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Spray paint – a little can go a long way

September 29, 2016
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If you read our blog semi-regularly you’ve probably already established the division of work between me and the Other Half: he builds and does the things requiring ”heavy lifting”, where as I focus on gardening (not landscaping!), decorating and smaller things like that. I’m not much of a DIY person in terms of bigger building; I can hold a paintbrush and do things that I’m told or instructed to do, but bigger things are outside of my comfort zone. But once in a while I’ll do something small – like what I’m sharing with you today.

We very often on weekend mornings eat breakfast buns – for the lack of a local bakery where I could pick up some fresh ones we buy the vacuum packed semi-ready kind and bake them in the morning. That gives the illusion of fresh buns, which they’re really not. Anyways, in order to bring them to the table we have a basket – a small, red basket to be more precise.

basket-1

We’ve been using this basked for a couple of years already. During the same time I’ve noticed a spot on the kitchen counter as well as a spot on the dining table (in the middle of it, of course) with a slight red discoloration. I’ve been wondering where these spots came from, as they’re impossible to remove; I actually thought some summer I might have stained the spots with some strawberries. Well, that was not the case – it was the basket! If the bottom became wet or even damp it would discharge color and obviously, as I had not noticed it immediately, the color did not come off from where ever it had rubbed off.

Quite annoying and obviously something had to be done! I like the basket, it is a convenient size for this particular purpose (we actually have the same kind in another, neutral color at home). The Other Half had some spray paint cans laying around, so I thought I could paint it. So from thought to implementation!

basket-2

I did this already in the late summer, so it was the easiest option to make use of one of the stumps at the edge of the forest as a location, so I didn’t need to protect any walls or anything else for the matter. I decided that I liked the touch of red on the basket, so I only spray painted the outside.

And honestly the can was a bit on the low side already, so I wasn’t sure if there’d be enough to spray it all around. I wanted to play it safe, as what’s worse than running out of supplies in the middle of the project?

basket-3

I sprayed around three light coats of paint, allowing for about 15 minutes between the layers for drying. In the end I let be basket dry about an hour. And voila! A slightly enhanced basket that will no longer stain my kitchen table nor counters!

basket-5

This has now been in use for some time already and the spray job seems to be holding up nicely; it’s not chipping or rubbing off. Not that I would have expected it to do this either, as the basket is in quite light use only with the important task of holding the breakfast buns on the weekends.

I must say this was a nice little project, so based on this you might see me spray painting a bit more things in the future 🙂

Workshop: Foundation filling

September 25, 2016
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Once the mortar of the concrete blocks has dried, we could fill up the foundation with sand and gravel. Roughly 5 truck loads of some kind of sand and gravel mix were required to fill the 60 cm. Every 15 cm or so we compressed the material to get a solid base for the floor plate. Also the land around the foundation was raised again to roughly 30 cm below the foundation height.

fillingfoundationhole

We also had to dig in the foundation drainage pipes which lead the water away whenever there is a heavy rainfall or when the snow melts in the spring. Because the lowest layer of the foundation is significantly lower than most of the land around it (even that the building is sitting on a natural slope) we had to dig a 20 meters long trench to come out on the surface level.

foundationdrainagepipe

Two layers of 5 cm Styrofoam are placed on top of the gravel which insulate the floor. The iron roster is there only temporarily to stop the Styrofoam from flying away in the next autumn storm.

styroxonfoundation

The only outstanding challenge is the placement of the electricity cabinet. The master plan in my mind was to move it on the short side of the workshop building. However, that plan failed miserably with the power supply cable to the villa being 50 cm too short. Now the electrician and I have to figure out how to solve that issue in style. Well, another time…

electricity-cabinet

Workshop: Foundation

September 20, 2016
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Making the foundation is ultimately a two-phase project: first you work yourself up out of the foundation pit and then you fill up the land around foundation pit to the final height.

The first step was to pour a ring of concrete (some 20 cm high and 60cm wide) into a simple wooden frame. That concrete ring will distribute the load evenly onto the ground below.

FoundationConcreteBase

Once the concrete ring is hardened enough, you lay at least three rows of bricks to the final height of the foundation. You can add more layers of brick on top of it depending on the final target height of the building but three rows is the minimum. You need 30 cm between the lowest log and the land around the foundation so that the rainwater doesn’t splash onto the logs. Then you need another 30 cm to place the 5 cm styrofoam insulation around the foundation to protect the concrete ring from the frost in the winter plus some earth on top of the styrofoam.

foundation-bricksAlso the inside of the foundation is insulated before it is being filled up with gravel to carry the concrete slab which will be the floor.

After this was done, the project took a three week break while we had to wait for the excavator to return. Meanwhile we enjoyed a great autumn with some picture-postcard mornings at the lake.

LakeMorning

Eat your vegetables!

September 15, 2016
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Isn’t that what parents always tell their children? At some point in your life you no longer have to be reminded of that and you actually gladly eat your vegetables, especially if they are self-grown and fully organic.

I think this will be my last post about vegetables this year (at least I think so, but let’s see…), but I had completely forgotten that there was still one new crop this year: beetroot. I planted two rows of beetroot seeds in  the spring and they started growing nicely, though a bit slowly, in my opinion.

Someone said that the leaves, when they are really small, would be a nice addition to salads. As we had more than enough salad I decided to let the leaves be and see what comes out of them. Well, beetroot, of course. In the end this first crop was not that successful: there were probably a good dozed plants based on the leaves, but we only ate four beetroots.

Just as with the carrots I was quite fierce in weeding out the plants in the beginning, to ensure there is space to grow, but that didn’t help. I don’t know was it too dry or too wet, or perhaps not enough nutrition in the soil, but there were leaves and everything looked quite ok on top of the soil but digging under only produced four proper beetroot. That’s better than nothing, so I’m not complaining!

This allowed me to make one of my favorite, super-simple vegetable dishes: oven vegetables, fully from my own vegetables.

Cooking doesn’t get any simpler than this. For this I took beetroot, carrots and potatoes:

Washed the veggies, and as I knew where and how this had been grown, I didn’t even peel them. Chop everything up and put in an oven dish, top with some olive oil, salt, pepper and honey, and you’re all set!

vegetables-1

Approximately 2 hours later, after baking them at 175C, this is what you will get:

vegetables-2

Go very nicely with a good grilled steak! As a side there were also a few prizes in the forest still, which I turned into a sauce. I think that was probably the last batch of chanterelles for this year, already waiting for next year and a new batch.

mushroom-1

These ones you’re not supposed to eat, as they are poisonous, but it did make a really nice picture.

mushroom-2

But now it’s time to run, so I’ll leave you with these funny carrot pants! It’s a wonder how things grow to the shapes they do under ground.

carrot-pants

Eating our own

September 8, 2016
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The vegetable patch is an annual project, which reminds me of Tom Hanks in the movie Forrest Gump and the famous quote “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get”. Well, in this case, when you plant seeds at in the spring, you never know what all will the vegetable patch give you during the season.

Again we have been very lucky! Like I’ve mentioned in earlier posts during the season, we’ve been eating so much salad it’s surprise we didn’t turn into rabbits. I actually didn’t take any pictures of the salad this year. How is that possible? Oh well, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Growing your own potatoes still continues to be something that amazes me, even after already several years of successful experience. This year we ate the first potatoes already around the middle of August and there’s still some left in  the ground; I expect we’ll eat the last ones around the beginning of October.

This year, for the first time as I recall, we actually did not take all of the potatoes out of the ground in one go, but we’ve left them in and take only as much, or little, as we need at a time. This has proved to be a good solution, as the remaining potatoes are naturally much bigger as they have more time to grow in the ground.

Also I took a slightly different approach with the carrots. Earlier years I haven’t been so good about weeding out the little plants that spring up from all those tiny carrot seeds. Well this year I was quite strict and showed no mercy in the weeding, leaving a good 7-10cm between the remaining plants. This showed again clearly in the results:

carrots

The carrots are much bigger and thus also have much more taste. Almost wish we had more than we do as they are so good. Maybe next year… With carrots the approach is the same as with the potatoes, we only take as much out of the ground as we need at a time. We had so much less carrots, that I expect the carrots will all be eaten up in the next couple of weeks.

Rhubarb surprised us with a small crop still – this went into a apple-rhubarb crumble.

rhubarb

Also we grew herbs: parsley and thyme. These I’ve cleaned and frozen – planning to use them in cooking and baking during the winter. Just need to remember to dig them out from the freezer, otherwise I’ll still find them there when I’m growing the next patch during next winter!

But that rounds up the vegetable patch for this year. The wait is still on to see what happens to the pumpkins!

Pumpkin anyone?

August 31, 2016
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It’s already very much fall, even though it’s only the end of August. The mornings are crisp and in the evenings temperatures fall quickly. But as long as the sun shines it’s only a matter of dressing right!

We’ve been enjoying the produce from our vegetable patch all summer long. The biggest success, very much like last few years, has been the salad. I think this year we’ve been eating more salad than any other summer earlier – during our vacation at the Villa I think not a day went by without having salad from our own patch in one form or another. The salad has fared well at home as well, as we’ve several times brought a bag with us on Sunday to enjoy during the week. Now we need to adjust to eating store bought salad – the taste is just not the same.

But the major surprise on the vegetable patch has been the pumpkin I planted, for the first time, this spring. I planted four seeds in two different places, and one set started growing. I should have really taken progress pictures during the summer, but never go from thought to actually doing it. Maybe next year…

Anyways pictures tell more than a thousand worlds, have a look!

I have absolutely no experience in growing pumpkins, so I don’t know how they’re supposed to grow and how you’re supposed to take care of them. I’ve just been watering the plan along with the rest of the vegetables in the spring. It just kept growing and growing and growing. There’s four flowers/pumpkin starts at the moment, but time will tell whether anything actually comes out of them. I don’t think we’ll be getting any big lanterns, but it would be quite cool if they would “grow up” to be recognizable pumpkins. Let’s see what happens in the next month!

On other “growing” news our black raspberries are growing fruit as well! In July I was able to find only one berry start, but now there are several. I don’t know why it bloomed so late, but luckily there were plenty of bees, but considering how low the temperatures are already I’m not too optimistic these would actually be ripe enough for us to eat during the fall. But I will keep looking, maybe I will have a positive surprise!

There are some other crops still coming this year, so I’ll keep you posted in the coming weeks.

Workshop: Ground Zero

August 28, 2016
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Ground Zero, The Bottom, Foundation Pit. I don’t really know how to call it, but every building starts growing upwards from some zero line. After one day of excavation and blowing up two large rocks, the lowest level of the workshop has been flattened.

Ground Zero 1

The next thing to do was to place the drainage pipes that carry the water away from the foundation (especially during the spring when snow melts). That task was relatively easy to complete in 2 hours: just 6 pipes of 6 meters length that have little holes in them, then 4 inspection pipes and 2 pipes on the lower side of the slope that carry the water away from the building.

Ground Zero 2

Then we placed a sheet of fabric under on the bottom which shall prevent from moisture to permeate upwards. The drainage pipes are covered with special (kind of clean) round pebble stones which are supposed to let the water through to the pipes.

Ground Zero 3

Next comes 20cm of crushed rock which when compressed is the load-bearing level for the concrete (And no, I’m not the dude on the photos. I do have professional help.)

Ground Zero 4Getting this part right is among the most important ones for having a solid foundation. Nothing is more annoying than the foundation sinking into the ground after some years or too much water standing around the foundation and then vapouring into the building, especially when you build on a slope. But let’s see, the next steps of the foundation phase should give us an idea how high the building will ultimately stand.