We have planted five fruit trees that will form canopies above the fence in a few years, but in between we could really use some green foliage and soft flowers.

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Choosing the right rose

After weeks of research, I finally pulled the trigger and got four climbing roses from a local nursery. High Country Roses specializes on cold-hardy roses that grows well in Colorado, where high altitude, high winds, and clay soil take a toll on regular varieties. I have learned that from the veggie garden that we have to plant the specialty plants selected for our harsh climate. The regulars just do not stick. 

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The climbing roses we got are called Awakening. It is a sport of New Dawn, one of the most popular David Austin Rose. Reportedly, Awakening has all the advantages of New Dawn, including the glossy foliage, light apple scent, subtle pink and white blooms, but they grow faster and bloom better (more repeat) than New Dawn.

Awakening:

Its parent flower: New Dawn

As you can see, Awakening also offers more petals per flower, a softer look I am after. Our yard and house are rectangle-shaped and look very stiff. I could use some bendy canes, layered pink pedals, and curved garden beds to break up the rectangles. During weeks of research I have not read a single complaint about Awakening, except it grows faster and bigger than many would think. The decision was made easy.

I brought them back from the nursery and left them our in partially shaded area for a few days to harden off:

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This is the look I am after:

Before planting, I still needed to tackle a few tasks in the area, including removing the open yard compost along the back fence, and edging along the pickets.

Edging along the fence

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As you can see, our yard slopes down towards the fence. Understandably there is a lot of soil build up against it:

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The metal edging installed along the fence have been pushed around by the soil and do not protect the fence from touching the soil anymore.

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Behind the fence there is a retaining wall, a few feet above neighbor’s yard. Preventing top soil from pilling up against the retaining wall is important for its integrity. So we really needed to refresh the edging before planting.

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I started by digging along the fence and pulling out all the old metal edging. You can see some was already pushed into the other side of the fence.

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After pulling every pieces of metal out, I was happy to find 6-mil poly (not landscape fabric) laid in our retaining wall on the other side of the fence. We have been wanting to come over to our neighbors to clean up the retaining wall since we moved in. Years of neglect granted it to be a shallow trash can and home for some happy weeds. Knowing that all that are only floating on the very surface above the plastic is comforting.

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Our back fence is 88 feet long so it took me a few hours to remove all the old metal edging and dig down until all the pickets were shown. The edging needed to be installed against and just below the fence, so no soil will ever be in contact with the pickets.

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We got the cheapest plastic edging from Home Depot. It is about $28 for 60 feet and we got two. They are also the tallest – about 5″. I want them to come above the soil a bit so we can mulch the area.

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According to instructions, I laid them flat under the sun for a day or so to soften them up. They were very easy to manipulate after that.

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I leaned the edging against the fence, made sure that the bottom of the edging sit just below the bottom of the pickets, and buried them with dirt.

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One of the complaints about this particular edging is that it is too soft to hold a straight line. It was not a problem in this project since I was putting it up again a relatively straight fence.

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Each roll of the edging is 60 feet, so for our 88 feet fence, I needed to join two together. Each roll of the edging came with a connector which made the seam tight and hardly noticeable.

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This is the finished look and I am very happy with it. The new black edging made the fence look more polished and a whole lotta sharper.

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Planting the Roses

The last task before planting the roses was to move the morning glory I previously planted along the fence.

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They came up from seeds I planted mid-May and really should have grown bigger by this point. 🙁 They are getting another chance at the corners of the back fence.

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While digging the morning glories out I was happy to see abundant of earth worms below. We have been piling up fall leaves and glass trimmings the back fence since last fall, 6 months till now. It was such a success. I did not cover, water, or turn them at all – just pile new stuff on top of the old. But all the fall leaves were completely broken down and mixed into the top soil thanks to the earth worms.

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All the open compost were transferred to the new veggie beds and roses were planted into the now rich top soil.

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We piled some wood chips we produced ourselves around the rose and watered them in. Now we wait! I do not expect much bloom this summer but hope to see some foliage. And I desperately need to learn how to care for these pretty babies. Should I stake the canes? Should I fertilize again? Should wait a few years before training the canes? I want pretty trellis that is self-supporting but invisible. which kind should I get? If you have experience growing and training climbing roses, or building garden trellis, I would love your advice!

Happy Anniversary, the Ranch + One Year House Tour

This Wednesday, we celebrated the first anniversary of our ranch.

Can you believe it has been a year since we signed the papers and drove the U-haul into the garage? This little ranch checked everything on our list, and was truly a “diamond in the rough”. Although it required intense updates, we did not mind one bit. It was a blank canvas for two first-time home owners to learn and create.

It felt like that I just gave you the six-month house tour, and here we are, six months later. Unlike the first half-a-year, during which we focused on making our house sturdier, this recent six months were dedicated to make our living space more comfortable. Here is the video after the first six months, and click here to see our house today!

Improving our living space: before and afters

This was the living room two weeks after moving-in:

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And this is the living room today. We added a sofa, window treatment, and some art and plants:

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We also made our bedroom more comfortable and functional. This was the bedroom shortly after we moved in and bought a storage bed:

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And this is our bedroom today:

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We stole a closet from the spare bedroom to create his-and-her closets, and I DIY-ed the headboard and the floating nightstands to make the bedroom super cozy. Charlie loves to sleep here.

Slav uses the spare bedroom as his office. This was what it looked like a month shortly after we moved in and removed the carpet:

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We converted this bedroom into Slav’s office/library during the last a few months:

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The wall separating the office from the living room was opened up, and the original doorway opening to the hallway was closed off. These changes gave us the opportunity for a built-in library wall. You can read about all the office renovation here, hereherehere, herehere, here, here, here, here, and here; and how we build the library bookcases here, here, here, and here.

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We love having the office open to the living room. They two make a grand space for evening hangouts with books and music:

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Cleaning up the backyard: before and afters

Our 2018 goals did not include any yard work. But Spring came around and we just had to do some landscaping. The backyard was neglected for decades and overrun by weeds and random bushes:

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The back fence was falling over and the garden shed was rotting away:

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Our work here during the first summer was just getting rid of eyesores – we trimmed away dead trees, weeded the yard many, many times, power-washed the fence, and completely rebuilt the garden shed (here, here, here, herehere, and here).

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This Spring, we started to build a more permanent garden with fruit treesperennial flowers, and vegetable beds and a drip irrigation system.

We planted the perennial garden early May:

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All the plants grew like crazy during the past 6 weeks:

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There are still a long list of to-dos to build a decent garden. I am a newbie at landscaping but have enjoyed very much figuring what looks good where and learning from experience. I will be happy just to get big anchor pieces such as trees and veggie beds into the ground this year, and I can fuss about the ornamental plants later.

Adding curb appeal

Last night, we celebrated the first birthday of #thePolskiRanch curling up in the newly finished outdoor chairs, next to a bonfire, on our beloved back patio.

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Literally looking back at our house from our chair, we certainly noticed the impact of our hard work. For one, we definitely changed the appearance of the ranch. It feels good to not be the ugliest house i the neighborhood anymore.

This was the front of the house when we moved in:

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And now:

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This was the back of the house, on move-in day:

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And today:

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To add curb appeal , we have replaced the 20-year-old roof and installed new gutterspainted the soffit and fascia to match the new gutter, demoed the porch awning, replaced the front screen door, painted the old front door and added trims around it, and planting under the mailbox.

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Around the mail box on move-in day:

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New plants under the mailbox:

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Making it stronger and safer

Replacing the 20-year-old roof and installed new gutters not only improved the look of the house, but also made sure that water drains ways from the house. On the same note, we tackled a series of projects to improve drainage around the foundations, such as removing vegetation against the foundationreplacing sinking patios and rusty window wellssealing all the foundation cracks, and grading around the foundation. We also upgraded the electrical panel, a fire hazard identified by our inspector.

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Reducing its energy footprint

We also made upgrades to make sure that our house run more efficiently. We brought attic insulation from R19 to R50, installed high-efficiency HVAC and replaced our 50 gallon water tank with a tankless model, and added weather stripping to all the exterior doors. In the utility room, we brought in high-efficiency washer and dryer and sealed all the leaky ducts. We also upgraded all the lights , including garage work lights to LED.

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Creating enjoyable work spaces for future renovation

The ranch will surely see a lot of projects in the future. To better complete our work, we have overhauled our garage and garden shed and made them workhorses for us. I cannot tell you how much I love these two places! I am really proud of our organization in these two places – everything has its place and is easy to find, and the places stay clean. Since we finished these two spaces, we have not needed to tweak the organization one bit. The joy walking into them makes days-long and physical projects less of a work and more of a play.

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Crossing off the first year to-dos

In the process of writing this post, I came cross the first ranch to-do list from last summer, shortly after we moved in. It was more of a must-do list, as we were mostly correcting safety and structure related issues. We have since accomplished nearly everything on this must-do list, and a lot more:

1. Replace the roof and gutters; trim the tree branches over the roof.
2. Remove the flower bed; mud-jack/replace front and back patio; grading the soil around the house.
3. Seal the corner foundation cracks; level the corner of the garage pad; install new weather strip around the garage door.  (We also added weather stripping around our exterior doors and storm doors)
4. Inspect/fix all the exposed plumbing; high pressure cleaning/realign/replace the sewer line from our house to the street. (Our sewage line is in decent shape so we will upgrade it to PVC when necessary.)
5. Upgrade electrical panel; adding proper ground wire; adding an outdoor outlet; bring power to the shed.
6. Add central AC and replace the old furnace; upgrade the old water heater with a tankless heater. (We also fixed leaky ducts, brought in new washer/dryer combo, and upgraded our utility room)
7. Radon mitigation. (Adding radon pipe requires drilling the floor of the basement. We are researching the DIY options and will tackle it during basement renovation.)

At the mean time, we also completed some extra work:
8. Renovating and organizing the garage
9. Renovating the shed
10. Powerwash and seal the existing fence
11. Adding insulation into the attic

We even knocked half of our 2018 goals already:

1. Attic insulation
2. Converting the 2nd bedroom to Slav’s Office
3. Replacing the chain link fence
4. Basement Guest Suite

And tackled a few extra:

5. Planting fruit trees
6. Planting bee-friendly perennial gardens 
7. Laying out a vegetable garden

We could not have done so much without you guys cheering along us. Thank you for being here, and thank you for sending good vibes. I hope you enjoy reading about our renovation as much as I enjoy documenting it. With the pups on our side and power tools in our hands, we feel confident and ready to dive in the second year of renovation. Fence and basement, I am looking at you two!

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Relaxation + Refinishing Outdoor Chairs

In modern times, having fun can be tiring too. I have found that the best way for me to unwind is doing nothing – such as walking around in the garden, sipping tea and watching the dogs play. Recently, we’ve spent chilly evenings outside on our back patio. Slav would build a fire, and I would make some tea, then we stare at the flames for a couple hours and simple let our mind go blank. Sometimes we talk, and sometimes we just sit there and be together. It is amazing how quickly the world recedes and the inner peace grows.

Weekday nights with my man.

A post shared by Terrific Broth (@terrificbroth) on

After building the back patio last year, we briefly entertained the idea of getting a set of patio furniture for dining and lounging. “Let’s set up a grilling/dining area with sun shades, a fire pit area surrounded by chairs, and lots and lots of planters!” But quickly, we realized – 99 percent of the time, there are just two of us using the patio. Filling the space with furniture for friends and family we wish we could entertain who live one or two time zones away just does not make sense. So we added two seats, a fire pit, a griddle, and left the rest of our 340 sqft of patio empty.

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We were fortunate to find our lounge chairs at Habitat for Humanity for a price of a steal. Although the cushions were worn, the wood frames were timeless and steady. A few IKEA cushions gave the chairs a clean and fresh restart.

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But these chairs were not finished for outdoor use – at least we suspect so. After one summer with strong sun and a harsh winter, the wood finish diminished.

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The surface finish started peeling and small cracks developed along the wood grain.

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I decided to refinish these chairs with oil + poly to protect them from summer sun and winter snow. One sunny Saturday morning, I got to work.

1. Sanding off old finishes

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The cushions were removed and the chairs were moved under shade. I started off sanding all the old finishes off the wood with 80 grit sand paper. I recently invested in a Bosch sander which makes sanding a breeze. For hard-to-reach corners and curves I borrowed Slav’s oscillating sanding tool.

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Sanding with 80-grit paper had an immediate effect. You can see from the picture below the un-sanded surface on the left and sanded surface on the right.

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The wood after cleaning up looked quite nice. Another round of 220-grit sand paper made everything super smooth.

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I wiped everything with a clean, damp microfiber cloth and let the mountain breeze dry everything off. It was a beautiful day to work outside, especially with Roxie by my side.

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Neighbor’s dog Cabby watched through the fence too.

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2. Oiling the chairs up

For repairing the wood I wanted some kind of oil product that penetrates and hardens inside the wood grain. Since I do not know what kind of wood our chairs are made of, I decided to go the safest route and use oil-varnish blends. I had some danish oil leftover from finishing the antique guest bed, which is perfect for this project. Simply rubbing it on generously and let the wood drink, then returning half an hour later for two more coats. I kept the chairs in the shade so everything dries evenly and slowly.

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The chair on the left got one coat of oil and the one on the right had not. It is pretty amazing how much oil the wood drink and immediately you can see the tone of the wood darkened. My girl stuck around:

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After the third coat, I wiped off the excess and let the chairs dry for > 72 hours before the next step.

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The color of the wood was incredibly rich.

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Since the oil was out, I took the opportunity to finish a wooden tray. Roxie finally fell asleep next to me:

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3. Sealing for UV Protection

Generally speaking, we could have started using the chairs after they had dried overnight. But we live in the highlands where UV really takes a toll on outdoor furniture. Therefore, I wanted to coat the chairs with an oil-based sealer. We used the Preserva clear sealer because it penetrates into the wood and reflects UV light. It was recommended to us for harsh environments that cycle between sun and snow. It was originally formulated for the Southern California market, but many CO stores carry them too.

This stain only requires 1-coat application. So after the danish oil dried for 72 hours, I brushed on as much as the wood can absorb and left it dry overnight. We used the clear finish so it did not change the color/tone of the wood.

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4. Spray-on Protection for Cushions

Before we put the chairs back to use, I washed all the outdoor cushion and sprayed on a layer of water-repellent. The IKEA cushion covers are for outdoor use but do get wet when it rains. Roxie loves to nap on these chairs and she brings quite a bit dirt onto the cushions, so having a coat of fabric guard should allow us to hose down the cushions once a while and extend their lives.

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After drying overnight we put everything together and they look gooood.

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After almost a week without our outdoor seating, We are happy to curl up next to fire again Our first night in these newly finished chairs happened to be the one-year anniversary of the closing.moving-in day of our ranch. Happy Anniversary, thePolskiRanch! We had a great time here, and we hope that you are having a great time with us too!

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