Backyard - Part I

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

We bought our house in November (the above picture is us on the day of our possession!) and we had to move quickly on it because it was a seller’s market. Because it was winter we didn’t pay too much attention to the yard, status of the lawn, or other landscaping features, mostly because it was all covered in snow.
Fast forward to spring time…the snow starts to melt, we start spending more time on our deck and voila a series of issues are revealed.
  1. The previous owners never cared for their yard. In fact the neighbors have told us that the most they ever saw them do in the yard was mow the lawn. As a result there are more weeds than lawn. I started pulling up the dandelions but stopped because if I continued we would have a dirt patch where the lawn was. Sometimes you have to suck it up and bring in the professionals, which we did.
  2. There is absolutely no privacy in our backyard; we are basically on display for all our neighbors to see. The two neighbors directly behind us have done zero landscaping in their yards (no trees) and the result is a direct line of sight into their houses and vice versa.
  3. The neighborhood we bought in uses a drainage ditch system to manage storm water and unfortunately for us that concrete ditch in on our side of the fence, there are certain rules about putting in flower beds etc. near this system
  4. Lastly the landscaping/plants that were there were so badly maintained, there was quite a bit of use of plastic string to hold back branches as opposed to proper pruning etc.
The first thing we tackled was the front yard. It is the first thing people see when they come to our house and we want to make sure it looked nice. We started by removing a giant mugo pine. After that we went on to the junipers, they were in various stages of dead or dying. We decided it was easiest to pull everything out and start from scratch.
Then I took my first trip to the garden center to begin the adventure of becoming a gardener. On the advice of my mom I decided to start with perennials because they would be lower maintenance and the rabbits would be less inclined to eat them.
I planted the following:
The one thing you can't see in that picture is a hosta around the corner beside the driveway. We are also going to be putting in a mayday tree, see that dirt patch in the above photo that is where it will be. 
With the front yard in better shape than when we first moved in, it was time to move to the backyard. When we were planting our front yard, my mom and I got to talking to one of our neighbors who took us into her backyard and showed us all that they had done. This is where I discovered the Flame Willow. She showed us a tree that was at least 15ft high and said that it was only 6 years old. I knew that that tree would be the key to our successful backyard.
Currently we have one lone tree in the backyard (and some kind of lilac bush that doesn’t flower). We had it assessed and it won’t be possible to move it. So we have two choices, cut it down or move the flower bed to it encompasses the tree. We've opted to removed it, we don't want a yard that is all flower bed and I really don't want to have to look after a large flower bed. 

Below is the "before" pictures of the backyard (you can see our little flame willows and the blue columnar spuces). 

Kale Salad with Butternut Squash Ribbons

Saturday, 21 June 2014

This particular recipe doesn't really have a recipe. A few weeks ago I hosted a bachelorette party at our place for a friend. The maid-of-honor organized to have a chef come in and give us a "cooking lesson" well as you can imagine there was a lot of wine and not a lot of paying attention. One thing that I did pay attention to was this dish. I love butternut squash but I always have trouble with it because it takes so long to cook. The chef showed us a way to prepare it that meant it only needed to be in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Butternut squash ribbons! The kale salad is a very simple yet delicious combination of dressing ingredients. 

  • Small - medium butternut squash
  • Oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 bunch of kale, washed, stem removed and cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 cloves of fresh garlic, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil
  • Salt and pepper (be liberal)
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400F
  2. Peel the butternut squash 
  3. Use a thicker peeler and peel the butternut squash into ribbons (I watched a youtube video about how to make vegetable ribbons to get an idea of what the best way to do this)
  4. Toss the butternut squash in a little bit of oil and salt and pepper
  5. Spread the butternut squash on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 - 20 minutes
  6. Place the kale in a large salad bowl, add all the dressing ingredients (I didn't actually measure anything, I simply drizzled all the ingredients over the kale)
  7. Massage the kale with the dressing on it, this helps break down the "meatiness" of the leaves, adjust the dressing ingredients until it tastes delicious 
  8. Once the butternut squash is cooked through, pull it out of the oven and let it cool a bit
  9. Place a handful of the kale salad on each plate and top with the butternut squash ribbons

In our house this recipe only serves 2 because it is so delicious but it can be a side salad for up to 6. This salad easily keeps for lunch the next day, the kale doesn't wilt with the dressing on it. 

Mudd, Sweat and Tears Completed!

Friday, 20 June 2014

Lately I’ve found it difficult to keep up with everything that is going on. Lots of exciting things have happened and are happening with us!
The main thing that has occupied my time as of late was training for Mudd, Sweat and Tears. The race was on Saturday last week and all four of our team members successfully completed it! Boy was it hard…this is how it went:
  1. Sprint ½ a km
  2. Army crawl underneath barbed wire (twice)
  3. Climb over a giant haybale
  4. Walk to the next obstacle
  5. Hike up a giant hill (15m+ elevation) with a 30lb sandbag on your shoulders
  6. Hike back down
  7. Walk to the next obstacle (uphill ;))
  8. 15ft rope climb (there were a few knot spacing choices i.e. harder vs. easier)
  9. First 9ft wall
  10. Walk/run to the next obstacle but intermittently have to crawl/jump over horse jumps
  11. Drag a semi tire until the rope that was attached to it was straighten out, run to the post that the rope was tied to and pull the tire back up to the post
  12. Walk/run to the next obstacle
  13. Carry a cinderblock through a pond and back
  14. Walk/run down a  large hill than back up than back down than back up
  15. Second 9ft wall (this one had hand holds)
  16. Two rails of monkeys bars
  17. Third 9ft wall (no hand holds)
Repeat again…the total distance was 9.2km… There was quite a bit of elevation gain throughout the whole thing so it was difficult to run it. One very big mistake I made was to get caught up in all the fuss at the beginning of the race and go too hard too fast. ¾ of the way up the sandbag hill I almost passed out, luckily my husband was there to grab the sandbag and carry it the rest of the way up. He was basically the only reason I got through the first loop of the race, boosting me over the walls, lots of encouraging words etc. The second loop was WAY better, we actually started to have fun, we were all warmed up and knew what to expect so we could prepare ourselves. The second time around the loop I even did the rope climb (the first time around I opted for the penalty of 15 burpees, 15 squats and 15 pushups).
This race was definitely not for the faint of heart but now that I know what it is all about I am addicted!! I can’t wait for next year and to be able to do it again :)
Next is a bunch of work related things! I am going to be moving positions into a role I’ve been after for almost 1.5 years. I start June 30th as a Production Engineer. My husband has now successfully completed all his tests etc. for his red seal designation as a carpenter, all he has to do is fill in some paperwork and he is a RED SEAL JOURNEYMAN CARPENTER. He also found out yesterday that he’ll be moving back to working in the north which means his jobsites will be 5 minutes from home as opposed to 45 minutes from home.
Things are finally starting to slow down and we are able to enjoy our house, backyard and family/friends. In fact this weekend I think I am going to look at some trees for the backyard! I have some fun projects that are in my arsenal that I will finally have time to complete (like the mudroom…)
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