Sunday, May 30, 2010

Take a hike

Sally and I hiked part of the Young Gulch Trail today. It was really nice out, not too hot, and Sally loved it because the trail crosses a stream about a dozen times. She looks hot, but she's just wet and quite happy. I'm trying to get her to be a better leash walker on trails, and this was a good practice hike for us. I'm using the very simple method of she pulls/I stop. I found out, at the last 25% of the way back down (maybe she was just tired!) that if I gave her about 6' of leash instead of 4', she did a lot better.

I took some pictures with my spiffy awesome camera, and here are some of them. I taught the lab part of the Plant ID course when I was in grad school, and so I've become content with knowing the family or genus many plants are in, but seldom feel compelled to actually key it out all the way. The above is in the Scrophulareacea, the Snapdragon family, and you can see the shape of the flower is kind of familiar.

Now, you might look at this and think, 'what a boring plant'. But this is in the genus Lesquerella which is closely related to the plant I worked on in school, Physaria bellii So it's kind of like taking a picture of family.
Here's a showy one. This is some kind of Delphinium (Larkspur), and it was even bluer than this. I love showy flowers.

And (drum roll, please).... Here is my first meal from the garden. It's sort of cheating because I didn't plant these greens from seed, but there's a red leaf lettuce and some spinach and they were wonderful together. I had bought and thrown away countless bottles of salad dressing before I discovered Penzey's dry mixes. Love that Penzey's. A little oil, a little balsamic vinegar, some dry salad dressing mix, and there it is. Much less waste.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Garden Pics 5-29-10

Here are some pictures of my gardens lately. Here are some links to what they used to look like here and here. They are doing great - still love the raised beds, although the irrigation is heavy on one end and light on the other. I think I might add another length of soaker hose to the right side bed and that should help.

Pretty much everything you can see here was bought as a start. Mr W and I planted more broccoli and carrots, and there's a cantaloupe I started from seed in the middle that I want to have grow UP the trellis (this should be interesting). I need to sow some lettuce seeds and more carrots here.

Here's the bed that needs more water. It gets more hot afternoon sun as well. This bed has my peppers and tomatoes on the right, herbs on the left, and I also planted 2 kinds (god help me) of zucchini on the left as well. Marigolds for some pizazz.

My new friend B helped me mulch this area the other day after I planted these annuals. I put all reds and pinks up here this year. You can see where my neighbor ran over the edging, and how the garden is simply perilously close to the alley, so this was sort of bound to happen. I'm thinking of getting bricks or pavers to lay here instead, and I can haul those with the new van (cha-ching!).

And, finally, these came with the house, and I need to move part of this clump to the garden where it will get more water. These humble iris smell like grape kool-aid. I had no idea this was possible, but it's true.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Chicken or Egg

I am now the very proud owner of this van. I schlepped Mr W down to Boulder and back (an hour one way) to give the seller the check, and left it at the mechanic. I got to sit in the driver's seat and make "vroom-vroom" noises, but won't bring it home until after I get back from my trip.

The credit union where I got the loan from wanted me to take the title, which the seller signed over to me, over to the DMV and get a new title in my name. Unfortunately, since the seller had gotten a duplicated copy of the title only a few days before, I couldn't do this, couldn't get plates, but could get a temporary tag, and could pay sales tax. Okey-dokey. This ended up being OK, I showed the loan people all the stuff I had, including proof of insurance, and they gave me a check.

Shortly after this, I got a call from the mechanic, who noted that there weren't any plates on the thing, so they couldn't drive it around to check what they were fixing along the way. Oops. Looks like I will have to drive to Boulder one more time this weekend. It was nice of him to say he didn't want to leave my van out in the lot, so he was going to take it in, and I could slip the temp tag through the key drop.

I have been amazed at how many steps have been involved here. Gotta have this so you can get that, but it seems that the steps don't necessarily happen in order. Regardless, I'm two more round trips to/from Boulder and I can start using my mechanic up here. Yea!!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

So close

Well, if all goes according to the grand plan, I should own this vehicle, the VW Vanagon campervan I've not been able to stop talking about, by late tomorrow. This is a view from the back bench seat with both of the tables set up and the driver's seat turned. The lid that covers the stove and sink is shown lifted on the left.

Not having researched used car loans lately, I was surprised to be offered a rate of 12.55% at my bank. I have a lower rate of 5.99% at the local credit union, and really hope I can finalize things with them today, as I'm scheduled to meet the seller (with a check in my hand) at the mechanic's tomorrow afternoon to finalize the deal. I'll leave it there while I go to my conference in Ithaca, and pick it up (all road-ready) when I come back. Insert happy dance here (boing, boing, boing).

If the loan doesn't come through today, the seller is very nice, and I'm fairly certain I could give him some money to hold onto it until I come back. I'd sure like to get it done before I go, though.

In other news, I had dinner with the new person I met online, and it turned into a 4 hour deal, which is always a good sign. It's been great fun so far.

And other, other news: today is the last day of school for Mr W. He's got a half day today, and then no school tomorrow (what on earth were those people thinking?) then is off for a week with his dad, and then to camp and then he and I will likely go to MN this summer to see my brother and his wife.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The view from here

Back in April, we moved our office and lab space to the new building that the CDC built a couple of years ago. It has been just fine on all fronts. The new lab space is functional, and it's nice to have all the equipment I use in one room instead of 3. I especially like the fact that the lab is on the 2nd floor and our office cubes are on the 4th floor. I take the stairs several times a day, and there are mezzanine levels between each floor, so it's lots of steps and it's kind of like training for summer hiking season.

But the view, well the picture shows the view on a calm sunny morning. That's looking north along the foothills that are west of Fort Collins. Not bad, eh?

Oh, and other news. It's been a little more of a challenge to get financing for Graycie the campervan. I spent an hour at a credit union in town and they value these vehicles at about half of what people pay for them. I need to call my bank today and see what they can do. Frustrating, as I want to get this wrapped up before I go out of town next week.

**Update: 11:56 am: I called my regular bank, and it looks like they can lend me what I want at a reasonable rate. Shoulda started with them in the first place

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Barn Meal

Yesterday, Mr W and I attended a Barn Meal, hosted by Slow Food Denver. Over the course of the summer, they are sponsoring events at several local farms, and yesterday's was at the Windsor Dairy. Above is a picture of the couple that runs the farm, which produces organic raw milk. People buy a share of a cow, I believe, and then come to the dairy to pick up their share of the raw milk produced.
They keep goats, chickens and sheep as well. Here's Mr W with one of the friendly goats.
Since Mr W isn't all that big of a fan of organic farm tours (I'm working on converting him, honest) this is how he spent a lot of the tour.
Here's a picture of a few of their cows. They looked really healthy - shiny coats, regular-sized udder. Pretty cows. They are 100% grass fed, and the owners put a lot of effort into producing the proper mix of grasses and forbs in their pasture.
Here's where we ate lunch, which consisted of entirely too much meat, but was very yummy. If you look between the two men standing on the center left of the picture, there are a couple of cows having lunch with us. We had ice-cold raw milk as well, which was yummy. I already get my milk delivered in glass bottles from a local dairy, which is pasteurized and very good. The raw milk was good as well, and the flavor was milder, despite having to tip the jar a few times to mix the cream in so the first person pouring wouldn't get it all.

It was a fun day, and I hope to sign the kid and I up for another one or two this summer. Great to see lots of other people interested in this sort of thing as well.

Friday, May 21, 2010

No Comparison

Holy cow. I mean I know the virtues of home-grown produce and all. Food miles, organic, better flavor, that kind of thing. But I had an experience yesterday that made me say "Wow!" out loud.

I bought some strawberry plants a couple of years ago and stuck them on the sunny side of the house and they've limped along for that time, but this year are full of flowers. Yesterday, I saw the first ripe strawberry. It must be strawberry season elsewhere, because I've bought them in the store for the past couple of weeks, and Mr W and I enjoy them a lot. So summery.

I spied this first strawberry of the season when I was letting the dog out to do her business after work and before we went off to the dog park. I leaned over, picked it up, dusted it off a little and bit into it and - well, just wow. I guess it's because I had had store-bought strawberries the day before, but the texture was incredible. It was so much more tender than a store bought berry. I know that varieties are selected in part for their ability to ship well, and although the flavor of the store bought berries was OK, the texture was like biting into a zucchini - yielding, but tough.

Don't tell the slugs and squirrels, but these berries are really something.

In other news, I am going to lunch with the new man on Monday. Fingers still crossed, but I've been pleased by the turnaround time for emails, and I felt comfortable talking to him on the phone the other day, so we'll see how this goes.

And other, other news, the seller of the VW campervan and I have settled on a price, and while he's looking for the title, I'll make arrangements for a loan and insurance. I'm nervous but excited. Mr W, who will now have parents who each have one of these vans, said mine was inherently less cool than his dad's because it didn't have a good stereo, and cool stickers. I thought this was interesting, but reminded him it's not a contest.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Fahrvergn├╝gen - maybe

So I drove the VW campervan yesterday and it drives just fine. Not surprisingly, it needs some work, a bunch of $100- $300 repairs to get it up to snuff. All these things together add up tp about $2300. The funny thing is, that's right about where I thought it would cost to get it to the point where I could just drive it for a year or two before having to put a new engine in it.

A couple of nice things are that it has crank windows and manual locks - fewer motors to break and have to be replaced. Also, it's wired for cruise control and A/C, although neither work at the moment. I'll get both fixed.

However, the camper parts need some attention, and I'll have to take it to an RV shop for them to make sure the propane tank is happy, and the little plastic key to the fresh water intake cover snapped off when the seller tried to use it yesterday.

I asked the mechanic what he would pay for this van, and his upper limit was about what they were asking. Then I asked him if he'd purchase this one if he was in the market for one, and he said yes. I was really impressed at how much time he spent with me, and only charged me $100. I suppose he thinks it's a good bet that I'll be spending more with his shop very soon.

I hope to split that $2300 with the seller, so they lower their price by $1150. Then I'll leave it at the shop in Boulder for them to do the repairs. Then, I'm goin' camping.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

One Step Closer

It's a slippery slope, this online searching stuff. There I was, minding my own business, simply toying with the idea of perhaps sometime owning one of these VW campervans, and I see this. I admit, I have been seduced by the idea of owning one of these, just like I was the last time I tracked one down (the one that the x now has).

I'm a pretty practical person, and I think that is a large part of the appeal of a vehicle like this. It's got all you need to take your home wherever you want to go (roads permitting).

Anyway, I've talked on the phone with the owner of this one, a really nice looking 1989 that is in Boulder (about an hour away) and he's agreed to let me come down tomorrow and take it to my mechanic up here in Fort Collins to go over it and let me know what he thinks. I trust Tom the Mechanic on all things car, so if he says it's sound for what it is (a 21 year old van) then I'll likely get it.

Gotta figure out financing, sales tax, insurance, tags, etc., but I think this is what I want. In the worst case, I'd be out a bit of money for those items, but I could turn around and sell it for basically what I paid. They ain't making any more of them.

As an aside, it makes me think about the blogs I follow of people who have small livestock as part of their lives (yes, Jordan, I'm thinking of you). And I thought about how, even when I dream of having my own small farm, I see cut flowers, I see herbs, I see vegetables, I might even see a raspberry bush or three, but I don't see keeping animals besides pets. I don't know, my urge is to have the home base and be able to pick up and go for a weekend without having to make arrangements to having anything fed in my absence. Not sure why.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Do they do this everywhere now?

I was at the plant store today, getting annuals, and have noticed a trend. Most perennials are offered in gallon sized pots this year. Here's a picture from the place I usually buy my plants, but the other two places in town are doing the same thing.

It'd be nice to have a 2.5" pot, or a 4" pot of these plants, so one could buy more of them (duh). Those nice gallon pots there are $9.99 - $12.99 each.

I can certainly understand the nurseries' desire to make money on what they do, but it bugs me how doing it this way limits a person's choices. Thankfully, a lot of the annuals are in 4 packs (where did the six-pack go?), and I think I've got enough for all the spots I want to tuck annuals. It's May 15th, which is supposed to be our frost date here in north-central Colorado. I have taken the plants I bought today inside, and will continue to check the weather to see when I can just leave them the heck out and be done with it.

Claire, whose family has a small farm not too far away from me, and also a good blog, posted on her FB page that they got nailed by hail today. She also mentioned that the number of days we've had this year where the temperature has been warm enough to be considered a "growing day" are a bit over half of what they normally are. It HAS been a cool spring, and the flowers are rally hanging on the trees nicely (hopefully meaning good fruit set).

*** Edit: Here's her post about it

In other news, isn't that a nice Campervan? It's for sale in Boulder, and I want it, please. Just have to decide if it's what I want and need. These darn Westies (VW Vanagons with Westfalia camper conversions) are kind of pricey, and not many of them are for sale at any given time, and they usually all have over 100K miles on them because they are 20 years old. I know, it sounds crazy to me too when I say it that way. People usually like them so much they put a new engine in them and it keeps on truckin'.

We had one when I was married, and I loved it - did the research, tracked down the one we would eventually buy and gave it up in the divorce. It's been an interesting couple of weeks around here, with school ending and me realizing that I haven't been this free to make weekend trips for three years. Makes a girl want to go camping, but not sleep on the ground, you know? Rough it, but make coffee and cook over a stove.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Got gauge?

First, here's a picture of my humble assistant, the usually calm and always sweet Sally:
And then here's my gauge swatch. I'm starting a new pattern called Passiflora,. I found it on a site called the Twist Collective. The yarn is a delightful lavender and is a wool, silk, bamboo blend. Very nice. And I got gauge on the first time, how cool is that?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I think I'm going to like this

I lurv my new camera. It's a smart little thing, and I've used it some and the battery indicator hasn't even budged. As a sort of related aside, I went to a talk the other day by a professor at CSU, Amy Prieto, who is in the chemistry department and is looking for new greener ways to make better batteries. She totally rocked as a speaker, and I so admire researchers who can speak to the general public and give a lot of credit to the workers in their labs. A class act all the way.
But she said that when you get a new device, you should run the battery out the first few times you use it, and that will extend its life. Good to know.

We now return to our regularly scheduled blog post. I took the above picture last Sunday when Mr W and I drove out to the Pawnee Grasslands. This was about all that was blooming, but I imagine after the snow we've had, things will be popping up soon. This is my yard yesterday morning:

That May 15th frost date is there for a reason, people.

But anyway, the camera. It's small and portable and I really like it. So much so that I'm going to go out looking for more flowers to photograph this weekend. I'm so impressed at how it just automatically switches to a macro mode when the camera gets close to something.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Try try again

I've been trading emails with a new man online... about my age, has kids, similar politics, IN TOWN, gardens, several similar interests. Fingers crossed, but I don't want to think about it too much and jinx it.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Now that it's Mother's Day

Well, now that it's actually Mother's Day, I'm feeling a little less, um, confrontational, I guess.

My mom was tops. The best. She died in 1993 of pancreatic cancer, and it was a huge hit to the family. It happened so fast we were still trying to comprehend the possibility of her dying when she passed. There is still a hole there.

She was a nurse for many years, taking time off to stay home with us kids. One of her stories I love is that when she graduated from nursing school in New York City (around 1959-1960) she and her pal Sue wanted to see the West. So she bought a car (a 1956 Bel Air, if memory serves) and they did just that. As I heard the story, the times were such that a nurse could walk into almost any hospital, talk to the nurse manager about who they had worked for, and where they had graduated from, and would be given a job. Different world. They spent time in Sun Valley, ID, and years later mom regretted not being able to buy property at the time.

I think of her often. I know I've written this before here, but I think about how she would think I've done a good job with my life and my kid, and that pleases me. I've learned from her mistakes, and that's something I think any parent would be happy to know. It's funny, a few years ago, I looked down at my hands like I'm doing now, and thought, "those are mom's hands". A few wrinkles and spots, some experience, still very capable.

I sort of take for granted that I'm there for my kid. It's assumed that I will be supportive and nurturing to Mr W, and that he'll come first - all that stuff. That's just my job. I don't call it being a good mother, you know? It's just part of what I do, and I realize that my job is, in some respects, made easier by only having to keep track of one. But the kid's turning out good so far. Plays too much on the computer, and isn't interested in sports, but likes to ride his bike and hike and is into building things and math and science. He's "coming along" as my dad would say. So far so good.

So happy mother's day to us as we live and we learn.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

UFOs and Mothers Day

With the semester winding down, I'm remembering that I like to knit. It's something I've essentially put away for the time I've been teaching at the community college in order to do all the prep that needs to be done. I also have a trip coming up where I'll be gone for 10 days, and that always says "knitting!" to me. A quick google search confirms there are a couple of yarn shops in Ithaca, so that's nice.

I was looking over my yarn, seeing what I should start on, or pick up again. No pictures, the batteries are dead - hopefully the camera will come today. I have about a half dozen UFOs with my knitting stuff. That's Unfinished Objects in knitting lingo. Projects that I've made good progress on, but have come to a point where either, 1) I've made a part of it too small, like the heel on the second sock of a pair, or 2) I've made a part too big, like the neck (i.e. the very first part) of a sweater that I've already worked on for at least 20 hours.

These projects languish for a few reasons. With the sweater, that neck isn't fixable. I'm also not wild about the color anymore. With the socks, the pattern makes it hard to rip back so I could redo the heel. I should just frog (completely undo the project) both and be done with it. It's hard to do that when it represents hours and hours of work, but it's not worth it to have something that I won't be happy with at the end.

And Mothers Day is tomorrow. It's too strong of a statement to say that I hate Mothers Day, but it's usually mostly a reminder of my losses, and eventually I have to go cry in the bathroom for 5 minutes. Mr W always has a little something he's made in school, and it's nice to be acknowledged for working hard to be a good mom. But it's a tough day, and I'll be glad to have it done.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sure, I can do that, can't I?

So I'm reconsidering the whole patio/deck project.At the moment, I'm considering trying my hand at installing a brick or paver patio myself. I've read a few books on the topic, and it seems like it's not technically all that hard, although I'll likely need to rent a tamper (or whatever they call the thing that pounds the ground flat and level). I can do this, right? I'd situate the patio right in front of where I'd like the new door, and it can wait until I feel more flush (if ever).

Both the house across the street from me and the house next door are being renovated, and I'm feeling that my place looks a little, well, shabby. There used to be a front porch across the whole house, but it was enclosed a long time ago. Now, half of the old porch is part of my bedroom, which doubled its size, and half of it is just an enclosed entryway, shown on the left of the picture with the three windows.

My house has no curb appeal. There are so many cute houses with porches in my neighborhood that I'm thinking maybe I'll get an estimate to have someone open up that area into a front porch again. There are a couple of houses in the neighborhood where they've done the same thing, so I'll take some pics with my new camera (c'mon, get here!) and have those to show whoever does the project.

One nice thing about this set up is that I'm thinking of having them cut another opening in this new porch wall, and put steps in to the yard (on the far side of the house that you can't see in this picture). If I use a couple of folding gates, I can have my dream of just opening the door and letting the dog out into the yard - score!

But I need to get on this patio thing before it gets too hot. Any words of wisdom?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

No more wimpy batteries

I have an old, ancient (like 10 years old) digital camera that x's parents gave us before Mr W was born. It has no image stabilization, the screen is small, and worst of all, it eats up rechargeable batteries. I'm certain the battery thing is partly my failure to keep a good set of rechargeable batteries around, although it seems like I buy a new set every couple of months or so.

Mr W had a piano recital last Sunday, and I was there to record his 15 seconds of fame for posterity, and the batteries died. I vowed then and there to get a new camera, and ordered one of these yesterday, a Canon SD1200IS from Amazon. Good ratings, comes with its own little battery pack and charger, it should work better.

I'm looking forward to toting it around with me more, as I'm usually thinking "hey, that would make a good picture" when I'm out and about. I want to document this year's gardening efforts more as well.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Raised Beds - May 1st

Karen Sue was nice to ask about my raised beds the other day, so I thought I should post a picture. I am overall very happy with how they turned out. I still need to put brackets on the outside corners to improve these bookcases' chances of being serviceable raised beds, and finish planting things as the season progresses, but I'm pretty much done with construction. Here is what they looked like after the first round of work.

I finished making the middle bed out of 4 x 4's and planted two raspberry bushes yesterday. The big blue pot is plastic (and very light) and I was originally going to put an apple tree there, but haven't done so yet. There is a pack of pansies parked there at the moment. The black plastic on the left is my effort to stop the spread of some Bishop's Weed, which is on the north side of the house. It has done so well without any attention on my part that it's creeping into the lawn and looks bad. I'll have to put grass back there (or something, maybe some kind of ground cover that doesn't get as tall as the Bishop's Weed).

For irrigation, I started with a new regular hose and a new soaker hose, and a bunch of fittings and customized lengths of each to fit the beds and not have the mulch being watered.

One problem that has arisen is that place where the mulch meets the grass. I should have installed edging, but I hate installing edging, and it seems like whatever is then next to the edging needs to be dealt with. This became apparent very quickly yesterday when I was cutting my grass with my nice little push mower, which would seize up and stop when I hit a piece of mulch that had escaped to the lawn. And the grass is longer (I don't know how this works) right where it meets the mulch. I will probably use Roundup on the those edges and be done with it.

I did get my broccoli and lettuce planted yesterday. I bought plants last week. My seed starting efforts failed this year because I never transplanted them out of the seed starting mix, which didn't have enough nutrients for the seeds to grow past a couple of inches tall. Live and learn - I'll be ready for next year. It's good to peek out there and see green. Now, I just have to keep the dog out. I set up little wire fence things, but have no idea if this will work.