Happy Birthday, Herman!

Herman the sourdough starter

My sourdough starter, affectionately named Herman by my mother, turned one year old today! Happy birthday, little guy!

Tonight I am feeding him in preparation of baking two loaves of bread this weekend. Yep — two! I’m rather excited as I typically limit myself to only one loaf per weekend. It’s really not a lot of work, but it can definitely feel like it since the process is spread out over a few days.

Also, I have two new bread accessories to try out, which seems appropriate for a sourdough starter’s birthday celebration. One is a nice long loaf pan I got at a thrift store in Spokane for 99 cents (perfect for sandwich loaves) and the other is a cane proofing basket (banneton, brotform, or whatever you choose to call it) for artisan bread that I also scored secondhand for $2!

I also picked up this nifty bottle capper for $2 — we’re about to take our home brew to the next level!

I kept telling myself one day I would find one at the thrift store, and it finally happened. I’ll be honest, it looked pretty gross — all covered in flour and dried dough and stuffed in an old plastic produce bag — and the guy at the register was probably thinking, “Who in the hell would buy this nasty thing??” But I knew with a little scrubbing it would be good as new!

I promptly cleaned it with warm water, baking soda, orange-vinegar cleaner, and a little elbow grease, and it looks good as new, all ready to bulk ferment some tasty sourdough.

Three cheers for Herman — I can’t believe I kept him alive for a year.  O_O

Reflecting on One Year in Our House

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We got the keys to our house on May 17, 2017, on a day when the dogwood tree in our front yard was in full bloom, the pop of pink blossoms complementing the clear blue sky. I looked out the window a few days ago and saw those familiar flowers, mentally checked the calendar, and thought, “Wow, have we really been here a year already?” Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. Other times, our former apartment near the mall is a foggy memory.

As I mentioned a while back, I have Big Plans™ for our little acreage — I have since the day we put in our offer on the place — but patience has never been my strongest trait. I often find myself getting frustrated that I don’t have a plethora of raised beds yet, that I only grew a few things last summer, that I’ve only planted one fruit tree, that we haven’t painted a single room in our house yet — and we’ve been homeowners for a year now.

I’m still learning to accept that it takes a while to completely settle into a new house, and especially one with land attached. And it’s also been a struggle for me to accept the imperfections in our home that we can’t change right away or easily, like the baby blue formica countertops in our kitchen. (Can you say yuck?)

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Our neighbors are all retired and have immaculate yards. I often feel like I’m not spending enough time on our house, and the pressure to work work work has been a constant source of anxiety for me. It’s like Instagram envy, but real life, in person, and it comes with the constant worry our neighbors are judging us for not having everything picture perfect. I have to remind myself of the things we have done so far. We’re not lazy, things just take a while — especially when we both work full-time jobs. Properly settling into a new house can take some time.

The following is a list of things we’ve done around our lil’ homestead since moving in a year ago. It’s not a huge list, but I’m happy with what we’ve done.

  • I got a “new” (vintage) oven that we moved into the house and put a new electrical cord on. (This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but holy shit was it heavy.)
  • We got new kitchen flooring that better suits our taste (Ok, sure, we didn’t install it ourselves. This was a result of some water damage and our insurance covered the new flooring. BUT it was on our list of things to do at some point!)
  • I canned a lot of wild blackberry jam last summer and experimented with applesauce and apple butter from our tree. We didn’t buy jam for almost a whole year, and it was great!
  • I made a sourdough starter from scratch and have been baking delicious things with it ever since.
  • I painted half of our kitchen cabinets and installed new hardware on them
  • Jordan and my dad installed a new water heater that dramatically cut our electric bill
  • I planted lots of things! Holy shit did I plant lots of things, both indoors and out. Jordan is positively sick of me talking about plants.

Like I said, it’s not a huge list. Last year was spent unpacking and settling in, getting into the rhythm of our new house and land, making note of what’s growing where, and also… having experiences outside of our home. I don’t know if it’s just my parents’ generation, but “experiences” aren’t something my parents seem to value like Jordan and I do.

When we weren’t working at home, we spent time with friends. We flew to L.A. to rock our faces off to the musical stylings of Glen Danzig ft. the original Misfits. We ate at some great local restaurants. We went to the beach with Jordan’s family, and we celebrated wonderful couples joining their lives.

We have five weddings to attend this summer. FIVE. And while there is a large part of me that is worried about the garden and finding a pet sitter and “how bad will the weeds accumulate?” and “what will the neighbors think?” — another part of me is excited. We’re still young, and we will have plenty of time to work on our house. Everything will be fine, the dahlias can wait, and it will never matter what the neighbors think — we will soon be the “old couple” in a neighborhood full of youngsters possibly chasing the same dream we’ve been chasing.

And right now, I think it’s about time for me to log off, sit on the porch with a cup of tea, and forget about weeding the walkway and just enjoy our place. I don’t often do that enough, and before we know it, those youngsters will be pulling up in a moving van next door.

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“There’s No Place Like Home”

It’s cheesy, but it’s the truth. Boy, does it feel good to be back in our own space.

You might have noticed my absence — my husband and I spent the last five days visiting my parents in Spokane. It still feels like home to me in some ways, but Jordan and I truly love our little house and the home we’ve made here. It feels so good to be back in my own element. I missed the lush greenery of southwest Washington.

My grandmother passed away last weekend, so that was the reason for our spontaneous visit. After the funeral, the rest of our time in Spokane was spent garden hopping with my mom, cooing over my sister’s kittens, taking the dogs for long walks, and dividing irises with my mom in her perennial garden. It was wonderful to spend so much time with my family.

Northland Rosarium in Spokane, WA, was a dream to wander through.

We left Spokane yesterday with the backseat filled with plants. I can never say no to free plants! My mom shared so many things from her garden with me, and when we were out shopping together she bought us “matching” peony roots. This one is “Bowl of Beauty,” and I think my peony madness has officially hit maximum levels. Once planted, it will be my seventh peony. Hoo boy.

Lightbulbs courtesy of my dad.

Pictured: Pansies, dahlias, peony, lilac trees, catnip, red-twig dogwood, irises… and something that flowers yellow and spreads prolifically.

The prior weekend, Jordan and I attended the Clark County master gardeners’ annual plant sale, and wow, what a great event! We went on the last day, so everything was pretty picked over, but there was still a lot to choose from at insanely great prices! I only spent $12 dollars and left with four plants: a mystery peony for $3 (duh), a begonia, and three little chrysanthemum starts.

The mums were purchased from the Clark County Chrysanthemum Society’s booth, and the members staffing it were so nice and helpful. The man who helped me was really friendly and helped me pick starts that would be good for a beginner chrysanthemum grower (me!), even down to asking me which colors I gravitate toward.

Here is Jordan, thrilled to be carrying the plants.

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So, I have a lot of planting to do. In addition to everything purchased at the sale and brought back from Spokane, the seeds I planted are just about big enough to go in the ground now, and I still have half our veggie plot to rake.

I also might have ordered some dahlia tubers this morning… Swan Island Dahlias is having its end-of-season sale right now, and I couldn’t resist — 30% off you entire purchase is such a good deal! Even if they don’t all bloom this year, I’ll have tubers for years to come.

Hooray for endless planting!

Weekend Weeding & A Garden Plot

 

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Lil garden helper

Some weeks I feel like so much was accomplished around our place, and some weeks I feel like hardly anything got done. This last weekend was spent clearing invasive blackberry bramble from our backyard — it had completely overgrown our water feature/pond, a largish patch of sedum, a red hot poker plant, and it was starting to smother a forsythia by our back gate, too.

I removed a lot of it, but it doesn’t feel like much. There is still a lot more to go. Sometimes it’s hard to keep on top of weeding in the PNW when things (especially weeds) never really stop growing over fall/winter, but the weather is too bad to get out and take care of it.

Nevertheless, I did make a large dent in it, and I got to see our massive frog friend who lives in the pond. He startled me by hopping right over my head when I was leaning over! And there are tadpoles in the pond again, which I love watching dart around. It always reminds me of when I was little and my grandfather took me and my sister to one of his pastures and we caught tadpoles for an afternoon.

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Aside from weeding, the big excitement of the weekend was our neighbor coming over on Sunday and tilling up a garden plot so I can get some veggies in the ground! (See above picture of cute little Archie next to the plot!) The garden plot is laughably small in comparison to the size of our field, but it will be a great spot for my pumpkin patch. Up next is bordering it with large rocks or pavers (I haven’t decided which) and bringing out the raised beds we’ve made and filling them with soil. Those will be used for my dahlias, most likely, since the raised beds will get better drainage.

This coming weekend will be spent removing an overgrown and unsightly Japanese maple shrub from one of our flower beds, tearing invasive English ivy from various parts of our house/yard, and more weeding. It never ends, folks!

DIY Orange-Vinegar Multipurpose Cleaner

Who doesn’t love a natural, nontoxic cleaning solution? I’ve mentioned my homemade orange-vinegar cleaner a few times now, so I thought I’d share with you how to make it! (It’s super easy!)

You’ll need:

  • Orange peels (or any citrus fruit peels)
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • A jar with a lid
  • Time, patience
  1. Place your citrus peels in a jar or a ziplock baggie. (I like to keep a jar in the freezer and add peels to it throughout the week until it’s full.)
  2. Fill a jar with distilled white vinegar until peels are covered.
  3. Cover jar and let sit for two weeks, periodically checking to make sure peels are still submerged.
  4. After two weeks, strain liquid from peels. You now have a citrus-vinegar concentrate.
  5. Dilute with water and pour into spray bottles. Clean to your heart’s content!

This cleaner is awesome, and I love that my bathroom doesn’t smell like weird chemicals when I’m done wiping everything down. And it works great for tough stains when combined with a little baking soda. I usually have a jar of orange vinegar in the works plus a jar of peels in the freezer at any given time — I eat a lot of clementines.

You should note that this is a multipurpose cleaner, not an all-purpose cleaner, and I’ve heard it shouldn’t be used on wood, or on stone or granite countertops. You should be sure to test it on an inconspicuous spot before liberally using.

I’ll admit I’m not the inventor of this DIY — I have the zero waste community to thank for this idea, and it’s too easy and simple not to share!

Happy cleaning, and don’t forget to compost the peels! 😉

Weekly Roundup #4: Peony Madness

Over the course of the last week I developed a peony passion. It’s nuts. I haven’t even gotten my newest dahlia tubers in the ground yet, and here I am planning out a peony garden. Last week I spent my lunch breaks driving all over town in search of one particular variety of peony that I saw at a store but was sold out. It’s like my white whale. I’m not really embarrassed because it’s SO PRETTY. I eventually caved and ordered one online.

I also picked up a few other varieties of peony to plant because I was so jazzed that the root I planted last year is coming up again. And where will this peony garden go?

I’m glad you asked, because it brings me to my next high point from last week:

Last Tuesday we came home from work to see that our neighbor had brought his tractor over and cleared some tall grass for us that our lawnmower couldn’t handle. And that’s where my peony garden will go. It’s my favorite part of our acreage because it was never cleared like the rest of our land — it still has some ancient oak and hawthorn trees, and it’s just such a serene spot to sit and listen. I have visions of a perennial garden with beds spilling over with flowers.

It was so thoughtful of our neighbor to come over and do that for us, and we are so appreciative. He’d been offering for a while and we just hadn’t found the time to go over to his place and ask him. He’s even offered to till up some ground for garden beds!

My parents came to visit last weekend, and my dad really put Jordan to work. My dad is the kind of guy who likes to take a week of vacation time to work on projects around the home, and a weekend getaway to our place was no exception.

In two days he and Jordan installed a new water heater, fixed our toilet, and configured some new plumbing/a spigot off our well pump so I can water my garden easier. AND he brought us a chainsaw and showed Jordan how to use it — that tree that fell way back when is finally gone!

My dad also brought me a rhubarb “root” — more like a whole plant! This came from his rhubarb at home, which came from his dad’s garden. A family legacy!

The seeds I sowed last week sprouted, and so I planted more after my parents left. And made more newspaper seed pots. They’re working quite well, and I usually make 20+ at a time while binging Call the Midwife (my new obsession). This batch I sowed eggplant, more onions, and two varieties of beans — green “Crockett” bush beans and burgundy beans.

Used Popsicle sticks make great markers — waste not, want not, and whatnot!

I also added perennial violas and two bare-root raspberries to our plant arsenal, which have yet to be planted. I’m trying to decide if we should build a raspberry trellis from scratch… or use these three ugly flagpoles in our front yard as a starting point.

We are not patriotic people in the least, and I’d like to put them to some sort of use that doesn’t involve flying a flag (we are definitely the young riffraff who moved into the rural-retiree neighborhood). We have some hog wire we could stretch between them, and I think it would work well. This is the most probable trellis solution since we don’t have a post driver and still don’t totally know for sure where it’s safe for us to dig… but that’s a story for next week. 😉

Have a good weekend, everyone!