Monday, October 29, 2012

Sandy Arrives in VT with Fancy Moves

With memories of Irene still whirling around this town, preparations for Sandy were serious but not panicked. There was not much going on all morning after a little bit of daybreak drizzle and the famed "red sky in the morning" but then just after noon time the sun peeked out, the wind kicked up a bit, and the sky flipped us a gift: a rainbow over West Rutland.

Hurricane Sandy precursor, West Rutland VT 29 Oct 2012
I snapped this rainbow photo from our front porch  at 12:15 Monday. (The rainbow was actually visible for more than 2 hours in nearby Castleton.)  After this little teaser, Sandy got more serious; the wind started gusting and blowing steadily, then a few hours later it started to rain, but not serious rain, just a shower type rain.

This is a huge contrast to the weather at our family home in Pennsylvania where rain and wind were relentless, water was everywhere and roads were flooding by 2pm. At 9pm the howling wind was dropping branches on the roof and the lights were blinking.

Last Halloween's freak snowstorm debris JUST got finally cleaned up last week in PA.  Please give us more of the rainbow attitude Sandy ... please?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Handmade Wood Toys - Simple Treasures for Tots and Collectors

Wooden Toy Truck - Hand made by KPTCO, Milford, NH USA
Back in the last century, a young dad decided to try his hand at making wooden toys. He designed  a fleet of sturdy trucks, cars, bulldozers and other toy vehicles that he made at home without paint, nails or screws. Wooden toy trucks and cars in the collection were originally designed to seat the popular "little people" (made by Fisher Price) that his own children loved.

Flash forward 40 years and that craftsman dad is now a grandpa and after more than three decades, the kids who loved those toys  have passed along their cherished trucks and cars to their own children or are buying these sturdy safe toys for their nephews, nieces, grand kids and neighbors.

And, happily, Bob Farrow is still making the durable and beloved wooden toys he designed in 1973. Each one is crafted by hand in his home workshop in Milford, New Hampshire. The only thing that's changed: the driver/passenger characters are simple one-piece people figures made from clear maple wood.

Wooden Toy Truck and Bulldozer
We can attest to the durability and playtime value of hand made wooden toys by Bob aka KPTCO (Kee Pon Truckin' Company) and to the love and attention he puts into each and every one of his creations. The toymaker works alone, on his own, cutting, sanding, assembling and finishing every single truck, car, "doodle" vehicle or custom toy by hand.

These hand made wooden  toys are built to last through years of creative play.

Designed, cut, sanded, glued and assembled by the toy maker himself,  KPTCO toys have been loved and tested by two generations of boys and girls (not to mention their parents and grandparents) since 1973. In fact, adults enjoy playing with these toys as much as children and many designs would make a perfect desktop or nostalgic home accessory.

Maple and Walnut Delivery Truck Toy by KPTCO, Etsy
Although KPTCO wooden toys don't wear a coat of paint they've got  plenty of fancy style.  Details derived from the way the pieces are cut and shaped and from the varieties of wood used to make them give these toys plenty of personality. The popular moving truck or box truck comes complete with a rear flap door, made from recycled denim or canvas. Log and utility trucks carry their own custom wooden freight pieces.

Most of the wood toy designs also come complete with a driver figure and many include a passenger, too - simple maple figures purchased from a reputable supplier.  These hand made wooden toys are true collectibles, built for years of imaginative play and memory making, from unique designs. You can't find these same toys anywhere else.

Check out all the cool crafted in New Hampshire wooden toys at the KPTCO Etsy shop. Your only problem will be deciding which truck, car or bulldozer to buy for your children, grandkids or ... yourself.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Be a Smashing Pumpkin for Halloween

So, you don't know what to wear for a Halloween costume this year?   Be Halloween. Be the pumpkin.

Whether you opt for comfort, simplicity, sexiness or the scare factor you can find a prize-winning costume to suit any man or woman in this collection of pumpkin costume and mask ideas.

From the office or classroom proper tee shirt to the skimpiest little pumpkin princess outfits or hideous pumpkin ghouls, there's a gourd outfit that's sure to be a smash for any adult.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Transforming an Old Building - Vermont Farmers Market

Another step in Rutland's Recovery and it's a major one. The Rutland Winter Farmer's Market will be housed in the new Vermont Farmers' Market building on West Street in Rutland, Vermont.
It's going to house a commercial kitchen, year round education resources, winter market vendors and so much more - and it's being transformed from an abandoned building on West Street, near the railroad tracks in Rutland. Lots of volunteers are making this dream into a reality - this video shows you the first steps taken.

The Rutland Winter Market is slated to open in the newly remodelled building in early November, 2012. Today the team is calling for volunteers to come down to scrape and prime the building to prep it for a new coat of paint next week.

Get more info here:

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Brain Image, Embarrassing Incident Memory Bank

I don't know about you, but this is how my brain works ... now why can't the synaptic videographers and librarians be so efficient when I'm trying to find my keys ???

Cartoon by Dave Walker.
Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Night Visitor Chose Late Checkout

Luna Moth
Every night a wonderful assortment of moths gather near the dim light of the front door. In the morning it's interesting to count the different colors and types of night fliers that spend the day on the shutters, flag, plants and screen door. They don't seem to mind our coming and going through the door and on the porch during the day. They snooze and wait for dark.

Last night this beautiful luna moth must have decided to rest in shelter when the sun came up. I found it sleeping on the potted hibiscus tree, right next to the door. I happened to spot this gorgeous visitor in mid-afternoon. Shortly after our impromptu photo session, this green and purple lovely flew into the forest, high into the pine trees. Maybe he or she will return tonight! 

Friday, June 01, 2012

And then there was mulch ...

Now that the front yard has 3 levels instead of a steep slope, and all the boulders have been placed to create wide spaces for gardening, wandering and stepping between levels from driveway to porch, the mulch is down.

All that's left for us to do is plant ... and we have plenty of perennials to move from our old gardens to these new beds.

Those little sticks in the front are markers for where we're planting two winter berry shrubs in one of the three rain gardens along the driveway.

Oh, and that bit of grass that remains in front will be left in place to filter any runoff until the plants are established, then I'm converting it to ground cover plants. No mowing!


Thursday, May 31, 2012

Front Yard Changes

Ready to start the rock walls

This is the before view of the front yard. You can get a sense of just how steep the slope is from the house to the woods area where I was standing when I snapped this photo. The contractor installed heavy-duty silt fence to protect the downhill property and the stream that's about 100 feet beyond.
View from the porch landing
This shows the front yard and woods beyond it before terracing or silt fence added. What you can't see is the rushing brook that's about 100 feet away and runs all along the front of our property near the road. Our driveway crosses the brook so we have a 5 foot culvert to maintain at the end of the driveway. The brook gets a bit wild during spring runoff, wild rainstorms and oh yeah,  hurricanes.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Week 1, 3 Days of Landshaping

Rock wall, right side
The big rocks that support the first terrace level in the front yard got laid on Day 1. Here's a view of the front right side as it looks from the second level.

The middle section of the wall continues like this across the front, and at the left side there's a set of stone steps made from native rocks.

All this now-level land was once a steep dropoff that started about 4 feet from the foundation of the house. It was nearly impossible to walk around the house without tumbling or slipping.

Rock wall, at mid section with steps and right side of wall
Now we have three stone steps that take us from the upper terrace or the porch steps on the left side down to the second terrace level gardens.

The second level of the garden area will be very broad - wide enough for big garden beds plus room to drive a lawn tractor through to distribute mulch and plants for the next 20 years.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Let the Earthmoving Begin

It's a sorry sight, this struggling landscape. But after today, the sea of weeds, scruffy grass and dandelions will be no more. We're bringing in the big machine and tons of designer dirt and giving this small patch of Vermont hillside the cure.

After all the earthmoving, rock setting and soil dumping this will become a paradise of gardens with walkways, perennial flowers and shrubs, herbs, garden whimsies and lots of interesting nature.

One thing this yard will not have: grass. No lawn to mow. EVER.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Bee in Her Bonnet, NO A Bug In Her Boot

Last night a big ole June bug was banging against the porch window screen and setting off the auto-trigger on the porch light. Poor dumb thing got stuck for awhile in the window screen mesh and that made one heck of a racket.  Sure startled me with all the buzzing and banging,  and got the kitty cat worked up and ready to kill  (she thinks she is a guard dog ...).

Well, little June bug got his just desserts for taking that wild flight last night, because he ended up stuck inside my muck boot and I guess he could not figure out how to fly or climb out so spent the night and most of today down at the base. Must have felt like Alice down the rabbit hole. I nearly squashed him a few minutes ago when I went to slip into my boots for a quick photo session before the landscaping work starts tomorrow.

Here's the little June bug-ger (don't they know it's still only May?) before I evicted him (her?).

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Spring Nor'Easter Preparations

The weather has been balmy for a week, but this is New England and it's early spring, so we're prepared for the worst while hoping for the best. Yesterday the skies were sunny and the air was warm. That all changed by the end of the day when cooler air and rain moved into the area. We need rain, so I'm not complaining. But we don't need floods here in south central Vermont, and we don't need WIND.

Tonight's forecast warns of wind gusts near 50 mph plus as much if not more rainfall as yesterday (2.5").

Irene did horrendous damage to Vermont last August. We're hoping and praying this next 48 hours of weather-maker is not destructive.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Spring Veggies: Peas

Peas growing in cold frame.
I planted my peas on St. Patrick's Day so it's been one month since I started my little sowing/growing experiment.

The pea seeds I sprouted indoors and then planted in the cold frame are growing well. The peas I sowed directly into the soil are a little behind the indoor starts, but they're sprouting and catching up. They seem to like growing with the garlic out in the open.  Here's a picture of the transplants in the cold frame, taken today. The transplants I put into the open ground aren't doing so well. I think I may have a soil problem, because the plants look a little pale or bleached. That could also be a bit of shock. We've had hot and cold and warm weather here that's probably confusing those seedlings. It's all part of the experiment, so we'll see if they adjust in the next few weeks.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Spring Gardening Notes

Pink primrose in bloom, April 14
I've been anxiously waiting for flowers in the garden and finally I spotted some color from the kitchen window. The first flower to bloom this year (not counting the snowdrops in bloom I bought and planted a few weeks ago) popped up yesterday in my garden - a pink primrose!  I'm hoping the warm weather forecast for the upcoming week will give the daffodils and tulips I planted last fall the push they need to push up their flower buds and bloom soon.

The day lilies, butterfly bush, raspberries, salvia, echinachea, lamium, sundrops and other perennial plants I moved north from PA to VT all survived our snowless winter without much die-off. I'm not sure the redosier dogwood we planted late in the fall survived, but it's a native plant here that grows in abundance along the brook running through the property so we'll have plenty of replacements if we need them.

Daffodils almost ready to bloom
I was tickled to find lupine seeds sprouting around the new growth from the plants I grew from seed and moved here last summer. I was never able to grow lupines more than 1 season  in Pennsylvania, but they seem to be very happy in this environment. I'll have two year plants plus new plants - both white and purple - in the garden this summer!

The soil around my house in Vermont is heavy clay, hard and compacted. Two previous owners didn't do much to landscape the property since the house was built 17 years ago, except to plant one spreading evergreen at the front left corner and stick in a few perennials near the back steps to help sell the house. The soil needs amending anywhere I plan to garden.  I started work on my long range garden plan last spring by digging along the foundation at the back of the house to lighten the soil with compost and manure and add better drainage. We built a raised bed that doubles as a cold frame/hoop house near the kitchen door, and planted all those perennials from the Pennsylvania garden on the sloping bank out back and in a couple nursery beds near the back door.
Walkway garden below driveway parking area

Yesterday I tackled double-digging the hard-packed soil along the driveway parking area. It took me more than an hour to dig it up with a garden fork, remove rocks and break up the clay clods., the dig it all again and mix up the soils. I also regraded the garden area to remove a bit of slope between the driveway garden  and the front walk, then added rocks to support the leveled section along the stone path leading to the front door. Beyond the path to the right (not visible here) the front yard drops off sharply and will need to be terraced later this spring.

Today I'll be adding Moo-Doo composted cow manure to the planting bed on the right so Bekah, Anya and I can plant veggies along the walkway. In the strip along the driveway to the left I'll plant annuals because eventually that space will be covered by a garage.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

First Spring Spinach!

Organic Spinach April 2012
I just picked the first harvest of fresh spinach from my cold frame here in Vermont. I planted the seeds last fall but they went into the ground a bit late, so the plants languished all winter.

The unusual 80-degree summer weather from a few weeks ago warmed up the soil under the hoops and plastic so the spinach plants took off.

I've got enough fresh green spinach to make a yummy spring salad for supper tonight.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

How to Plant Blueberry Bushes

Dig planting holes twice as deep and wide as the root ball.
I've grown blueberries before, but it's been more than 20 years since I sold the house where I first planted them as foundation shrubs. I'm in a newer home now, and this house has no landscaping,  except what Mother Nature provided (and some green stuff that masquerades as grass along the side of the house and in the steeply sloped front yard).

So, where to begin with this blank canvas garden?

Last spring I dug up a 3 foot wide foundation bed along the back side of the house and amended the soil to see what I could grow. The soil was compacted clay with lots of rocks and about 2 inches of topsoil. After double digging and amending the soild with sand, Moo-Doo and straw, my little test bed produced an amazing crop of pole beans that kept bearing well into October.

This year I have more ambitious garden plans. I want to plant flowering shrubs, I want a big vegetable garden, I want to start perennial beds, and I want to grow blueberries. To get started on these projects, I decided to double dig the foundation bed again, add more manure, more sand and plant blueberry bushes.

Blueberries in this garden will grow into attractive shrubs and we'll get some nice organic fruit in a few years. The location is perfect; the back of the house gets plenty of moisture from the roof. The pine trees we left standing in our yard drop needles in the fall  that tend to collect near the back of the house along this garden, so they'll add beneficial natural acidic mulch to the blueberry bed. The bed faces south, and the sun shines on the section I'm using for the blueberries for several hours a day, but in late afternoon it dips behind the pines in our neighbor's yard, so during the summer it's filtered sun and shade. Blueberries like that exposure. Being on the southerly side near the house protects them from winter winds, too.

To plant blueberry bushes in the bed along the back of the house, all I need to do is dig properly spaced planting holes twice as deep and wide as the root balls of the bushes, mix in manure (Moo-Doo is my favorite) and sand to lighten the heavy clay soil, and then plant each bush with the soil mounded into a slight slope away from the base of the bush. I'll water them well when I plant, and then mulch the entire bed with natural cedar mulch. That's pretty much it except for pruning next winter and side dressing with manure and coffee grounds next spring and summer.

Blueberry bushes ready for planting, 30 March 2012
I found plenty of blueberry plants at the garden center, and chose four plants: 2 each of two different varieties.  Blueberry bushes produce fruit on new wood, so it's best to prune them in February to encourage branching when they begin to grow in Spring. The first year you plant you shouldn't expect a crop of fruit. The plants need to get established and acclimated to their new home. When I bought them, I noticed the young blueberry bushes hadn't been pruned over the winter so I did that when I got them home, while the buds were still tight and not opened up.

The only thing I should need to worry about once I see the bushes have taken root and started to grow is to make sure they get water so they don't dry out, and keeping the birds from eating the berries next year.

Friday, March 30, 2012

March 17 - Plant the Peas Experiment

In New England and most of the Northeastern USA, the traditional day to sow the first crop of peas outdoors  in the vegetable garden is St. Patrick's Day. We had such a strange summer-like week in mid-March it almost seemed like it was time to plant other veggies, but I didn't succumb. I knew the weather would return to normal and the temperatures would plunge back to 40s or 50s during the day, and freezing or colder at night. And they have. Two nights ago we had a hard freeze and a snow shower.

But, I did sow my peas on March 17, two ways. I'm trying an experiment this year.  I planted 12 pea seeds in the house in a recycled egg carton filled with organic potting soil, and I planted 12 pea seeds  in the soil of one side of my planting box outside, inter planted with the garlic I put in last fall. The first shoots from the garlic were pushing up through the soil, so I knew the dirt was warm enough to sow the peas.

Well, the official pea planting day was 2 weeks ago.  The indoor peas sprouted and were ready to open up their first leaves, so today I hardened them off and planted them under cover in the cold frame, near the spinach plants that have been growing under cover since last fall.

Peas transplanted to cold frame soil March 30, 2012.
So far the peas planted outdoors haven't sprouted, although the garlic is doing well and in the flower garden I'm starting to see shoots from daffodils and tulips. We'll see which group of peas fares better - the ones that I planted directly into the soil or the peas that I started in the house and moved into the cold frame next to the spinach. In the meantime, I bought 4 blueberry bushes (2 each of two different varieties) and I'm working on digging out the compacted clay soil where I want to plant them. I need to get some sand and manure to add to the planting holes and get them into the ground this weekend. But that's a story for a future post.

Happy Spring!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Just Hatched: Easter Eggs in Paper Mache

I've been making more paper mache, this time for Easter. I got this idea after working on the paper mache Halloween ghouls I made last fall, and thinking about trying to work on smaller items. I found a couple similar projects online and then came up with my own designs and methods for making these light weight paper mache Easter eggs.

In Germany they've made beautiful paper mache candy boxes for Christmas and Easter for more than a hundred years. I decided to try to make some small paper mache eggs with treats for my grand children. (shhsssh, don't tell!)

The paper mache Easter eggs I crafted were lots of fun to make, and easy, too. You can find my article about this project with complete paper mache Easter egg instructions at Zujava.

Hiatus, I Hate Those

It's been a long stretch since I posted here, and I'm not happy about it. I've been floating about in the breeze a bit for a few months. I'm baaaccckk.

I was bogged down fixing my web sites, writing for Squidoo and transitioning to a new life in Vermont. I'm caught up on my technical work and writing,  and getting settled in at the house thanks to a nearly snowless winter, so it's back to the drawing board and keeping up with the blogs.

I'll have a new post on my Easter paper mache later this week. Stay tuned ...