Home improvement, gardening, upcycling, arts and crafts: proving a streetcar-suburb homestead in the lungs of Seattle.

This is rarely a "How-to" blog and more of an "I did" journal, a record of the ideas, innovations, and renovations that go into my DIY-lifestyle.

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12-day old Flat-Coated Retriever puppies from Valley Crest Kennels.

One of these puppies will be mine on March 31. Photos were taken by the breeder; I haven’t yet visited.

Backyard chickens scratching in fresh dirt — happy chooks! 

I’m cleaning up the grazing screens for summer, which means 48 square feet of dirt that’s been unmolested since September. The chickens are delighted to dig up and eat all the seeds, sprouts, bugs, and more that they’ve been able to see but not reach in that time. You can tell they’re happy because their butts are pointed to the sky and they’re quiet except for little chortles and chuckles.

More jars of plums, waiting in the pantry. Just out of the oven. Flipped onto a cutting board to slide out. Success! I didn't make any pretty patterns, since the plums were pretty mushy -- I figure just getting them into an even layer is a success. Plum Up-Side-Down Cake with last summer's yellow plums canned in light honey syrup and cinnamon sticks. Left-over honey plum syrup makes a great toddy -- just add whiskey and hot water. Plum Up-Side-Down Cake and a Plum Toddy.

I made Plum Up-Side-Down Cake with two jars of last season’s yellow plums (the ones with cinnamon sticks in the jars). It is very, very tasty — and the light honey syrup left over makes a great hot toddy.

This is especially good news, since we have quite a few jars of plums left.

I fused two recipes from my reprint of Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book, the one for Upside-Down Cake and the one for Rich Yellow Cake.  The “rich yellow cake” was pretty light and fluffy; I think I’ll try chiffon cake instead next time. One of the “secrets” is replacing part of the milk with the canning syrup.

Canning Lessons for next year:

  • Don’t cook them as long — these were quite mushy
  • Don’t can whole plums — the work of getting the pits out without squishing the canned plum isn’t worth the work saved of pitting them before canning
  • Canning fresh plums is definitely worth the work of doing it!

Made dill pickles from the overgrown mini cukes today, in two batches. One — the one with the cheesecloth covers — is lacto-fermenting web now. The other was heat-processed with pickling spices.

I don’t like dill pickles and just made these for Mike (he loves them) but these smell pretty good. Maybe I’ll like small-batch homegrown dill pickles just fine.

These were made with cucumbers from the front yard, dill and garlic from the farmers market, and commercial vinegar and spices. I used the canning jars my mother-in-law gave me, with new lids.

A day of plums. There were many, many plums.

Simple grilled meal on a lovely summer evening: steelhead with onion and olive oil, zucchini and bok choi in browned butter, and a rainier cherry sangria.

So glad that I have a part of the back yard that’s nice to sit in again.

Operation Greywater Irrigation: Test #1 is a success! The washing machine’s own pump is strong enough to expel used water out of the basement to ground level.

Some of the resources I’m using to plan the system:

My first-ever time turning a compost pile. It was way easier than I’d feared, and the stuff seems to be rotting nicely.

Yesterday’s rainstorm watered everything and filled the new chicken coop water barrel, but it also broke two large branches off the red plum tree. Sad.

Greek gyro salad, one of my favorite primal meals, in celebration of almost-summer and the first week of farmers’ market tomatoes.

The brown paper pots were an excellent idea, but not very useful. In just two weeks, basically all of the bottoms of the pots have decomposed without a trace. I’m looking into getting plastic pots for the next round.

Also, I think some of my seedlings aren’t getting enough water. Maybe I should start over-watering and trust that the drainage is good.

Four tomato seedlings after their first spell outside (about three hours in the walls o’ water this afternoon). These are Taxi, Black Prince, Sun Gold, and Indigo Rose varieties.

To-Do List

I’m going out of town for a few weeks starting on Saturday evening, so here’s what I hope to accomplish by then:

Monday/Tuesday

  • Clean out hen house
  • Make outdoor potting soil
  • Transplant Tophat blueberry into large blue ceramic pot
  • Transplant other three blueberries into large nursery pots (temporary)
  • Plant new six shrub roses in hedge line
  • Harden off handful of tomato seedlings in Wall O’Water cones
  • Water downstairs seedling trays
  • Plant lettuce, carrots, and more radishes outside
  • Move remaining potted strawberries to back yard around huckleberries 
  • Re-pot raspberries whose pots have disintegrated

Wednesday/Thursday/Friday

  • Plant first tomato seedlings

We’ll see how it all goes.

Set up the Wall O’ Water season extenders today, to start warming up the ground for tomatoes. I’ll start hardening the first batch off Monday, and hopefully drop them in the ground on Thursday.

I found a local article from a guy in Seattle who puts his tomatoes out in Walls O’ Water on April 1 every year, so here goes hoping that mine do a well as his. If not, though, I have more seedlings to take the place of any that fail.

"Angel Wings" miniature roses planted April 11, in origami newspaper pots. They have a lower germination temperature than the vegetable seeds, so I have them in the dining room.

I planted all 24 seeds in the packet, so hopefully I’ll get at least 12 plants from this batch. They’ll all stay in pots and containers, some on the homestead, some for gifts, and some for work.

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