Progress on the backyard project

In two hours, we got some good work done on our backyard. Here you can see Matt smoothing out dirt we’ve moved to bring the grade up. We put strings on our stakes and made things level. Also, this is the widest part of the yard we have to grade, so that means that the work from here on out will go even more quickly.

I couldn’t bear to kill off the asparagus that has performed so well for me for so many years. So my job was digging up the old crowns and putting them in the trench I dug to plant the new crowns.

The old crowns are huge, especially in comparison to the spindly new crowns.
Here you can see one of the new stalks poking its head above the ground.

Once again the rain part of the day started after we finished our work. Good job, weather.

Backyard Rehab Report: 4/22/18

We started by weeding the side yard.  No weeds are happening in the path we put in last fall, but a lot of weeds were happening between the path and the house, where things need to be planted.

Next we put up our stakes.  We have stakes about four feet apart and then rows about five feet apart.  This way, as we level we can slope the dirt 1/2″ every row. We learned that the sledgehammer is the fastest at getting those stakes in the ground.

We even had time to move some dirt from the mound to a shallow depression in the yard.  This meant moving the chunks of concrete into a yellow recycling bin. We will need to discard the concrete chunks. Perhaps by slowly adding them to the garbage.

Excavating the dirt mound also involved digging up the asparagus crowns that have grown in the raised bed since 2009 or so.  They were originally planted in Leo’s yard in 2008. It physically hurt to dig up one of those crowns and discard it.

Still, it’s good to get started on the mound going away.  I’m looking forward to having a nice backyard to hang out in.

Also!  The rhubarb has returned! Both plants.  The one on the right side of the yard, closer to the shorter fence, emerged about three weeks after the one on the left next to the taller fence.  Guess which side gets the most sun.

We try Thai Rolled Ice Cream

My first encounter with Thai Rolled Ice Cream was at the Minnesota State Fair. I did not stand in line to have some–the line was long–but I did get a good overview of the situation because they were stationed right below an escalator so I got a birds-eye view as I was headed down.

There’s a shop now in Portland, so I was excited to try this and avoid the line.  We failed at avoiding the line–it was a very sunny and warm spring day and the shop was full.  But we did get ample opportunity to watch our treat being made.

Liquid is ladled onto a very cold disk and things are added in.  I got the Oreo one, so mine had a crushed up Oreo. Then the mixture is spread into a square and carefully rolled into five rolls, which are placed in the cup.

You can then add three toppings, a sauce, and some whipped cream.

Matt opted to skip the whipped cream, and so you can see his banana and Nutella ice cream rolls much better.

While it was fun to watch the creation of this dessert, I didn’t love the flavor of the lactose-free “ice cream.”

OHS Civil Rights Exhibit

Matt and I had a date at the Oregon Historical Society to see Racing to Change: Oregon’s Civil Rights Years.

It was a good exhibit.  Both of us were left with the depressing feeling that not much has changed since the 1960s and 1970s.

An example: This is from the October 1966 Black Panther Party Platform and Program.  The Black Panthers were talking about police brutality 52 years ago.  How much has changed on that front?

Here’s a picture of houses and businesses in the thriving Black community in the Vancouver/Williams area. The 188 shaded houses and several businesses were claimed through eminent domain and torn down for the expansion of Legacy Emmanuel Hospital, an expansion that never came.  The Oregonian featured one woman’s story on July 6, 2017.  “City policy cost 98-year-old black woman her home. Here’s why she won’t get it back.”

We learned about the tense relationship between police and the black community including police officers taking part in racist harassment, being fired and the police taking part in a “Cops Have Rights Too” rally. The officers were reinstated.
An observation by Avel Gordly

Instructions for what to do when stopped by the police which are still the same instructions given today. Point #12 was interesting advice about how to sit in the police car more comfortably.

Also this great letter from the chairperson of the Black Justice Committee, who opens with an apology and acknowledgment that putting together the monthly mailing is “a big drag.”  This made me laugh.

The exhibit ends with ways to work for change.

Lighting update: we now live in the future

The entire 10+ years we have lived in our house, our porch light has not functioned very well. When we flip the switch, the light comes on about 15% of the time. We eventually stopped flipping the swtich. We live on a major street. It is not at all dark on our front steps. Calling an electrician to fix the problems was very far down on the list.

I contemplated installing a motion sensor light, but that was also quite far down on the list. Luckily, technology caught up with my needs.

The light that is coming from that porch light is an LED bulb that has a motion sensor built in! All I had to do was screw the bulb in, flip on the light and wait for it to get dark. It now turns on and off automatically. This was the best $12 I have ever spent.

Our “white” Christmas

It’s Christmas Eve morning, and I’m getting some last few baking things done.  The DJ comes on the radio and says, “Thank goodness, we missed all the terrible weather forecast for today.”  I look outside where it’s dark and threatening.  On her next break she says, “I just had a call from Boring and it’s snowing there.  And in Gresham, there is freezing rain.”  And then every break after that she had more bad news about the weather.

Sometimes it’s best not to speak too soon.

What we got at the Orange Door: ice pellets and freezing rain-type stuff.  It was never really snow, just a pain to drive in.  But the fact I drove in it (twice: on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) means it wasn’t too terrible.  By Boxing Day it had faded to an icy sheen, captured here.

Under those tarps are piles of sand leftover from the side yard, which will be used for the back yard.

The first time the Orange Door purchased a TV

This has been our TV for some years now.  We inherited it from my mother when she got a flat screen.  It’s 36″ and has served us well.  It’s our second TV.  The first one, Matt borrowed from a friend.  She declined to have it back.

We didn’t set out to get a new TV. The current one works just fine.  But our DVD player was on the fritz, and Matt bought a new one and it wasn’t compatible with the TV, so we ended up with a TV and a soundbar.

Here is our new TV. It’s 55 inches.  We bought it online, and I learned that while it’s good to do the research online, it’s also probably good to go and look at the TV before buying. Because if I had seen this TV live and in person?  No way, Jose.  Too big.
It was so big we had to take it out of the box in the store parking lot to fit it in the car.   Aside from it’s large size, it’s a very nice TV. It does the wi-fi thing (the previous TV did not) so now we have Netflix on a big screen. And access to other things too.

Side Yard Update: Spreading Sand.

To review. We’ve dug out four inches of dirt, we’ve put down two-ish inches of quarter minus crushed rock.  Now we are to the phase where we put down landscape cloth and spread the sand. Then we place the pavers.

Wish us luck.  I took no photos of the pavers being set into place. More photos coming soon.

Side Yard Update

As the side yard project continues, the back yard becomes increasingly shabby-looking.  This will perhaps increase the motivation to complete the back yard (scheduled for April-June 2018) in a timely fashion.

We excavated four inches of dirt.  This became a dirt pile in the back of the back yard, though I did give away some to a neighbor on Next Door.  Excavating falls firmly into the manual labor category.  I found that I was quite efficient at the process, thanks to my years of double digging. When we were done:  a mostly even slick of muddy ground.

Here’s the view from the sidewalk.  It was exciting to finish the digging part of the project. But that lead to….

Four cubic yards of quarter-minus crushed rock, and 3.5 cubic yards of sand.  Our neighbor Leo was kind enough to let them deliver to his driveway, as we have none. This also meant we needed to move all this stuff in one weekend.

We got the crushed rock spread and found we had this much left.  I put it up as free on Craigslist, had someone contact me within 30 minutes and then she showed up at seven o’clock on a Sunday morning to take it away.  She was quick.  That just left 3.5 cubic yards of sand to move.

We put down landscape cloth and piled it into the side yard.  It was a lot of work.  Next up will be putting the sand in a layer, not a pile, and putting pavers into place.

Heat Pump!

Today is the day we get our new heat pump.  Currently, our home is heated by Cadet heaters. I dislike them for a variety of reasons: You have to turn them on and off, there’s no set-it-and-forget-it option; They are expensive to run; There’s not a lot of control, they go from too cold to too hot.

I’ve been longing for a ductless mini-split heat pump for years.  And since we’re putting a path in the side yard, we decided to have the heat pump installed now. That way, we would know how much space it was taking up before we put in the path.

Here’s our before picture:

And here’s what it looks like after!  That little guy is going to heat our 1000 square foot house much more efficiently than the cadet heaters.

One thing that worked out quite well, is that the remote control–which is used to control the temperature–fits nicely where our phone jack used to be.  We will always know where the remote is, and our unessential phone jack is covered.

Here’s what it looks like from outside. 

The electrician had the worst job. We don’t have a crawlspace and we don’t have an attic, so he had to run the cable to the electrical panel from the outside through the dead space in the kitchen.  Then he had to make a turn and sneak through the closet.

He was a bit sweaty by the end of it, and sadly lamented our lack of crawlspace. 
It’s nice to have this project done.  Right now the temperature is such that we don’t need the heat pump to work, so we’ve mostly been using the fan feature.  This is probably the first year of my life–ever–that I’ve looked forward to colder temperatures.