Monday, May 31, 2010

Independence Days Update- Holiday edition

What a busy weekend here at Trollbridge Farm. We got 8 support piers dug and poured for the new deck and are thinking about just doing the wrap around extension now- while we have the post hole digger and the money for the lumber. This will actually involve two new retaining walls and expanding the sidewalk on the west side of the house into a patio area. We'll see how far we actually get this summer. We have so many projects started that it's time (IMHO) to finish a few. I got lots of gardening done this weekend and moved lots of flowers from odd or inappropriate places into a new border that will run from the new deck to the front porch. On the house side of this will be a kitchen garden/herb bed. Too bad I have to go back to work tomorrow- I've got LOTS of plans and energy at the moment.
But, it's time for my IDC update for the week. I finally feel like I have some good progress to report.
1. Plant something- Moved lots of perennial flowers. Planted edamame (and started data collection sheet for the garden trial report I have to send in at the end of the year), cucumbers, summer squash (white scallops), Galeaux d'Eysines pumpkins, basil. I still need to get my beans planted. I'm not sure yet if we're planting sweet corn this year. It is so easy to get it from the local farmers who have more space.
2. Harvest something- radishes, greens, green onions, some herbs for cooking. We will probably have broccoli for dinner tomorrow night since we have some that looks ready. Mmmm.... I spotted the first pea blossoms and we have the first pepper formed! A tiny paprika pepper- about half an inch diameter. A few tomatoes are blooming... and so it begins.
3. Preserve something- nope.
4. Waste not- Not much extraordinary here. The usual three R's. V repurposed several old pieces of pipe to construct a flag pole out front. We picked up a small pulley and some clips for the hardware and it works beautifully. We're still talking about reusing the old deck frame but with the modifications now planned we will likely have to salvage what we can and rebuild.
5. Want not- Started construction on the new deck- borrowed a post hole digger rather than buying or renting one. Started digging for the new kitchen garden/herb bed. Oh, and I discovered that we have St John's Wort growing wild in the barnyard. Pretty cool. The medicinal herbs are coming to us now. I may move some since it isn't in the best location.
6. Build community- borrowed tools from a friend and volunteered to help another friend put up a fence. Chatted with the church organist who purchased some plants from me at the plant sale a few weeks ago. She has never gardened before and is excited to have put a few plants in the ground. It's fun to be encouraging a new gardener- even if she is older than I.
7. Eat the food- local, grass fed burgers on the grill with locally made chipotle jack cheese, corn from the freezer and you have a holiday feast.
This will be a short week at work but a really long week personally. V has his MRI on Friday and then it is a long wait until the following Wednesday. Let's just hope the weather is as lovely next weekend as it was this weekend so I can stay really busy again.

A timely addition

An old/new flagpole to honor the day.
A sincere thank you to all who have and still are defending our country.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Child labor and a name change

Ah, the joys of child labor continue. We were hard at work again today out in the heat.
One of V's favorite t-shirts.
Working hard or hardly working?
But 6 support posts were completed and I got the garden weeded.
My new teenager!
The birthday boy (now I13) and his custom cake.

A lancer from one of his favorite video games
complete with chainsaw bayonet.
It didn't go together as smoothly as I had hoped but he loved it.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A busy day in pictures

Another day of child labor at our house! We kept them busy. Of course, V and I weren't slackers either.
Trying out the post hole digger- it's a fabulous tool!!!
Thanks Brenda and Arthur for the loan!!!
Concrete molds stand like sentinals.
Ready to pour tomorrow morning.
We've had some modifications of the original deck plan which has morphed into removing a crumbling retaining wall- which will be replaced.
We did a lot of moving of plants today.
This is the new border.
Coreopsis "Jethro Tull"
My newest favorite- if only for the name.

Happy Memorial Day everyone!
We figured up a temporary way to hang the flag until we get a flag pole installed.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Changes are afoot!

I had today off as a vacation day, giving me a 4 day weekend! Woo Hoo! Today was busy but somewhat frustrating as things didn't go exactly as planned.
We spent a while on a trip to find a new retractable clothes line. Our old one- that we have had for years, finally gave up the ghost this morning and refused to maintain tension- letting I12's sheets sink to the ground. While we were out, we stopped at the local cheese factory- picking up some local cheeses and inquiring about barrels. They sell 55 gallon barrels for $5! Unfortunately, someone else purchased the remaining barrels minutes before we arrived. But, the woman there indicated that we could call ahead and reserve a barrel if we wanted. We're looking for more rain barrels and for a sand filter for the pool.
A friend of ours lent us a motorized post hole digger for the weekend so we are planning to dig holes and make the new support piers for the deck that we hope to rebuild soon. In order for that to happen, the iris needed to be rebedded. So, after the children got home from school, we all worked to rebed the iris. It was fun to work outside with the children- Even K10 got into it and took pride in his job of watering the finished bed.
The iris in their new home.
They will form the first bed in an area that will become a flower edged path from the new deck to the front porch. This is in the area where the new solar edition will eventually be placed but we're not sure how soon that will happen- and nothing that is being planted will be difficult to move.
Also today, I started working on I12's birthday cake- making custom sculpted decorations from melted white chocolate while he wasn't home. I'm not going to share the idea for it with you, just in case...
And of course, the day wouldn't be complete without me hurting myself... while moving iris, I walked into one of the marker stakes for the deck posts and sliced open my knee. Not serious but definitely annoying considering all the work I need to get done this long weekend.
I hope you all have a wonderful holiday weekend. We will be busy this weekend- trying to keep from thinking too much.

Monday, May 24, 2010

IDC- anniversary edition

We had a wonderful dinner out for our 24th anniversary. Now, a quick Independence Days update- especially since I didn't do one last week- so I've got 2 weeks worth to report (not that it is much different, having been gone what seems a large part of last week).
1. Plant something- herbs (sage, 2 thymes, tarragon, garlic chives and a curry plant (tender perennial but new to me) and 4 mints). I need to get going on getting my beans, cucumbers and such planted- maybe over the holiday weekend (when I'm not constructing another birthday cake or digging holes for deck anchor posts)
2. Harvest something- radishes, lettuce- that's about it.
3. Preserve something- all our sanity- that's a major accomplishment this last week.
4. Waste not- hmm not too much different or unusual here.
5. Want not- I'm not sure this counts but we finally had one of the contractors for the septic come out and look at the site this afternoon so hopefully we will soon have a bid. Otherwise- I'm at a loss.
6. Build community- hmm, we ate this evening at the Linn Street Cafe- a local restaurant that specializes in preparing local/seasonal food- it was fabulous. I had scallops (not local, obviously) with fresh, local asparagus, green onions, mushrooms and an incredibly rich aioli sauce. YUMMMM!!! Our house salads were spinach and microgreens with fresh strawberry vinagrette. Mmmm.... Otherwise, I haven't been building much local food community but I have been astounded by the response from blogland to my worry and anguish. THANKS!
7. Eat the food- When we've been home, no problem here- although I need to get busy menu planning and do another freezer inventory to see what we still need to use.

Now, I've gotta get boys into bed. I've got to admit- it was a bit disconcerting to find this morning that I12 (very soon to be I13) has grown again and is now taller than me by about half an inch.... sigh- I knew it was coming... but now only K10 is shorter than I. sigh again......

Sunday, May 23, 2010


to Dora fans everywhere. J16 was complaining that she didn't get a 'special' cake this year for her birthday. So, this afternoon while she was off with friends, I got busy in the kitchen to create one of our signature bizarre birthday cakes for her.
The severed head of zombie Dora the Explorer.
Amazing what you can do with frosting, fruit, pull and peel Twizzlers and cranblueberry applesauce.
She was dutifully shocked, amused and amazed (sporting her new summer hair cut)
But, on to the rest of the weekend. It has been HOT! I believe it hit 90 here today. We've got the windows open, much to the delight of the cats.
Oh, what a rough life he leads!
I converted some of the "flower" bed to an herb and kitchen garden.
I also planted one section with our mints that we have acquired: peppermint, chocolate mint, apple mint and corsican mint (a tender groundcover). I've been wondering what to do with these beds. On one side of the stairs there are a few pathetic shrubs (now with mint planted in one of the larger open sections. On the other side, where these herbs are, was just weeds and rocks. I added some topsoil so hopefully things will do well. In addition to the perennial herbs (sage, 2 types of thyme, french tarragon, garlic chives and a curry plant) I planted some basil and lettuce seeds. I have other herbs in a bed in the garden. All of these were to go somewhere else but we're STILL waiting on contractors for the septic replacement. sigh... But, we are plotting and planning something different we can do with the south side of the house while we wait. This will be a 'temporary' planting since we hope at some time to build a solar addition. However, that is down the road so this will be something that will be easily moved.
We made arrangements to borrow a large borer next weekend to dig new footings for the deck so we can get that reassembled.
But mostly, it has been a peaceful, relaxing weekend.
The peonies are blooming.
V and I took a moonlight walk through the property last night. It was beautiful! Tomorrow evening, we will leave the children home with a pizza and go out to dinner, just the two of us to celebrate.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


For listening...
It is a beautiful weekend. Warm (almost hot!) and sunny. V and I will celebrate our 24th anniversary on Monday so we will probably do something fun. And I want to get out in the garden.
Have a wonderful weekend. You are all great!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


We had some disturbing news today. I can't really say more until we have more information. I don't know how long that will be but will hopefully have more of a timeline after tomorrow.

My vacation is over. I go back to work tomorrow. sigh. There are so many more things I wanted to get done.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Home safe and sound

We got home about 11 pm last night. Tired but happy.
The wedding was beautiful, but cold.
My BIL, sister and the bride and groom
Poor things, it was mid 50's, windy and threatening rain. The bride and bridesmaids all in strapless gowns. Brrrr. But they endured and it was a lovely outdoor wedding with the mountains in the background.
K10 tries to avoid a kiss from the bride.
We don't clean up that bad.
Finally on our way out, a sunny day.
Long's Peak- one of the fourteeners in CO.
Now, on to laundry, picking up the dog from the kennel and checking the garden. Then, maybe a nap. We were on the road for 12+ hours yesterday. I got to drive nearly the entire length of Nebraska- in rain and fog. Ugh.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sweet 16!

Can it be true? My baby girl is Sweet Sixteen!
We didn't have a lot of time but we had a birthday excursion into Big Thompson Canyon this morning. I couldn't stand it being so close to the mountains and not getting up into them, at least a little. There are still patches of snow on the ground.
Presents by the river.
Isn't it gorgeous!
My almost teenager- 2 more weeks til 13.
K10 really wanted to go rock climbing.
Exploring the river edge.
Into the canyon.
Tonight my niece gets married. I've gotta iron shirts.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Where's my hairnet?

Oh, the adventures....
No matter how many times I see these...
They are just freakin' cool!
Too bad it was a cloudy, drizzly day!
We had time for a tour of Celestial Seasonings Tea in Boulder.
It was interesting, and we got free samples.
Where's my hairnet?!
Now, I'll be honest, that's not a line I ever thought I'd hear my 10 year old utter!

More adventures to follow.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


This afternoon, on the way home from picking up J15 from Art club after school, we stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few things. We didn't need much- in fact, I purchased only three items: cheese, tortillas and a loaf of bread (yeah, I know, I could make my own but it's a crazy week). I took in a single cloth bag to use for my purchase. Imagine my stunned surprise when the checker asked me, in all seriousness, if I wanted all of my things in the same bag! WTF??!

Monday, May 10, 2010

IDC- falling into place

Things are quickly falling into place for the garden and for our trip to Colorado. I can hardly wait. I've been going full speed for about 2 and a half weeks now and I'm more than ready for a mini-vacation. Well, part of it is actually a stay-cation. I've taken a few extra days off work when we get back to recover.
But, it's Monday- time for my usual Independence Days update- and what a busy week it's been!
1. Plant something- tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos and eggplant into the garden. Herbs, medicinals and beneficial insect flowers into their own bed. And the Goth Garden phase 1 installed! I'm waiting until next week to plant a few other things in the garden- I just needed to get little plants in the ground.
2. Harvest something- the first little radishes!! Mmm, tasty.
3. Preserve something- ummm, sanity only this week.
4. Waste not- took extra seedlings to the plant sale, used old newspapers for sheet mulching the goth garden, the usual 3R's.
5. Want not- Received my mini-greenhouse for Mother's Day! At 6x8 feet it isn't huge but I'm anticipating greens well into cold weather here. Other than that, I haven't had much time to be stocking up or storing.
6. Build community food systems- extra seedlings from the plant sale are going to the community food garden at the crisis center. I also encouraged a few people (and a few children) to plant vegetable plants while working at the plant sale. I tried to talk up the ease and benefits of growing your own food.
7. Eat the food- Mmmm.... homemade chili and cornbread with home canned tomatoes, beans, local grass fed beef and home ground cornmeal. Yum.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Goth Garden- phase 1

Oh, my, what a busy day! J15 and I spent all morning at church. She was playing her violin at both services today and I was working at the plant sale. The plant sale was a HUGE success! We made $388 in proceeds for the Common Fund for our local Crisis Center. The common fund is supported by local religious communities and is used to help residents with financial needs such as utility bills they can't pay, etc.
Before the sale.
We had donations of veggie plants, hostas, perennials, herbs and some houseplants. I took 54 veggie and flower seedlings and at a "suggested donation" of $2 each, we sold all but 6 pepper plants and one eggplant. All the heirloom tomatoes I took went quickly, even the unusual varieties. The remaining veggie plants will be donated directly to the crisis center either for use in their community garden or for patrons to pick up to plant at home.
A happy customer!
I even was able to show some restraint and only came home with a few plants. I ended up with two types of oregano, a lonely brussels sprout plant, some wild phlox, a sedum that J15 really wanted and mint with a story. The mint was brought in by one of the other committee members. It is a start from one that she "obtained" while visiting a plantation in Louisiana (the one they used in Mint Juleps!)
The day was beautiful, after our morning frost, and I was able to get all of my little plants planted out. The extended forecast looks good so I'm thinking that this is the last frost of the year. Our usual last frost date is around May 10, and since there isn't going to be anyone home to water little seedlings later this week, they needed to find a home. This included J15's Goth Garden that we are constructing as part of our Kinder Garden challenge.
We got a good start on it!
Semi-dead grass from under shed panels.
We did sheet mulching over the grass to help speed up the process. Unfortunately, we were limited by the area we could cover by the number of newspapers we had on hand.
J15 (soon to be 16!!!) spreads topsoil.
We got all the little plants we had started planted in the garden. There are still a few that will be started in place from seed but those will wait until we have more newspaper to extend the beds and until we get back from Colorado.
Oh, this looks much more black in person!
The pansies and one purchased columbine are the only things blooming at the moment. We needed to go get more topsoil mid project and J15 also selected a Black Knight butterfly bush to go on the corner of the garage.
Phase 1 complete!!!
I also took a rocky part of the vegetable garden space and created a flower/herb garden. I hope to have the herb garden closer to the house eventually but we are still waiting to hear bids from the contractors who will install the new septic.
The herb garden.
This particular section of the garden has lots of gravel in it. We have seen from old aerial photos that they had a round bale feeder here so evidently they, at some point, dumped a load of gravel to keep the hay dry. It isn't really conducive to planting veggies in it- although I did last year- so I decided to turn it into a bed with all kinds of yummy plants to attract beneficial insects into the garden. It also has my kitchen herbs at the moment until I can construct my herb spiral.
We also got all the tomatoes and peppers planted in the garden as well as some zinnia's and my new brussels sprout plant.
I'm tired! But it a good tired, borne of a day of fulfilling work. I got hugs and kisses from my children for Mother's Day and I spoke to my Mom on the phone. I was disappointed that I couldn't go down to see her but she understood how busy we were today and I'll see her later this week at the wedding.
Now, it's time to get the boys to bed, set up coffee for the morning and crawl into bed,

Saturday, May 8, 2010

On the move

Under cover, that is. We are under a freeze warning for tonight. Not just frost- a freeze! Good thing I haven't planted my tender little veggies out in the garden yet. But, it looks like this is it for the year. The extended forecast calls for warmer weather so tomorrow afternoon I'll be planting.
We did the big sort of what we will plant and what will be donated to the plant sale tomorrow at church. I made the mistake of asking V's advice on how much we should plant and now we're probably planting more than I had anticipated. But, we have scaled back the tomatoes from last year. Only 32 plants rather than 50! LOL!! Of course, I have 10 varieties planted so that doesn't help. We are really planting more peppers than we will need. but we hope to smoke some more chipotle so we wanted plenty. The final list for planting:
4 Campbell's Super Secret (we don't know what they will do since we don't know if they are hybrids)
5 Polish Linguisa
2 Amana Orange
1 Yellow Cherry
4 Jaune Flamme
4 Black Krim
2 Mortgage Lifter
3 Amish Paste
3 Black Sea Man
4 Jetsonic Hybrid
5 Jalapeno
5 Anaheim
4 Volcano (hot wax)
1 Cayenne
3 Alma Paprika
2 Peter, Red
2 Yellow Bell
2 Red Bell
2 Long Red Sweet (saved from grocery store peppers that were really good)
3 Black Pearl peppers that will be in J15's Goth Garden
2 Toma Verde Tomatillo
3 India Paint Eggplant
1 Litchi Tomato (Thanks Erin!!)
3 Sunberries

So much for cutting back this year!
J15 and I also picked up supplies this afternoon for doing some sheet mulching for her Goth Garden. I hope we will have time to do that tomorrow as well but I'm not holding my breath. I'm also going to have lots of little flowers finding temporary homes until the septic is done.
And lastly, the baby robins are getting big. There is hardly enough room in the nest for all of them. I just took a quick peek this afternoon- I didn't want to keep Mama from the nest for too long since it was cold today.
Have a wonderful Mother's Day- hug your favorite Mom!

Friday, May 7, 2010


It was a day of arrivals at Troll Bridge Farm. J15 got a letter in the mail this afternoon, informing her that she has been accepted into a two week art program in Minneapolis in June. I'm a bit nervous about letting her go to MN by herself at 16 years old, but she will be somewhat supervised, living in the dorms and taking classes all day. She will also earn college credit and this is a school she has been looking into as she hopes to go into graphic design.
Another arrival today was my greenhouse. I know- it's not Mother's Day quite yet but V got the message that it had arrived and we could pick it up. It is now stored carefully in it's packing boxes in the shop until we figure out where it will go. Hmm, now where to put it.....
The final arrival was a packet of seeds for me. My Edamame seeds arrived today. I wasn't expecting quite so many- but, I guess it is a garden trial...
Nothing fancy here!
I have 6 packets of Gardensoy (12, 24, 32, 41, 42 and 43). Don't you just love the variety names. I'll have to see which grow best here. It could be fun- an experiment!
Now, it's time to go to sleep- I have to work tomorrow. Then, on to plant sale and gardening dreams.....
Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The verdict

Last evening, after doing a bit more reading about Autumn Olives I decided to send an email to our county Extension Service. Partly to make sure I was identifying it correctly and also to ask for advice about leaving or removing it.
I feel kind of torn. This is, in some ways a very useful species. It produces edible fruit, fixes nitrogen in the soil and is great for stabilizing creek banks. On the other hand, it tends to be invasive and can form dense monoculture stands that choke out all other species. Also, by fixing high amounts of nitrogen in the soil, it tends to cause difficulty for species that don't tolerate high nitrogen content.
The contact at the extension office forwarded my email on to two other individuals, one from Iowa State University (a horticultural 'expert') and another with the state DNR. He evidently doesn't know that much about Autumn Olives and had some research (probably read some of the same information I had online) and couldn't offer a good opinion. Both individuals he forwarded the message to got back to me this afternoon. The guy from ISU commented on the uses but also indicated that this is a species that has been popping up more and more and has been causing trouble. He recommended that we remove the shrubs. The guy from the state DNR was much more emphatic. He indicated that this species is no longer recommended to be planted anywhere, for ornamentals or windbreaks and stated that it has become quite a problem in some areas of the state. He likened it to the problems that have been experienced with multiflora rose. He suggested that we remove the bushes immediately, especially since they are so close to our wetland.
So, we will probably go up when we have time and take them out. I've been learning in my permaculture class that there are 'no such things as invasive species' only species that are taking advantage of an unexploited niche in the environment and should be used as an indicator. Maybe I'm still at the skeptical stage but I have trouble with letting invasive species run their course as part of natural succession.
Any and all comments are appreciated as I try to sort through this.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

This and That

Photos of the day....
The chinese cabbage is doing well.
Three baby robins have hatched.
Sorry for the blurry photo- I had to be fast to not upset mama and the angle is hard to see.
That's not a stick- it's a LOG!!
Mystery solved?
Debbie gets the prize. I finally managed to identify this (I think) as an Autumn Olive. It is an introduced species that is considered invasive and has been classified as a noxious weed in some areas. I have seen good and bad things about it so I'm not sure if we should leave it or not. It has some uses- wildlife habitat and food (and the berries are edible). It fixes nitrogen in the soil and is a great stabilizer for stream banks. However, it also tends to crowd out native species and can form monoculture plots that are difficult to eradicate. I sent an email to our local county Extension Office to get some advice. I don't know how much of a problem this plant is in this area- but, it is pretty.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A weary update

I'm weary... It was a full and wonderful weekend. I learned LOTS and am, now rethinking how I garden. But... It's going to be hard to break old habits. I also made the unfortunate realization that I have approximately a week and a half to get all my little seedlings into the ground before we leave for my niece's wedding in Colorado. I've got so much to accomplish in a short amount of time. And I work again this weekend! So, after a weekend that wasn't really a weekend, I now work 6 days straight then have only a few days to get everything done. Ugh.
But it's Monday, time for a quick IDC check-in.
1. Plant something- no, but I did spend lots of time applying mulch around little fruit bushes and in the garden. I did get starts of garlic chives and chocolate mint from classmates this weekend.
2. Harvest something- a bit of chard. I was sorely tempted to pull a very tiny radish but it wasn't quite big enough to make a good taste so I let it grow for another day.
3. Preserve something- no.
4. Waste not- nothing much to report here apart from the usual.
5. Want not- Nothing stored or prepped- Ooo, I take that back! V ordered a little 6x8 foot greenhouse for me for a Mother's Day present. It's not a hoop house but an actual rigid greenhouse with a sliding door and roof vents. Oh what fun I'm going to have this fall and winter! Now I just need to figure out where I will put it. Hmmm-- on goes the thinking cap!
6. Build community- JACKPOT!!! I made some fabulous new friends this weekend. One who drives by my house every day on her way to and from work who said she would bring me some rhubarb and would check on the house and garden while we are gone. We are planning a series of monthly potluck dinners to keep getting together and we plan to see each other at the remainder of the classes. There were only 7 students this weekend which means that we all had plenty of opportunity to get to know each other.
7. Eat the food- we finally had some of the hamburger from the new beef- yowza it is lean!!! I actually had to add oil to the pan to keep it from sticking. And, if possible, it tastes even better than last year. Of course, I had the opportunity to eat local and vegetarian/vegan for lunches this weekend. They had a local chef come in and do demonstration cooking lunches with fresh ingredients she picked up at the farmer's market or ingredients that she had preserved herself last year. o, We had a fabulous salad of raw asparagus, baby greens green onions and organic greenhouse tomatoes and cucumbers. We had feta cheese and olives (not local) to top it off. YUM! Sunday she made a pot of black bean chili from home canned tomatoes and beans. Mmmmm....good eating to keep our brains and our imaginations fired while we learned and designed edible/sustainable landscaping for a local private school's new building (a gold LEED certified building) where we were meeting. Too much fun.
Now, I'm tired. I was so hyped last night after I got home that I didn't fall asleep until late and then my alarm went off as usual at 5:20 this morning. I didn't get a chance to sleep in (6:30 or 7!) this weekend, nor will I next. So, it's too dark outside to work so I'm off to bed. Good night.