109. Garden Fail – Birdhouse Gourds

On Thanksgiving Day, our (very) local neighbourhood gardeners and friends/family get together for the annual vegetable contest.

Now, I am not competitive at all, but I am a gardener, and I like a challenge and a deadline to jumpstart my creativity.

So in the spring I signed up to receive the little 3-seed packet for this year’s vegetable. We usually are challenged to grow something that matures near Thanksgiving (Canadian Thanksgiving, about 6 weeks before American Thanksgiving). This year’s vegetable was a birdhouse gourd.

All three of my seeds germinated. I planted two of them in pots, and one in the herb bed in the rooftop garden. These five gourds were all I could grow, and they are too small to dry out and use as bird houses. Our best gardener was able to grow a bunch that were big enough (about 14″ – 16″ tall.)

So I had to fake the birdhouse, by painting a black hole on each. Then, I faked actual (is that an oxymoron?) birds, too, by painting five of our favourite local birds right onto the gourds.

I have a bird colouring book the right scale for the gourds, so I traced the bird onto the gourd using a ball-point pen and tracing paper.

Then I painted them using the acrylic craft paint I had on hand. 

Of course, I needed a display box. I made one just the right length using scrap wood. The two sides are the last bit of what, in this family, we call “Grandpa’s Post.” Grandpa’s Post was salvaged from his workshop before the house that he built 60 years ago was torn down. It was a gorgeous piece of 4×4 fir, that I sanded down and intended to use for our bannister, but it wasn’t long enough.

The post sat protected in our crawl space, until our favourite daughter was making her bed, and she was able to use it for both footboard posts. There were two beautiful thin wedges left over, placed into the burn pile for kindling. I just couldn’t burn them – they were too precious to my heart. I trimmed them down to use in the box.

Sanded, then whitewashed the box. Inserted the gourds. Went to the contest. There were a bunch of clever and humourous entries, some done by children.

Won the prize. Obviously not for biggest gourd. The prize is re-awarded every year, thank heavens, because it is the ultimate in tacky. Witness yourself:

I have to keep it for a whole year, taking it out of hiding if any of our neighbours should pay a visit.

What’s green about this post?

  1. the gourds
  2. the gardening
  3. the recycling
  4. and the neighbours, who are green with envy that I have this fish-like thing in my house for a year

 

 

 

104. Beekeeping

D has long talked of keeping bees.

I’m trying to encourage him to retire, yet I’m slightly trepidatious about it. Will I need to entertain him all the time? Or, will he develop/revisit some of his own hobbies and social circles?

To that end, I bought him a starter beehive kit for his birthday. Except, it was a little hard to conceal. When I brought it home, I was all in a tizzy. I had just returned from a couple of days in the city, and had to get the house ready and food shopping done for weekend company. Our nephew carried the kit into my studio, where I thought it would be safe from D’s observation, but when he came home a couple of hours later, he gave our great-nephew a tour of the yard, AND studio, so the surprise was ruined.

He is keen, though, and has read some books, taken a beginner bee-keeping course, talked to our friend who is a beekeeper, and ordered a “nuc” (for “nucleus”), which is a small starter bee colony centered on a queen (of course!.)  “Small” is a relative term; in this case it means 20,000 bees as a full, functioning hive has about 50,000 bees.  In fact, the hive will spend most of the summer growing and will not, as a result, produce much excess honey.  It will need most of its honey for the winter.

The race was on – he needed to build a bee deck to house his first and future hives.

In true Green Life spirit, I noticed a deck demolition going on in our neighbourhood, and thought the lumber being discarded looked re-usable. D picked up a truckload of it, then spent a full day removing nails. What a green hero in Carhartts!carhartt guy reclaiming lumberHe first needed to locate the deck in the yard. An open location that has southern exposure and gets sun almost all day (but has occasional shade) is best, as bees need warmth in the winter and especially in the morning. Even I have noticed that the bees only leave their hives in nice weather.

D built a substantial deck. He never does things by halves. I envisioned insubstantial rebar posts to hold the requisite electric fence. I say requisite, because we have black bears in our neighbourhood, and if you read Winnie The Pooh, you will know that bears LOOOOOVE honey (Bee Fact: it’s actually the embryonic bees – like grubs – that they like.  The honey is their dessert).

But, did I tell you D favours substantial? His bee deck, how can I say this, did not exactly blend in with the environment. I painted it the same green as the house (Behr’s Ponderosa.)  Bee books advise to shoot for “inconspicuous”, just in case neighbours (who are very rarely, if ever, bothered by nearby hives) are nervous.That helps.

D built a stand to perch his hive on, and installed the electric fence. It has about 6,000 volts but fear not; extremely low amperage – touch it and you’ll definitely feel it, but will be unharmed.From our garden shed, I requisitioned a ceramic green plant tray, and filled it with beach glass for the bees to stand on while they’re drinking, so they won’t drown.

Now, we’re ready for our new tenants.

D and his friend went to the city to pick up their nucs of Carniolan bees. Because the bees are coming to a restricted zone, where all bee hives are registered, the breeder has the nuc inspected for hive beetles before they leave her bee yard. The bee breeder simply transfers her 5 frames into the centre of their new hive, making sure that the queen is present.nuc transfer

Then, with all the openings sealed with tape and screen, so the bees don’t wander off while they’re being moved to their new homes, the new hives were put into the bed of our truck, strapped down securely, and covered with a damp drop cloth. D moved his nuc to the bee deck, and smoked the hive to calm the bees down before he released them to do their important work in our yard and all the yards of our neighbourhood. In the photo below, he is adding the food trough; he mixed about 2 litres of 1:1 water:sugar syrup as a starter.  Most bees don’t need to be fed at this time of year, but ours will need a couple of days to get oriented and find their flowers.

The bees lounged around for a few minutes, and then they started exploring. It was exciting!

So much to learn from and about these creatures. Welcome home, bees.

Sharing with: Amaze Me Monday, Rustic & Refined, Backyard Neighbour, Our Home Away From Home, Kathe With an E, Talented Tuesday, Savvy Southern Style, Poofing the Pillows, DIY By Design

103. Live-edge Slab Bed Construction

This I cannot claim responsibility for (well, I do have some responsibility for giving birth to the person):

But, Tess, the genius behind the bed, has given me permission to share her bed-making process.

And, she did use our tools and reuse some of our collected materials, so I guess you could say we had a small, small hand in it. She used wood and tools that have personal memories and meaning wound through them.bed-labelled copy

At the Christmas holiday, Tess and her partner picked up some well-cured maple slabs at a local supplier, Steve Willgoose Woodworking

Here they are after a bit of cleaning up – debarking, digging out soft areas, some sanding.

Tess’s first order of design was to size and position her bowties. They stabilize the major cracks.

She cut them, mostly on the bandsaw, out of shim wood scavenged from the beach on Haida Gwaii, where she was fortunate to spend a university semester.

Using a drill and Grandpa’s chisels, T routed out the bowtie shapes. When one of the bowties was too small for its setting, she had just enough of the wood left to make another one. Next step was applying copious amounts of wood glue – those little suckers will stay there – and pounding them in with a wood block.

She sanded them down to flush, and sanded the whole slabs to a beautiful smooth surface that we can’t stop stroking. Between the first and second sandings, she raised the grain and the wood fibre with a water-soaked rag, and then let it dry. That made a much smoother surface possible.

T filled the long teardrop-shaped hole with stones collected from Ucluelet and Iceland. She taped them in place from the front with a combination of duct tape and painter’s tape, then turned the slab over to fill the hole with 2-part clear epoxy. A sheet of plastic covered the work table. When she poured in the epoxy, it looked pretty good, but soon we could see that the dam had burst (or should I say “Damn! Burst!”) and the epoxy was leaking out as fast as water. It covered the plastic, and spread onto the front surface of the maple, even started dripping onto the floor.

This turned out to be the most frustrating lesson learned, and she just had to let it cure for a while until it was hard enough to clean up. You don’t want the epoxy all over your hands and clothing – it’s impossible to clean, even with paint thinner. She mopped up with rags as best she could, and then faced the problem again after a sleep.

Once it was firm enough to sand, T sanded the epoxy and the imbedded (NPI – no pun intended) tape off the surface of the wood and stones She had to resort to digging some of it out with sharp instruments, like my 1/2″ belt sander.

I think Tess consulted her brother, who has considerably more experience working with epoxy and wood slabs. He tapes off the hole, then clamps wood tightly against the tape so the epoxy has nowhere to leak. The second pouring of epoxy went better. Here’s a view of it from the back of the headboard, so you can see the light shining through:

She shaped and sanded the elegant bedposts – the headboard posts from a 4 x 4 clear cedar post, and the footboard posts from a beautiful salvaged fir porch post of her grandfather’s.

Using hardwood dowels and glue, T attached the head/footboards to the posts. I didn’t take photos of this step.

The bed rails are made from purchased S4S fir 2x8s with a 1×2 slat ledge screwed to the inside edge. The rails are attached to the posts with hardware from Lee Valley Tools. Here, the assembly crew is checking the bed for square:measure bed for square

The fir slats I salvaged from a former film studio warehouse have hardened with age – they may be 50 years old or more. Tess was commanded to lie down on them to make sure they’re strong enough, but I knew they were, because we used the same ones in our pull-out wall bed in the studio.live edge maple bed

I will transport the bed components to the city, where T will apply the finish and will update with another photo of this beautiful/meaningful project.

I learned so much from watching Tess work. This chronicle leaves out much of the design process and constant figuring and measuring. I am full of admiration for Tess’s skills, and I know she has learned a whole whack of new ones.

 

Sharing with: The Dedicated House, Cozy Little House, Home Stories A to Z

99. My 6 Ingredients for Warm Winter Decor

Hands up – who doesn’t think that wood is warm? I thought so – everyone agrees that 1. wood adds warmth – wood furniture, wood floors, firewood, botanical stuff brought in from outside, wicker and rattan.reclaimed stairway

But, who thinks of stone when I say “warmth?” I thought not – inherently a cold hard material, in This Green House 2. stone is what holds the heat from the thermal mass fireplace, the hot tea in the pot, the smooth sensual stones in the pottery bowl.

And, 3.Textiles – a quilt, sweaters as chair covers and footstools, carpets, cushions, window coverings and quilts on the walls – not only do they insulate, but just looking at them elicits warm cozy thoughts, maybe memories of a grandparent’s cuddles.art quilts

In the dark months of winter, even here on the balmy Pacific Coast, 4. light is a sure-fire cure for the grey blahs. Whether you have a fireplace or candles, firelight is the coziest. Artificial light is next best, and I keep the seasonal decor up until at least the beginning of spring.

I love 5. colour – It just happens that our living room set, handed down from my parents after they used them for fifty years, is green. My favourite decor colour is red. So, these are not just the colours we use at Christmas – they’re my favourite all year. They make me feel happy and cozy. I know the trend in sophisticated decor is white and neutral, but I can’t live without colour. One of the guiding principles in building green is to avoid trends, because discarding last season’s decor is wasteful, or remodelling an off-trend house will likely involve tearing up and discarding still useful materials that could be pressed into service for another generation. I shop the house for decor, and occasionally the thrift stores. We designed This Green House  to be classic and traditional Craftsman style, with enduring materials like real stone, cedar shingles, steel roofing, fir floors (themselves reused from 100-year old houses), and subway tiles.

And 6? Books, of course! Like textiles, books always make me feel brighter. Not just the reading of them, but also the seeing of them. Perhaps we were read to as children, or use books to escape, or maybe even get an education. I’m so lucky that books are in my world.

I’m lovin’ livin’ in my cozy world.cozy decor Collage

 

Partying with: Cozy Little House, The Dedicated House, Stringtown Home, Coastal Charm, Between Naps on the Porch, Women in Real Life, Home Stories A to Z, Savvy Southern Style, Stone Cottage Adventures, Fluster Buster, Winter Blues Wednesday, Handy Man Crafty Woman, Home & Garden Thursday, In The New House Designs (FEATURED!), Thoughts From Alice, Lavender Cottage, Domestically Speaking

 

98. Blimey, That was Tough (Wall Mural)

The view from the guest room:Tough to compete with that view, but I’m giving it a good try with my interior decor.

I’ve had a photo mural kicking around for about 10 years. It’s Golden Buddha (#405) by a German company (Bild Wande) and cost $99 at the time. I bought it with the idea that it would make a dramatic focal point in our condo renovation. I never got the courage up to install it there. When we were clearing out the condo to sell it, the 6’x8′ wall mural re-surfaced, and I brought it home.

We started decorating our “boho” guest room a year ago, with the installation of the ceiling, starlit with the constellations of the northern hemisphere. finished guest room ceiling

An antique Egyptian applique given to me by a quilting friend was the first inspiration for the colour scheme and general decor.

But, I had more plans. Over-the-top plans for our boho guest room. Plans that involved ethnic textiles, colour, gilt accessories, found objects, re-usable castaways, stuff that I’d never be caught dead using in our own spare zen-like master bedroom.

audition CollageSo, when D left after the holidays to go to work in the city, Cathy and Angela volunteered to come over to help me audition some of the decor items I had found, purchased second hand, or painted/sewn for this bit of exotica.

What I ended up with is a far cry from what I thought I was going to do with the room, thanks to their help.

I was planning to install the attention-seeking golden Buddha on a side wall that you don’t even see as you enter the room, and then install re-cycled sari silk curtains over the wall mural to hide it for a bit of mystery. 

I have a confession to make. I often (silently) criticize the over-use of Buddha sculptures and images in modern decor – it’s a cliche, a fad. But, here I was, installing a great big Buddha mural.

It’s like an itch I had to scratch. We (our guests, really) will live with it for a while, and if we end up hating it for its over-the-topness, then I’ll strip it off and maybe return to a boring white room. In the meantime, here’s what I did (and I ask for your forgiveness, D):

The mural comes in four panels, each 36″x 50″. I marked the centre of the wall, with a level and pencil, and then decided to allow a 4″ border of wall colour on the top to match the  side borders, so marked the horizontal centre of the mural accordingly. I researched how-to on the internet, and of course, it looked so easy. It’s not.

I bought some wallpaper paste, after making my own from cornstarch and water. I had a fit of doubt over my DIY paste, because I just didn’t want anything to go wrong. I’m sorry to report that using a commercial paste was not enough insurance to prevent problems.

I climbed the step ladder and, with a paint roller loaded with paste, applied it over the first (top left) quarter of the wall. Very carefully started laying and smoothing the paper panel from the centre line and the bottom line marked on the wall. The panel immediately developed bubbles, which I tried to smooth with a painting pad. The panel kept peeling itself off from the top. I pressed the upper corners, to no avail. My paint tray was on the ground, and if I removed my hands to reload the roller or a brush, the whole panel would come off. I kept pressing, even as the rest of the panel was developing more bubbles, until it seemed it would stay in place for a minute.

Panic was starting to rise in me. I climbed down the ladder to load a brush, climbed up to reapply paste along the edges. The YouTube video demonstrated peeling off the panel to realign it, so I tried that, only to find that some of the paper ripped off the back and distorted the image with tears (both the kind on paper and the kind in my eyes.)

I gave up trying to realign, and concentrated on smoothing the panel as best I could. Actual wrinkles were developing, and, in truth, it looked hopeless. But, what could I do with 3/4 of a Buddha, so I started the next panel, laying it exactly along the edge of the first, and smoothing it from the centre out. Bubbles and wrinkles like before, but this time I used a plastic trowel to smooth, and it went somewhat better.

It looks so much better in the picture than it was. The third panel proved to be the hardest, even though I didn’t have to climb a ladder to do it. That’s when I finally realized that the bubbles were caused by the paper stretching when it was wet (not by the absence of paste), and the panel was 1/4″ smaller when dry. Basically, I had to stretch it to fit, with my hands and the plastic trowel. Damage was done, especially at the edges.

This group of photos shows some of the types of damage. The centre circle shows the damage, and the right circle shows the repair of that damage (I couldn’t get the colours to match, sorry.) I repaired it with felt pens, watercolour paint, and crayons.wall mural repair CollageThe last panel was more of the same. I was sweating bullets by this time, trying to stretch the paper to match the image of the other panels. But, I observed that the first panel had settled more-or-less flat, except where I flattened the wrinkle permanently into the image. There were distortions still, but considering that the Buddha is made of stone, it looks intentional, I told myself.

I carried on until all four panels were adhered, smoothed as well as I could, and then went upstairs to have dinner. When I inspected it after dinner, it was seriously improved. I wouldn’t have to pull it all off after all! It took me about two hours. Not bad. I don’t think another pair of hands would have helped – except maybe to load the brush – we would have got in each other’s way. I did a few more additions to the room. The silk sari curtains replaced the blue curtains on the patio doors, after I sewed a black sheer onto the back. I used a sheer gold panel I had on hand over the window, but will probably change that. I’m fiddling around with other furniture and accessories, and will post again when I make those decisions.

But, here’s what it looked like before:

And after:

and the other wall before:

and after:

Oh, and I found two low pre-owned navy blue tub chairs at the trading post today, for when our guests want to do some relaxin’ tea drinkin’ and readin’. I had started to make a chaise lounge of upholstery scraps, but as the room slowly started to come together, I realized that it did not fit in – these low chairs seem better, somehow, for the vibe that’s growing here.

I made a bed skirt and pillowcases from four yards of Indian block-printed cotton that will forever remind me of a fibre artist who left her supplies for our group of artists when she passed away. Still looking for the right (Moroccan?) lamp for the corner to the right of the patio doors, a couple of cushions for the chairs, some navy blue candles, an area rug, better window covering, navy blue or burgundy towels, and a couple of poufs/footstools made from a gorgeous wool melton coat I found at the thrift store. I’m having cheesy fun playing with this room.

Anyway, thank you to Angela and Cathy for your invaluable help, and all three of my readers for giving me a shoulder to cry on (re: pasting the mural.) You’re the best!

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