Reveal: Thrift Diving’s 30-Day Outdoor Overhaul

My 30-day outdoor overhaul is complete. I came in just under the wire, with the goal of finishing by April 30th. It’s been a full month with one three-day weekend spent in Reno chaperoning my son’s Key Club event and another partial weekend away touring colleges. Throw in an unexpected root canal and it’s been quite the month. Phew!

Serena of Thrift Diving hosts 30-day challenges a few times a year. Several of us sign up for the extra motivation that comes with a deadline. Since I live in California, I’ve been lucky with the weather. We had a bit of rain on one of my painting days, and some windy days too, but nothing like the rest of the group. Serena actually extended the deadline by one week, since so many of the participants have had late-season snow.

I’ll be sure to share Serena’s post with all the challengers when they finish.

Without further ado, here’s what I accomplished this month.

Goals for the 30-Day Outdoor Overhaul

Goal #1: Clean, *repair* and paint my old potting bench

I’ve talked about repainting my potting bench for years but never quite got around to it. Now it’s done and I’m so happy. I painted the bench inside and out with two coats of Annie Sloan’s chalk paint. Once dry, I stenciled ferns along the bottom slats in a lighter shade of chalk paint. I arranged a variety of glass jars with fresh sweet peas along the top of the bench. I like the look of green and purple together. My friend Sherri gave me the decorative bird you see at the top of the bench. It’s perched on a pine tree twig.

Goal #2: Research gate options for side yard

About six months ago, I installed a make-shift temporary “gate” pictured above to keep Tessa from wandering out of the yard. I used an old wooden trellis, a 2 x 4 and a scrap of shade cloth, all items I had on hand. On the plus side, it served its purpose (keeping Tessa in the yard). On the down side it was ugly and impractical.

Once I started calling for quotes, however, the options for a metal gate seemed bleak. They’re all custom-made and cost thousands of dollars! Instead I worked out an alternate plan for free.

We extended our cat-fence netting all the way to the wooden front gate facing the street. We had just enough leftover from the back fence to finish the job. We used a remnant to cover the gate leading to the street. I’m so happy to have access to the side-yard once again and I’m pleased with the way it looks.

Here is a bit of serendipity. I reused the old trellis to complete goal 4. Though the bottom of the wooden trellis is partially decayed, I simply attached a pair of garden stakes with zip ties to support it and to keep the trellis off of the soil. Mike helped me pound the stakes into the ground to support the free-standing trellis.

 Goal #3: Outdoor sandbox for cats

This goal is neither exciting nor blog worthy, but a goal is a goal. I picked up two bags of sanitized sand at a hardware store and poured it into the back corner of the garden.

Tessa and Mouse explored and then started using the sandbox. I’m hoping this cuts down on the deposits in other areas of the garden.

I made the Kitty-Loo sign out of scrap paper and Washi tape, then slipped it into the bottom of a page-protector. The silver cord came from my stash. I wanted something to photograph for this post besides a pile of sand.

Goal #4: Camouflage and Beautify

Goal 3 blends nicely with goal 4: camouflaging the kitty box and beautifying the back corner. I bought a 10 x 40 inch planting box, and set it on an angle in the corner near the back fence. Instead of a vine (my original plan) I bought a gorgeous white camellia. I planted purple periwinkle (vinca minor) on either side. The camellia will grow wider over time, eventually hiding the trellis all together. This corner looks so much better than it did.

Goal #5: Create a step-up to the raised garden along the back fence

I used 10 inch pavers to create a small step-up to the elevated planting bed along our back fence. I only needed ten stones, and a bag of pea gravel to pull it together. Although the rock wall is natural and the pavers manufactured, I was able to soften the edges with a couple of plants. The first time I used the steps I felt like a kid in a candy shop. They work really well.

Home Depot garden paving stones

Future garden steps

garden near back fence

Garden, back left corner

garden near side yard

Garden near side yard

There are a number of challengers working hard to finish their outdoor projects. When Serena posts her blog with all the finishers, I’ll be sure to share it here with you.

If you think you might like to sign up for a future Thrift-Diving challenge, you can subscribe to Serena’s blog or follow her on Facebook at Thrift Diving.

Spring Colors: Cool as a Cucumber*

Spring Colors: Cool as a Cucumber*


Can you imagine a world without color?

Not me!

There’s room in every garden for the full rainbow spectrum. In my post Some Like it Hot, I featured many of the vibrant red, orange and yellow hues of my garden.

The cooler range of a primary rainbow includes blue, green, indigo and violet. They’re also my favorites.

In addition to providing a cool and lovely contrast to the heat of the garden, the cooler colors serve an important purpose. Green of course is the very backbone of plant life.

Plants derive their green color from a pigment called chlorophyll, literally translated as “green leaf”. This allows the plant to draw light and energy to thrive.

 

While the bright flowers get center stage, green is working hard in the wings to keep the garden healthy and strong. Green leaves also serve as excellent camouflage for beneficial insects such as praying mantis. Earth tones of brown and grey, provide birds with cover from predators.

Purple, violet and blue-like blooms attract bees, hummingbirds, bluebirds, and jays. Perhaps I should add “and gardeners” as green and purple are my two favorite colors.

 

I recently learned that

Purple is common in plants, largely thanks to a group of chemicals called anthocyanins. When it comes to animals, however, purple is more difficult to produce.

Source, Natural History Museum

I read years ago that there is no real blue when it comes to flowers. According to Mother Nature Network

There is no true blue pigment in plants, so plants don’t have a direct way of making a blue color,” Lee said. “Blue is even more rare in foliage than it is in flowers.” he added. “Only a handful of understory tropical plants have truly blue foliage.

While I’m on the subject of cool colors, I forgot to let you know the answer to the quiz on my Hobbiton Movie set post. I posed the question, “which of the three trees picture below is a fake?” The answer is The Oak Tree

From the blog The Curious Kiwi

The large oak tree above Bilbo’s house was cut down and transported to Hobbiton where its branches were bolted back in place. Thousands of artificial leaves were wired to the branches, all for a few seconds of filming.

*Cool as a cucumber – Bloomsbury International. Extremely calm, relaxed and in control of your emotions. This phrase may have originated from the fact that even in hot weather, the inside of cucumbers are approximately 20 degrees cooler than the outside air.How cool is that?

Spring Colors: Some Like it Hot

Orange nasturtium

This orange nasturtium has a banana-yellow center and a lovely pair of eyelashes

Nature always wears the color of the spirit.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Unless you’re an allergy sufferer, you probably love spring. It’s a magical time in the garden when spring colors emerge from winter’s slumber while the birds sing their happy tune.

Red and Pink

 

After years of planting assorted bulbs and spring-mix seed packets, it’s fun to see the color assortment burst forth. Wrapped around the perennials, and sometimes hiding below, touches of spring color emerge. To be fair, many of the weeds are colorful too. You just have to decide what stays and what goes.

Orange

 

According to birder Melissa Mayntz of The Spruce:

Different birds are attracted to different colors. Individual bird species may see the “best” colors as indicating a food source. Other birds may be more attracted to the colors of their own plumage as those could indicate a potential mate or another bird that is surviving well.

Most bright colors, however, can be used to attract birds, with certain bird species being more attracted to particular shades.

Red and Pink: Hummingbirds
Orange: Orioles, hummingbirds
Yellow: Goldfinches, warblers, hummingbirds

Yellow

 

Interesting that red, orange and yellow are the first three colors of a primary rainbow. I think nature is on to something, don’t you?

Not to be undone green, blue and violent show up every spring as well. They’re the cooler colors, providing a lovely contrast to the heat of the spectrum. Stay tuned for their turn in the garden.

ScrapHappy April

I’m joining Kate of Tall Tales from Chiconia once again for her monthly scrap-happy blog post. The challenge is to use scraps from other projects to make something useful, beautiful or both. Several bloggers post once a month showcasing a project made entirely from scraps.

pair of cats for adoption

Lily and Petunia waiting for adoption while enjoying their cat beds. Photo credit: B. Solovei

This has been a two-part project. I wanted to make cat beds for an animal rescue group using scraps of fabric, old pillows and discarded clothing. I started last summer before the triple-digit heat set in.  It was simply too hot to do anything but huddle together in the one room with our portable AC unit. I made three cat beds, and then put the entire project on hold till the weather cooled.

The first photograph below, shows all my scraps spread out on the floor along with some old bed pillows passed on to me by a client.

The grey sweater and aqua terry cloth robe belonged to my sister. They were ready for the scrap heap, but instead I repurposed them into cat beds as pictured above.

Scraps of material and clothing cast-offs

Cutting and repairing my sister’s grey sweater for one side of the pillow. Using a terry cloth pool coverup and part of my swing cover for a second pillow. Lindy loved having piles of scraps all over the floor

Tessa loved playing in the pile of scraps. She was still a kitten when I took these pics.

Cat beds made from fabric scraps

I stuffed the pillow on the left with fabric scraps and bit of batting. The scraps proved too heavy, so I made the rest of the cat beds using old pillows. The grey sweater made it into two pillows. Two old items of clothing are used on the reverse side of each pillow

Setting this project aside had an upside. Belinda, who volunteers for Nike animal rescue let me know that smaller, narrower pillows would be a better fit for the temporary cat enclosures.

cat beds

The second batch of cat beds

My second batch of cat beds are smaller. Tessa hopped up on the bench while I took photos, lending perspective to their size.

Tessa on the potting bench with cat beds

Tessa likes to be where the action is

Tessa with cat beds

Tessa checking out the cat beds

Each of the cat beds has a little story.

cat beds, side one

Cat beds, side one

The floral fabric is left over from recovering my patio furniture a few years ago. I sewed two scraps together to make it large enough for the pillow. The second pillow is a remnant my friend Marcia used to wrap a Christmas gift a few years back. The third pillow uses part of one of the pillows I used to stuff the cat beds. I covered the last two with leftover leopard fabric from a Halloween costume I made a few years back.

cat beds, side two

Cat beds, side two

I backed each cat bed with additional scraps scavenged from my sister’s worn pool cover up, a client’s old, stained sweatshirt and my tattered purple workout jacket.

I still have two, king-sized pillows to use for future cat beds. I really enjoyed this “scrap-happy” project.

Nike Animal Rescue Foundation

Nike Animal Rescue Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, all volunteer organization dedicated to providing assistance to cats and dogs in need. All the cats and dogs available for adoption can be viewed here on the site. We hold adoption fairs in the South Bay several times a month where you can see all the pets in person. You can read more about their volunteer efforts here.

From Kate’s blog:

“ScrapHappy is open to anyone using up scraps of anything – no new materials. Anything made of scraps is eligible. If your scrap collection is out of control and you’d like to turn them into something beautiful instead of leaving them to collect dust in the cupboard, why not join us on the 15th of each month? You can email Kate at the address on her  Contact Me page. New members are welcome. No long-term commitment required. Regular contributors will receive an email reminder three days before the event.”

Have you made something entirely out of scraps lately? Please share your link in the comments section, below.

Thrift Diving’s 30-Day Outdoor Overhaul Makeover

Two years ago I signed up for Serena’s Thrift Diving challenge: a 30-day outdoor patio makeover. She’s hosting another one this month, also outdoors. It’s amazing how these challenges can light a fire under your feet.

Serena hosts these challenges a few times a year. You can read about her April challenge here. Several of us sign up for the extra motivation that comes with a deadline. She even has a closed Facebook group where we can post pictures, ask questions and share in other do-it-yourself projects. It’s a lot of fun.

Today, however, I’m feeling the pressure of the challenge. We have college tours coming up this month and a weekend away chaperoning a school activity, so I need to keep moving. Writing this post will help me collect my thoughts. I have a good start thanks to Serena’s Outdoor Overhaul Makeover Journal. 

These are my goals for my 30-Day Outdoor Overhaul

Goal #1: Clean, *repair* and paint my old potting bench

green potting bench

15 year-old garden/potting bench

Repair wasn’t part of the deal, but this morning I moved the bench on my own to the patio for cleaning and broke one of the planks. The bench is 15 years old and stays outside year round so it’s not that surprising. It looks like they used staples instead of screws to attach the top planks. I’ll need to sort that out.

The broken plank exposed a few startled silver fish. After they vacated the premises I employed my multi-step cleaning process.

I used my small leaf blower to chase away the large debris. I used a small brush to clean the crevices, then a larger brush and finally gave it a strong blast with the hose before one last scrubbing.

We have two more sunny days before a set of storms pass through, so I’m taking advantage of the weather.

Then, finally, the fun begins: repainting my old potting bench

Goal #2: Research gate options for side yard

makeshift gate

Makeshift “gate” to keep Tessa and our other cats safe in the yard

This is a long story, but I’ll try to make it quick. We had to replace the damaged fence along our side yard over a year ago. It took nine months from the start of the quotes to a finished fence for a variety of reasons. We had cat-netting along the old fence to keep the kitties safe in the yard. I wanted to add a second gate so we could reduce the amount of netting which gets tangled in the vines, but one that you could see through. The fence company couldn’t do it.  It’s now been six months and I still haven’t sorted out a quote or a DIY solution to keep our climbing kitten safe in the yard.

 Goal #3: Outdoor sandbox for cats

Tessa's future sandbox

Back corner of garden under neighboring pine tree

Yes, you read that correctly. When you have small children you keep your sandbox covered to avoid unwanted deposits from the cats. My boys are young adults and the sandbox is history, but our kitten, Tessa, prefers using the garden mulch to take care of business. I’m hoping to add a sandy area along the back fence to encourage her to use that instead. Cats like sand, so it should do the trick.

Goal #4: Camouflage and Beautify

back corner of garden

Back corner of garden where things don’t like to grow

The back corner of the garden has always been challenging. A large, neighboring pine tree shades the area, drops pine needles and sends up roots. It’s almost impossible to dig in that area, and when we have managed to wrangle the roots out-of-the-way to plant other things, they struggle to thrive.  I’m going to look for a planting box that sits on the soil at an angle. I’ll plant a shade-loving vine, then add a trellis behind the box. This will beautify the area, and at the same time camouflage Tessa’s outdoor facilities.  Win-win!

Goal #5: Create a step up to the raised garden along the back fence

Fence line

Raised garden bed along fence line. A few pavers should do the trick

Ah, age! It doesn’t look like much of a rise, but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to get up and down from the raised planting area along the back fence. It hurts my back, or my knees or my feet. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner, but I’m going to buy a few pavers to create one or two steps to make it more accessible. After these last storms I can remove the cover from the table and chairs.

Tessa loves spending time in the garden. It will be nice to have her company as I work through this 30-day challenge.

Tessa on the potting bench

Tessa lounging and playing on the potting bench

Thank you Serena for inspiring us.

Do you have a room, patio or deck in need of some TLC?

In a Vase on Monday: The Colors of Spring

In a vase on Monday

Ceramic chick filled with yellow and white Freesia, Salvia and purple Anemone

I’m joining “The Cathys” once again for their weekly feature, In a Vase on Monday.

I look forward to filling this pink ceramic chick every year. The vase is a gift from Nichole, a family friend and our go-to babysitter when our boys were young. She’s always been a wonderful presence in our lives.

Pink Ceramic Chick in a vase on Monday

Pink Ceramic Chick

Today’s vase features yellow and white Freesia, purple Anemone and sprigs of purple Salvia.

Spring colors

purple Anemone in a vase on Monday

Purple Anemone ready to open

These blooms have had the benefit of the loveliest, late-season rain here in San Jose. After an unseasonably dry winter, March arrived with a series of storms dumping much-needed snow on the Sierras and bringing gentle rain to the garden.

wooden Easter eggs

Wooden eggs and Freesia

Tessa smelling flowers in a vase on Monday

Tessa smelling the flowers (I thought this might be the end of the vase, but she treaded lightly)

Click on over to see some of the other beautiful vases featured on In A Vase on Monday.

Thank you Cathy at Words and Herbs and Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for your ongoing inspiration.

in a vase on Monday

The cutest little end

A Time to Remember

Our time in New Zealand has drawn to a close, but the memories of this extraordinary trip live on. As Pauline notes “we never know what might happen when we start to blog.”

Her lovely post follows.

The Contented Crafter

I know many of you have followed along with my recent adventures courtesy of those more organised bloggers, Laurie over at Life on The Bike and Alys at Gardening Nirvana who put up posts of such loveliness all I could do was hit the ‘Re-Blog’ button and call it done.

Feb 27 selfie

We had talked about a reunion ever since our first meet up in 2015 and seriously planned this adventure for a year.  It seemed a comfortable way off, but fortunately, at the six month mark I had chosen the holiday stay venue, booked the house and settled in to start making ‘welcome to New Zealand gifts’.  Two months later of course various accidents pulled me up short and curtailed my arty crafty activities and then time curled itself into a ball and hurtled past me into the future.

dav

And suddenly there I was standing early one evening at an airport…

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