89. Garden Upgrade – Greenhouse Tomatoes

harvest 2014A garden is such a personal document. Its design reflects who I am (and who I was), and who I want to be.

Every garden undergoes change, of course. Particularly if our hand is not in it at all.

Plants want to grow. Especially weeds.

Decisions I made about new garden design four years ago may not suit my current goals. I shared, in this post, some lessons I’ve learned about the dangers of overplanting. And, in my zeal to plant a drought-tolerant xeriscape, have I missed some very desirable plants?

Those trees are now big enough that they shade the tireside garden too much. I can plant cooler season crops there this year.tireside garden

And, are those self-seeding hollyhocks actually getting more pink each year, when what I wanted was a red and white colour scheme there?hollyhocks

red & white flowers

The blueberry plants were completely shaded by the abundant raspberries, so if I want them to produce, I’ll have to move them.raspberries

I swear that plants are tricksters. They like to keep me on my toes. A plant that does very well one year is the very one that nose-dives the next, even when I diligently practise crop rotation. Slugs have gained a foothold on my rooftop garden. The carrot fly has finally discovered my patch. Some bird has fixated on my tiny pea shoots. Edamame never did grow. But disappointments are often offset by pleasant surprises – finally, beets and basil have decided to grow, and OMG, would you look at that stevia and that wasabi!wasabi

Last year, the first year I had a greenhouse, I was so looking forward to growing perfect tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, eggplants, and peppers in this “perfect” environment. I would say the cucumbers and basil were successes, but I’m not sure, because they also did well in the open garden.

The tomatoes, in pots, were my biggest disappointment. At first, they had lots of green growth, and appeared to be happy.

tomato plants in greenhouseBut then there was a hornworm infestation, while I was away and couldn’t spot them myself. And all the tomatoes had blossom end rot, even though I used the soil mix my nurserywoman recommended. Obviously, somewhere along the line, I missed the need for calcium.used pots

This year, with D’s help, we emptied all the soil from the pots and sterilized it over the fire.sterilizing garden soil

The purpose here was to start with a fresh base. I know that all the helpful bacteria and microorganisms that we were killing benefit the soil, but I was intent on getting rid of insect eggs, and there was no evidence that there had been any earthworms in there at all.

After thoroughly scrubbing out the greenhouse (and finally cleaning the windows and putting screens over the opening windows to keep out most flies), I replaced the tomato pots with planting beds, built from our scrap lumber pile. Some of the cedar boards were from a sling of used fencing from the former flower farm, now the Beer Farm. I hope that’s good karma for my tomatoes.tomato beds in greenhouse

Ground up eggshells and oyster shells add more calcium.eggshells for tomatoes

oyster shells in tomato beds

Also, cleaned out the bottom of the compost to add that black gold, which teamed with earthworms. Some lime, more Salish Soil, epsom salts, organic fertilizer, and perlite for aeration, and I think I’ve found a good balance. I sure hope so, because there is absolutely nothing as delicious as a fresh tomato off the vine. (Well, maybe a fresh raspberry!)

I’ll be planting some tomatoes in the planting box in the sun under the eaves, with a stone wall for a heat sink, for a controlled experiment, and even a couple in the rooftop garden, so we’ll see how that goes.protected planting bedAlways learning, I’m sharing with:

Lamberts Lately, From My Front Porch to Yours, HomeAcre Hop, An Oregon Cottage, Rooted in Thyme, The Charm of Home, Fabulous Friday, The Chicken Chick, Cozy Little House

 

88. Fall Leaf Patio Table Top

glass table topOn a hot sunny summer day, our patio table’s glass top came to a crashing demise:broken patio table glass

We have no picture of the glass all over the flagstone, because we were very busy setting up for a house concert. The band carried right on with its rehearsal, unphased by the crashing glass.

Apparently, I could have ordered a new glass table top. But, nooooo, Gail has to make a new one. I considered using the broken glass in epoxy as the table top, but thought it would make it too heavy and use too much epoxy. Little did I know….

In the fall, I collected and pressed leaves from our yard.

I located, at the landfill and Habitat For Humanity’s Restore, some weathered-looking wood. I was looking for a more barnboard look, but this is what I found:lay out boards for patio table

I cut the boards, bevelling and painting the perimeter edges, and joined them with my biscuit joiner (neat tool!)Biscuit joining

Hot-glued the leaves to the boards.laying leaves on tabletop

Masking-taped the holes from the bottom.

Set up an epoxying station with plastic on the level floor of the workshop.

Bought a kitchen countertop refinishing kit ($50 at Home Depot). It consists of a two-part epoxy that needs to be very thoroughly mixed together.countertop epoxy

Here are the very easy instructions for using this product:

Step 1: Combine parts A and B and mix thoroughly. Step 2: Pour on countertop.  Step 3: Spread with brush.epoxy coat #1

The kit “covers” 30 square feet. Applied product will set in 24 hours, with full cure in 72 hours. See this post to read about my first experience with this interesting product in our powder room.

Unfortunately, because I didn’t glue the leaves down thoroughly enough, most of their edges lifted up. The first coat did not cover the leaves.

After I apply the epoxy, it finds its level, like water. In other words, it settles down into any hole or crack it can find, and I wasted a bunch of it because it collected on the plastic underneath the tabletop.

This is all to say that one coat didn’t cover the leaves.

Two coats didn’t cover the leaves.

And, in fact, three coats didn’t quite cover the leaves. But, at $50 a pop, I declared it good enough. Finally, for the last coat, I taped up the edges so the epoxy wouldn’t just flow right off the surface.B&W leaf table

3 coats of epoxy

We’ll see how it wears, and I may break down and apply another coat. leaf-covered patio tabletop

In the meantime, Tess took a lovely photograph of its reflections. She calls it “What’s water, what’s sky?”Sky or water?

Thank you for stopping by.

Here are some link parties I’m joining:

Miss Mustard Seed, Simple Nature Decor Blog (FEATURED!), Funky Junk Interiors, Savvy Southern Style, Lamberts Lately

87. Apartment (Retro) Staging

main livingWe’re getting our city condo ready to sell.

It would be more accurate to say that I have been getting it ready to sell since 2007, but we are finally getting to it.

In 2007, after the infamous Vancouver leaky condo rainscreening upgrade (if your strata development was built in the last 35 years, it was a leaky one, because of poor design and construction as well as an inadequate building code and careless inspections of the building envelope) we did a complete reno of the 27-year-old apartment.

In my usual OCD way, I hand-made all the green and small black kitchen tiles. I know, who does that??? Just be glad that I stopped at the edges of the one back wall. Originally, I was planning to do the side walls, too, but some reason prevailed in the hidden recesses of my mind.kitchen

The kitchen tiles kinda set the tone for the apartment – a little on the retro side. I figure someone looking for a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment in a wonderful part of the city will either love it or vehemently hate it!

About a year after our big reno, the condo flooded. (A leak from 2 floors above.) All our hard work literally down the drain. (Do you know that the first responders (firemen in our case) in a flood tear out the toilet so that the flood water settles, in its inimitable way, down the toilet drain? They used large push brooms to direct the water toward the bathroom.)flood in condo

But, to be a Pollyanna about that sad and destructive event, it did give us a chance to make even more changes to the condo, during the 7 months it took to reclaim the unit to its better-than-former glory.

The walls and ceiling were stripped to the studs and joists and dried out. Tests were done, and there is no mould or mildew inside.condo reconstruction

That allowed us to remove the “popcorn” ceiling and replace it with the much more contemporary smooth finish. I learned that there is a method of building apartment ceilings that effectively sound-proofs us from the unit above.

We removed the awkward closet in the small bedroom, liberating an additional 15 square feet when we replaced the swinging door with a slider, and the closet with a built-in unit. (Hired an engineer and carpenter to beef up the bedroom wall with a laminated beam over the sliding door.)

Now there’s actually enough space for a queen-sized bed in the small bedroom.Bedroom 2

Speaking of built-ins, we added them to the living room and dining room to give us much-needed storage space:living 2

In the hallway, built-in shoe boxes:Entry foyer

To present the condo to the buying public, we carried on the retro theme in the drum-shaded floor lamp, old bread-box, and quilts on the wall and bed.retro living room

I considered feng shui in the placement of the elements, including plants, lighting, rounded shapes. (I can feel you rolling your eyes, D, so don’t bother telling me!) For instance, I placed the bed against a wall rather than the windows, with an upholstered headboard. While sleeping, our feet do not point to the room exit. master with garden view

There are sweet little views out the windows.view of condo japanese garden

And of course, de-cluttering is one of the main feng shui treatments. I worked for two weeks to declutter this condo and patio that was a little untidy before, removing almost all items on surfaces, and when the realtor came to see the apartment, she said, “you will need to de-clutter.” Whaaat? I don’t think she liked the colour-coordinated coffee cups on the coffee bar or the hats artistically lined up along the sideboard!dining room

But, like a good little seller, I eliminated even more decor items.patio

We’ll see how all this goes. Now that we’ve worked the standard advice about staging a home for sale, we have to have faith that this retro look and such luxuries as a jacuzzi tub, heated bathroom floor, security system, marbled gas fireplace, and extra storage will offer something a little different in the cookie-cutter world of condos in this city.master bath

Wish us luck.

Sharing with: Cozy Little House, Dwellings The Heart of Your Home, Boogieboard Cottage, Coastal Charm, Savvy Southern Style, Lamberts Lately

 

86. Guest Room Starlight Ceiling

view from guest roomEver since we started to build This Green House, five years ago, I had planned to make the guest room special. It already has a gorgeous view and its own private patio, but its future personality as a boho space is one step closer, with my latest project completed.patio with grapevine screenguest room patio

First, I made sure the electrician installed a switch-operated ceiling plug.

Second, when Rob the carpenter was here doing our “Sprint to the Finish“, we installed the 4′ framework for a dropped ceiling.ceiling 4x4 framework

Third, I snaked a 150-foot roll of cool white LED rope light through that framework. (Purchased on E-Bay.)LED light string in ceiling

staples for LED light stringFourth, D and I cut 4×8 sheets of 1/4″ plywood door skin to fit the 4′ framework.

Fifth, I gave it two coats of a custom-mixed midnight blue eggshell.painting ceiling panels midnight blue

Sixth, using a constellation map for our area (on Dec. 4, to be specific), I projected the map onto my panels, so that our whole sky would fill the whole ceiling.projecting constellations onto plywood

constellation projectionsSeventh, I marked all the stars and planets, then drew in the constellation lines with a wax-crayon. To give a sense of their relative brightness in our night sky, I drew some stars bigger and some smaller.drilling holes for constellations

Eighth, I drilled holes through the plywood, using different sizes of drill bits.drilling holes

Ninth, I gave the panels another coat of paint, which just barely let the constellation lines show. The planet holes each received a cellophane colour taped onto the back of the panels.

Tenth, I drilled screw holes every 6-12″ along the edges and centres where the ceiling framework would be. Set in the screws to start.setting screws in ceiling panels

Eleventh, we relocated the central ceiling junction box to a corner of the room. D didn’t like the boho light fixture I had found at the thrift shop for $15, but we compromised by moving it from the centre to a corner of the room, where it didn’t command so much space/attention.boho light in bedroom

Twelfth, with lots of strong young help, we installed those suckers, butting the plywood edges as closely as possible. We discovered that the room isn’t quite “square” (i.e. 90 degrees at the corners), but I guess that wouldn’t surprise anyone who has built a house. Adjustment of the panels ensued.installing ceiling panels stars

Thirteenth, we flipped the switch. It was magical! Stars appeared in our very own night sky!

Until…… our eyes adjusted to the low light level, and we saw that light was sneaking out of places that weren’t stars, and couldn’t pass for comets, either.light leaks in ceiling panels

Fourteenth, I put black electrician’s tape around the perimeter of the ceiling, caulking on the edges of the panels, and painted quarter-round around the perimeter.star ceiling light-leak repair

Fifteenth, I touched up the caulking and the screw heads with paint.

And, called ‘er done!finished guest room ceiling

The problem with photographing this dark night sky, is that it’s hard to differentiate it from the real night sky. Or maybe that’s a good thing! stars on ceiling

It is really quite peaceful to lie on the bed in the dark of our rural setting, with nothing but the starlight above to travel through the constellations of the northern hemisphere, and gradually send you into dreamland.

Sharing with these fine party hosts:

Mod Vintage Life, Cozy Little House, The Dedicated House, Smiling Sally: Blue Monday, Cedar Hill Farmhouse, Kathe with an E, Tuesdays with a Twist, Savvy Southern Style, Ivy & Elephants, The Girl Creative, VMG206, Dwellings: The Heart of Your Home

 

85. Easy Christmas Colour

When asked if I’ve started decorating the house for Christmas, I said I hadn’t given it much thought. I’m a little less enthusiastic about doing it when I don’t have company.christmas decor 2

But then I realized that our year-round decor colours are red and green, anyway, so I’ve got an unintentional start. (The vintage chesterfield and chairs belonged to my parents. When we received them about 20 years ago, they had been left outside to become a village for mice, so we had them stripped and recovered in green velour.)christmas decor 1

I threw together a poinsettia wreath with five 2″ poinsettias and some bright green lichen that I collected a few years ago.poinsettia wreath

Dug out 29 years’ worth of annual Santa photos. christmas furniture

The “kids” played a trick on me on Santa photography day last year. They staged a reproduction of the photo from 1989, dressing in similar clothes and mimicking the poses, body language and facial expressions from their younger selves. They and their (must-remain-anonymous) friends were rushing around and giggling for a while “backstage,” until I began to suspect the subterfuge and busted them. Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 2.27.13 PMSanta photo then and nowAnd so I guess I have started decorating. And, it was fun, even though I have no company right now.

living room with Santa photosSharing with these fun party hosts:

Cozy Little House, Cedar Hill Ranch, A Delightsome Life, Mod Vintage Life, Coastal Charm, Savvy Southern Style, DIY By Design, French Country Cottage