Saturday, October 28, 2006

Still getting figs. Tomatoes are winding down.

Still quite a few figs remaining on petite negri. Best results so far on this 5 year old tree. This late, main, crop tastes very good - equal or better than the breba crop. The secret seems to be letting them get so ripe that they almost fall off on their own. I need to remember tanglefoot to keep the ants off (or are the ants acting as pollinators?).

This year's fig results:
Petite negri: It was worth the wait. Still about 2 dozen on the tree. About 4 dozen figs this year. Tree is 5 years old from purchased, mail order 'stick' size tree.
Vancouver: The last fig was yesterday. About 3 dozen this year. Tree is 3 years old from cutting.
Petite negri in pot: about 3 years old. first small figs this week.
Hardy Chicago: vigorous. The first fig (this curring is less than one year old) was good, although I understand that following years will be better.
Melanzana: The first fig wasnt ripe yet when I cut it. Bummer.

The tomatoes are winding down. Still some coming ripe in front yard patch.

The back yard patch didnt do as well this year. I suspect the shade from the grapes, which had their best year ever
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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sunday: Puttering, homework. Bike tomorrow?

Collected some geranium cuttings - the unusual types. No loss if they don't survive the winter. However, this way I have a back-up in case the larger, dry-stored plants dont make it. The advantage of the dry storage method is that the plants will be larger in the Spring. Also, they don't need much attention in storage.

These include some scented and some variegated leaf varieties. No rooting hormone was used - just cut to size, trim extra leaves, stick them into some general purpose potting soil. Last year most of the cuttings took using this method.

Some petite negri (potted tree). First crop for this potted tree. One shows the tear of the penitent.

Also collected some ginkgo seeds and cleaned them up. I'll use the "squirrel method" this time - pleant them around the yard and forget about them. Some might surprize me with little trees next summer.

Better go inflate the tires for tomorrow's ride. Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 20, 2006

Some tile choices (of many)

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Bathroom Remodel, what it took to get started

The initial plan was to start Nov 2005 with nhopes to finish by Christmas. A trip to Home Depot and their designer resulted in a plan and a visit from a general contractor, but the contractor was unable to give an estimate, despite several calls, until we gave up in January. I suspect that there are so many big projects (housing boom) that no one is willing to take on a small project like a bathroom.

A contractor was identified via a co-worker; he stated that a designer was needed. A designed was also identified via a coworker - $$$ later, the estimate came through at $45,000 for the 2 bathrooms. After I picked up my jaw from the floor, it was time to read and learn to do it myself. (Wild guess, I'm thinking $2,500 for the guest bath, maybe $4,000 for the master bath).

There are lots of books available. Everything was measured at least twice. Plans were drawn up from the original bathroom. Using the bathroom remodel book, plans were drawn to scale of the new bathrooms.

We decided to do one at a time, so that we would have at least one working bathroom through the entire project.

I found the city web site, took the plans there, and got a permit. Not as bad as I thought. We are still looking for electrical and plumbing contractors, but that doesnt look too difficult either.

The project, very roughly, looks like this:

1. The guest bathroom will be de-constructed down to the studs and tub.
2. Then the new wall will be framed in.
3. Wiring and plumbing will be placed for the new fixtures. This part will require electrician and plumber (Thanks for
4. City inspection.
5. New walls, ceiling to be installed.
6. Tile the walls.
7. Install fixtures.
8. Tile the floor.

There are probably a couple of other inspections involved, but that is the rough plan for the project.

The plans are hard to read here - I need to learn how to scan documents. Another day.

Existing bathrooms.

New floor plan

Layout for East wall and fixtures, Guest Bathroom.

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Bathroom Remodel

It has nothing to do with gardening, or bike, or "green living" (or at least, not much), but it IS what's going on at this house right now, so here it is in my blog.

This house needs a new bathroom arrangement. The old master bath and guest bath are back-to-back. Both are small. The long term goal is to make the master bath larger by stealing some dead space from the guest bath, and to open up the guest bath by removing a separating wall & door between the toilet and sink.

A separate entry will describe the prosess up to now.

What is wrong with the old guest bath?
- Wall separating toilet/tub from sink; makes both spaces cramped and closet-like in feel. It leaves no natural light to counter and sink area.
- No fan, which leaves the room damp when used for the shower; the toilet area is aired out only if the window is open. "fumes" can be noted in the main hallway.
- Odd shaped counter, taking space without providing much useful function.
- Drawers bang into each other when opened.
- The current drop-in sink on counter with small tiles (so lots of grout) is a hassle to clean. Too many nooks an crannies for dirt and mildew.
- The toilet is damaged.

Goals for improved guest bath:
- Despite loss of some floor space, the room will seem larger and brighter after the dividing wall is removed.
- There will be a fan.
- Current plan is for a porcelain pedestal sink, avoiding the nooks and crannies in the current version.
- New toilet, hoepfully a high-functioning water saving model.

Photos below show the physical work to date, including original layout (so small I was unable to take photos showing the toilet/tub area), and the counter, sink, and diviging wall going / going / gone.

Original Counter and Sink. Toilet / tub area is too small to take a photo showing the area. The toliet is on the other side of the wall, behind the sink and mirror in this photo.



Sink, counter, doorway, and wall are gone. Still a lot of deconstruction remaining, however. Wow- it's much brighter now.
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Monday, October 16, 2006

Thoughts about Xeriscaping

It's an odd time to think about it, given that we are heading into rainy season. I would lke to decrease water use as much as possible in the yard. Already, the lawn went brown for the summer (and now is greening up again). Sedums like this one didnt need ANY watering during the summer, so are an ideal Xeriscape plant.

I took cuttings from a few patches of sedum around the yard and added them to new areas. This was a simple matter of cutting off wayward pieces and sticking them into holes in the ground, made with a trowel.

They might grow, and might not. Not much is lost if they dont.

This as a very dark burgandy variety. Unfortunately I dont have the tag. There are thousands of varieties. Most grow slowly, although some are faster.

This year there were other attempts at a xeriscape approach. Ginkgo is listed as a dry tolerant tree - now there are 2 small ginkgos added as future shade trees. Trial patches of thyme and chamomile were grown (a bit messy but fragrant). Irises seem to like dry summer. Chinese and European chives did not requre additional water (although I did water the pots of Chinese chives that are used for dumplings). The grapes were not watered at all, and were very productive. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, October 14, 2006

It's not over yet.

With news from the East and Midwest regarding snow and cold, I'm grateful to have continued color and fruitfulness here. The tomatoes provide a few fruits each day, as do the figs and apples. The canna leaves are bright and colorful. The clematis and fuschias continue to bloom. The sedums are also bright and colorful. The moss changed from brown to green.

Today I planted the remainder of the bulbs that were purchased last month. That's all for this fall (it SHOULD be enough - there were about 210 daffodil bulbs, 160 tulip bulbs, and 20 muscari). The daffodils usually start to sprout above the ground in late January and bloom in February, which helps cheer up the most depressing month.

Thinking about using more dry tolerant approach next year - there was news about increasing stress to the water supply system. I took cuttings from some low growing sedums to use as ground cover in some areas bordering the house. I also spent some nursery coupons on an upright sedum.

Tonight will be an over-night shift so trying not to stress now. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 08, 2006

FAll leaves on Tree Peony. Roses here and there.

The tree peony has been hinting at fall for a couple of weeks now. The grapes are done. The apples are picked. The tomatoes are winding down.

The roses were low maintenance this year. I almost never watered them. The only fertilizer was compost. They were mulched with bark chips. These roses have bloomed all summer - nothing dramatic, but some fragrance and color without hassle.

This is Tamara, an Astin rose. Very fragrant, minimal trouble.

This is Magic Carousel, a miniature rose. It's just doing its own thing, blooming off and on. Minimal effort on my part.

I decided that any rose that requires major effort and fails to produce, just isn't worth it. There is a Darwinian reduction in the number of roses in the yard. The ones that survive will be be the ones that continue to bloom, with minimal disease, under the conditions in this yard; organically. With preference given for the fragrant ones. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Puerto Vallarta

It was time for a much needed break - so off to Puerto Vallarta for a change of climate and attempt to clear the mind. Here are a few photos.

Ning got to hold an iguana (for a fee - watch for locals bearing 'photo ops'). This creature was quite tame and fun to hold.

PV had a few 'vegetarian friendly' places - always a challenge when I travel. Using the 'Lonely Planet' guidebook, some veggie friendly places were identified. This one was off the beaten track, quiet, very tasty, inexpensive, and all of the options were vegetarian (as opposed to my finding the 'one item' that did not contain meat).

I did learn to say "Estoy vegetariano' but along with that is needed 'No como carne. no como pesco. no como pollo' to bring home the point. Another very good restaurant was "Barcelona' which served "tapas" which were small entrees (or large appetizers) with a wide selection of veggie options (for me) and seafood and meat options (for Ning).

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This trip was definitely needed. Even if I didn't clear ALL of the unwanted mental baggage out, I did find some rest and some perspective. I got to try some (limited" Spanish. People were very friendly. The food was very good, overall. We did a LOT of walking up and down hills. The sun was great. The ocean was warm. The scenery was beautiful