Thursday, September 1, 2011

It's a butterfly garden party...

...and apparently, had I not taken the day off and stumbled upon it, I wouldn't have even known that the butterflies were abundant on the butterfly bush today. While assembling my sons' swingset, I'd look over every now and then, and I counted no fewer than 6-7 Monarchs at one time, and there are at least two yellow swallowtails enjoying the flowers of the butterfly bush. It truly is magical.

Then, later, I took a good look at my swamp milkweed plant, wondering if the added Monarch population could be tied to the addition and growth of that plant since last year. Well, I found a Monarch caterpillar, chewing away on one of the seed pods. So damned cool! I love when nature works out well in my urban garden. I've never seen that many butterflies in one place together other than at the zoo's butterfly tent every year.

Now, to get some hummingbirds to come through...ha!

Tomorrow, the roofing company comes to replace the garage roof. It'll be nice to get that done and out of the way. Hopefully it will be simple and straightforward, with no issues. We'll see how it goes. I'll post pictures of the new roof and maybe some of the work-in-progress. We'll see how it goes.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Final corn harvest...

Garden Aug. 21, 2011
Originally uploaded by southsideandy
Here are the last nine ears of corn from my garden...what a great year for the corn. It did so well. I'm thrilled, especially given that I got nothing last year.

I had to cut down my tomato plants because many of the tomatoes had split, and the whole bed was infested with flies. Maybe they'll grow more before the season is over, we'll see. But I'm not hopeful.

I also had to cut back the cucumber plants, because they were trying to grow on the roof of the garage. In the process I found a few really large, really nicely formed cucumbers.

I'm getting some sweet banana peppers, so that's good. But the red and orange bells are still not really producing. Ah well, you win some and lose some, I guess.

Lastly, I've got a boatload of carrots that I'll need to start harvesting -- good thing I like carrots...hopefully Nicky does too, as I'm probably going to process some of them into baby food. :)

Monday, August 8, 2011

And there's more where that came from ...

Having had no success last year with the corn stalks I planted, I wasn't sure when, exactly, I was supposed to pick my corn this year, which is doing really, really well -- many ears, growing nicely, on many stalks.

So Friday, I decided to pick the biggest one and cross my fingers...and this picture is what I got -- AWESOME! A little dry at the top, but I cut that part off and had a nice-sized cob.

So, our block party was Saturday, and I decided to pick more and serve them was delicious and awesome! There are quite a few ears left on the stalks, so I'm really psyched about it. Obviously.

In other garden news, I picked about 16 cucumbers last week the plants, which are growing like mad (trying to bridge the gap between the arbor and the garage, to grow up on the garage roof), are in "rebuilding" mode, growing a few smaller cukes, but it will be awhile before they're ready.

I'm losing my Big Boy tomato plant (it's dying back, drying out, and I'm not sure why), but it's producing nice tomatoes on its way out, so I'm OK with that. The cherry tomato plants are producing as expected, but the problem has been tomatoes splitting while they're orange (rather than red), which just becomes waste. Nonetheless, the two plants are producing really well, and A.J. of course loves going back there and picking the tomatoes.

The onions were a little more of a success this year than last -- got a few decent-sized ones, and a bunch are still in the ground.

Carrots are still growing. I've harvested a few, but am waiting on the rest for now.

And, sadly, the three pepper plants I bought have been tremendously disappointing from a fruit production standpoint. I've gotten ONE pepper off all three, even though they're growing quickly and large. I haven't even had flower production much, to be honest. Maybe it's been the rain or humidity or both, but I thought the heat would really bring out the far, no such luck.

Lastly, the strawberry plants I put in the planters are growing like mad as well...with a few strawberries here and there for the picking. If they survive the winter in the containers, we should have a bonanza of strawberries next year, I suspect.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Corn capacitor, um....corning...

Here's a shot of the corn stalks, with pollination getting underway about a day or two ago. More of the tassels have opened up since, and I'm really, really hoping that we get some corn this year. Last year, I had half as many stalks (really fewer than that, because some didn't even sprout), so I'm hoping that this year, with twice as many stalks I'll have more corn. I have silks on a few plants, but I had a couple silks last year too. So we shall see.

The rest of the garden's doing well, for the most part. Carrots, growing nicely; onions, growing OK...taste great, but still kind of on the small-ish side; Big Boy tomatoes, going well; Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes, going nuts as usual; all three pepper plants are growing well, but I only have one pepper to show for it at the moment; both cucumber plants are growing like WEEDS, so I'm going to have an overabundance of cucumbers I think. The only plant that didn't do well was the tiny Yellow Pear tomato plant, which dried out no matter how much I watered it. So I pulled it the other day...I got some Swiss Chard seed from One Seed Chicago ( because they wanted to use one of my older chard pictures -- I hadn't planned on growing any chard this year, but maybe I'll drop a few seeds in the spot where the yellow pear tomato plant was and see if I get anything by the winter. We'll see.

Otherwise, I'm hoping to schedule the roofer to come out and replace the garage roof, and also to give us an estimate (and probably schedule time) to replace the damned leaky, incorrectly installed by the P.O., bathroom skylight with solid roof. That should be interesting, as it basically will wipe our "master" bathroom upstairs out of commission for a bit (and will create more work for us, in the end). But, it's gotta be done. The leaks are getting worse, not better.

And, of course, there remains the loads of backyard work that needs to be done, starting with replacing the sidewalks and adding a concrete pad next to the garage by the alley. Still worried about how the hell much concrete work will cost...and kinda scared. :) Any of you Chicagoans who have had concrete work done lately, I'm taking recommendations (and any information on how much the going rate for concrete work is around here nowadays).

Saturday, July 2, 2011

"You picked the hottest day of the year..."

Yes, yes I did. Well, my buddy Luis came over this morning to help me get further with the re-fascia-ing and re-soffit-ing of the garage. My brother Eddie and I did the north face and soffit, and Eddie tore down the rotted fascia and soffit on the east side of the garage last week. I put an additional coat of paint on the north fascia and a single coat on that soffit yesterday, then went to get the lumber for the rest of the garage.
First big score was that standard lumber was on sale at Menards for some ridiculously cheap that was huge.
So, despite feeling like Ted Stryker ( for much of the day because of the heat and humidity, we were able to get the entire stretch of fascia up for these two sides.
The soffit on the alley side actually is the first run of soffit on the garage that is NOT rotted and is in pretty good shape, so that was another huge score -- we left it up and intact, with the exception of a piece near the west corner.
Tomorrow, when it's supposed to be a little less hot and humid, I'll head out again and try to paint these two sides and possibly put up the east soffit.
Then, the west face of the garage becomes the issue. I put up a gutter (haphazardly, but it's there) years ago to stop runoff from bombarding my raised garden beds and to collect rainwater for my rainbarrel. At the end of the day, because I'm lazy (even though I love DIY work), I'm hoping against hope that it's in great shape and that I can either leave the soffit up or leave both fascia and soffit. But we'll see...I'm sure I'm not so lucky.
Then, finally, I can get the roofer out here to replace the roof.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

New fascia and soffit ... on one side ...

Well, my bro Eddie came over to help me rip down what was left of the soffit and fascia on this side of the garage...and let me tell you how brittle it was...quite brittle. For the most part the area closest to the camera in this picture was like paper...which I inhaled quite a bit of...oops. I was hacking up something fierce after we bashed out a few of the soffit boards. Yet, too lazy to go inside and get a Eddie and I joked, the disintegrating soffit wasn't going to give us cancer any more than our Mom's smoking for our entire lives would. We just kept at it.

The other end was a little more solid, but we got it down, no problem. Then, Eddie went around the corner in this picture and pulled the fascia and soffit off the east side of the now we have a gaping hole on that side of the garage.

A couple things of note...we had a blast tying two 4x8 plywood boards to the top of the Equinox with pathetic twine, since Menards, apparently, will not cut a plywood board in half for you. That's because they can charge twice as much for the 4x4 plywood boards -- assholes. Had I not wanted to get this job done sooner than later, I would have taken my business elsewhere. So we had to strap the 4x8 boards to the top of the Equinox and drive about 25 mph home through Edgebrook, Jeff Park, Forest Glen, Portage Park, etc. It was so much fun, we stopped at Dairy Queen on the way back to grab lunch.

Secondly, thankfully, the dozen or so yellowjacket nests we found were abandoned, except for one, which was only in its infancy, so there was only one yellowjacket hanging around by it. Fortunately Eddie was not stung when he ripped the fascia off it.

So now I have to put up the new boards on the east side and then rip and replace the south (alley) side and west side, which has a gutter on it (protecting my garden). Should be tons o' fun.

But at least this looks nicer (though not spectacular) and gets us one step closer to erasing any signs that there was a broken hot tub and piss-poorly built "carport" over it. Step by step.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Not in Kansas anymore ...

Well, I did go to Kansas for a few days for work, and I'm back, so that works on two levels here, I guess. While I was gone, apparently, Mother Nature decided to torment Downers Grove and Mt. Prospect residents with a tornado (not near us, thankfully), and some serious straight-line winds and strong gusts.

Our house (and neighborhood, for that matter), fared OK, and so did my garden. One of the tomato plants had been completely blown over, cage and all, and all my corn stalks were leveled. I'm hoping that I can straighten them up again, and I may have to stake them, but we'll see.

Otherwise, things have been so-so here at the bungalow. We have ants, so I tried to get rid of them tonight and will continue to spray outside tomorrow. Beyond that, however, there isn't too much on the docket, other than getting the upstairs carpeting deep-cleaned, which a friend of the family's is scheduling soon. We haven't had that done in the four years we lived here, so really, with the boys crawling and running all over up there, we should get it taken care of.

Then it's on to garage repair and concrete search for the backyard. If anyone reading this in Chicagoland can recommend a concrete (sidewalks) guy, please post in the comments field. I'm looking for quotes to start with, and then we'll go from there.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Probably a little fear...

All of a sudden, I feel as though I know everything I want in the rest of the backyard. I can almost envision it.

Problem is, I'm afraid to start any of it, mostly because, it's no longer a "bang one thing out and move to the next" kind of project -- everything has to be planned for and tied together, or it will look patchwork. Problem with THAT is, there's no money to be had for such a monumental project, especially with the garage roof needing replacement and the skylight upstairs needing to be removed and roofed over. Those two things will cost some dough, and they're definitely not DIY projects, particularly for this DIYer.

Right now, there's still a sand/soil pit where the hot tub used to be, surrounded by bricks and concrete slabs...I want to reuse the slabs as a patio in some portion of the yard...then replant the pit with grass (I'd love to turn it into a garden, but with two little boys growing up quickly, they're going to need a serious play area in the backyard -- like *I* had growing up).

I also want to set up and plant a long thin garden along the west fence, in part to eliminate the grass up against the fence, allowing me to not have to get out the trimmer when I cut the grass, at least there, anyway. But this garden can't be too wide, for the reasons mentioned above.

Then, we have the boys' swing set to put somewhere. I wanted to landscape around it with mulch (or rubber mulch, or whatever), raised up a bit too -- not really for safety (we didn't have that in our yard, and we were fine), but more to give it a feel that it belongs there, as part of the overall landscape back there.

On top of this, the deck really is going to need to be redone in the next couple years, I think...and part of me wants to just do it now, but expand it to the west, along the entire back of the house. This, of course, is where the "no money for that" problem really arises.

So I guess one of these days, I will go out and start measuring, and then maybe sketch out a plan...maybe I can do everything with the exception of the deck, but incorporate it into the design for future inclusion. Who knows? Again, it's not like other things around this house don't need to be finished/started/fixed.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The veggies are ... vegging out...

Well, I got the back two raised beds turned over, supplemented with more topsoil (erosion in a contained bed? Really?), and planted. I'm trying, this year, to give plants like my tomato plants a little more space to spread out and not overcrowd each other (or the walkways), especially since A.J. will certainly be out picking them with me a lot of times.

In fact, A.J. helped me plant the two tomato plants you see here. He dug part of the hole, and when I gave him the plant to put in the hole, he literally threw it in the hole. Good thing they're resilient. :)

The bed partially visible in the lower left-hand corner has carrot seeds and two more tomato varieties. I have one Big Boy plant and a Yellow Pear cherry tomato variety, just for the interesting-ness of it. We'll see how they do and if the Yellow Pear tomatoes taste any good.

All that's left in the garden now is to fill up the expanded end bed, which is now 4 foot by 8 foot, and then plant my corn. I should be able to pack quite a few plants in there, so I hope I'll get some better ears of corn this year. We shall see!

In other news, I have to get the garage fascia and soffit repaired so that I can have the roof replaced, as it's coming down in the area that was attached to the "carport" that covered the hot tub. That's really important to get done, because right now my garage fascia is open for business for any wildlife to sneak into the garage and make itself at home. Thankfully, it has been too inconsistently cold for bees/wasps, which is my biggest concern, honestly.

Then, we just have boatloads of things that need to be done around here, particularly outside, though not limited to outside. I love my boys, but it's tough to get things done when you have the two little ones running around and all that. And, unfortunately, they're nowhere near old enough to truly help (though A.J. tries and wants to help me with things all the time).

C'est la vie, right? :)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Talk about contagious...

Thanks to Denise over at The Bungalow Chronicles, I too have caught the posting bug and have decided to at least give a 2010 roundup...because looking back, though much was NOT accomplished or was only partially finished, well, we got a decent amount, here goes nothing...

First of all, an unnumbered "accomplishment" was the successful birth of our second baby boy in October. He's a BEAST of a boy...was already 16 pounds and super tall at two months old. I might have to shore up the floor joists. ;) He's been great, has been healthy and is a happy, easy-going little guy. His older brother is fast approaching his third birthday already and loves his little brother a ton. So we're thrilled at that...

1. Finally, FINALLY, laid the floor in the basement...laminate over padding over Platon. The final steps to the basement refinishing, however -- the baseboards, chair rail and crown, as well as the final outlets above the crowns (for rope lighting) -- remain unfinished. That's because of No. 2...

2. Dealt with a serious sewer backup into the basement -- floor performed as I hoped, with the Platon keeping the water away from the floor itself...however, had the baseboards been in, the water would have come up on the floor. This sewer backup seriously hurt my motivation to get the trim work done.

3. Also hurting the overall project work around here was the bill for installing a sewer cleanout in front of the house -- to attempt to prevent future sewer backups by getting the line power-rodded every year. That wasn't cheap...but it's done AND the city replaced several feet of sewer pipe out in the street that had become misaligned and broken.

4. Much, much progress in the backyard in 2010. I tore down the entire east privacy fence, which was falling down anyway.

5. Built a half-raised (to level with the neighbor's yard) bed in the back and planted five shrubs that will provide somewhat of a privacy screen, be attractive AND provide food and shelter for the birds. All key factors I wanted from these, hopefully they'll grow as expected and not get really, really wide. :)

6. Modified and improved my four raised veggie beds in the back and installed patio pavers around all four, making it way more presentable and lifting the pathways to above flood stage. I still have some minor alterations/additions I need to make, but for the most part, it looks good back there.

7. Tore out the broken hot tub and tore down the "carport" providing shelter for it -- the yard looks about a thousand times bigger. I used College Hunks Hauling Junk to take away all the demo debris...they were AWESOME and I would recommend them, for sure.

8. Finally, in the very late (but warm) fall, I built a chain-link fence in the east gangway to replace the freestanding privacy fence that, again, was falling down. The last entry on this blog shows the first post going in. Well, I busted my butt working by floodlight at night even to get the fence up, and I only got some help from my buddy Luis, digging the post holes and sinking some of the posts. The rest I did myself, and it wasn't too bad, I'd have to say.

Maybe, if I can hold up this motivation, I will post a "2011 hopes" entry soon...until then, stick with me! :)