Sunday, May 31, 2015

Images of Watermelon Vines

While shopping at yard sales many years ago, we met a nice man who Mr. S bought some fishing tackle from. I think they chatted for over a half hour about fishing. He showed Mr. S one of his fishing reels that didn't work, so Mr. S asked if he could take a look at it. He borrowed a screwdriver and had the reel apart in seconds, adjusted something inside, and the reel worked like new!

The man was so appreciative that he showed us his back yard, which was covered with a vine that had taken over at least half of the far side of the yard. After my eyes adjusted, I realized there were several watermelon hiding under the large leaves on the vines. He promised us a watermelon when they were ready. Mr. S and the man exchanged phone numbers and a month later he called. It was the juiciest watermelon!

Since then, I have had the image of the watermelon vines in my mind and tried to grow watermelons and pumpkins twice each with no success, so I was determined to have room for a watermelon and pumpkin patch. The space for the the vegetables beds was larger than I had ever had to work with, 30ft X 21 ft! So much potential for lots of varieties of vegetables.

The plan was to have 4 main raised beds 12' x 6', with 2 ft wide boarder beds, and walkways in between. So off to the hardware store again for wood and supplies and to the city dump for more mulch.

The raised bed boxes are constructed with 2" x 8"s 
and anchored with wood stakes in the ground
The boxes are in place

We lined the beds with cardboard to minimize 
the weed and grass from coming through
This time we rented a trailer because we estimated that 
we would need at least 4 loads of mulsh to fill the beds
Even with 4 full loads of mulsh the beds were only half filled
We filled the balance with a mix of Kellog Growmulsh and Miracle Grow
 which has been a suscessful combination for several years
Finally ready to plant! Now the real work begins!

The blue and black berries are planted
I planted a few flowers along the fence
The Lettuce bed
The Kale and Spinch bed
The tomato trellises are in place
The first Tomatoes are planted. This is only the begining.
Now to plant more vegetables, water, weed and wait!  

Through the Garden Gate

In the past I had pets dig up flower beds and lounge on cool vegetables, so I knew a fence had to be built for the vegetable garden. For months I looked at hundreds of photos for fences and garden gates for inspiration trying to decide the style I wanted. Mr. S helped narrow down the choices and finally we decided on a white picket fence.

We did a lot of prep work during the week in preparation for another back breaking weekend. I measured and checked my plans I had drawn and took a trip to the hardware store to buy the wood, hardware, and supplies for the fence. For the main support posts we used pressure treated wood. There were pre-made sections of  picket fences, but Mr. S did not like the construction, so we bought the pre-cut pickets instead. Lots of measurements later we had a fence!

The main posts were set in concrete

 All the pickets are spaced the same 
distance apart with the dogs watching
 I think Zoe has figured out the fence is to keep the dogs out, 
she doesn't look happy about it.
 Making progress
 The finials were a bit pricey, 
but they added the to style I was trying to achieve.
 I drafted a pattern on my CAD system to use as 
a template to achieve the curve for the gate.
Time to paint!
 The fence is looking closer to what I had imagined!
 I'm so happy with the results!

 I had to search for the trellis. H&H had trellises, 
but they were all too wide for the gate opening.
I had to special order the trellis at Armstrong Garden Center.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Breaking Ground

Thanksgiving is a big holiday for the Somervilles. We have hosted family and friends for 27 out of 29 years. This year we planned to work on the vegetable garden during the long weekend. Barley recovered from the festivities, we were up early Friday morning ready to work.

The location for the vegetable garden was used to store building supplies and as a dumping ground while the house was being remolded, so before we could begin breaking ground we had to clear the area of everything along with the remnants of old forgotten raised garden beds.

We feared the raised garden bed planters were big boxes and hoped that we didn't have to dig all the dirt out before we could excavate them, but thankfully they were 30" deep sheets of metal. I did my share of digging all around the planter while Mr. S tried different methods of raising the sheet metal.

Months prior, Mr. S had chopped a tree down located in the center of where we planned to build a fence, the entrance to the vegetable garden. He had already killed the stump, what remained was to dig it out. While digging we also found a huge piece of concrete with part of a pole, which we determined must have been the support to a clothesline.

Finally we had cleared the area, but the area was far from level. My plan was to level the sandy ground with healthy soil and mulch. We went to the local dump where they give mulch away for free, you only have to bring your own shovel and buckets. Where ever I can find freebies I get excited because my garden design will be costly.

After days of back breaking work we had made progress...

One of the metal garden beds
Some of the metal sheet being excavated
I did a lot of digging! I think that was the most I've ever done in my life!
  We used rope and a jack to lift the sheet metal

The ground is terribly uneven 

Filling up barrels of free mulch
Progress! The ground is cleared and flat!
Now time to measure and map out where the raised beds will be placed

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Somerville Gardens

For years I have sketched and planned my dream garden, keeping a folder with magazine clipping for inspiration. One look at my collection, you would immediately know my style is a cottage garden. You'd think in my former life I was an old English lady. 

So when I first saw the pictures online of our house late one night, I so was excited! After searching for a home with a good size yard for over 6 months, I was hopeful the the house would meet our needs. I drove by the house the next morning even though I knew I'd be late to work. The lot was huge, approximately 10,000 sq ft with the front yard wrapping around a corner with huge lollipop shaped bushes. I half expected to see a white rabbit appear with Alice in Wonderland chasing it. 

We were able to meet our realtor that very day during my lunch break. I was immediately sad once we walked into the house and the strong cigarette smell hit me. We followed our realtor as he showed us the house. I tried to see the positive side, it had our basic needs, but I was anxious to see the back yard. 

Once outside I was happy the pictures didn't show how large the yard really was. I could see our Adirondack chairs on the patio, our patio furniture would be perfect under the three large shade trees, the large overgrown bushes just need a good pruning, and a large side yard that would be perfect for a vegetable garden. But that cigarette smell! 

With a lot of discussion and fear we decided to buy the house.

Before pictures
Perfect trees for shading the patio furniture
Side yard pictures 
Perfect for the vegetable garden

Friday, May 22, 2015

Fixer Upper

At the end of 2013 we began our home search, it was time to buy a new house. As many home buyers encounter, we had to make a choice of buying a renovated property or a fixper-upper. Do we pay top dollar for a house that wasn't quite our taste or find a house that had the basics we could work with? After 6 months of a long exhausting process, looking at dozens of homes we found one that met our basic needs: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths with a large kitchen, and on a large lot (at least 7,500 sq ft). 

The former owner, a smoker and elderly, had not maintained the large 10,000 sq ft property for decades and it contained most of the original features. The only "updates" were circa 1970's with stick on mirrors tiles, wood paneling, and acoustic ceiling. The 1950's home was essentially a gut job. Trust me, my husband and I questioned ourselves if we were making the right choice. But I saw past the tar and nicotine stained ceiling and walls, old cracked tile, filthy linoleum caked with years of grease, and the large overgrown jungle in the yard. What really sold me was the yard. What I saw was potential... A beautiful garden.

Before Pictures

Once we were given the keys after a thirty day escrow, it finally sunk in, we had a lot of work to do before we could even think about moving in. Luckily Mr. S was able to take a break from work do a lot of the demo, clean up, and coordinate the contractors with the renovations. 

The long list of renovations Phase 1: 

Upgraded the electrical panel and replaced the mast, the original panel only had 4 breakers which had to be updated in order to accommodate the new air and heating unit. 

New air conditioning and heating system - you can't survive the summers in So Cal 

Sand and refinish the hard wood floors - we were so lucky in that the floors were in excellent shape, no pet or water stains! 

Stripped and repaired the walls before painting, yes that included stripping the stick on mirrors, and paneling. Luckily, the acoustic ceiling didn't contain asbestos so Mr. S could scrape it off himself. 

Crown molding in the living room and dining room.

Window covering - Blinds for all the rooms except for the living room and kitchen which we had custom plantation shutters installed.

Replaced all the lighting fixtures. 

New garage door. 

While waiting for contractors doing work on the inside of the house, Mr. S chopped down one tree and two overgrown bushes, two of which were Lantana bushes that were each the size of Volkswagen Bug! 

Work in progress...

Patched wall and floor where the old furnace was removed
 wood floor being sanded 

Master bedroom sanded down and ready for stain
The floors turned out better than I expected and the base molding is being installed
 New chandelier in the dining room

Accent wall in our bedroom with my chandelier we brought from our old house
The new front door was the finishing touch.

We decided the bathrooms and kitchen would be renovated in Phase 2 because they were in usable condition. After eight long weeks we finally moved in!