Sunday, September 21, 2014

Winters A Comin'

The past two days have been breezy and warm.  I'd like to think it was nature's way of apologizing for nights that almost dipped into the 30s, but I'm thinking it's more of a nice exit for summer in front of another cold winter.  Yesterday we spent some time making ready for winter's approach.

We (and I do mean Mr Eclectic) fixed some roof shingles that had blown away.  I worked the "ground crew" position, fetching tools to bring up the ladder and weeding between the raised beds when not needed.  He removed the torn leftovers and nailed in 5 new shingles.

We also got our little Ford 120 tractor moving again.  I participated in the removal of sludge and shavings from inside the tranny casing, he drilled out a broken (by the PO) bolt, tapped in a helicoil and made a gasket.  Then it all went back together, we fetched some transmission fluid and found out the "extra" gas tank we were given had the gas filler cap in a different part and it didn't line up with the hole on the hood (to be dealt with at a later time-the tank from the tractor has 3-4 pin holes in the bottom.  Not good for holding gas).  Ah well, it's over 40 years old, it's bound to have some misaligned parts!  It did crank right up.  Now we'll work on getting the snowblower attachment hooked up and see if it's ready to throw some snow for us and the neighbors this coming winter.

AND there was also the flue and stove to be cleaned.  Yes, this should have been done in May or June, but it's been a busy year!  When we clean our stove, we try to be thorough.  We remove all of the bricks, and wire brush the ash and creosote behind them off as best as possible.  Then the flue gets swept and all the ash shoveled out of the shove.  The bricks get brushed off and reinstalled.  We clean the glass, do any paint touch ups, re-adjust the door and we're ready to go.

Here are some pics of that process.

Fire bricks out (we use a drop cloth to spread them out on, in the same pattern they came out)


If you have a woodstove and clean your own flue, here's a tip (let's not talk about how we came to decide this was a good idea).  Tie a rope to the little loop on the top (bottom, really) of the brush.  If it happens to get stuck or somehow unscrew from the pole, you can pull it out rather than disassembling the flue.

Here's the rope sticking out of the flue into the stove


The brownish pile of ash is what came out of our flue after a while season's burning (remember this is our exclusive heat source).  Not too bad.

This is the flue after a sweeping


The cap is back on and ready to go!


All cleaned up and the bricks are back in



I know it doesn't look "clean", but once you've had a fire in a stove it'll never be "clean" again, in the way a new stove is.

Now if only it takes a few months before we need to get it "dirty" again...yeah, right!  We've already had a few night time fires to take the chill off.  Hopefully it'll at least be a while before it's burning 24/7!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Onions, drying basil and harvest time

We cleaned up our raised beds in preparation for next season for the most part already.  With nights dipping into the 40's production was about over for many thing.  One of the beds will now be for onions and garlic.  We have some really neat onions.  I got our first couple from a wonderful lady on Craigslist, then got some more from a plant swap a few years ago.  Unfortunately they didn't do well in pots over the past winter.  I was happy to find a few more from a random plant sale at a lakeside home in Charlotte (pronounced shar-lot, not like the one down in North Carolina).  Now what are these onions that I speak of?  Walking Onions.  Walking onions?!  What's that you say?  Well...they are onions that reproduce by...walking.  Well, not with legs.  They send up a "stalk" with little bulblets on it, and as the bulblets grow and get heavier the stalk tips over to the ground and "plants" new onions!  They have a very strong flavor.  We do still end up buying cooking onions sometimes-and yes, we know that neat trick to start new ones.  Just need a better place to plant them over the winter.  What's this neat trick you say?  Well, if you cut the end of the onion where the roots were off and put it in shallow water, it will start to regrow new "leaves" (stalks?).  Plant that, and you'll get new onions from it.  Neat, huh?

Here are the walking onions all freshly planted




I've begun to dry our basil.  We have some yummy Italian broadleaf basil that's been growing happily all summer in big pots on our back stairs.  Well, those night time temps will be starting to take their toll I'm sure, so I've taken some cuttings to restart new smaller plants and begun to dry the leaves that are left.  We don't have a dehydrator so I used our toaster oven.  I set it at between 150/200 and pulled out the crumb tray just a little for air circulation.  Once it got warmed up it took about 20 minuted to half an hour for each batch to dry.  Here's a few pics of the process




Our young pear trees are getting ready to give us a few pears soon too!


And our close to the cliff apple tree is loaded again this season.  Now I'm even more sure it's a Northern Spy.



It's almost harvest season for the farm across the road too.  The corn is getting tall!


This is a Goji Berry.  We planted this bush (?) earlier this summer.  We were told it wouldn't fruit this year.  Well...it did, but I don't think this will ripen before frost.  I'll keep an eye on it though.



I did say I'd post a pic of the living room wall with the drywall. We still haven't decided what to put against it or hang on it yet and we still have a bit of white washing to finish, but here it is.  Oh, the plants, those are pineapple sage.  Too cold for them now outside.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Naked Ladies at the cottage!

Bet that got your attention.  Before anyone gets too excited...I'm talking about flowers.  They are also known as Surprise Lilies or Resurrection Lilies and they are flowering now.  Their various names refer to the fact that the foliage dies back to the ground, then the bulb sends up a single stem that flowers.  They are pretty neat.  I got a few two years ago from the lovely lady that sent us home with a truckload full of hostas, day lilies and other plants.  Here's what they look like:


See, no leaves (please ignore the creeping charlie):



Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Old houses and the search for a New Old House (part 1)

We are looking for another rental property. Pretty much any property within our budget range is going to be older and in need of some TLC, which is ok. What I didn’t expect was to find out that out there in the surrounding communities, there might be some drool worthy ones. If you’re not into old houses, you might want to skip this because I’m going to just go on and on about old houses. I have always been enamored with old homes. I mean OLD homes, not 1950’s homes (although I do like some of those too, obviously), like 1700’s and 1800’s homes. In particular, I’ve been a fan of Italianate and Greek Revival as well as Queen Anne for many, many years. And cobblestones, which aren’t an architectural style as much as a building material, however most have a Greek Revival-esqueness. I have to guess that only families with a number of children built cobblestones, just because the sheer number of little stones it takes to build one (I imagine they sent the kids out to the fields to pick stones).

 We did, in the past, before we found the Cottage, look at a Greek Revival. They are kind of plain when compared to Queen Anne or Italianate, but there’s something about the wide frieze boards and decorate covers on the small eve windows. Anyway, it was brick (I also really like old brick). And someone hadn’t cared for it well. One corner was coming apart, the mortar was missing and bricks were falling out. I love (old) brick houses but that is well above our skill level. I’d try repointing, but this was complete rebuild situation. So, no Greek Revival. Which in the end is ok since we love the Cottage (and the Greek Revival was NOT on the water).

We also looked at a cobblestone. OH MY GOSH what a neat building material. The inside wasn’t as neat as I expected and it wasn’t mortgagable. At this time, we think the family has abandoned the particular one we looked at. At the very least, no one lives there. Too bad. The taxes were really quite high on it too. Here's the Cobblestone:

 

More about cobblestones can be found here: http://gasportnewyork.blogspot.com/2008/04/cobblestone-houses-around-gasport.html

It is truly a beautiful building material and I have to say, one of my all time favorites.

Fast forward. We recently came across two properties that fit the Old House criteria, although one was not on my list of fav styles.

Property number one was a shingle Craftsman Bungalow. In just about original, if not well maintained, condition. Original wooden windows and storms, but missing all except two of the screens. Build ins and pantry in the kitchen. Original light fixtures and wallpaper. It wasn’t the most ideal area (train tracks), but the deal killer was the foundation. Cement piers, that had been undermined by water from a neighboring home (no gutters). Even if we fixed the foundation, the cause would remain. Nope. No go.

Property number two…oh my…a brick Italianate fourplex. It has a CUPOLA. And all that Italianate goodness in the form of pediments and brackets and…it’s under contract as a short sale. This is the Italianate. Drool.

 
Oh yeah, look at place. Oh well.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Calmer waters, apples, flowers and a wooden boat

Not much time for writing so I'm a little light on words in this post, but they say a picture is worth a 1,000 of them! The lake was much calmer today.
When we walked down to watch the sunset, I looked up and noticed we're going to have a good apple season. All those apples pretty much confirms my theory that it's a Northern Spy tree, which have abundant harvests every other year when they grow older.
Looks like the wildflower seeds are coming in nicely. Mostly cosmos and coreopsis.
And a sneak peak at our boat. I love this little thing. It's a 1959.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Of gardens and great lakes

A few days ago we harvested a bit from the garden.  Some carrots, broccoli and REALLY long green beans.  Like, REALLY long.  24" or so long.  Yes, they taste like green beans.  We must have bought some crazy long bean seeds.



Today, I came home to this.  We had a big ole storm front come through last night and the wind hung around.  The Lake has a way of reminding us of the raw power it is capable of unleashing.  It's beautiful...



According to the NOAA near shore marine forecast, waves are 3-5' and there's a small craft advisory.  I'll tell you what, I'd not be out there in much less than a freighter!  And I didn't see any of those, so I checked Boatnerd.com's AIS map (which shows the locations of the freighters and some other boats and ships) and found the Algoma Harvester was downbound (headed toward the St Lawrence) not too far from us.  Of course, it's a 225 meter long ship.  Not like our little boat.  Yup, we've got a boat.  More about that to come.  We haven't even gotten it in the water.  Hey, every cottage needs a boat. Even better if it's an old wooden one, which ours is.  Right now we're wondering if the house we posted about a bit ago is still there (the one that was about 3-4' from the edge of the bluff).  There are pieces of a deck/dock/stairs stuck on our beach right now that don't belong to a neighbor of ours (and they aren't ours). It made us start thinking about where it came from, and then we started wondering about that house as we watched the waves crashing on another neighbors stairs.  We're going to check on that house sometime this week.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Neighbors

I love our neighbors.  We are very lucky to have really great neighbors out here.  We have a mix of full timers and cottagers, which is just part of the unique way of life on the lake.  One couple shares baked goods, we give them produce from the garden.  She just gave us zucchini chocolate cake (tasted WAY better than it sounds like it might) in fact.

Anyway, we have great neighbors.  But this isn’t really about the neighbors here.  It’s about neighbors at the Old House.  We were recently talking about one of them, just briefly, and it made me think of how much I miss two in particular.  Both have passed on, sadly.  Lucy and Clarence. 

Lucy was hilarious.  She was born on February 29th, so she joked with us how she was getting close to her 21st birthday so she would be able to drink soon (as you may have guessed, Lucy was in her early 80’s).  She lived in a little house down the street and didn’t drive.  Her husband had passed away several years before and her kids didn’t live nearby, so she walked.  EVERYWHERE.  EVERY day.  She loved to talk.  She loved people. She loved gossip.  So if you wanted to know what was going on in the neighborhood, you asked Lucy.  Sadly we didn’t get even close to finishing our renos at the Old House before she was gone-we had promised her we’d give her the grand tour when it was done, since she was always interested in what we were doing around the place.


Clarence grew up in the house next door, never married, never moved out and he hated Lucy.  She talked too much.   He didn’t like women in general actually.  He confided in Mr Eclectic that he thought they were all lazy gossips that didn’t do much.  Except me.  He liked me, he told my hubby, because I did things.  I worked at a regular job, and helped with all the work on the house, AND I didn’t talk too much.  In return, he would leave me pussy willows in the mailbox on Dingus Day (if you don’t know about this fun Polish holiday, search it out on the web.  Fun stuff).  Clarence was quiet.  He was like a ghost.  I can’t count how many times he would walk over to check out what we were doing and scare the bejeebers out of us because we didn’t know he was there.  He wasn’t much of a talker, but he liked hanging around and watching us build stuff.  I’ll have to look, I think I snuck a photo of him one, watching the Terminex guy burn a bee hive out of our tree.  If something was going on that was interesting, Clarence would be there.

There really isn't a point here, except if you have great neighbors, treasure them!!  Well, and try to be one.