Tag Archives: garden

Life Lately at Red House West South

Now that the Chamber of Secrets is wrapped up, we’re taking a minute to assess our house-fixing priorities and figure out where we want to jump in next.  Today I thought I’d share a few things that have been happening around the edges of home renovations here at Red House West South.

From early spring through most of the summer, the garden dominates our free time.  Things warmed up much earlier than usual this year, and we were able to plant our potatoes and onions in early April.

Life Lately at Red House West SouthAround the same time we brought home three fluffy little chicks, and I had to remind myself constantly to be gentle because I just loved them too, too much.

Life Lately at Red House West SouthThey were so tiny and cute, and I subjected them to all manner of Anne Geddes-esque torture.

Life Lately at Red House West South

Life Lately at Red House West South

With the size of that beak we could have called her Cyrano, but because of her markings we called her Chipmunk. It doesn’t suit her at all now.

We built them a simple little coop and painted it red.  We then moved it to the shadiest part of our yard, beneath the dogwoods and plums.

Life Lately at Red House West South

spring coop

Red Coop West in spring

The girls are much bigger now.  Not yet laying, but beginning to make some very chicken-y noises.  There’s a lot of growling and side eye.

Life Lately at Red House West South

That’s Chipmunk there in the upper left. She’s top of the pecking order.

Life Lately at Red House West SouthThe garden, too, is much bigger.  Even though I never believe a dry little seed stuck in dirt will actually grow into food (you can check out the gif I made last year to try and convince myself), we’re now harvesting green beans, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and enough berries to give you a tummy ache.  That is if “you” were a person who had no self-restraint.  Which I am.

Life Lately at Red House West South

Life Lately at Red House West South

Once the onions are ready you break the stalks and let them dry in the sun. Those are potatoes on the left, which we’re also letting dry out before we harvest them. Both of these crops are ready almost a month earlier than last year!

Life Lately at Red House West South

We planted these raspberries less than three years ago and could barely keep up with them this year.

We planted these raspberries less than three years ago and could barely keep up with them this year.

Life Lately at Red House West SouthAnyone who reads this blog certainly know how much I love my house, but my mission in the summer is to get away from it and into the woods as much as possible.  I’ve had some wonderful adventures – backpacking on new trails; my first multi-day rafting trip (on the Rogue River – so beautiful!); and a mildly-painful-but-totally-worth-it bike ride to the top of a closed mountain pass.

Mountain Lakes Wilderness trail in southern Oregon - photo courtesy of my friend Heather.

Mountain Lakes Wilderness trail in southern Oregon – photo courtesy of my friend Heather.

photo courtesy of my buddy Dylan

At the Dee Wright Observatory – the destination of our bike ride on the McKenzie Pass Highway.  Photo courtesy of my buddy Dylan.

Life Lately at Red House West South

On the Rogue River

Life Lately at Red House West SouthOn a final note, I’ve been putting a lot of time into making Bunny pose with the potted philodendron in hopes of recreating the lithograph hanging in our kitchen.  Trying to get an overheated, fat, irascible cat to do anything is a real challenge, but here’s my best effort so far.

Life Lately at Red House West SouthAnd the original:

Life Lately at Red House West SouthNeeds work, obviously :).  Hope all of you are doing well and enjoying the summer!  I’m looking forward to sinking my teeth into my next house project … but not before I sink my teeth into Mera (metaphorically and lovingly) when she visits this weekend!

Katie’s House: A Walk in the Garden and Pergola Plans

As I mentioned in my post about fixing up the Paul McCobb chair last week, we are living in Washington state for most of the summer, not in our red house west. I’m having fun exploring a new town, but I’m missing the antics and affections of Fat Bunny and Tiny Tiger (though they’re in good hands), our house and – even more than I expected – our garden.

Don't worry, we left the yard and garden in very capable hands (paws)

Bunny promised he’d mow the lawn while we’re gone (though we have some human back up just in case)

This is the second summer of owning our house (if you’re interested in more of our house-buying story, you can see that here), and last year we did some big experiments with gardening and trying to figure out how we use the outdoor space.  We had planned to apply the things we learned this summer – which obviously isn’t happening since we decided to live in Washington – but having some extra time to think and plan has turned out to be a good thing.

Our house has a big lot – almost 3/4 of an acre – and when we bought it the previous owners had divided it so that the house sat on a well-tended lot of about 1/3 of an acre which was separated by a fence from what was essentially a vacant lot in the back.

Here’s an aerial picture, courtesy of Google Earth, from just before we moved in:

Screen shot 2014-06-02 at 7.59.01 AM

The size of the lot was a big part of why we bought the house. It could be anything! We could have goats! A cattery! A mini-farm!  A skate ramp! Or in a financial pinch, we could subdivide and sell (very unappealing prospect, no exclamation point).

The fall that we moved in a friend of ours came over with his tractor and tilled up a huge garden area, which we planted with a cover crop (crimson clover) and then tilled under for planting in the spring.

Jim in tractor

With dreams of fresh veggies and a full larder for the winter, we went big, planting cucumbers, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, asparagus, squash, beans and more. We’re fortunate to have an irrigation well on the property, which is currently housed in a dilapidated eyesore of a tin shed  (we’ve got plans for the shed, which I’ll share another time).  We grew a ton of food last year, but because  I never quite believe the magic of food growing from a tiny seed stuck in dirt I made this GIF of the garden from tilling through the first snow as proof for myself that it really does happen.

Garden GIF Red House West

We learned a lot last summer. We learned that two full time jobs plus a gigantic garden = not much time to do anything else. We learned that we can halve the quantity of veggies we planted and still have plenty to eat, share and store,  and that we need to stagger the planting of our corn crop so it doesn’t all come on at once. We learned that the farm a couple miles up the road from us sells perfect pickling cucumbers for a lot less effort and not much more money than it took for us to grow them.

pickles at Red House West

We loved growing, harvesting and preserving fruit and so last fall and this spring we expanded our orchard to include three figs, two cherries, two Asian pears, a Bartlett pear,two apples, and a big ol’ hedge of raspberries in addition to the bountiful old plum trees, marionberries, and blueberries we already had.



When we first decided to come to Washington, we worried about what to do with the garden to keep the weeds at bay while we were gone.  We discussed planting a cover crop or covering the whole thing with tarps (the horror), but were excited when we connected with a man who was looking for a large area to grow onions and tomatoes for a neighborhood food share.  The perfect solution!  A space we couldn’t use is now used for and by our local community, and when we return we’ll get a share of onions and tomatoes!  I love how this worked out.  Nick, the farmer, did some serious labor and our backyard is now a beautiful and very orderly onion farm (tomatoes hadn’t yet been planted when we left).


So that’s the food part of our garden!  Now let’s take a walk around the yard to a couple of my other favorite spots, and then I’d love to share some plans we have to make it even better.gnome house

Gnome hide & seek is a popular sport ’round these parts.  Kids that come over search for the gnomes and then relocate them to other spots in the yard, to be found at a later date by other visiting kids (or us).


This past winter, a friend who is an arborist and also a beekeeper called us because he’d taken down a tree that had a honeybee hive in it and wondered whether we’d like it on the back part of our property.  Sight unseen we said yes, and this behemoth – that we love – was delivered via backhoe (and later threatened with engulfment by the lilac hedge).

bee tree

I love standing in the bees’ flight path and watching them careen back into the hive with their pantaloons of yellow pollen.  If you press your face to the tree, it smells of honey and hums with industry.

bees in tree stump

Our garden is a magical place.  It is filled with blooms and food and fairyland creatures.  What it does not have is a place to sit and eat and relax.  I’ve been dreaming of a pergola, with an arbor of either grapes or kiwi, that provides a nice shady spot for a table and – ideally – a hammock.  What I’m imagining looks a lot like this:





Of course, I’m not at all opposed to something like this, provided someone is there to feed me as I recline:

Cameron and I might try to tackle the pergola this fall when we move back home, or it might get pushed back until spring while we finish off some projects inside the house.  Either way, I’ll keep you updated here!  What outdoor projects do you have cooking?  We’d love to hear about them in the comments!