Les jardins de rocailles

Rock gardens. Our summers always start with moving rocks around. Great to get the back and knees in shape for a long summer of running around in the woods and building things. No toes were crushed over the past couple of weeks, but we did manage to pull together a few gardens from the rubble in between various trips. Behold:

And out back, even more rebuilding of formerly lovely, but abandoned/neglected terraced gardens around the patio.

To the left of this set of terraces, we significantly rebuilt the wall that had basically completely toppled over and was a condominium for chipmunks. We did that one today, and have no pictures yet…but it’s looking really nice, and houses my collection of columbines. Here are a few of them – they are especially stunning now, all in bloom.

I have a work trip this week, but KJ plans to start on the rock steps that lead to the back yard. Luckily we have more rocks than anything else here, so no shortage of materials.

Oof – it’s finally spring

It’s been a tough couple of months, with some sad news about family and dreary weather to boot. Spring has never been more welcome, and it finally seemed to arrive this weekend. Getting outside and into some gardening (which here has a lot to do with rocks) was just what the doctor ordered. Here are a few early spring projects that have gotten us going; we have a lot more planned for this summer and look forward to more time outside the cabin.

First, signs of spring:

Second, jobs of spring: we renovated a couple of fallen/overgrown beds. Near the back of last year’s new veggie garden, there was a tangle of lilacs on a rock. We scraped it clean, added a new set of steps to access the cucumber patch, and planted in more creeping phlox rescued from the road ditch, which is scheduled by the town to be completely redone this year. We also tidied up the rock garden immediately to its left, and moved those lilacs to the far end of the cave seen here, so they can hold back the soil next to the porch. And smell pretty too.

We also rebuilt a small bed to the right of the stairs, where rocks had tumbled off and left a mess anchored only by a sad red osier dogwood and a false honeysuckle rescued from the ditch on the other side of the road last year. We bought a few humble junipers to fill in the back and hold the slope, and will get some perennials to fill the front, hopefully when Mom & Dad come to visit in a few weeks. Greenhouse field trip!

Finally, we checked out the small mess of intermittent water tumbling in from the upper end of the property and coordinated some of the flow that previous owners had running through a wrecked old pipe – now it runs under this great natural stone bridge rather than creating a giant soppy leaf pack all over the back ‘valley’ under the leaves.

More rock & gardens to follow as we continue to work our way around on the weekends until work lets up.

Garden dreaming

We are really looking forward to getting out to do some landscaping and gardening this summer, with priorities in the back yard and some smaller projects out front. As we were thinking about the back yard, I realized that last year, every time I wanted to pop in a plant or snag a weed, I had to run through our around the house, down 25 steps, and to the garage to grab my trowel or weeder and gloves. Barring adding a shed out back (which we don’t want to do), it seemed that having a stash of simple tools would be ideal, so I looked online for old mailboxes, thinking I could install one that would look window-box-like under the bathroom window, in easy reach. Most of the ones I liked on ebay or etsy were a fortune – but I found this gem for under $20 and the seller worked with me to reduce shipping to a reasonable amount. And it’s absolutely perfect – exactly what I was imagining, and old galvanized, beat-up mailbox from a farm in the midwest. We cleaned it up and clearcoated it to keep any additional rust from forming, mounted it, and popped in some new tools and a pair of gloves my Aunt sent me last fall. Now we’re ready, whenever the sun wants to come out.

Sealing the ceiling

We are behind on posts, but we’ve been working away at a bunch of tiny projects – the kind that live on the punch list until everything more fun is done, and you can’t ignore them any more, and it’s still to cold to garden. So here come a few posts about insignificant-seeming projects that nonetheless make our space a nicer place. First off, the ceiling in one corner of the kitchen where all the leftover evils gathered: the uneven underside of the loft floor, a flying beam from the bedroom wall, the open top near the bathroom fan that we weren’t sure we were ready to close in. It wasn’t really visible as it was above a small kitchen cabinet, but needed to be closed in nonetheless. Enter some leftover log slabs, a 1/4 sheet of whitewashed plywood (this was new to us, like this but 1/2″ thickness), and some patience as we made a zillion cardboard templates since the shape of everything was crazy.
Somehow I didn’t get any before pictures.

Note new clamps! I had an old un-used Groupon for Rockler and we remembered to stop by when we were on mini-vacation a few weeks ago. They work great!┬áJust ignore that hole in the wall – it was where we were going to put a fixture until we found the cabinet. Luckily the cabinet covers it :).
Everything in, and caulked the edges. Just needs final touch-up at this stage.

Finished! I’m not sure anyone else will notice, but I feel better.

Nice legs!

Still winter, still weird weather – hot, cold, ice, snow, rain, ugh! Not so easy to do big projects. So, another little one: I’ve wanted to change out the legs on our fairly generic Target storage benches that make up the ‘dining room’ banquette forever, and finally found two sets that are close enough matches and the right length on ebay. (Set two in the mail now – they look like a match, so fingers crossed). Today I grabbed new top plates (brackets) for them, and installed the first set. Thank goodness new plates are still made for the exact same thread pattern. The new-old legs are so much more classy! Witness: before, so blocky and really poorly made/finished.

And after, so chic! And solid. Nothing like vintage – you get good quality with the right feel.


And the side-by-side comparison. No contest.

Stay tuned for more cabin-fever fun!


Pretty pictures

We did do some projects this week, but minor ones, or ones that aren’t quite done yet. But, we had the prettiest day today and it seemed like maybe just some pretty pictures capture it for the week. This first set is in the back yard:

And these lovely bits are from walking the dogs around the lake. Snow was unloading from branches the whole time – the dogs kept thinking I was throwing snowballs at them!

We’re starting to get fired up for spring projects–it suddenly feels not so far away.

Last light

We finished! The last light installation – finally! We were set to do it in the fall, but a series of work things and weather surprises kept us from installing this last porch light. Last weekend, we had an unseasonably warm day (a little over 40 degrees – heat wave!), so we set up the ladder and got this light installed over the front steps. It made a huge difference – especially on these dark winter nights. Still to do: we need at least a week of 40 degree temps to caulk around the fixture, but that can wait until spring. We’re crossing this off the list anyways.


Little hollow log

Little jobs are on the docket this winter. First, developing something to hide our last messy bit of infrastructure: a mess of cords and wiring that had to be in this location next to the pellet stove. Yes, it took me two years to think of an appealing, creative solution for this.


I was inspired by out pile of log slabs–cut-offs from mills, usually free or nearly free, that we burn for the hot tub but have found myriad other uses for. And I decided to build a fake little hollow log by matching up slabs and attaching them together with cleats, thusly:

Looked pretty good. Some log caulk will help hide the seams.

But what to top it with? Pondered a stretched bit of leather (like a drum), a metal cap, or a wood top, and then I happened across someone selling log “cookies” for a couple bucks each – perfect. I grabbed two (I’m sure we’ll find a use for the second one!) and scribed it to fit the odd profile against the log wall. And here it is! First unfinished, then stained so it blends in with the old log walls. One problem solved, a million to go.