Catching Up

My lady slipper orchids are blooming in the rain garden!

It’s been a while since my last post because we’ve been pretty darn busy around here the past several weeks.  So here’s a quick run-down of what’s been going on.

The yard is in bloom finally, after a long wet spring.

At the beginning of the year I moved into a new position at work, which requires learning several new software platforms and skills.  It took a while for my old position to be filled so for a while I was basically doing both jobs.  The gal who filled my previous position has been with the company for a few years and worked in our department, but she too had a lot of learning to do in her new role.  When she needed to be out for a bit due to emergency surgery over the spring, I had to help out by stepping back into that role while also continuing to do my new job.  It was a bit chaotic and didn’t leave much time or energy for other things.  Luckily it was only for a few weeks and now she’s recovered and back without restriction so we can both settle into our usual duties.

The new pillows we picked up on our trip look great around the fire pit!

We took a quick trip to visit my Mother-In-Law in Portland, where we did some shopping for the house, attended a beekeeping class (something we’re planning to try next year) and I organized a styled photo shoot.  The Hubs and I also took care of a couple small projects around Mom’s house while we were there.  Since we still had snow on the ground when we left and returned to a snow storm – it was a nice break to enjoy some spring weather and blooms!

The new chicks have traded fluff for feathers and recently moved out to the big yard with the older chickens.  It seems like everyone is adjusting well.

When we returned from our trip we added to our chicken flock with two batches of baby chicks!  These little fluff balls have been living in the garage in a large brooder we made from a stock tank planter I had.  In addition to multiple feedings a day we worked hard to make sure they were handled often as well so they will be friendly when they are adults.  To make room for them outside, the Hubs made a massive addition to the coop, doubling their indoor space and tripling the number of nest boxes.  We’re still putting the finishing touches on that project but I’ll share it soon.

Still buried in snow, this is how the green house looked when we got back from our trip.

I spent many hours getting the green house cleared out and prepped for the season after our trip.  I attended the annual VIP plant sale at my favorite nursery toward the end of April, but the blooms had to hide out in the green house for a few more weeks before it was safe for them to be outside.  While I waited on the weather, the edible crops were all started in the green house and the Hubs revamped the hydroponic system for the tomatoes with bigger tubing so it’s more efficient.  Now everything is growing and we’re already enjoying some of the bounty from our lettuce, spinach and dill plants!

And here’s how it looked after the plant sale – at least until I could plant everything in the yard.
The yard is coming together – here’s a sneak peek at the updates the Hubs made to the egg table and another project I’ll share soon.

We did several projects around the yard as we prepared for the summer season.  I revamped a serving cart for the deck, upcycled an old milk can into a planter and created planters out of old conveyor belt scoops for the new chicken coop expansion.  The Hubs extended his egg table with a spot to store his new smoker and built me potato crates which will double our crop this year.  We sold the old patio furniture to make way for a new dining table and a set of loungers for the deck we installed last summer.  We also started installing a gazebo style covering over the hot tub on that deck.  We hope to have that completed soon – but need to arrange some extra helpers to get the roof on.  Out front, I styled the vintage cart on the front porch for spring and then for summer with patriotic colors.

The new table is a perfect fit for our deck and it expands if we have a big group over.
The firepit is cleaned out and ready for use.
The new lounge chairs (with a hiding kitty) and partially installed gazebo on the big deck.  I’ll be landscaping around this deck later this summer and plan to mirror the rock bed around the other deck.
I updated the wood storage for the fire pit with some cinder blocks that we took out when the Hubs expanded the chicken coop. It was an easy, and free upgrade that also hides the electrical conduit for the hot tub.
I white washed terra-cotta pots to decorate the whiskey barrel tables and filled them with marigolds to ward off the bugs. I also placed small tiki torches on each table as a backup.
I’ve had this thermometer since last summer and we finally found a spot for it right next to the door.

Inside, I changed up a few things, including curtains in all the bedrooms, the rugs in our master bath, swapping Brinley’s kennel for a new entry bench.  Last weekend we took advantage of the neighborhood traffic for a neighbor’s estate sale and had a yard sale to clear out some extra clutter that accumulated around the house over the winter.  We were mildly successful in that goal, but there’s still lots to purge, which is why I only picked up a few small décor items when I attended the spring Alaska Chicks Vintage Market.

I picked up these vintage bells at the market and think they pair well with my wreath on the front door.

Whew – seeing it all written out makes me realize just how much we crammed into a few weeks!  As my Mother-in-Law says “No grass grows under our feet!”  And now that summer is in full swing we’ve got a whole new round of projects and activities planned.  Stay tuned over the next few weeks to see the projects I mentioned plus others that are still in the works!  Hopefully I’ll be able to keep you updated more regularly now.  In the meantime I’ll leave you with more pictures of those silly chicks, who just moved out to the big yard.  🙂

Snack time at the feeder with the fluffy butt club.
We have several Novogens in this batch that will be great egg layers.
And there are a couple Dominiques for some variety.
My favorites are the Easter eggers who will lay greenish blue eggs and have fun little feather beards!
The dogs act as constant security for the cluckers.
They are quite used to us and often come running to meet us at the gate, or investigate our feet to see if they are edible. 🙂
Our flock is now up to 20 chickens so it’s a good thing the Hubs got that expansion completed!
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Our Scotland Adventure – Day 1

Now that I’ve finished sharing our Iceland adventures it’s time to catch you up on the fun we had in Scotland.  We had an early morning flight from Iceland into Edinburgh, but by the time we got our luggage, rental car and made our way to the hotel it was time for a late lunch.  After lunch we made our way to the Royal Botanical Gardens near downtown.  It took a bit longer than we had planned to figure out the directions to the garden and the parking app since we didn’t have any coins to pay the physical meters.  And once we had paid for parking we realized we were a 2 block walk from the only open entrance to the gardens.  But it was all part of the adventure and it was perfect fall weather for a stroll through the gardens with crunchy leaves underfoot on the sidewalk along the way.

We wandered the various gardens only occasionally looking at the map we had picked up in the visitor center.  This area was one of the first we explored.  It had several different zones to showcase the various climates around Scotland and nearby areas of Europe.

I spotted this driftwood arrangement in one of the display beds and had to point it out to the Hubs as proof that his wife and his mother aren’t the only ones who decorate the garden with “sticks”.  See even the pros do it!

As we wandered to another area there was a unique looking tree.  From a distance I first thought it was a pine tree but upon closer inspection we realized it was quite different.  It’s called a Monkey Puzzle and was brought over from the mountains of Chile.

Just beyond the Monkey Puzzle tree was this MASSIVE green house.  I could see trees growing inside and was excited to investigate, but it was closed for maintenance work.

So I browsed the flower beds around the green house, where I found these amazing Arabian Nights Dahlias.  I’m going to see if I can find some to plant in the Gifted Garden this summer.  There were also some flowers that looked like ones I’ve seen on cactus in the dessert.  I haven’t researched them yet, but they were pretty cool looking.  I’m sure they wouldn’t do well here in Alaska though.  They were surrounded by moonfire dahlias so I’m assuming they would have similar growing needs.

Along the walkway was this sign notifying guests that there were robotic lawnmowers at work in the gardens.  We didn’t see any but I thought the idea was quite smart given the expansive areas they have to maintain.

We spotted this unique gate nearby.  It took me a few minutes to distinguish the design but once I did I though it was very whimsical and perfect for an English style garden.

Around the corner was this beautiful green house, which was also sadly closed to visitors.  But the giant log out front was a petrified tree that had been discovered in a nearby region.  I’d seen such pieces in the US at national parks, so I didn’t spend much time on that when there was so much else to see.

The next area was this beautiful green house and cold frame setup.  I about swooned when I saw them.  These ones were set up to display a variety of alpine plants, which  I thought was interesting given we have so many of those varieties just above our home on the mountain and they are a specialty garden item in the local nurseries for those who have the set up or right micro climate for them.

Next to the alpine displays was the Queen Mother’s Memorial Garden.  It is a typical English style in honor of it’s name-sake, but the most stunning part of the garden was this small building in the back which was covered with a pattern of symbolic shells on all of the interior walls.   I can only imagine the man hours that went into creating this design and in maintaining it.

Nearby was my favorite area of the gardens by far.  This area was wild and free form with flowers and edibles mixed together.  There were trellises and archways made of bamboo and willow drawing you in to the various areas.  To one side was a knot garden, so-called because of the knot pattern the plants created.

The entire area was bordered by this massive hedge, which had openings cut into it to return to the other areas of the garden.  There had been some sort of event there in the days prior and a little flag banner was left up across the arch way.  It was just the right amount of decoration for the space.  You can tell the Hubs was super excited about my need to run back and get a shot of the whole scene.  Good thing he loves me and knows I can’t resist documenting pretty garden ideas.  😉

We stopped in the gift shop on the way out and I fell in love with several items they had in the outdoor area.  This bird feeder with a slate roof and stained wood definitely called my name, but the price tag and weight it would add to my suit case sure didn’t.  So I took a picture instead hoping I can find something similar when we visit my mother-in-law in Washington later this year.

I also considered this bug house for our garden, but it too had a hefty price tag and I’ve seen similar designs online so I passed.  I did find a smaller version that had a better price tag, so I bought that and will be adding it to the garden this summer.

I was surprised to find these hedgehog houses in the shop.  Apparently hedgehogs are great bug eaters and are often kept in gardens to help reduce pests.  I’m going to research if they would be able to survive in Alaska indoors during the winters and if so I might just try to talk the Hubs into getting one when we have our barn built in a few years, and then he can build said hedgehog a cutie garden house for a summer home!

There were also an assortment of bulbs that I really wanted to buy, but after checking online we were fairly certain they wouldn’t be allowed into the US due to agriculture laws.  The gardens were closing so we purchased some yummy treats and made the walk back to the car.  We enjoyed the old world style of the homes along the way noting how the gardens were part of the houses and helped provide privacy from the street.

We had planned to visit the Edinburgh castle that day as well, but I had spent too much time in the gardens we were tired from our flight and wandering the gardens so we opted to save the castle for the morning.  We headed back to the hotel and had dinner in the restaurant there before calling it a night to rest up for a full lineup of sights the next day.

Check out our other Scotland adventures:

And our travels through Iceland on the same trip with Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4.

Adding a Porch to the Greenhouse

Since we got the green house set up this summer I’ve been wanting to add a little porch to the front to reduce the step in at the door.  I had planned to build one myself from pallet wood, but the Hubs offered up a few piece of damaged Trex boards that were scrap from our deck projects.  (I’ll be sharing the new deck & hot tub the Hubs has been working on all summer once I get a chance to style it a bit and get some photos!)

I certainly wasn’t going to turn down his help or an option that required less prep work – especially as we enter the last few weeks to get outdoor projects done before winter arrives in Alaska.  He built a simple frame from some some left over pressure treated boards left over from building the new deck and attached it to the frame of the green house on the front.  Because the ground slopes here we used paver bricks to support the frame so we could get it level.  Once we had it attached we pulled out the pavers and the Hubs added a support post using a scrap piece of 4×4, also from the deck construction.

I was busy getting a new flower bed installed next to the shed (I’ll be sharing that update next week) so I didn’t get a picture of that step but you can see it in the edge of the finished photo.  I plan to add fill dirt around the front, side and back of the green house to level things out a bit more before we spread gravel over the whole area around the green house.

Here’s a quick little before and after:

It’s amazing how much that little change elevates the look of the whole green house!  I absolutely love it and can’t wait to see it finished off with the gravel around it.  Now I just need to find a metal R at Alaska Picker Day tomorrow so I can complete the “GROW” sign I plan to add to the top of the front.  🙂  If I find some good treasures I’ll be sharing those next week as well!

Green House Sitting Area

Now that I spend a lot of time at the green house I decided to make a little spot to sit and take a break when I’m tending the garden.  It will also be the perfect spot to enjoy the new flower bed I’m putting in along the shed.

The spot is between the green house and the berry patch, just at the crest of the hillside as it starts to go down.  It’s a simple set-up that came together easily, starting with the chairs, which I found on the buy/sell page for $20.  When I got them they didn’t match – one was red and the other was tan.  If they had both been tan I probably would have left them as is, but since I wanted them to match I picked up a couple cans of spray paint for plastic to make them teal instead.

Apparently I was in such a hurry to get the project rolling that I forgot to take a before picture of the red chair, but here’s the tan one prior to it’s makeover.

And here it is while drying.  The paint went on easily and because it has a built in primer there was no prep work other than a light cleaning to remove any built up dirt.  It’s been about a month since I painted them and they seem to be holding up quite well.

I had a curbside freebie wooden stand I’d snagged while getting some other freebies off Craigslist and thought it would make a fun little table between the chairs.   You can check out a before picture of this little thing on Instagram.  I first tried to paint it white but the wood soaked up the paint inconsistently making it look splotchy.

I dug through the paint cabinet in the garage for an alternative and found two cans of grey spray paint.  The darker color seemed more uniform, although still not perfect.  I figured it would weather anyway so it just adds a bit of character and you can’t beat free paint!

To pull it all together, I added a couple of pillows from my stash for the backyard, along with some planters I’d filled earlier in the season and a citronella candle to keep the bugs at bay.  Not a bad little spot to relax for around $30 (chairs & paint)!  I may add a little shelf on the bottom of the table next season, but for now it works just fine.

We plan to cover the whole open area around the green house with landscape fabric and gravel over the labor day weekend, which will really finish off this space.  Now I just need some extra time to go out and enjoy it! 🙂

 

Getting the Green House Ready

As I promised last week I’m sharing a little update on the progress we’ve made in getting the green house ready for the season.  But before we get to the progress, let’s take a look at how things looked when we started.  Since the Hubs finished the structure as fall arrived last year we used the space for storage of all my pots and planters, along with some of the patio furniture and accessories.  We’ll call it organized chaos.

Luna decided to join me in the greenhouse as I started clearing it out.  She seemed to appreciate the warm cozy temps inside and made herself quite comfortable.

While Luna took in the warmth I harvested the dried blooms from the lavender I’d stashed away in the fall.  It was a decent little harvest, which I used to give the chicken’s nesting boxes a bit of freshness.

After that I made Luna move off the table so I could drag it out to the deck.  When I returned she had found a new favorite spot in one of the planter boxes.  I let her be as I sorted and dug out everything else to make room for the new set-up.

We purchased large plastic totes to serve as our planters in the greenhouse.  I filled the bottoms of each with plastic containers from our recycle bin – plus a few from the coffee shop at work – to help fill some of the space to reduce the amount of soil I had to use and provide space at the bottom of the containers where moisture could settle and then be wicked back up.  There are no drainage holes in the bottoms of the totes as that would become quite messy on the floor of the green house so I’ll have to water carefully.

And here’s where things are now.  We’ve got four totes down each side which sit on plant dollies so they can be moved easily, allowing me to work on the plants from all sides – a feature that might come in handy during harvest.  On the left side I brought in the two rusty bed frames I’d used as trellises in the wheel bed last season.  They worked well for the peas in the wheel bed, but this time one will be for green beans and the other will support cucumbers.  The tote in the back corner will be for dill and the one in the front corner will be for peppers.  The Hubs plans to secure them to the wall just to be on the safe side.  This side of the green house will also get vertical strawberry planters in each corner to maximize the space.

The right side has a shelf where the Hubs will be setting up a hyponic system for the buckets you see there.  Those will hold 4 varieties of tomatoes and a squash.  Below them will be yellow and red onions, asparagus and peas, which will get a smaller DIY trellis to climb.

In the back I added a large galvanized trash can under the window to hold extra dirt and the Hubs installed a wire shelf above it to serve as a potting bench.  That way when I’m preparing pots for the deck and porch if I spill it can fall right back into the dirt bin.  Plus the way he installed it I can lift it up against the window if I want it out of the way for any reason.  The ledge created by the wall framing was the perfect spot to store all my garden decor over the winter.  Once the yard finishes thawing out I’ll be moving those items out to their ‘summer homes’ and that space can hold any extra pots awaiting occupants.  My hand tools will be kept in the small tub you see on the shelf, which will be filled with sand to keep everything sharp – an idea I found on Pinterest of course.

It’s still getting pretty cold overnight so I haven’t put any plants out in the green house just yet, but I have purchased the first round of veggies and a couple of flowers which are pretty happy in the laundry room sink and on the kitchen counter for now.  I’ll be going to the big annual season kick-off sale at my favorite nursery this weekend to buy the rest of my stock and will test out a DIY trick I learned on the local garden club page to heat the green house up a bit at night to make sure it’s ready for planting.

I’ve also got a few things planned for just outside the green house, including moving the gutters I used last year for strawberries and potato towers, but I’ll share those once we get things set up a bit more.  It’s going to be a lot of work but if it all goes well we’ll have a great crop of fresh food because of it!  I’m so excited to see what works and what we can improve for next year.  If you have ideas, tips or suggestions on what might be an improvement please share them below and I’ll try to test them out this year.

Shared on Savvy Southern Style’s Wow Us Wednesdays and Knick of Time’s Talk of the Town.