24 April 2011

Images of Easter

Wild chives from the yard

plus fresh eggs from the girls
 make fabulous scrambled eggs with chives and cheese

plus a fresh loaf of Sara's vitamin E bread equals yum!

William plays with his new knitted chick

while Savannah models her new "owl" attire.

William finds some "eggies" for his basket

Savannah fills her basket

We plant a new tree with five types of grafts

and some roses in a hedge.

And we goofed around a bit

and a bit more...

okay, maybe there was a lot of goofing around!

17 April 2011

Simple stair bookshelf

We have particularly wide stairs with nice wide landings. I think they are perfect for more bookshelves, since it seems no matter how many books I donate to the library, we always need room for more.

Using a 1 x 12 pine board, I constructed this small bookshelf. It is very solid, even though I didn't use wood glue in addition to screws this time. I intended to back it, but like it so much plain, I'm going to live with it for a while before I decide whether or not to tack on a back. It's only 18" tall but it keeps with the openness of this contemporary house. I primed it and painted it with two coats of a muted sage green sample paint I had in my paint closet - one of the rejects for the upstairs bathroom. My intention for this book case was for it to hold reference books that everyone in the family uses, to get them out of the office and to place them closer to where we use them. The basket holds my Mother Earth News magazines, which I read once cover to cover, then consult over and over again.

I used the top to display some of Kevin's Air Force honors and USATF awards, which had been collecting dust in a corner, and our wedding ducks. In some Asian cultures, wedding ducks are given as a symbol of life long commitment, as ducks mate for life. They believe the spirit of the carver enters the ducks, which impart the carver's good fortunes on the married couple. The ducks symbolize peace, inseparableness, and many children. I sometimes forget they are supposed to be placed bill to bill, not tail to tail, which is a sign of a tiff.

This is the first time I primed my wood before painting it and I can't believe the difference - the paint went on so quickly and smoothly there's not a brush stroke on this piece. It looks much more professional than some of my other pieces. I guess I finally learned something.

12 April 2011

Spring chores

It seems that as soon as the ground thaws, there's a long list of chores needing attention around here. Fortunately, with good weather over the weekend, I could get some odd jobs done outside while the kids played ball, chased the chickens, and climbed trees. I was able to build two of the three raised cedar beds I wanted for the garden this year. We are trying out some new gardening techniques with the crops we've had difficulty with in the past years - mainly because of critters eating them. Mine are constructed from 1 x 4 cedar lumber in 8 foot lengths because it's cheapest to build them with these materials and because 8 ft is the maximum length I can fit in the car. These beds are 2 x 6 feet and 11" high so they are easily portable. I used a cedar 2 x 4 for the corner supports.

Of course, right after building these, I discovered another design that I fell in love with. The main difference is simply that this raised bed plan anticipates critter problems so it includes covering the bottom with hardware cloth to prevent moles from digging through the bottom and uses PVC tubing to create hoops to drape bird cloth over the top keeping out birds and many insects as well. You could alternate using bird cloth with frost cloth to extend the growing season as well. In the above photo, you can see I've installed the PVC piping in one of the raised beds already. Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way that you can't bend 1/2" PVC tubing across a 2-foot span - it's simply not flexible enough. So, I will be using traditional metal hoops for the cedar beds that fit inside the PVC instead.

I decided to adapt this hoop method to the strawberry fountain, which our chickens and the crows like to get into once the strawberries appear. I can't wait to fill the new raised beds with soil and compost and get started but we're not yet past our last frost date. At the moment I have the greenhouse filled with baby seedlings waiting to be transplanted. With the hoops over the tops of the new raised beds, I'm considering trying to keep them covered with frost cloth to protect them from frost and transplanting early, we'll see how brave I get. (The greenhouse is also filled with fluffy baby Buff Orpington chicks!)

After all the rain from last week, the ground was perfectly soft and soggy for digging holes for planting new blueberry bushes and raspberries this weekend. I set one new blueberry plant in digging a much larger hole and layering soil, straw, and chicken manure compost in the bottom of it. I always separate the root bundle and splay it out to help encourage the roots to grow deeper. I also planted three Heritage raspberry plants to expand our patch and replace some of the canes that didn't make it from last year. One of my favorite things about summer is taking the children to the garden to have their snack. They love picking the fresh raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and blueberries for themselves. They pop cherry tomatoes in their mouths like candies and wonder why tomatoes from the store don't taste like these. They eat all the sugar snap peas so that they never make it to the house. This year, I'm expanding our sugar snap pea patch by four fold so some will surely make it to the house, I hope.