Monday, January 23, 2012


    The home improvement bug sunk its fangs into me HARD at the beginning of the year, so we have changes afoot. Here's a sneak peek:

    We've been quite busy, and I'll post some documentation soon.

    Sunday, January 8, 2012

    Tree to table

    There's nothing quite like chopping down a tree and turning it into a table. But to get to this,

    You have to do a lot of this:

    It helps if you convince a talented little brother to swap an old table for design work on the new:

    And then it's not even sad when you have to say good-bye to the table you bought just before you got married:

    We love the new table. It fits perfectly with the rest of the house and it feels like it's been here since day one. Quinn did a wonderful job for us; he considered all the other finishes, angles, and design elements in our home and designed the new table to fit with those. The colors of the wood -- mostly plum with some lighter shades of rich brown -- blend so beautifully with the finished steel. The table seats 10 comfortably and 12 in a pinch. It arrived the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, just in time to host dinner for some family members.

    Tai built the wood sections (as you can see from the slideshow), and we had the metal base fabricated by a few of Quinn's contacts from school. All told, we estimate that we spent roughly 8 to 10 percent of what it would have cost us to purchase a similar piece at retail. We now have an heirloom piece of furniture with a great story and a ton of sweat equity.

    We're still waiting for Quinn to pick a name for it. Suggestions welcome.

    Thursday, January 5, 2012


    This past summer was year two of garden experimentation. I knew *slightly* more than I did for the summer of 2010. One of those was that squash and zukes need so much space, so this year I gave it to them. They returned the favor by producing a gazillion spaghetti squash (which store so nicely in our pantry over the winter), and more zucchini than we could bear to look at.

    I think we won't be doing zucchini next summer.

    The creeping thyme finally took off, filling in a couple of nice spots between pavers, and elsewhere our trees and grasses started to look like they belonged in the place. I got some onions and shallots for the first time, which was also fun:

    We still have no idea what to do with tomato plants, though; ours grew up then out then fell over and killed the grass. I planted a currant variety, a cherry roma variety and a Cherokee purple. The currant produced the least but was my favorite. Tomato candy:

    Not sure if/where we'll put tomatoes next summer. They are a bit too robust for our garden boxes and we haven't really cultivated the other parts of the yard. Whatever.

    And I'll be planting the carrots in a deeper box this spring.

    The real fun, as usual, was out front in the two long skinny spaces that frame the walk to our front door. Last year, I had a sugar pie pumpkin and a Cinderella pumpkin on either side. This year I planted a melon variety (and can't remember the specific name) and a moon-and-stars watermelon. As much as growing plants can be entertaining, these two certainly were.

    The melon produced the sweetest, most fragrant fruit we've ever had. We shared it with work friends, relatives and neighbors before we finally got tired of it and lost out on harvesting a few melons in time. (At a certain point that heady-sweet smell starts to get a bit cloying and a little less appetizing.)

    But the watermelon was so, so awesome. We got four edible fruits out of it, ranging from about 20 pounds up to 41 pounds each. And it tasted a-m-a-z-i-n-g. Here's the watermelon in the works in late August:

    And here it is a few weeks later on its way to a family party:

    The watermelon butcher of Lincoln Street:

    Our only complaint here is that we didn't get as many individual fruits as we would have liked. I think I'll try for a smaller variety next year in the same spot so that we get more fruits (easier to share with people) and sooner in the season -- I was still waiting for watermelon to ripen at Halloween.

    Landscaping-wise, the scrub oak trees in the front yard appear to be dying off one by one. We had to pull one this summer and another one looked dead at the end of the fall. We figure that we'll have to replace those with something else this spring -- I'm really liking blue atlas cedar trees, but I'm worried they'll get too big for the space. I also want to add a few more feather reed grasses in the front parking strips for symmetry, and I'd love to see whether I can get a pumpkin vine to grow in the space under our street tree (which just got hacked, ahem -- severely trimmed, by a municipal arborist crew).

    Tuesday, January 3, 2012

    Enclosing the yard

    Even though 2011 is over, I want to catch up the blog with the rest of the projects from last year. We were relatively busy with lots of fun things, and I want to share those before I start going on about plans for 2012.

    May and June involved a lot of plant watching. The long wet spring made great conditions for all sorts of green stuff...

    ...including some spinach that really took off once the sun came out.

    We also laid mulch down in the yard, subsequent to putting down weed fabric. We got our mulch from the gravel pit in North Salt Lake, and imposed on relatives with pick-up trucks to get it home.

    Then, Tai spent the second half of June and the first part of July working on the rest of the fence sections we needed in order to enclose our yard. It felt so, so good to have privacy and protection from the neighborhood critters who kept using our backyard as a thoroughfare/bathroom.

    He also re-sealed the cedar on the house and garage.

    Closing in the yard required that Tai build a gate by our side-yard patio and another back by the garage on the alley. He set the posts and built the gate structure all by himself...because I was too busy (lazy) with other very important projects (reading in the sun).

    And the side patio gate:

    We also sat back and watched the plants grow (more on that in another post). Then Tai got restless and decided it was time to turn those walnut planks into a table. Lots more coming.