Monday, May 11, 2015

Boho Baby Shower

Over the weekend we got to celebrate my niece and a new baby girl that's about to be born into our family. The last baby born into our immediate family was my youngest daughter, almost 10 years ago. That's a long time to be without baby snuggles. 
 Her grandma has a huge stash of beautiful vintage doilies and we were happy to put them to use in our simple bohemian theme. All you need are some embroidery hoops and yarn to hang them with. There was already an outdoor curtain so we just closed the curtain and pinned the panels together with clothespins so that it didn't blow in the wind.
 We pulled two old dressers out from the house to use as serving tables. They worked perfectly and added charm that regular tables would have lost. It was a brunch so we served quiche, banana bread, fruit skewers, donuts, and had a greek yogurt bar with berries, honey, and homemade granola.

 We ordered brown butter cookies from my friend who bakes (the BEST treats ever) and packaged them up with a cute little paper flower from Michaels. They were adorable in an old drawer that I made-over from ReStore.

 We also made hoops out of fabric and lace strips. This is such an easy, but beautiful decoration, and can be changed to fit any color scheme. It's hard to see in the photo, but there is a dowel rod draped with baby's breath hanging over the couch.
 We layered the tables with various neutral, non-matching tablecloths, then topped with vintage lace tablecloths..
 The little animals we found at Michaels and then painted them gold.
 The vases were collected from thrift stores, and we taped them off with painter's tape and sponged them gold. It's hard to tell in the photo, but the boards have a gold edge, and a clear coat on top to make them shine.
We had a beautiful day showering my niece and welcoming baby Penelope! We can't wait to meet her!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Bee Beginnings

"The privilege of being a beekeeper is not to generate as much honey as possible. We keep bees so we can contribute to pollination. And actually the future of beekeeping is not in one beekeeper with 60,000 hives, rather it's 60,000 people with one hive, all of them approaching the art and the craft of being a keeper of bees as a holistic practice." - Simon Buxton, Vanishing of the Bees

I thought it might be wise, or at the very least, fun, to document our beekeeping beginnings. Maybe when we're old and gray (which would actually be now if I stopped dying my hair) it will be fun to see where we began in this journey. The statement above is what really did it for us, me in particular. Vanishing of the Bees is a great documentary, and after visiting a bee yard, it really raised an interest for us in keeping bees.

 It's tempting to say "our bees", but that just doesn't feel like an accurate description. They're wild creatures, and they happen to have a welcome home in our backyard. We want to care for them, learn from them, and are more than happy to gather a honey surplus in the summer, but I'm not sure that makes them "ours".

They are still wild, and believe me, they know what's up. They operate on their own, and at any time a hive can decide to swarm and abandon ship. Being a beekeeper is not like owning a pet. A pet is yours, it depends on you. Bees depend on each other. They literally blow my mind with how they operate.
 See those white areas of fresh wax comb? Those weren't there five days ago. There is HONEY in some of the comb after five days! Now, of course it's not capped honey (they cap the comb with wax after they evaporate the precise percentage of water from the honey by fanning their wings), but it is HONEY.

Our hive has been very calm with us so far. We have only opened it this one time, to check to see if we caught the queen when we caught the swarm, and see if she's laying eggs. 
 Can you spot the queen in the photo below? She is partially covered, but her body is darker than the worker bees.
It all began with a field trip to visit a beekeeper and learn about bees. The local newspaper recently did a story on him and the fact that he's teaching his children beekeeping. We are lucky to be able to learn from him. I hope that we can educate people on the vital role that bees have on the planet, and all of the fascinating things that bees do. I think it's cool that my kids will grow up telling people about bees. I want to contribute to the planet, instead of spending my life consuming it. One little hive at a time.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Upcycled Greenhouse From Old Windows and Doors.

I don't even know where to begin, my excitement over this project is out of control. Winter has had me itching for spring planting. The days of picking vegetables in the winter are few and far between, at least in my first little winter garden. I ordered my seeds from Seed Savers Exchange, and I'm counting down to when it's warm enough to start my seeds!
 I needed a "greenhouse" of sorts, and there was pretty much nothing that was going to stop my determination. 
Husband at work?
Oh well. 
Drill batteries dead? 
Charge those suckers up.
 Case in point, the photo above, that I thought to stop and snap while the battery was charging on the saw. This door has been in our storage trailer for years. It's solid wood, and I knew I'd use it someday for something. I decided the height I wanted, and the angle for the top, and cut my two side pieces out of this door. 
Next, I used an old french door (glass still in tact, holllllaaa!) as my front, and screwed them together with long wood screws. This seemed a heck of a lot easier than framing up the entire thing out of wood, then covering the front with individual wood slats. Plus, it's super cute and adds more sunlight! 

Next, I just measured, cut, and screwed in the four framing pieces you see around the top edges. This gave me something to rest and hinge the windows on.

I'm still debating on what to do on the inside, because I know the grass will grow. I am leaning toward pinning down thick black plastic, and topping with tiny gravel, like in our garden.
 All I had to buy were four hinges, a couple of hooks, and a small length of chain. 

The hooks are on the fence, and the chain loops are screwed to the center of each window. Simply lift the window, and hook the chain to the fence to work inside. Ahh! You can tell I'm super proud of this one! Now I have to figure out what to put on the walls of my house, where I removed those decorative windows. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Turquoise LOVE Marquee

This is nothing new to the blog world, but I LOVE it! Last year I had my eye on a JOY marquee at Target, but it was always sold out, even online. Seriously, they were eternally out of joy. As of right now, they are on sale for $16.00 according to their website (if you can find it in a store). I bought the LOVE yesterday in-store and it was also on sale, although it was a little bit more than JOY.
 I didn't take any before pictures because I wasn't planning on blogging about it, but I just love how it turned out! All I did was twist off the bulb fronts, and pull out the bulb and wire from the back. The metal comes with a faux wood grain, but it looks a little too faux in my opinion. I knew I wanted to mount it on wood, and I didn't want a wood-on-wood look. I debated between red or turquoise spray paint, but this was the first one I found in my stash, so turquoise won out! ;)
 Note to self, don't spray paint on a patio full of the wind. Booooo. A gust blew a bunch of crap all over my wet paint and I had to wait for it to dry, flake off the junk, then repaint and immediately take them inside to dry safely. Then it was just a matter of screwing the bulbs back in and nailing it to the wood. Luckily I found the perfect piece in one of the junk piles around the ranch.
The plug begins at the top of the L, so I had to run a small extension cord behind it. Target also has other words, a heart, and a star. I wanted a word that I could leave up all year long. If you want one, you should nab it now though, because these are only around during Christmas.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What Growing My Own Food Has Taught Me

I've had a sort of internal dialogue running through my head for weeks. Spring 2014 was our first real and successful garden. I never knew that planting it would lead to the discoveries we've made along the way. It is highly gratifying to go out in your backyard and see life occurring around you, see it repeat itself, and even for the most part care for itself.
 Where I grew tomato plants this summer, I now find myself pulling up baby tomato plants that have sprouted from the seeds of fallen tomatoes. All. by. themselves. This is not a what you should be eating blog post. Certainly I have a lot of opinions on mass-produced food, big farming, pesticides, GMOs, and processed food, but everyone has the right to eat whatever they want.
 I like to go out to the garden sometimes and just watch. For instance, just a few days ago those baby sugar snap peas were not there. There was only a small white flower. It just amazes me.
 I love watching the bees work in the garden. If you've never taken any interest in the importance of bees when it comes to food, you should! Bees are completely fascinating. God created them to know how to do every single thing they need to survive. Their queen dies? The worker bees MAKE a new one. We don't need to interfere. Unfortunately, we have interfered, and now colonies are collapsing. There is a lot to be said about bees, but instead of hearing it from me, I suggest you watch Vanishing of the Bees on Netflix. My husband and I are currently doing our research on organic beekeeping, and will be setting up our equipment this winter to begin beekeeping in the spring.
 I love the fact that there is no ingredient list here. If there was, it would say water, sunshine, and organic "soil". I put soil in quotes because I actually don't use soil for my beds. I follow the square foot gardening method, and it is a mixture of organic materials such as peat, vermiculite, earthworm castings, cow manure, chicken manure. There are no weed seeds in it, like there are in bagged soil. Any weeds I get in my boxes are only if they blow in with the wind.
 Chickens have been our newest adventure and have kept me on Google nonstop. Sure, I did a lot of research before we got our chickens so that I'd know what to expect. What I didn't know is that eggs are seasonal. Did you know that? There are all kinds of things you learn when you buy from a local farmers' market or produce your own. Suddenly you realize things just don't appear on a shelf or at your fingertips. Someone put in effort for that food to be on a shelf.
Chickens molt in the fall/winter. After a lot of reading, I found out that means they will lose some feathers (some more than others) and will slow or stop completely producing eggs. This is a time of renewal for their reproductive organs, and will keep the quality of the eggs strong when they begin again, or pick up production. We have four hens. Before we got chickens, I thought that meant we'd get four eggs a day. Wrong. We have never had more than two eggs in one day. Granted we bought them in the fall, not even knowing anything about molting season. There are things some people do, to try to amp up production during this time or kind of "trick the hens" into thinking there is more daylight than there actually is. We've decided to just let it happen naturally. If God designed them to operate this way, it's for a good reason. They don't live to serve us. I can tell you one other thing I've learned about natural (healthy diet, no antibiotics, no hormones) eggs- the shells are thicker, the yolks are so yellow that they almost look orange, and the yolks are THICK. They don't easily break or run like typical grocery store eggs.

Nature is more interesting than you might think! None of this stuff is new, but it's new to me. Do people think we're weird? Probably. Wasting our time? Probably. Do I care? Nope. Growing my own food has taught me that food is precious. It does not come easy. It does not come quickly. Used correctly, it has all kinds of power to nourish our bodies in the ways I believe God intended when He created it.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Our Mobile Chicken Coop

I realize that I haven't blogged in FOREVER. This is the first thing I've felt like sharing in a long time. It must be because we're so excited about it! We decided to build a mobile chicken coop for our backyard. Believe it or not, we used about 80% recycled materials from around the backyard. We only bought the chicken wire, wheels, hook and eye door latches, and lag bolts. I even used an old can of paint to make it look like a barn! 
 The reason for our mobile coop is fairly easy to explain. We want them to be able to eat grass and not be stuck in the same place for their whole lives, but we need to keep them safe from our dogs and predators. The major bonus of this method, is that they fertilize the ground, and by moving the coop to a fresh patch everyday, should encourage new growth by the time we get back around to where we started. (We have quite a large yard) We water the patch of grass we just moved from to get the poop to get absorbed in the ground.
 I should mention that we are in no way experts on any of this. We have done a lot of reading and research, and we are also learning as we go. We didn't follow any plans for the coop, but looked at a bunch online and then drew out our vision for our own. It then took shape as we looked around for materials we already had. The shutter is something I saved from my days as a wedding decorator, and now it is our egg door.
 The door to the bottom is off of an old yard sale find. I have a cabinet that I remade into an entry table and I removed two of these light green doors and saved them. I'm glad I did! All we did was add some hinges and the lock.
 We already learned to hang the water higher, so that they don't get it all dirty. This is an early photo. The first night was hilarious as we sat outside to watch and see who would discover the ramp and top floor first. We all cheered on our own hens. Their names are Doris, Mabel, Mildred, Eleanor. I love that we can easily tell them apart based on physical characteristics. They each have their own personality and it's been fun to watch them these first few days.
 We really didn't know what to expect, as far as egg laying. We didn't know if they'd start right away, or if they had to get used to their new home first. We also didn't know if they would know where we wanted them to lay the eggs. The person we bought them from gave us two of their eggs and I decided to put them in two of the nesting boxes to give them a hint. The first day, it was so exciting to open the door and see this in one of the boxes! I should have taken a better photo of the house part, but there are four nesting boxes right when you open the egg door. This is a close up of one of them. You can see where the ramp comes up in this photo. The rest of the floor is chicken wire, so that their poop falls to the ground. So far, it has worked perfectly. We wanted minimal cleaning.
It has been really fun for our family to watch the hens and learn their routines. I always expected to go out early in the morning and find eggs, when in fact, our hens lay them during the day. I will look out the window and only see 3 on the ground, hear a bunch of squawking, then when there are 4 down on the ground I will go out and check, and there's an egg!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Wood Plank Accent Wall- Dining Room

This morning I finished up my dining room project. I'd posted photos of it yesterday on Facebook, but I felt that I needed to add just one more row of wood to the wall. I did that this morning, and I'm so glad I did! You can't tell from photos, but in person it made a big difference when compared to my height standing next to it. 
 Honestly the hardest part of this project was cutting the hole for the electrical outlet. We have the world's worst jigsaw and the blades bend and cut crooked. I even broke a blade while doing it. Thankfully my husband was nearby, so I begged for help on that part before I messed it up too bad. Honestly, if our jigsaw (which we rarely use, so I haven't bought a better one) was better quality, it would have been easy.
 So, to start off, I removed everything off of the wall. I painted about a third of the wall white. This wall continues over the cabinets in the kitchen, so I had to climb up on the counters and continue all the way over the cabinets. I used a stud finder and marked all of the studs with chalk. When shopping for wood, I decided it would be worth the money to get the tongue and groove shiplap wood instead of regular boards. I am SO glad I did, because it made installation a breeze. We bought the longest staples we could find, and I used an air compressed staple gun to install the boards. (Note: I avoided the stud that runs next to the electrical outlet, since my husband said that the power lines are tacked to that stud, and you can never be 100% sure where you are on the stud itself)
 I didn't stop and take a photo of the bare wood after I installed it, but you get the idea. Last, I used Minwax dark walnut stain to get the warm color I wanted.
 Turning my table this way and putting my cabinet and coffee cart on the same wall make the most use of my small space. I can't believe how much bigger it looks set up this way.
 Then I just shopped my house for decor. I knew I wanted to keep it fairly simple.
The hanging pots are actually white metal pails that I pried the handles off of. I used white clothesline rope from Lowe's and just looped it through the holes and tied knots. I am using fake boxwood, since that big plant on my cabinet is apparently the only indoor plant that I can keep alive. I've had that plant for about 8 years!!!!

My wood wall, and white planters were inspired by a photo I saw on Instagram account @elsielarson and her blog is called A Beautiful Mess. Inspiration is everywhere, you just have to find a look you like, and dare to try it!