Terrific Broth

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

Fall is Perfect for Gardening!

After a long summer dry spell, we welcomed Autumn rain with open arms. The water from the sky arrived just in time – with night temperature hovering about 40, it is almost time to blow dry the drip lines in the garden.

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Fall is the perfect time to garden – who is with me on this? There is much less weeding and much more flowers, and the sun is not nearly intense. Honestly, I am taking the Fall garden tasks very causally and spent most of my “gardening” time sipping coffee, petting dogs, and watching graceful grasses dancing in cool breeze. It is LUXURY.

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A front garden update

Our last year’s hard work in the front yard totally paid off. Our front yard is the one the most beautiful in the neighborhood I dare to say. I intentionally stayed with a cool color palette for flowers and I do not regret it.

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The flowers above is Rocky Mountain Columbine, which is the state flower of Colorado. The grasses behind them are Blue Grama, which is the Colorado state grass.

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Besides summer flowers there are also Autumn colors. Here are the red berries, the silver brocade sage, and the blue stonecrop:

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Last fall I dropped a couple pieces of blue stonecrop next to the dry creek. Look at how lovely they are doing now! Gotta love a strong ground cover plant.

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Succulent the dry creek

Inspired by the look of stonecrop next to the dry creek, I decided to dress it up even more. Last year I got some divisions of Hens and Chicks from a neighbor; they did very well in our climate and tripled in number during just one season. So I transplanted them along the dry creek to fill all the gaps and crannies.

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I also tucked some baby ones along the retaining wall. These voids were filled with sand and the little green bundles peeking out really brings the look up a notch.

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Re-work the veggie garden

The main gardening task this Fall is to redo the vegetable garden. We started growing vegetables in our back yard in the Spring of 2018 with just 5 beds, and added three more last Spring. After two seasons trying different vegetables, I now have a pretty good understanding on what grows well in our yard, and more importantly, what we like to eat. I would like to put more effort into vegetable gardening next year, and this Fall is the perfect time to plan and prepare the beds.

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There are a few things I wanted to address here: first, after two years of farming our vegetable beds could use some rejuvenation aka compost. Second, the bark mulch we put down two seasons ago has decomposed significantly and there are quite a few places bare ground is shown.

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Lastly, the drip system here could use some reconfiguration – we’ve been slowly adding drip lines and soaker hoses as the garden grows, which results in choppy grid and inconsistent water pressure throughout the system.

So here is the steps I took to rejuvenate the veggie garden space:

1. Redefine the veggie beds and restrict the bark mulch only on the paths

We used to have bark mulch on both veggie beds and the paths in between; I have found that the coarse mulch we used does not help with seed germination especially for small seeds. I would like to use compost as mulch next year for better soil health and veggie growth. So I racked all the bark mulch onto the paths between beds.

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I took this opportunity to redefine the boundary of each bed. To space them evenly I used a landscape measuring tape, which I found very useful in all different kinds of outdoor projects. From planning large project such as patio or fence, to planting hedges, I use it all the time when I need to measure long distance.

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We also decided to remove the very first veggie bed to make driving the trailer into the back yard easier. So I moved the edging back to define the new boundary.

The first bed:

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The new boundary:

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2. Organize the drip tubing and re-run soaker hoses

We have been watering the veggie garden with soaker hoses. After spacing the beds and move the mulch, I took out all the soakers hose onto the surface, fix the leaky area and rearranged them to accommodate the new grid of the veggie beds.

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The new grid:

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3. Propagate and divide perennial crops in the vegetable garden

Fall is a great time to propagate and divide perennials. We have some strawberry plants that are sending lots of runners. I buried the runners in soil which will encourage them to grow their own roots. I also divided our chive plant and made a row with the divisions in the front of the first veggie bed. Imagine a hedge of green shoots and purple flowers in Spring? Wouldn’t it be nice?

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4. Top-dress all beds with organic compost

As the last step, I put down a thick layer of compost over the vegetable beds to give the garden a boost of energy for the next season. These compost will be worked into the soil next Spring and another layer of compost will be used as mulch after Spring planting.

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After all the reorganization and refreshing I had to plant something. So I planted garlic crop in for next year. These are all the hard neck varieties and were grown successfully in this garden last year. And now I am using my own produce as seed garlic! How exciting!

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At the mean time…

Compared to my moderate gardening effort Slav is speeding down a long list of house winterizing – sealing the windows, replacing weather stripping on exterior doors, and winterizing our vehicles. Last weekend Slav fixed the sagging fence gate fortunately just replacing the hinges, and set a pair of cane bolts to hold the gates in place.

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This is the last 2% of fence work we did not complete before the ground frozen last winter, and you know how small tasks get overlooked – it only took us a year to wrap it up!

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Oh, The teeth mark on the fence gate? That was Charlie, our black lab, who developed a deep obsession on neighbor’s front yard and has broken out a few times this summer. Hopefully these can bolts will be able to keep him in the escape artist!

We are looking forward to some friends’ visit this coming week and a much-needed relaxation in the mountains. I hope to have an update on the basement in a couple weeks. We are so close!

Basement, Painted!

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It has been a long journey to renovate our basement. We started demolition last December (here and here) and it was not until a few weeks ago, we finally got all the walls finished.

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I spent a day removing drywall dust and taping the windows and outlets. To get a good result of paint preparation is the key. Any unevenness and floating dust shows regardless how many layers of paint are put on the wall.

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Since we decided to use the same white paint on all the ceiling and walls I used my beloved paint sprayer. It took two coats of primer to saturate the new drywall.

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We used the same color of white paint (Sherwin Williams Extra White) and it only took one coat to get the basement finished.

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Above are the four walls of the media room. This room was used as a bedroom when we bought the place and was covered in paneling.

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Believe or not, the paint color on the walls and ceiling was also white…I guess with heavy texture on the walls and insufficient lighting, everything just looked orange.

The future master was also painted in the same white:

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This large room was created by joining two small bedrooms. I love how the light bounces in the room now we have windows from three directions. Above is the sleeping area where our king bed will be placed. Being a former bedroom it has its own access door, which has become a door leading to the master bath:

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Care to see what it looked like before the renovation?

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And this is the exact view now without the closet/graffiti wall:

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This part of the master bedroom will be used for clothes storage. We plan to install tall wardrobes on both side of the room, which will double the closet space compared to what we have now.

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This space used to be the second bedroom by itself, which looked like this before the renovation:

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Quite a change, isn’t it?

I am really happy how much light the new master gets thanks to the new egress window. I especially love that we can see the new front fence and the new flower bed through the window on the right, as soon as you walk into the bedroom.

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This is the view from the small window. The green arborvitae will eventually grow wider to meet each other and block the view of neighbor’s house. I planted a climbing rose between the arborvitae and grasses, which will be trained to climb onto the fence.

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Despite the uneventful color pick (white is always my go-to), the basement looks so fresh and much more finished. We removed the poly tarp covering the bathroom ASAP so our contractor can continue working on the bathroom tiles.

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While waiting for the bathroom to be finished, we are moving onto the next task – installing the LVP flooring. We have never laid any type of flooring before, so this will be a learning experience for us. I am watching video instructions thanks Youtube and who knows, maybe I will actually gain enough confidence to put down some planks soon! Wish us luck!

Bye Bye Paneling, Hello Drywall

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As of many old ranch house our basement walls were covered by paneling. Although adding paneling has been a design trend for the last a few years, the 50 years-old orange paneling in our basement did not achieve a desirable and high-class look.

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With the rest of the basement finished with drywall, the paneling started to look unbearable. Initially I had wondered if paint could make it look OK, until we found more than a few gaps and unevenness upon close inspection. It was the last straw that broke the camel’s back.

1. Demolition

Slav has been a long time advocate for replacing the paneling. Once we decided on drywall he could not take these paneling off fast enough.

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Left on the wall were 1″ x 3″ wood studs, which held the paneling onto the concrete foundation. The wood studs were mostly solid, except a few have separated from the wall. The good news is that there was absolutely no sign of water damage. Our concrete foundation was bone dry and based on the appearance of these wood studs, it had never had water issues since the built.

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Interestingly, the junction boxes are recessed by digging into the foundation wall! I am wondering if this was a common practice at the time this house was built.

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2. New Framing and Drywall

Before attaching the drywall, Slav got masonry anchors and secured all the wood studs to the concrete foundation. He also framed around the water main in the corner of the room.

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After everything was secure we started putting up drywall. This room is large and only has one window, one doorway, and one column, which made things a lot easier. However, I had little experience working with drywall and Slav’s drywall days go way back. So it still took us two 4-hour evenings to finish hanging the drywall.

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Drywall shims were used at places where the walls/studs are not straight.

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Ta-da!

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3. Drywall Finish Marathon

Putting up drywall panels is just the first step. Since then, Slav has been busy at taping, mudding, and sanding.

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It is interesting to see how different corners are finished using different materials. Paper tape was used on inside corners and butt joints, metal beam was put on the outside corners, and specialty L beam was used against the window.

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Working on just a few joints is definitely not as bad as skim coating all the walls on the main floor while living there. That being said, it is still time consuming. Slav worked for a whole weekend and we still have the last coat to go.

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We expect to finish the drywall in the next a few days and by weekend, we should be able to paint! Cannot wait!

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