Thursday, August 4, 2011

Let's grow stuff, ya'll

Now that I have a big yard I have finally decided to do something I've always wanted to do: grow a vegetable garden. (woo hoo, I live an exciting life!) I researched different ways to grow veggies and decided that due to the horrible condition of the dirt in my yard (i.e. clay mixed with sand), plus Rory's habit of uprooting all my plants that are planted in her reach, I needed to go with a raised and fenced plant bed.

I also did some research and found a method that I thought sounded easy to follow and would almost certainly make me successful: Square Foot Gardening. It's a way of separating your flower bed to make it the most efficient it can be. Since I'm all about helping these veggies reach their full potential, I thought it was a fit. So now I'm writing this post in hopes of helping anyone else out there who plans to create a similar full-potential veggie masterpiece.

So here is what I started with:

(2) 8-foot 2x6 boards (for the raised bed itself)
(6) 4-foot pieces of wood trim (for the grid lines)
Roll of weed barrier cloth (for the bottom)
Assorted bags of peat moss, potting soil, compost, and vermiculite (for "Mel's Mix")
Veggies (not pictured, but purchased at Dallas Farmer's Market for a steal!)

I also started with this:

That would be the remnants of my first attempt at composting, destroyed by the one and only Rory. It consists of chicken wire and metal corner posts, twisted into a disastrous mess of metal. This (after some untangling) will surround the bed when it's done.

I started by cutting my 2x6 boards in half, giving me 4 4-foot boards for the bed. I then stacked them and pre-drilled holes for the screws to connect them. I saw this tip online to stack the boards and let the top one stick out further than the rest to allow you to drill through it. Then you just kneel on the pile to hold them all in place while you drill. That little tip made it much easier to do this drilling/screwing thing by myself.

Notice the kneeling whilst drilling and also simultaneously taking a self-portrait? That's what we call multi-tasking my friends! (because yes- I did this entire project alone. Construction and all. Go me.)

After all holes were pre-drilled, I screwed the boards together to make a square. Alternate your ends so that the equal sized boards all fit together.

Bonus- here's another "How do I do this by myself?" trick... At first I was struggling screwing in the screws to the board and trying to hold the boards at the same time. Then I moved over to my patio, put the board facing out (straight ahead in the picture below) against my concrete step, lined up the board from the side (facing the left in the picture below) on the end, and then screwed in from there. The pressure of me pushing the drill into the wood pushed the main board against my step and I was able to focus only on holding the other board to make a right angle. Easy peasy. (but of course I didn't take a picture of it. But you can figure it out)

Once all boards were screwed together, I had this frame:

Score. But see all those weeds poking through from below? Not gonna happen. So I covered the bottom with weed barrier and stapled it to the edges so that it wouldn't move.

Take that weeds.
After placing the box where I wanted it, I filled it with "Mel's Mix" of 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 compost, and 1/3 vermiculite. This mix is said to keep nutrient-rich forever and make your plants bloom amazingly. So there ya go, veggies. Nothing but the best for you.

Now this is where the pictures get sparse... Originally I was going to put down a grid of wood trim (as the grid is the most important part of square-foot gardening). However, I didn't take in to account that a 4 foot piece of trim, fitting across a 4 foot square, doesn't leave much room for attaching it to the edges. Dang. So now what's my plan B?

I remembered that I had an old water hose out behind the shed that dear old Rory had chewed a hole through. (jeez- what am I raising? such a destructive hellion!) So I thought to myself, what if I could re-purpose that old hose into a new watering system while at the same time using it to mark the square grid?? Holy cow! What a great idea, self!

So off I went to get the hose and connect it in a grid-like pattern on my flower bed. Here is the best picture of said grid (post-planting, like I said- sparse pictures at this point).

I started with the hose in the back corner. I left the connector there so I could just connect my other hose whenever I wanted to water the veggies. I then used 2 nails on each side of the hose to help secure it along the sides of the bed where it "turned" to go in another direction. Then, once the entire grid was in place, I poked holes along the hose to make sure each "square" got some water spray- like a homemade drip system.

I used the extra hose at the end to drape onto my fence/window boxes that are holding assorted herbs:
After all plants were planted (according to a spacing guide found online- sorry, can't find the link now), I added the chicken wire and posts to (hopefully) keep the hellion at bay.

I planted Big Beef Tomatoes, Roma Tomatoes, Red Peppers, Sweet Banana Peppers and Jalapeno Peppers. In my herb baskets, I added Basil, Cilantro, Rosemary & Oregano.

Here are a few views from when they were planted in the spring:

I also had a couple of extra plants, so I added them to these empty pots:

LOOK! After a few weeks, I already have some peppers and tomatoes!

UPDATE: It is now August (I never posted this in the Spring like I meant to) and those little tomatoes and peppers you see above are THE ONLY veggies I got all Spring! It might have something to do with the Texas temps jumping from 70 degrees to OMG IT'S FREAKIN HOT degrees within a couple weeks. I was told that once the temps go over 80, I won't get any new veggies, but to keep the plants alive all blistery summer and then come fall, I'll have so many tomatoes and peppers I won't know what to do with myself. So here's to hoping. I've been watering them constantly to keep them alive and well (as opposed to the rest of my yard which has turned into a desert).

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Quick Table Re-Do

One of my major recent projects involved rearranging my house to accommodate a new giant crate for this girl. With a huge crate taking over my small dining room space, I was left with an empty corner and awkward space.
why hello ginormous crate. thanks for coming in and taking over everything

oh no, I didn't want a dining room there. go ahead, it's all yours.

I decided to re-purpose the space and add a new seating area. I wanted to find a chair and a small side table that I could refinish to add some character to the room. The problem? I wanted to do it all before my parents came to visit... which gave me approximately two weeks to find a chair and a table on the cheap, refinish them, and re-decorate the space. No biggie, right?

Enter thrift store marathon. I literally visited every thrift store within a 20 mile radius multiple times, and I had Craigslist on lock-down. It was rare if I went more than a few hours without checking for a table or a chair online, each under $20. (thank you, Craigslist for iPhone!)

Well, luck was on my side. After a few stops, I found this beauty for only $4 at a thrift store!
She wasn't all that pretty, and she definitely needed to freshen up, but I knew that a quick coat of paint would do the trick!

And Ta-Da! It did! I sanded her down and coated her with two coats of spray paint, and she was done.
I am not a professional re-finisher (as I will prove when I show my chair re-do) so I know I didn't do this the correct way. I should have primed it first, and I probably should have done a clear coat or seal too. But I like to live on the edge. And by edge, I mean the edge of laziness mixed with "is this really necessary?"

But she still looks great. I paired her up with my new found chair (story on that coming soon) and we were set to impress.
Look- she even made a happy home for Mr. Armadillo! Don't they go so well together?
A happy table, a happy armadillo, and a happy awkward corner. Perfecto.

p.s. more pictures of the before and after space to come...

Friday, July 1, 2011

Friday Tunes

Just a little musical inspiration to kick off your Friday...

Have you heard the song "Look At Me Now" by Chris Brown, featuring Busta Rhymes? If not, please watch this video first and watch the words and get a sense of how crazy fast Busta puts out those lyrics... (sorry for the profanity... the second version is clean!)

Now watch this version. And pick your jaw up off the floor when you hear her do the Busta part... Famazing.

Awesome, right?? I bet you start practicing now... Find more of her amazing talent here:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Welcome to the family, Atlas

You already know we are dog people. Our two furry kids, Jack & Rory pretty much take over our lives. (and I'm actually pretty surprised that I haven't written more about them here...)

proof that for 5 seconds, Rory was smaller than Jack

We got Rory as a puppy and have experienced just about every problem you can face with a little wall-chewing, turkey-eating, fur ball running around under your feet! But we've also loved every minute of her growing up. We're cheesy like that.
she's a goof. a BIG goof. and we love her.

We're also huge suckers for the huge puppers. Big dogs make us drool. But, since they can easily (and literally) eat you out of house and home, we can't commit to buying another one just yet. Instead, we decided to start working with a giant dog rescue called Big Dogs, Huge Paws. They are based in Colorado but are quickly expanding to Texas. We decided that we really wanted to be a foster home to dogs that had nowhere else to go. These gentle giants just need a place to live while they try to find their forever home. We went through the foster approval process and were finally matched with a dog...

Everyone, meet Atlas:
just chillin out max and relaxin all cool (don't mind the dead grass)

She is an 8 year old Brazilian Mastiff, weighing in at 101 pounds. Oh, she may look like a grumpy old lady (and she can be sometimes) but really she's a sweetheart looking for a new family. Her family had to move over seas and couldn't take her with them. Sad deal.

We got her at the end of May. Literally the DAY before my family arrived. So if I wasn't already in a full on, last minute finish-projects-clean-house-get-groceries-do-yardwork frenzy, I was now. Luckily we knew it was a possibility, so our house was all foster-ready. (more on the total house re-arranging coming soon!) Surprisingly we made it through the family visit just fine (although my family chose to rename her Alice) and have gotten in to a good groove ever since.

Here is how Atlas spends most of her time:
Sleeping on her bed with her toys. And snoring. Did I mention she snores? Loud. But I guess you can get away with that when you're old. I'll let it slide.

What about you? Looking for a Big Dog of your own? Check out BDHP and take a look at the dogs they have up for adoption... you might find yourself a new forever friend!

Monday, June 20, 2011

My friend the armadillo

While catching up on some Young House Love, I was inspired by Sherry's post on faking ceramic animals. She loves collecting white ceramic animals (awesome) but she shared a secret-- they're not all real ceramic! Oh, the power of white spray paint!

She took this $1.99 frog from goodwill:

and made it this!
(pictures from Young House Love)

Genius, right? In one of those "why didn't I think of that?" kind of ways. So ever since I saw that post, I have been on the search for a cool ceramic animal that I can spray paint and add to my own home decor.

That's when I came across this little gem:

A horribly ugly brown/yellow/gold armadillo! Every Texas home needs an armadillo, right? Right. So I bought it. I'm pretty sure it was also right around the $1.99 range. So away he came, to a yard and some spray paint! Look at him, just ready to be made over!
I decided to go with Rust-oleum Gloss Pure White spray paint. It said it was good for all surfaces, so I figured it would work well on the ceramic surface.
After several coats on the top and bottom, the little guy was completely covered, and completely transformed!
Unfortunately, after the first coat of paint, I noticed a crack along his back that had previously been disguised by the hideous color pattern. This was pretty easily fixed with another coat of paint, as it filled in fairly nicely. Plus, it's on the back, so you don't notice it much at all (unless you're looking for it- which you all will now!)
But now that he's all happy white, he sits comfortably in his new home. And I'm in love. And my house feels a bit more classy Texas.
Hey, good lookin. What's cookin?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Gourmet on the Go

Do you ever wake up and wish you had a Starbucks in the kitchen? Someone waiting there for you with a scone and an iced coffee? Well I do.

But now, thanks to these amazing premade scones, I can have it all!
My friend bought them for me at Central Market and she said they have blueberry and cinnamon. They are just like Pillsbury biscuits that you open, plop on a baking sheet, pop in the oven, and BAM! they're done before you blow dry your hair!

Pair that up with a flavored coffee poured over ice, and I feel like I just went through the drive thru in my kitchen!
Cheers to a good start!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Lamp Re-Do

My favorite lamp had an accident. It wasn't his fault, but his shade just couldn't take the pressure (or the gravity) and it fell free from the frame. Poor shade.

Look how sad it looks:
Pitiful. The top frame is what secures the shade to the lamp itself, so without it attached to the shade, there is just no hope. Of course the sane person would just buy a new shade. They're cheap, right?

But not this girl. Mostly because I couldn't find one in the shape I liked, but also because I just love a crafting challenge! I was inspired by this post at Young House Love and decided to go for it and recover the lamp shade. I found a piece of the perfect brown fabric in the remnants basket at Jo Anne, and we were all set to get going...

So I started with the frame and reconnected it to the shade.

I simply used masking tape because I didn't have to worry about it being too strong. I was going to hot glue the fabric over it and that would hold it together just fine.
After several strips of tape around the top, the frame was securely re-attached. (I feel I should mention here that this lamp is purely decorative. I never actually use it because my bedroom has plenty of overhead light from my ceiling fan. Additionally, the fabric I chose is fairly dark, so this strategy may not be perfect if there was light actually shining through the shade. The tape may or may not create shadows, depending on your fabric choice)
After I secured the frame to the shade, I began attaching my fabric. I started by running a line of hot glue down the seam on the shade, and placed the fabric on it quickly and smoothly.
Once the fabric was attached at the seam, I pulled it taught all the way around and hot glued along the top edge first. My problem was that this shade was not perfectly tubular. It was slightly angled, so the fabric wouldn't lay tight and smooth. I had to slightly pucker/pleat the fabric along the way. As you can see, by the time I made it all the way around, the layers weren't lining up perfectly anymore. It's OK in this situation because there is no pattern, but if you are working with a pattern you'll want to be more careful.

After it was laid out all around, I secured the inside frame edges with another line of hot glue.
(I should preface here, that this project would have been MUCH easier if I would have had Handy Man help me hold the fabric in place. But I was too excited to get it done and didn't want to wait for him!)
After it was glued down I trimmed the excess around the edges. The fabric I used was not ideal, as it frayed a bit when you cut it. So I left a larger edge than normal, in case it starts to fray.
Again, since this is a decorative lamp, and not exactly a functional light source, the inside seams don't have to be perfect. But I'm sure I could have done a better job trimming it than this:
Ideally I would clean it up and/or add a finished strip along the inside of the shade, but I didn't want to take the time. It looks fine from a distance, and that's all that matters for a fake-on-the-dresser-just-because-it-looks-good lamp. Check it:
I think it works well! And it didn't take long at all. Those are the kinds of projects I can get behind!