Tag Archives: outdoors

Building a Raised Bed

Welcome to Mowenackie’s Do-It-Yourself Home Show!

Your host for the day will be Sarah, a wannabe carpenter with absolutely no experience. Joining her is her trusty sidekick, Owen. Owen likes digging, rolling in the grass and chasing the cats. He also likes piña coladas and getting caught in the rain.

Today’s project (which was actually completed two weeks ago) is: Making a Raised Bed Garden. Or at least the raised bed part.

Here are the materials you will need:

tools

  • (2) 2×6 boards, 8 ft. in length (Aside: did you know 2×6’s are actually something ridiculous like 1-7/8″ x 5-3/4″? Why? This makes me feel cheated. Good thing Lowe’s gives a 10% military discount.)
  • 1 piece of flatwood, 1’x3′
  • handsaw
  • level
  • measuring tape
  • carpenter’s retractable pencil
  • power screwdriver
  • 2 “ 2.5″ screws (about 20, plus a few to strip or lose in the grass)
  • Band-Aids

Got all that? Okay, first lay your 8′ boards over two saw horses the picnic table bench. Use the measuring tape to find the 4′ mark, then draw a straight line across it. Try to follow this line as you cut the board with the hand saw. Try not to cut the picnic table bench.

4' boards

You should now have four 4′ boards.

Next, use the deck platform your husband just built as a level surface. Line up the boards face to end. This is called a butt joint, but I wish it wasn’t. I feel awkward telling you to hold your butt joint tight while you secure it with screws.

butt joints

You should now have a nice little frame.

Back to the picnic table. Measure off one square foot of the flatwood and cut. I made up the term “flatwood”. I have no idea what this type of wood is called. It’s not plywood. It’s flatwood.

Trace a line from opposite corners of your square and cut to form two triangles. Sawing the wood will be more difficult at this angle, but suck it up.

Repeat this step. You’ll need four triangles – one for each corner.

cutting corners

Secure the triangles in the corners using the screws.

finished bed

Fine. If you want to be all fancy-dancy and not lazy, you can go inside, get a hammer and some nails. Or you could probably use thinner screws if you had them or wanted to take another trip to Lowe’s. Because the 2.5″ screws may or may not split your flatwood.

split corner

In fact, they probably will.

As long as you can get the screw all the way in before the wood breaks completely, it will hold it. I think.

split wood

Perfect!

Other advice? If you come across a knot in the wood, it will be very difficult to get the screw through. You will have to take it out and start over in another place.

Or another.

Or another.

stupid knot

A word of caution: if you try to force the screw into the knot by using all your weight to lean on the power screwdriver, the screw will be %@#! hot when you finally give up and take it out. Handle with caution. Or have burn cream handy.

Don’t worry if your seams aren’t perfect.

gaps

The thing only has to hold dirt, not water. So get off my back, alright?

Injuries are possible.

scrape

Cue the Band-Aids.

Ignore the pain and focus on the results.

raised bed

See? Owen is ecstatic.

On our next show, well show you how to turn the sandbox-looking thing you just built, into this lush abundance of fruitfulness:

raised bed garden

Thanks for watching!

Signs of Spring

At this time last year, I was impatiently waiting for my husband to come home from Afghanistan for his two weeks of leave. This year, I’m twiddling my thumbs and tapping my feet as I  wait expectantly for spring to come to Maine. Both waits have been excruciatingly slow and as maddening as driving behind a school bus when you’re late for work, but I won’t offer any opinion as to which was the worse of the two.

In both cases, the phrase “better late than never” applies. Thankfully, my husband got home then, and now we are starting to see some signs that spring is finally on its way.

The leaves are tentatively unfurling themselves, taking time to stretch like a cat after a nap.

spring leaves

The hostas are pushing up through the mulch beds.

hosta shoots

The flowering bushes are starting to bloom into vibrant firework-like displays of color.

flowering bushes

My chives are up!

Sarah's chives

Nothing says “spring” like a trip to Home Depot.

Home Depot trip

I can finally grow grass for the cats again.

cat grass

(Note: I have to do this outside. If I try to grow it inside, they eat it as soon as it starts to show green and there isn’t a place in this house that is safe from those two ninjas. Cat grass is very important to the health of my other houseplants. And my cats, when I find my peace lily ragged with teeth marks and leafy piles of puke on the floor.)

I think I can put the shovels away now.

snow shovels

(Probably.)

Owen can spend more time out in the yard.

Owen in the yard

And let’s face it. A little sun does us all good this time of year.

How about you? What signs of spring have you been seeing? What does spring mean to you?

Snowy Willard

**NEW! I’ve added a survey section to Mowenackie called, “Tell Me”. You’ll find the current poll question in the righthand sidebar. Won’t you “Tell Me” more about you? Thanks!**

My window is a black and white photograph of a snowy winter scene. Oh, there are colors, of course: the dull French gray of tree trunks spiking up out of endless white; a darker green peeking from under snowy pine branches; and the paler green of a moss whispering, Spring is not lost forever.

But Old Man Winter is letting us know he’s still in control today and the chaos of blowing snow sheens everything colorless.

It’s beautiful.

T likes summer with its vibrant blues and greens, but winter is so…sophisticated in its starkness. The stars are sharper, the moon is brighter and the trees are pointedly dignified.

(I’m trying to put more description in my writing. Is it working?)

And best of all, I now have someone to help me shovel.

T shovelling

Owen, too, loves winter. With his heavy white coat and padded neck, this dog was built for snow. Don’t tell me it wasn’t Fate that rescued him from the deep South and brought him up here. Some things in the world have to make sense.

Owen in the snow

He likes to play tug-of-war with himself.

tug-of-war in the snow

Because he’s a freak. He also likes to eat snow. Clean snow. Dirty snow. Soft snow, crunchy snow. A lot of snow.

Owen eats snow

Because he’s a freak.

Anyway…

The fluttering flakes instantly inspired a trail tribute.

So, here is a post I should’ve posted long ago:

Snowy Willard

We did our first winter hike! Back in December, when T first got home, we spent a few days up at Bear Mountain Lodge. While we were there, we took a few hours one afternoon to hike Mount Willard.

Willard Trailhead

All 2,865 ft of it. Okay, fine. The elevation gain was only 900 ft. But the views were as good as some of the 3,500-footers I’ve been on and the trail itself, with its snow-blanketed trees, was almost as lovely as anything I’ve ever seen.

T on Willard

It was a good pick for our first winter trail. The slight slip of the snow gave a little extra challenge to a 3-mile roundtrip hike and, though we carried our snowshoes, we never needed them on the packed trail.

Which is good, because I hate snowshoeing. It’s way too much work.

The incline of this trail had me sweating pretty good, though. I was stripping off layers at every turn. By the time we reached the top I was down to my polypro shirt and microfleece and I was carrying my hat and mittens.

T commented that the snow overhang made it feel like we were walking in a closed corridor. This was true and never more evident than as we broke through to the summit.

Towards Willard summit

(Look familiar? See blog header for reference.)

Once we hit the ledge on top…

Willard Summit

Did I mention that the views were amazing?

Still on the emotional high that comes from reuniting with a husband who had been in a war zone for nine months, every day of which I feared for his safety, I cried tears of awe and joy as I looked out over this scene. Hiking with T infused me with more happiness than I thought I could feel again and it overwhelmed me in wave after wave.

Me & T on Willard

Once we had looked our fill and were starting to feel chilly, we started back. On the way down, we came across a gray jay. Gray jays are pretty much blue jays, only slightly bigger and, um, gray.

gray jay

They also differ from blue jays in that they have no fear. Whereas blue jays are screaming pansies that shy away from chickadees at the bird feeder, gray jays will perch lightly on your hand to peck daintily at a proffered crumb.

 No really.

gray jay on Mt Tom

Mt Tom (shown above) is the only other place I’ve seen gray jays. T, Denis and I spent a chilly afternoon one September in 2007 feeding them portions of our lunch.

Seeing them on Willard was like seeing an old friend. Everything about this hike was perfect.

Or maybe I was just seeing it through rose-colored glasses.

T+S

But I’m okay with that.

Happy October!

I adore Fall. It’s such a wonderful time in New England. A time of bounty, a time of riotous color, a time of biting air, wood smoke and home cooking. It’s almost magical.

Passaconaway

It’s also the month in which I met my husband, whom I still kind of like, even though he’s been gone for ten months.

In honor of the season, I have adopted a new blog theme with a touch of autumn. It’s part of my fall cleaning. Except that it was a lot faster and easier and I dreaded it a lot less. I hope you like it.

Speaking of fall, I am so excited to be participating in the Fall Favorites Swap, hosted by Nicole at Flip Flips and Combat Boots.

Fall Favorites

I have been paired with the talented Mrs. Mike over at The Year After. If you have small children or just want to see something that will make you go, “Awww!” please go check out her blog. She has created some wonderful ACU-based clothing for the little ones. (Do you have any adult-sized creations, Mrs. Mike?)

The swap is set for mid-October and I’m looking forward to it!

Cow Country

T and I moved here two years ago, almost to the day. Shortly after we moved in, I was out for a run on a crisp and colorful fall day. As I trotted through the whispering leaves I saw what I thought was a dog up ahead, moving along the side of the road.

As I moved closer, the dog stopped and looked back at me.

Holy cow, I thought. That is the biggest dog I’ve ever seen. It’s a Great Dane!

A few feet later I saw that there were two of them. And not a person – other than me – in sight. This time I thought, I am so screwed.

Where were their owners? I slowed down to a walk, so as not to excite them. As I stopped bouncing and got some of my wind back, I started to see more clearly. I was about 30 feet away when I realized…those aren’t dogs. They’re cows.

Yup. We live in cow country.

There were freaking COWS in the middle of the road. Three cows to be exact (I hadn’t seen the last one until I was up close), and each was as almost as tall as I was.

I talked to the lanky teenaged bovines as I approached.

“Nice cows,” I said, or something similarly inane. “So, uh…how are things? Really? Good here. I’m just going to walk on by you, so don’t feel like you have to go into a little mini stampede or anything, okay? We’re cool.”

As I walked by, the cows started to walk along side of me. One of them was giving me a very dirty look. I kept walking, but at the same time I was wondering what would happen if the cows followed me all the way home.

“Hi honey! I’m home. Three cows followed me. Can we keep them? Huh, huh, can we? Pleeeaaase?”

That would be one big-ass litter box. You’d have to scoop it with a snow shovel.

Fortunately for me, T and our vet bills, the cows turned off at a dirt driveway not far up. The Bossy Posse swaggered off like gangstas and I picked up the pace again so that I could get home and change my underwear.

Fast forward two years.

Owen and I are enjoying a refreshing walk on a brilliant fall day. We pass a farm that has a brown cow ambling around their fenced yard. Owen and the cow make eye contact.

Eye Contact

Let me just say here and now that Owen is a herder. He herds me, he herds T, he herds the cats. And he loves cows. He has tried to jump out of a moving vehicle to get at a group of grazers.

He was super-excited to see a cow. He stayed stock still until the curious cow came closer.

(This story is so alliterative!)

The Cow Comes Closer

How now, brown cow!

The dog was fascinated. The cow was curious. The human was amused.

Then all hell broke loose. You see, this house also houses three ginormous, fluffy terriers. And it was at this point that they detected the presence of a foreign dog.

He was horning in on their herding.

They started yelping a  chorus of chaos. The dogs barked, the cow lowed and the kids yelled.

And Owen barked and jumped over the moon.

I decided that perhaps our neighbors would not be pleased with the ruckus and that it would be prudent for us to move along. Owen did not agree. I had to drag him away – literally.

He really didn’t want to leave his new buddy.

Friends

It was very moo-ving.

A Baldfaced Lie

I’d like to be able to say, “Last Sunday we hiked Baldface Loop,” but it would be a lie.

Well, it wouldn’t be a complete lie. More like a not-quite-half truth.

Baldface Loop is a 9.8-mile roundtrip hike that includes summiting both North and South Baldface mountains. Neither mountain is a qualifier – both are just under 4,000 feet – but the trail is difficult and the views are spectacular. Especially at this time of year.

Denis and his daughter A, and my friend K and I started out at about 9:30 in the morning.

Baldface signpost

The trail starts at just a slight incline but gets increasingly steeper. After two and a half wooded miles, we reached the shelter and stopped for a well-earned snack.

Baldface shelter

Try not to be blinded by our over-exposed and ghostly white legs.

After a short rest, we hit the trail again.

trail sign

Now that’s my idea of a well-marked trail. Why couldn’t we have had that on Chocorua?

A rock stair led us out of the woods and onto a series of open slabs. Then things got interesting.

rock scrambes

The next half mile or so was slow going. Rock scramble after rock scramble had us climbing with hands, feet, knees and a few prayers. If I remember correctly, I even called for my mommy once.

It felt a little like Katahdin, but on a smaller scale.

We stopped for another break on the rocks of an alpine garden. It was the kind of place where you expect to see Heidi tripping along the path following several goats. We looked at our watches.

1:30 p.m.

Those rock scrambles had taken a lot of time off the clock and a lot of wind out of our sails. We were still about a half mile from the top of North Baldface, the first summit.

It was decision time. It gets dark early these days and I hadn’t brought my headlamp (stupid, amateur mistake). I really didn’t want to be navigating down the rocks in the dark, or even through the wooded trail. We decided to admit  that our goal for that day might have been a tad aggressive and turn around just shy of the summit.

But we took a few pictures first.

South Baldface

That peak to the right is South Baldface, the second summit. North Baldface is just out of sight to the left. The ridge above Denis is where we would have been ridge-running between the peaks. Just looking at the picture makes my soul ache to be up there.

Bicknell Ridge

The ridge of dark green running from the upper center of the picture out through the righthand side is, I believe, Bicknell Ridge Trail, where we would’ve come down the loop.

It’s pretty cool when you’re at a vantage point that allows you to see your full route at an almost bird’s-eye view.

On our way out, we stopped at the shelter again for a long lunch. Denis fired up the stove and made us soup. Nothing better than a hot lunch during a fall hike.

We also took a little side trail to visit a spot with the romantic name of Emerald Pool.

Emerald Pool

K’s daughter, Little K, jumped off this rock into the pool when she was at camp a couple of years ago. She was the only girl to do it at the time. Go Little K!

Trail's end

We marched out at 5:00.

So we didn’t summit our mountain. I can live with that. It gives us an excuse to go back sometime. We still hiked a respectable 6.4 miles (Den’s GPS read 7.1, but I’m going by the map) and we had a great day. Good company, a few laughs and I didn’t pee my pants on the rock scrambles.

What more can you ask for, really?

A Misguided Tour of Champney Falls Trail

Yesterday was a great day.

The sun was shining with the bright and hazy heat of late summer, the sky wore infinite shades of blue, and I performed a public service.

I introduced a friend to hiking.

This is D

This is D.

D is a newly baptised hiker and fellow Milspouse. Her sweetie is where my sweetie is.

We hiked Mount Chocorua. This is pronounced “Cho-koo’-ra”, unless you are my husband, in which case it is purposely mispronounced “Choke-a-roo-ah” in order to elicit an eye roll from me.

Because this was D’s first hike, I picked a mountain that I had climbed before in the hopes that it would maximize our chances of staying on the right trail and minor things like that.

While we’re on the subject, here’s a piece of hiking advice: When you see an arrow that points to the right, like this…

Turn right

…you should not immediately cross the stream directly in front of you and hike 30 feet into the woods.

At least I only went 30 feet before I realized something was wrong.

Anyway, Champney Falls Trail starts our fairly wide and flat, but trail maintenance should really consider putting the signs a little lower. And making them bigger. And maybe yellow. With blinking lights.

Hey, MilSpouses with deployed soldiers have a lot to talk about, okay? We can’t be distracted by trivial things like trail markers.

After a slight but steady climb of about a mile and a half, we came to this juncture:

Champney Falls sign

Now that’s what I call a sign.

We took a left and headed another 0.3 miles to the falls.

Champney Falls

The falls were beautiful – peaceful with the sound of rushing water and refreshingly cool.

Which was probably why I got distracted, crossed the stream again and headed off in the wrong direction. Again.

But I realized it right away! That’s got to count for something, right?

Right…?

After the falls, if you go the right way, there is a steep rock staircase and the climb gets tough for another mile or so. It levels out for a bit before the trail comes out of the woods.

Rock summit

Those little dots covering the second peak are people. In this picture, it looks lower than the nearer peak, but it’s really not. In fact, the last 0.2 miles are a bit hairy, and not particularly well-marked. The yellow blazes had kind of faded out by then.

It’s true!

Excuse me, but the point of the story is that we eventually, after a couple of freaky rock scrambles, made it to the top.

D and I at the summit

The mountain in the background with all the clouds hovering over it is Mount Washington.

I think.

D and I took a nice long break for lunch and had a very pleasant chat before making our way back down. D, who is a runner, was a super trooper. We made ridiculous time on this trail. The trail description advised that you allow six hours for the roundtrip hike. We made it in five and a half, including our lunch break.

She was also excellent company. We talked about shoes and ships and deployment. I had forgotten how nice it is to have someone to talk to that is going through the same things you are.

And the best part is, I didn’t even scare her away from hiking by almost getting us lost three times! She’s hooked now, too.

I’m looking forward to trying another hike soon. Only this time maybe I’ll bring a compass. And a GPS. And…

Oh hell, I’ll just bring Denis and we’ll follow him.