Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The projects...

Thought I would throw out an update on the projects that are going on around the house. It's starting to wind down. Even though there are always more projects just waiting for our attention we are about done. For a while anyway. There is still so much I want to do, but now that these few things are being addressed it's no longer on a need basis. That means that most of the rest of the projects will wait until we've paid off these and saved enough to move on again.

The master bath is finally complete. You saw the new shower...
It felt really great to get this finished and we couldn't be happier with the results. We have more room, it looks nicer and NO MORE MOLD> bonus! ;-)

Well, the week after this was finished I went ahead with the demolition of existing contractor grade cabinet and mirror The cabinet would have been fine had we decided to leave it, but since we started this project my Mother gifted me (Merry early Christmas and Happy Birthday, too!) with a beautiful vanity cabinet. It had it's own challenges, but we'll get to that.

Demolition is normally somewhat cathartic for me. Destroying something in the hopes of bigger and better things? That's neat.
But int he case of a 7' mirror? Its not cathartic at all.
It's nerve wracking. It's all encompassing. It's nail biting. It's.... SO GLAD we didn't break that mirror!

It took an entire day and a lot of  sweat and a few tears. Luckily no blood.
So after all that we finally got ready to put in the new cabinet. Guess what? It didn't fit int he same spot. Not only was it a different size, but the bottom had feet on it that raised it off the ground. It meant even if it had been the same size we would have needed to do something with the floor.  The tile only ran up to where the old cabinet was. This is fairly typical of construction. It's do it the easiest way, not do it the best way. Boo!

So, I set out on a hunt for our tile. I found enough tile that I was able to tile the front of this area. I also managed to piece together enough that it looks correct unless you actually stick your head under there. I threw some extra grout in where there should have been a few slivers of tile at the very back, and we called it good.
I painted and patched and in went the cabinet.

All in all had been over 6 weeks and getting back a functional bathroom was HIGH on my priority list. I still had to deal with plumbing, cabinets, mirrors and lights. So one night I decided to mess with getting the sinks functional and we spent hours plumbing and re-plumbing. We still had issues. So, for the second time we had to cal out a plumber. I was willing to pay the additional fee to have him come out off hours and he was happy it was something 'so easy.' So easy took a couple hours but was essentially just parts that are specialized fittings due to the type of faucets that we chose. So moral of the story here? Get your fixtures at a big box store. When you buy online and such you run the risk of getting items that require a plumber to put them in. The plumber said we could have bought all new plumbing and it still wouldn't have worked. Those stores simply don't carry this type of part. (JOY!) 

So, lesson learned. The following weekend we put in medicine cabinet/mirrors. The towel rack, a storage cabinet (Not shown in picture) the toilet paper holder. (Who would have thought I'd be so happy about that!?) Cleaned up all the mess, caulked in the tile and baseboards and called it good.

The finished product?

It makes me so happy. This picture doesn't give justice to the colors and the lighting. It's something I've dreamed about for years now. What a difference!
This wasn't bad, but what we have now is customized to suit us. I of course had to immediately start messing with other things. One project done means another is ready to start. Doesn't it?

Woah. What happened to my color? It' snot loading right for some reason. This is a very fresh, light airy color, and I swear it doesn't clash with the teal curtains like it does here. Oh well. You get the idea. I painted this room and hung new curtain rod/drapes/pictures. There are more pictures but I think I'll hold off posting until I figure out the color problem.

So there you have it. This weekend I will finish purging the kids rooms, the loft, my room and clean up the guest room. It's managed to get Christmas and Thanksgiving decorations strewn about in an effort to find things for the kids projects.

See you soon!


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Baby (the duck)

So, I have wanted to do an update on the ducks for a few weeks now.

The adult ducks and all the drakes except one are now living on the lake in Alabama. They were doing very well there for themselves when we left. They were suddenly very wary of even us walking around the perimeter and that's great. It means as soon as they had freedom - their instincts kicked in. They have a floating dock with a shelter and enough food for a few weeks. Considering that they didn't touch the food at all the week we were there I will go out on a limb and say that they have plenty to eat through foraging. This is of course what I wanted for them all along. They were given foraging opportunities here, and taught to dive for food to prepare them. The only downside is the foxes and coyotes in the area. It's a concern especially since they are now laying. The abandoned eggs will be a calling card to the predatory animals. Of course if the ducks were more mature and wanting to sit on a nest that too would leave them very vulnerable. So our fingers are crossed that at least one pair will survive through the winter to raise a brood of ducklings in the spring. Meanwhile this fall and winter we will concentrate on predator control. If not I have other plans.

While I understand that it may seem cruel to leave them alone on a lake the truth is these ducks were never intended as pets. There is a lot to eat there for them and other than not being able to truly take flight they are fully capable of taking care of themselves.

The experiment goes on. If these ducks cannot keep from being a meal, there is a plan in the works. Here in Florida we have wild ducks that are considered a nuisance in many places because they breed and reproduce rather prolifically. They are able to avoid being lunch and they do fly. These are Muscovy ducks. I remember as a child a family friend who raised these ducks. While they were a little large for a small child to handle they never did scratch, bite or otherwise terrorize me. They can be, well lets be honest. They can be a little ugly. They have this red warty flesh around their faces and it can be a real distraction from their personalities. But, here's the thing. They don't quack. Nope. They rasp, they hiss, the grumble but NO quack. Love that. So they can fend for themselves, are capable of flight if they choose, and they are quiet? BONUS!

So I set out to do a lot of research. Certainly by now someone out there has started breeding these ducks to have less facial flesh, right? WRONG. The 'standard of perfection' describes large amounts and breeders have been encouraging it rather than eliminating it. (why is beyond me) But as it turns out the Muscovy are excellent meat production ducks as well. And they get the best meat by....crossbreeding with mallard derived ducks. They also get less facial flesh this way. Anything that is not a Muscovy is mallard derived. The results are ducks that are (mostly) quiet, large and capable of taking care of themselves. They are also STERILE. It means overpopulation is not a problem. The fact that they cannot reproduce is both good and bad. It would be nice to be able to put 6 or 8 ducks out there and know that the next year a new generation will take place of any animals that predators or old age take. But, as I said earlier Muscovies are know for being a nuisance due to their ability to reproduce 4 clutches per female per year. YIKES.

So you may ask why I'm concerning myself with all this if that is the case. While the resulting ducklings would be sterile if I use a Muscovy drake over a welsh duck it means that the females will be not only capable, but well equipped good laying hens. So I would have beautiful ducks on the pond that are capable of defending themselves, quiet ducks on my lawn and good egg production, and the excess drakes for my freezer...

Boy I hope I like duck eggs. ;-)

That being said, I'd like you to meet the mating pair of ducks that I kept here for myself.

This is Patrick and Baby.

She is a well marked duck,and he is exquisite in his breeding plumage.
She's not laying yet but is in her final molt before her point of lay so another 2 months or so. 

Bay is the indoor duckling that we had bonded to us. She wouldn't go anywhere without us, and yelled up a storm when we left her. She would have nothing to do with the other ducks and in general was a momma's girl. Now that the other ducks are gone? She won't even come to me any more. At first it hurt my feelings, but I'm so happy for her now. She's got her priorities straight and while I wanted her to stay a pet I'm glad she's figured out that she is a duck.

Hopefully next spring I'll be enjoying ducklings. If not, I'll be enjoying the eggs and that's OK too. 

See you soon.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Harvest Monday 9.22.14

Wowsa. I just can't believe that another week has gone by.

This weeks harvest features the first POMEGRANATE of the fall season.

WHOOT! Let's not exaggerate just how happy I am about this.... This bowl of arils?

Was gone in about 3 minutes flat. And it's deceiving this is a rather deep bowl and those arils are the size of my thumbnail (and I have long nails right now. LOL)

I also would like to brag on the fact that I can now get all those arils out of a pomegranate in less than 5 minutes... Got it down to 4.5 this weekend. That is not bad. Actually, I'm downright proud of that. I could have been a tiny bit quicker, but I really don't like the pithy, icky. So I took my time.

That's really all I have. I did eat some basil and some rosemary but otherwise my garden is quiet. My peppers are blooming again so I expect another rush of those in a few weeks. 

Hope everyone is having a wonderful week!
See you Soon!


Monday, September 15, 2014

Harvest Monday 9.15.14

Nothing new there. The wildlife tends to get the better of me most weeks.

Pomegranate is on the menu again soon. The little jewels are blushing. :-)

Sent from my iPhoneThis week my only harvest is bell peppers. I actually harvested 3 of them. However the birds got to 2 of them before I did.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Harvest Monday

They are truly enjoying the new freedom. Watching them grace the lake is just insanely awesome.

Harvested another sweet potato and a few peppers

Heading to camp out on the couch and try to recoup.

Here are (hopefully) some pics.

See you soon!

Sent from my iPhoneIt is still Monday right?

Harvested this week a load of mint. I was mowing the patch so I gathered all I could from the area first. Good timing the kids and I seem to have caught a summer cold. Mint tea is soothing.

The ducks are now happy in their new pond.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Harvest Monday 8.25.14

Welcome back to Harvest Monday! Once again, I'd like to thank Daphne for sharing her links. Be sure to stop by Daphne's Dandelions to check out what gardeners are harvesting all over the world!

It's the last harvest for August and it's so appropriately timed. 

This week I harvested...Sweet Potatoes! 2 very large specimens. Perfect for a dinner side dish for all 5 of us. It's hard to believe just how big these spuds can get. They were both wonderfully flavored, but then again we were not looking for super sweet. These were sliced and roasted instead of baked and not sweetened. They offered just the right amount of sweetness without any sugar.

Um... and as it turns out I only took a picture of one. LOL. 
Don't let that picture deceive you. This sucker was larger than my hand and over a pound! The stem end there was as fat as a marker. The big news here? NO bug damage. I don't know if it's because I didn't let it store like I did last year or if things are finally evening out in the garden, but either way I'm very glad for it. 

I also harvested a decent sized bell pepper and another gypsy pepper. Those were used in a stir fry and a salad. The guavas are still coming, but most of the fruit now is gathered and eaten then or given to the chickens. They are in full molt mode and in just 3 days times my barred rock went from fully feathered to less than half feathered. She's not happy and hasn't laid in a week now. I don't blame her. All those quills everywhere must be uncomfortable. I might come show you later this week, but don't tell her. I'm pretty sure she'd never lay again if she knew I had shown you her pitiful self right now. ;-)

Kids went back to school last week as well. I can't get over it. They have grown so much over the summer. The difference in them now is astounding. They are actually in different sized clothing which almost never happens. Up until now the only thing I had to buy different for them was socks. Poor Katie got my big feet!
Aw, but isn't it sweet? The first virus of the school year has also been brought home. So much for being excited about going to a bigger school. The pitfalls of more kids is, more germs. Ho-hum. So Kate's home sick today and milking it for all it's worth. LOL. Just hoping Annah or any of the rest of us don't get it. We're supposed to be bringing the ducks up to Alabama this weekend. If we miss this opportunity then they will probably be with us until spring. That means at least one of the males will have to 'disappear' soon. If not 2. I can't have them chasing the girls around and causing a ruckus. The neighbors haven't complained yet, but I've got the girls sectioned off with only 1 of the males. The other 3 boys are in 'The bachelor pad.' So far this has worked pretty well and everyone gets along this way, but I tried putting them all together and it didn't go so well. A few of the boys are overly aggressive with the girl ducks. Now, there would be some advantages to keeping the ducks around for the winter. Eggs for instance. It would be GREAT to have a good supply of eggs over the winter. Oh, how awesome that would be. Besides it wouldn't be so bad to have duck on the menu for Thanksgiving or Christmas, either. 

Making my lists for the great Fall garden cleanup...

See you soon!


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Harvest...no... but busy!

So I've ignored the garden the past few weeks. It's raining daily and my poor fruits and veggies are splitting left and right. This week promises drier weather but now that I am entrenched in this other project, I have put my garden on hold.

Old plastic surround
So what project am I working on this time? Our Master Bathroom. We had an issue with mold/mildew forming on the wall at the junction of our shower stall and the bathtub. At first I moaned, then I groaned, then I got mad. Once I had finally given into the fact that I was going to have to do something, and that this something that had to be done was not only drastic but fairly expensive I set upon the task of selecting the best materials for our re-do at the least expensive places. It required a lot of weekends of window shopping ahead of time and the plan was to finish this portion of the project within 2 weeks...Oh boy. Was I wrong!

The first weekend we took out the old surround. This sounds fairly straightforward and easy in theory but in practice it was a much more difficult task than we expected. We ended up having to take it out in pieces. Once this was accomplished we quickly realized that we were in for a bit more that we expected. There was no wall behind this! WHAT?! That's right. It was plastic glued to the wood supports. Oh, BOY!

It was a good thing that we didn't wait much longer for this overhaul. There was mold growing on the back of the fiberglass in places that water couldn't have possibly gotten to. Because there was no wall behind there was also no barrier and no insulation. This created a space between the walls where condensation was occurring unchecked.

Project easy peasy is now put on hold while we research what our next move would be. We knew we'd have to have a wall of course, but how, what and more importantly how much!?

Turns out not to be a horrible cost, but an unexpected cost is still, unexpected. Another $100 isn't the worst of things so I'm grateful for this.

Here you can see we were foolish enough to leave up the fixtures. These were promptly removed after the picture. I don't know why that wasn't our first step. I mean hello? Not going to use them again. LOL.

So we finally get a water resistant wall up, and unlike the picture dictates also got it taped and mudded. This brings us to the next weekend. I wish we didn't keep trying to do this between work and toting the kids around. I think the next time we take on a project this big we will be taking some time off work!

So during the week I visited my local tile outlet. Um, yeah about that. I had to travel a half hour and go past about 20 different tile place or places that sold time to get there. I began to question my sanity and wondered if it wouldn't have cost less after all to pay more for the tile if it was closer. Immediately after that thought I got lost in the aisles and dreamt up all kinds of other things to do in the house. I mean, just look at all these choices, and that is only in the tumbled stone end pieces. There were decorative accents to choose and I needed to coordinate the stone we picked for the tile with the accent and the corners, I needed a shelf, or really a few of them.

About 3 days later my husband filed a missing persons report and the police found me huddled under a rack drooling on myself. No, don't buy it? Well fine. I picked out all the coordinates and loaded up the truck.

Have I mentioned how much I love this big ole truck? It's so convenient to have a vehicle that doesn't mind getting dirty or hauling thousands of pounds of rocks, dirt or whatever sets my little heart to a pitter patter.

The next step is one that we hemmed and hawed about. We are now into yet another weekend. I have a different opinion that my husband when it comes to the placement of the tiles, and the distance of them from each other. I stand by my original thought that less grout is better, but since we did pick a wonderfully coordinating grout color I no longer have to consider stringing my husband up from his toes. See, he started the tile placement while he sent me on and errand. I should have known better. I really, really should have. But, what's done is done. At first I was still very upset with him and may have thought to shave his goatee while he slept. But, looking back it's all good. I got the accents I wanted, he got the spacing he wanted. Most of all I got the SHOWER I wanted. :-D

So I came home to this....
... and that brings us to the next weekend. LOL

See, that whole- "We'll get it done in 2 weeks" thing? Yeah. That got thrown out the window. We are on week FOUR here already people. Sheesh! And then the next weekend....
Hey, at least it's starting to give us an idea of what it will look like.

The following weekend...   This picture is very deceiving. It looks complete. It looks ready to shower in, it looks ready for...THE PLUMBER.
*EEEK* Another $200 and change for an unexpected encounter. The builders installed a very specific type of plumbing fixture that could only be used on a very specific brand on a very specifically NOT MADE ANYMORE thing. Yes, thing. It's a technical term for I'm too ticked off to think straight let me breathe for a minute here 'thing'. 

UGH. So, plumber out during the week and then the grout has to cure for a week. This was one sticking point I wasn't expecting at all. I figured a day or two sure, but a WEEK!? Oh so disappointing when all one dreams of at night is hopping into the shower in the morning for a nice refreshing wash. Of course hidden is all the hundreds of parts of tiles, the hammers, saws, screwdrivers, mastic, grout buckets, floats and all that jazz all over the place. 

So, then we Finally seal the stone and grout and then install the new fixtures...

 And are now supposed to wait 2-3 days before using it. Well. I waited 45 hours. That was enough for me. I gotta tell you, that may have been the best shower of my life. Wait, no I remember that one. It was the third day after I had the twins. THAT was glorious - but this was a close second and a memory I won't soon forget. It's so wonderful to walk in and see the beautiful shower staring back at me. We increased the area inside the shower by nearly half again of what we had and I couldn't be happier with that. 

Only problem is I now get out of said wonderful shower and have to look straight at the nasty mirror, the rusty light fixture (yup it's that moisture problem again) and the old standard counter top.

So, no we have a new vanity in our garage waiting for a small repair and are waiting on a granite counter top we ordered. This is possibly one of the worst ways to revamp I know of. Living our day to day lives and trying to do all this work is exhausting, but it will be so worth it. Just look at what we already accomplished. It can't be any worse than this, can it? (Maybe I shouldn't ask!) I'll keep you posted on the progress. We begin deconstruction again the weekend after Labor Day. Of course that 3 or 4 day weekend would be ideal for this project, but we need to make a trip to Alabama. The 7 ducks are restless.

Speaking of. If anyone needs a beautiful Show Quality Welsh Harlequin- please send them my way. My boys are great but I have at least 1 too many!

See you Soon!


Monday, August 11, 2014

Harvest Monday 8.11.14

Well, things have been super busy around here. With the garden, with the house, with the kids, with schools tarting next week and with a schedule change at work. But, since it's Harvest Monday - I'll start off the posting extravaganza with that.

This weeks harvests include a few avocados, a bucket worth of guavas, some eggs, and a gypsy pepper.

This handful of strawberry guavas is what I am getting on a daily basis. Well, I should clarify this is what I get when I can get to the bushes in the morning and it's not raining. Rain causes the fruit to drop, and the squirrels LOVE these. I'm breaking out the squirrelinator 2000 this next weekend. I'm just waiting for the newly germinated corn to get big enough to withstand a possible trampling. The ducks normally don't go near the gardens, but occasionally one will play chase and that causes a momentary lapse of reason and they will run through quickly.

I waited and waited for this gypsy pepper to turn, but it didn't and I wanted to eat it, and so I did.

Gratuitous avocado shot. Same avocados, I just forgot to get pictures.

 Another shot of the guavas. This basket was gathered over the weekend and I boiled these down. Now I just have to go buy a new strainer and get the seeds out of the pulp and make some jelly.

I'm still debating on if I want a mix of flavors (grape/guava...strawberry/guava) or if I would like to try it on it's own. Either way that is this weeks project. I only cooked enough down for about 2 jelly jars. Just in case. I mean really, what if I don't like it after all?
This is another gratuitous shot of a random pollinator. I do love to try to get good shots of them.

That's it. I ate a few seriously bitter carrots out of the garden, and replanted beans (and the previously mentioned corn) I still need to weed half the garden before I reseed and I'm praying after schools tarts I can get some brassicas in there.

Hope you are having a wonderful week.

See you soon!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Harvest Monday 7.21.14

Welcome back to Harvest Monday! Many thanks to Daphne over at: Daphne's Dandelions for hosting once again. I don't know what I"d do without it, I just love being able to go see what people are harvesting all over the world. It gives me a weekly jolt of inspiration.

This weeks harvest continues the avocado fest. It will only last an other week or so because my tree didn't produce a ton this year. Instead it grew a good 15 feet. Have to trade growth for fruit production. Now that the tree is getting rather sizable next year it will be kept trimmed to promote branching and fruiting rather than growth.

These lovelies are amazingly delicious. I like a good grocery store avocado, but these are even better. Completely pesticide free, and hey! The stupid squirrels don't eat them until they start to ripen. BONUS! This means I can pull them off the tree and let them ripen indoors.

Another bonus is that the tree is rather weepy. Weeping? What is appropriate here? The boughs hang low and are difficult for animals to climb. LOVE THAT! It also supplies a nice amount of shade for my poor hot duckies. :-)

Also on this weeks harvest is truly a tropical/Floridian type delicacy. I've never seen this fruit in a grocery, but can occasionally (rather quiet rarely!) find them in a farmers market.  GUAVAS!

Here is a close up of this lovely little diddy.

Richard, the kids and I have had a massive debate on what these taste like fresh. (I've only previously had syrup & jelly) We've come up with this:
The flavor profile of a kiwi, strawberry, and banana with the acidic bite of pineapple. The texture of an overripe banana and those seeds BTW, are not edible. I was under the impression they were, but quickly learned otherwise. I thought they would be like blackberry seeds and be something you could work around once it was in your mouth. Nope. Those little suckers are like rocks. HA! Only good news is there are about 6-10 seeds in each one so not too terrible. Only bad news is these fruits are the size of a half dollar piece. Around the amount of a strawberry.

It took some doing but I finally figured out a decent way to get the seeds out. Unfortunately it requires sticky fingers and a spoon. Bright side to that is I get to lick my then sticky fingers. Win some, Lose some.

Oh, also found out the hard way that the chickens will do ANYTHING to eat them. I've found Campbells way up in the bush stealing them as soon as they blush. When I manage to get them before they do I have 2 hens that hop/fly up and me and my hands trying to get me to drop one or otherwise throw them and run.

So many lessons to learn this week.  While planting the guavas in the chicken run has worked out really well, not getting many of the fruit stinks! Good thing I've got a few more plants on the side of the fence as well. This years crop will most likely only be for fresh eating but, if I can squeeze it in I'll make some syrup as well.

That's it for me. I harvested a half dozen tomatoes which were cracked and gross looking. Only was able to use the bottom half of them so no pictures there. I also harvested 3 large carrots, but they went to the chickens. Too bitter in this 99* heat.

See you soon!