Monthly Archives: January 2013

DIY Primitive Heart Wreath

DIY Heart-Shaped Wreath from Farmhouse38

A little more Valentine’s Day, anyone?

This is a pretty simple way to make a basic wreath in virtually any shape you want it.  I had in mind a sort of primitive-style wreath, but of course, you could add as much embellishment and material as you want to fatten it up and make it less simplistic.

I started by using two strands of raffia-covered wire (bought in the floral section of the craft store), twisted together to make one, strong strand long enough to make the wreath about the circumference that you want it to be.  Make a rough circle out of it and twist the loose ends together. Because this is a heart shape, the fastened ends make a natural spot to make the point of the heart:

DIY Heart-Shaped Wreath from Farmhouse38

Now, roughly form this into the shape of a heart.  Again, I was going for imperfection, so I wanted it off-centered:

DIY Heart-Shaped Wreath from Farmhouse38

Now, forage for some supplies in your yard.  Woodsy vines work the best: wisteria, grapevine–anything that will hold its shape when dry.  I have a ton of wisteria, so that’s what I collected:

DIY Heart-Shaped Wreath from Farmhouse38

Take one strand of vine, and another of the raffia-covered wire.  Place the vine along your heart form and using the new piece of raffia-wire, wrap and anchor the vine to the form, all along the shape of the heart. Take a shorter piece of raffia-wire and anchor the ‘valley’ of the heart to the lower ‘point’ of the heart, so that the thing keeps it’s heart shape (as you add vine to the form, it will want to flex the heart shape right out of the form).

DIY Heart-Shaped Wreath from Farmhouse38

Now, we’re gonna switch from raffia-covered wire, to some sort of thin-gauged metal wire:

DIY Heart-Shaped Wreath from Farmhouse38

Begin adding more vines to the form and anchoring them into place with little bits of the small wire:

DIY Heart-Shaped Wreath from Farmhouse38

Add as much or as little vineage as you want until you get the rough shape/thickness you’re after–I only used about four or five pieces of vine:

DIY Heart-Shaped Wreath from Farmhouse38

Now, to change up the texture and bulk it up a bit, add in some other types of branches, moss, etc., adhering them in with a glue gun.

DIY Heart-Shaped Wreath from Farmhouse38

This is about the shape/size/thickness I was after, so, time to embellish with ribbons:

DIY Heart-Shaped Wreath from Farmhouse38

I chose a selection of narrow, Valentine’s-inspired grosgrain ribbons, and began cutting small pieces that I then tied into simple knots.  Some I tied directly around vines or branches in the wreath, others, I tied and then glued on.  Clip the loose ends of the knots short.

DIY Heart-Shaped Wreath from Farmhouse38

Add a ton of them in all different colors, in a totally random fashion.

DIY Heart-Shaped Wreath from Farmhouse38

Affix a hanging ribbon to the top of the wreath (I usually tie it on and hot-glue it just for extra hold), and hang it!

DIY Heart-Shaped Wreath from Farmhouse38

DIY Heart-Shaped Wreath from Farmhouse38

Rainy Day Trespassing

Slipping Passed the Sentry

Yellow dog! You had ONE JOB.

When I let the girls out this morning, it was really pouring, and because of that, I didn’t expect them to venture very far from the coop, let alone all the way up to the house.  So….I left the side door open, and as I worked away at my computer, I happened to glance up just in time to see that our perimeter had been compromised.  On Chance’s watch.  He didn’t even bat an eyelash as a very drenched Millie strolled right on inside, passed him, through the dining room, through the kitchen, and to my computer nook.  Usually, the No House Chickens rule is in full effect, but this bird was on a mission.  I had to see what she was about.  Clucking with her special brand of chicken self-importance, she marched dutifully up to me where I was hunkered over the space heater that I have running under my desk.

Wet Chicken

Don’t cross a wet chicken.

After assessing the situation for a moment, and realizing that I wasn’t immediately tossing her out as per usual, she went right on up to said heater.  Oh, the joy of a wet chicken standing in front of a heater (as was also illustrated after the infamous Gertie Bathing Incident).

Drying Out

After witnessing a couple of minutes of preening and fluffing and other such poultry shenanigans, I finally opened the french door next to my desk, and with one last indulgent fluff of her feathers, she went right on back outside into the rain without a single cross word from either of us.

Rain Bird

Right back into the rain and the mud with her cohorts.  The No House Chickens Rule went immediately back into full effect.

Frolicking in the Mud

DrenchedI will never not be entertained by the sight of a drenched chicken.  Especially when she’s doing an entertaining drive-by of my space heater.

Drenched Gert

Gert had to get one beauty shot into this whole silly Millie business.

Go Paint Rocks

Glittered Heart Rocks

In yesterday’s Cupid’s Arrow Doormat post, some of you may have spied these two little glittered heart painted rocks tucked amongst the front porch decor….Painted Rocks and Porch Decor

I love me some painted rocks, and I must say that I am obsessing over the glittered ones even more!  Painting rocks (and using them mainly as door-stops) was something I started doing in college, when I was broke but living by the ocean where there was an unending supply of nice, smooth, wave-worn rocks to collect and use for whatever I could possibly turn them into.  This was like 15 years ago, people–where the heck has the time gone!?  In more recent manifestations, these painted rocks have been moonlighting at the Farmhouse as bookends, mantel decor, garden markers, and hostess gifts.  They are so easy and inexpensive to make that I thought I’d better share the tutorial.

Bookend.

I have a thing for monogrammed rocks. This is a completely normal thing to have a thing for.

A family of monogrammed rocks for my favorite neighbors.

A family of monogrammed rocks for my favorite neighbors’ front stoop.  Shout out to H, N, R & Q!!!

During the holidays, I made a set for my front porch decor that never actually made it into a post:

but Baby it's Cold Outside

My text-transferring method for the rocks is one and the same as for my Hand-Painted Signs.  You start, of course, by finding yourself a decent rock.  The smoother the surface, the easier it will be. Design up your words, letters, or shapes on the computer, and print.

Design

Cut each word (or design) out, and then heavily color the backside of it with a grease pencil.

Grease Pencil Love

Scotch-tape it where you want it on your rock of choice, and then trace the design, pressing firmly.

Tracing

You should get a pretty well-transferred image if you slathered the grease pencil on there thick enough.

Outline

Now, paint!

Painting

If these are going to sit outside, it’s best to use some sort of oil-based exterior-grade paint. Finishing with a clear, protective sealer always helps, too.

If you’re adding glitter, sprinkle it on before the paint has much time to dry.

I must confess that I simply free-handed these hearts….nothing wrong with winging it now and again!

Hi.

Cupid’s Arrow Doormat

Cupid's Arrow Doormat from Farmhouse38Cupid's Arrow Doormat

More Valentine’s crafty decor!

I’m a big fan of making my own doormats.  Plain coir mats like the one above are sold for around $10.00 at Home Depot, and with some transparent contact paper (also from the Depot) to make a sticky-stencil and a bit of left-over spray paint, this is a relatively easy, inexpensive, and versatile DIY project.

For this design, I decided about how big I wanted my arrow, and then created it in a design program and printed it off the computer.  It took two standard-sized pieces of paper, which I then taped together into one design.

Arrow Template

Lined Up

Now cut a piece of contact paper big enough to fit over the top of this, then tape it to the print-out, as well as your work surface so nothing slides around.  Use a sharpie to trace your arrow image onto the contact paper.

Tracing

BTW….this is a great method to create a stencil for other craft projects.

Now comes the first tricky part: using a small pair of scissors, cut the arrow cleanly out of the middle of the contact paper. The contact paper is gonna wanna roll up on you, but keep calm!  It feeds off of your frustration.

Cut-out

Now, for the second tricky part: CAREFULLY remove the backing to the contact paper and stick your image where you want it on the doormat.  Nothing wants to stick to that coir very much, so you’ll be able to shimmy it around to get it lined up just right.  Tape it into place with painter’s tape and then use contact paper and/or painters tape to cover the rest of the mat to protect it from over-spray.

Stencil

Now, you’re ready to paint!  Hit the image with spray paint in short bursts from directly above, as again, the contact paper just barely adheres to the coir and if you blast it from an angle, it will lift right on off of there and ruin the whole thing.  Hit it with one, good coat of paint.

Paint

Let it dry for a few minutes, remove the template, and then let the rug sit and dry for about an hour or so before you put it out for use.

Cupid's Arrow

Another simple version of this went to our side door:

The chickens are just fascinated by this red heart on their doormat.

The chickens are just fascinated by this little red heart on their napping-mat.

Valentine’s Candy Box Roses

Valentine's Candy Box Roses from Farmhouse38

I have a confession….I heart Valentine’s Day in all of its ridiculous glory.  I love the blatant pinks and reds and hearts and sparkles and chocolates and redundant red roses.  It’s all just so darn cute and girly, and I embrace it and accept it despite its pathological commercialism.  I’m really an enormous sucker for some adorable packaging no matter what.

Another thing I secretly love?  Those super-cheesy heart-shaped boxes of chocolate.  You know the ones in the drug store, just to the left of the shampoo aisle?  Yes, those!  It isn’t so much about the chocolate (I swear), as it is about that nostalgic heart-shaped box:

Come on, you know you love this!

Come on, you know you love this!

After the chocolates have evaporated, what does one do with such an adorable box?  At my house, you fill it with flowers, of course!

Here’s how:

First of all, you can do this arrangement in either the lid or the bottom (or both!).  I chose the bottom, which had built-in candy compartments that had to be gently ripped out, first.

This doesn't look so cute.

This doesn’t look so cute.

Now, because this is a cardboard box, we gotta waterproof it.  You need to line it with some sort of thick-gauged plastic lining, whether it be a bit of garbage bag, ziplock, etc.  I happened to use a piece of some left-over painter’s tarp.  Cut it roughly to size with a little bit of overlap.

Fit the Plastic LiningPush the plastic lining into the box, and then, using your trusty glue-gun, run a bead of glue, bit by bit, along the top edge of the box, adhering the plastic just well enough so that it sticks, not so well that it melts through the plastic (which if you are using sturdy enough plastic and a low-heat gun, shouldn’t be a problem).  This doesn’t have to be a perfect, solid bead of glue–just enough to hold the plastic in place.

Glue the Lining

Once you are done, it should look a little something like this:

AdheredNow, run scissors along the top edge of the box and remove the excess plastic.

TrimAs long as you didn’t accidentally pierce or burn through the plastic, you should now have a cardboard box capable of holding some liquid.

Easy waterproofingUnder normal circumstances, this is where I would cut and fit wet florist’s foam into the container.  Lately, I have been trying to steer away from using the stuff unless I just have no choice–it’s really rather environmentally unfriendly.  But this is a personal choice and I chose to go without.  Instead, I cut and fit a double-layer of paper towels into the bottom of the heart, then filled it about half-way with water.  The paper towels serve as a grip for the roses, and also to keep things damp with minimal water (as this is a shallow container and you don’t want a ton in there sloshing around).

Cut your roses real short–right at the base of the bloom:

Cut Rose

Go ahead and start lining them up in the container, making sure the cut stem makes contact with the paper towel.

Flower Assembly

The flowers might tip over a bit as you work–don’t worry, the more you get in there, the more they hold each other upright.

Two dozen roses (straight from Home Depot) should about fill this size container (approx. 12″ wide at its widest point), but I went and tucked in a few coral-colored roses just for effect, so my total came out to 30 roses.

Roses and roses

Now, you’ll probably be able to still see a bit of plastic liner around the edges.  We’ve got to do something about that!  I chose this adorable lacey, felt ribbon to edge the box in, but any ribbon or trim will work.

Edging

Run a bead of hot glue around the outside top edge of the box, and apply your decorative trim so that it overlaps the flowers just a bit and hides that unsightly edge.

Pretty trim

Pretty!  But why stop here?  In the spirit of Valentine’s bling, let’s add some sparkle, shall we?  Give your roses a fine mist of water across the top:

Misting

Pick your poison:

GLITTER!!!!

I give you….Martha Stewart “Candy Apple”!

And then literally blow it like fairy dust across your flowers.  If you don’t like glitter everywhere in your house (then you have no soul!  Just kidding….kind of), please do this step outside!

Pretties

How I love me some sparkly roses!

Now, you just want to top the whole thing off with a nice, diagonal bit of ribbon and a tailored bow to mimic the way these candy boxes are usually trimmed out.  Cut a piece of your trim ribbon to fit across one lobe of the heart, anchoring each end of the ribbon to the inside upper edges of the box with hot glue (so that the glue and ribbon ends don’t show above the trim).

More trim

Now, glue together a little bow:

Cute bow.

Then adhere this to the middle of your diagonal ribbon, adding bow tails if you wish.

Candy Box Roses

Add a cute tag to complete the package!

Hugs and kisses

To maintain the freshness, drizzle a little new water into the center of the arrangement every couple of days.

Sparkles and sparkles

I adore the red-on-red-on-red monochrome of this presentation, but it would be so cute done up with some different colors thrown in there, as well.  I may have to do up a pink version using the left-over lid!

Enjoy! :-)

Yes. I Bathed a Chicken.

Gerts Bubble Bath

So, it has come to this.

Yep.  I’m really committing this to the internet; flying my crazy flag high.  When I called the Texan at work to tell him that I had given one of our chickens a bath, he said, and I quote, “There are really just some things I wish you wouldn’t share with me.”

I didn’t want to do it.

But Gertie forced my hand.  Every once in awhile, chickens get a little bit mucky in their nether-regions.  Sometimes this is because they are sick, sometimes they are just having an extended ‘not-so-fresh moment’.  Hey, if you had all those fluffy petticoats to keep track of, you’d probably have a mess every once in awhile, too.  Well, Gertie got dirty.  I’ve been keeping an eye on it the past few days, making sure she seemed healthy otherwise, keeping tabs as to whether the situation was worsening or improving.  It seemed to be getting gunkier (though she seemed in perfect health).  This can be a bad thing (beyond just being disgusting), because the caked-on poop can actually create a roadblock, if you know what I mean.  Today, I decided, it was time for drastic measures.

I have chosen to spare you a ‘before’ photo.

After reading up on it, and assuring myself that I wasn’t the first person to try this, I sought advice from Lisa, over at Fresh-Eggs-Daily.  While she’d never actually had a chicken get dirty enough to bathe, she’d had to bathe egg-bound hens in the past (this helps to facilitate the laying, apparently).  She assured me that chickens were surprisingly agreeable to the process.  The basic method seemed pretty universal: small tub filled with warm bubble bath, set your bird in it, gently scrub gunk off, rinse.  COME ON.  There was just no way it was that simple.  I pictured a squawking, flapping, emotionally-damaged Gertie, and a squawking, flapping, emotionally-damaged me.  This just couldn’t end well.

Fortunately, my mom was visiting, and volunteered to both take photos and laugh at me.

I found a water-tight container that would fit inside our guest bath tub and filled it about 3/4 of the way full of warm water mixed with a bit of liquid dish soap–just enough to make it good and bubbly.  I wanted it deep enough that her bum would be underwater for a good soaking.  If I got that far.  I’ll admit it, I was S.T.R.E.S.S.E.D as I went out and picked up the bird–the last thing I wanted to do was get her partially wet and not be able to finish the job.  But I tried to remain calm, so that she would remain calm.  After a little bit of cuddling and a few words of encouragement, I steeled myself and gently set her in the bubble bath.

Gertie goes in the tub

Expecting a whirling banshee, I was dumbfounded that she remained quiet.  I loosened my grip, and she hopped calmly up onto the edge of the little tub.  I picked her back up and set her once more into the water, and this time, I kid you not, she just stayed where I put her.  For a bit, we had to just sit like this, conversing softly with each other, while the water and suds loosened the spackling.

Someone's having far too good of a time.

I may be enjoying this.

Finally, it was time to start kind of gently working the gunk out of her feathers.  I’m not going to lie, this was seriously gross.  But you gotta do what you gotta do.  Slowly, but surely, it all came off like a charm.  At this point, I pulled the bird from the bath, wrapped her tight in a dry towel, and then I dumped and cleaned the basin, filling it again with warm, clear water.  Then I set Gertie back in, and again, she just let me do my thing–totally relaxed.  I proceeded to rinse her all off.

Rinsing the birdAt this point, with all those wet feathers, there was a lot of bare skin showing.  This was a great moment to kind of inspect her rear-end and make sure there was nothing that looked amiss.  Everything looked good and clean and healthy to me, so back out of the water and into a new dry towel she went.  She seemed all too happy to have some cuddles while she was wrapped up in that towel.

After-bath Cuddles

It is extremely important not to let chickens get chilled, which is why I chose to do this indoors in a heated, small bathroom.  But, I was not about to let her wander around wet (even though it was pretty warm today, it is definitely winter!).  So, at Lisa’s suggestion, I pulled out the blow-dryer.  Once again, I thought, “NO.  WAY.”  No bird is going to let me blast them with this loud machine.  I turned it on low, and pointed it away from her.  After she didn’t spook, I turned the very gentle airstream onto her, and again, she didn’t freak–she wasn’t sure about it, but she didn’t freak.

Blow-out Time

After a bit, I could tell she was really loving it, and so I let go of her.  Eventually, I was able to switch it to high.  I always kept my hand on her (except when I was snapping a photo), helping her to fluff her feathers so that I made sure she wasn’t getting too hot.

What's this?  Why are my feathers ruffling?!

What sort of sorcery is this?!

Headless chicken preens her feathers as I direct the heat on her.

Headless chicken preens her feathers as I direct the heat on her.

Oh, yeah, leaning into the current!

Oh, yeah, leaning into the current!

Gotta fluff that butt back up!

Gotta fluff that butt back up!

Oh, the stink-eye I got when I turned the blow-dryer off!

Oh, the stink-eye I got when I turned the blow-dryer off!

All dry and shiny and gunk-free, she actually scolded me when I turned the blow-dryer off.  When I set it on the ground, she went and inspected it, as if trying to figure out how to turn the thing back on.  Though she felt completely dry to me, and because I had already broke the ‘No House Chickens’ rule, I allowed her to lounge with me at my computer desk for a bit just to make sure she was good and dry before returning her to her natural habitat.

My gorgeous Gert all clean and shiny, back in the dirt immediately.

My gorgeous Gert all clean and shiny, back in the dirt immediately.

Glad to have that fluff back back in order.

Glad to have that view back in order.

It is safe to say that as I was endeavoring to take on backyard chickening, I never expected or intended to give a bird a bubble bath.  Where was that chapter in the instruction manual?!  I am not going to sit here and recommend that anyone do this with their birds, or claim that it would even go this smoothly–I just wanted to share this crazy experience.  Against all logic, it went well for us.  We bonded.  I feel so much closer to her now.

The end.

The end.

Cheddar Beer Bread

Cheddar Beer Bread

I’ve made this bread a few times in the past, and I just love it because A). it’s so easy, and B). it combines beer and cheese.  Yes, please.  The following recipe is my adaptation of Alton Brown’s Beer Bread.

***For a condensed, printable version of this recipe without all the obnoxious photos, scroll to the bottom of this post***

You will be requiring:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons sugar

4-1/2 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese

12 ounces cold beer (I used, shockingly, Shiner Cheer, because it’s what we had.  Usually, I use Shiner Bock)

A bit of extra shredded cheese for sprinkling along the top

Yes, cheese.  YES.

Cheese.  Yes.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and grease up a 9×5 loaf pan.

Whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large bowl.

It's okay to take a sip of the beer.  No one will know.

It’s okay to take a sip of the beer. No one has to know.

Add in your cheese until well-mixed, and then add your beer, a little at a time, only until the mixture is just combined.  You should have some beer left in the bottle.  Do not pour this down the sink.  Drink it like a man.

Well-mixed

Spread the mixture evenly into the loaf pan, then sprinkle with your left-over shredded cheese.

About to go in the oven

I took this photo, then panned to the right….

....and took a photo of this.

….and took a photo of this.

Put it in the oven and bake for 45-55 minutes (mine was perfect at 45).  Remove it from the oven, let it cool for 10 minutes in the pan, and then let it cool completely on a cooling rack.

Cheddar Beer Bread

This bread is darn good with butter on it….

Bread and butter

But if you really want to blow your mind, try it with butter and honey drizzled over the top.  YUM.

Cheddar Beer Bread with Butter and Honey

Printable Version of Cheddar Beer Bread:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons sugar

4-1/2 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese

12 ounces cold beer (ale or stout or whatever you feel like!)

A bit of extra shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Coat inside of 9×5 loaf pan with nonstick spray or butter.

Whisk together all the dry ingredients, then add in the shredded cheese.  Add just enough beer to mix thoroughly.  Spread the batter evenly in the loaf pan and sprinkle with leftover cheese.  Put it in the oven for 45-55 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then let it cool completely on a wire baking rack.

Sign-Painting the Farmhouse38 Way

Farmhouse38PaintedSign

I get asked quite frequently how I go about painting my signs, so I thought I’d do a quick tutorial for those of you who are game!

The ‘crafty’ methods out there for sign-painting (unless you are one of the mind-boggling talented few who can actually paint a perfect sign by hand) always involve some sort of image transferring from a computer-generated design to wood (or whatever material you are painting your sign on).  And there-in lies the conundrum of sign-painting.  How do I get my tidy computer-designed image onto this darn piece of wood?  And how do I do it easily?  There are many, many methods out there, but a lot of them rely pretty heavily upon specialized (expensive) printers or other materials/ methods that aren’t easily available to the average crafter.  I’m also pretty impatient, so the idea of designing up and having any sort of professional materials (ie, vinyl stencils, large-scale prints, etc) made ahead of time is just too much hassle for me.  And all of that costs extra money.  No bueno.

My method assumes a couple of basic things: first, and foremost, it assumes that you have a computer and average, consumer-grade printer.  Secondly, it assumes that you have some sort of program for ‘designing’ up your image, which can be as basic as Word (really, this is all about being able to print letters, right?).  Third, and finally, it assumes you have, or can acquire the magic ingredient:

I give you....the grease pencil (or china marker).

I give you….the grease pencil (or china marker).

I love me some grease pencil.  For those of you who have never had the pleasure, this is a great tool–it is a waxy, crayon-type marker that will work on pretty much any surface, including wet ones.  And it is also the key to easily transferring printed images onto another surface.  So if you don’t have one, go to any craft or art supply store and pick one (or five) up.  They come in very handy for a multitude of projects.

Allrighty!  On to the sign-making.  So first of all, you need to pick your wood (or whatever other material you want to make your sign out of).  I have a ton of scrap wood sitting around the yard, and I selected a piece that was about a foot wide by about 5 feet long.

Here is one of my infamous scrap piles.  The arrow indicates the piece I chose.

Here is one of my infamous scrap piles. The arrow indicates the piece I chose.

This wood originally was part of an old work-bench table-top, so it was painted and chippy and old and dirty.  In other words, it was perfect.

After you have your signboard selected, you’ve got to figure out what you want to put on it.  I can’t help you here.  You are on your own.  My sign was destined to hang over our new compost station, so I wanted to be clever and make an old-timey advertising-type sign.  I came up with “Miss Kate’s Special Grow Sauce”.  Don’t ask me why.  Given the size of your signboard, you also need to decide on your layout.  I got creative with this one and had all sorts of different sized and shaped lettering, but that’s just me.  Figure out the approximate size you want your letters to be, and then head to your computer and get to work.  I always print everything on standard 8×11 printer paper, so if your sign is larger than 8×11″, you’ll need to print out the various bits and pieces and then put it together like a puzzle….the bits for my sign looked like this when they came out of the printer:

Printouts

Then you will need to cut them out and place them on your board, anchoring them a bit with a single piece of tape on each one.

Layout

Once you have them more or less where you want them, then one at a time, remove the parts, flip them over, and use a grease pencil to color the back side of each letter.  The thicker you put the grease pencil on, the better the transfer.

Grease it up

Once you have the back side of the paper colored, flip it back and attach it where you had it before.  Do this with each segment, one at a time, until they are all colored and all reattached.  Now, it is time to trace your letters.  Press firmly, and I find that it helps to make tiny little scribbles instead of perfect, straight lines, because perfect, straight lines never seem to turn out like perfect, straight lines.

Tiny scribbles.

Tiny scribbles.

Soon enough, you will have your letters pretty neatly transferred:

Transfer

At this point, your sign is ready for paint, and it’s all about staying inside the lines….I never can.  Cheers!

Paint

Finished Product

Bring on the Compost!

Farmhouse38-Style Composting

Well, I finally got my behind in gear and officially set up to officially start composting.  This is something that I have been taking real lazy attempts at over the years (always with the idea that I could definitely do better), but after reading Chris McLaughlin’s book, Vertical Vegetable Gardening, (buy this book, people, it’s got the best small-space gardening tips and is getting rave reviews beyond just mine), my composting fire was lit.

I don’t have a lot of extra space around here on this little suburban lot, and I really have gone around and around as to where I wanted to locate the compost.  Ultimately, there was really only one spot that I could make it work, for better or for worse, and that was this one tiny stretch of planter area along our driveway.  Which is painfully out in plain sight.  So first, and foremost, I knew that, whatever composting method I chose, it needed to be inside some sort of container….furthermore, I needed to come up with a way to make this, what is essentially a trash site, cute.  Priorities, you know?

The other thing I don’t have much extra of is funds.  There are all these fancy compost containers out there (which are ugly, btw), but I could not fathom spending any more money on this thing than was absolutely necessary.  So, because I happened to have two 30-gallon galvanized trash cans that were sitting around twiddling their thumbs, they got the job.  I had space for three, so I did wind up going out and buying a third one, but hey, it was still my cheapest option.

The girls, ever-underfoot, thoroughly assess the soil at the selected site.  They ascertain that it requires compost.

The girls, ever-underfoot, thoroughly assess the soil at the selected site. Their findings indicate a compost deficiency.

After I had selected my location, and the girls had assessed and approved it, I proceeded to dig holes in the dirt roughly the size of each of my compost cans.

Gertie checks the size of the hole.

Gertie checks the size of the hole.

I’ve read it’s a potentially beneficial thing to have the cans slightly submerged in the soil with holes drilled across the bottom and bottom sides that not only allow for drainage and aeration, but also for beneficial microorganisms to come and go.  So I wanted to submerge my cans (that came out wrong) as much as I could.  Which, as it turned out, wasn’t very much….this is a pretty shallow planter, and I could only get them submerged about four or five inches.  So I drilled holes across the bottom of each can, and up only a couple of inches on the sides.

Drainage Holes

This drill bit is no joke. And, btw, keep a dust-buster handy if you attempt this–the slivers created from drilling through metal are a serious hazard–especially if you have chickens in the yard who want to eat anything shiny. And also, lock your chickens up while you are doing this. And don’t wear flip-flops. I’ve said my piece.

Once everything was drilled, I fit the cans into each of their spots, and back-filled so that they were as buried as possible.  I had already set aside a mound of composting materials to start my first batch, so my #1 bin is almost full.  The idea, here, is that once one is full, you move on to the next, and hopefully, by the time #3 is full, #1 might be ready to use.

From some scrap lumber that was sitting around the yard, I made a fun sign to hang on the fence (see how in a tutorial coming soon), that hopefully will not turn out to be false advertising.  In addition, I made some little scrap-lumber number plaques for each can….because there are just so many of them that I might lose track.

I seriously can't plan this stuff....these girls just know how to get a good shot.

I seriously can’t plan this stuff….these girls just know how to get a good shot.

Allegedly, the ground around compost bins is supposed to get really good and fertile, so I intend to take advantage of that and keep things planted around the cans.  Despite the best efforts of the poultry.

I'll be interested to see how quickly that kale becomes salad for the chickens.

I’ll be interested to see how quickly that kale becomes a salad bar for the chickens.

Oh, yes, and off to the side, of course, there is this:

This?  This is not compost.  This is where the dog poop goes.

This? This is not compost. This is where the dog poop goes.  I can understand your confusion.

This is our adorable new counter-top composter that I picked up from World Market.  It makes it a lot easier to get kitchen scraps out to the compost zone when you've got an adorable container for them.  I'm such a packaging sucker.

This is our adorable new counter-top composter that I picked up from World Market. It makes it a lot easier to get kitchen scraps out to the compost zone when you’ve got an cute container for them. I’m such a packaging sucker.

So is this the best composting system in the world?  Nope.  I can assure you, it is not.  Will it be good enough?  Maybe.  I’ll have to let you know.  One major thing I took away from Vertical Vegetable Gardening is that I shouldn’t stress over the compost–I should just let it do it’s thing with minimal fuss (hopefully).  If I stick to an approximate 50/50 mix of brown and green ingredients, theoretically, the compost magic should happen.  Theoretically.  For an easy break-down of how composting works, as well as a straightforward list of acceptable brown and green materials, pick up a copy of Chris’ book.  Because I’m not sharing mine.  :-)

Birthday Bathtub

Image of my hopefully soon-to-be tub from www.signaturehardware.com

Image of my hopefully soon-to-be tub from signaturehardware.com with a few embellishments added by yours truly.

I have a hole in my heart….a bathtub-shaped hole.  For five years we have been renovating this house, and for five years, I have pined for a bathtub.  You see, I am a tub person.  I love a good bubble bath.  But I have not had a decent, soaking tub since I moved out of my childhood home (15 years ago).  Now, some of you may have noticed that there is, indeed, a bathtub in the Farmhouse (no, not that enormous kitchen sink) guest bathroom.  It is, indeed, a bathtub.  But it is an old cast-iron wall tub that fills just high enough to get your ankles wet.  It’s great for bathing the occasional visiting nephew, or muddy pup, but for an adult human?  It just does.  not.  cut.  it.

The Kitchen Bath Tub

The Kitchen Tub….I probably fit better into this than I do the guest bathroom tub.

We have lovely showers at this house, don’t get me wrong–it’s not like we’re out using the garden hose.  I just really want me a tub….first-world problems, right?  We just can never seem to justify the expense of it, when there are so many other, more important projects that require our time and bank accounts.

Remember when I showed you the photos of our made-over master bath?

Remember when I showed you the photos of our made-over master bath?

And remember this sad little bare patch where there is supposed to be a tub?  It still looks like this.

And remember this sad little bare patch where there is supposed to be a tub? Yep.  It still looks like this.

I have a big birthday coming up in a month (and it shall remain numberless, thank you very much!).  And I have announced to the Texan (and now to the world) that this is it!  This is the birthday when the birthday fairy is going to bring me my tub.  She and I go way, way back, and I have given her a much-needed vacation for the past several years, so, the way I see it, she owes me a favor.  This is happening, people.  I want my gosh-darn tub!

We’re working with a pretty tight space, so it’s not going to be, say the bathtub of my dreams, necessarily, but it is going to be as big of soaker as we can possibly squeeze into that spot.  I really always figured on a claw foot tub, as it kind of feels as though that’s what a 100-year-old farmhouse might feel comfortable with.  It’s the safe choice.

But, secretly, I kind of want to do a tub like this:

Yep.  That’s a fiberglass tub fitted inside a horse trough, and the article claims the whole thing only cost 90 bucks.  That’s pretty farmhouse-y, wouldn’t you say?  Am I brave enough to do this?  I don’t know!  I just really don’t know!

We’ll have to see what the birthday fairy’s got up her sleeve.  Stay tuned….I know you are all on the edge of your seats!  :-)

 

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