Terrific Broth

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

The Magic 5%

I cannot say it enough: I am really glad that we decided not to do the kitchen this year, because we were then able to focus on small upgrades we’ve been wanting to do for a while. I am also glad that we hired out the floor refinishing. It was done quickly and nicely without much of our effort. We then directed our energy to the finishing work such as putting up baseboard and trims, plus what I am about to show you today.

Edge banding all the DIY drawers:

I have built drawers three times in this house: the cutlery drawer in the kitchen, the master bedroom nightstands, and these “baseboard drawers” under the built-ins in Slav’s office.

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However, I never got around to finishing the edges of these drawers.

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A couple years later, they are still not finished:

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Oops. I think we got stuck at the 95% zone, which means there is only 5% of the work left, but it will take forever to finish!

Finishing the office library

When we refinished the hardwood floor on the main story, all the baseboard drawers came out. I purposely did not put them back in, but left them in the garage instead. I knew that walking by these drawers everyday would force me to get the edges refinished. You bet, I ordered the edge banding in just two days…

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I also got a Minwax stain marker (in dark walnut color) to color the side of the panels between the bookshelves. I cut these panels from a big back panel for a bookcase, so the edges are raw.

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It did not take long to color the side of the panel with the stain marker:

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Now you can no longer notice the corners where the panels meet the bookshelves.

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I also colored where the panels were pieced together.

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Now it is time to address the drawers! It actually took over a week before the edge banding to come in. By then my motivation of putting these drawers back to where they belong has accumulated so high, that I got to work the very first weekend morning after it arrived.

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Edge banding is really not hard. My only advice is to use a flat file to trim the excess, an old-school way of finishing the edge banding. Here is a video I learned from.

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The finished product, making me wonder why I have waited so long to finish it?

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The corners:

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I rounded some corners a bit to create a worn look. The new edge banding is a bit lighter than the bookshelves, and having the corners a bit worn just feels more natural.

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Now I can call our home library 100% finished!

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Edge banding our nightstands

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As the iron was hot, I continued to edge-band the nightstand in our master bedroom. I made these nightstands from plywood. To be honest, I left the edges exposed on purpose. In my mind, it is how plywood furniture is supposed to look like. But Slav did not dig it, so here we go…

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I kept the top edge in a smooth and nice finish:

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For the sides, again, I created a little “worn”. We can only see these edges from our bed, and I like that it looks more “lived-in” than a sharp and smooth edge.

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Now the man is happy, and I am not upset either. I think both finished and unfinished edges look nice. It just comes down to personal preferences.

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That is, another small upgrade for you, the 5% effort on my DIY drawers. What do you think?

A Small Upgrade: Relocating the Coaxial Cable

Welcome to another small upgrade post! Without major renovation on our plate, we were able to address some small issues around the house. I am talking about old phone port to cover up, drywall cracks, old caulk, loose hinges, sagging boards, etc. Things like these still function, but are annoying to look at. Getting them taken care of is such a tension tamer.

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The safety hazard

One of the most exciting upgrades (we will share more in coming weeks) was moving the coaxial cable over our backyard.

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There were two cables coming into the house from the public utility poles – the electricity wire (high voltage) and the coaxial cable (low voltage). When we bought the house, both wires were installed pretty low to the ground. We raised the electrical wire higher when replacing the electrical panel. But the coaxial cable was still resting about 8 feet high from the ground.

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This cable is a big safety hazard. It spans across the backyard, and we had to always be careful when moving ladders or any tall objects. In winter months, when snow and ice accumulates on it, this cable sits at the height of our neck… We made several requests to the cable company to get it buried, only were told that it would cost us an arm and a leg, and the waiting time would be years long. However, relocating it in the air is free, and home owners are allowed to do it themselves. Well, I guess that settled it!

The game plan

Slav immediately came up with a game plan for moving the wires. All we want to do is to have it not over the lawn, where we walk cross a lot, and potentially raise it higher. Luckily for us, the coaxial cable actually originated from the very corner of our yard. We will not need to mess with this end at all:

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What we would be moving is the end where the cable met the house. The coaxial cable was hooked onto the fascia board above the cable box, which is located in the middle of the house.

 

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Here is the cable box. You can see the overhead cable coming in from the bottom, and making connections with the secondary cable going inside the house.

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The green wire next to the main coaxial cable is a ground wire. It runs into the electrical panel nearby, which might be the reason why the cable box is located where it is. The game plan was to keep everything in the picture intact, including the connecting box, the ground wire and the house coaxial cable. We will simply move the hook and the end of coaxial cable to the very northeast corner of the house, then run it back into the cable box along the house. We would have to extend the wire by a few dozen feet, but Slav was confident that it would not interrupt or slow down our internet.

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Relocating the main coaxial cable

Slav started by unhooking the coaxial cable from the box. Again, we will not move any remaining part, including the connection box, the ground wire, and the coaxial cable going inside the house.

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Then he took the coaxial cable off the wall. It was very easy since the nails holding them down were all loose from years of tension.

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Next, Slav remounted the hook to the northeast corner of the house, and reconnected the house-end of the coaxial cable to it.

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This corner of the house is the closest to where the cable comes from. In fact, this corner of the house is located about the same distance to the property line as where the cable comes from. So. the new path of the coaxial cable now runs almost parallel to the side fence. We are also fortunate that this side of the yard slopes down significantly, so when Slav tightened the cable, it sits much higher in relative to the ground, over 12 feet!

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Our raspberry bush are over 10 feet tall, the the cable is much higher than that.

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Now we can no longer see the cable from our backdoor. It actually runs over the roof of the garden shed and towards the house, almost parallel to the long side of the shed.

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Attaching and extending the coaxial cable

After hooking the cable back on the house, Slav started running the coaxial cable back towards the cable box. Instead of trimming the original cable, he attached the extra length under the soffit.

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And secured them to the wood trims using these coaxial stables. They are in black and less visible against the dark soffit:

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Slav used many staples, every 6″-8″ or so I’d say. It looks like an overkill, but the coaxial cable is rigid and needs these many staples to keep it straight and tightly against the trim.

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When the original cable ran out, Slav added another piece of coaxial cable using special connectors. He bought both the cable and connecters from Home Depot.

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The additional length of coaxial cable was brought into the cable box, terminated using the special connectors, and connected to the house cable:

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You can see the new connector in purple. Yay for having internet again!

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Finishing touches

Slav is the most thorough person when it comes to renovations. After cleaning up, he caulked all the prior nail holes, then brought out the trim paint and coated every single nail heads on the coaxial staples dark.

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The colors of the staples were pretty close to our trim color to begin with, Now with the touch-up paint on the nail heads, we no longer notice the coaxial cable under the soffit at all:

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And we can barely see the coaxial cable in the air either! This photo was taken from the middle of our yard, where the old cable used to be and at its lowest point.

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Instead of this:

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Now we have this:

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No more safety hazard!

 

The Never-ending Cycle of Vegetable Gardening

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The end of 2021 veggie garden

Right after my garden clean up last week, we had a week of hard frost. The veggie garden finally came to an end:

Tomatoes:

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Luffa:

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Peppers:

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Aubergine:

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Watermelons:

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Honeydew melons:

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Pole beans

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Birdhouse gourds:

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Our dill went to seeds in early Oct. You can see the new sprouts below already.

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It is like we have a never-ending vegetable garden – some self-seed, some produce runners, and some are just perennials. In the vegetable patch, we have garden chive and asparagus. Chive is not only evergreen in our zone, but also ever-growing even under snow. All the chives we have are from one small started plant we got in 2018. It grew into a monster bush by the end of 2019 season, then I divided it and planted the subdivisions along the first vegetable bed as a hedge. During summer months, we shear this hedge once a month, and use the clippings to make delicious pork chive dumplings.

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When weather gets cold, the growth of the hedge does slow down, but still produces enough for us to crop for seasoning.

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The asparagus patch occupies one of our five veggie beds. Although only in its second year, we have enjoyed lots of asparagus this Spring. When summer hit I let it grow freely into a patch of fern, which puts on a colorful show in the Fall:

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It is time to clean up the veggie patch

I spent a Saturday pulling dead plants out, gathering the remaining harvest, and weeding. It was a lot of work, but I enjoyed working in the vegetable garden. I like how neat it is with pea gravel on all the path, a much needed upgrade from the woodchip mulch we had before.

Below is the first veggie bed with the chive hedge. This bed was planted with garlic last Fall, and was home to peppers and watermelons later in the season.

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On the other side of our asparagus patch, the 3rd bed was planted with cucumber and tomato this year. The vertical trellis we made with T-posts and a cattle panel worked well for growing cucumbers. So it stays.

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We also built a bean tunnel this spring. They held up well with gourds and pole beans growing on them. Below the bean tunnel, I planted beetroots, aubergine, bush beans, lettuces and kale.

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This was the veggie garden before my cleaning effort:

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And after.

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Tidying up the patio garden

Another area planted with vegetables was the small flower bed next to the shed. It is the farthest flower bed from the house and we do not see it from the backdoor, so I planted green zucchini and yellow squashes here.

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which were certainly done after the frost:

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Pulling these humongous green “snakes” out was surprisingly easy – they had very shallow roots, which made me wonder how on earth they produced so much! I also cut back the irises in this bed:

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As I told you in my last week’s garden clean-up, I transplanted a subdivision of a red hot poker grass under the apple tree. The apple flowers white and the irises flower purple. I think this grass will fit in well.

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Charlie followed me during the whole clean up effort. By the end of the day, we were both covered in dirt and leaf clippings. What a sweet pup!

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Moving the trellises and applying compost

I absolutely love the bean trellises Slav built this spring. It is very sturdy but also pretty to look at. But there is a small modification I’d like to make:

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As you can see, both ends of the tunnel sit on the edge of the two beds below, making it hard to reach for plants near the bottom of the trellis. And honestly, it did not look pretty. I wish to shift the whole structure just a feet or two to the left, so the tunnel could sit in the middle of the beds below.

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Although the panels were heavy, Slav still moved them for me. What a trouper! Be careful saying “I do”, guys, There will be a lot to do…

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But honestly, doesn’t it look much better now spanning over the middle of the planting beds? Now I can easily reach to the bottom of the trellises from the paths on either side. We also adjusted the space between the panels. Each veggie bed is 16 feet long and each panel is about 4 feet wide. We left a few inches at the end and 1.5′ between panels. So the three panels can cover the entire length of veggie beds. I plan to grow different crops on each panel next year. But honestly, I think climbing gourds and melons will have no problem reaching neighboring panels.

As the T-posts were out and panels were down, Slav also flipped the soil in these two vegetable beds for me. It was actually quite labor-intensive. Our soil is hard clay with lots of rocks, and these two beds were never tilled before. We ended up with a bucket of rocks after tilling the soil!

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While Slav was working on the beds, I turned our home-made compost. We have two big compost bins. We put all our kitchen scrapes, garden clippings, paper towels, and egg cartons in here. Due to our dry and cold weather, we never got much finished compost from them. The material just disappears…This time, I scraped some finished compost out, and remixed the remaining matter into one bin. It was quite steamy (the compost, not me) and messy, so I did not take any pictures of this process. But we now have a whole bin emptied out, providing plenty of space for the kitchen scrapes over winter months.

Planting next year’s garlic

After tilling the top soil and moving the trellises, we topped the two beds with compost:

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We always apply a thick layer (4″-6″) compost to all of our vegetable beds in the Fall. The winter snow and spring rain wash the compost down into the soil. So when it is time to plant the veggie garden (usually on the Memorial Day weekend), the compost layer will be well-incorporated into the soil. The compost also functions as mulch for existing plants over winter months. This is particularly important for us because we always plant our garlic in the Fall.

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I plant exclusively hard neck garlic for scapes. We usually plant in mid-Oct, as soon as the veggie beds are cleared out, which gives me something to immediately look forward to after the end of the last season. 🙂

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After planting, I laid new drip tubing. We have been using 1/4″ black soaker hose in the veggie garden, which have disintegrated. They stopped providing adequate amount of water, so I had to hand-water this summer. These new drip tubing with built-in emitters should last a lot longer.

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Zero waste gardening

After planting the garlic, we had a couple windy days. All the sudden, our crabapple tree dropped all of its leaves. We went from this:

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to this, in just a week!

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In the past, we have been raking up the leaves. But this year we are trying a new approach. Our neighbor kindly lent us a leave vacuum, which not only sucks up leaves, but also shred leaves into tiny pieces into the attached bag. It took quite some strength to operate – imaging waving a 30-lb big barrel while carrying a whole bag of leaves on one shoulder – but it created nice leave mulch, which we put over all the vegetable beds:

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All the leaves from our yard are just the perfect amount to provide a 4″ layer of insulation. It is such a win-win for zero-waste gardening! Now, speaking for both the garlic cloves and us, we are ready for snow!

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