News around the house: 2011

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Winter

Christmas in Montana

We spent Christmas 2011 with Mike's family in Montana, hoping in vain for new snow as the old snow melted around us. Snowman construction was a lost cause. But intrepid scouts searched the foothills to find enough lingering white stuff for our favorite outdoor activities, thus justifying continuing rounds of holiday culinary indulgences.

We spent an afternoon sledding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and roasting hot dogs and marshmallows with local friends. (We hauled snow over to the sledding hill to cover up the rocks.) The dutiful sons spent afternoons burning brush along the lake front while the rest of us roasted hot dogs and marshmallows and critiqued their work. Folks who were coordinated and energetic spent a day skiing at Blacktail Mountain. We resurrected the Gingerbread House Street of Dreams and attended another Christmas Eve program with the Gaiser family. And as always we enjoyed great food, rowdy gaming competitions, long walks in the woods, and catching up on what everyone has been up to over the past few months.

Fall

Home and Yard Projects

We reshuffled our landscaping plans a little to move the propane tank and build more raised beds in the garden area for vegetables and fruit. So we had to postpone Kathi's plans to add stepping stones, more shrubs, and a gate until next year. In return, she'll have more area protected from deer (meaning more plants!) and we'll have a nicer view from the deck not having to look at that eyesore white tank.

Also, Mike ordered 15 tons of rock and began terracing the area between the house and the barn, where we hope to plant some fruit trees with a big fence around them.

Kathi reorganized her office around a new desk she bought to accommodate working with multiple computers.

A colorful trip to Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Florida!

Kathi took an extended trip to the southeast to visit family and friends. Though the trip was scheduled primarily around the FSU football games, it coincided perfectly with the peak of the fall foliage in northern Georgia and North Carolina.

A few trip highlights:

For photos of our 1980 hike to Charlie's Bunion, visit Memory lane.

Summer

Yard and Gardening Projects

So far, the ground covers, shrubs, and perennials we planted last year are thriving around the fenced-in garden area. We're hoping to complete our loosely defined "phase 2" of the effort this summer:

Mike took a week off work to power wash/bleach/paint the deck. Does he know how to relax or what?!?! In observance of his outdoor commitment, we had the first week of contiguous summer weather, with temperatures in the 90s. He did a great job, and the deck looks better than it ever has. We're hoping he bought the kind of paint that will last until after we move, because that was a bitch of a job. Lorna and Kathi plan to paint the areas around the top and bottom of every single copper pipe in the bannister by hand over the next few weeks.

Mid-August update:

During his painting project, Mike sprayed the deck above the garden with herbicide on a windy day. The vegetables have really struggled to overcome the herbicide, some more successfully than others. The effects of herbicides on vegetable plants are fascinating, ever evolving, and absolutely grotesque.

Despite the setback, we have been harvesting beans, cucumbers, broccoli, and squash from the garden, and peppers, chard, and herbs from pots on the deck. The tomatoes are looking good, but still very green and very behind schedule due to our cold spring.

Best gardening surprise of the year:

Haricots verts (skinny French beans), perfect for lazy gardeners who don't want to pick every day. Skip a few days, and they're still small and tender.

Worst gardening surprise of the year (besides the herbicide):

Dead chicken in flower bed. WTH???

Mid-September update:

We had about six weeks of what the southern half of our yardwork team would call a real summer, and our crackerjack team managed to pull a win out of its gardening efforts. Our hottest weather arrived in September, with two weeks of temperatures in the 90s as kids went back to school. And thanks to that, we managed to get ripe tomatoes.

To avoid repeating the mistakes of the past few years, Kathi picked all the tomatoes when nasty weather blew in mid-month. We now have tomatoes in all stages: ripe and visibly ripening on the kitchen countertops, and green under a blanket on the foosball table in the basement. Squash, cukes, beans, broccoli, and peppers are slowing way down. We picked a few delicata squash that survived the chipmunks.

Mike wants to look into moving the propane tank away from the house, so phase 2 in our landscaping project is on hold. Instead, Mike agreed to build raised beds along the back of the garage for raspberries and other edibles. It's just about time for fall planting.

Spring

Sierra's art gallery and animal rescue resort

Whenever her hand isn't broken, Sierra has been painting pictures for her new rental house. She also designed her new sea turtle tattoo, rescued a bunny from someone's dinner table, and tried to get out in the sunshine on the occasional days it appeared.

San Francisco escape-from-the-desk/lose-the-lard retreat, April

Kathi and Lorna spent a week in downtown San Francisco trying to get back in touch with the concepts of sunshine, outdoor activity, and fresh produce. Just in case those things ever show up in Oregon again.

Some activities:

Some surprises:

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