What we did on our summer vacation, part 3

So. June/July. Not a lot happened, housewise. We were busy having fun. Thanks to anniversary presents, we bought some outdoor furniture, and subsequently spent a lot of time outdoors.

We did a little improvement out front, taking out the weird, giant root that was right in front of the house, with a little impromptu help from the neighbors:


Turns out it was a giant hunk of cedar root. That must have been some tree.

I took off on a solo trip to Two Rivers, Wisconsin, to take a class in letterpress printing at the Hamilton Type Museum. I stayed at a B&B that’s about the same vintage as our house, so I spent some time inspecting their plaster and woodwork. (verdict: their woodwork was in better shape, but the plaster was comparably cracked.)


From my class – playing with wood type and experimenting with gradient ink


When I got home, Karl came to visit. He and Dave fenced in the garden (not that it helped. Total harvest: 3 zucchini, 0 tomatoes. I officially hate squirrels.)


And Spike and I spent lots of weekend mornings sipping coffee and enjoying a little early morning sun on the deck.


We had a brunch with friends on a perfect sunny day:


And Tony and I took a day off to go to Milwaukee and see a Kandinsky exhibition up there. (Although this is actually a (fuzzy) Calder mobile.)


And all summer long we were surprised at what came out of the ground, like these grand purple irises:


You can see why we didn’t get much done inside.



Finally. I was beginning to think we’d somehow landed in that Twilight Zone episode where the Earth is moving away from the sun.

But low and behold, green things are appearing in the yard:



Tulips! who knew?

There’s  random assortment of daffodils coming up, too, just to the right of the shot above.

I’m not convinced that the Dr. Seuss Tree is going to make it, though – it was a really hard winter, and it’s looking… less than lively, compared to the rest of the yard.



There is a random assortment of grasses, which is encouraging.


And more tulips popping up:


Plus we’ve cleared out all of the construction trash left when we took down the potting shed, so we are no longer bringing down the tone of the block. (Much to the relief of all the neighbors.) Now we just need to go over the yard with a fine-tooth comb to make sure we have all the glass picked up. That should be fun. (ha.)

But at least things are growing, and the weather’s getting better.

Plan of attack for this year is to put in a vegetable garden in the raised beds, and just watch the rest of the yard to see what comes up/survived the winter (and our total inattention for most of the fall last year). So far, we’ve got buds on both the lilac and the apple tree, and the holly seems to be coming back. There is some sort of voracious tree species that is determined to make ours a wooded lot, so we’ve been doing a lot of digging those up. (I like a tree, truly, but I don’t need 42 of them!)

Inside, I’ve started the tomatoes and the thyme, with surprising results:



They seem to be thriving – this image is actually from a couple of weeks ago – there are about 40+ tomato plants now, all about 3-4″ tall. Yay! The thyme is soooo tiny that I’m just hoping it will actually yield a useable amount by the end of summer. At this rate, we’ll be lucky to get a tablespoon out of them.

I’m tentatively planning to plant the seedlings and the rest of the veggie seeds in the 3rd week of May – we should be well past frost (knock on wood) at that point. We’ll see. You can’t really trust Chicago weather in the spring… or the fall. Or the summer…. oh, nevermind.


Garden bounty

When we closed on the house at the end of July, the previous tenants had a humongous vegetable garden growing. Seriously. You could have fed the better part of the block with the tomatoes alone.

These are from closing day –garden1



Sadly, the potting shed had to go. It wasn’t built properly, and we were told by our inspector that it should come down asap – second only to the electrocution-enabling electrical meter box.

So Dave and Tony pulled it (the shed) down. It was… messy. We’ll go with messy.

There is still a pile of construction debris, somewhere under the 5′ pile of snow in the back yard. We didn’t quite get to ordering a dumpster before the bad weather hit. So that’s on the list for this spring, pretty much as soon as the snow melts. I think we’ll also be pulling down the compost bin (again, improperly built; the wood of the bin is as much compost as the contents) which is just out of frame in that last picture.

Since we weren’t living in the house in August when our 2,000 tomatoes were ready, we sadly missed out on a lot of them. We did take several bags of them back to our apartment though and ate and/or gave away as many as we could.


One weekend’s harvest.

By the time we were living in the house in late September, most of the produce was done. With the exception of a lot. A. Lot. of celery. So one cool fall day, I went out and harvested it.


This is what 2.5 lbs of celery looks like when it’s stuffed into your sink.

Once I’d de-bugged and generally cleaned, chopped and weighed the celery, I made cream of celery soup.


(Yes, Dave allowed me in the kitchen once.)

It was a different, less creamy texture than the commercial variety – I think our skinny little celery stalks were more fibrous than we’re used to – but surprisingly tasty.

We haven’t discussed how much of the garden will be veggies this year, but we’ve been throwing around plants like zucchini and string beans and tomatoes and some herbs – basil, thyme, maybe parsley and lavender.

And I’m still hoping that one-apple tree will surprise us all in fall 2014. Maybe with 2 apples.