Saturday, May 26, 2012

Turning a FAIL into a FINE!

I'm a believer into turning mistakes into learning experiences. You'd think by now I'd have LOTS of learning experiences...

So what happens when you try something that's a failure?  Why, you try something else, of course!

I had this secretary hutch that I'd bought off of Craigslist for $40.  (I love Craigslist!)

I liked the lines of if, but the woodsy pine wood thing going on, not so much.

I got it into my head that I wanted it dark brown, so I first proceeded to use chalk paint that I'd whipped up and paint it dark brown. 

The brown was better than the woodsy pine thing going on, so I painted the entire piece of furniture.


Even if I decided to distress this, it wasn't going to make it less of a HUGE BROWN PIECE OF FURNITURE.  You can tell that I was hating this so much, I didn't even bother to put the rest of the drawers in for the pic. 

So, onto Plan B.  (I'm a firm believer in having a Plan B.)  I had some sage colored acrylic paint that I decided to make into chalk paint, so I thought a sage secretary hutch would be better than a brown secretary hutch. 


The lighting in this pic is less than optimal, but trust me, it was absolutely, 100% a BUTT UGLY SAGE PIECE OF FURNITURE.

Onto Plan C.  (Did I mention that I also think it's a good idea to have a Plan C?)

This time, I was finished playing around.  I mean, how many freaking coats of paint can one piece of furniture actually have?  How many ugly paint colors did I have in my supply?  How many times can I shut the cats out of the guest room to repaint a piece of furniture? 

Plan C depended on white paint.  Yes, plain, ole vanilla white paint.  See what a difference it makes?

I even added cute little knobs.  (Found at the local Habitat ReSale store and Lowes.)

For the back of the shelves, I took foamcore board, cut it to size, then covered it with fabric.  A bit of tape held the fabric in place, and because the foamcore is cut to size, it stays in place.

To refresh your memory, here is before:

And after:

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Peas Please: Nearly Free Trellis for Climbing Peas

I love peas.  Last year, I didn't plant nearly enough.  This year, I think I went a bit overboard.

Just a bit.

Now the peas have sprouted and they're going to need something to attach to when they start to grow. 

And what's better than cheap, cheap, cheap?  Nearly free!

It started with a special find--a discarded painting on canvas that was attached to a wooden frame.  (It was so ugly, I didn't even bother to take a pic of it.)  I ripped off the painting (that was on canvas) and was left with the frame, which was in good condition.

I had a roll of chicken wire that I'd stashed in my gardening shed and two pieces of wood (about a foot long) that I decided would make good stakes to hold the pea trellis in the ground.

First, I attached the wooden stakes to the frame using screws.  Okay, my wonderful teen son attached the stakes to the frame using screws.  (Take advantage of free labor as much as you can!)

Once you've attached the stakes, you could paint or stain the frame.  Make sure you use a paint or stain that will withstand the weather.  We elected not to paint or stain it because quite frankly, I wanted to get it into the ground and there were April rain clouds moving through.  Plus, I wasn't sure how comfortable I was with paint that close to pea plants.

Next, he unrolled the length of chicken wire to fit the length of the frame, then stapled the chicken wire to the frame.

It just so happened that the chicken wire was the perfect width for the frame.  No, we didn't plan it that way--it just happened!

Once the chicken wire is stapled all around, was time to put it into the ground! We put it close to the peas, but not on top of them. (We didn't want to damage the seedlings.) We pushed the stakes into the soil until the frame was about half an inch from the ground.  I didn't want the frame resting on the soil, as it would hasten the decay of the wood.

Now, it's ready for the peas!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Buttons + Paint = Funky Art

What do you get when you mix buttons and paint and imagination?  Why, you get art of course!

These button painting are made by taking a blank canvas, adding paint, mixed with a bit of imagination, a smidgen of creativity and a few buttons.  Presto, chango, you have art!

The paint I used was a combination of the acrylic paint that can be purchased at any craft store, and some oops sample paint I bought on clearance at my local hardware store. (I love a good bargain!)

First, let's create the background by taking the darker paint and then blending it with the lighter paint.  You'll want to work rather quickly, as acrylic paint dries pretty fast, and once it's dried, it's set.  With the paint wet, you'll add each color, one at a time, blending one color into the next, avoiding any sharp lines of color.

Until finally, you have a blended color background.

Set it aside and let it dry completely.

(Since I was working on several of these at one time, you'll notice the backgrounds may be different in some of the following photos.  The technique though is the same.)

Okay, let's make the tree!  Using the acrylic craft paint, paint out your tree.  I like to use a contrasting color for the tree, and I learned the hard way that it's much easier to use a smaller brush to paint the trees than it is to use one too big.  (Although the smaller brush may take more time, it gives you more control of what your end result looks like.)

(Sorry for the glare on the pic!)

Once everything is dry, you can start selecting your buttons. 

You can use matching color buttons, or a mix of color buttons, or all the same type or same size--it's up to you. 

Before you glue your buttons, do a dry placement (without glue).  This allows you to decide where to place the buttons without smearing glue all over your painting.

A word about the glue.  I used simple craft glue (not something like Elmer's glue) that I picked up at my local craft store.  I don't think the brand matters as much, as long as it dries transparent!  Make sure your glue dries clear!!!!

What about those buttons with the little pieces on the back that raise them off the surface?  Take an Exacto knife (or razor blade) and put a little X-shaped hole in your canvas wherever you want your button to be. 

"CUT INTO MY CANVAS?!?!" you might be saying.  Yes, that's exactly what you want to do, but cut a tiny, itty-bitty X-shaped hole.  You can always cut larger if you need to.  You want a hole just big enough to slip the back of the button through it.

Once you have your button placement figured out, start gluing!  A little dab on the back of each button is all you need.  When the glue is dry, you're ready to move onto the next step--edging your art.

Unless I'm using a frame (which I'm not on these), I like to use black paint to give the edges a finished look.  Simply use black acrylic paint to paint the outside edges of the art.

Again, let everything dry.  When it's all dry, then it's ready to hang!

Blue background with yellow tree and mix of yellow and blue buttons.

Green background with dark brown three and mix of brown buttons and brown beads.

Red & yellow background with black tree and a mix of red and black buttons.

I like them hung together for a more dramatic impact.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Tubers in tubes--growing lots of potatoes in potato tubes


Remember those tomato cages we made?  Remember how I said they'd also work for potato tubes?


(Psssst!  You may want to read this post!)

Now you have the tomato cages-slash-potato tubes, so what's next?

Well, let's plant some potatoes!

Supplies you'll need for potato tubes:
  • Wire Potato tubes we built
  • Potatoes (see below)
  • Straw (we used about half a bale of straw for two tubes)
  • Compost and soil mixture (we used one bag of store bought compost and half a bag of top soil mix which filled about 3/4 of a potato tube)
  • Water

Could you plant the potatoes in the ground? Absolutely. Farmers and gardeners have planted potatoes in the ground since the beginning of potato planting time. Potatoes like to be planted in the ground. The ground likes having potatoes. It's a happy potato and ground family.

But, it also takes up space, and if you're limited on how much space you have, because you like planting, say...tomatoes, and peas, and squash and zucchini, and eggplants, and corn and...well, all that vegetable goodness, then planting space may be of demand.

With potato tubes, you can plant quite a bit more potatoes than if you'd planted them in the ground. (Some sources say up to 25 pounds of potatoes can grow in one of these things! But, I'm still in the experimental stage and haven't weighted the amount of potatoes yet.)

So, if you have one potato plant, stick it in the ground.  If you want to plant a lot of potatoes (and harvest a lot of potatoes), then you may want to consider using a potato tube. 

First, you'll need one (or more) of those nifty tomato cages/potato tubes we created.

And you'll need some potatoes.

You know those potatoes you have in the back of your pantry--the ones with the weird root things coming out of them?  (Those weird root things are called eyes.)  They'll work.

Or, you can buy some seed potatoes.  I have a mix of the weird rooted pantry potatoes and purple seed potatoes.

You need only one eye per potato to grow, so if you potato has more than one eye, then cut between the eyes (ouch!) and you'll have two potatoes to plant.  Let the cut pieces sit (or dry) for about 24 hours before planting though.

Now, about those potato tubes....

I strongly recommend using the straw to line the potato tubes.  The straw keeps the compost mixture in place, plus it helps keep the compost mixture moist and from drying out in the sun. 

Take some of the straw and place it in the bottom of the potato tube--about 6-8 inches thick.  Bring it up a bit on the sides (about an inch or two), creating a "bowl" in which you'll add the compost mixture.

Next, place about 8-12 inches of the compost mixture in the bottom of the potato tube, breaking up any big chunks of compost. 

Next, place your potatoes in atop the compost mixture with the eyes facing towards the straw.  You want them fairly close to the straw (maybe even a bit closer than these were in the pic).  You can see that we had a mixture of purple and pantry potatoes.  (The two at 9:00 and 10-ish are the pantry potatoes.)

Add about 8-12 inches of soil to the top of the potatoes, and add more potatoes, building up the sides with the straw as you go. 

You really should water each layer, but I forgot until I'd finished and just soaked the potato tube really well. 

At the end, you'll have a potato tube as tall (or nearly as tall) as your wire tube.  You can either top with straw (to maintain the moisture), or plant some plants in there.  If I had some plants ready to be planted (like maybe some eggplant), I'd drop it in there.  I will once it's ready.

Now, about the potatoes growing...within a few weeks, you should notice greenery coming out the sides of your potato tubes.  (Sorry I don't have any pics yet because, well, mine haven't started sprouting yet.)  When will you have potatoes, you ask?

The potato greenery will get bushy.  Very bushy.  Don't go digging up the potatoes yet. 

Then, your potato greenery will get little white flowers.  Don't go digging up the potatoes yet.

Then, it will seem like your potatoes are starting to die.  You can dig up a few then.  (Start from the top and dig some out, leaving the potato greenery.)  By the end of the growing season, when your potato plants start to look like they're really starting to die, THEN you can dig out your potatoes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Supporting your tomatoes--now's the time to start thinking about it

Remember all those little tomato seeds you planted?

Little seedlings:

Before you know it, they'll be in your garden and be huge tomato plants like this:

This picture was take summer of 2011 before the tomato plants fully developed.  See those tiny yellow flowers on them?  They are tomatoes-to-be. 

To support these plants, you'll need cages. 

Now, you can buy cages, but (1) the can be expensive, especially if you're buying several and (2) they can be flimsy, which means those cute little seedlings will grow into big plants that will bully flimsy tomato cages. 

This defeats the purpose of tomato cages, which is to support the tomato plant and keep it off the ground, where it can be at risk for too much moisture (which will cause disease and distress) or pests (like the naughty mole that ate my tomatoes last year because I didn't have them in cages).

So, let's talk about making cages to support your tomatoes.

First, is to get the materials you'll need. 

We used a wire garden fencing that you can get at any home improvement store or garden center.  Our was about four feet tall.

My wonderful teen son did this for me (while I took the pictures) and you'll notice he's wearing his gloves. 

Unroll the wire to about four to five feet in length.  Then, use a pair of wire cutters or snipping shears to cut the wire.  You'll want to cut it so that you have pieces that you can later use to fold back.  Yes, these will look like little spikes and will ACT like little spikes if you're not careful.

You can see that the length is about 4 feet or so.

Next, roll it up so that the spikes cross over at least one row of the squares.  Then, you'll simply bend the spikes back to make a large loop that will catch the solid square.  Do this to all of the squares, since it will "latch" the ends together.

This is somewhat of a blurry pic, but you may be able to tell how the spike is now looped back in on itself, around the solid piece. 

When you're finished, you'll have a circle of wired fencing, perfect for a tomato plant.

Or a potato tube!

Oh, I didn't mention the potato tubes?

Hmmmm...I'll have to see what I can do about that!