28 September 2010

New bench

For a while I've wanted an outdoor bench or a pair of outdoor benches that we could use near the pond to throw our towels on and just sit and watch the sun set over the water's edge or drag over to the bonfire area so we can sit comfortably while watching the tendrils of orange and yellow dance. And don't forget the marshmallows!

Kevin put me on a lumber diet, that is he refused to go to the store to purchase the lumber I wanted to build a pair of benches, so I decided to rummage through the scrap pile of lumber in the barn to see what I could find. I ended up building this on the fly and am really pleased with it. After some light sanding, my mom stained the bench with two coats to match the deck. The stain also protects the wood from the outdoors and hides the fact that I've used three different types of wood to build it. I'm glad this bench turned out the way it did, sometimes having a handicap or challenge makes you find creative ways to solve a problem.

Bench in use for our first bonfire of the year.

But now that our farm truck hasn't passed inspection, I won't be able to make trips to the lumber store for a whole year (that's how long we plan to try to keep the truck around to plow the driveway, but the truck may have plans of its own). Anyway, next time you visit, maybe you can join us for an evening bonfire on a starry night.

Savannah is the patient marshmallow roaster, waiting for the coals and turning her stick evenly.

Come share some smores with us!

22 September 2010

Greenhouse cleanup

As my summer garden is winding down and my fall crops are busy growing without any help from me, I've been fantasizing about a winter garden. We have a very odd greenhouse that is attached to our home. It is triangular in shape and the point faces south. It is what gardeners call a cold greenhouse because it is not heated throughout the winter so the temperature can fall fairly close to freezing. I've used it to start seeds but haven't kept much growing in it since spring.

View of one side of the greenhouse from the garden. Each side has four sliding glass doors except for the one inside the house (the hypotenuse), which has five.

My greenhouse has been a mess lately so today I spent some time cleaning it up and decided that I wanted to build a table for the corner. Fortunately, I had a piece of plywood in the barn, one last 2x4 and some scrap 1x3 from Savannah's piano bench. During William's nap time, I came up with this:

My wild sweet basil plants started from seed but never transplanted in the garden.
It turned out well enough since it fits two planting flats across it with room on one side for my watering can and room on the other for my plant food, seeds, and wooden labels.

Two planting tray flats deep, one with my seedling herbs, the other with my huge basil plants.
I'm trying to grow some more herbs and winter plants in the greenhouse this year so we'll see how it turns out. I like the idea of tending to green things all year but the truth is that during especially busy weeks I often lapse on my end of the commitment (ahem, watering).

My simple little corner table setup. I wanted something that wouldn't obstruct the view of our garden, woods, or fields. There's plenty of room beneath for two of my 30" trays for lettuces as well.

Savannah is growing some of her own chives by seed and chocolate mint transplanted from a neighbor's garden, so hopefully she'll help me keep up with it when I'm having a hard week. William also loves to dig his little fingers in the soil of my pots and walk around with the watering can pretending to water them. He also helps me pick the leaves off the basil and oregano to add them to my marinara sauce, which he likes to eat.

The start of a great marinara - tomatoes, onions, zucchini, squash, basil and oregano from our garden and garlic and carrots from our CSA.
I hope we can keep the greenhouse going for as long as possible this winter. Plants bring me so much peace and contentment.

20 September 2010

Piano bench for Savannah

A while back I built a piano table for my daughter, who spent the better half of the year practicing piano on the floor. The problem was that after having to sit on the floor, she then had to stand up to play.

So finally, I made her the piano bench she needed, and just in time with music starting in September.

Of all the things I've built, I think this was the quickest, nicest one of all. The pine wood was smooth and straight and a dream to work with and despite the more complicated manner I chose to assemble the bench, it turned out perfectly level, more a relief than point of pride.

Jamming out together: Savannah practices for her evening concert "The Wheels on the Bus", while William copies big sister as best he can.
It fits both of my rascals and is hard to tip - a must for my rascally little climber. The wood was so beautiful, it was almost a shame to paint it, but in the end, I opted to paint it to match the white piano table. It has two coats of white, the same paint I had leftover from all the trim work, and two topcoats of a clear semi-gloss enamel to make it easy to wipe down and smooth to sit on.

Can't wait for all the evening concerts Savannah will treat us to. We are ready!

15 September 2010

Front door

When we moved in to this house, the front door was red and the back door and side doors were bright royal blue, the shade of blue you see all over Greece on the domes of churches. I had planned to replace these door colors eventually but we continued to disagree on door color. My mom wanted eggplant or blue, Kevin wanted brown or red and I wanted green. Then this summer in the blazing heat and humidity, the front door began peeling, first a red layer and then a blue layer of paint until we were left with a metal door that was primed only.

Ugh! All the paint peeled off, leaving behind white primer. I sanded the door with the orbital sander and then painted it.

It was time to do something about the door color and perhaps conveniently, my husband was out of town and therefore, didn't get much of a say in the color I selected. He was home though to watch the kids play in the sandbox while I painted it.

The color is Forestwood by Sherwin Williams and I think it coordinates very well with the exterior of the home as well as the new muted brown stain on the deck. So far I've painted the front door and the back door, inside and out but the deck door is still eagerly waiting its turn.

14 September 2010


We really like compost around here. Any of my plants that grow outside in our garden flourish in it, especially when compared to the plants in my greenhouse that are grown from organic soil arriving in bags from Agway.

There are many styles of composting, usually dependent on the composter. I happen to be a lazy composter - that is, the type of gardener who piles things into the compost and lets them simmer on low for a full year, without doing a thing. The chickens are very helpful in this department, as they regularly till the compost with their capable feet, seeking bits of food scraps and juicy worms to supplement their diet.

The old scrap wood compost bin on the left and the new scrap wood compost bin on the right. Once we till last year's compost into the garden soil this fall, we'll face both the bins in the same direction.

But one thing we do not like about composting with chickens is that they flatten out the pile so that instead of a neat mound of compost, (with a hot middle) you end up with bits of corn husk blowing around your lawn after the chickens have clawed through it. So, it was time for me to build another compost bin. With the slim bits of scrap wood left over in our barn for the task, it was much more of a challenge this time than last time. I solved the problem by using a middle support beam so that I could use smaller scraps of wood. I still need to add one or two thin boards to the bin. Kevin shoveled and raked up all the compost, which was as rich and dark on the bottom as chocolate cake, into the new bin. Let's hope it holds up for a good few years against the chickens!

05 September 2010

Catching up

You may be wondering why you haven't heard from us in so long. Some of the reasons include, William was sick for 7 weeks this summer, although not continuously, Savannah has been busy with various summer camps, Kevin has been busy with a new position he accepted at work which has kept him traveling, and I've been busy trying to juggle everything from a sick baby, full-time work, a daughter who needs to be driven all over the place, a husband who has been away, house guest after house guest, and a million other garden and farm things that needed my attention (and on a small enough amount of sleep that I'm sure it qualifies as sleep deprivation, which makes me a little loopy and cranky).

Some of the things we've completed this summer include refinishing and staining the deck, a chore my mother mainly took on herself with some help from Kevin. We love the new deck stain (Tugboat by Behr), which complements the house siding color and the natural colors of the outdoors. We hope this will give us three more years on a deck that will eventually need replacing.

Here's the deck before, with paint peeling off, a view from afar.

Note the blue door that is also about to go...

Also, there was Savannah's play fort, a gift to her for her birthday from Mommy (who built it from scratch) and Daddy (who paid for the cedar lumber).

The playfort stage 1 is a success.
It doubles as a pirate lair.

Doesn't she look smashing as a pirate!?

Her other birthday gift was the adoption of a pair of two-year old female guinea pigs, a privilege she earned by being responsible for so long. She calls them Butterscotch and Katie (aka Fraidy Katie), who tends to be a bit more nervous about life than her sister. First I built them an indoor cage.

30" by 45" indoor cage made from cube grids and coroplast.
After Savannah read all about guinea pig care, she told me they needed an outdoor hutch or play area so I first built an A-frame structure for the girls that we moved around during the day to give them plenty of fresh grass to eat.
A-frame for the guinea girls made from scrap wood, hardware cloth and chicken wire.
Then I discovered that guinea pigs can be housed outdoors for much of the year in our climate so I built them their own proper hutch, which contains a metal cage that can be moved from the hutch to the ground so they can nibble on fresh grasses.

Savannah feeds the girls fresh hay.
Blue skies on the farm.
Kevin didn't like the first model of the hutch, which I just built from imagination, no plan in writing first, so I added a back wall to give them further protection from the wind and rain (what rain???) and provide more shade during the day. Since the guinea pigs can't nibble on the wooden frame of the hutch, which I constructed all from scrap wood, I decided to stain it the same color as our deck so it will weather better. Now the guinea girls stay outside all day and night unless the temp drops below 60F. Their droppings fall down the bottom and can be added directly to the compost pile behind them and Savannah brings them crab apples and treats and holds them.

Fancy outdoor living for the guinea girls.
Complete with the Kevin-approved rear wall for added protection.