Everything in the greenhouse has gone nuts in the last week. Where there were only a few tentative blooms on a few plants, now every plant has three or four branches filled with yellow flowers, and half of those already have fruit beginning. Even the difficult varieties are producing: the Cherokee Purples have five or six fruit apiece. They’ve suddenly gotten taller as well, and I’ve been pretty ruthless in cutting back the secondary growth unless it’s already got something growing. As a result the plants look thin and spindly compared to giant leafy bushes, which I’ve been accustomed to growing in years past. This time I’m pruning everything back except that which will produce, hoping they’ll mature and ripen faster.
I think the only stuff that hasn’t bloomed yet is the strange tub in the back, with seedlings that always seemed slower than the rest. Those plants have shot up in the last week but they’re 1/4 the size of the others. I think they’ll wind up being producers late in the season.
There are flower buds on several of the plants; everything looks pretty healthy except for one tub in the very back, which has three very lazy plants that are only several inches tall.
The tomatoes in the greenhouse have skyrocketed in the last couple of days; with the sun and the heat they’re much happier and reaching their stride. I’m testing the use of some tomato fertilizer in two tubs and straight urea in one to see what results I get; nothing is dead yet (I put it in on Sunday) so I’m going to set up a rolling schedule to amend the soil. I put some basil seed in six of the tubs to see if it would grow, and there are seedlings starting in five of them. And strangely, one of the gladiolus bulbs overwintered in the greenhouse and is now sending a new shoot skyward.
It’s officially air conditioner season. Yesterday I hauled all of the individual window units out to a table on the driveway and pulled the covers off so that the girls could shoot some Clorox inside and scrub out the dirt and mold. They dried in the sunshine and after dinner Finley helped me put them back together so I could haul them upstairs and put them in place. I’m getting tired of humping them up and down the stairs in my late 40’s, and now that the front porch has been reclaimed and looks so good I’m going to feel shitty about storing them out there in the winter. My overall goal is to have ductless AC units put in sometime in the next couple of years. I’m thinking ductless—the kind where each room has a wall-mounted unit connected to a large outdoor condenser—vs. ducted—where there’s a big air handler in the attic running hoses to a ceiling-mounted duct in each room, because I’d like to keep the attic open and I figure it might be cheaper. But that may be flawed logic; one handler in the attic, which will never be finished in our ownership of this house, and is mostly inaccessible now that the stairs have been chopped down, may be cheaper than four individual units in each bedroom. More research is required.
The frequency of my posts here have dropped off in recent weeks. For some reason I’m in a fallow period for the blog, and I’m spending too much free time just aimlessly looking at the internet for tiny dopamine hits. Weekends are different because I can get out from behind the desk and accomplish large visible things that have a tangible result, which I’m leaning on heavily for motivation. As my job-related output gets increasingly intangible it’s hard to feel a sense of accomplishment when my output for the day is a list of items crossed off on a list in a notebook.
This is not a complaint. I’m happy—and lucky—to have a job in the current climate. Some weeks it’s just more difficult to shift my mindset to the new normal.
The tomatoes in the greenhouse are beginning to perk up. After several weeks of apathy, they’ve noticed the change in temperature and are beginning to pick up their growth. When I look at my Flickr feed from last year the store-bought plants are a full month ahead of where I am this year, but I’m taking a much more careful approach to how I’m letting these grow. Being home every day means I can keep a closer eye on them—pruning back the suckers and extra branches to keep the main stem strong and healthy every day. From what I’m seeing online I need to be much more ruthless about pruning back extra branches that have set flowers, as they take the energy and growth away from fruit on the main section of the plant. But with the additional plants I’m growing, we’ll hopefully have a lot more production overall.
So there it is. I started spraying at 10AM and finished up the last section at 4, and it took about an hour to clean everything up. I went with the big guns and wheeled my new upright compressor to the front door for the sprayer. It worked like a dream. I worked the stencil down the middle of the room and then shot each side; the only issue I ran into was some misregistration on the house side requiring a do-over of one square. Overall, it sprayed super easy and when I had a rhythm worked out with the gun, my baffle, a lint cloth, and some tape, each side went pretty quickly. We had to paper off the walls to make sure there wasn’t any overspray, but Jen stayed ahead of me the whole time and I didn’t have to wait for anything.
After I’d moved the compressor back to the garage, scrubbed a fist’s worth of paint off the stencil, and cleaned out the gun, I went back in with a beer and a watercolor brush and cleaned up some edges and some overspray here and there. Overall there’s not a lot that needs to be touched up; the stencil was that good. So we’re going to let it sit and cure for a week, do some wall touch-ups, and then we move on to furnishings and furniture.
I’m extremely pleased with the $60 sprayer I bought—it knocked this job out of the park, and I’m already looking ahead to shooting paint on the four Adirondack chairs in the backyard when it’s warmer and dryer…and then maybe the house…
On Sunday I got out in the greenhouse and addressed the issue of the back wall once and for all. It was originally one sheet of polycarbonate panel cut to fit the peak of the roof, so I had to disassemble half of the back wall to take it out for airflow. This year, I had some time to think about it and come up with a better plan. The polycarbonate panels are held in place by an inside and outside sandwich rail that bolt to the frame of the greenhouse.I took the back panel out and then cut the two outside rails 6′ off the ground, and then cut the polycarbonate 6′ from the bottom. Then I put the top section back in permanently and left the bottom rectangle off. I’d built a chicken-wire frame for the back wall two seasons ago for the back wall but that was now too tall, so I reframed it to fit the new opening.
With that done and in place, I pumped water from the low rain barrel to a holding tank—it’s going to rain for the next five days—and watered all the tomatoes. They’re all progressing well and look pretty happy. Looking back on last season, the plants were about four times the size at this point, but the weather has been so shitty in 2020, I can’t let it get me discouraged.
Here’s the porch with three coats of new deck paint down; this goes on light but dries thick and doesn’t come off my skin as easily as standard latex paint. It turned out the “floor paint” we were given was just regular paint, so we thought it best to use actual deck paint for the high-traffic, high-visibility area. It’s a bit darker and more neutral than the original paint we selected but a bit shinier and more reflective. Jen is beginning the job of taping off a border and preparing for the stencil work today.
And here’s the greenhouse with one additional container; I saved the last three seedlings from various places and planted them in a bin in back. All told there’s about 25 plants out there; I’ve got some research to do about pinching them off and making sure the plants grow healthy and strong. I think we’re at the point when I can pull the rear panel off the back wall and replace it with chicken wire—overnight temps got down to the high 30’s last week but I’m hoping that’s over with now.
There’s the floor on the porch with quarter-round in place around the perimeter and one coat of paint to cover the smudges. Note the rectangle in the upper right corner—that will become important in the coming days.
And here’s the greenhouse as it stands; things look relatively small but are getting larger daily.
Here are 85% of my seedlings in one place; there are several others in less healthy shape in another flat on the side, but these are the ones that will get planted and cultivated. They’ve been hardening in the greenhouse for the past two nights, and I’m hoping they’ll get nice and healthy so that I can plant them in containers this weekend.
The sun was out today, warming up my morning walk with Hazel, so I loaded up the Scout with the giant pile of construction debris from the front porch and and a nervous dog, and headed to the dump. It felt wonderful to get out and drive on the freeway, do some errands, and see the outside world, even if it was only within a 10-mile radius of the house. It felt so good to be out, I drove into Catonsville and went through the Krispy Kreme drive through for two donuts and another cup of coffee. At home, Finn had completed her homework, so we sat at the table and enjoyed our treat together.
Krispy Kreme had about eight donuts to choose from, down from a normal selection of about thirty. That was a little worrisome.
Hazel is wearing her headscarf again, because one of her ears started scabbing up. She’s been battling warts under her chin because the medicine for the vasculitis is lowering her immune system. The antibiotics for the warts upset her stomach yesterday, so she’s off the vasculitis medicine and only on her behavioral pills; she hasn’t eaten all day and has been moping about the house and sleeping. This fucking blows.
The front porch is waiting for about an hour with the block sander. All of the long seams have a second skim coat of mud that’s been dry since Sunday, and if they clean up well I’ll be able to roll wall paint over them and call the walls done. Then, it’s on to the floor.
This was a quiet weekend of Getting Things Done:
- I replanted the surviving tomato seedlings into potting soil and let them harden in full sunlight for the entirety of Saturday. I made the mistake of leaving them out in the greenhouse for an hour too long last Thursday and they all got toasted in the mixture of heat and humidity, so the last few days I’ve been nursing them back to health. All of the cherries, about 70% of the Chef’s Choice, and three Cherokees out of ten survived. So I may have to break down and buy some other varieties from the store just to mix up the crop. Still, this is the first time I’ve grown anything from seed, and I’m pretty stoked.
- Pumped 45 gallons of rainwater into the greenhouse barrel from the garage barrel, in advance of a new week of rainfall. Before it was filled last week I pressure-washed all of last year’s green slime from the inside, so they’re both clean.
- Dumped all of last year’s soil from the containers out behind the neighbor’s garage and replaced it with 15 cubic yards of fresh container soil, ready for healthy seedlings.
- Wiped a couple of years’ worth of algae off the insides of the polycarbonate walls of the greenhouse; it’s like someone opened the drapes in there.
- Replaced the front and rear brake lines on my road bike, wrapped it in grip tape, and took a shakedown cruise up to the post office to mail off a Netflix disc. I like the cowhorns better than the old drop handlebars, but I wish they were about 2″ narrower and didn’t have a bend. That being said, it’s great to be on a bike again, but I feel the complete lack of conditioning in my legs about 100 yards up the road from our house. Time was when Pat and I would ride 20 miles around Baltimore on a whim (without helmets or healthcare, at midnight) and barely feel winded; it’s obvious I need to get out and ride a lot more. Finley’s bike is now too small but it’s impossible to shop properly for a full-sized bike during lockdown, otherwise I’d get her out for a ride every day.
- Painted a second coat of semigloss on the porch ceiling, crown moulding and window surrounds, and a second coat of eggshell on the walls. I also taped up the remaining seams in the original drywall and I think I can stretch the mud I’ve got to cover the remainder. Sunday I spent pretty much the whole day painting trim, first in eggshell primer (whoops) and then a second coat of semigloss white over everything. We’re reaching the end of the painting portion of this project, which means it’ll soon be time to rip up the carpet and move on to the flooring.
- Failed to empty the second keg of the IPA that’s been in there since last July; I sipped on it for most of this afternoon and poured a bunch into a growler, but it’s still not kicked. So the Shiner Bnock-off is still sitting in the carboy waiting its turn. And look! I got a new IPA kit in the mail from Northern Brewer on Saturday.
- Ordered a 24-port network switch from Amazon to replace the castoff unit I’ve had in the basement since 2018. I got it from the electronics dumpster at WRI in 2017 or so when they simplified the internal network and upgraded the gear, so it cost me nothing, but it has been running nonstop since about 2005 and thus the internal fans are both crispy. It’s been making terrible whining noises for a couple of weeks which tells me the whole thing is about to crap out, so I figure I’ll get ahead of that while I can. I also ordered a box of 100 RJ-45 connectors so that I can simplify the wiring situation while I’m down there.