Monday, December 14, 2015

Planning the Orchard

Emily (when she was 3) apple picking
I grew up outside of Boston, Massachusetts.  One of the best memories I have as a kid is apple picking every fall.  My brother, sister, and I would run wild in the orchard, picking Cortlands, MacIntoshes, and Red Delicious apples.  Once, I picked an apple that was as red on the inside as it was on the outside, and as a city kid, I was in awe.  Who knew that apples could be red inside?!  I haven't seen one in an orchard since, but as I recall, it was one of the best apples I've ever eaten fresh.

I've been bringing my kids apple picking since they were little.  I live just below Western New York's apple growing region, so a "quick" 1-1/2 hour drive is all it takes to have a fun afternoon picking a couple of bushels of apples.  A lot of growers here tend to only have "popular" apple picking varieties like Cortland, MacIntosh, Mutsu, Empire, Gala, Honeycrisp, and Delicious... I like to branch out a bit and find heirloom varieties if I can get them.  My late step-father's favorite apple is called Northern Spy.  Every so often, I can find those at a farm stand locally, but they're gone in the blink of an eye--sometimes, the same day the sign proclaiming their availability is posted!  That was the sad circumstance this year, and I was only able to get a bushel each of Cortlands and Pippin apples (another heirloom variety).

Since some varieties are so prolific here (Cortland!) I don't think I'll be planting those.  I can usually buy a bushel for under $25.  The apples I want are the ones that can't be found on the commercial market.  I want to can applesauce and apple pie filling, have a slew of apples to eat fresh, and some more to dry for morning oatmeal.  Here is the list of the trees that made the cut:

Calville Blanc d'Hiver-

This variety has been dubbed one of the world's best culinary apples, and also one of the least pretty.  It is also notoriously winter-hardy in the aspect that it flowers much later than other varieties, so less chance of a late frost destroying my apple crop entirely.  That pretty much sealed the deal for me.

Queen Cox -

A self-fertile apple, this one doesn't need a pollinator.  This is good, because it's the only mid-season apple I'm planting, so it'll set flowers before the others.  It is great both fresh and cooked, and it is like an improved version of Cox's Orange Pippin.

Northern Spy -

Of course I'm growing this one.  Bonus?  It keeps for 3 or more months if properly stored.  Fresh apples all winter?  Yes, please.

Mountain Rose -

While this one just has a blush of red on the outside, it's rated at one of the most delicious red-fleshed apples.  It also holds its shape for cooking purposes, and also retains its color.  Oh, and it's simply gorgeous!

Smyrna Quince -

I'm also planning on planting a quince tree, since I can only find them at the supermarket in tiny quantities and at $2 each.  Each!  They're inedible raw, but cooking them for a little while softens the fruit, turns it a rosy color, and tastes like a cross between an apple, pear, and the smell of flowers.

George IV Peach -

One of my besties and I make a ton of bourbon peaches every year.  We usually try to get a bushel or two put up, but we got one bushel of really bland-tasting peaches that ended up in the jam pot.  I'm hoping that by growing my own, I can pick them when they're just ripe, and I won't have to settle for bland peaches.  This one is known for cold-hardiness without sacrificing flavor.

The Site:

The orchard is going to be on the side yard, toward the front as the vegetable garden will likely be somewhere behind it.  Since the trees only have to be about 10 feet apart, I'm going to stagger them in two rows so they don't throw shade on the vegetable garden.  I'm also planning on planting berries, but they'll go near the shed somewhere, probably by the row of shrubs in the back.  I'm hoping to have some chickens at some point, and the coop will be near the shed as well, and I don't want to have hungry chickens right next to my berries.  More planning is going to be required, and the chickens are still a potential addition.

The actual site is just above the back yard on a slope, which could be ideal for avoiding cold air that will gather on the low points of the lawn.  It gets sun the entire day.

One of the major issues I've noticed is that I very likely have voles in the yard.  Voles are rodents that look like mice, but with shorter tails.  They are plant eaters, and will chew the bark off of new trees.  Vole damage looks like shallow tunnels running across your lawn, not to be confused with mole damage, which looks like small piles of dirt on the lawn (moles also eat insects, like Japanese beetle grubs, instead of plants).  I poked around and found several holes in the lawn that are likely housing the beasts.

vole damage + the runoff drain
They're going to have to be eradicated, or at least controlled, before new trees are planted.  Spring is already looking busy as can be, but in the end, the results will definitely be worth it!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

One Shade of Grey: A Progress Report

The day I posted my last post, I finally closed on the house.  In fact, about 15 minutes after I posted about how impatient I was, my attorney's paralegal called to let me know we were good to go.

The first thing I did was remove the weird shower curtain rod + too short regular curtain rod above the living room window, as well as what we have dubbed, "the Jesus curtain" which I'm pretty sure was a shower curtain, but it had bible verses all over it.

two different lengths, two different rods... the stuff nightmares are made of
Currently, the window is naked, and a new rod (one that'll fit) has been purchased.  It is the same exact rod that is in the dining room, which I just love.  In fact, I love just about everything that is going on in the dining room now.  Gone is the tomato soup orange-red, the apple-trimmed cafe curtain, and the feeling that the room is a lot smaller than it actually is.

The only thing this color should be on is a Barchetta (it's never too early for Rush humor)
The dining room is now light, bright, and definitely updated.  First, I covered the walls with Behr's Ultra Premium Plus paint that was color-matched to Benjamin Moore's Edgecomb Gray.  I had no idea that you can just walk into Home Depot and ask for a color from a different paint supplier, and had samples mailed to me from Benjamin Moore first, which cost a pretty penny--the shipping was more than the paint sample!  Now, I just find colors I like, go to Home Depot, and buy an armload of samples until I figure out which color I want.  Consumer Reports rated the Behr paint as their first or second interior paint, not to mention that Home Depot is a mere 30 minutes from my house (the nearest Benjamin Moore store is over an hour away).  It's a light grey/beige that looks equally good with the blues, wood trim, and beige ceramic tile in the room.  Since you can also see the kitchen cabinets due to the open floor plan, it was important that those colors work together until I figure out what I'm going to do with those cabinets.

The only red things left are the apples
 My dining table has a story, of course.  In the summer of 2014, I went to Massachusetts to visit my mom.  Whenever I visit my family there, I stop at what I think is one of the best Goodwill stores in the country, just over the border in Nashua, New Hampshire.  I walked in during that visit to see this gem in the window with a price sticker on it for $9.99.  TEN FREAKING DOLLARS!  It just so happened that it was marked down on the color sale for that week, so for five bucks, that puppy was MINE.  Unfortunately, as the employees moved it from the window into the area that one picks up large items, one of those tripod legs snapped from it's attachment.  When asked if I still wanted it, I said, "well, if you can knock half off..."  The manager said, "Done."  So that's how I got my dining room table for $2.50.  My friends Jason and Trinda helped to take it apart and load it into my minivan, and we made the trek back to Pennsylvania with three kids and a table.  Some Gorilla Wood Glue and an overnight of clamping fixed it right up.  It has been well worn and loved, and still extends another foot for when we have guests.

I love, love, love my table.  Oh, and the seats of the side chairs match the stain
The first time I saw the chandelier on the Young House Love website, I gasped.  It's flipping gorgeous.  When I saw the price at West Elm, I wasn't sure if I could swing it.  I slowly started saving for it, but at nearly $400, I wasn't confident that I'd have enough money to buy it before it was discontinued.  By my birthday in September, I was about $175 from my savings goal when I gifted myself $100 (hey, it's my birthday, I do what I want).  The following week, it was on sale for 20% off, and I snagged it for $75 off of the original price.  Sometimes waiting has it's benefits.  Everything else came from  The table runner and fruit basket came from trips to HomeGoods and T.J. Maxx, respectively.

curtain detail

This window is eventually going to be a door to the backyard.  Currently, I either have to walk around from the front of the house, or to go through the garage, onto the back porch, then out that door if I want to access the back yard.   I think a door and a stairway here would provide a faster route, and once there's a patio there, a great extension of our dining room to an outdoor dining area.

The dining room is no where near completed yet.  I still need to put something on those walls and maybe add a buffet or something that'll add some personal touches to the room.  I love how it's turning out.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Two Weeks Later...

And I still haven't closed yet.  It's down to one signature on one piece of paper so that we can finally close.  The person to whom the signature belongs was out of town until yesterday, so I'm hoping he/she signed that paper and popped it into its return FedEx envelope so that I can at least get in the house by the weekend... not that it'll make too much of a difference, as I'm working all weekend... but still.  I can get SOMETHING into the house.

All of this delay has had a tiny silver lining, though.  I have come to find that the folks behind Home Depot's appliance delivery service are truly dedicated to making your experience the best it can be.  I've had to reschedule the delivery of my new appliances three times so far.  Everyone I've dealt with has done their utmost to make sure I've been rescheduled on the day that's most convenient for me, and they've handled my calls with kindness.  Sadly, it's looking like delivery is going to have to be rescheduled again, unless I close by the end of business today.

Speaking of new appliances, here's what I got:

Samsung 30 inch 21.8 cu ft French Door Refrigerator in Stainless Platinum

I really wanted a refrigerator with a freezer on the bottom.  The kitchen has black and stainless appliances right now (the range and the wall oven) which I'm keeping, so I needed something that fit in with the rest of it.

I'm probably far too excited about my new washer and dryer than I should be, but laundry takes up a vast majority of my time as far as daily chores go.  My bestie has a washer and dryer with a HUGE capacity.  She literally just dumps an entire laundry basket into her washer.  It spins the water out so thoroughly that it takes less than 40 minutes to dry completely.  She let me use it one day when my dryer was on the fritz and I was sold.

Maytag Bravos 4.3 cu ft washer

Other than packing, that's all that is new in my world.  The weather is getting decidedly colder; we've already had our first snowfall and it's cold enough to frost every night since.  That means that I have a very limited amount of time where I can hang my clothes out on the clothesline before they freeze solid out there.  It means I need my new dryer, in my new house... yesterday.  Ugh!  I can't wait to close!!!

UPDATE:  I'm closing in the morning!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Final Walk-through...

I bought a house!

For the most part, the closing process on the new house has been remarkably uneventful... until this week, of course.  I was supposed to close on the new casa yesterday, but due to a failed sewer inspection last week, some work had to be done to the basement bathroom.  Namely, the shower there had to be hooked up to the town sewage in a way that would pass code inspection.  That work was completed as of today, and the new inspection takes place tomorrow, so let's hope that everything is wrapped up by Friday morning.  

Regardless, my final walk through is tomorrow afternoon.  I haven't been in the house for a few weeks, so I can finally make a list as to how many cabinet hinges, drawer pulls, and cabinet pulls I'll need to revamp the kitchen, which hasn't been touched since the house was built.  Once again, I'm dealing with some serious ugly, but it's structurally sound, well-insulated ugly, and THAT I can definitely deal with.  

On design inspiration, I've definitely been loving the Petersik's current home at Young House Love.  I never thought I'd embrace gray/greige as a wall color, but I'm pretty sure it's going to be the main wall color throughout the house.  Currently, the walls are a bright, tropical blue abutted by Campbell's Tomato Soup (the actual color of the soup) orangey-red.  The contrast is startling in a bad way.  Throw in 1960s aesthetic, and you have the rancher I'm about to own.  YHL's foyer is light, bright, and captivating.  Look at that Moravian light!  I LOVE it!  And the dining room!  The capiz pendant light is awesome, and would look amazing in my dining area.  I don't mind if the only drama in my life is from light fixtures.  In fact, I prefer it that way. 

The living room has some issues, not all of which are cosmetic.  The fireplace's fire box was drilled through in order to make room for a vent pipe for the wood furnace in the basement.  In order to make it functional again, I'm going to eventually convert to be used with a vent-free gas insert.  

Living room
The one room that absolutely has to be dealt with immediately is the bathroom.  Apparently, there was a local trend to not install a shower and to put a standard window in the bathing area.  I've tried to contemplate the reasoning behind that, and I'm still coming up empty.  Further, the original tile is 4x4 blue and pink that was painted over with cream colored latex paint.  I'll stop and just let you see it for yourself: 

I'm speechless too.
Possibly the worst feeling is when you have a room that you completely want to change, but it's also completely liveable as-is while you fix the uglier aspects (bathroom!) of the house.  For me, this room is the kitchen.  Definitely a first world problem, but it just screams the need for updating.  On a side note, that refrigerator is from the early 1980s.  It's still going strong, but likely costs a small fortune to run.  I'm going to have to break down and get a new refrigerator.  

Got wood?
The microwave over the stove top(to the far right) definitely has to go.  As it is, it doesn't allow clearance for my larger stock pots or canning pots.  I can't deal with having a stove top that I can't use to its fullest extent... and I don't feel like waiting an entire year to get my apples canned.

There's a small preview.  I can't wait to close so that I can get in there and start scrubbing and painting.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Found it!

I'm thrilled to say that I found a home and my offer was accepted!

More to come...

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Something Strange is Afoot

... but we're not at the Circle-K.

So much has changed over this past year.  I threw myself into school and I'm proud to say that I'm finally a Registered Nurse.  I find myself exhausted at the end of most days, and I'm working on getting a new routine down.

My Mom and Eldest Daughter
I lost my amazing, wonderful mother at the end of July this year.  She was my constant cheerleader, believing that I can do anything I set my mind to.   She encouraged me to start writing.  She showed me that DIY is so much more satisfying than just simply shopping for something.  She treated beautiful objects with reverence for their history.  She shaped me into the person that I am today.  I miss her so very much, but over the past year, we've had so many conversations about life and love; about strength and acceptance; about focus and determination... the big stuff and the little stuff.  I know that she loved me with her whole heart.  I'll always be awestruck and grateful that I am her daughter.

I'm looking out onto the horizon.  My too-big house on Pleasant has quickly spiraled out of control into a behemoth that I can no longer afford to repair and remodel.  The old lady has given it her best, but after decades of patch-and-fix jobs, she needs to be completely gutted and redone.

March was a significantly difficult month here.  A week of temperatures that hovered around the -40*F mark split a massive water main in town and we were without water for a week (no water = no heat in Pleasantville).  In that time, the pipes here burst.  The boiler failed and had to be replaced, and when the water was finally turned back on, the bottom of my water heater gave out.  About a month later, the ceiling in the upstairs bath collapsed, and an ice dam on the roof above the dining room threatened to do the same.  It feels like I'm running as fast as I can to keep up, while other major issues surface in the meantime.

This coming week, I'm on a mission to find a new home.
Blogging tips