Terrific Broth

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

Spring Garden, 2021

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Spring used to be the season I looked forward to the least because of my love of snow, but gardening has changed that. I now enjoy coming home not in dark, still having an hour of day light to walk around the yard. Watching new life emerge from the soil is confirming and comforting, and nothing beats the excitement of seeing the first flower of the year.

The first wave of blooms are hellebores. I planted them in the Spring of 2019, and they have been establishing themselves for the past two years. I kept reminding myself that hellebores need time to establish. And this Spring, my patience has paid off! All the hellebores were loaded with buds as soon as they peeked out of the snow, and they have been flowering non-stop since March.

Look what a show they’ve put on:

During the months of March and April we had quite a few heavy winter storms. As soon as the snow melted, the herb garden woke up:

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Last Spring I transplanted some periwinkle from a neighbor’s yard. I did not know if I would like them or not, but there were lots of nasty weeds spreading into my yard from our neighbor’s on the North, so I had to come up with a tough groundcover to plant against the fence as a “weed barrier”. These periwinkles grew quickly and by this Spring, they have already completely covered the strip of land against my neighbor’s fence! And they bloom the cutest dense mat of blue glowers!

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One big landscape project last year was the patio garden. I love it as a soft border seperating the beautiful lawn space and the more practical raspberry patch. I planted some peonies here last Fall, who have come up and look very healthy:

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Next to the peonies are the patio planter boxes I built last Spring during the lockdown, which houses our strawberry plants:

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Behind the patio garden is the berry patch I planted in 2019.

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Next, the shrubs are all doing well! We inherited a lilac bush, which got a rejuvenation cut a couple years ago when we removed the chain link fence it grew into. It is still on its way of recovery, so we do not have flower this year – but it is OK! The service berry bush was loaded with flowers thanks to all the rain we got recently. And I am looking forward to harvesting service berries for the first time this year!

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We have quite a few trees on our property. The crabapple tree in the middle of the backyard has put on a spectacular show thanks to the trim and deep fertilizing treatment we gave it last year:

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All our fruit trees but one came back this Spring and started to bud up:

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What we lost was a nectarine tree. It snapped during one of the heavy storms last Spring. We planted a cold-hardy pear tree at its place just a few days ago:

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I also planted a couple ornamental trees. One of them is a Chinese snowball viburnum. It gave us exact one flower last year. πŸ™‚ I am hoping for more this year!

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The most exciting tree I have planted on our property is a gingko tree. I was told that it grows very slowly. However, it has grew 8 inches last year and came back happily:

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I adore the tender gingko leaves. Aren’t they cute?

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We will be planting the vegetable garden in the next a couple weeks and I will surely come back with more detailed update. Here are the garlic and asparagus beds looking lush today:

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That is pretty much the backyard! Moving onto the front yard, the perennial flower beds have a few blooms already:

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The western sandcherry:

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The dwarf pine and sedums:

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The irises by the dry creek showed the first few flower buds:

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The sedum and honey suckle in the front yard planter:

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Hens and chicks thriving in the tiny cracks between the retaining wall and the sidewalk:

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This is truly the best our garden has ever been. It looks so lush, healthy, and full of life that it literally stops our neighbors on their tracks. I think the labor and sweat we put in during the past three years has finally paid off!

Happy Spring, everyone!

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Main Floor Bath: Pocket Door Installation

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Happy Spring, everyone! I hope you are enjoying bluer skies and warmer temperature than we do. As you can tell from the pictures, we had quite a few storms in the past weeks.

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Stuck inside we made good progress in the main floor bath. After upgrading the master bath exhaust fan, Slav finalized all the electrical connections and fine toned the rough plumbing. It is important to make absolutely sure that everything are set to the correct height and depth before closing the wall! One of the things Slav did was to raise the toilet drain a bit higher to accommodate the height of the new subfloor, cement board and tiles. Can you imagine a toilet here seeing the bidet power outlet, bidet waterline, and toilet flange together in one picture?

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Now we were (finally) ready for the subfloor!

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Subfloor installation

To install the subfloor, Slav first added supporting structures around the parameter of the room:

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The 2″ x 4″ strips were sistered onto the nearby floor joist with liquid nails and screws. They will be supporting the edge of the new subfloor, and bearing some weight of the tiled wall.

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After double and triple check to make sure everything between the two stories were set correctly and secured properly, Slav installed the new subfloor with liquid nails and screws. It felt so nice to have something solid to walk on again! We have been balancing ourselves on floor joists like acrobats for a couple months… πŸ™‚

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Shower niche framing

One small detail we would like to add to the shower area is a shower niche. Slav modified the framing and installed a tile-ready shower niche casing, centered on the end wall of the shower. It will get tiled over, along with all the surrounding walls:

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Demo the old door

The very last task we needed to complete before closing all the walls, was to install the pocket door. Pocket door is not a necessity, but due to the small size of this bath, we felt that it would improve the traffic flow and was worth the upgrade.

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As you can see from the picture above, the framing was heavy on this wall. There used to be an enclosure for a ventilation pipe we since removed, and a linen closet is located on the other side of the wall.

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The header of the door would also needed to be raised due to the height of the pocket door.

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Slav carefully cut away all the framing that would be in the parameter of the pocket door framing. He left all other framing in place, and managed not to damage the drywall on the closet side.

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Also removed was the starting piece of the wooden floor. This piece on the very edge was full of nail holes from the old carpet and in pretty bad shape. Slav replaced it with a brand new piece of the same flooring, left from last time when we patched the floor in Slav’s office.

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Pocket door framing

For the pocket door installation, we picked up a standard pocket door framing kit:

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Everything needed for framing the pocket door except the door slab itself were included in the kit. This universal kit is designed to work with doors that are 24 inches to 36 inches in width. There are marks already engraved into the framing lumber to indicate where to cut for different door sizes.

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To frame in the pocket door, Slav first built the rough framing:

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Onto which the header of the pocket door framing kit was installed and the split studs was secured:

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This is what the split studs look like! The actual door slab will be inserted in between and nest inside whenever the door is open.

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Our doorway only permits a 24″ door. We splurged for a frosted glass door which comes pre-primed.Β While Slav was framing the doorway, I painted it with my go-to door and trim paint – Behr‘s ultra pure white:

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Installing pocket door was actually pretty easy. I do not know why I was so intimidated by it! Slav installed the door slab into the track all by himself. And I had to say, it operates like butter!

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So smooth.

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Encouraged by the pocket door installation Slav caught a second wind and installed the drywall before calling it a day. All the sudden, the bathroom looked like a room again!

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Here is it, the bathroom, ready for tiles:

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With brand-new frosted window and door, new subfloor and shower pan, new plumbing and electrical!

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The next step, tiling!

Starting next week, we will be installing and waterproofing the walls, and starting the tile work! It has been a rough a couple months just finalizing the utilities and dealing with additional plumbing issues. But finally, we could move onto tasks that will bring much more substantial changes into the space. So stay tuned, friends! May the fourth be with us!

1. Demolition – removing all the fixtures and wall/floor materials;
2. Assessing the water damage and mold control;
3. Installing new bath window and insulating the exterior wall;
4. Removing the ceiling drywall from the attic, wiring for new recessed lights from the attic;
5. Upgrading wall electrical, including adding outlets and wiring new switches;
6. Installing a new exhaust fan;
7. Installing recessed lights and drywall the bathroom ceiling;
8. Upgrading the sewage pipe for toilet and shower;
9. Purchasing a new toilet, a new bidet, a sink/vanity, and sink and shower fixtures; Upgrading/installing water lines to all the fixture;
10. Upgrade master bath (basement) exhaust fan from above;
11. Installing new subflooring;
12. Pocket door framing and installation;
13. Drywalling around the pocket door to close off the entry wall;
14. Installing water-resistant wall on rest of the room and waterproofing;
15. Tiling and installing a new window stool;
16. Sealing the floor tiles and grout;
17. Finishing/priming/painting entry wall drywall and ceiling;
18. Installing and painting pocket door trims;
19. Installing new glass shower door;
20. Installing toilet/bidet, vanity/sink, shower trim, and vanity mirror/lighting!

Seed Starting for 2021

It’s this time of the year again!

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Green lawn grass, fruit tree flowers, and budding perennials… We still have cold snaps every week, but with warmer days in between. It is time to seed the vegetable garden again!

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The 2021 Seed Haul

I have been buying seedlings for the vegetable garden. Our heavy clay soil is not ideal for direct sowing, and I have little time and patience for raising seedlings in trays. However, the year of 2020 taught me a lesson. Due to the pandemic I could hardly get any vegetable seedlings, and some of my online orders were cancelled. Anticipating a shortage of seedlings again in 2021 (which does not look like it will be the case), I purchased some seeds and decided to give this whole seed starting business a try.

First, tomatoes! I grew tomatoes every year because they do taste better home-grown. This year, I got seeds for several mid-size heirloom tomatoes and cherry tomatoes. Young green beans are so flavorful when picked fresh off the vines and cooked immediately. So they are a must too.

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My favorite vegetable is undoubtedly peppers. I seeded some hot peppers this year and hope to create my own spice mix. The rumor is that pepper seeds are really hard to start without a heat mat, but I will give it a try anyway.

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Each year I would like to try to grow a couple new vegetables. Last year I started a perennial asparagus bed, and this year, I plan to grow okra and rhubarb for the first time. Slav and I first start eating okra when living in North Carolina, but they are harder to find in restaurants here. I am curious how they will do in our cold climate. I also want to give eggplant a try – the store-bought eggplant in US tastes a lot less flavorful than the ones I had in China. Maybe home-grown eggplants will be different?

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I am also gonna continue growing root vegetables such as beets and radishes. Despite our clay soil, they have been very eager to grow in my vegetable garden. In summer days, radishes and beets are always in rotation from our garden to grill.

Planting Vine Crops as Green Mulch

Last season, I tried watermelon and cantaloupe for the first time, which was a big success. I was surprised how little care they needed – you can pretty much just plant the seedlings, set up a drip emitter, and forget about them. Besides the fruits, an added benefit of vine crops is they function as a green mulch. My backyard had a big sloped area covered by woodchips which is very prone to weeds. But last summer, as the vine crop spread their leaves, they shaded all the weeds out. This season, I will be planting the entire side slope with melons, cucumber, pumpkin, and gourds as groundcover, and hopefully get some weird-looking pumpkins and gourds to decorate our front porch in the Fall!

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Initial Planting

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On the first sunny weekend in April, I filled up all the small pots I saved in the past, and started planting seeds. The first 4 x 8 tray with smaller pots was mostly for peppers and tomatoes, and all the other bigger pots were seeded with vine crops including cucumbers, squashes, gourds, pumpkins, melons, and cantaloupes. Beans, radishes, and beets will be sowed directly to the vegetable garden.

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I did not use plant markers, but made a spreadsheet and labeled the trays instead:

2021 veggie garden

I had companies.

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The pups are always generous with their emotional support.

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The Recent Progress!

These are the trays, just seeded on April 3rd.

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Here were the same trays 11 days later, Most of the tomatoes and vine crops have germinated. Peppers, eggplants, and luffa were still taking their time.

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Fast forward to today, 3 weeks after the initial planting, all of the seedlings have sprouted!

Peppers and tomatoes:

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Melons and cantaloupe:

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Pumpkins, gourds, and cucumbers

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Among the seedlings, the vine crops are showing excellent growth, whereas the tomato and pepper seedlings are on the smaller side.

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The most anticipated among all seedlings are the luffa plants. I tried direct sow last season and had no success. I hope all the seedlings make it this year so I can make some luffa sponges in the fall!

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These are the okra seedlings! They look unique and cute with their hairy leaves:

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In our climate (zone 5b) we are not completely out of the woods when it comes to frost until the end of May. I will transplant the seedlings into the vegetable garden on Memorial Day weekend, which means that they will stay in their trays for another month.Β  It feels like a cool adventure! Now, what are growing in your vegetable garden this year?

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