It’s always good to look back and see where we’ve been. I figured I’d pull together some of the photos of the front of the house so you all can see the progress. I think it largely speaks for itself:
So, after taking down the Christmas lights, we re-roofed the main house and painted the stucco grey. We also put new cedar fascia boards on both the 1st and 2nd floor eaves. I put some landscaping bricks around the front and planted some glossy chokeberry bushes I got from work. After that I scraped the old, chipping paint off the window and door trim, re-primed and then painted all of it dark green. I also took out the old, accidentally painted outer basement windows, put in window wells and well-covers on. Paul’s mom helped me repaint the stucco scallops along the ground so the white really pops. Next I took off all six storm windows, cleaned them and spray-painted them white. Most recently, we replaced the screen door. Not too bad!
Still lots to do, but I definitely feel like this has been one of the more impressive transformations thus far.
June and July have been intense months, filled with many projects that are bringing us closer to completion of the bathroom and 1st floor bedroom. Plumbing, electrical, more window replacements, fire blocking, drywall prep work have all been on Paul’s work list over the past several weeks, and I’m hoping to get some photos up on a lot of that as things get done. Meanwhile, I’ve been spending most days working on the exterior: weeding, digging out the sidewalks, painting stucco & trim, landscaping, and so on. Point being, we have a lot of projects labelled “ongoing” that therefore don’t lend well to the “here’s what we just finished” format of the blog. So, I’ll be posting more about general goings-on until that changes.
One relatively recent development that has us a bit stumped is a conflict we’ve been having recently with some of the local wildlife. Specifically, a red squirrel and a family of groundhogs. Honestly, we had a not-so-auspicious start to our relationship with the resident mammal population. When we first bought the house, there was a garbage can on the property that had filled with water and then frozen over the winter. As spring came around, the can slowly thawed, until we could tip it over and let most of the water out. However, the middle was still frozen, and as the ice slid out of the garbage can onto the grass, we discovered that it had a freaking tail:
A couple weeks ago, Paul and I decided to check out a nursery that had been overwhelmingly voted “best garden center in the South Metro” on the local Patch website, Gerten’s Farm Market. For those of you familiar with the area, this is not the enormous, sprawling Gerten’s you can see from I-494 in Inver Grove Heights, but rather a separate business not too far down the road. We were just planning to scope the place out, but then I saw them: so many petunias! The pink and purple mix caught my eye, and that was that. I bought a tray-full and brought them home.
But hmm, what to do with them? After a little bit of scouring the property for good planting spots (there’s still not really many), we settled on planting them around the mailbox. I hate mowing around that thing anyway, so let’s remove the grass from the equation, right? After a trip to Menards for black plastic edging, a trip to the County compost site for some free mulch, and a few hours of prepping and planting, this is what we ended up with:
Of course, there were set backs — it wouldn’t be the Twin Cities Farmhouse without something unexpected! I chose the diameter of my flower bed’s edging before starting, so of course, as I’m digging: CLUNK. Upon inspection, I found a square metal post that had been sheared off just below ground level. Almost certainly a former mailbox post. Unfortunately, it was really buried in there, and I couldn’t be asked to dig it out, so I shifted my trench over ever so slightly to set the edging into. Luckily, the way the flowers ended up being spaced seems to have made it impossible to tell which side I shifted it to. Dare you to guess!
Now that all of the radishes have been harvested and the bed has been cleaned out, I thought I would talk about our first crop.
This year we are doing variety testing where we test which varieties of different vegetables grow best in our climate, soil, etc., and which ones produce the most uniform, appealing crop. Before we increase our scale, we need to know which vegetable varieties will be the most successful. As Leigh mentioned in a previous post, we tried two varieties of radish this year—Early Scarlet Globe and Plum Purple. We got both varieties from Seed Savers Exchange, a seed house outside Decorah, Iowa. Both had a great taste and weren’t too woody, but one was a clear winner.
The Early Scarlet Globe matured evenly and put more growth into the root (the edible part of a radish) than the tops. It also was spicy enough to have a good flavor, but wasn’t too spicy. The Plum Purple had a great color, but it didn’t produce as many radishes per foot of row and some were quite spicy. Also, many of them grew large, numerous leaves but only had a small, inedible root. Fortunately we planted three times as much of the red variety as the purple.
So what does this mean for the future? Well, I still have half of the red variety seeds and so this fall I will plant another crop of that variety. In future years we will probably plant the Early Scarlet Globe variety as our main radish variety, but I still want to try out some other varieties to get a diversity of colors. Johnny’s Selected Seeds has a few hybrid radishes in non-red colors that could be promising.
In the meantime we have a lot of other vegetables to try. We already have the kale, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower in the ground and there are many others that will be going out soon, including five varieties of tomato. We’ll keep posting as the year progresses and more things are harvested.