Sunday, July 21, 2013

How Does Your Garden Grow?

While Mark continues to build a new copper  manifold and finish up the plumbing, Maura has been in Indiana for her yearly visit with the grandparents and a week at Survivor! camp. She tells me that what she learned at camp is to make fires and walk without making any sound. I think these skills will come in handy should she ever wish to have a promising career as a pyromaniac ninja or a Chicago "insurance adjuster".

This means Kitty and I have been pretty much kicking it in the burbs. Rather than get down about the fact that we are surrounded by concrete, cars and drive through services I decided to be upbeat about the benefits one can get from living on land. In an attempt to teach Kitty about the world, I decided we would start a little container garden and learn about food- where it comes from, how it grows you know, basic preschool age stuff.

I was encouraged by the beautiful photos of my blog buddy Amanda's garden shots. She has a daughter just a little bit younger than Kitty who seems to be loving playing in the dirt, harvesting vegetables and just generally enjoying her garden. I thought back to my early post college days as a preschool teacher and remembered what worked for a container garden or my classes.

With the memory of successful container gardens in mind, I procured a small plastic wading pool. Drain holes were cut and screen patches were installed over them to keep the dirt in but allow proper drainage. Kitty was ecstatic once we had it raised up on bricks and began filling it with organic soil. This girl seriously loves to dig in the dirt. Then we got to planting and Kitty happily tucked strawberry plants, tomatoes, rosemary, basil,cilantro and squash plants into their beds. Every day we go out and check the moisture levels, water when necessary, talk to the plants and just generally potter around her tiny garden. It looked amazing. The plants took off and looked full and healthy and I promised Kitty it would just be a few weeks before we could begin harvesting the fruits of her labor.

Then, the sun came. With a vengeance. Despite our careful attention the plants started looking, crispy. I may or may not have resorted to putting up shade in a futile attempt to keep the scorching rays from turning our little garden into a burnt wasteland. Amanda posted new photos of her impressive haul. With every viewing of "Brie's garden" Kitty would lament the lack of edibles from her garden and would ask "when my berries gonna grow?". I began to curse Amanda and her green thumb and perfect Pacific Northwest climate.

We got a bell pepper big enough to harvest, but the sun had literally burnt it beyond being edible. Imagine a green pepper with half of it burned black. Kitty was not impressed. The rosemary is hanging in there because it is impossible to screw up rosemary but herbs do not give little kids the same excitement at harvest time that a real fruit or vegetable does. The basil and cilantro was cooked beyond saving. The squash plants are hanging in there but they have not produced ONE piece of fruit. Flowers yes, but nothing to eat much to the consternation of Kitty. 3 months, no fruit. And then, there were the strawberries.

The one bright spot in my sad little attempt to give Kitty the experience of a garden were the strawberries. The plants look good and they are actually bearing fruit. Harvest time should be right around the corner, right? Kitty would look every day at her little tiny berries and would be excited at the prospect of picking them and eating them. Yes, except for the lizards. We have a large lizard population in our garden and would you believe that every single time we would spot a likely candidate berry for harvesting in a day or two, those damned lizards would nick them the night before harvest leaving only a cluster of leaves and remnant of well chewed red fruit clinging to the vine. Kitty was pretty annoyed with her lizard friends and was decidedly over her time as a farmer.

Finally, we had one little strawberry that was close enough to ripe to harvest and because I knew we had to get it before the lizards did, I encouraged Kitty to go ahead and pick it. You would have thought we had given her a pony. She was beside herself with excitement. She carefully picked it, examined it, delighted in the fact that she had grown it. She danced around holding her tiny berry, extolling the virtues of said berry. Finally, she washed it carefully and popped it in her mouth and in 10 seconds it was gone. That was the most expensive, time consuming berry ever known to man.

So now we know what works, berries and rosemary and so long as it keeps Kitty happily digging in the garden we will keep playing at gardening but I am really thankful that we have lots of fresh produce available for purchase near by. If we had to grow our own food, we would starve. Perhaps it is time to teach Kitty how to roast lizards. I hear it is all the rage in South America.

Monday, July 15, 2013

What's That Saying?

Busier than a one legged man at a butt kicking contest? Yeah. That would be Mark. A butt kicking contest in Sub Sahara Africa with 80% humidity. The man deserves accolades not just for keeping the refit moving forward, but doing it in extreme weather conditions. Man, it has just been stupid hot and poor Northern European Mark has been sweltering in the belly of the boat making daily progress, though that progress can be measured in inches a day. Did I mention it has been really hot? Ok, there is my yearly complaining about the heat done.

After our mini-cruise last summer, Mark decided to rip out the plumbing and rectify what can only be described as a huge freaking mess topped with a bit of random chaos. So you want to check the fuel level in the tanks? Grab that handy dowel rod, maneuver your way through THIS :

open an inspection port, thread dowel into the opening and guess. Even better, try to do it while the boat rolls and pitches. Seems a something a bit less like "yachting" and more like something from Bobby Ray's Redneck Yacht Club*. ( I am from the South. My Dad actually has a cousin named Bobby Ray and while he is not a Redneck he comes from a long line of them. It is my heritage, I know Redneck Engineering when I see it and this is a fine example of it).

Its not just trying to discern the fuel levels that was a challenge. Doing any kind of troubleshooting or maintenance was just about impossible. We had no schematics, 12 diesel lines for each supply configuration from the 2 tanks to the engine and generator, 4 selector valves for engine and generator supply and return, unidentified and unsecured lines running here and there, multiple electrical cables running every which way, an water drain line with a gate valve whose purpose was a mystery, water and drain lines and air conditioning tubing just sort of shoved in there and even better, the condensation line from the ac was allowed to just drain into the boat interior which caused water to pool in various low lying areas as it meandered to the bilge which caused the teak and holly sole to swell and bow. Seriously. A HUGE FREAKING MESS.

Nice labeling, huh? So yes, it has taken almost an entire year to get this sorted. To be fair, we had other projects (such as the master cabin) that distracted a bit but finally, finally it looks as if we are ready to hook the diesel lines up to the fuel filter system Mark completed at Christmas. Christmas. The man deserves a medal.

No Mark project would be complete with out a schematic. I tease him about his obsession with them, but honestly I do not know how people manage to troubleshoot systems without them. If it all goes pear shaped and I need to track down an electrical or plumbing problem, even I- a bear of little brain can do it. All I need to do is open up the handy boat book and voila! There is the schematic I need for whatever system needs attention. We are never going to sell Ceol Mor but if we did, I would tack on another 5k just for the schematics. :) A first time boat buyer would scoff, an experienced one would say "What a bargain!".
And so after months and months of careful and painstaking work. This is what the under sole area now looks like.

Everything is labeled and has a diagram to show which direction is open, which is closed. The 12 diesel lines have been reduced to 7 and are labeled. 4 valves have been replaced with one 6 port valve. We have added a fuel pump. The dowel rod has been retired and we now have THESE tank level sensors installed. All the water lines have been replaced and secured as well as the AC lines. The electrical runs have been routed through ducting.The diesel fill and vent lines have been rerouted to give greater access and for the finishing touch, a light has been mounted so that when you need to work in this area, you can actually see what you are doing/ Phew.

Let us once again admire Mark's handywork. Its not just a refit, its ART.

Now if you will excuse me, I think I really owe Mark a beer. Or 3. Seriously.