Weekndr Garden: May Showers and Hues of Green

The grass is coming in nicely. Who knew it wasn't hard to grow grass from seed.

The Weekndr landscape: One month later.

May showers brought hues of green to the newly-landscaped weekndr yard. After a nail-biting month since we first planted the grass seed, the lawn is finally growing in nicely. Today I did the first mow with a push-powered lawn mower I picked up last year at a tag sale. Who knew it wasn’t that hard to plant grass from seed?

The kids are making great use of the lawn while mom and dad have been making good use of a new folding bench from Target  that can be moved easily to the sunniest spot in the yard. I picked up several bags of cedar mulch on sale to create a border around the lawn but after three bags went down we discovered that it gets its bold red color from dye, which stains your bare feet and tracks footprints into the house. 

The vegetable garden is also coming along nicely. All of the plants are in the ground and I’ve made it half way around the plot with a wire fence to keep the deer out. We planted six varieties of lettuce, five varieties of tomatoes (two of which I picked up at Tomatomania a few weeks ago), three varieties of hot peppers, two varieties of basil, a green zucchini and a yellow squash.

Enjoy some photos snapped this morning after the sun came out.


Left: Ancho chiles waiting to become Chile Rellenos. Right: Thai basil and regular basil.

Left: Ancho chiles waiting to become Chile Rellenos. Right: Thai basil and regular basil.

Front to back: Tomatos, peppers, basil, tomatoes, lettuce, squash

A view of the plot from front to back: Green zebra tomatoes, Matt's Wild Cherry tomatoes, juliet small red tomatoes, ancho chiles, Thai and plain basil, string beans, peas, more tomatoes, lettuce, zucchini and squash.

Maple saplings as fence posts.

I chopped down a Maple saplings to get rid of some shade over the garden and cut up the limbs and trunk to use as fence posts. Rustic, but it works!

8 Ways to Wrap a Present On the Cheap

Getting creative with on-hand materials can make for interesting presents.

Getting creative with on-hand materials can make for interesting presents

Now that we’re part of the pre-school circuit, birthday parties are a regular weekend activity. We recently found ourselves  hours away from party time but with only Christmas wrapping paper on hand, so we got creative (with a little help from our facebook friends).

The following are 8 ideas for wrapping a present when you’re out of wrapping paper:

1. Construction paper dressed up with rubber stamps, stickers, water color, or pictures printed out from http://images.google.com

2. Newspaper (the Sunday funnies for kids, the sports section for sports fans, the business section for accountants, the classifieds for your out of work friends, and so on…)

3. Old maps

4. Out-of-season wrapping paper turned inside out and decorated

5. A brown paper bag

6. A cool piece of fabric (recycled from old clothing or sheets)

7. Aluminum foil! Totally outerspace.

8. Duct tape…its funny watching someone trying to unwrap it….takes a while

Do you have more ideas? Post a comment below.

When to DIY vs. Hire a Professional

The Weekndr household is all about doing it ourselves. Whether it’s cooking a delicious recipe instead of going out to dinner, or installing our own landscaping rather than hiring a professional, we fully embrace self-reliant living. However, the DIY lifestyle is not for everyone.

The New York Times today published an article that ponders the question: should you do-it-yourself or hire a professional? According to the blunder-filled anecdotes collected by the reporter for the article, doing it yourself can lead to even more cost and heartache when a project goes bad. The examples ranged from botched hair colorings to leaky toilet installations.

We’ve had our fair share of DIY projects gone awry, but we’ve avoided even more by using the following litmus test when considering whether to DIY or hire out:

1. Do we have the required tools to complete the task (or do we need an excuse to buy those tool)? Trying to complete a project with the wrong tools almost always leads to a sub-par result.

2. Is there a looming deadline? Doing it yourself typically takes a lot longer than a professional. Most of the time you have to learn something new whereas a pro has done it 20 times before and knows how to avoid common pitfalls and take shortcuts. If you’re looking for immediacy it’s best to hire someone to do it.

3. Does it cost less to do it yourself? Most pros mark up the cost of supplies and materials and of course they charge for labor. Buying your own materials and doing the labor yourself can save a bundle. However, a few mistakes can end up costing more in the long run because it is expensive to repair your errors or buy replacement parts.

I’m On Antiques Roadshow! Well, Sort Of

Antiques Roadshow began airing the first of three segments shot in Hartford last summer in which I was one of a few thousand lucky Roadies to get tickets. (watch my video report here)

While my satchel full of family artwork didn’t make it on to the appraisal stage, I did managed to get on TV in the background of two televised appraisals, a Native American water vase (watch the appraisal) and a gold bracelet.

Not very impressed, are you…

There I am in the blue shirt trying to convince the appraiser that my artwork really is valuable.

There I am in the blue shirt trying to convince the appraiser that my artwork really is valuable.

At least they got my good side.

At least they got my good side.

Backyard Nature Channel: Flying Ant vs. Spider

WARNING: This video depicts real nature at work (and is enhanced with spooky, suspense-filled sound effects). It is not appropriate for all audiences.

We captured this frightening video of nature at work on the front walkway at the Weekndr house. After careful observation (and the above video replay) we determined that this is a flying ant carrying an already-dead spider back to the ant nest.

Set to a suspense-filled soundtrack of forest sounds, dinosaur and frog calls, and a dramatic iMovie riff, the whole things is even more creepy than in real life.

Weeknd Project: How to Grow Grass From Seed

Here’s a play-by-play account of our experience installing a grass lawn from seed:

1. Ready the soil: I began by excavating my rocky front yard and installing a 18-in.-deep bed of screened top soil. If you already have good topsoil, look elsewhere for advice on how to prep it.

2. Test the soil: Take a soil sample to identify what additives the soil needs for good grass growth. I was too impatient to go through this effort but I’d recommend it in retrospect.

3. Wait for the weather to accommodate: Once the weather reached an average temperature of about 60 degrees and the 10-day forecast looked ripe, I took a three-hour vacation from work and got to work.

4. Fertilize the soil: Before sprinkling the seed, I spread and raked in some Scotts chemical fertilizer per the manufacturers directions on the bag. I wanted to use organic fertilizer but the saleswoman at Agway convinced me not to. According to her, organic fertilizers take a long time to activate (months? years?) and she said I needed something that would act immediately. I wanted immediate so I took her advice. 

5. Let the soil acclimate: Let the fertilizer mix in with the soil before applying the seed for best results. Everyone tells me too much fertilizer can burn the seeds and prevent them from growing. Again, too impatient for this step.

6. Spread the seed: Using a handheld seed spreader, I applied more than a half bag of fescue grass seed to the dirt. The seed mixture was recommended by my Agway sales associate, but there are tons of online sources for choosing the right seed. 

7. Water regularly: We’ve been watering every morning making sure that the soil is drenched but not puddled. On super hot days I’ll water again at night. Never water during the heat of the day.

8. Watch the grass grow: Our grass took about two weeks to start showing up but people have told me everything from three days to three weeks. It’s been about two and a half weeks since our grass seed went in and the lawn is showing promise. The grass is coming up thin but the once-dirt-brown plot now shimmers with shades of green. I’ll give it another month before I expect a soft place to lay in the sun.

Sod vs. Seed
About a week after planting the seed I made a day trip down to the tony town of Ridgefield, Conn., to visit great-grandma weekndr who was visiting and staying at a local inn there. I drove by a strip mall on the main drive, which was undergoing a lawn installation that very day.

On my way to the inn at 9:30 a.m. the shopping plaza featured a 3000-square-foot plot of graded top soil and was surrounded by a team of laborers and a few pallets of sod. On my way back home at 1:30 p.m. it was a fully installed green grassy lawn with no work crew in site. 

I know what envy is. Thanks to grass seed, I also know about patience, horticulture, frugality, and perseverance.