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Monday, May 31, 2010

Dinner And An Island

The kitchen island is finished and up (although it needs its missing bolt and nut), and Steve worked a loaf of bread on it yesterday.  I am thrilled to have it assembled, sealed, and installed.  I sealed it with some Boos Board Cream, which is made from food grade mineral oil and beeswax, both of which I have, but no safe way to melt the wax.  So I bought the board cream, which I used just on the top.  The rest was sealed with a little mineral oil.

Anyway, maybe you can see my pasta machine in the one corner.  This pasta machine was a wedding present from my sister Ali, and I've been wanting to install it somewhere permanently so that I can get into the habit of making our pasta.  So yay! It's where I need it to be.

This is just a shot of today's mid-afternoon meal.  Rouladen, which is a German dish, and a real mashed potato (I find that one large potato makes just enough for the two of us), and mixed root vegetables, and greens.  With the exception of the potato and carrot, the veg came out of the garden.  The two turnips, and their greens, and two baby beets, which were delicious.  We each got one little beet.  The greens are a combination of leftover radish greens I cut yesterday, and the turnip and beet greens from today's veg, cooked with Margen (mar-ghen) speck, garlic, and red pepper flakes.  The Rouladen is from large, flat cuts that we get at Edelweiss Deli in Portland (SE12th and Powell), as is the Margen speck.  The Rouladen is spread with mustard, then you put on a couple of slices of regular bacon, some thinly sliced onions, and roll the whole thing around a dill pickle spear. Tie it up, brown in a little butter or oil with a little salt and pepper, then pour in enough water to halfway up the Rouladen, and cook at 350F for an hour and a half.  Pull out the Rouladen and keep them warm, and make a gravy with the juice in the pan.  This Rouladen was actually made last week, and it was time to eat up the leftovers, but Rouladen is better the next day anyway.   The hard part about Rouladen, is finding the proper cut.  Fortunately, Edelweiss has them.

That was at three today.  Now I think it's time for a blackberry sorbet cone....

Thinking About An Electric Fence...

....which would take care of the neighborhood cats and squirrels, too.  Need to research it....

Raccoon Beware

Yesterday I chased a raccoon out of the yard, and I would have got him, too, if I hadn't been running in garden clogs.  As it was, I only managed to smack his last foot against the fence, but I hope it was enough to make him think twice about entering the yard.   I had only the dowel we keep in the sliding glass door channel, so I realized that I need something along the lines of a proper cudgel, like a baseball bat.  That's if Steve won't buy me a gun, which he doesn't seem to be in a hurry to do.  I hates raccoons. Really, really, hates raccoons.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Good Idea No. 5

This is not my idea, but is such a good one that I'm compelled to pass it along.

I make a lot of muffins and find lining the muffin tin a waste of money and muffin, because those little papers are more expensive than they need to be and more of the muffin (or cupcake) than I'd like sticks to the paper.   So I always use a cooking spray to help get them back out of the pan.   I read somewhere that a great way to keep from getting cooking spray all over the counter or sink is to prop the baking pan in your open dishwasher and have at it, just make sure that any dishes in the dishwasher are dirty and not clean, obviously.  I like doing it this way because it really does contain the over spray well.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

So Easy, Even A Chimp Can Do It

When I was a kid, I hung out with my dad in the garage a lot and helped him put together the wooden chair kits that he always seemed to be assembling because someone had outgrown the high chair.  My helping really amounted to sanding the chair parts before he put them together and then varnished them.   I think I picked up whatever mechanical ability I have from him.  The big difference is that where I read carefully, and adhere faithfully to the enclosed instructions, Dad would put something together and then read the instructions to see if he did it right. But I learned a lot about putting things together from watching him, and I've used his method of clamping something together with a length of rope and a screwdriver on more than one occasion.  Pop was good at improvising, and I was usually around to help.

I've been wanting this kitchen island that IKEA has and we came back from the store without one Sunday.  Yesterday morning's check on Groland's availability indicated that they had six units.  They were in! So Steve drove me all the way back to IKEA yesterday afternoon to buy me the kitchen island that I want so very much.  Today I started to put it together, and all was going well until Step 8 in the instructions.  I don't know if you've ever put something together using IKEA's instructions, but they do them all pictorially, so that anyone, in any country can understand how to put them together.  I'm convinced that if chimps had opposable thumbs, even they could do it.

However, if one of the pieces of hardware is defective, they might take as much time as I did to figure that out.  Honestly, I fiddled with the second long bolt and nut to go in for thirty minutes to no avail before taking them both out and checking on them.  It appeared that the threading on the end was not quite right.  I checked the other six of each and the rest were fine.  So it was only one that I had to replace.

I went to, and asked their so-called live help diva named Anna for help.  Actually, that's not fair.  They say that Anna is "IKEA USA's Automated Online Assistant", but then they anthropomorphized it with a picture of a girl in an IKEA polo shirt and headphones, so I got confused.  If I'd noticed that it was an automated online assistant, I would have known it would be just as helpful as Microsoft's Office Assistant.  My interaction with Anna went something like this:

Me: How can I get another part 110700?

Anna:  If you say so.


Me:  What kind of response is that?

Anna:  I'm sorry you feel that way.

Me: You're useless.

Anna:  Is there anything else you'd like to know about IKEA?

Yes- I'd like to know how far down the IT outsourcing rabbit hole (India? China?)  IKEA had to go to get this enlightened bit of programming done and just how much money they saved doing it.   An interactive program just intuitive enough to be wholly annoying but not intuitive enough to actually help. 

Then I searched the website for what to do about missing or damaged parts.  Under missing pieces/hardware, it said to bring your receipt and assembly instructions to the store and talk to them about what you need.  Okay- I'd just driven all the way down there twice in one week to get the darn island- I wasn't about to drive there again to get a bolt.  So I called the store phone number and managed to get a live person at the end of their automated attendant maze.

They were very nice. And helpful.  I told Sondra what happened and that I needed them to send me another one.  She just needed my receipt number and the part number which I gave her, and then she took my name and address, and gave me a confirmation number, and said that I should have it in a week.  When a few minutes after getting off the phone with her and figuring out that the nut got messed up as well, I called back, and gave Nicole my confirmation number and asked if she could add part number 100508 to the package, and she said no problem.   Great.

I managed to get most of the bottom of the island put together, but until I receive the new bolt and nut, I can't finish it.  IKEA's instructions don't say anything about gluing things together, but they supplied me with eight fluted dowels and eight corresponding holes, and being a woodworker from way back, if I see a fluted dowel and a hole, I just gotta get out the glue.

So this is the bottom of the island, almost done, but in the absence of the needed bolt and nut, I'm holding the glued corner together with a couple of gallons of water slung together with some twine sort of milkmaid style and a large jug of liquid laundry detergent.

 Notice the bottle of glue to the left...

Not exactly MacGyver, but I think my dad would have approved.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Plagued By Starlings

This is nothing. They are all over the yard.
We are being plagued by starlings.  They are noisy and even though I know they are bug eaters, they also eat seeds and fruit, when given the opportunity.  Mostly they are ungodly noisy, and I can't hear the usual sweet voiced song birds that are around here.  I usually like birds and appreciate having them around, but I hates starlings.

Anyone have any ideas how to get rid of them?

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Trip to IKEAland

If you follow the Champions League, you'll know that Bayern Munich lost to Inter Milan last Saturday, and if you follow my blog, you'll know that I was counting on Bayern to win so that I could talk Steve into going to IKEA after a kitchen island that I want very much.

Steve, bless his heart, took me to IKEA anyway.  IKEA, curse them, were out of my island.  Actually, I can't really say that because I did check their store stock to see if they had it, and their system said they were out of it, but we went anyway on the off chance that maybe their system was wrong? Not.

I didn't come away empty handed, however.  I got a six-pack of wine glasses that were made in, get this, the USA! I was surprised at that- most of the stuff they carry is manufactured in China, like everything else in the world.  Textiles come from India, though, which is not a surprise. We got some of those- nice 100% cotton dish towels and some nice cotton/linen blend dish towels, and a properly masculine and large apron for Steve, who needs it for beer and pretzel making. Especially the pretzel making, as he uses a food grade lye for the pretzel bath.

At any rate, the thing we got at the IKEA this weekend that I am most excited about I am sitting in even as I type this.  I got a new office chair, and I really love it.  It feels pretty solid- a lot of the stuff at IKEA is cheaply made and feels cheaply made. You really have to look at things.  Anyway, this was sixty bucks and I love its retro, Thirties Modern office feel.  It's also a lot more comfortable than the bentwood cafe chair that I've been sitting on.

 Doesn't this chair have a Thirties Modern feel to it?

I also wanted a stool for the kitchen because I have a friend coming in from out of town and I want her to be able to hang out with me in the kitchen while I cook. I originally planned to get the Dalfred stool, but guess what? It was way uncomfortable.  Walking through IKEA's kitchen section, we saw the Franklin stool at all the computer stations.  I really like its mid-century modern feel, which is conveyed by both its paint color and the steam-bent plywood seat and back- not exactly Charles and Ray Eames, but getting there.

 The Eames would be so proud!

I asked about the island when we checked out, and one of the girls kindly looked it up for me.  Six were being loaded on the truck at the time, so she guesstimated that they should be at the store in a week or a week and a half.  I need to check the stock every day and hot foot it over there when they come in. 

So the trip was not a total loss, and I know that I'm getting my island, as soon as it's available.  Which means that I really should get cracking on that hutch I'm supposed to be building.

Good Idea No. 4

If you've ever bought mixed salad greens by the box, hang onto that box, because it comes in handy. I have three of them.

Some time ago after I'd bought more fresh produce than my refrigerator humid drawers could hold, I was in a quandary about what to do.  I couldn't just cram it all in the drawers.  It would crush the lettuce and I was sure to forget about something in there.

Reused lettuce boxes have a new home over the deli locker.
Enter the lettuce box.  I moved some refrigerator shelves around to fit them, and use them as spare humid drawers when I need them.  Actually, I never put lettuce in the bottom drawers anymore;  I just wash it, wrap it up in a goodish length of paper toweling, and pop it in a lettuce box with its tight fitting lid.  Then the whole thing goes in the fridge.  I once kept a lettuce that way for over a month.  The ribs were a little pink, but I don't eat the ribs anyway- the rest of the lettuce was perfectly fine.  I was pretty amazed that it kept that long, frankly.  I used to keep the lettuce boxes on top of the humid drawers at  the bottom of the refrigerator, but found that I can keep a better eye on them and be reminded of them better once I moved them higher in the fridge.  Now the eggs and bacon can stay in the bottom of the fridge- they keep better down there in the coldest part of the fridge anyway.

I did once try to keep lettuce wrapped up in a clean kitchen towel in the lettuce box, but it soured to the point that I had to make a rag of it, which kind of defeated the purpose.  Once the lettuce is all gone, I dry the used paper toweling over my clothes airing rack in the kitchen, and then use them to wipe up floor spills or suck up fat from a saute pan.  So they get used a couple of times, too.

I imagine that for people with hobbies, lettuce boxes would come in handy for the small stuff that's hard to keep all together.

So hang on to them for those times when you've over bought at the Farmers Market because it all looked so darn good, or have something in the garden that has to come out that you're not quite ready to eat.  They'll store it just fine.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Soccer Widow's Wish

Today is the cup game between Bayern Munich and Inter Milan in the UEFA Champions League, and since it's being televised on Fox Sports, Steve is glued to the set.  He wants Bayern to win of course, being half German, so naturally Inter Milan has just made the first goal. This is just a taste of what's to come because his home team, the Kaiserslautern Red Devils have just won their way back into the First Bundesliga in Germany, which means that Steve now has a chance to see his beloved Red Devils actually play.  In the several years that they've been in the Second Bundesliga, he's only been able to follow them in the German sports write-ups online.

 image from here

I don't watch with him, despite my casual interest in all this, because every time I watch something where I definitely want someone to win, they lose.  I think I'm a curse.  Steve thinks this is all nonsense, but I don't watch anyway because I don't want him to find out it's really true and then banish me from the living room for the game period, which would hurt my little feelings.

The last time he was able to watch Kaiserslautern on TV and they were in danger of being relegated (which happened, as we know), they did something stupid and he was so pissed off he yelled something in German at them.  I was just glad to be in another room at the time, because someone yelling something angrily in German at the top of their lungs is pretty frightening.  I've never once in the eight and a half years we've been married ever been in fear for my personal safety- Steve just isn't built that way, thank goodness.  But his temper is rattling!

If Bayern Munich doesn't win today, it won't be the end of the world, and he'll be his warm, wonderful self anyway, but if they could just win.....I might be able to talk him into a trip to IKEA for a kitchen island that I want very much.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Many Parts Are Edible

Way back in the seventies, Euell Theophilus Gibbons asked TV viewers if they had ever eaten a pine tree, and then went on to add that "many parts are edible".  He was pitching Grape Nuts of course, but I think he might have done the country a little more good if he had mentioned at the same time that radish leaves are edible as well.

Yesterday afternoon I was casting about the garden for enough greens for pasta.  I had pitifully little broccoli rabe left- it was the absolute end of it.  I picked several arugula plants that were bolting.  The Lacinto kale wasn't quite ready, but I cut a few leaves of that anyway, as well as one of the Russian kale that is even younger.  The beets and turnips were out of the question because they're still too young as well, and I'm growing them for their roots, too.  It really didn't look like it was going to be enough.  I let my eyes wandered the planter boxes until their gaze was arrested by the sight of the radishes at the far end of one of the boxes.  I wondered: could radish leaves be edible?  They look kind of like turnip greens.

Looking at radishes in a whole new light

Well, it turns out that radish greens are edible. The University of Illinois Extension Service has a page that also lists the best varieties to grown during which season, which is useful.  The Cook's Thesaurus, which is just a cool site in general, lists them as edible, along with a bunch of other greens I bet you haven't heard of.  Me neither.

But before you run off to go see what else you can browse on in your garden, let me caution you against carrot tops.  Some sources out there say that carrots are edible, which is not quite true.  Even Wikipedia indicates that they are edible, but not normally eaten by humans.  They're certainly bitter.  Carrot tops contain alkaloids, whose affects include slightly elevated alertness, as well as slightly elevated heart rates and blood pressure to very elevated heart rates and blood pressure, to death, if enough is ingested.  Carrots belong to the Apiaceae or Umbelliferae family, which include, among other edibles, angelica, anise, caraway, celery, chervil, cicely, coriander/cilantro, cumin, dill, fennel, lovage, parsley and parsnip.  It also includes Queen Anne's Lace, and the not so edible poison hemlock and water hemlock.  I think that with this family, I'd rather stick to the parts of the plants that centuries of other people's experiments have deemed edible and safe.  Call me chicken; I'm really okay with that.

But I am really glad to know that radish greens are edible.  I'm not sure that I'd go out of my way to try and save the greens that come on top of supermarket radishes; some of those are quite ready for the compost bin by the time I get to them.  But as a vegetable that you can get a lot of use from, radishes now get to join beets and turnips, vegetables whose greens and roots I enjoy equally as well.  And if you think you don't have enough room to grow your own, surely you can find room for a pot of them?  They're easy to grow (as long as you don't try it in clay soil- trust me on this) and the spring varieties only take three weeks.  Not exactly instant gratification, but pretty darn close in the gardening world.

So- many parts are edible.  Who knew? I bet Euell Gibbons did.  I just wish he'd told us lot earlier.

Not Again!

Today is the twentieth of May, and it's hailing. Again.

This time I have most of the tender stuff under wraps, so I'm not as worried as I could be, but the nine hills of Three Sisters with their bean and pumpkin cotyledons are getting hammered. *sigh*

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Playing Horticulture

I've been playing Horticulture lately.  I ran across across a volunteer strawberry among the weeds in the backyard, that I suspect is just an ornamental, which would really be too bad.  But it's sending out runners, so I stuck some soil-packed pots underneath them and pinned them down.  We'll see what happens.

 Playing horticulture with a volunteer strawberry

Miriam over at Mucky Boots Farm has put away her pots for the season.  I wondered if it wasn't time to start winter veg now, and she said that her plan is to directly sow the hardier stuff into the ground, and the lettuces will go into the flats, which are in rotation now.  She has more room than I do, I think.  I need to start my stuff sooner to rotate it in as soon as other stuff finishes.

I am still very new to this idea of growing vegetables for year 'round harvesting.  I wasn't even sure when I should be starting the fall and winter stuff.  Nita over at Throwback at Trapper Creek said that she starts her winter stuff almost the same time as the spring stuff.  I wondered about that, because we are roughly in the same part of Oregon, although she's at a higher elevation.  She said it's not the temperature so much, on a lot of things- it's the length of day, or if you will, the amount of light.  Nita writes a great blog, by the way- she's extremely knowledgeable on a lot of subjects.

Last weekend, I got a second sowing of my storage onions started (Borettana, Copra, and Red Wing) and some Giant Musselburgh leeks, and twelve Brilliant celeriac, and six bell peppers.   The onions and celeriac take 110 days, so I'm figuring on having them out of the ground around the end of the summer.  It's not so important for the celeriac, I don't think, as it is for the onions.  I need to be able to get them cured before the rainy season starts again.  I don't know the variety on the bell pepper because I scraped them out of a supermarket pepper, but they are for harvesting this summer, and I hope to freeze some of them and dry some of them, as well as roast and can some of them.  It's kind of odd when I think about it, but I used to absolutely hate bell peppers as a kid, but I really like them as an ingredient in things. 

Today, I managed to get a sixer each of arugula and lettuce (Bibb) started, and some cilantro and dill.  I also planted twelve more Parade pickling cucumbers, because although the ones that made it bravely through the hail are doing better now, they are all oddly at different stages of growth.  The point of planting Parade is that they produce cucumbers all at the same time, which is great for processing.  So I'm starting over, partly to see what happens, and partly for insurance.  They and the bell peppers are on the heat mat, so hopefully they will sprout and be ready for transplanting in no time.

Summer salad and winter vegetables

You want to know where I finally learned to start seeds correctly? Promise you won't leave me? Martha Stewart.  I know, I know!  I don't normally watch her show, but she had a couple of horticulturalists on it demonstrating how to start seeds correctly so I sat up and paid attention.  When I am packing damp seed starting medium into brand new six packs and tamping it down before putting down seed, I really feel like I'm playing Horticulture.  I am hoping that everything will be ready to plant about the same time that some things are coming out of the garden, like the garlic and the first batch of onions.  I still need to do a day count on the veg I want to plant for next winter, so I'll know when to start it, and then I need to figure out where it's going to go.

I'm going to plant so much more kale for this next winter- I sure love it in pasta!   I just brown some bacon, throw in a good pinch of red pepper flakes, throw in a couple of sliced cloves of garlic and when those are golden, stop them from getting too brown by putting in a ladle full of pasta water, then I throw in a large couple of handfuls of chopped kale and put the lid on.  When the capellini's done, the kale should be too, so I just drag the capellini into the kale with the tongs, mix it up and cook off the water, shut off the heat and add some more olive oil and toss it a little more, and then serve it with freshly grated Romano.  I could eat this dish every other night, easily- it's one of my favorites.  Why Romano?   It's easier to grate than Parmesan and I just got tired of working so hard over the cheese.  Parmesan seems to take forever to grate.  There was a time when I could get my husband to grate my cheese for me, but he seems to disappear until it's time to pour his beer for dinner....I guess the honeymoon's over.

For plant markers, I cut up a wide plant marker from something I bought at the store and wrote on it in a medium-sized Sharpie, and then today I was really stuck for something, so you know what I did? I found expired car insurance cards on my desk that I hadn't cut up yet, so I cut those into strips and wrote on the clearer parts of those.  Not too elegant, but it worked.

Guess you can't really expect elegance from a woman who wear overalls all the time, huh?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Goodbye To Another Old Friend

I don't know about you, and it probably doesn't speak well of my fashion sense, but when not in my pajamas or birthday suit, I'm in my overalls.  I have my good overalls, which I wear like most people wear jeans, which is pretty much everywhere, and I have my grubbies, which are the overalls in which I paint, garden, work wood, and otherwise make mischief.  They are like friends to me because we are comfortable together and I can be myself with them.

Well, today I had to say goodbye to an old friend.  My grubbies bought the farm today, so to speak.  They've been getting threadbare for a long time, and had several rents in them already, but all were in strategic places where I wasn't in danger of letting the cat out of the bag exposing myself.  The first tears were in the bib near the waist which was no big deal.  Then I put my fingers through the back, but way up where my T-shirt would cover for me.  The thin spots over the fronts of my thighs were finally starting to shred, but no problem because nothing important was exposed.

But today, shoving my work gloves into my back pocket, the thin fabric back there just couldn't hold it together any longer and I ripped the dickens out of my work pants. My work pants.  Now my Granny Whites will be exposed, so the old dears had to be taken out behind the woodshed and shot.

Actually, they got an unceremonious dump in the garbage can.  I toyed with the idea of cutting them up and composting them, but they have too much latex paint all over them.  Oh well. You know how I hate to waste things.

Still, at least I got a story out of them....

Garden Progress

Just some pictures of what's been happening in the garden lately....

First year asparagus
High Carotene canning tomatoes (a high acid heirloom,) storage onions, an eggplant and marigolds.  There's some basil in there as well, but are too small to see, and carrots interplanted with one of the sections of onions.

The big stuff in front are radishes almost ready; then teensy leeks to the left of them, onion seedlings just past them, brocolli rabe sprouts lining celeriac seeds, a single line of four Swiss chard plants, more carrots, and my new Walla Walla onion transplants.  You can say what you will about Vidalias, and I have had them when I lived in Florida, but up here in the PNW we have Walla Wallas, and they are something else.  The smell as I transplanted them was almost more than I could handle. I planted some over by the garlic and I think I'll let some of them go to seed...

Here are my pitiful peppers and pickling cukes.  I've lost one cuke and three peppers...the hangers-on are gamely making a comeback. I mulched them with some compost yesterday, and cover them at night, so they are doing better.  I learned a big lesson with these little guys...

This is my best bed.  Carrots in the lower right, then mixed storage onions, parsnips (yay! they germinated!) then more onions and the last of the broccoli rabe, then red cabbage, beets, more cabbage seedlings, then green cabbage, and last in the way back there celeriac.  We're having the last of the broccoli rabe today for lunch sauteed with some arugula over which I'll put a couple of poached eggs and some Paulandaise sauce.  Tonight is Pizza Night, so we keep lunch light on Fridays.

Here is the lettuce bed, covered with a burlap shade cloth. In the front of the bed I have salad cucumbers which are just breaking the soil.  The little seedlings to the left of the lettuces are radishes, and on the far left a couple of Burbank tomatoes, a slicing heirloom. Oh- and a marigold.

The garlic bed.  Mixed in there is a hodge podge of lettuce (I forget which kind) Lacinto kale, meslun mix, arugula, carrots, turnips, and an artichoke.

The Autumn Britten raspberries. Finishing their supports and wiring them up is on my list of things to do today, or at least this weekend.

The Rovada Red currant.  This was a seriously dead looking stick when I put it in the ground, but it is doing splendidly. You might even be able to see some racemes on the right side about the middle.

A close-up of Three Sisters, although there are only two showing at this time: corn and pumpkins.

My apple orchard. Hey- I'm just glad they all survived their butchering.  That's shredding off the sweet gum over cardboard for mulch.  I hope to do the rest of the yard next week. Hope. 

Charentais melon, a variety noted for ripening in cool weather.

Eight Ball zucchini.

Liberty melon from seed saved from a CSA melon from last year.

Patty pan squash, probably my favorite summer squash.  This one is Green Saucer.  The stick in the middle is a piece of apple pruning, and it's to hold up the bubble wrap with which I insulated the cucurbit beds.  I didn't have enough for all of them, which the next picture will illustrate.

This is the hapless honeydew, which did not get insulated.  Needless to say, the next time I run across a largish hunk of bubble wrap, I will be hanging on to it!

The herb box.

The strawberry box. Incidentally, I've learned the Achilles heel with this method of planting.  The concrete is so porous, the soil dries out pretty fast.  So I'm going to paint it with some Drylok  by UGL which I hope will do the trick.  The next time, I would paint the interior of the block before filling with soil.  I learn all the time.   How do I know about Drylok?  I used to sell it.

So now you know I haven't been idle all this time.  And now that it's nearly eleven in the morning, I really need to get out there and water! and do everything else on my list.....

Monday, May 10, 2010

Let's Make A Deal

I promised I'd tell you about my new freezer, which was delivered last Thursday.  The reason I want to tell you about it is not to blow my horn, but to persuade women out there to do more for themselves when it comes to getting a deal.  It all boils down to the first piece of advice, and that is....

If you want a deal, you have to ask for one.  The worst that could happen is that they'll say no.  The other side of the coin is, you could get a deal.  There have been countless times I get a deal simply because I ask for one.  When the cider press and crusher combination Steve found for me at the garage sale was marked $45, I got it for $40, simply because I said to the woman, "I don't suppose you could let me have it for forty?"  And she said yes. 

Here is my freezer illustration:  The same freezer that Steve looked at online the week before I did was a 16.7 cf Frigidaire at Best Buy.  It was $549.  When I found it online the following Saturday, it was on sale for $494.99.  I called the local Best Buy to find out if they deliver to my city and how much.  The fellow I talked to said yes, and that delivery was $29.99.  So I printed the online special and Steve and I set off for the store.

When we got there, we found the freezer, but the sign didn't say anything about the online price, so I showed the salesman my screen print and asked about it.  Sure- they'll match the price.  We went to go ring it up but he had trouble with their system taking the SKU.  So he calls over the system expert.  She has trouble, so she calls over the manager. She has trouble, so they try it in on a different terminal.  Still won't take.  She looks for another freezer in their system.  There aren't any in the warehouse, and there aren't any in any of the other Best Buys in the Pacific Northwest.  So this is where I just got lucky.

She tells me she can give me an open box price if I want to take the floor model.  So I say sure, because I remember only a couple of smudges on the inside of the freezer- those could be washed off later.  While she's working on ringing it up (they're still having trouble with this system, which was evidently only a couple of weeks old), Steve and I go back and pore over the freezer, just to make sure.  Everything looks good.

 I go back to the register, and she can't ring it up as a delivery because the system is not taking the SKU in the delivery section of the system- she can only ring it up as a pick up order.  She decides to go ahead and ring it up as a pick up order and she would personally make sure it got scheduled for delivery.   All this time I'm being patient and pleasant because it's not her fault that she's having all this trouble with the system and this SKU.  She gets it rung up and I sign for it.  Then I remember the delivery charge and I ask, "What about the delivery charge?"

"Don't worry about it, " she answered.  So I got a $549 freezer delivered for $475.  But it didn't stop there.

 The inside of my new freezer

In the state of Oregon we have this organization called The Energy Trust. I guess they exist to get people to use less energy because they have all kinds of deals for buying Energy Star appliances.  They will also give you thirty bucks for having someone they approve of haul away your old fridge, in order to get it recycled properly.  Well, I didn't have an old freezer to recycle, but the new freezer qualified for a $50 check from them.  I filled out the online application, and sent them a copy of the receipt.  So I got the freezer for $425.

This freezer is pretty cool, too.  This freezer uses 615 kwh per year, so they estimate it'll cost $65 a year to run. Well, we all know that as energy prices rise, so will this, but at least it's way on the low end of energy use.  It has some pretty cool features, too.  The control for it is in the front of the door, rather than on the inside, so you don't have to open the door to change something.  It has an Extreme Freeze feature, to quickly freeze something down, a door ajar alarm, a control lockout to prevent someone from accidentally changing the temperature. It has a temperature alarm, to let you know if the interior is getting too warm, and a power failure indicator to let you know that happened if you didn't happen to be around when it did.  I think my favorite feature on this thing is the Sabbath mode, which disables all lights and other electrical activity , with the exception of the compressor of course, which continues to keep everything cold. This is cool to me, because no phantom load.  Of course, if you leave this on, then none of your other alarms or bells and whistles work.  But it's still cool to me.

So I think I did pretty good.

If you're not used to negotiating, just remember a few things.  Ask for a deal. The worst that could happen is that they say no.  Don't get outrageous about it- if you low ball, you'll risk insulting them, and that is the end of your negotiation.  Be pleasant through the whole thing, so they want to play too.  And remember that in a negotiation, try to come up with an offer where everybody wins. Know where your limit is, and don't go over it.  Also, be willing to settle, but start with more so you can give up only to the point where you want to stop.

And if there's only one thing you can remember, it's ask.

Good Idea No. 3

I think I've mentioned before that the previous owner left a bunch of stuff in the backyard when he moved out, most, but not all of it garbage.  One group of items that he left were a bunch of tomato baskets, some of which he'd fashioned into half-assed mini greenhouses.  He'd bent the bottom prongs in, and covered them in plastic.  We didn't find them until Brian had removed all the arborvitae because Randy had stashed the baskets behind them.

The canning tomatoes (High Carotene- a high acid heirloom) have grown too big for their water jug cloches, so I fixed up the mini-greenhouses with some clear packing tape.  What they did not have were tops, so I fixed some of those with more of my own plastic and more packing tape.  Good thing I had the packing tape.

Anyway- I was worried about the wind blowing them over and them falling on the tomato next door or the onions, so I decided to see what could be done about it.  Remembering the bundles of apple tree prunings I had in the side yard, I first jammed them into the bed and then cut them so they'd be shorter than the greenhouse.  I looped them together with a rubber band.

Then I popped the greenhouse over the top.  Figuring that the wind might still blow them over, I doubled my insurance by sticking the remainders of the prunings into the soil to help hold them down.  They felt pretty sturdy.

On one of them Randy used a different plastic, which didn't quite reach all the way around the bottom, so that one I helped hold down with a hook fashioned out of a forked branch.

There's no telling how long any of this will last, but it doesn't matter.  They only have to last as long as it takes the weather to warm up enough- I'm figuring just another month.  Or until they're so big, they've outgrown the new greenhouses as well.

So the tomatoes are safe, and this didn't cost me anything but some time.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Good Idea No. 2

Have you priced shade cloth lately? It's really ridiculously expensive!  I had a hunk of burlap in which a rug arrived and saved it. I didn't know what for at the time, but I've taken to saving things that look like they'll come in handy some day.  Burlap, it turns out, makes a perfect shade cloth because it doesn't exclude all the sun, just most of it.  I used some 50lb test fishing line that the previous owner left in the garage to string it up.  The white posts you see are bits and pieces of a plumbing project left by, you guessed it, the previous owner.  I just threaded the fishing line through the fittings on the tops of the pipes and threaded them through a corner of the burlap.  It worked out great and my only wish was that I had a larger piece of burlap.  The next time I am at the home improvement warehouse I'll check to see if they have those burlaps that landscapers use to haul away grass clippings and leaves.  Even if I have to shell out for them, they'll still be a lot less money than buying shade cloth would be.....

Good Idea No. 1

This is my new salad spinner.  I broke the old salad spinner top, rendering it useless for spinning salad.  I still use the  basket for collecting lettuce leaves and washing them, but I needed a new salad spinner.  So I went shopping.  The cheapest I could find was twenty-five dollars, and I just don't feel like parting with twenty-five dollars for a bunch of plastic that I'll probably break somewhere down the road. Lehman's catalog has a stainless steel salad spinner for close to fifty dollars, and I feel less like parting with that much.

Enter the paint strainer bag.  Steve purchased a bunch of paint strainer bags from the local home improvement warehouse for his beer making.  He uses the large strainer bags for the grains, which come two to a pack for under five dollars.  He uses the small paint strainer bags for the hops, which come two to a pack for under four dollars.  I marked a large one for salad so that he doesn't grab it (and yes, I asked permission first!).  All I do is after I wash the lettuce by dunking it in a tub of water and straining it a couple of times, I put all the wet lettuce into the bag.  Then I go out on the deck and swing that baby 'round and 'round like David and his sling shot, and the centrifugal force takes out most of the water.  I'll fluff it up a little, and swing some more, and then I'm done.  It doesn't quite get it as dry as the salad spinners do, but it's a lot better than trying to towel dry it and I'm happy enough with the results for the price.

Necessity being the mother of invention and all....Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Last Ditch Efforts

Today's forecast called for more hail, and temperatures in the middle thirties for tonight, so I decided on a last ditch effort for the peppers and cucumbers.  I really should have done this right after planting them, but I wanted my belief in spring temperatures to manifest.  Now I know better.

That's my new herb block in front.  I also covered the newly sprouted zucchini and patty pan squashes, and the Charentais and Liberty melons against the coming frost thusly:

If you look closely, you can barely see the outline of the cotyledons of the squash, which are huge!  I had neither enough bubble wrap or concrete blocks to do the last bed, so the honeydew are on their own.   Last but not least, I put the last of the plastic over the lettuce to bear the brunt of the hail and to keep the frost from hitting them:

Naturally, because I'd been Johnny-on-the-spot with preparations for today, it didn't hail.  Not only that, but we had enough sun breaks for me to worry if I was cooking the lettuce.  I guess we'll just have to see.

Today we also got the Biggest Sweet Gum Known To Mankind some attention from certified arborists.  Brian Horrigan of TreePeople had given us the best price last year when we were thinking of having the tree removed altogether, and before we discovered what a royal pain removing a tree in our city is. We have an ordinance that says that any tree with a circumference of three or more inches has to be permitted for removal.  That's any tree with a diameter of a little less than an inch, so God forbid you have a boatload of trash saplings all over your place!  I think, in my heart, that they meant three inch diameter, but someone seriously screwed up somewhere.  Anyway! The idea was to thin the tree, and they did a great job.

That's Gary on the left and Brian on the right.  This is where they were midway down the tree; they started waaaaay up at the top.

This is Brian.  The graininess is due to our new camera, and I can't tell when I'm taking the picture that it's going to be grainy, and I can't tell what it is I'm doing that makes it that way.

I also got a couple of yards of chipped tree dumped in the driveway, so I can start putting down some cardboard and mulch, which should make Steve's edging and mowing hell a little easier to take. At eight hundred dollars, it was probably the most expensive mulch and firewood we've ever purchased or ever will, but hey! We got a tree trimming thrown in for free!

I also received a very nice condolence card from the folks at the vet clinic today.  They all had really nice things to say about Rufus, which was nice to read, even though it had me fumbling for my handkerchief.  I am generally okay, but completely dissolve out of the blue for no apparent reason every once in a while.  That dog seriously got under my skin and it will be a long time before I am over him.  I sure hope he knows how special he was to me.  See? I'm doing it again.  Well, tomorrow it will be one week, so I guess I'm entitled.

Tomorrow my Agribon and six-pack sheets show up, so I'll be able to cover the cole crops against the flying uglies and start some more seed.  Our freezer is also supposed to be delivered, and I'll tell you all about that once it's in, turned on, and freezing something.

I am definitely feeling a lot more ready for summer this year than I did last year.  How are your plans coming along?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Hard Way

It hailed again today, and this time I don't even want to go out and see what got destroyed because I have all the cucurbits sprouted this time, in addition to having my tender cukes and peppers out.  I've already lost one of the cucumbers and two of the peppers that just this time I feel a lot more defeated than I did the last time.

I guess the only thing to do is start over, and remember next winter to cool my jets and wait until later  in the spring to start my seeds.

Next year I'll do better. I'm still learning. Evidently the hard way.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Planting Strawberries

What with being worried and preoccupied with Rufus last week, I didn't get to post about my strawberries when I finished them.  My original plan for them was to put them in hanging baskets, but I realized that if I waited for when I had time and money to put together strawberry baskets, we would not have strawberries this year.  So casting about for where to put them, I decided to utilize a mess of screen block the last owner left in the garage and to put them on the deck close to the back door.

I started with six....
Then to keep the soil from falling through the bottom, I used leftover deck spacers to block off part of the space in between the decking like so....
....and here is the finished product...
It's not terribly pretty, or anything, but it'll work, and there's lots of room for the strawberries to send runners for new plants.  I planted a mint that I had in the center top, and then the five strawberry plants went into the centers of all the other blocks.  You might be able to see that I wrapped a length of my copper mesh around the bottom of the whole thing to keep the slugs from getting to everything at the top.

I liked this well enough that I bought more concrete block (building blocks, not screen block) to plant herbs in on the other side of the deck.  Now I'll be able to collect herbs for cooking without having to don my muck boots!