Asparagus First Fruits

Asparagus is First

bucket asparagus
bucket of first asparagus

Here is the first little bucket of spears asparagus harvested this year. It has a mixture of older roots that produce the thicker guys and quite a few baby spears that I cut so that these newer plants concentrate on producing roots instead of stalk. I will pick about this much every two days from our one row of mature spears. Last year Pete and I planted another 6 rows from seed so in a couple more years we should be able to make pickled asparagus and even take some to the farmers market.

bucket & pan asparagus
asparagus ready to sauté

There is nothing like slightly steamed asparagus with butter and garlic. Yum! We look forward to this short season crop. It has lots of nutrients that re-energize us as we get our garden planted and going in spring. Here it is cleaned and ready to put in the pan and the compost is in the white bucket on the left. Experience the flavor of freshly picked spears and you are spoiled for life.

This crop take the patience of Job to start in the garden. Multiple years before you get a reliable harvest, but, it is truly worth all the effort. I started the first 25 foot row by buying those expensive 6 roots for $9 at the farm supply store. Roots were all that was available in the seed books and store, so I was under the impression that you had to start asparagus by a root. Wrong, bare roots work but that is not the only way to go.

You can plant them with seed just as easily. If you let the plants go to seed and collect them in the Fall, you can save a lot of money in increasing your asparagus output. Asparagus produces a lot of seed, so I don’t understand why the outlets that have seed charge so much for it.

Planting takes soil preparation requiring you to dig channels that you fill back up as they grow. The goal is to get a lot of root going and it takes patience, care and time. The biggest difficulty I had with growing this was lack of information to help do that. It is hard to weed around starts if you don’t know what they look like as they start to come up. They do not look like the adult plant, so I murdered a lot of my starts before I caught on. Here are some pictures of how they look in the early stages.

Spokane County Conservation District new plant starts

aspen 7
aspen 7 Brekenridge CO

Every year we order new plant starts from the Spokane County Conservation District to improve our garden or landscaping with. The first time I ordered from them was right after I had placed our mobile home. We had Ice Storm and lost half of our trees, so I ordered as many fir as I could afford to replant with the next spring. I love that these horticulturist savvy people really understand our climate in the Inland Pacific Northwest and that their plants are economical small starts that have a real high success rate. They allow the poor folk to be able to care for the land. This year we got 4 different varieties to add to our landscape; 5 aspen, 3 juice grapes, 5 huckleberries, and 5 mock oranges.

Aspen

Above is a picture of some aspen seen in Colorado, so hopefully we will have some color where we planted our starts during fall here at home.

Grapes

grapes and sunflowersWe hope to be able to process grapes soon, our vines have had some problems but I haven’t given up on them yet. There are now two rows of grapes, the older row of grapes has two kinds of grapes and the second row has not got a fence or rail built for it yet.

Huckleberries

huckleberry areahuckleberry start huckleberry start up close This is our splurge item. The starts were grown in Priest Lake Idaho area so we hope we are going to be able to get them to grow over here in Elk. This is a higher area on the property with a slope that we cleared as we put in our border dog fence last year. Pete planted the huckleberry above a log and we marked each of the five starts with a stick to be able to find them. They seem to be doing real good without any help from us. Yay!

Mock Orange

mock oragne start mock orange row

These are planted on the east fence of our garden between the garden and the house as a decorative hedge. They require very little care and want good drainage with lots of sun, so they have a lot of that where they are planted. Hopefully this row will be able to slow down water going down the hill naturally. We are hoping to be having the fragrance of the white blossoms to help attract bees, butterflies, and birds during the summer.

Transplants from the Garden

Transplanting

We had a lot of transplanting to do just as the soil thawed this spring in the Inland Pacific Northwest. As the years go by I am understanding that gardening is just a constant state of discovery, change and adjustment. Our goal is to promote native berry’s and herbs growing outside the garden and, reserve garden space for the guys that can not survive outside.

yellow cone flower bush

Yellow Cone Flower Bush

My wonderful gardening friend gave me a start for this beautiful flowering bush that is a joy to have in the garden. Last year it was full of yellow flowers all summer long. However, had decided that my herb garden is heaven and grew to 8 ft tall and wide in diameter. A case of yellow flowers on steroids! I planted it in the middle of my mint patch and by the end of the season, the mint was struggling to survive. It took over, Oooops!

To resolve this, I spent a day getting to know a shovel intimately. Digging around it and lifting a huge root ball approximately 5 ft in diameter. It was so big that I could not pick it up so I cut it into three sections to be able to get it into the wheelbarrow. One was moved to an open area by the strawberry patch, one was put next to a pine tree inside the drive-in gate and the third section was put outside the walk-in gate as an experiment to see if the deer will leave it alone. This way, if the deer decide it is a scrumptious delicacy we will still have two viable bushes in the garden.

choke cherry bushesChoke Cherry

Next are the choke cherry starts that I got from the Spokane County Conservation District (SCCD) a couple years ago. This is a gardening outlet that I look forward to getting starts from each year, because they are reasonable and the plants are tested for success in our climate. You can sign up for the SCCD newsletter at their website.

As you can see here, these were in the bottom of my herb garden at the retaining wall. They were growing to get big enough for the deer to leave them alone. These guys were taking over the lower slope of the herb garden, so we had to transplant them outside the garden. Do you know about the choke cherry, here is some interesting info about them? Bet you didn’t know all that.

herb garden wall rebuildWe had to remove the retaining wall to be able to dig up the choke cherries. Here is the wall rebuilt afterwards and the herb garden is ready for replanting again. If you look up at the top by the strawberry patch you can see one of the yellow cone flower transplant starts there.

Elderberry BushElderberry

These elderberries were quite prolific last year. This is one herb I love to keep on hand to keep flu and colds at bay. The Elderberry bushes are moved outside the garden this year too.

goose berry bushGooseberry

Now, the gooseberry bush, which has the most vicious thorns I have ever experienced. Honestly, it would make an excellent border hedge to keep all manner of beasts at bay. It is being moved out of the garden as a matter of self-preservation for me because I have grown weary of being poked and cut by this bush. If the deer like this berry, then I guess they are welcome to it, cause the wounds are not worth it to me. I am hoping my attitude will improve with a little distance from this guy.

Life Drawing Mondays

Figure 04/19/21

We  had wonderful models on Monday evening life drawing these past two weeks. Last week, the male model posed in different positions for 25 minute sets and here is my best out of the group of pencil drawings from the evening.

Figure 04/26/21The next week we had a female model posing for portrait night. This is where we have the same pose for all three hours. The model takes a break after 25 minutes and then comes back to the same position again after the break, throughout the 3 hour session. Here is the best portrait rendered in charcoal, from a group of three drawings for the night.

It is amazing how challenging it is to draw the human figure. A slight change in angle or lighting makes the drawing totally different. I dearly love the time spent at Terry Lee’s studio in Coeur d’Alene ID. Talking with the other artists and seeing everyone’s work is a true inspiration. We have artists working in watercolor, oils, pencil, and acrylics. There is a collection of some real talented local artists. Sometimes, I feel like I have just finished doing a 5 mile run after three hours of intense drawing, but it improves my drawing every time.

Piano Tuning Today

Schiller Piano 07I had my Schiller piano tuned this morning by Mike Paul. He has been tuning for years and years. He says it is a really beautiful instrument and sounds so full and vibrant. It makes practicing a pleasure as it fills our house with music.

Evidently, it was originally purchased for Spokane Washington symphony but was just kept in storage and was later purchased by a lady who wanted her daughter to learn to play. However, she never did learn and the piano sat in their home not being played. It was brought into Peter and Linda’s second-hand store from an estate sale. Linda and her sister bought the piano and it was passed from nephew to niece but none of them played so it was carefully moved and not played. But, in 2016 it was given to us and I have loved it ever since.

When Mike Paul was tuning he said I should take a picture of the serial number and ask the manufacturer to find out what it is worth. So, I contacted the manufacturer’s restorer, even though it doesn’t need any repairs, at Antique Piano Shop for information and here is what he said. It was built circa 1911 and appears to be made of exotic grain walnut wood and is of the carved Louis XV style.  Schiller Piano 01

All the wood is really beautiful grain and the words are golden and written in Old English.Schiller Keyboard 1

Check out the warranty on the inside of the lide.

This is to Certify that this instrument is Warranted for the term of TEN YEARS from the date of its manufacture, and should the instrument, with proper care and use, prove defective in material or workmanship within that time, it is hereby agreed to put it in good repair upon delivery to our factory.

Schiller Piano Company F. G. Jones Prest., Oregon, Ill.Schiller Lid Warranty

Check out on the top left, $425.oo Net Cash Price at Factory – Schiller Oregon Ill. How much was $425 worth in 1911? It is $11,849.76 Whew!Schiller Piano 04Here are all the barely used hammers. So blessed.

Fiddlin’ Red Simpson Model

FiddlinRedSimpsonLife drawing class was great fun this week. We had Fiddlin’ Red Simpson who is a wild west personality and owner of the music store in Sandpoint Idaho (111 Church St). This wonderful character posed for three hours at the studio of fellow artist Terry Lee for our life drawing class. This sketch above is my favorite 20 minute image from the night.

Fiddlin Red Photo

Surprise, Surprise!

Fiddlin Red Simpson 03FiddlinRed480

During the breaks “Fiddlin’ Red Simpson,” showed us a 1800’s fiddle that he found in his homestead cabin. He refurbished it and listening to him play it, was truly a gift as we heard a sound that was absolutely beautiful! Talk changed to be about the many adventures that this man has participated in, along with many kinds of music venues experienced. It was like being in the company of my Mom again to hear this caliber of talent musically.

As we drew and painted I found myself easily seeing a wagon train journey, envisioning horseback riding across the prairies or Yellowstone. What a great era to live in. It was a very welcome walk back-in-time for me.

This man performs for small and large events with a 2 to 4 person band called the Risky Gents, see the Monarch Mountain Band. If you hear of any gig’s, please let him know at fiddlinredsmusic@gmail.com. As I looked at the information on the internet about Fiddlin’ Red, it became clear that we were really lucky to have him in the studio Monday night. I look forward to seeing him again.

Sycamore Tree

Sycamore Tree 02We decided to cut down a Sycamore tree that I planted 25 years ago… after we finished the reno on our storage shed by the garden. It was one of those expensive purchases of a landscape tree costing a wopping $60 in 1995. That is a lot to a single mom’s budget. I really loved this shade tree cooling our mobile home over the years. A Sycamore is actually a gorgeous hardwood tree that grows quite large, with lots of big green leaves and is perfect for shade in yards and parks. However, if you have even a slight allergy to it’s pollen it can make life quite miserable. It became a real chore to mow the lawn under it. You would start coughing as soon as you started mowing and then experience a sore throat with swollen eyes, and coughing for a couple of days after, even if you used a mask and eye coverings. I could not figure it out.

Sycamore Tree 01I had an art show in a downtown garden show where the booth next to me had a professional tree trimmer. I happened to mention to him how irritating the mowing under our Sycamore had become, and the guy laughed. He said that whenever people wanted Sycamore’s trimmed the price went up and his crew was required to wear a full suit to prevent respiratory and skin irritation associated with them. That was shocking but reassuring at the same time. Finding that out 2 years ago, has had me thinking that tree maybe wasn’t such a good idea. When I looked up at the buds on the tree limbs this spring I told Pete that I had enough of the allergy stuff. So, we decided to go ahead and take it down.

Sycamore Tree 03Check out the massive root system. Taking this tree down as a project had a comedy show of I N T E R E S T I N G events attached…. really. Honestly, I’d tell you about them but then I’d have to kill you. Internet BS is not allowed for this top secret event, so, you’ll have to come see in-person to get the story on the rest of this adventure.

Here is a link to more information about Sycamore trees if you are interested. Pay attention to the problems paragraph a few paragraphs down.

https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/trees/sycamore/sycamore-tree-care.htm

 

Finish Old Storehouse Reno

Storage Shed Reno 20This Store House is the latest in fashionable, “Vintage Farmhouse” decor in Spokane county. To achieve this look requires that you save materials from other demolished structures over-the-year in the hopes of being able to re-use them on a reno like this. In other words, you have to be a penny-pincher that saves-everything and you have to know how to make products work in different situations. Easy enough.

Storage Shed Reno 14Most of the re-used metal was from two storage sheds we took down over the years, after that year of real heavy snow that caved-in their roofs. The flashing that you see Pete installing under the roofing metal and over the metal siding is the final part of the waterproofing on the wall that needed to be closed in.

Storage Shed Reno 21Since the T-1-11 was in good shape on the other three sides we only had to do the grade to bottom enclosure and corners in metal to finish weatherproofing the structure.

Storage Shed Reno 18

I had to re-set the CMU blocks for the entryway steps and we were done.

Storage Shed Reno 19

Renovating My Old Studio

Old Studio Reno 01In preparation for the zombie apocalypse, Pete and I are renovating my old studio into a more secure storage shed. It is the white building next to the garden down the hill from our house.

Spring MudJust to make things more interesting, spring conditions are in full effect requiring the use of mud boots for walking outside. You can be walking along real normal and suddenly sink into clay up to your ankle. There is a real art to coaxing your boot back up out of the mud without loosing your balance.

Old Studio Reno 08This structure was a 16′ x 8′ addition that sat against the old mobile home back door. When we moved into our new home and took the old mobile down, this structure was left missing a wall. So, as a temporary measure we covered the stud frame with plastic to protect it from the weather. You know how temporary measures go, well that was half a decade ago. Poor thing.

Old Studio Reno 03First day was spent preparing it to move about 9 inches over to correctly allow for the electrical panel feed line. While doing this, we made sure it was level in it’s new location. It is amazing how much it had settled over the years.

Old Studio Reno 06Then we got busy removing loose boards at the eaves which revealed a host of varmits living in that space.

wasp & bird nestsCheck out how many wasp and bird nests!

Old Studio Reno 05We have left over wood and a small window from construction that we used to close the wall. There was just enough wood to be able to close the eaves.

Old Studio Reno 10We plan on using metal for the final siding, from a storage shed we took down a couple of years ago. The existing T1-11 is still good on the other three walls so we won’t have to re-side them. All that is left after that is closing in base to ground area and caulking around the corners and windows. Maybe a quick coat of paint on the exterior to seal it. Wa La! Sturdy storage shed.

 

Hot Dogs & Smores at 8º Fahrenheit

Hot Dogs and Smores 01 Brrrr! At 8º Fahrenheit we bundled up and went outside to the fire to enjoy hot dogs and smores. Grandparents and Grandkids were on a mission to enjoy this country day together.

Hot Dogs and Smores 04Notice our handy dandy extendible camping forks. Only Grandparents have stuff like this! First, we brown our hotdogs in the fire, then eat them with ketchup. Grandpa was our ketchup dispenser. Yummm. The dogs stood on the side watching. They were certain that we were doing it wrong because, they were not getting any. Especially, the hot dogs.

Hot Dogs and Smores 03Next, we switch to the fine art of making smores. Putting perfectly browned marshmellows between graham crackers with chocolate is so yummy. Smores! So, now we have sticky cold fingers but we continue to make more marshmellows.

Hot Dogs and Smores 02Unfortunately, with the temp so doggone low our fun time is cut-short. Which, is probably a good thing. It saved us from a terrible sugar overdose. It is just a fact of life that you gotta stop, when your finger tips go numb.