Sunday, April 17, 2016

Bliss and Blisters

What a weekend. It was a wonderful weekend at The Shack.  I went up with the intention of planting the trellis. Unfortunately, that did not happen.  I was reminded that sometimes things happen (or don't happen) for a reason.  I think this was the case this weekend.  

My trellis is not installed. 
But I am not unhappy about it.

The Trellis Fail?

We built a trellis.  A sturdy trellis that I think will look great once it is installed.  It is so sturdy that I was very relieved when my roommate said he'd drive it up in the truck on Friday night. Woohooo!!  I had been ready to try to strap it to my Jeep top, like I do my kayak. But the Kayak weighs only about 40 lbs. A small stack of lumber weighs a good bit more than that. I was very relieved when he said he'd haul it up for me. That means all I'd have to do is dig the holes and re-assemble the trellis.

Saturday morning I started digging the holes.  Rather, I began breaking rocks as I tried to make a holes for the posts.  I had been smart enough to bring a shovel, post-hole diggers, and a pick-ax, but WOW.  I was not prepared.

With blisters already in place, I refused to give up. I sat on the ground as I lifted the chunks of rock from the hole. Eventually, I drove down to town and purchased a digging bar (a heavy bar with a type of chisel on the bottom).  That digging bar helped some. But I still was not going to get four 2' deep holes dug in two days. I began to feel like I was in way over my head. If I couldn't get that stupid trellis in the ground, how in the world could I live a homesteading, off-grid life?!

The Plants

I had transported my two rose plants and a small lilac bush up there.  I had planned on planting the rose bushes with the trellis (Oh, what an overly-optimistic DIY planner I am!).  With all of the rocks, I decided I'd wait for the roses - I could take them back to the apartment for safe keeping. But I would plant the lilac over near the remains of an old apple tree.

Lo and behold, while still very rocky, the digging was easy near the deceased apple tree.  I very easily planted the lilac bush.  

As I sat there, with the big fuzzy bees visiting the tiny purple flowers that grow there, I decided that the stump would be the better area for a flower garden and trellis.  As I sat there, resting, looking down to the opposite end of the yard, I realized that the spot where I was trying to dig was probably one of the old orchard "roads" - causing the rocks to become so packed and difficult to dig.

The Beginnings of a Flower Garden

It was too late in the weekend to plant the trellis - even if the new spot was easier to dig. But I planted that lilac, one rose bush, some lavender plants, lavender seeds, marigold plants, and four gladioli bulbs.  

I made "cages" for the lilac and rose... hoping to protect them from hungry deer. I only had some extra re-bar to use as posts. I need to buy some small posts.

I also impulsively planted a few mammoth sunflower seeds near the wall of The Shack.

I took photographs of a horrendously thorny bush that appears to be some sort of rose bush. Wouldn't that be a hoot if it turns out to be a bush like the one I've been searching for?  I hope to try to identify it with the photos I took with some internet research tonight.

Right before I left, I re-positioned my brand new game camera and hung a bluebird house.

As I tidied the cabin, and washed the dishes on my back deck, I watched a doe and fawn trot down my hill and into my woods.  Then I loaded up the dogs and the climbing rose bush and we headed back to the city.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Beginnings of a DIY Trellis

Today was a wonderfully productive day.  After spending a large amount of time stalking DIY websites, looking at photographs of what seemed like every type of trellis known to mankind, and then doodling my own ideas, I thought I know what I wanted.  Armed with lumber, hardware, rebar, and a knowledgeable roommate, my trellis project began.

It took about half of the day to assemble the heavy-duty trellis.  We put it together with lag screws and carriage bolts.  I will disassemble it when I'm ready to haul it up to The Shack. 

Of course, I will share the finished and planted project with you. But here is a peek at part of the process.

One of the "ends" -- looking top to bottom

I learned how to drill holes correctly for lag screws and carriage bolts.  I saw that cutting rebar isn't impossible - just A LOT of elbow grease.  I already knew how to use a circular saw. (thank you Dad).

A slight angle at the top/front

One of our many supervisors
I have the site for it chosen. Unless I change my mind yet again, I will place it at the end of my mowed yard. In the photo, it is in front of the Jeep - near the small dark bush.  I think that will be a great spot for a trellis, roses, and grape vines. 

And someday in the distant future, a carved stone bench.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

BULLSEYES Pit Beef and Catering Review

I do not consider myself a foodie. While I write about products that I love and recommend, I have never written about a restaurant. But I MUST share my thoughts about BullsEyes Pit Beef.  The sandwich and fries were so delicious that I'm a bit angry I can't drive over and treat myself to some delicious pit beef today.

BullsEyes Pit Beef and Catering

BullsEyes is located on BelAir Road, Nottingham, Maryland just north of 695 (near Giant).  I had previously lived in that area, and was back in the area two days ago for an appointment. Since I was a bit early and had time for a bite to eat, I zipped over to a sandwich shop that I used to eat at regularly.  I was surprised and delighted to find a Pit Beef spot instead. 

I love good pit beef.

I have not had extremely good pit beef since visiting one of my sons when they were deployed down south.  So I wasn't expecting a great sandwich but gave it a try. I'm so glad I did!

Amazingly Delicious Pit Beef

As I said, I'm not foodie. Nor am a I restaurant reviewer. But my medium pit beef sandwich was incredibly delicious. I'm not sure if I've ever had better. As I said, I'm not a foodie, so I'll just let you see what the sandwich looked like and you'll have to trust my judgement about how good it tasted.

Courteous and Happy Staff

I can't tell you how tired I am of grumpy waitstaff (customer service folks, cashiers, etc).  Yes, we are all human and have bad days. But if you can't even lift your hand to take my dollar, perhaps you should have just stayed home. This was not the case at BullsEyes. There was not a single malcontent on duty. Despite being extremely busy while I was there, they were all polite, hard-working, and visibly happy.

In fact, I enjoyed listening to one of the guys at the grill, who whistled while he worked. I was given a free, gigantic (also delicious) pickle because they thought they had kept me waiting. In fact, I hadn't felt like I had waited long at all.

I sat for a few minutes at the high top at the front window.  The very small restaurant was neat and clean. The soda bar was clean and tidy.  As was the condiment bar.  I had chosen a hickory sauce and it too was delicious. Perfect for the sandwich.

As I said, I can't wait to go back.  In the meantime, here's a copy of the menu (one side of the menu).  You should look them up on facebook for current contact and menu information.  

Hopefully, it won't be many more years until I live at my Shack, on that mountain ridge. And I'll have to learn to cook my own pit beef. But until then, you'll be able to find me ordering at BullsEyes on a regular basis. 

12 Bones Smokehouse: A Mountain BB! Cookbook

Sunday, April 3, 2016

My Sun Nurseries Discovery and Review

Cherry Blossoms
I have discovered a nursery and garden center that I had never visited previously. While I always enjoy visits to garden centers, I had such a great experience in this green wonderland that I have to spread the word and recommend it to you. If you are local and have any landscaping or gardening needs, large or small scale, I suggest you head to Sun Nurseries, Woodbine, Maryland.

My first visit was on a chilly and drizzling day in April.  But it was still the most productive and fun nursery visit I've experienced.

My Search for an Old Fragrant Rose

My search for new-to-me nurseries began with my purchase of my retirement home and land.  With that land, and room to plant my own plants, I have realized how much I miss a rose bush that resided in my yard many, many years ago.  I am searching for a very specific plant but since I'm not knowlegeable about roses, I'm having a hard time finding someone who can help me.

It goes something like this; 
I'm looking for a rose bush... it had glossy, thick leaves. The flowers were about 2-3" across, deep crimson, and bloomed continuously through summer and into the fall.  The buds looked like typical rosebuds, but the flowers opened and looked a lot like zinnias. 
The smell was wonderful and I could smell it across the yard and into the house.  It may have started with a "trunk" of sorts, but spread quickly with long canes.  Oh yes, it was full of thorns. 
Another bit of information is that I owned the house many years ago.  The women who sold the house to me had been born there, and lived there into their 60s and 70s. The plants there had been planted many years prior to me owning the home.  
Do you know what type of rose this may have been? 
I know, I know. Almost impossible to identify a plant with this description. (By the way, my last trip home to my home state, I swung by that old house and had planned to ask to take some cuttings.  Alas, the rose bush is long gone). Folks at garden centers usually attempt to be kind and attentive, but then give me an answer that isn't very thoughtful.  I can tell.

At Sun Nurseries, I quickly went through my spiel.  Really, I wanted to just keep looking at rose plants and see if I can find something similar on my own.

Rosa Hybrida "Golden Showers" Climbing Rose
The Sun Nursery employee, I wish I could recall her name, did not know what I was referring to. But, she gave me great advice; check with the Rose Society, consider that it was a climbing rose without a support, etc. And she went and found every information card they had that would be similar. That way I could at least research the roses that will be in stock as the days warm.  

I will research the roses they have coming and continue to be hopeful that I'll find my fragrant, thorny red rose. In the meantime, I wandered around and adopted this sweet little rose. 

Trees and Shrubs: Planning for The Shack

Currently, I live in an apartment and have a very small container garden on the balcony each year. But, I am excited to be able to plan "landscaping" for the land at my Shack. I am hoping to plant both beautiful and useful plants. I am not an organized gardener. I am currently wandering nurseries to see what is available and researching on the internet to be as informed as I can.  

Sun Nurseries has every sort of tree and shrub I can imagine.  And so many varieties of each.  Outside of a Japaneese Maple, I am hoping to stay fairly close to plants that would be native to West Virginia (the location of my land).

I wish I could find information about how many acres of plants are on display at Sun Nurseries.  The rows continued, often, for as far as I could see. I tried to remain focused on only the plants I may want to plant on my land and I wandered for hours looking at their endless selections of:

  • Paw Paw
  • Persimmon
  • Mountain laurel
  • Rhododendron
  • Azalea 
  • Lilac
  • Evergreens 

Items for my Budget Balcony

I write elsewhere about my balcony and container gardening.  My visit at Sun Nurseries was meant to remain focused on researching plants for my property. But I have to say that I did purchase a small mint plant that has been added to my balcony garden.  I also made mental note of many plants and items that would be perfect for a container garden. Including wonderful small hen and chick or strawberry planters!

Wish List: Amazing Stone Items 

Sun Nurseries carries carved stone items from Stone Age Creations.  Many of these items were displayed and included; Boulder Owls, bird baths, and benches. I've added some of the big ticket items to my "maybe someday" wish list.  There were also many sculptures and garden ornaments by a variety of artists. I will not ramble on trying to describe these beauties. Instead, I'll just include a couple of photographs.

Stone Age Boulder Owls

How to Find Sun Nurseries, Woodbine, Maryland

Their physical address is:

    14790 Bushy Park Road
    Woodbine, MD 21797
     Phone: (410) 442-2090  *  (301) 854-6107  *  (310) 820-3000

Sun Nurseries on Facebook  

Sun Nurseries, Inc Website

Summary of Reasons to Visit Sun Nurseries

  • HUGE selections - many species of plants and trees & many varieties of the species 
  • Helpful staff -  Not overbearing - they are willing to allow you to wander for hours.  Knowledgeable - they are able to answer questions.  Honest - I was talked out of a potential sale because it wasn't known to do well in my area.  
  • Prices are inline with prices at every other nursery I've visited. Frankly, as soon as I parked, everything was so attractive that I expected inflated prices. However, all of the plants that I've been pricing online and at local nurseries were similarly priced.
  • Many gorgeous stone items
  • A nice place to visit