Saturday, August 15, 2015

Deck Day!

Today was an excellent day - my parents came up to visit me, and to help me build a new deck off the back of my house. For some reference, here are a couple of “before” shots from a couple of years ago – when I first bought the house:
Post carpet removal.  Pre Power Washing to remove
the red paint. Pre window and new back door.

The new window and door in place.
There was indoor/outdoor carpet on the brownish-red painted concrete pad.  A couple of steps to the ground and that was really it… I removed the carpet.  I power-washed off the brownish-red paint.

Today, my parents helped me build a small (8’ by 8’) cedar deck. The materials were pretty simple, to be honest.  I reclaimed all of the 2”x6” joists that were originally in the living room (well OK, the contractors reclaimed them for me) and in advance of today’s efforts, I bought some concrete pier-post blocks (and was also given some by an old pal from high school – thanks Frank!) and some galvanized finishing nails. 

When my parents arrived, Dad and I moved some of the blocks around in order to facilitate building the initial box and then adding the inner beams to be the actual joists for the deck. This deck is “floating” – what I mean by that is that it is essentially a platform that is not attached to the house in any way. 

Initial framing done

Look at the glory of this frame!

Pier blocks all in place, frame securely held.
This baby is not going ANYWHERE!

Once we had the platform constructed and in place, Dad and I went over to Slegg Lumber and picked up the 2”x6” cedar planks that would become the deck itself.  We all went into Courtenay to have a yummy lunch at the Atlas CafĂ©.  After lunch, we placed pieces of tar paper under the beams but on top of the joists to help make the fir last a little longer) and then the cedar the planks were laid in place (and then nailed in) and then Dad routered the plank ends to ensure they wouldn’t fray off or catch an unsuspecting person (ok, it is me – I walk into things and this prevents me from getting cedar slivers in my legs) as they walk past.

Tar papered joists, spacing out and nailing the
cedar planks in place.
When all was said and done, we put my little bistro table and chairs in place and sat and had a cold cider and rest on my new deck.

Isn't it pretty?

I still have work to do on it.  I need to go through and nail down into all of the joists – we tacked each plank on and after Mum & Dad went home, I went around the outside edges and put in the second nails in all of the ends – but there should be 2 nails in each beam at each joist – and so I will still have a fair amount of nailing ahead of me. In addition, I will need to give it a very light sanding (just to smooth out any rough patches) and then stain it in order to keep the wood protected.  In addition, I will need to pick up some pot feet so that I can put my herb planters onto the deck and ensure that I don’t; cause the beams underneath to rot out.

After I had some dinner, I started canning.  I had enough ripe tomatoes to do another 8 jars of tomato sauce – to which I added a couple of jalapeno peppers to give it a little bite.  Mum brought a bag of peppers up for me (and some gloves to handle them with) for pickling and cooking with. I also got the kitchen ready for tomorrow’s canning exercises – the peaches I ordered (4 cases of them!) arrived yesterday and I need to spend the day tomorrow prepping things and then canning.  I am SO glad I picked up the pressure canner last weekend – it allows me to do 16 pint jars at a time (instead of the 8 that the water-bath canner allows) and this should help me get through those cases of peaches in record time. 

Before I can really get going on the canning, though, I need to go into town and pick up a few supplies.  Honey… and some spices… I’m going to try making a batch of spiced peaches as well!

With love across the waters…

Hot Hot Hot!

I wrote this on July 19th but forgot to hit post...

Summer here on Vancouver Island is usually warm.  We normally have a week or two of (what I feel to be) super-duper hot temperatures followed by a few days of cool and rain.  2015 has given us another summer with a long dry hot spell… Last summer we had an entire month with no rain – this year we were almost up to two months by the time the high pressure system finally broke and we got a little bit of rain… and though we have now, finally, had some rain, things still are pretty dicey – people have actually prepared “go bags” so that if they have to evacuate their homes due to imminent risk of forest fire, they can grab their bag and, well, go.  We have had two major forest fires as well as a number of smaller ones on the island this year – all of which can be attributed to humans.

Today I took advantage of a cooler morning and mowed my back yard.  First time in two weeks, and though it hasn’t been watered at all this summer, it is still pretty lush and green. I seeded most of it with drought resistant seed and that has paid off in some nice green grass, even without the watering! I have been watering my veggies, though, and also some flower pots out front.

Today has been spent in some industry. Once the lawn was mowed, I hung out some laundry on the line and then proceeded to dig out my garlic bed.  I stopped watering it about three weeks ago with the intention of digging it out last weekend – last weekend we got rain – lots and lots of rain – and so the garlic stayed in until this morning.  All dug out, it is now hanging in my shed and starting its curing process. Once cured, I’ll cut off the tops and then store the bulbs until time to use them. Once the sun is down a little (and there is some shade in my back yard) I will get back out there and pull out the snow peas and then turn the soil in both of those beds.  The bed that has the snow peas in it will be the home for next year’s garlic planting and the bed that had this year’s garlic will be the home for next year’s tomato plants… that bed, therefore, will be planted with fall rye so that I can give the soil a really good head start on adding nutrients.

My tomato plants are looking like they will  be producing another bumper crop this year – I finally picked my first three cherry tomatoes this morning (I’ll toss them in with some pasta sauce) and the Health Kick are going to be starting to ripen soon as well.  Having now pulled the last of the lettuce, I now have the space to get into the tomato bed and I can do some more reinforcement stake work.  They will need it!

I also dug out all of my onions (that was a disappointing crop!) and they are also curing in the sun right now.  The Multiplier Onions did well (and I will do them again) but the Walla Walla that I seeded gave a pretty poor crop – I will try again next year, but think I may need to do more research into soil amendments and growing conditions!

I am in the process of completing my fist canning of the year right now. The water bath canner is on the stove heating up and what I will be doing is some fresh rhubarb mixed with the last of last year’s frozen apple pieces and a small bag of last year’s left-over blueberries that I also located in the freezer.  A little bit of sugar to round out the bite of the rhubarb and the fruit compote is in a pot waiting for the jars to sterilize. It is a little warm to be canning, but the fruit is there and ready, and I need to use it or lose it!  I am shocked by this, but my rhubarb plant is still glorious and live – hasn’t gone to seed – and therefore the fruit on it is still viable for saving.  The rest will go onto cookie sheet batches and into the freezer for fall pies and crisps.  I LOVE rhubarb crisp, but more so in fall than spring!

I am thinking that, if my bean plants cooperate, I may try my hand at making dill pickled green beans – once my bean plants start to produce for me. The Scarlet Runner has blossoms now – and even a few little tiny beans have started to grow.  The Italian heritage is still not flowering, but I understand that it may still be some time before I see any produce on that one.

With love across the waters…