Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Black Walnut Pruning

I had actually hoped to remove the black walnut tree. The leaves and fruit are a huge mess and dye everything black as they decompose. The tree branches were so dense that the rain garden next to the driveway was in deep shade all day long. I think all the deciduous plants we'd planted there have died from lack of sun. The ferns have survived mostly.

The huge tree is crammed between the houses and last winter it dropped branches on our roof. They were not super large, but it did have me worried about the possible damage to the house should it drop one of the bigger branches.

However, in the last few years, Portland passed a law that prevents homeowners from removing trees on their private property if the trunk is more than 20" wide. The black walnut is 30" wide.

It is possible I could have found an arborist that would take our side about the danger to the structures and write a letter for us to submit to the city to get permission, but every attempt would cost hundreds of dollars, so we just had the stupid tree pruned back as much as possible. (They also have laws about how much you can prune trees. LOL)

I didn't think to take before photos yesterday before the tree guys came to do the pruning, but I did find a couple of decent shots from last month. I took the comparison shots this morning.
I'm pretty sure the guy crawling around in the branches was part monkey.
Same shot, zoomed out.
The company, should anyone local wish to use them, was Harrity Tree Specialists. They did a nice job working around the structures and they didn't do any major damage to the stuff under the tree as they dropped branches to the ground.

The rain garden is finally getting some sun again. We shall see next spring if the bleeding heart has died; I hope not.

Now, assuming the weather cooperates, Jeff and Aaron will spend a couple of days spreading the pile of mulch they left in our driveway, fixing the broken fence post and digging in soil amendments in that planting bed, then we'll be able to plant the two pawpaw trees and all the rest of the hosta.

Friday, September 13, 2019


Sigh. Another ugly Portland installation. The city doesn't even notify you it's going to happen; they just show up and put it in.
I'm definitely going to plant a vine on it next spring.

I also wanted to remove the massive black walnut tree between the houses in the side yard. It is way too big for the location and tends to drop branches on the roof, but apparently, Portland won't let owners remove trees on their private property once they are more than 20" across. So we are stuck dealing with his huge tree and paying $1500 pruning bills every five years or so.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Planting Started

After four days of rain and thunderstorms, today the weather was pleasantly cloudy and dry. It was still too damp to resume painting the shed, but it did give Jeff and Aaron a chance to resume work on the Hidden Garden. They finished setting the stepping stones in sand. It's a pretty informal path as we just used whatever pavers/stones we had leftover in piles.

They also put in the pad for the bench. We had this chunk of urbanite hanging out in the driveway and it proved to be the perfect size for the bench.
We have realized we're going to have to paint the bench a darker color because there are always little muddy footprints on the white stain. Bailey is quite the little jumper.

Then they finished amending the soil with many bags of cow manure and double-digging most of the planting beds. Jeff also dug in the crimson clover so it would serve as green manure.

We managed to get the most critical plants in the ground (i.e. bareroot bulbs), but it was a long day and we were tired so we called it quits before all the plants made it into the ground. Hopefully, the weather will still be nice enough tomorrow to finish.
I had worried I'd oversubscribed the space with plants, but once we laid them out on the ground, there is an awful lot of empty space.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

It Rained :(

Jeff and Aaron managed to fill all the nail holes and do more priming on Friday. I painted the first coat of paint on the door.
Since it started raining on Saturday, we didn't get to start putting the paint on. Instead, we did a bit of garage organizing.

I managed to clear off the big workbench and sanded off all the marks and sealed it with two coats of the Daly's Seafin' Ship'N Shore leftover from the planting table.
I've spent several hours now sifting misc. boxes into the large sterilite tubs and the piles of loose stuff are diminishing. Here is how the garage looks at the end of day today.
We obviously still have a lot of work ahead of us. LOL

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Painting Weather

The weather has finally cooled off and we have several days of weather with low risk of rain in the forecast so today—finally—we got to work on priming the garden shed. Once Aaron arrived to help Jeff, I wandered off to my own painting project.
I think unless we get rain, we'll be able to finish painting this by the end of the weekend.

I nearly finished up painting the galvanized iron patio furniture. Jeff wanted more copper on it, so I painted all the cornucopias in the copper paint. I need to do a bit of touch up with green paint, but I'm quite happy with how it looks.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Planting Table Set Up

I've finished sealing the planting table and I'm quite happy how it turned out.

In June, Jeff bought me some Daly's Seafin' Ship'N Shore, a fairly expensive sealer, for the picnic table. But then we bought the can of Olympic Rescue It!  Since we had not returned the can of sealer, I decided to try it on the planting table.
I only sealed the horizontal surfaces.
I sprayed a bit of water on the table yesterday and it beaded on the surface.
While it was so hot in Portland yesterday we worked on clearing out the spot for it in the basement. Aaron and Jeff moved it into the basement this morning. I spent the morning moving in. I'm excited to start using it for seed starting.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Bareroot Hostas

I've never had hostas before, but I constantly see them in photos of shade gardens and when I learned they survive fine under black walnuts I decided I should probably add them to our plant shopping list.

A couple of weeks ago when I was working on my plant layout for the hidden garden I ran across this deal: Hosta Bumper Crop Mix (10) for $10 plus shipping. Having learned from my past experience with fraudulent online sellers, before I considered ordering I looked them up on Dave's Garden and they had acceptable reviews. I don't expect every company to be perfect, but I do expect them to fix their mistakes.

Anyway, I ended up spending $28 on 20 bareroot hostas. Since most of the hostas I see at nurseries are at least $6, I figured if at least 5 of them lived I'd be ahead. LOL  They arrived a couple of days after I ordered them.
They were packed in bags with moist sawdust which still had some moisture when they arrived.
They looked healthy enough. At least they looked alive.

One thing I did badly when I ordered is I forgot to consider my pot situation. I was almost out of gallon pots. So, when these came, I had to cram most of them into deep 4" pots, which some of them clearly didn't like.
Over the past week it was obvious which weren't going to make it in the little pots and we've put those in the ground and they're doing well now. (I'm not including photos of all of the hosta in the ground.)
And the rest in the pots, only about 10 days after I planted them.
I don't know my hosta varieties, but it does look like I only got two different kinds. It would have been nice to have more variety, but if you don't care what kind you get, this particular deal was a great bargain.

Update later: Got them all in gallon pots and it looks like there might be 3 varieties. I hope to get all these in the ground in September, once we have the black walnut tree pruned.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Firewood Rack

And we finished another salvage wood project! A firewood rack for the side of the house.
This project used up the last of the weathered 2x4s and fence slats. Some of the boards were pretty skanky but they worked fine for this purpose.

The rack is designed to sit on top of cinder blocks. Here is the original inspiration photo and the website: Firewood Rack Plan for Half Rick of Wood Built on Cinder Blocks
We'll put it in the queue and Jeff and Aaron will put it up on cinder blocks and level it in a few weeks. This should encourage us to hang on to some of the firewood kicking around the yard. It will also help us limit how much we keep because with how rarely we have fires, this amount of firewood should be plenty.

This is probably the last salvage project for a while since we are almost out of wood. We still have quite a few 2x6s left, but I'm not really finding projects that use them. I'm open to suggestions. LOL

Update later:

Friday, August 23, 2019

Operation Organize Garage

Building all of these salvage projects has given us the confidence to take on a bigger project: Garage De-Disastering. There is so much stuff in there right now it is impossible to work inside. This is what it looks like today (and shockingly this is actually better than it was a few weeks ago before Aaron and Jeff put a bunch of shingles up in the rafters.)
I'd really like to take everything out and organize all the smaller stuff into tubs. And we'll also finally get rid of the remaining SCA gear we no longer use. Some of it is crammed into the back corner so we haven't been able to get to it to rehome it all.

I looked around for some easy-to-build tub storage shelves and I decided to go with the garage storage wall design from the Family Handyman website. As usual, though, I'm not going to use their exact design; I needed to change some of the dimensions to better fit the 56- and 28-quart Sterilite tubs.
This is two racks, side-by-side. The white boxes
represent the dimensions of the tubs we're going to use.
This design requires almost no cutting; we only have to cut 5 sheets of plywood in half the long way. All the rest of the pieces are 8'. This is a 16' run of shelves and we should be able to fit it along the left-side wall.

This is not our next project. First, we have to finish painting the shed. And then we have to finish prepping the soil and planting all the plants in the Hidden Garden behind the garage. After those tasks are finished, we can hopefully turn our attention to this project.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Garden Bench

We finished another project! I've been having a lot of fun building stuff with our giant pile of salvaged lumber. This time a small bench for our hidden garden.
I can't really say that we made it for free like many blogs do because ultimately we did buy the wood and the expensive white stain, just not for this project. But we spent no additional money to finish this project.

I decided to spend a bit more care with this wood because it is going to continue to live in the weather. First I sanded it, then I stained all of the edges with at least two coats of the opaque outdoor stain we used on the fence and pergola.

This bench was actually made from a mix of cedar and fir scraps. I think the cedar was leftover from our fence project and most of the fir was leftover from building the shed. But I'm pretty sure some of the sketchy boards we took 9-inch pieces from were still kicking around from when we demolished the old garage in 2012. There were some boards that were mostly rotted but if they had a good 9-inches, we cut it off and used it. The parts that were too far gone to use are now loaded in the back of the truck, bound for the Metro recycling center.

This will be its spot in the hidden garden. The guys have dug a trench to make a pad for it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Good Progress Today

The guys had a good day today working on backyard projects. Jeff did a quick pressure wash of my planting table. Once it dries out, I'm going to use a sealer on the tabletop and shelf before it moves into the basement.
Then he pressure-washed the wall along the property line. We didn't realize quite how dirty it was until he started cleaning it.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Potting Bench

I'm super excited about what we built from salvaged wood! Maybe you guys remember from the photos of the yard the mess of wood along the fence?
I offered it all, plus the big logs, for free on craigslist. Unsurprisingly, we had no takers for the lumber but plenty of people wanted the logs.

Yesterday, Aaron and Jeff worked on cleaning up this back area so they could start prepping the soil for planting. Jeff decided to just take all the wood to Metro for disposal; they would know what to do with well-weathered wood. But as they walked past with load after load of all that salvaged wood, I couldn't do it...

I ran into the house and looked up a few projects made from 2x4s and printed out the plans. We made the first one today!! A planting bench—just in time for my new seedling project.
We got this design from Ana White's website: Simple 2x4 Potting Bench. The design was super easy to follow and really the whole project took us maybe three hours. Jeff did make one modification from her plan. He didn't like the way the cross braces attached into the edge of the thin boards so he added another 2x4 for it to screw into.

The tabletop and shelf were finished with the old fence slats. The guys took the fence panels apart last night and Jeff cut the pieces down to size. I sanded the boards that went on the tabletop because they were a little splintery (is that a word?). Since they are wider than the 1x4s in her plan we had to adapt the design a bit; there are fewer slats and more overhang.

I'm still debating whether I'm going to do any more sanding of the horizontal surfaces before it moves into the basement. I may also finish the tabletop with varnish or something. I haven't decided. We also haven't installed the little shelf on the top yet. The fence boards were too thin to screw into the edge. I need to go dig through our scrap in the garage to find a better piece of wood.

Stay tuned for another project soon (I hope).

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Seed Starting

I can't believe it's already August. This summer has gone so fast. I hope we have time to finish all the summer projects on our list.

I'm still spending most of my indoor time obsessing about the yard. When it was raining the last several days, I sifted through and inventoried all our old seed packets. We had them stashed all over the place; hopefully, I finally managed to get all our seeds in one place. It turns out I have a bit of a seed-collecting problem I hadn't even noticed. I probably had nearly 100 unopened seed packets. LOL

Quite a few packets were more than 5 years old (we had a bunch that were 17 years old!); I discarded all of them. About 20 packets date from 2017 when I dreamed about planting the front parking strip the first time. And there's quite a lot from this spring when I did a second round of shopping for the planting strip, obviously forgetting I'd purchased the first batch of seeds.

Anyway, a good 50% of the seeds were for full sun only and I sifted through and gave away all but the ones I liked the most. Our lot is too shady and I decided not to hang onto seeds I probably won't get around to using before they lose all viability. I'd rather give them away to someone who can use them now.

Now that Jeff has cleared out some room in the backyard rain garden, we have another spot with full sun to plant in. And I have quite a few pansies, which are short enough to plant amongst the vegetable garden next year.

So, I decided to get serious about growing plants from seeds. Some of the flowers are very pretty and I'd like to see them. We struggle a lot with sowing outside because we are lousy at identifying new shoots that are seeds we planted versus those that are weeds. We do far better when we set out small plants that are easily identified. So, I poked around for a good way to start seeds indoors over the winter.

I found inspiration for setting up a growing station with a 48-inch storage rack we already owned. I bought the cheapest two-light fixtures I could find and some aquarium fluorescent bulbs. The plant trays and covers were relatively inexpensive and I'm planning to reuse 3 and 4-inch pots from plants I bought this year. (Yes, I've already disinfected them with bleach rinse.)
I don't think the lights will provide enough heat to keep the trays warm, so I've also ordered, but haven't gotten yet, four individual heating pads for under the trays. The basement gets really cold in the winter and I'd like these plants to live.

The past two days, I've been making a spreadsheet listing all the seeds we have, along with the pertinent information I need to grow them from seed, in particular when to start them so they're ready to go outside after the last spring frost.

I'm sort of anxious to get started, but it's still too early. I think the first batch of seeds needs to go in during November.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Thimbleberry is Gone!

I đź’śWednesdays because that is when Aaron comes to help Jeff with bigger yard projects. I posted in June about how I was done with the thimbleberry and I was ready to put in more flowers. I was happy Jeff was on board and decided to work on the project today.

This morning I took some before shots.
It wasn't terrible, I was just ready for a more flowery change. We originally planted these plants for the birds to eat the berries. I have never seen a bird back there eating berries off any of our natives. I did, however, see one stealing blueberries.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Puttering Thru Summer

I had hoped to finish all my painting projects by the end of July, but the projects are going slower than I expected.

This week I've been painting the metal patio set. The primer is taking a lot longer to dry than the can says. Perhaps I'm putting on coats that are too thick, or it's too humid. It seems like I spend most of my time waiting for primer to dry. And I only have space to work on one piece at a time. I've finished the table and now I'm working on the chairs. I'd never done a project this large, so I didn't have a good idea about how much paint to buy. I've run through four cans and I need to get more. LOL
On a whim, I decided to paint the flowers with copper paint. I like it. It's fun.

Yesterday, I made another batch of canned peaches.
I've finished the front porch wicker and ended up buying cushions for them. I could have made them myself, but while I was shopping for fabric and foam, I realized it was cheaper to just buy these from Target. They work well enough for our needs and they'll likely last the two years we plan to use them.
The patio table has been finished, but we've decided to move the pieces to Prineville unassembled. It will fit in the back of the truck a lot more easily in pieces. We've gotten all the hardware/screws to assemble them again, and we'll bundle them all up so we can easily locate all the pieces to put it back together on the other end.

And we water plants daily. We have a lot of plants sitting around in pots and I'd like them to make it until September, when we plan to plant the hidden garden behind the garage.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

More Plants

In my never-ending quest for color palette perfection, I dragged Jeff to a couple of nurseries somewhat outside of Portland this weekend.

Loen Nursery was having an end-of-season sale so we went on Saturday to get our Japanese maple. My plan called for an Acer palmatum 'Sherwood Flame' because all my research told me it maxed out at 15' and was burgundy in the summer and red in the fall. But, the 'Sherwood Flame' Loen had in stock was neither burgundy nor red. It was green, which would not do. So, right then, I ditched the plan and instead bought an Acer palmatum 'Wolfe', called Emperor I. Its mature height is a little taller than the Sherwood Flame, but it is at least burgundy/red.

We also picked out several perennials, which were 50% off. And we bought a tray of plants for groundcover.

On Sunday, we drove out to Blooming Junction in Cornelius because they have an online inventory and it looked like they carried a few plants I'd been looking for for a while. They, unfortunately, were not having a sale, but we did get a couple of plants I'd had trouble locating. And, of course, we brought home a few spontaneous purchases. It's hard to pass up beautiful blooming plants.

So, now we've got most of the plants for the Hidden Garden here, lined up and ready to go in the ground when we're ready. I'll probably re-pot most of the 4" pots into gallon pots to survive the August heat. The rest of the plants not yet purchased are just not available right now, so I'll have to wait. (I hate waiting.)
We are getting quite the fern collection. It seems like every time we see a fern we don't already have in our yard, we pick up at least one.
Last month, Jeff spread some leftover crimson clover seeds and has been watering the area. I think he is trying to bring up the mint and blackberry so he can remove them, and to amend the soil by turning under the clover in a few weeks when they're ready to dig in soil amendments.

I finally got primer for my vintage patio set, so I plan to start working on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Painting "Booth"

Jeff jury-rigged up a painting booth in the pergola and, despite the heat, I've been busy the last several days painting the wicker chairs. I've never painted wicker before so I didn't realize how much paint they require to do a good job. Jeff had to go buy more cans in the middle of the project. I think I used eight cans for the four green pieces.

I used the Rust-Oleum Painter's Touch Ultra Cover Gloss Hunter Green Spray Paint, which was on sale at our local Ace Hardware. The gloss is nice, but I don't know how long it will last, and it makes the wicker look vaguely plastic.

I also need to sing the praises for the Can Gun 1 which made this project SO MUCH easier.
First I painted the white chairs and they're listed for sale.
These look much better now.
Painted and drying
I need to figure out if I can recycle these
I still need to paint the metal table, but I need to make a trip out to Lowe's to get primer; I finally found a reasonably priced option that will prime galvanized metal.