A site about our home, doing it yourself, science in schools, and the ramblings of a girl who appreciates a joy in her life.

Monday, April 30

Backyard Garden Fence-In Progress

The fence is looking good!
Whew, it has been a busy week. Last Saturday was the Oregon State Science Olympiad competition, and we were really busy. So busy, I could hardly tell if I was coming or going. Because of that, we stalled out on our new garden area. We did get some work done before that, so I thought I would write up a little blog post showing off our new fence for our garden area. It’s so gorgeous. I love the clean look of the red cedar. I am going to leave it that way for now, and when it grays out, I will whitewash it so it looks fresh again.
Here is the garden after we ripped out the shed.
The plan has been to put up a fence around our garden area to keep out our puppy Tesla. We also wanted the fence to really “make” the area and define it.  Here is a picture of the area after we cleared out the old shed. You can read more about that in our past post.


Hard at work!
After the shed was cleared out, we set out to create a fence to keep the area safe. We used cedar for it longevitiy. Rather that buy pre-made fence pieces, we decided to go with a make it our self approach.
Showing off the hardest part of the job.














We used 10 foot long cedar 4 by 4's for the main posts. We cut all but two of them in half to support the fence. We left two of them tall to act as the entry way. We sunk each post down two feet and anchored the middle and end posts in concrete. 
Our messy work area

Corner Post
We attached the long boards with brackets and long 2 by 4 cedar pieces. We wanted cedar as it does better in our rainy northwest and won't leach out nasty chemicals like the pre-treated boards will. To get the fence level, we leveled every board. That was by far the hardest part!  After the cross pieces were in, we put up the cedar boards. We spaced them with the width of a cedar post between them. Since the space was not an exact fit, we would start at both end of each section and then "eye-ball" it to make the spacing work out. It actually looks great, and you ca't tell the difference in the spacing on the whole fence. My husband did not want the corner post sticking out, so he cut a fence picket in half and nailed it on.   It looks nice, and helps the eye look at the whole piece without noticing anything sticking out. 
Entry way
Our next step is to hang the door that we made and put up a small arbor over the entry way. We have a small wisteria that we have been taking care of for two years that will grow well over that spot and make it look nice and green.  So that's the progress of or garden fence for now. I have included a lovely picture of our huge cherry tree to show off that Spring is coming! 

Wednesday, April 18

DIY Tea Cup Bird Feeders and Water Baths

I was on Pinterest looking for ideas for yard decorations. As I was doing so, I remembered seeing tea cup bird feeders at the Farmer’s Market last year, and thinking that I could do that at home. The bird feeders were recycled tea cups and saucers on poles to stick in your backyard. I searched on Pinterest and found a couple of examples. They come in lots of varieties, but all function the same. For some they include a spoon for birds to rest on, others fill both the cup and saucer with seed, while some fill the cup with water and the saucer with seed. Some people placed the cups on their own little stands using PVC pipe or copper tubing, while some suspended them from wire to hand in the trees. I fell in love with the idea. I like garden art, and a chance to make my own little something for the backyard felt great.

I had quite the weekend gathering all of my supplies, and it was a blast and full of great deals. For this project here are the supplies that you need:
·         Cup and Saucer of any kind or style that you like
·         Pole-1/2 inch copper or ¾ inch PVC works best
·         Cap for your pole type
·         Glue-I used the Amazing Goop
·         Spoons
·         Spray Paint-if you use PVC
·         Sandpaper

To gather all of my supplies I went to a couple of different stores. I already had on cup and saucer that I had picked up in College in some sort of vain hope of having lovely tea parties that never seemed to pan out, and since I don’t drink coffee or tea that much, it never really got used. To pick up more cups I went to Goodwill and the Salvation Army stores. The Goodwill store had a whole shelf of matched cups and saucers, however the cheapest, ugliest ones were starting at $6. I did not want to spend that much on something going into the garden, so I made my own set my picking a really neat saucer from the single dishes pile, and nice cup from the mug wall. I made two sets this way, one costing $1.50, and one costing $2.00. Afterwards we went to the Salvation Army where everything was 50% off! I picked up a matching cup and saucer from Japan made in 1961 for only $1.50. I also picked up a pretty blue Bavarian china set that had 4 dinner plates, 4 dessert plates, 4 saucers, and 3 cups at half off for only $6.25. We were going to just go donate the extra plates back to the Salvation Army, but we thought it might be fun to eat off of nice china for a while, so we kept them. I also got a medium sized blue china bowl that I thought that I would make into a standalone bird bath. I picked up the Goop at Home Depot for $4.99. I also got a 6 ft. length of ½ inch pipe for $5 as they did not have the 10ft pieces in stock, and only had cut piece left. I picked up a second copper pipe of 5 ft. for $7 the next day at a different Home Depot. I picked up several ½ inch copper pipe caps for $0.67 each. Because I was worried that the bird bath might need a little more stability I decided to go a wider route. To achieve this, I bought a flat ¾ inch PVC pipe cap for $1.20 and a 10ft. length of ¾ inch PVC for $2.15. I also purchased a small drill bit that would fit in my Dremel and drill through China.

I drilled a small hole in the side of the bowl about half way up, so that the bowl could never overfill. I also did this because I had heard the birds won’t use birdbaths that are too deep.  I tried to drill a hole in the saucers, but that turned out to really hard, so I just left them as they were.

 I glued the cups to the saucers with the Amazing Goop and left them over night to dry. To do this, you first apply glue to both pieces that you want glued and then let them sit for 2-10 minutes.  At this point, I also glued the spoons onto the pieces that I thought that the spoons would look great on. I lightly sanded the copper caps and then the bottom of the saucers to help with hold. I then glued the copper caps to the bottom of the saucers.

On one of the cups and saucers, I used PVC pipe. Prior to gluing the PVC pieces on, I spray painted the pipe and the copper with Oil Rubbed Bronze spray paint.  I then glued the cap to the bowl or saucer. I also cut the bottom of the PVC at a slight angle, so it would go more easily into the dirt. These pieces were actually really sturdy.
It’s funny, I should have taken more pictures of the finished projects, but I gave two of them away already and it’s been raining a lot lately. Here is a shot of the some that I have in my backyard right now. They are really study and have been through a storm already and survived. The only weird thing is that when there is water in the bottom of the saucer, the cup and saucer can come apart with a suction sound. However, when you put them back together and let them dry, they are solid again. So I just left them alone after the rain and they dried out just fine. They birds have already been using the water bath parts and it’s been great.


Thursday, April 12

Ripping out the Old Shed and Starting a new Garden


We did it! We killed the rusty old shed in our back yard. I feel like a little kid doing a happy dance. Picture me spinning around in circles pumping my fists into the air. That’s how great it feels. In our backyard we had two sheds eating up quite a bit of space. One of the sheds actually houses our backyard equipment. The other shed just stored remodel trash that did not make it into the dumpsters. This second shed, besides being redundant leaked, had a large population of spiders, and the doors were broken. Both sheds were sitting on concrete pads, and quite honestly we liked where the second shed was better in terms of our yard, however we can’t afford to purchase a new shed right now, so we are just working with what we have. It’s a nice spot with lots of sunlight and ripping out the shed has made our yard fill so much bigger!

After we ripped out the old shed, we started on our new plot to make over our backyard into a great garden space. My husband picked up a book on homesteading in the backyard, and since we have really enjoyed our gardens in the past, it’s been fun to plan a bigger space. We plan on filling the space where the old shed was with nice raised garden beds. This should help to keep it nice and tidy. We are going to put up a little fence around the space to keep Tesla out.


To get rid of the metal, we just stuck it out front with a free sign. The metal was literally gone within 5 minutes. To get rid of the yard debris, we loaded up our little truck and took it down to the nearby landscaping store. It only cost $7 a load and they take all the large pieces of wood we can’t get into our recycling bin. We rented a jackhammer from Home Depot for 4 hours to break up the concrete pad.  It only took about 2 hours, but we were glad to have the extra time to help with our aching backs! We took two loads of concrete and stone to the landscaping place and dumped them for only $10, which is nice because it’s gone. We had a pile of stone in the corner of the yard from the previous owner that was a nice place for spiders and nothing else, so we cleaned up that area too. Erik read this article about making stepping stone chunks out of the concrete as you go, so he created 12 big pieces to act as nice stepping stores in our new garden area. The stones are nice, and its fun that we got them from the pad, plus it meant less rock for us to carry and get rid of! The best part!



The new garden area is already looking cleaner. The next step is to build the raised beds and load them with dirt and plants. Hopefully we will get to them this weekend. After that we are going to design a nice little fence for around the garden. Hopefully its strong enough to withstand the tornado known as Tesla.

Last week we also cleaned up a little side spot on the back yard. Erik weeded it and laid down the fabric garden netting. This nice little space joins the large raised bed Erik created this fall. He built a tall garden bed to help with drainage problems in the back corner of the yard. It actually the nicest spot in our yard. With the new garden coming though, it might have some competition.


Friday, April 6

DIY Terrarium from a Glass Globe

Globe from Habitat for Humanity Store
So I really like small dainty home d├ęcor items. I have a million small plants in small cute pots. I have lots of little candle holders. You get the idea. One of the ideas that I had seen pop up a lot lately is a resurgence of old school terrariums. Since, plants and I stuggle to get along, I mean seriously, them come to my house to die, a terrarium seemed like a nice little thing to make that would essentially be self-self-supporting and contained. I liked it! It's the same reason I love those glass water globes that you can buy at Home Depot. They have saved many a plant.



Making the stand
Painted Stand
 My husband actually made the whole project for me as a present. I was busy working on sanding the chairs and cursing their existence. He got the idea from some of the things I had shown him on my Pinterest page. I had purchased the globe to make a bird feeder, but he snagged it up claiming it for this project before I could use it. I purchased the globe from the Habitat for Humanity store for $0.50. Nice deal right?  To make the stand, he used scraps of wood. He free-handed making the stand by cutting three small pieces that were taller on one end than the other. He then sanded them down to make them smooth and glued them together with wood glue and a clamp. He spray painted the final stand a brown color that comes up often in my living room.

Soil and sand mixture
Mixing the sand and soil

To make the terrarium part that holds the plant, he layered soil, sand, and coconut fiber for the plant bed. To make the first layer, he cut a piece off of a coconut fiber planter bowl that was $1 at the Dollar tree. He then mixed a small container of backyard soil and sand together. This helps with soil drainage.  He layered the dirt onto of the coconut fiber and tried to make it level. To decorate the terrarium he picked some rocks out of our yard and one of the neighbors rock driveways ( shh don’t tell).

Putting the coconut fibers in the bowl
Layering the dirt
For plants, we went around the yard looking for small delicate weeds and moss. Yup, we transplanted weeds, but as my husband noted he only picked the prettiest ones that since they are weeds would be really hardy. See he was looking out for me and trying to pick the survivors. The moss looked great next to the rocks, and the little grasses and flowers complimented each other really well.

So far it’s been a week and the terrarium is still alive and the plants look great. The little purple leaves on the front plant have curled some, so I make take those out. The moss is still alive and looks great. Its been fun to have the little planter. Right now it’s sitting on my bookshelf next to my phone charger so I see it every day. It was a nice gift from my husband and a really easy project to make. Total cost for $1.50! Even if you had to go out and buy the dirt and sand, since it takes so little you might be better off just buying a potted succulent. The rocks were just found items, but some of the terrariums that I have seen have all kinds of pretty figures and stones in them. I really just like the simple natural look of this one.

Wednesday, April 4

Quick Easter Craft-Yarn Easter Eggs

So this year has been very crazy and I feel like I have not had much time to sit back and celebrate some holidays.  I take holidays very seriously and love any chance for a good celebration. I decorate in some way for pretty much any holiday or reason. I just like having all the bright colors around and changing out decorations. I think that I might start a new decorating trend where you leave up your holiday decorations year-round for all the holidays. This would be some kind of Christmas, 4th of July, Halloween, mash-up. Sounds like a great house! Anyways, due to being so busy, I have not had a chance to put up any decorations for Easter. I poked around for a fun easy craft and found a site (http://www.simplymodernmom.com/2011/04/yarn-egg-surprise-tutorial/) that had directions to make these cute yarn eggs. I did not have any mod-podge, but I had some Elmer’s glue and a lot of yarn. So to make the eggs, I gathered all my supplies. I used paper cups as stands for the eggs, paper bowls to hold the glue, yarn leftover from other projects, and wax paper to protect the surface. I stopped by Target and picked up a container of water balloons. This was the only part of the project that cost money, and it set me back $3, besides now I have a nice stash of water balloons for the future.



I mixed the glue with some water to make it a little thinner. After I mixed the glue, I carefully blew up the balloons. That was the hardest part. The balloons kept popping, or my cat Schroder would helpfully bat them around until they popped. 

After blowing up the balloons, I cut a length of string that was about 4 arm lengths. I took the string and dipped it in the glue bowl. I then squeezed the string to get all the excess glue out, and started wrapping it around the balloon. I noticed after my first one, that I had left an area around the balloon end mostly free, so for the next ones I tried to really fill in that space. I placed the balloons on paper cups to dry and cleaned up the mess by throwing it away.

I let the balloons dry for 24 hours. The next afternoon, I popped each balloon with a pair of scissors and then picked the balloon bits out. One of the balloons made the saddest sound and sucked the egg into a small ball. I thought for sure that it was ruined, but I was able to reform the egg. It’s not the soundest one of the bunch, but it still has an egg shape.
The eggs had a great shape and were not as delicate as I thought that they would be. I put them back in their cups for a while so that the slightly damp spots could dry.


 After the eggs were completely dried,  I put them in a bowl that we had. The bowl was a wedding present and has some nice color to it. The eggs look like a lot of fun. The cat is especially interested in them. I am sure when I get home the eggs will be strewn around the living room. I am not worried though because they seem really sturdy. My tips for this project are:

1.       Use Mod Podge. I think that would work better than Elmer’s glue. The glue was clumpy and shows in spots on the eggs.

2.       Make sure you get the ends well covered in string so it has a nice egg shape.

3.       Move the eggs a little while they are drying so they don’t stick to the cup.

4.       Make extra for your cat.

Monday, April 2

DIY Mecury Glass Votives

So lately I have been trying to make a few things off of Pinterest. If I see an idea and I like it (and it fits the budget) I have just been jumping in with both feet. So far its been an absolute blast! I found a project to make your own Mercury Glass items. While I am not a big fan of mercury glass, (the imperfections drive me bonkers), I saw that my mom had liked it, and I though that it might fit in well with her style. With my parent's anniversary coming up, I thought that I would try to make them a present that they would like. The candle holders seemed like a great idea.
Supplies
I gathered up all my items. Pretty much that meant scouring the house for clear glass items. I wanted a way to test out the technique first, so I found two old clear candle holders that had previously held  candles but had been cleaned out. I also found a couple of small glass vases to try out the mirror effect. I pre-washed all of the items, since they were not brand new. I just hot water and dish soap and let them air dry.


So, just to be clear and simple, here are the supplies:
  • I used clear candle holders that I had gotten from IKEA.  Cost-already owned.
  • I got the Krylon Looking Glass Spray from Amazon. Cost- $13 
  • I used blue painters tape to tape off the outside. Cost-already owned
  • 50% Vinegar Spray. Cost-already owned


First coat
After cleaning the votives, I taped the outside with blue painters tape. I did this because I tend to get into spray painting and it gets everywhere. By taping down the outside of the class, I would not have to scrape off extra paint later. Also, I started the tape just below the top, so that the rim of each votive would have a nice silver look. To spray paint them, I did one coat at a time really lightly. Then I would gently spin them around until the paint had stopped making a puddle on the bottom. This way spread the paint around better and conserved the really expensive looking glass paint. The paint is really thin and likes to run down the sides, so turning it helps it keep the sides coated.


Sprayed with the Vinegar Solution
After spraying a coat, you let it dry for about a minute, and spray again. I just sprayed my votives one after the other and the timing seemed to work out great. After applying 5 coats, you then want to spray it with a 50% vinegar solution. I took 2 cups Vinegar and 2 cups warm water and mixed them into a spray bottle. I practiced a light mist a few times and then sprayed the inside of each votive. I tried a couple of different waiting times, but it seemed that the longer you let the vinegar sit on the paint the better the removed spots looked. Ten minutes seemed to work great. To remove the spots, wet a paper towel down with the vinegar solution and rub in small circles on the paint on the inside of the glass. Sometime to get a spot started I would scratch at it a little with my finger nail.

Puppy helper Tesla
I did this whole process outside, so I could get messy with the vinegar. Tesla really liked to steal the wet paper towels and rip them to bits when I was busy. I am telling you, that puppy was a big help in the process. If I had any spots get too big, I would gently wipe out the rest of the vinegar solution and lightly spray a couple of layers on the inside of the glass, let them dry and then repeat the vinegar part again. I got the hang of it after a couple of tries.


All finished and drying outside on a beautiful day
Several blogs I read, said not to let the paint dry too long, or it gets really hard to remove the paint with vinegar. Also, it took some wrist power to get the spots scrubbed out, more than I thought it would. Some people went back over the spots with one light coat of paint, or some black/gold acrylic paint, but I liked the look of just clear spots. I figured the candles would have a nice warm glow coming from them when lit. All in all, the project was really easy and relatively inexpensive. I sprayed a couple of vases with the mirror paint while I was at it, and I love the sleek mirrored finish. My Mom really likes the candles and it was a lot of fun to make her a nice gift.
The finished product-Candle Holders