Saturday, August 27, 2011

one zucchini...two zucchini...

Today I harvested two zucchini's and made zucchini loaf bread with it. It's rewarding to be able to harvest something you grew and cook with it.

We also went to a talk at Lake Merritt today on 'Planning your Winter Garden'. The Master Gardeners' host a free talk every month. Then, this afternoon I planted spinach seeds and more lettuce seeds to try and get them going. I find seeds can be more challenging than starter plants but we'll see. It's the time to grow the 'greens'.

And now for a little garden update:
We have our second ripened-red tomato on the way and about a dozen smaller green & yellow tomatoes on the way. The basil & oregano still look nice and green since giving them a shot of nitrogen fertilizer.

We are about to harvest our first sweet pumpkin which looks like a big round green squash. I will probably slice it in half and bake it. I'm curious as to what it tastes like. (Turns out it taste pretty much like baked squash). There are two or three more zucchini's currently growing.

In the other raised box, 3 lettuces have sprouted and a couple tiny shoots came up of the marjoram and a nasturtium appeared out of the blue. This box is where I planted more lettuce & spinach seeds today since not many germinated the first time. Unfortunately the mint was not doing well in the container on the deck so we moved it to the ground between the new brick patio and the lemon tree. We'll see if it comes back.

The lemons are beautiful. The bougainvillea has taken a slight turn for the worse and we're not sure what happened. The Japanese honeysuckle is growing nicely along the fence behind George's new brick patio. The snapdragons have spread out and taken off. It's a nice feast of pinks and reds.

We notice more activity as the 'beneficials' buzz around the yard. Butterflies frenetically bounce around the different plants, bees do their thing and hummingbirds zip by and kiss the flowers.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Homemade Cafe

Andrea's folks came up for a visit this past weekend and it was a chance to try out the HOMEMADE CAFE on Sacramento St. Andrea and I usually pass by it on the way to Urban Ore and often thought it looked like a nice play to eat breakfast some time.

There is no parking there so we had to park around the corner. On the way, we passed a yard sale. Most of the past yard sales we've been to have been very uninteresting with mostly clothes and kid stuff for sale. However, I noticed a nice big terra cotta planter and scooped it up for $3. The seller was explaining that she had lots of things for sale but I didn't want my in-laws to wait for me to go eat breakfast. As I walked away, the seller said, "Oh, and I have some very nice vintage bricks in the backyard for sale too." A gong went off in my head and I said I'll be back to check that out.

Turns out the Homemade Cafe is about a 30 minute wait so I scampered back to the yard sale and purchased a treasure trove of vintage bricks for $20, most were in full length pieces.

As you know from my previous posting, I thought about flagstone for the patio but these bricks looked very charming and she said she got them from an old train station that was demolished in Oakland.

The day after Andrea's folks left I picked up the bricks and began to layer the new patio with them. Along the way, I discover some interesting details about the bricks.

The one marked IONE is a firebrick from the Ione Fire company. It's one of their earliest fire bricks. This brick was made using the extruded stiff-mud process, wire-cut, and repressed. Our brick was probably made from 1907 to 1908 as a test brick hence the "Pat. Applied For" stamp.

A few other bricks have the word CARNEGIE stamped on it. Andrea asked if that had anything to do with Carnegie Hall and, as it turns out, it does!

When steel magnate Andrew Carnegie began donating part of his fortunes to new libraries across the country, a new brick plant was being erected in Corral Hollow Canyon, about 10 miles southeast of Tracy, in San Joaquin County, California.

Two guys named Treadwell, decided to make bricks from a pocket of coal and clay later called the "Tesla Formation" of Eocene Age (50 million years old).

On August 18, 1903, the Carnegie Brick and Pottery Company was founded with the name that honored the great industrialist and philanthropist who was greatly admired by the Treadwells.

The rest of the bricks are a mish-mash of bricks found on our property coupled with this new trove. There are different shades of red, orange, yellow and white scattered about to give it more character.

I know I mentioned we might put ground cover in between the bricks but further research told me that sand would be the best (and cheapest) way to fill around the bricks.

This project took about 4 days, a lot of leveling and patting down soil, 3 pieces of landscape lumber to frame and $20 in vintage bricks and $3 in sand.

My hands hurt though. lol

What do you think?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

spider plant...spider plant

George hung our new spider plant from a ceiling hook on the 'new' wall corner.

We put the palm tree back in it's original corner (the other side of the same wall).

We yanked weeds from the cement cracks again and then filled the cracks with sand. For the time being, it looks the cleanest I have ever seen it and I think the backyard looks bigger. And...the snap dragons are doing amazing and the first early girl tomato is turning red!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Getting Tricked into Doing an Entire Wall

When I feel I've been on the computer too long I get up and look around for something to "fix" in the house. These days I try to stay focused on something that can be done in a few hours or maybe half a day.

As I waited to hear back about something I decide I would just heatgun-off some paint from the parlor molding in a small corner of the room. I figured it would take only a few hours but during the process, I noticed that the painted wall was soft and seemed "detached" from the plaster underneath it. I had read items about old wallpaper unglueing itself so I lifted it a bit with a scraper and pretty much the entire 'skin' of the wall peeled off like an onion, revealing this yellow, slightly cracked plaster.

The area looked stable with no big cracks or chunks so I thought it might be equally as easy for one of the larger walls in the room. Boy was I wrong, about two feet of it came off easily and the rest was very much stuck to the plaster.

So What to do now? A quick search on the Internet and within a few minutes, I picked up DIY tips on how to remove old, painted-over wallpaper using warm water, an iron and a scraper.

I started on Friday and finished scraping off everything by early Sunday. I filled in the cracks with new plaster, sanded it down and then we headed over to HD for paint. Andrea really liked the way the old plaster colors looked so we tried to match that with two quarts of different colors and glaze. Andrea did the great work of sponging on the different colors and I followed along with a rag to dab off paint here and there.

So now the old, plaster parlor wall gets a bit of structural repair and new coats of mildew resistant paint with a satin sheen to replace the dull, bland wall.

It took about 3 days and cost just two quarts of new paint and leftover spackle.