Friday, April 30, 2010


When I was digging up dirt and plants on the back side of the terrace, I dug up this tenacious little guy:

I felt bad digging it out after it had worked so hard to push through that piece of wood. So I planted it back in the ground. Hopefully it survives!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The dark side...of the terrace

Okay, so it's not really the dark side because it's the south side. But it's the hidden side because it's behind the arbor vitaes and it's on the outside edge of our yard. Our neighbors are a bit concerned about the major positive slope coming into their yard from our yard so we had to do something.

I dug these old boards out of the garage - they were the old boards on the original roof.

I nailed on some leftover lathe to keep the boards together.

I had dug out the dirt from the fence and put the wood in there.

Then I filled the dirt back in (including a couple plants I had had to dig up). Now the giant hill can slope down to this and water won't pour into the neighbors yard.

And here's the rest of it done. I guess it's kind of hard to tell with all the arbor vitae in the way, but there will probably be other pictures of it later.

The fence juts in to our yard like that because there used to be an enormous (enormous!) tree right there. Apparently it's branches touched the roof on our house - which would make it just enormous! It had to go maybe 15 or 20 years ago. Most of the wood from the trunk left behind is rotted away. I ran into a lot of that while digging down to the bottom of the fence.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Good neighbors

One of our neighbors a few houses up was splitting up some plants and he brought all of these over to us.

A couple wild parsley, a regular thyme, two creeping thyme, a chamomile, and several oregano.

Thanks neighbor!!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

One mystery down, one to go (and more to discover!)

Last year I posted about this little flower that someone had identified as a Shooting Star. Nope, not a Shooting Star. It remained a mystery to me - although I'm embarrassed to see now that in the comments someone did identify the flower! It's Tulipa Tarda. Basically it's a dwarf tulip and it likes to spread, almost like a ground cover.

The poor little guy got absolutely trampled this year (you can kind of see the broken up leaves in the picture). Basically, when the leaves start coming out, it looks like a hosta and I kind of don't stop myself from stomping on hostas (sorry hosta lovers). The flowers suddenly bloomed last week and I immediately dug them up and moved them to safer spots. I know they've already spread because last year there was one clump with two flowers - this year there were two clumps with 3 or 4 blooms each!

The other mystery plant I mentioned two weeks ago.

One person thought it was purslane, but after comparing photos, I don't think that's what it is. Our next door neighbor's mother-in-law is a professional horticulturalist who helps me identify things now and then. She wasn't sure what the plant was, but she guessed Teucrium, otherwise called Germander. After looking at those photos, I'm not really sure that's what it is either.

The flowers actually just started coming out with tiny little petals. Hopefully eventually I'll figure out what this is.

And I'm sure in the meantime I'll find something else popping up in the yard that needs identifying!

Monday, April 26, 2010


My mushroom maniac husband is at it again. He found out about these winecap mushrooms and he really wanted to try them.

He picked up a bunch of wood chips from one of the city piles and mixed those with some dirt and wood chips left over from drilling the mushroom logs. He mixed it all up in this big garbage can and then spread it out on the north side of the house.

Then he spread the winecap spawn over the top of the dirt-woodchip combo.

After that he spread hay over the whole thing. The north side is good for winecaps because they need shade. But, as you can see, the north side of our house will be getting a bit of sun in the summer!

Hopefully in the fall we'll have some mushrooms peaking up here. I don't think we've ever had winecaps and we don't know what they taste like, so this will be an experiment! We'll let you know when they come up and what they taste like

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Bread Baker's Apprentice

Back in January or February after I succeeded in my New Year's Resolution about washing all the plastic baggies that had piled up, I thought of another resolution: making at least one recipe out of each of the cookbooks I have that I've never cooked anything out of. I think I saw someone else that had done that and I thought it was a good idea. I haven't managed to do that till now.

I got this book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, for Christmas from Jeremy and it has some glorious looking breads in it. All the recipes call for "instant yeast" which I haven't been able to find in the store yet.

Anyway, I finally baked the Light Wheat Bread recipe last week. Fresh out of the oven, it was incredible! It wasn't quite as good a day or two later, but still quite edible. I'm excited to try some other recipes from this book...eventually.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Seedlings update

You wouldn't think I could fall so horribly behind in just five days, but it is spring and things are happening fast! So there will be a lot of posts to come...

First, a little update on seedlings. I showed you our mudroom turned sprout-room a month ago. Now there are a lot of plants growing there!

That photo was from a week ago and I feel like there are twice as many plants as that now. That's because Jeremy had to move some to bigger containers. So the whole platform is covered in plant containers.

We put the peas outside a week or two ago and they seem to be doing well.

There are also four of those seed starting trays stacked in other areas of the mudroom waiting for sprouts to come up.

The weather has been wacky here in Minneapolis and is causing a lot of garden angst. Wacky in that it has been warm and lovely, as if we had spring or a long growing season - which we don't. People keep wondering if they should just go ahead and plant now, maybe there won't be a frost, maybe it will be okay. Some are forcing themselves to hold out till Mother's Day weekend before they plant. Our usual last frost date is the end of May. But this year, we haven't had temperatures below 40 in a couple weeks at least and there is no sign of frost in the future.

But I, like many other gardeners, still keep thinking it's too good to be true. Surely Minnesota will surprise us with a freak snowstorm or freezing weather or something. So we're scared to plant too much outside. And yet... this good weather is too good not to take advantage of! So I've seen a few vegetable plants going in the ground. Our next door neighbor even planted his beans.

And, as soon as we get some compost to mix in our beds, we'll start planting as well. Yay spring!!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Ongoing project: dirt

Last week blogger-friend Arika got a load of dirt/compost and I commented that I wished I could get a load of dirt delivered. And then just a few days later we did get a load of dirt delivered! Jeremy and our neighbor worked out a deal and they drove off to some transfer station with lots of compost-y dirt material, loaded it up together and dumped piles at our house and his.

Mr. Pile of Dirt:

meet our raised bed:

ooh, don't they look good together!?

While we were at it, we topped off a bit of the other two beds:

And then I did some work putting this compost-y dirt into the terrace.

We still had about 1/3 of the pile left but discovered on Sunday that someone had come by and made off with our dirt! We have several different people coming by from time to time to remove dirt from our yard that we don't want (fill dirt and dirt we don't have room for). I suspect someone came by and thought our compost was the dirt to take. Bummer!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Quaking Aspens

I don't remember if I talked about these trees last year, but they are one of the things that really endeared the house to me. We have this stand of 5 Quaking Aspen trees. They look a little like Birch, with the white bark and black "scars." What distinguishes this tree is the flattened petioles (I'm thinking that's a fancy term for stems). Somehow with the stems flattened the leaves will tremble or quake in the slightest of breezes. And it makes a wonderful sound. These trees don't usually flower but propagate themselves through their root systems.

Here's a video of one of the trees in the wind. Somehow it reminds me of confetti.

We had to top this one because some disease had caused the top of the tree to die. But it seems to have come back just fine.

Just today I was exploring in the yard and discovered this:

A baby Aspen tree! It's 6 1/2 inches tall. I'll have to keep an eye on it and see how fast it grows. It's coming up in the middle of my flower/herb patch, but I don't think it will ever get that big and the phlox and other whatnots will make room. I'm rather pleased that the trees are cloning themselves (since that's what they're doing!) because we have three Siberian Ash trees just a few yards over that are all going to have to go.

The Midwest is dealing with a serious Emerald Ash Borer epidemic and the solution is to just get rid of every last Ash tree. It's okay in this case because this particular kind of ash is one of the junkiest trees around. It drops loads of sticks and other little junk all the time and makes a mess of the yard. I'd rather get rid of them and make room for a whole stand of Aspens!

Oh, and ironically (for us anyway) these guys are sometimes called Quakies or Quakers!

Friday, April 16, 2010


The news is spreading amongst friends, neighbors, relatives and complete strangers. Yes, we were in the New York Times yesterday!

One of their writers happens to live here in the cities and he was working on an article about mushrooms when he heard about the class Jeremy gave last month. He was there at the class to take some notes and came back later to interview us (well, mostly Jeremy) about all things mushroom. Several days later a very nice photographer came out and spent a couple hours taking pictures. It was all sort of surreal! And it was very interesting to be one of the interview subjects and then see how the story turned out.

Besides emails from friends and family telling us how cool this is, we've also be contacted by other folks who want to learn about mushrooms and even a graphic designer! It will be interesting to see where this notoriety takes us.

But unfortunately - we never managed to get a copy of the paper for ourselves!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


And the mystery plant is ... a tulip!

All those leaves and only one bloom. But that's okay - there are nearly a dozen more in front getting ready to bloom:

Back to the first tulip photo - that green blur in the upper left should be a hollyhock that I swiped from the community garden. It was growing in the middle of a path so it wasn't going to last long anyway. The greenish blur behind the tulip is a bunch of purple irises. The green blur to the left is a stand of Siberian Iris - little bitty miniature irises! Well, that's the guess anyway. They didn't bloom at all last year, but the same three or four clumps had gone untended (and unsplit) for many years. So we'll see if they do any better this year. I really hope they do turn out to be mini irises and not just a clump of fancy grass.

All over the yard other things are leaping to life: tons of phlox, astilbe, irises, coreopsis, bleeding heart, wild geranium, peonies, wild violets and bellflower. Our cherry tree looks like it will burst into bloom any moment now:

I am very intrigued by this mystery plant:

I found it struggling along in the side yard last year and moved it up to the rain garden in front. It has probably tripled in size and looks so happy and healthy it's incredible. Now it even looks like it might bloom! It's probably just some standard ground cover... but I won't rest till I find out what it is.

And lastly, Jeremy's mushrooms have been growing like crazy. As long as the temps are over 50 degrees the logs will keep pushing out mushrooms. He's probably picked three our four pounds of Shiitakes in the last several weeks.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Compost aeration

When we moved here last year one of the first things that came with us was our compost bins.

We thought that spot by the fence would be great - and in fact it was pretty much the only available spot. But then we put a chicken coop on the other side of it and the two enormous trees leafed out and we realized our bins were not getting near enough sun.

So last week I dug out all the compost and we moved the bins over to the garage. And these are some heavy bins. Think about lifting seven large pallets at the same time! We managed though and then there was a bunch of repair work - slats of wood needing to be nailed back in and I put on some mesh in some areas to keep compost from falling out through the sides. This spot gets very warm so it should be a nice compost-generating place.

I had to temporarily pile all the compost next to the chicken coop while we moved the bins and the girls were pretty excited about this. They really wanted to get their beaks on some of that tasty stuff!

So now we have this big open spot were the bins once were. We're planning to make a little enclosed chicken run between the coop and the fence and let the girls go crazy with whatever is left from the bins.

Monday, April 12, 2010


The terrace project is coming along nicely.

We were starting to run low on chunks of concrete and then we noticed a neighbor a few houses up had some pieces of concrete. He was all too happy to donate them to our cause.

We've been giving away as much dirt as we can on the far side of the mountain because there is just so much! And we have to figure out what to do on the backside. Our neighbors over there aren't too excited about the hill draining into their yard. We have some ideas, but we'll need more concrete!

And hopefully our dozens of fruit bushes and trees and plants should be arriving this week!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

He's at it again

Making a mess that is!

Jeremy has been on a bit of a mushroom hiatus this week since his drill bit broke and he's waiting for a new one to arrive. He's been doing some gardening things, I've been working on the terrace and some other projects, and Jeremy decided he might as well do some work on the bathroom.

We tore out the false ceiling in the bathroom last year and it's just been a gaping hole since then. I put up enough plastic to keep the constant rain of insulation and chunks of plaster to a minimum.

But Jeremy took half of it down (creating the above mess) so he could install an extra light and run the electrical for the bathroom fan. He wants to get the moisture barrier up and drywall on the ceiling before we install the floor upstairs. All that moisture from showers and baths has to go somewhere, and we'd rather not have it going into our new floor!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Happy Anniversary house

One year ago today we bought our house. It really is amazing how much work we've done and how things have progressed.

We moved the chicken coop and the chickens to the house. We had a new furnace put in and had the basement scrubbed down for mold. We gutted the top floor, had half the roof removed and built a new shed dormer. We have almost finished the interior upstairs. We put on new siding on lots of the outside and painted the whole house. We got a new roof and gutters. We put in three rain gardens and three raised beds and a brick path from the front to back of the house. We put in drain tile on the north side of the house and dug out the backyard to change the grade. We installed several glass block windows in the basement. We planted flowers and babied the existing plants and harvested tons of cherries and raspberries and rhubarb. Jeremy got more mushroom logs and has been inoculating them for months. I'm probably forgetting something, but you can just look back through the blog to see what we've been up to.

I was really thinking what a perfect anniversary day this was. We have had tons of people over and interactions with friends, neighbors and strangers.

Someone answered a post from us on craigslist and came over to load up some dirt into his car. As soon as he left some former neighbors came by to pick up mushroom logs from Jeremy and visit with the chickens. As soon as they left we ate lunch outside, enjoying the sun and warmth. One of our neighbors was working in his yard and we chatted with him. His tenant came out and chatted to. We started in on projects - me doing some weeding and watering, while Jeremy gathered some broken up concrete bits from a neighbor down the block (for the terrace project). A friend from Meeting drove by and dropped off a stack of egg cartons for us. Another neighbor came over to borrow a hose sprayer thing. I found out they were giving away flowers so I went to their house to check out the options. Not needing any more purple/blue irises, I turned to walk back and saw another neighbor who was heading to our house with a couple in tow. She was bringing them over to look at our chickens. We chatted with them for awhile and they took off. I was out in the front watering again and some bicyclists rode by and shouted out that they liked our roof. Then a woman with a baby stroller walked by and commented on the progress of our yard. I headed to the back and got caught by our other neighbor and working on a project for her digging out an old grape vine. In the midst of that another craigslist guy came by to find out if we had dirt. He went off to borrow a truck and in the meantime the first dirt guy came back. He was still loading dirt when the second guy came! One of our neighbors managed to pawn off some dirt he was trying to get rid of and the other neighbor piped up to say that she wanted more of our dirt.

The dirt guys left (though I'm sure we'll see them again) and we ate dinner outside, amidst piles of dirt, pieces of concrete, and garden tools.

I've really enjoyed the community around this house and in this neighborhood. It's in the midst of change (one neighbor has to move and another neighbor passed away unexpectedly) so we'll see what happens with the new folks who move in. At least we won't be the new ones anymore!

It's hard to describe it, but there is something compelling and welcoming about our house. I hope all our future projects continue to cultivate that sense because we love having people over.

I can't wait to see what the next year brings!

(and the before shot:)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Fail: carrot soup

A few days ago Jeremy made some carrot soup. I didn't even know we had carrots still. I'm sure these were from last season, sitting in the fridge since ... October? September? Who knows.

It tasted... not good. Jeremy said it tasted like older carrots and it would have been better if the carrots had been fresh out of the ground. Hmm. I thought it tasted like all the funky smells our refrigerator has collected over the past 6 months. But, whatever.

After eating a few bites we both agreed that the chickens would love carrot soup. And boy did they!

bottoms up!

For some reason The Impostor always leaps into the middle of whatever snacks we give the girls and she starts gobbling down food as fast as she possibly can. This includes soup.

(Sorry for the blurry photo - chickens don't usually hold still!)

It was hysterical watching The Impostor walk around the run with a carrot-soup-covered leg and seeing the flecks of orange all over the beaks and combs and faces of the rest of the girls. They really like to fling their food around.

And they didn't complain one bit about the taste of the soup!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Spring has sprung - inside and outside

Jeremy started planting sprouts the day we got home from our visit to Kansas City. Things have started coming up!



I think cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and the micro greens have also come up. It's been so warm this week that it feels like we should start planting outside now. But, I have to remind myself that our last frost date is still two months away!

All the warm weather has brought many things popping out of the ground including lots of tulips, poppies, peonies, and our rhubarb. As soon as I saw the little pinkish nubs emerging from the ground we dug those up and moved them to a sunnier spot.

They seem to be pretty happy.

Also sprouting are some of our raspberries:

Lots of chives:

and our cherry tree is budding! Ah spring, how I love you!