My Little Plot of Land

April 14, 2011

I wish I had a secret garden- hundred year old, stone-walled, crumbling fountains, faux bois and cement figures, overgrown roses and wisteria, but those are few and far between in my part of the world.  I’ll have to settle.  Last summer was all about house improvements, and while we are definitely still not done with those (in addition to inability to plan and major ability to procrastinate, we both lack the “completion” gene, and are unable to finish anything we start) this is the Year of the Garden.  We missed a lot of the blooming last summer, because the spring was warm and we didn’t arrive until late June, so much of what’s coming up in the yard is a mystery.  But imagine my joy almost a month ago, to walk up my driveway and see the tiniest, brightest yellow crocus bravely  blooming during our abismal wintery March (that definitely did not go out like a lamb).  It was a reward, a prize, an encouragement.  A Minnesotan’s appreciation and amazement of the first bloom is singular.

So far crocuses (done blooming), tulips and narcissus are easily identified, though the later two aren’t blooming yet.  The grass is greening thanks to the rain we had last weekend and barely-there buds are starting to emerge on the trees.  The birds are going crazy in our yard and the still-fat squirrels still haven’t figured out how to access our new bird feeder…SUCCESS!  We even hit the upper 70s last sunday and have been enjoying the sunshine the last few days.  But even with all that, honestly, it still kind of looks like what much of the country would call “winter” AND there’s a forecast of snow this weekend.  SNOW.  Snow?  Really?  Why?

I’m having adjustment issues.

But back to the garden.  We spent all sunday construction raised beds on a narrow strip of land between our driveway and the chain link fence bordering our property.  I pulled up all the grass by hand the week before and together we tilled the soil in our 3 new beds (one more will be constructed as soon as we forget about how hard they are).  And I know I should have waited….but I planted.  I couldn’t help myself!  The sun, the warmth, the birds’ songs!  Now we’re supposed to get some snow and only have highs in the 40s for the next three days.  Its all an experiment, I guess, and perhaps the efforts and actions right now are more important than the outcomes.  But I keep thinking about what it would be like to be a pioneer, particularly in Minnesota, and especially in winter.  The days are so short, no electric lights for long nights, people lived in drafty clapboard houses, and planting a successful and abundant garden was necessary for survival. What if there was a super late frost and everything died? Or a drought in the summer? What kind of relief did people feel when the snow melted, the ground thawed and they didn’t have to just eat preserved meat and storage crops? This winter we had a CSA share, from which we got most of our vegetables, with some supplementing from the COOP and the grocery store, but I was pretty good about buying seasonal and fairly local produce.  The excitement for spring vegetables is overwhelming now, but our “summer” farmer’s market doesn’t start until May 7.   I’ll be hitting the indoor market this saturday, hoping for some greenhouse grown veggies.

Kyle's favorite purchase of 2010.

This is the sunniest spot in the yard.


Peet likes to lay in the beds and I have to threaten him with a trowel.



April 14, 2011

My excitement for spring has been overwhelming the last few weeks, not only for the disappearance of snow, the emergence of crocuses, and the gradual greening of the lawn, but also because we are embarking on two new adventures.  For one, we purchased baby chicks that arrived last week (Silver-Laced Wyandotte, Americana, Buff Orpington) and are currently growing and pooping like crazy in our basement, and two, we are starting our  first little vegetable garden.  Last summer we put in a blueberry bush and lots of herbs, but decided that this summer, we definitely wanted to try our hand at kitchen gardening.  About three weeks ago I got ants-in-my-pants about it and planted a bunch of seeds to reside in pots in our dining room window (radish, swiss chard, mesclun) and some trays to start seeds to hopefully transplant outdoors (cauliflower, peppers, eggplant).  Not too much success, as I could have predicted.  Though the dining room gets the most sun of anywhere in our house, and in the summer contributes to our own little greenhouse effect, there is still not enough sunlight for healthy germination and growing seedlings.  The seedings that did sprout are too tall and spindly, unable to support their own leaf-weight, and the peppers and eggplants never even emerged.  Oh well, planting the seeds was something that I NEEDED to do in mid-march of our seemingly endless winter.

Also enter the Peeps.  We ordered the chicks about two weeks before they arrived.  The first delivery date was cancelled due to a “bad hatch”.  The second was scheduled for April 7.  On April 5th I got a call saying they’d arrived.   Was I ready to pick them up?  No.  Had we planned a place for them to live? Only hypothetically.  Kyle and I are not the best planners… and we’re procrastinators. So while we had a vague idea about where they would be living, not of actually apparatus was in place.  When I brought home the 3 tiny peepers, my first thought was, “Oh my God, I’m not going to be able to STAND this screeching!”  Turns outs that after I got them settled in a box with food and water and left them alone for a while, the piercing screeching stopped and the gentle chirping took over.  Peet was not allowed inside all that day.

A Peep Tableau

We had decided on names beforehand, but it was quick to see which peep would be which- the Silver-Laced is “Lady Gaga” because she was the loudest screecher and definitely a fame monster, the Buff Orpington is “Chicky Baby” the sweetest, poofy-ist, cool cat you’ll ever meet, and the Americana is “City Girl”, though frankly, she looks exactly like a chipmunk and perhaps “Alvin” would be a better name.   The peepers are really funny already, and immediately apparent is how different their temperaments are.  Lady Gaga is the alpha, for sure.  The most exploratory, the loudest, the one that launches herself off the feeder.  She has flapped her wings and “flown” a bit already and twice escaped out of the box I was using to hold them in while I clean their home.  City Girl follows Lady Gaga where ever she goes, but is much more mellow and doesn’t try the shenanigans that Gaga does.  And Chicky Baby, is sweet, mellow, bigger than the other two, calmer when I pick her up and doesn’t seem to be interested in the lime-light like Gaga and City Girl.  They have grown so much in just over a week, we really need to get crackin’ on their coop.  Otherwise we’ll soon have 3 new house pets, not that Peet would mind.

Before and Afters (Actually, just Befores)

August 23, 2010

Here is our 1910 American Foursquare home.  Its most likely a catalog or kit home, as are many in the neighborhood.  It probably had a front porch that has since been removed, probably due to rotting or sinking.  The typical foursquare is just as advertised- four rooms over four rooms…in a square.  Ours actually has a one-story kitchen addition on back, to make five rooms on the first floor.  Upstairs a wall between two bedrooms was knocked out long ago to create a master bedroom, making three bedrooms upstairs.

An older couple lived here before us, whom we never met, but talk about frequently: “What would Bev and Don do?”  “Why did they choose pink and forest green?”  “Why is the basketball hoop 2 feet higher than regulation?”  “Did you see the weight-bearing TV stuck in the wall in the basement? Wonder why Don did that?” “Hopefully tearing down the wallpaper won’t break Bev’s heart!”

We are doing a LOT of updating, not quite renovating, but things that we can do with a little (lot) help from parental units.   Ripping up carpeting and layered linoleum.  Stripping wallpaper. Removal of armloads upon armloads of lace curtains.  Spackling, spackling spackling.  Looking through our photos, I’m finding lots of “befores” and not a lot of “afters”, so I’ll stick to before pictures in this post.  Just to tease…

A winning combination- forest green and pepto-pink.

Master bedroom, post-lace curtain removal.

Paisley and "Gravy" and a lovely ceiling fan.

Built in Buffet- gravy paint and sliding glass doors

County apple wallpaper and rick-rack above the cabinets. "Almond" appliances and countertops. No dishwasher or microwave.

Serviceable living room. Note the mail-door in the corner.

There is one more room on the first floor, but the picture is not loading properly.  We’ll just leave it at- 2×4 acoustic tiled drop ceiling with plastic light panel.  Get the idea?

Aren’t you as charmed by the house as we were!?

In the beginning:

January 30, 2010

We cross the border with the most precious gift a father could give.

In the beginning, Kyle and I lived across state lines from each other, though never more that 2 hours away.  After 2 years of Newark nights and Brooklyn breakfasts, we moved to a lovely little one bedroom in Jersey City, got a dog and got hitched.  This past June we forged ahead into home-ownership, residency (him) and unemployment (her) in the great state of Minnesota.