Yard Project: Gardening Corner

So, this is our big project from this summer.  We have a corner of our yard that is next to the house and surrounded by fence.  It doesn’t get a lot of sunlight and the grass wasn’t growing, so it was pretty eroded.  The previous owners seemed to have been using it as a compost heap.  Combine that with the fact that our back porch was crowded by my gardening supplies, our grill, and our potted plants, and we needed a solution.  I will admit my husband did most of the planning on this.  He was itching to get his hands dirty on a big project.

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We skipped a few steps before the first photo.  Prior to this, we dug out the area and leveled it as best we could.  It was pretty sloped, and on the right side of the photo, we were hitting the edge of the foundation.  You can kind of see how far it had eroded, compared to the grass at the edge of the photo.  So in addition to creating a place for my gardening tools, we were hoping it would stop more erosion from happening.  We did have a lot of extra dirt from the leveling, hence the bucket.  We added that to our flower beds.

The first set of bricks went down, and we tried to really focus on getting them stable.

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After the first layer of bricks, we put down landscape fabric.  This is supposed to help keep the stones and gravel from travelling away from the pit.  In addition, it should keep it from getting too muddy underneath the stones.  Note how we tried to keep an edge of the fabric on top of the bricks.  When we put down the second layer of bricks, the landscape fabric will be caught between the layers, making it even more stable.

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Second layer of bricks.  The white stuff is adhesive.  We might not have needed it, but again, anything to make it more stable.

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The first layer of stone.  This is just regular drainage stone.  Supposedly it will also help keep the smaller gravel from traveling.

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The rest of the pit is filled with pea gravel.  At this point, it’s ready.  We did have a couple of extra bricks.  We got paranoid that we wouldn’t have enough and so bought some more that we ended up not needing.  We might use them in another project, but for now they’re stacked on the edge.

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The final results.  My trunk/bench back there is filled with my gardening hand tools, extra pots, and various fertilizers.  As you can see, we also had several bags of garden soil and a big bag of peat moss.  Our porch opened up so much once we got all that stuff off of it.  And next spring, replanting all my pots should be a breeze, with this nice little corner to work in.

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Passing Conversations – November 11, 2014

I started this feature before the blog went on hiatus, so while I’m trying to build up a buffer, I thought I’d post some of the things I’ve been reading/watching lately.

  • CGP Grey – A Youtuber who produces content on different interesting topics.  Even though the election is over, check out his series on voting in the animal kingdom.  It’s a nicely abstracted explanation of different aspects of voting and representative government.
  • Highlighting and Contouring on Various Face Shapes – maskCara has a great guide to different face shapes here.  For some reason I wasn’t getting updates from her blog since last year, which is a shame, because obviously she’s been putting out some good content.
  • Brows Held High – Another web video series.  The host here talks about art films, and I’ve found the series both entertaining and educational, especially since I haven’t been exposed to a lot of film critique from that perspective.

Hopefully those will keep you busy until the next round.

Butternut Squash Lasagna

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Fall.  Autumn.  Whatever you want to call it, it’s quickly becoming my favorite season.  Summer fruits are great, and spring has the wonderful warming feeling.  (I’ll admit I don’t like winter except for the holidays.)  But autumn has the perfect weather, and starts reintroducing us to our favorite comfort foods.  I got the first basket of my fall CSA last week, and we’re starting to drown in squashes.

I picked up this recipe from a cooking class, featuring the owners from one of my favorite local restaurants.  So, I’m just going to include an outline for the recipe, rather than the details, but it’s pretty flexible.

Ingredients

  • diced butternut squash (my lasagna was made in a 9×9 inch square pan and used about two pounds)
  • lasagna noodles (whichever kind you prefer)
  • shredded mozzarella cheese
  • grated parmesan cheese
  • herbs or spices (such as sage, cinnamon, nutmeg)
  • bechamel sauce (basic recipe below)

Method

  1. Saute the  butternut squash with some olive oil and spices.  When softened, transfer to a food processor, and process until smooth.
  2. Make your bechamel sauce and cook any other fillings you might want.  I added Italian sausage, and I’ve had a version with pecans that was really good.  I think the next version I try will have cremini mushrooms.
  3. Build your lasagna:  a layer of bechamel sauce, then noodles, then butternut (and your other chosen filling) then mozzarella, and repeat.  Top with a final layer of mozzarella and the grated parmesan.
  4. Cover and bake about 40 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  Uncover for another 15 minutes until the top is bubbly and brown.  Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Bechamel Sauce

Bechamel sauce is a basic white sauce and one of the French “mother” sauces, and it’s not that hard to make.  I was making it before I knew what it was.  Three ingredients is all you need.

  • Butter
  • Flour (equal amount to the Butter)
  • Whole Milk or Heavy Cream
  1. Melt the butter in a sauce pan until it bubbles, but isn’t brown.  Add the flour and whisk until it forms a paste, about 1 minute.
  2. Add the milk slowly, whisking constantly.  Reduce the heat to prevent scorching (especially if using cream), and whisk until thickened to a consistency you like.

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Late post today, so just a quick photo of our Halloween/Fall decorations.  I carved the one on the left and my husband did the one on the right.  Sadly, we carved the pumpkins too early and they didn’t actually make it to Halloween.  So, for next year’s Halloween, carving will happen the day before or the day of.  I’ll have a longer post for tomorrow.

 

Drainage Area – Yard Project

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One of the first projects we attempted this summer was to make this drainage area.  The garden hose hangs next to the back door, but just off the porch.  During the summer we were watering our container garden every day.  This area beneath the hose didn’t have any grass and so it turned muddy every day.  This project was pretty easy, but it did require two people, mainly due to our choice of edging.  I chose this very thin edging because I didn’t want to take out a lot of the yard, but if I did it again, I think I’d choose something sturdier.  We had a lot of trouble trying to get it to stay in the ground.  We lined the bottom with landscape fabric.  Then we filled it with one bag of egg rock (this isn’t the brand we used).  I was going for a round river rock bed sort of feel.

As you can see, it turned out pretty ok.  We haven’t had any more problems with mud in that area, and I think it looks nicer than the little bit of grass we had there before.  This leads into a larger project that will post about soon.

Exercising your Right to Vote

So, in case it isn’t obvious, I live in the U.S.  On Tuesday, we’re having elections.  However, since it’s not a presidential election, it doesn’t tend to get the same amount of focus.  But these elections are just as important as the presidential ones.  Now, I’m not a political scientist or anything, but from my perspective, the members of congress have just as much power making laws as the president.  That’s kind of the point.  They are the voice of your state on the national level.

More important that, though, are the state and local elections.  Your state governor and state legislature have more say on your day-to-day life.  They’re the ones making the laws that directly affect you, from education funding to taxes.  And yet, so many people don’t participate in these elections.

So, I’d like to take one of my 30 days of posting to encourage you to go vote.  I also would like people to make informed votes.  Please don’t just fill in bubbles randomly and even if you’re part of a party, think about why you’re voting for someone!  Here’s some links to help you research:

  • Some states have electronic sample ballots online.  Check your county election board website to see if that’s the case.  These are typically available a couple weeks before the election.
  • I Side With – This website is a great way to get started.  You take a quiz on major issues, along with rating how important each issue is to you, and it will show you what candidates in the major races align with your results.
  • Politics1 – This website can be a little hard to navigate, but if you search for your state, they list the candidates, with links to their websites.
  • I also found googling your state, 2014, and the name of the race also helps find information.

After this, you should have very few excuses for not voting.  Depending on your state, you may have needed to be registered a couple weeks ago.  So, that’s a valid reason, I guess.  But you really should participate in your next election.  The point of democracy is for everyone to have a voice in our government and you should exercise it.  People don’t participate enough, especially in their local elections.