Renovation Progress: Floors and Kitchen Garden

Sunday, April 30th, 2017

For the past week, I've been caretaking a retreat center and its resident cat, which means I drive out to the center twice a day, first thing in the morning to feed and play with Talks-A-Lot, the cat (she does talk--a lot!), and to check on the buildings. I drive back out again at the end of the work day to either let Talks in and feed her if it's been nice enough for her to be outside all day, or to hear her meow! meow! meow! lecture if the weather hasn't been nice and she's been stuck inside. 

As you can see from the photo at the top of the post, the view of Heart Mountain from the center is glorious, a definite bonus. Talks is quite a character, and the friends who I am caretaking for really needed a vacation, so I'm glad to be able to help out. But the twice-daily commute takes a big chunk out of my energy budget. Plus I have a respiratory allergy triggered by cats, so I'm wheezing and coughing more than normal, and that's tiring too.

All of which is why I didn't get a blog post up last week. And also why I resolved to save energy and make time for one this weekend.

Today was bedroom-flooring day. (The floor in my bedroom was the one wood floor in the house that was too badly damaged to save.) The photo above is what it looked like when Jeff Durham, my contractor, laid the first few strips this morning. They're in the middle of the floor because he was working from the the new flooring he laid last week in my en-suite-bathroom-to-be (photo below). 

Looking in the opposite direction from the first photo, toward the en-suite-bathroom, which is now ready for plumbing rough-in

While Jeff laid flooring planks, I worked on my edible garden. First I made soil in my new mini-stock tanks, using a mixture of coir bricks (shredded and compressed coconut husks, an sustainable alternative to peat moss). Once I re-hydrated the coir, I added bags of local compost made by a farmer in Greybull, on the other side of the Bighorn Basin. (Thanks to my friend Joan Donnelly, who enticed me out to the Park County Home Show last Saturday, where Chad Yost and his wife had their local compost for sale.) 

Starting soil preparation for the stock-tank edible garden (the hunks of earth in the bottom of each tank are turf cut from my front lawn where I cut out a bed to plant peonies yesterday). 

I added a bale of organic soil amendments to the coir-compost mix, and then stirred it in with a spade to made sure the soil was well blended. (My back and shoulders definitely feel the work of hefting bags and bales, schlepping garden trugs full of water to rehydrate the coir bricks, and that stirring. Let no one tell you that gardening isn't good exercise!)

Sheet mulch in place, teepees ready to unfold and fill, tomato plants in the yellow garden trug.

Then I laid out red, breathable sheet mulch to keep the moisture in the soil and warm the little tomato plants' roots, and chose four plants, one each of black cherry, Pompeii Roma, stupice, and tangerine, from the forest of tomato seedlings in my living room.

As I planted each seedling, I unfolded one of the tomato teepees, stood the plastic teepee upright around the floppy plant, and, using a watering wand in one hand, carefully filled each chamber of the teepee with water so it would stand upright and provide thermal insulation and shelter from wind and high-elevation sun for the young plant. 

When Richard was alive, we used to fill the teepees together--it goes much more easily with two people. Unless of course, one of them has a brain tumor that impairs his ability to focus and control the hose, in which case both people get very wet. But they have fun anyway. 

Filling tomato teepees by myself involves balancing the floppy plastic structure with one hand, while aiming the water into each successive tube with the other. It's quite a dance, but it works. 

By the end of the day, I had four tomato plants in the ground, each protected in their thermal shelter. Alongside them, I planted chervil, a French herb that tastes something like tarragon, but with sweet licorice overtones.

While I was in gardening-mode, I also thinned the spinach and baby turnip sprouts in the old wheelbarrow that is part of my front-entry garden, planted some spearmint in a pot there, and watered the sugar snap peas and garlic chives. (All grown from seeds selected by Renee Shepherd and her staff at Renee's Garden, my favorite seed company for their unique, delicious, thoughtfully produced, and easy-to-grow varieties. Thank you, Renee!) 

And by the end of the day, Jeff had finished my bedroom floor. (The floor still needs trim, and the walls need paint, but those will wait until after the window-replacement happens sometime in June.)

My beautiful and smooth new bedroom floor! (I won't miss the splinters and protruding nails at all...)

If all goes well, by summer, I'll have a garden bursting with healthy, beautiful food. And my house will be... okay, not finished. I can't afford all it needs. But it'll be in much better shape than I found it.

In fact, it already is: even partly-finished, the house's inner beauty shines, and it feels like a happy place. That makes me smile, and my heart proud. And it's part of my mission to leave my patch of earth--both the built environment and the natural one--in better shape than it came to me. 

The living room in this evening's lovely late light, viewed from the dining table, where I sit finishing this post...