Wednesday, March 31, 2010


I am coming to the conclusion I got really lucky with my vegetable garden last year. I didn't know how lucky until things started to go wrong this year. Last year the goddess of gardening smiled down on me. But this year - this is the year of the varmints.

The first problems were with the peas. I planted snow, snap and shelling peas two weeks ago, reminiscing about how lovely the peas were last year, and how easy to grow they seemed to be. I did remember, as I coated the peas in inoculant and planted them in neat little rows, that our neighbour had some problems last year with birds or mice eating his peas before they could sprout. But not me. No ma'am.

I should have known better. Because the next morning I went out to admire my freshly planted bed and saw rows and rows of neat little holes drilled into the soil exactly where my peas had briefly been. They didn't even make it through a single night.

I waited until today, to see whether any escaped the notice of the scavenging creatures, but only two pretty little sprouts have appeared, out of about 200 that were planted. Time to plant again. Only this time, as soon as I was done, the entire bed got swaddled in a floating row cover, anchored all around the perimeter with rocks. No birds or mice are getting in this time. I hope.

I've had new problems in the greenhouse, too. Damping off, which I didn't have any trouble with last year. For those of you who haven't grown vegetables, that's when perfectly healthy seedlings suddenly keel over like they've been cut off at ground level. It's due to a naturally occurring fungus in the soil, which is why many gardeners (including me, now) use sterilized starting mix rather than homemade mix using soil from the garden. And something ate many of my lettuce and chard seedlings. Some were nibbled. Some had completely disappeared. I am not amused.

Monday, March 29, 2010

First and last

Our friend Donna came for an overnight visit yesterday. She brought her viola, and all afternoon the house was filled with viola and guitar duets - mostly gypsy jazz - and lots of laughter as she and Kim made fabulous music together.

While they played by the fire I played in the kitchen, putting together a supper equal to the special occasion. As well as crispy roast chicken and potatoes, the meal had a last and two firsts. The last of the rutabagas, pulled up the day before to make room for new plantings, mashed with butter and a bit of cream. The first of this year's salad greens. And the first of what we hope will be many asparagus spears - carefully cut it into thirds so we each could have a taste.

Wonderful company, wonderful food, wonderful music. It can't get any better than that.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


You may remember that this new bed (and its sister in the background) was built in an attempt to satisfy Kim's appetite for potatoes. Well, she has decided that even she can be satisfied with the two beds we have set aside for potatoes in the fenced-in portion of the vegetable garden, and so these beds have been dedicated to blueberries instead, Kim's second favourite thing.

She worked really hard getting the beds filled and the soil to the right pH (blueberries need acid soil), but today she finally put plants in the first bed. Once the other bed gets planted, which should happen tomorrow, we will have roughly doubled our blueberry bush count to a total of 35 plants of seven different varieties: Bluecrop, Hardy Blue, Chandler, Brigitta, Spartan, Northland and North Country.

She was disappointed with the plants we bought from a nursery on the Saanich Peninsula last weekend. They came in big gallon pots, but when she loosened each pot to ease out the plant, out came a tiny, very root bound plug. And that from a reputable nursery that specializes in blueberries. We took pictures, and will call them tomorrow to let them know of our concerns. It will be interesting to see what they say.

But right now the newly planted bed looks lovely. Kim stapled the tags to wooden stakes that she planted in the bed along with the blueberries: not as lovely as Paula's copper tags, but it makes us feel like we're official somehow.

Here was the best moment of the day. First, for those of you who aren't Canadian, Tim Horton's is a coffee chain that figures prominently in many Canadian's sense of national identity. Kim had been telling me that she'd heard that Tim's adds something to their coffee to make people happy when they drink it. So later in the day when I was going out to run an errand I asked her if she'd like me to pick her up a happy coffee, and she said "No thanks. I'm happy enough already."

Friday, March 26, 2010

What's growing

Come with me on a tour of what's growing and blooming these days at Mucky Boots!

The magnolia by the pond is about to burst into blossom. Remember the toddlers in fuzzy slippers? They're about to start dancing!

When we moved here we were so happy to see there are a couple of dogwood trees on the property, including one in the chicken yard and this one in the perennial garden by the pond. In a few weeks this bud will be a beautiful saucer-shaped, creamy white flower.

Also in the perennial gardens is this ribes, which looks its best at this time of year, and the winged euonymous, one of the "ugly plants" I am trying really hard to appreciate more. At least it's leafing out, which makes it look more like an actual plant and less like a weird alien insect.

In the vegetable garden the first official spear of asparagus has appeared...

...the garlic is looking happy, despite having to share the bed with a few stray snowdrops and tulips...

...but the tulips are looking a bit sad, I suspect because of the several late frosts they have had to endure.

In the greenhouse the overwintered lettuce is coming back to life. It is Anuenue, a variety in my very short gardening career I have come to love - crispy, juicy, tasty. What more could you want?

The green onion seedlings (seeded in groups as per Eliot Coleman) are almost ready to transplant outside...

...and the squash seedlings have erupted with a vigorous "Ta Da!" Some seedlings emerge so tentatively and slowly they look like they'd really rather stay in bed a while longer. But when squash are ready to emerge they get right to it.

And that's what's growing at Mucky boots!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mucky Boots lullaby

This is the sound we go to sleep to these days, courtesy of the residents of the pond at the back of the property. Happy Spring!

Monday, March 22, 2010

William's getting old

This is William. He's one of two resident cats at Mucky Boots, and as best as we can figure (he was adopted from the SPCA) he's about 15. Kim has had him longer than she's had me.

William is a cat with personality - mostly grumpy. In fact, he's the grumpiest cat I've ever met, although part of me admires the steadfastness with which he maintains his grumpiness. He's not interested in pleasing anyone. For example, if he is on the road in front of the car as we drive towards the gate he won't deviate from his own course an iota, but trots in front of the car, turning around every few steps to meow in annoyance at us as we follow him, very slowly, in the car. What a cat.

William loves being outside, and up until a couple of months ago he would come in only to eat. He has the worst fur in the world for a cat who loves being outside so much: long, fluffy, downy and prone to matting if you even look at him sideways. Did I mention he hates being brushed? As a result, Kim and I are always at him with scissors, trying to keep the mats under control.

A few months ago William had to have most of his teeth removed, because of a genetic problem that caused them to erode below the gum line. And now, all of a sudden, he's an old cat. He wants to be inside much more, and likes curling on the floor by the wood stove. He moves more slowly. He sleeps for most of the day. But yesterday he followed us out into the sunshine to bask in the warmth of the artichoke bed, against the wall of the chicken coop. I hope he has many more warm days in the sunshine.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Building queens

Kim and I have been on a building binge. All thoughts of finishing Bathroom #2 have evaporated, and instead we have been sawing and hammering up a storm outside. It began with the chicken yard makeover, which meant a new gate and repairs to the fencing. Then I decided I wanted a new trellis for the spot where I'm going to attempt to grow cucumbers and melons this year, so we built that. And then Kim's thoughts turned to potatoes.

Kim loves potatoes. Much of the expansion of the raised bed real estate in our garden is attributable to Kim's desire for potatoes - lots and lots of potatoes. Last year we built a huge new bed that doubled the area we had allocated for potatoes, and that still wasn't enough. So today we built another new bed, this one measuring 16 feet by 3 feet. We have run out of room inside the deer fenced part of the property, so we had to build the new bed outside. We're not sure if deer like potatoes or not - I guess we'll find out.

Kim has all kinds of plans for this bed. Potatoes, yes. Onions, too - yesterday she came home with some red onion sets she saw in the garden store, to supplement the seedlings I started a few weeks ago. For those of you who haven't grown onions before, "sets" are like little onion bulbs. It's a lot easier to grow onions from bulbs rather than seeds - onion seedlings, according to what I've read and my own experience, are a bit temperamental. But sets can flower too quickly, resulting in small onions. It will be interesting to see how the sets and the seedlings compare.

Now Kim thinks even this new bed won't be enough to satisfy her, and she's got her eye on another spot along the deer fence. That will be tomorrow's task.

Friday, March 19, 2010


I just want you all to know I have been working very, very hard to develop my appreciation for what was formally known as The Ugly Plant and has now been identified as coltsfoot. Every time I pass the little grove of plants near the pond I stop to reflect on the wonderful variety that nature provides, and on how rewarding more subtle beauty can be. (Can you sense to effort I am going to here? It was the remark that came via email about the plant being like a botanical Rorschach test, saying more about the viewer than the attractiveness of the plant. Ouch!)

Today I decided that with the gradual opening of its flowers (we're talking a two week process here), the coltsfoot looks like very, very slowly exploding fireworks. How's that - any better?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


This is an actual photo of me. This is not a costume. This is really what I looked like that day.

Something has happened to my sense of vanity - it seems to have disappeared, and I'm not sure where it went. There was a time, not so long ago, when I would have been appalled at the thought of having my picture taken looking like this. Now I think it's kind of funny. (I especially like the hat, and think it adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the whole ensemble.)

How did this happen?

Take showers, for example. Having a shower used to be the first thing I would do when I got up in the morning. Now that would be a waste of time, since my mornings are usually spent in dirty, sweaty work. But that leads to scheduling issues. Suppose Kim and I have spent the morning wrestling a countertop and vanity out of a bathroom, destroying much of the drywall in the process, and then decide to go to the dump. Would I bother getting out of my dirty clothes and having a shower, just to go to the dump? Of course not. So we go to the dump, and get a little dirtier and sweatier hauling all the debris out of the truck. But that's no problem, because everyone at the dump looks dirty and sweaty.

Then it's lunch time and we decide to go to Tim's for a bowl of soup, but we're all covered in drywall dust. Do we go all the way home, have a shower and change, and then drive all the way back into town for lunch? Of course not. So we go to Tim's, as we are (and we don't stand out too much - Duncan is a blue collar town after all), and somehow I have found myself in public in a state I never imagined allowing myself to be seen in. Not only that, but when we pass the grocery store I remember we're out of cream and I actually go into the store to fetch it.

It's kind of liberating, in the same way as my decision a few years ago not to wear high heels anymore. Liberating in that it priorizes function over form. Inside over outside. Sense of self over the opinion of others. I'm pretty happy about that.

But I don't want you to think I don't have showers anymore. I do. Regularly. Really.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Chicken yard makeover

I am so tired. We have been working for two days to get ready for the chickens that arrive at the end of the month. Yesterday we focused on the enclosed yard around the chicken coop - after 18 months of no chickens, it was a clogged mess of fallen branches, debris from last year's weeds and way too many volunteer big-leaf maples, so the first order of business was to clear it out. At the same time we replaced the rotted boards all around the top of the fence and removed the old gate, which was falling down and in a really awkward location. Then while Kim went to get lumber for the new gate, I cleared out the path to the coop door, which was inches deep in evergreen needles and rotting fallen leaves. We had no idea there was such a nice path underneath all that gunge!

Today Kim started with the supports for the new gate, which we decided to relocate to the end of the path to the coop. We used some extra pieces of broken granite to provide a base for the supports, so the wood wouldn't come in contact with the soil. Then Kim built the supports around the existing round fence poles.

About the time it started to rain we got to move into the workshop to build the gate itself. Kim had a great plan, and we were able to use up some of the wood and fencing material we had leftover from other projects, and by the time we were both ready to drop, it was done - almost. We ran out of carriage bolts, so we'll have to wait until tomorrow to finish it up and hang it, but we took time to see if it would fit. It does! Frankie, especially, is very impressed.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ugly plants

Spring is a gorgeous season. Everywhere you look there is something beautiful to see. As I wrote here, even spindly, punky volunteer trees can make you stop and appreciate their tender green buds.

But I'm having a little trouble with one or two of the plants in the garden. Like the one shown here. I don't know what it is, and based solely on where it grows (in the uncultivated forested area by the pond) I think it must be a native plant, rather than something that was put there. It appears early on - about the same time as the crocus. It has the thick green stem of a stalk of broccoli, and when it first appears the head is a cluster of tightly closed buds that eventually open into nondescript white flowers.

It's wrong, and I don't feel good about it, but I find this plant just plain ugly. Every day as I walk past it on the way to the greenhouse I try to find something to like about it, with no luck. I feel uncharitable and unkind and ungenerous, but when I leave it behind I don't like it any better than when I started.

It's not the only plant I feel an uncomfortable revulsion for - there's the winged euonymus, too. We have three or four of these shrubs at the front of the house, and before anyone protests, yes they do have spectacular fall colour. But have you looked at it when it's bare? It looks like an alien insect of some kind. Every branch, big and small, has three ridges that look like scales running the length of the branch. It makes me think of a five foot high locust. Ick. While I have worked really hard to find something to appreciate about the broccoli-like white flower, with the winged euonymus I don't even try.

As an antidote, here is a picture of the first of the fawn lilies to bloom. These are a native plant, and they are in many of the perennial beds here at Mucky Boots. The flowers start off looking like sweet drooping pigtails, and as the flower ages, each pigtail curls up so the whole thing looks like a British barrister's wig.

Added later: Thanks to expert detective work by Joyce and Yvonne, the "ugly plant" has been identified as a coltsfoot - either sweet coltsfoot or arrow-leaved coltsfoot, not the medicinal kind that grows in eastern Canada and Europe. Thank you everyone for your encouragement to find things to love about this plant!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Going to the quarry

When Kim and I left our jobs to start our new lives here at Mucky Boots, we knew that giving up our dual-income-no-kids lifestyle was going to mean we'd be leaving some things behind. No more eating out a few times a week, or walking out of bookstores with a bag full of new books. And travel - would we ever be able to travel to interesting places again?

Yes, as it turns out. We get to go to interesting places - just ones closer to home. Like the dump. (I'm serious - going to the dump is kind of fun.) Or, like today, the quarry.

We needed big chunks of blasted rock to build a retaining wall at the front of the house, as part of our campaign to turn a barren, weed-covered wasteland into something more beautiful. The local stone store charges $300 a ton for the rock they have, which is fancier than we need or would like, but when we called around we found a quarry nearby that only charges $20 a ton. The only hitch: we'd have to go get it ourselves. No problem!

After an interesting drive up a very steep road with about a dozen switchbacks, we found the quarry, found the guy running the quarry, and found the pile of rock we could choose from. We loaded the truck with about a ton of rock (yes, we were very careful, didn't choose pieces that were too heavy for us, and used our knees), paid our $20 and were on our way back down the switchbacks.

And that was only half the fun! Once we got home we got to unload it all and wheelbarrow it over to where the wall would be built.

I'm not sure why I find going to the dump, or to the quarry, so fun. Maybe it's for the same reason people like travelling to more traditionally interesting places. I imagine people who go to Thailand enjoy the feeling of "Wow, I never imagined I would end up in Thailand!" I had a similar feeling at the quarry today. Never in my old life, my intellectual, professional old life, would I have imagined I'd have ended up at a quarry in my dirty pants, hefting big (but not too big!) rocks into the back of the pickup truck, enjoying the exercise and the challenge and the fresh air and the satisfaction of doing it ourselves. That's as good as a trip.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Gardening mistakes

Two days ago these were happy little tomato seedlings, growing up nestled in warm soil, surrounded by tomato siblings and protected by heat mats and plastic covers to keep them warm, all snuggled up in the greenhouse. Now they are nothing but limp little bits of former vegetation.

Remember the snow surprise we had overnight Monday/Tuesday? Apparently I picked that night, of all nights, to forget to turn on the heat mats. Argh! I wouldn't have thought that would spell the demise of my seedlings, but my max/min thermometer tells me it got down to -5 (Celsius) in the greenhouse that night (all of which I discovered after that cup of tea I promised myself).

I feel like an idiot, because I lost two flats of tomato seedlings last year - not by freezing them to death, but by cooking them. I went to work one morning, enjoyed an unseasonably warm day, and came home that night to a thermometer reading well into the 40s and my tomato seedlings gasping their last breath. You'd think I'd have learned something.

Well, I did, actually. I learned to crack open the door of the greenhouse when it got too warm, and to turn off the heat mats every morning and turn them on every evening. I just forgot. Once. Nature can be so unforgiving.

So today I did the sensible thing and went to Rona to get an electronic timer, which then got installed in the greenhouse with a really long power bar for all the heat mats. After a head scratching half-hour of reading the instruction manual I managed to program the timer to turn the mats off every day at 8 a.m. and turn them back on at 6 p.m. I just came back from a post-supper check, and am happy to announce it all seems to work. Lesson learned.

All is not lost: about 20% of the tomato seedlings survived, and with the exception of my 6 fennel seedlings which were also limp bits when I found them, everything else seems to be fine. And I still have lots of time to catch up - according to my admittedly sketchy records, we're about a month ahead of where we were last year. So I have reseeded what needed reseeding and have resolved to make checking the weather forecast on the Internet part of my morning/evening computer routine.

I hate screwing up. My life would be so much easier if I was perfect.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


This is what we woke up to this morning. Something's wrong here - this is lotus land, after all, and it is March. But don't these snow-dusted primula look edible, like frosted violets on a cake?

Everything is crispy and frozen, and there's more white stuff expected tonight. But if there's one thing I have learned in my short time here at Mucky Boots, it's that some things are just plain beyond my control, and rather than worrying, I should just go inside for a cup of tea.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Garden resolutions

With the start of the 2010 gardening season, my mind has turned to the task of setting some goals for myself. It may be a sign of too many years of writing professional growth plans as a teacher, or of writing too many SMART goals (you know, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely), but it seems like an important thing to do. So, at the risk of appearing like an idiot for not getting this all right the first time, here are my 2010 Garden Resolutions (so far), in no particular order.

(1) Grow better carrots. Last year my carrots were sort of pathetic. They weren't very big, and too many were clubbed, or multi-rooted, or covered in little black lines that I think are a sign of a carrot rust fly infestation. This year I plan to use our longest-pronged pitchfork to loosen up the soil as deeply as I can, and cover my freshly seeded carrots with row covers until the danger of carrot rust flies is past (whenever that is - note to self: check on this).

(2) Remember to fertilize. I was really good at applying lots of lovely compost to each garden bed at the start of the spring, and then again when I planted the fall/winter crops. But somehow I forgot about feeding the plants in between. This year I am going to make compost tea, and nettle tea, and comfrey tea and feed the plants regularly.

(3) Provide better winter protection. I was pretty casual about this last year. For one bed I used a cold-frame cover that was left behind by the previous owners. But it was too big for the bed, so all the cold winter air was free to come in from underneath. I also used a small poly tunnel and some floating row covers, to see how they would work (answer: not so well), and I used straw to mulch the rutabagas. My conclusions: the straw worked just fine, the poly tunnel was way too cumbersome to open for watering, and the floating row cover was pretty much useless. Plus, I was left wondering exactly why I didn't plant anything in the greenhouse, for goodness sake. This year I will make full use of the greenhouse beds, which will mean transplanting seedlings into those beds once the tomatoes are done. And we'll build some better low tunnels out of PVC pipe and plastic, with hinges to tip the cover out of the way for harvesting and watering.

(4) Harvest more herbs. We have mint growing everywhere, which is generally not a good thing since it's so invasive. I have to keep pulling it out and cutting it down or it will take over the garden, but while I do that I might as well harvest the leaves, dry them, and make tea! The same goes for all the oregano and lemon balm we seem to have. I plan to have a lot of fun doing this, and to make it even more fun I have started chamomile and calendula seedlings for even more happy herbal harvesting.

(5) Be nicer to the blueberries. We had a pretty pathetic harvest last year. We think this is because the plants are quite young, we didn't water enough (What did we know? It was our first year!), and the soil wasn't acidic enough. This year we know we can trust our well to give us all the water we reasonably need, and we have a soaker hose system worked out to make sure the water gets used efficiently. As well, we have been saving all our coffee grounds to work into the soil around the blueberries to make it more acidic. We'll be sure to use our new pH meter regularly, to make sure it's working.

I think I understand why I always enjoyed writing professional growth plans in my former life: there's something so hopeful about imagining and planning for future success. I have a picture in my mind of eating a beautiful, well-fed carrot harvested in the middle of a snow storm in December, with a side dish of happy blueberries from the freezer and a cup of mint tea. What could be more perfect than that?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Crocus heaven

The crocus (crocuses? croci?) have been up for a while, but somehow I just noticed how much variety there is. There are yellow crocus, orange crocus, white crocus, purple crocus, lavender crocus and even striped crocus. I feel silly for not having appreciated the bounty of crocus in the garden before now - it's like the whole crocus world has been singing "Hallelujah" at the top of their collective lungs and I only just noticed.

Friday, March 5, 2010

We forgot one!

Toilet paper - it's round!

[Kim is sanding the drywall in the bathroom.]

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The nature of round

This is Frankie, our almost-10-year-old Australian Shepherd. Some of you have met Frankie - if you have, you'll probably never forget it. We have had him since he was 8 weeks old, which means everything that's wrong with him is our fault.

Frankie is an original. He can't stand being left alone, unless it's in the car, and broke off most of his teeth as a puppy chewing his way out of crates until we wised up and started taking him to doggy day care during the day and everywhere with us the rest of the time. He's an escape artist: we came home once to find a metal crate perfectly intact and Frankie loose outside it. He knows how to turn a doorknob and push open a door, and once opened the deadbolt on the front door. He's a patient and sweet big brother to Petunia the cat (who loves him more than anything), and lets her eat from his bowl when he's trying to have supper and snuggle up to him when she wants to get warm. He can catch any ball thrown, and outrun almost any dog in the process. He is more in tune with my stress level than I am, and tries to jump in my lap whenever he senses that I'm sad or stressed or angry. He is a lovely, lovely boy and we can't imagine our lives without him.

There is one thing in the world that makes Frankie happier than anything else. Something he will ignore the rattle of food in his bowl for. Something he will pass up an opportunity to bark at the geese next door for. Something that will distract him from anything he might be doing, and that's a B-A-L-L.

We haven't been able to say the word "ball" for years, because it generates just too much excitement. For a while we could spell it out, but that only worked for a while. Now we use a variety of foreign languages, or just say "that round thing" or when we're really at a loss we call it "a you-know-what."

Frankie is very hard on the balls we do give him. (I almost can't even type that word, I'm so conditioned to avoid it.) Tennis balls last 2.3 seconds. Hard plastic street hockey balls, 2.3 minutes. So-called indestructible red rubber balls, 2.3 hours. In his stocking last Christmas he got a package of guaranteed chew-proof balls - the first one took him minutes to destroy, and he only got faster as he went. This is especially impressive if you remember he is missing most of his teeth.

There seem to be some general guidelines that Frankie follows when it comes to B-A-L-L-S.

(1) Once an object has been identified as ball-like, any portion of it is just as ball-like. This means that if Frankie demolishes a ball into little bits, each bit is as much of a ball to him as the original, even if it's no bigger than a nickel. We can be busy gardening when we feel a plunk on our shoe and look down to see a minuscule fragment of slobbery red rubber and a dog, tongue lolling, butt wiggling, willing us with every doggy fibre to play ball.

(2) If no ball is available, any other spherical object will do. Because Frankie's so hard on balls, we sometimes run out. But he's a clever boy, and really good at finding substitutes. He will jump up to snag an apple from the tree. He'll throw a pine cone at our feet, hoping we'll see it as a sort of elongated ball. He rolls stones along the ground with his nose the way he does real balls, even rocks as big as a cantaloupe.

(3) If nothing spherical is available, any object remotely round may be substituted. In a pinch Frankie will resort to rolls of tape: masking tape, packing tape, duct tape. Empty jars are fair game. And he snags garden buckets when we're not looking and plays with them.

I'm not sure if it is a sign of superior intelligence or sheer desperation that Frankie's notion of round is so broad. All I know is that if Frankie is in a ball-playing mood, I had better keep my roll of tie-up tape in my pocket or I am likely to see an entire orchard festooned with green plastic ribbon.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bathroom #2

We must really be gluttons for punishment, because yesterday we started renovating the second of the three bathrooms that all needed re-doing when we bought the house. This one is really only half a bathroom - a powder room, to be exact.

I'm bemused by what finally got us started. This bathroom had been on our list of things to do since we moved into the house (along with nine million other things), but it wasn't at the top of the list. Two days ago I would have guessed that maybe we'd get to it next fall. But for some reason yesterday - the planets? boredom? avoiding other less fascinating projects? - Kim suggested we get started, and I took up a pry bar and hammer. This is what it looked like 20 minutes later.

I've frequently heard that when renovations start there are always surprises around the corner. It took removing the tiles around the sink to find the surprise waiting for us with this project. We knew the tile around the sink had been installed after the sink was in place. What we didn't know was that the drywall had been installed after the sink was in place. At least the studs were there when the sink was put in, but the sink was apparently just that much too wide, and the studs were notched out so the sink would fit. That's right: the sink was actually wider than the room itself, and extended into the cavities between the studs. (If you click on the photo to make it bigger you can see the notched studs on either side.)

Now that's dedication. That's someone saying "Damn it, I want that sink!" and finding a way to make it work. Unfortunately it meant we had to destroy a fair bit of drywall to get it out again. Once the sink (which, though charming, was badly iron-stained like all the fixtures in the house) and the vanity were out, and we removed a bit more drywall, we realized someone also had to do some plumbing gymnastics to make the sink work. Now I feel badly for taking it out.

We finished demolition, cleaned up a bit and then it was time to go shopping. We had reluctantly decided to replace the vanity as well as the countertop/sink, because the existing one had been modified (again to make the sink work) to such an extent it wasn't structurally sound anymore. I had a sinking feeling (ha!) as we headed to Rona in the truck - Kim and I don't have a good track record when it comes to efficient purchasing. We had been looking for a new vanity for the ensuite bathroom for months, and hadn't been able to find anything we could agree on. (Typically heard while shopping: "You like that?") What were we in for this time?

Someone was smiling on us today, because within 5 minutes of walking into the store we saw a vanity that we both liked, that would fit well, that was reasonably priced and was in stock. And the obscure, hard-to-find faucet we bought for the last renovation? They had one more in stock - just for us, I said as I clasped the box in joy. The employee who was helping us may have burst into laughter, but it didn't bother me - she doesn't know how long it took Kim and I to agree on a faucet the first time! We were out of there in 30 minutes, most of which were spent watching the employees maneuver the heavy box off a shelf fifteen feet high, through the store and onto our truck.

Is it all going to be this easy?

Science experiment

This is what happens when the bucket of purple potatoes you left in the cold room three months ago gets lost behind the luggage and forgotten.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Job hazard

For those of you still digging out from under the last dump of snow, no this is not what our gooseberries look like - we still have a few months to go! This picture was taken early last June, when I was enchanted by how fresh and juicy these berries looked. I had a vague memory of eating gooseberry jam once, and had visions of afternoon tea on the lawn with homemade scones to go along with the jam. What a lovely place Mucky Boots Farm was going to be, I thought!

The problem was knowing when to pick them. They looked so lovely when they were green we ate a couple and spit them out, they tasted so sour. So we waited, and waited, and finally towards the end of the summer they turned red. How exciting, we thought, and ate some more. They were just as awful - bitter, as well as sour. Our gooseberry adventure sputtered to a halt, with bushes full of nasty tasting red berries we finally turned over to the birds, wondering when, exactly, goosberries are supposed to be picked.

I thought we would sort that out this year, and was content to wait until then. Maybe gooseberries are like rhubarb - it's really all the sugar that makes them taste good. But this week, as we have continued our weeding and pruning marathon, I had to weed under and around the gooseberry bushes, and came face to face (literally) with this.

Yikes! This is only one of a dozen branches on each of our four gooseberry bushes. Now I'm thinking no amount of tasty gooseberry jam is worth me skewering an eye on a thorn. The future of these bushes is looking uncertain...
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