Saturday, April 19, 2014

Between A Rock And A Flagstone

I have wanted to finish the entrance to the B&B.  It originally had some flagstones that were widely spaced with red dirt in between.  This made a bit of a mess when it rained.  It rained over 50 inches last year.  That's a whole lotta mess.

We asked a local contractor to build a covering over the doors and he did a nice job.  Now it was our turn to finish the path.  He would have poured concrete for us, but I worried that there may be water issues with concrete.  I wanted a more porous surface so water could drain, yet have a hard surface for people to approach the front doors.

 

We decided to shift the flagstones closer together and so we needed more of them to fill in the spaces left behind.  We leveled them without using sand, a level and screeding under the flagstones because we are lazy.

 

Next we dug around the flagstones to allow for a few inches of crushed rock.   We placed treated 2x4s along the sides of the path to hold the rock in place.  Lee cut and pounded in some wooden stakes to hold the wood in place and then screwed the stakes to the boards.

 

We went to the Landscape Store and got a ton of crusher run (also called crush and run) in the back of the pick up.  You heard me, a ton.  So no wondering why my hands are hurting this morning.  Crusher run is crunched up rock of various sizes, all the way down to powder.  This allows it to compact and get quite hard, yet it allows water to soak through.  It is frequently used for driveways. 

 

Lee filled the Mule and drove to where I was waiting and dumped it a small load at a time.  The truck is too big to get through the gates.  The dump bed on the Mule is a great help in these kind of projects.

 

We had enough leftover to spread around the water room door and the flagstones we put there.  When we bought the house there was nothing in front of the water room door and dirt splashed up on it every time it rained.  We hope this will make it dryer and cleaner in there.

 

We may add another ton or so to the side path.  We hadn't planned on it as it isn't the main entrance, but now it looks like we forgot something.

 

This project took three days, what with driving back and forth to the Landscape Store for stones and crushed rock.  But mostly because we had to stop and go volunteer at the library for a few hours, give blood in the bloodmobile there and ....wait for it...prepare for our second group of guests!  Yay for Airbnb!

We still need about 4 truck loads of mulch around all of the gardens and we may plant some flowering plants around the entrance..

Any suggestion for flowering plants that thrive on poor soil and benign neglect?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Round Up Time

Today was the first Round Up time of the year.  Oh, you thought I meant rounding up cows?  Oh.  No.  That is too much work for us.  In fact, I can no longer grip weeds hard enough to pull them from the ground without snapping them off.

 

So I make a big batch of Round Up and spray the suckers.

First I sprayed a dose of antibiotic on the apple trees.  So far it seems to be working on the fire blight.  I would love to have my first apples this year.

I sprayed the peach trees a little late, but spring is a little late this year, so they seem to be doing okay and I haven't seen any peach leaf curl.

 

Then I started on the Round Up.  I only sprayed two gallons and it did all the gardens and around the fruit trees. 

 

I guess it helps to do it early in the growing season, before the weeds get too big. 

 

We are getting a lot of onions this year.  It smells funny when we mow.  Almost like I am preparing dinner!

I didn't even rinse the sprayer after I sprayed the antibiotic.  I didn't care if the weeds got a smidgen of it along with the Round Up.

I even had enough to spray the vegetable garden area.  I wanted to kill all the weeds before I dig the soil in preparation to plant.  Lee wants to do corn this year.  And I want to plant rhubarb.  I may skip the tomatoes.  I have problems with them splitting and I can just go to the Farmer's Market in Daleville and let them deal with the rain and the weeds!

 I may do zucchini, but have had problems with vine borers.  You have to spray for them every week or so and I don't always get to the plant before the borer does.  Very discouraging.  Basil does well and I love it, so that will go in, too.

 

It looks like most of the blueberries came through the winter okay.  There are two that haven't started budding, but I will wait a bit to see what happens in the next few weeks.  I fed them some Miracle Gro for acid loving plants and next I will get some pine mulch and they should be ready to do a little bit of harvesting this year.

I killed a bunch of weeds today, sprayed for fire blight and fed the blueberries.  And now I quit for the rest of the day.  Time to knit.  A girl has to pace herself.  And knitting is working.  It is just sitting down and watching TV working.  I'm okay with that.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hit A Snag

Yesterday was sort of overcast.  I did some yard work and a bit of laundry, but spent a few hours trying to make some progress on the afghan I have been knitting for a cousin.  I was really making some progress.

Now, it is important to stop and check your work and count stitches from time to time.  If you find an error soon enough it is pretty easy to fix it.  If it is a few rows back, you can even unravel just that column of stitching and use a crochet hook to correct it all the way back up to the top.  I have done that many times and have gotten fairly good at it.  That is more a testament to my errors, rather than bragging about my abilities!

So last night, after hours of knitting, I counted.  I was off a stitch.  Where, oh where, did I drop it?  I couldn't find the dropped stitch, but I did find a huge glaring error.  Way back.  Probably a whole day or two of stitching back.  Why didn't I check more often.  Getting cocky or complacent, I guess.

 

It was one of the elements where you drop and then add stitches to make decorative holes in your work. It was so far back and I would have to take out three columns of stitches.  When you have that many columns that far back, it is very tedious and the chance of making all the stitches even and look perfect is very difficult.  So I took out about 20 rows.  HOURS of work.

 

The only bright side of this whole escapade is that I have had a very hard time with the circular needles I have been using. If you are knitting a wide project, it won't fit on traditional knitting needles.  It becomes too crowded as you knit.  My circular knitting needles are 29 inches long, so they hold a big project.  They are stored curled in the package.  I have never had such a hard time uncurling circular needles, maybe because I usually knit larger afghans.

I looked up solutions on the internet.  They all involved dipping the plastic in boiling water.  This obviously should have been done BEFORE I started the project.  So there is my silver lining.  I had to remove the needles to unravel the afghan.  Then I took them to the kitchen.

 

I boiled a pot of water and poured it in a large bowl.  I dipped the curled plastic part close to the actual needles in the water. I guess you don't want to dip all the way to the needles because you don't want to loosen the connection and have the whole thing come apart 

 

After I let them warm up in the water I let it hang straight and used my fingers to rub along the length.  There were a few places I didn't think were as straight as I wanted, so I dipped and rubbed again.

 

Much better.  The knitting blogs suggest making a hanger for circular knitting needles so that after you straighten them, they can hang and not get twisted again. The problem with this is that not all are labeled and I don't know if I could tell what size they are if they aren't in a clearly marked package.

 

I caught up all the stitches back on my newly straightened needles.  With only a little help from the peanut gallery. I guess he could tell my patience was limited! 

 

Then I had to figure out where I was in the pattern.  I did that.   It helps to listen to Pandora radio while I work!

 

 Then I noticed two different sections where I had more errors.  They are on the border.  And so far back, I know I can't fix them.

 

So here is my plan.  Finish this afghan, knowing that a baby will likely not notice any errors.   He won't care. In fact he will probably spit up on this, or otherwise do something of that nature.

And if his mommy notices, she will not mention it, because she is way too nice.  But I am not happy with myself.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Baby Gift

I have a cousin nearby who just had another baby.  I wanted to get her a baby gift.  But I couldn't think of what she would need.

This is not her first child, so I thought baby clothes would not be necessary.  She has 10 children and so space is an issue and toys may not be appreciated.

 

I decided to knit her an afghan.  Usually I go to a fancy yarn shop for knitting gifts.  I don't want to spend 100 hours making something out of cheap yarn.  On the other hand, I didn't want to get a natural fiber, like wool or cashmere that would irritate a baby's skin.  I wanted something super soft, but washable.   There are things that babies do that are just unpleasant and washing can be necessary.

We were in Jo-Ann fabrics looking for crafting items and I found this afghan book.  I don't like crocheting as much as I do knitting and it is sometimes hard to find pretty, yet not too complicated patterns.  This book is full of great knitting patterns.  I bought the book and found some super soft, and not too pricey, baby yarn.

 

I hate starting a new pattern, because I always have to tear it out and start over until I establish the pattern.  This was no different. 

 

I have a good start and I hope to finish it in a few weeks.  After all the baby is about 3 months old and I have not seen him nor brought him a gift.

Gotta get cracking.   For some reason it is taking longer than I thought.   Even with Rhett's most excellent help. 

 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Farm Chores

The last few days have been taken up with farm chores

I mentioned previously that we have a fire blight problem with our apple trees.  The last two years I tried to control it by cutting off the infected branches.  I know that you are supposed to spray them with an antibiotic, but could never find it in any of the local Big Box stores.  I even called a landscaper, thinking I could pay them to do it.  Nope.  They recommended the death penalty - tear them out and start over.

 

I decided to give it one more try and went to Southern States..  The lady there was VERY helpful and told me they had the antibiotic.  I bought it and came home to start spraying.

 

You need about 1 1/2 teaspoons in a gallon of water.  That is enough to do our three apples and one pear.  They are not terribly big, partly because of extensive pruning of the affected branches.  I need to mix up a batch and spray every 3 to 4 days. 

 

The worst part is getting it in my face when trying to spray the tallest branches.  Not sure giving myself an extra couple of doses of antibiotics is a good idea.

 

I will spray until they start to develop fruit and then hope for the best.

Lee and I have also been cleaning up the barn.  This is a project we meant to get to before winter, but didn't.  Then is was winter and far too cold for that sort of thing.  Wrecking my sacroiliac slowed any outside chores.

 

But now I have no excuses.  We pulled a lot of stuff out of the barn and tossed it.  I saved a few things for if (when?) we have B&B guests with horses.  You never know when you will need an extra halter or lead.  There are a few things that need to be washed before we store them, like the horse blankets.  We are waiting for a sunny day so they will dry before nightfall.

We also have a lot of saddles and bridles we need to find homes for.  We plan to contact the 4-H to see if they can use them.  Or maybe a local pony club.  If you know of an organization that would use them, contact me.  I can sell them on craigslist if I don't find a worthy spot.

 

The biggest problem is the underground excavation going on.  Now that the horses are gone and we aren't there everyday with the dog, some critters have set up housekeeping under the stall mats. 

 

They dug in from the outside and spread the dirt and rocks all over the place.

 

Just so you know, stall mats are heavy. And ours are made from mining belts.  Super heavy duty.  And really long.  We had to use a hay hook to catch an edge and roll them back.  Then I brought in shovels full of the rock and dirt piled up outside and filled the tunnels.  Some went under two mats!  I stamped them down and replaced the mat.  It was a lot of heavy work and the plan is to drive down there everyday and wander around a bit with the dog to keep them out.

I need an owl.

 

On the plus side, the barn looks pretty good and the fields are greening up nicely.  I love this place.

 

Friday, April 11, 2014

In the Card Making Mood

The other day, I was still in the card making mood.  Before I put all the supplies away, I made a few more.

 

I had a few clear stamps with coffee and tea themes.  I like the clear stamps.  They don't take up a lot of room and they are easy to position on the paper.

 

This time I stamped a few of each of the designs I wanted on different colors of card stock.  Just stamping, not embossing.

I colored them in lightly with markers and water color pencils.  Then I cut them out using scissors and an X-acto knife.  I then put "buy small scissors" on the list for the next craft store trip!

 

I choses some paper from my stash that looked tea-like and started assembling a couple of cards.

The rest of the pieces went into a small bag for use at a future date.  I like to stamp multiples for when I need a card and don't have a lot of time.  Then I just have to assemble one from the available pieces.
 


I think they turned out pretty well.  Now I have to write a card to someone.  Who shall it be??


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Our First Guests

We just had our first official B&B guest.  We have had friends and family stay with us and used them as guinea pigs for our B&B aspirations.  In our former home, we would invite the neighbors over for breakfast to practice how long meals for a bunch of people would take and to try out recipes on them. 

But now it is official. We are a working B&B.

 

Zach and Courtney were the perfect first guests, friendly, outgoing and just a lot of fun.  Airbnb allows for, and encourages, a lot of communication between hosts and guests.  Among other things, they told us that they were on their honeymoon.

A friend commented that it was "cool that the start of your new venture begins with a couple who are beginning an adventure of their own."  And I was excited to be a part of their honeymoon memories.

 

We plan on providing some sort of treat each day for all our guests, in addition to the breakfast.  But this was a special day for them, so I made chocolate dipped strawberries and then made some heart shaped linzer cookies.  Go big for a honeymoon!

 

We were absolutely thrilled when they told us the next morning that they enjoyed the place so much and wanted to stay another night.  Sure!  And then they brought a treat back for the dog.  How great is that?

Courtney and Zach are on their way home and we will clean and prepare for the next guest.  We have someone coming Sunday and I just got another inquiry.

So we are on our way.