GUYS. I just harvested my first vegetables of the season from the extremely bad-ass and finely crafted Bill J. Dunn Memorial Garden and Emporium. Fittingly, they were radishes:



I know! I too am extremely excited by this development. I would like to take this moment to update you all on the status of the garden and yard, dear readers.

1. The weather is finally cooperating. After multiple freak hail storms and torrential downpours, we have finally settled into our usual Colorado summer weather. Which is to say: blindingly sunny and hot during the day, light thunderstorms in the late afternoon, cool nights. My seedlings have taken to this weather much like… well, like plants to perfect growing conditions. See?


If those ain’t happy cucumber sprouts I don’t know what is.

2. Ben built hoop houses! We realized we had almost no shade in the back yard with which to combat the aforementioned blinding sunlight during 15 or so hours of every day. The young plants and shade-loving greens were really suffering going from the freezing rain to intense sunlight. I could almost hear them complaining about “out of the frying pan into the fire” (What, don’t your veggies talk to you?). But I married me a resourceful man. He bought some garden-grade shade fabric, several lengths of flexible PVC pipe, some metal brackets, and some zip ties, and built me some high-tech shades for each bed.


The fabric is loosely attached to the PVC hoops using the zip ties. This allows us to move the shade up and down the hoops depending on the level of sunlight we want on the plants. Here’s what the sun shade looks like in both positions:


The sun shade is porous, so rain can still easily get through, but not hail, and it should protect the plants from getting beaten up during a torrential downpour. It’s meant to block UV rays and keep the temperature down underneath it on the hottest days, so my sun-lovers are still happy even with it up. Here are some close ups of the brackets and the zip ties. The brackets are actually holding a thicker, shorter length of PVC pipe, into which we inserted the ends of the thinner PVC used for the hoops. This means that the hoops are easily removable while the brackets stay in place. The zip ties, unfortunately, are single-use. So if we want to re-adjust the fabric (which we do… our first try was a little sloppier than I’d prefer) we’ll need to get new zip ties.

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In the winter we plan to transform the hoop houses into cold frames by replacing the shade fabric with greenhouse plastic. This should extend our growing season by creating three nicely-insulated, inexpensive greenhouses. “Should” being the operative word here, of course.

3. We planted trees! A North Star Cherry and a Resilience Peach, to be exact. Or, as Ben likes to call them: “Future Pie Filling Trees.”


They’re pretty measly right now, but now that they’re in their forever homes we expect them to bulk up right quick. We picked these babies up from our favorite plant nursery in the Denver area, Timberline Gardens. I have to give a shout-out to Timberline because not only do they have an amazing selection of healthy plants and trees (including an entire greenhouse packed with at least a dozen species of roses which are definitely in my near future), but their staff is amazingly helpful, astoundingly knowledgable, and clearly enthusiastic about their work. Both trees we bought are in great health and already bearing fruit despite their size. When I retire, I want to wear a floppy hat and gardening gloves and walk around pruning trees all day at Timberline Gardens. That’s the dream.

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We had but to stick ’em in the ground, mulch their bases, and walk away! These babies are going to do just fine. And as an added bonus, the peach tree is planted right in front of our bedroom window, so it should block some of the afternoon sunlight… in a couple of years.

4. My plants are going bananas. Besides the radishes, the lettuce and spinach are ready to be harvested, and all of the seeds (with the exception of the onions) have finally taken off. I had to re-seed some beds more than once, but the results are rewarding. I feel like I can see the corn growing if I stare at it long enough, and the squash plants seem to be doubling in size overnight. Here are some closeups of the pretty green things:

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Aren’t they beautiful? Let’s end with one last shot of the radishes before I eat them.



Guest post: Amy’s kitchen ceiling light fixture


Despite this technically being a “guest post,” it’s not actually written by a guest. So you’re stuck with me, your host, Mrs. Fickbonne, as we explore the exciting and mysterious uncharted territory of my sister-in-law’s kitchen ceiling! Try to contain your disappointment.

Amy is the kind of bad-ass home-improver I aspire to be. In the three years she’s lived there, she has taken her wildly unimpressive little condo in San Diego and turned it into an HGTV centerfold. I kid you not, her home is frighteningly immaculate, perfectly decorated, and floor-to-ceiling remodeled. Among the many projects they’ve done, Amy and her husband Adam have…

  1. Installed new floors throughout the house.
  2. Painted every wall ever.
  3. Installed crown molding.
  4. Installed new baseboards.
  5. Painted the kitchen cabinets and countertops.
  6. Installed new windows.
  7. Painted the back patio and landscaped.
  8. Replaced an ugly shower door with a tasteful shower curtain rod.
  9. Made Hercules re-routing a river to clean some stables look like a chump.

So it was with no small sense of honor and excitement that I accepted Amy’s offer of helping on a house project when we visited this spring. She was all “Do you want to make my kitchen look better? You can maybe blog about it if you want…” And I was all “I THOUGHT YOU’D NEVER ASK.”

The task before us: removing the crappy overhead fluorescent panel lighting in her kitchen ceiling, patching the hole, and replacing it with something better, faster, and stronger (but mostly prettier). Here’s what it looked like just as work began:

The offending fluorescent panel light.

The offending fluorescent panel light.

Hideous, right? Here’s how we fixed it:


This was accomplished in under five minutes, the construction of the offending light was so flimsy. This made me a little concerned about safety. If we hadn’t pulled that sucker down, it would’ve come down on its own eventually!



2. Installing the drywall

Believe it or not, this was my first experience actually measuring, cutting, and mounting drywall. I don’t know how I’ve escaped such a basic skill of home improvement before now (especially given how much of it Ben has done), but there it is. Anyway, ripping out the light fixture left us with a big gaping hole in the ceiling. Our goal was to even this hole out by tacking up some new drywall around the sides, then place the light fixture in the center, giving the kitchen a vaulted ceiling and a generally less-claustrophobic feel all around.


Amy measures the drywall… LIKE A BOSS.

3. Patching, spackling, sanding, growing millennia older…

To make the hole look nice, we used some handy wood putty to fill in the cracks around the edges and the new drywall. We also spackled the corners. And then we repeated this process for endless iterations, a kind of madness settling in on all of us. We took turns on the ladder, muttering feverishly to ourselves as we tried in vain to get it juuuuuuuust right. Then we had to wait for all the goop to dry before we could sand the everloving shit out of it. This was my least favorite part of the process. But when we were done, the hole that had previously housed an office-style panel light looked like a design feature of the house!


4. Painting

This is why Amy is a more bad-ass home improver than I am: her ceiling and her trim are different colors of white, both of which she recognizes on sight and both of which are very important not to confuse. We painted the trim and the new drywall their respective shades of white and then waited for them to dry.


5. Installing the trim

Adam and Ben very carefully measured the trim before cutting it on the table saw and then tacking it up around the hole to cover the edges of the drywall. And then they carefully measured and cut again because they got it wrong the first time. Then we all pondered the futility of human existence together.


6. Last but not least: installing the light fixture

Adam is an electrical engineer, which is why I felt perfectly safe during my first-ever experience installing an electrical fixture! Turns out I had no reason to be worried, as dealing with electricity is shockingly simple, to the point that I became progressively less and less impressed with Adam’s fancy electrical engineering degree.

After turning off the electricity to the kitchen, we installed the new light, matching the white and black wires and connecting the copper grounding wire. I’d explain this in more detail, except that I’m sure some handy Youtuber already has. Once the wires were all connected, we mounted the light into the bracket in the ceiling, and then screwed in the fancy specialized LED bulbs with a little suction cup tool. Turns out I’m the only one who could figure out how to actually use the suction cup tool, so Amy has informed me that if any of her lightbulbs ever burns out I’m required to immediately fly to San Diego to put in a new one.

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7. Finishing touches

I would’ve posted this back in February when all the work was actually done, but Amy forbade me from taking any “after” pictures of the finished ceiling until she had touched up the paint. So my hands were tied, dear readers! Those touch-ups are now complete, so I can finally show you what we labored so hard on:

Amy's awesome kitchen and the new light!

Amy’s awesome kitchen and the new light!

Isn’t it lovely? I almost wish I had a terrible panel light in my house so I could do it all over again! But not really. Overall, the project was relatively inexpensive, relatively fast (we were only impeded by the speed at which paint and spackle dry, and the rate at which we consumed delicious local microbrews), and relatively low-skilled (literal electrical engineer not required). Here’s Maya, supervising our work and judging silently: