Saturday, July 2, 2016

Summer Stay-Cation

Summer is here, finally! You may laugh because I bet it's warm where you are. Well, in Central Oregon, we still got below freezing nights all the way up until June 20th. Yeah, you read that right. About two weeks ago, I was still wearing a beanie and puffy jacket in the evenings. But we're holding steady at 80 degree days and 50 degree nights now, and it's blissful to get outside and get some Vitamin D.

Us at a concert on June 13th - heavy sweaters, scarves, and beanies.

We're relatively far north, and this means loooong summer days. It's light from 4:30am to almost 10pm. You can get a whole lot accomplished (apparently not blogging, though - haha) in 16+ hours of daylight. It's very motivating! A siesta and a couple cups of coffee don't hurt, either. 

Here is our original front yard! Two dog-pee-burned trees blocking the front door, a dead tree in the middle of the yard, and patchy, scratchy grass with weeds and clover; all of which cost a ridiculous amount to water in the summer.

Water costs to maintain this grass ran us at least $50/month in the summer!

We got rid of several trees, took down the front porch railing, and put in a new, more modern fence. 

The scraggly rose bush in the foreground eventually got ripped out as well.

We went and picked out some boulders and flowers...

The fence color is accidental...and now sanding the fence is on our to-do list!

...and added some woodchips and a large dead stump we found while hiking...

Behind the stump is a baby apple tree with 5 different kinds of apples grafted to it!

...and now, I pay only $15/month to water our drought-tolerant, food-and-herb-providing, pollinator-friendly front lawn! Some of the things we've got here: an apple tree (which will produce in about 2-3 years), blueberry bush (already producing!), sage, 2 kinds of lavender, peonies, Icelandic poppies, 2 kinds of elderberry bushes (with which you can make wine and syrup), sunflowers (to feed the chickens), catmint (similar to catnip), rhubarb, and a Nanking cherry bush. They'll all grow in a lot more next year, and hopefully the yard will look a little closer to how I imagine it in my head. Plants definitely require patience.

Meanwhile, in the backyard...potato boxes/towers are all the rage on the internet. Since we have the space, I thought I'd try one. The idea is that you cover up the bottom 6" of the plant continuously as it grows, encouraging it to put out extra roots (and therefore, extra potatoes). You stack it up higher and higher, and ideally you should be able to harvest insane amounts of potatoes. 

Potato box at the 4th level. This was about 1.5 months into growing.

The potatoes at 5 levels high...we had to build more!

We used to be able to get German Butterball potatoes easily, at the Hollywood Farmer's Market. They're small and creamy and so good! While potatoes grow well up here in the Pacific Northwest, I haven't seen any of that variety at the markets, so that's what I'm growing in here.

We didn't know how well they'd do but we had to double the number of levels we had! It's only the beginning of July and we have at least 70 more days to go in the growing season. If this works, we will definitely build another one for next summer.

Our backyard was disgusting when we bought the house: it was basically a gravel dog run, with weeds, unkempt bushes, and a broke-ass fence in the back. The fence is the builder original, from 1992.

We got rid of all the gravel, weeds, and since we're on a slope, decided to put in a sunken patio, to help make the yard areas more level. We also replaced and upgraded the fence.

We had professionals put in the patio, since it involved heavy machinery.

The first night the patio was done, we ran out and bought a firepit! It's the perfect little space to relax in, although I hope to get some actual patio furniture in the future, rather than our camping chairs. 

All the backyard work means the chickens no longer are free range. They have the entire side yard, though, with compost bins and a pear tree, so I don't think they're sad about it. 

One of our three compost bins starting to sprout some "volunteer" squash.

The compost bin and squash just recently - it's doing REALLY well!

Our little baby chicks turned out to both be girls, and their rapper names (Tupac/Two-Spot and Notorious B.I.R.D.) stuck. 

The chicks at 2 days old.

At 5 weeks old, they still lived in the house with us.

At 8 weeks old, when we finally knew for sure they were girls.

They are now 10 weeks old and almost completely feathered out!

The baby chicks are Mottled Cochins, a Chinese breed that is hardy in the winter, with their little feathered feet! They are the sweetest things and are about 1lb each. They're almost full grown and will stay tiny. For comparison, here's a picture of our regular sized chicken in the background, and these two in the foreground:

Those are plums from our neighbor's tree all over the ground. 

So, that's the domestic side of our life right now. It's sort of amazing how much we can get done by staying home (and admittedly, working part time with a short commute - that sure helps as well). That travel bug itches pretty bad, though, so we've got some small trips planned at the end of the summer to visit friends and family, and a big trip in the works for the end of the year. But for now it's nice to make a home, which makes us want to stay home!