Wednesday Renovation Recap: The Time It Was My Turn To Work On The House But It Caught Me Off Guard And I Was All “Grrr” And Then I Actually Got Into It

I am the first one to admit that I like having plans and a general idea of how my weekend is going to go.  I just like plans and I do not like things to disrupt said plans for something I am not excited about especially when I’m excited about the plans I had originally. Sometimes this personality trait, which I am working on changing because I need to be more flexible, does not pan out well when Andy is all “I need you to do this” and I’m all “but I was going to do this” but then it turns out what he wants done really needs to be done because the drywall is coming in a week and it’s going to take days and the drywall can’t go up until I do it and the thing I wanted to do can wait another week or two so son of a bee sting now I have to do the thing Andy wants me to do and now I’m all *gives the look*.

This is how Sunday went.

I planned on getting my potting soil and starting the seeds for our winter sowing take two as mentioned in this post. I was all “cameras charged, get the dogs leashes, I’m going to the garden store!” and then Andy was all “where are you going? I need you to wipe the mold and mildew off the beams upstairs”. Then I was all “What are you talking about?!”.

Then I was all “I wanted to paint the beams white.” and he was like “We’re not painting the beams white. But that doesn’t matter, they still need to be cleaned first.” and I was all “What do you mean we’re not painting the beams white, that was the point of having them exposed” and he was all “No, that wasn’t the point. But we still need them cleaned first. We’ll figure out finishes afterwards.”

Then a conversation ensued where it was really him being calm but stern and like (I’m paraphrasing and being liberal) “I’ve built this entire addition, please just help me out. The soil can wait and you can buy it at Home Depot which you drive by every single day to and from work and it will be way less money than if you go to the green house to buy it for the same stuff.” So then he made a ton of sense and I sometimes hate when he makes so much sense, which is so much more often than I like to admit but I do admit it because I’m not a total jerk, because ahhh run on sentence. Point and case – Andy makes a lot of good points and I’m enough of a not-selfish jerk to see his point and contribute like I should even though what I really want to do is what I want to do which is selfish and I just can’t do that because it just seems rude.

It doesn’t mean that the sudden change in plans didn’t make me all…

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Though I didn’t look as angry as Knope up there, as I was really just unimpressed, I knew he was right and that there is no way I could say no. So instead I gave *the look* which is what Andy says I give when I’m thoroughly unimpressed with a situation. I managed to give him both the look and not say much for the next hour or so as I grumbled. Here’s the thing though, Andy knows when I’m in *the look* mode he can snap me out of it given a little time. It is incredibly hard for me to stay upset and he is well aware of this fact. So he does funny things, and I’m all “I hate when you make me laugh when I want to be annoyed” but he knows me well enough to know that the laugh will always eventually win out.

Truth be told my annoyance came not because he asked me to help on the house, but because it was last minute when he remembered it needed to be done and because my plans were deemed bunk. I’m woman enough to step up and say learning to be more flexible is something I can use, and am working on.

Andy also knows me well enough to know that my first reaction to things is “what?! No!” and then like five seconds later I’m all “fine you’re right” and then five seconds after that I’m all “I’m glad we did it that way!”. So of course part way through cleaning the beams I was totally fine and I was all “I’m not even annoyed at you, I’m annoyed at the situation but this needs to be done and it’s for our family and so be it, it’s just one of those things” and he was all “Yeah, that’s how this goes. Welcome to my world” and then I realized all of the boring, mundane, shit he’s dealt with since he started this addition. I mean, I intellectually knew it, but I got what he must have been feeling.  And then something happened.

I started finding pleasure in doing the work.

What?! How could that Knope stare down go into finding pleasure in it? It’s called reframing. My initial reaction was a selfish, ridgid reaction. Then I was all “Self,  this has to be done and I can either do it and be huffy about it, or I can do it and feel good about what I’m doing.” So while it was a minor annoyance in the scheme of things I actually found it somewhat enjoyable. I was doing this for my family and that made it worth it. I was able to do it with tea tree and white vinegar instead of harsh chemicals, which was part of my initial reaction against wanting to do it. I realized if this is how Andy has felt doing mundane crap for the last 6 months or so, just so his family could have a nice house, I could do a task that I didn’t particularly love either and I would find a way to like it.

And I did. I don’t know that I want to smell tea tree or vinegar for a while, but I actually got into it.

So now, this week, we’re onto sanding and it looks amazing so far. I have to admit one other thing, which I’m sure Andy saw coming from a mile away—I’m cool with not painting the beams white anymore. I was slightly bent out of shape about when not only did my plans change for the day, but a design feature I had been imagining in my head changed too.

So now when I’m sanding the beams I’m a little less *the look* and a little more…

leslie-knopeJust keeping it real. Sometimes aspects of renovations aren’t exactly the most exciting fun things, and sometimes they remind you of a personality trait you need to keep working on. Both things need to be done. And when life gives you lemons. Make a margarita and get all Lesley Knope up in this joint. Just, wait on the margarita until you’ve finished sanding.

xo,

Heather

 

Low Tunnel Hoop Bender

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In this post I discussed our garden plans, which included building a few low tunnel covers to help protect of squash from the bugs, and our greens from bolting. I looked into buying the hoops but was unimpressed with what I found. Either they were too expensive, or they looked cheap. I knew I wanted metal hoops but I wasn’t sure how to bend them.

I’ve been listening to the Chicken Thistle Farm coopcasts (podcasts) a lot lately and in one of them they mention their Johnny Seeds hoop bender. I was intrigued. If I could bend the hoops myself, why wouldn’t I—but did I need to buy a bender or could I make a bender? While using the Johnny Seeds hoop bender would be faster, I knew the cost benefit wouldn’t be there considering I didn’t need a ton of hoops, and the hoops I needed to make were small.

Before I knew it my fingers were flying as I looked up DIY hoop benders. I had a feeling I was going to find something and YouTube didn’t let me down. I really enjoyed this video from Brock Hammill who explained how to build a hoop bender from nothing more than plywood/subfloor, 1/2 inch EMT (electrical conduit pipe from a home improvement store at about $2.00 for 10′), screws, scrap wood, a tape measure, a piece of string and a pencil.

IMG_4104The video does a fantastic job of explaining how to do this, but in case you can’t watch it right now here’s how I did it. Mind you I also had access to a grinder to cut my pipe when I was done, but if you don’t you might want to have a metal pipe saw which you can get at Home Depot.

1. Figure out how wide you want your hoop, so you can get your measurements correctly. I knew that my mounds for my squash would be about two feed wide more or less, same with the rows for my greens. I decided to make them a little wider at about 30 inches. I made sure I had at least 40 inches of plywood to work with, since I needed some room for a next step.

2. Once you have your width figured out for your hoops (in my case 30″) measure out so you have half the distance (15″) on each side and put a screw in the center. Tie your string to the screw, measure out half the distance (15″) and with your pencil swoop around to make a half circle.

IMG_41063. Place screws around this half circle you made, with more screws at the beginning as they will take the brunt of the bend. Keep in mind that as you use this your screws will bend some, so choose a heavy duty screw like a deck screw. Note in the photo below, I didn’t use deck screws. I wish I could remember what I used but they were heavy duty. When you put these in keep in mind to leave at least a 1/2″, if not a little more, sticking out. You need the screws to be slightly taller than your 1/2″ EMT you’ll be bending.

IMG_41094. Once you have all of your screws in, place a piece of scrap wood about 1″ away from the beginning of your screws. You’ll use this as leverage.

5. To bend your EMT place it between the screws and scrap wood, about 6 inches below the jig. These extra 6″ will be what you will use to help stake it into the ground. Now, start bending! You will need to secure down your piece of plywood before you start bending or else it will move all around and screw up your bend. This was hard for me to do because I did this in a garage and the ground is frozen. Once it thaws outside this spring I’ll put some stakes in the ground around the plywood so I can easily bend the EMT. I used whatever heavy I could find in the garage, and used my weight on the board when the angles allowed. My first hoop has a weird bend in it because part way around the plywood jarringly slipping and it caused an awkward bend (the hoop on the left in the first finished photos below). Truth be told, it will still work fine. No biggie.

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6. Once you’re done bending, I suggest taking each end in both hands and give it a quick tight squeeze to help ensure you get the width you need as it will be slightly wider. You’ll feel super strong. It’s like a thigh master for your arms. Plus, who doesn’t feel cool being able to bend metal with their hands? Trust me, you’ll be like “I’M AMAZING” and run around like Rocky with your hands above your head. *disclaimer: I’ve never seen Rocky. I only assume he does this because why wouldn’t he?

7. Once you have your bend, cut the extra off. I used a grinder because it was there, and I could. Another option, which I did with my second hoop was to cut it to size more or less prior to bending. I have to say though, I love the grinder. Grinder, I hardly knew her. #imsupermature #getwiththetimesheather

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Once you’ve done all of the above – you have hoops! Tada! They aren’t perfect hoops but they are perfect for our use. I think once I am able to securely stake my jig into the ground this spring I’ll have smoother bends. As far as the size difference it’s due to the fact I have extra metal on the second one I made (right) to put it into the ground (which I still need to cut a little), and I gave the first one (left) and extra squeeze which made it a little narrower. Once I actually place these in the garden I’ll be able to press them all in so they are all the same more or less.

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So here are a few tips I learned from my first take at this:

  • I bent my first piece at full length, and cut the second piece shorter pre-bend once I got an idea of how much I needed, simply because it made it easier to bend.
  • How to figure out how much EMT you need per bend: A general and easy way of figuring the length of each hoop is the following equation (width of hoop x 2). So for me this would be 30*2  = 60″ / 12″ = 5′. This means generally I need 5 feet of EMT to make my 30″ hoop. However take in account the fact you need some extra on each end. I made mine about 5’7″. Why? It’s my height so it made it easy to measure the EMT against myself to get the right length.
  • It’s so important to have your jig staked down unless you want a few messed up hoops. They’ll still likely work but once it’s bent it’s bent.
  • Don’t use over 1/2″. According to the video above he had trouble with anything above 1/2″ EMT conduit so I listened to his advice. 1/2″ is all you really need anyway.

So that’s that! I expect as I keep making more of these I’ll have a lot more conformity to the hoops. Honestly, as long as they just work I’m okay. I’m very happy with how the hoop bender turned out and any errors in the bending are operator error, not the jig. If I end up having to make a lot more I might buy the bender, but for now, for this season, this jig is where it’s at!

Happy garden planning!

xo,

Heather

2013 Garden Update & Pest Control Plans

This year is a big year when it comes to our vegetable garden. It may seem early to start planning, but January is the perfect time to make changes and order seeds. While we’re not expanding our approximately 1,100 square foot (about 24′ x 48′) garden this year (future plans perhaps), we have a lot of new ideas under our belt for how to increase productivity in the short and long term by:

  • reducing pests and pest damage with minimal use of organic sprays
  • helping the soils remain productive over the long haul through a four year crop rotation plan
  • start some of our own seeds using the winter sowing method and possibly a homemade interior lighting system
  • using the space more efficiently through vertical squash and cucumber growing
  • plant/soil testing to figure out if chronic disease is soil related, seed stock related, or both

Each of these topics can easily be their own blog post, so let’s get right to it! Let’s just go right down the line and start at the top.

Reduce Pests and Pest Damage with Minimal Use of Organic Sprays

One of the biggest ways we’ll be combating early bugs this year, as well as help our plants while they’re young, is through low row tunnel covers. A low row tunnel cover is essentially a series of half hoops covered in a specific fabric. We’ll be using these not only for pest damage, but to help keep our kale and lettuce from bolting so early which causes it to become very very bitter and inedible. Thankfully the 2012 kale which bolted is still useful since we let it winter over to grow for seed stock to harvest this year. Seed saving is a whole different topic so let’s discuss what caused the final push into deciding to use low row tunnel covers.

In the 2012 growing season we had a horrific squash bug and cucumber beetle infestation, and our kale and lettuce bolted unexpectedly thanks to a few scorching hot days. Despite growing up with a garden, I’m still fairly new at this and it’s all a learning process. I’ve realized there are two ways you learn, through education and organization and when something screws up – like lettuce and kale so big and beautiful but so bitter you can’t eat it, or a total lack of cucumbers and a sad realization you won’t have any pickles. The squash were hard hit with only a few of the hardier species surviving including one of each butternut squash, hubbard and acorn, which didn’t produce like they should have.

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When it comes down to it row tunnel covers will allow us to cover our plants with different weight fabrics, dependent on the environmental needs of the plant, throughout the growing season. We will likely start with a heavier fabric as here in Maine it can turn unexpectedly very cold, even if it’s past the last frost date. After we’re past when it might dip unexpectedly cold at night I’ll likely switch to a light weight fabric to help keep the bugs out and allow the max sun and rain in. Once the plants are hearty enough, and are flowering (squash, etc.) I’ll uncover those rows to allow pollination to take place.

The current plan is to try both vertical squash/cucumbers (another post on this later) as well as traditional mounds. The traditional mounds will be covered with low tunnel covers. Once these plants are hearty enough I will move the covers to the greens and switch the cover to a shade fabric to help keep them from bolting. We’ll see how it goes.

All of this chatter brings us to the semantics – how to build a low row tunnel. I want to be clear that I am by no means an authority on how this needs or should be done. There are so many wonderful websites all about this if you just search around. This is simply what we’ve decided to do here on our little farm. There are so many options when it comes to these tunnel covers. You can buy ones that are already put together, but you can’t change the fabric on. You can build them out of rebar and PVC, you can build them out of EMT (an electrical conduit that’s fairly easy to bend) as well as a plethora of other options.  If you go with something like EMT, you can either buy a bender from somewhere like Johnny’s, or with a few simple things around the house you can build your own albeit it’s a little more work.

I did a wicked amount of research and decided the best option for us was the EMT / Home-built bender route. I decided to go this route for one reason: affordability. EMT is very affordable and long lasting where as PVC is more expensive and breaks down in the sunlight over time. I’m hesitant to spent a lot of money on something I might decide isn’t worth it. That aside, why buy something I can build? Building my own bender will help off-set the cost of the cover fabric, so I consider it worth it. Maybe if we expand a lot in the future I’ll buy a bender, but for this year a handmade bender is where I’m at.

I’ll do another post explaining how I built my bender, but here’s a preview.

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That’s pretty much it, screws, plywood, a pencil, a ruler, and some string.

I’d say this post is quite long enough at this point, and I have a dog on my lap who has simply decided snuggling is far more important than me typing, so before my arm goes entirely to sleep I’ll wrap it up with this – here’s to the beginning of a big 2013 garden season, hopefully big in both testing results and production!

xo,

Heather

2013 Blog Updates and New Topics!

Hey there friends! It’s 2013 and it’s time to roll out some changes and how this blog is run. I still plan on writing to you guys 1-2 times a week, but now on different topics versus primarily house only {thank God, right?}.

Here’s a run down of the changes.

Navigation. The navigation has been updated to reflect the primary topics I’ll be posting into, as well as trying to make topics easy to find. Some of the posts fall into multiple categories, especially the oldest ones. Hopefully from here on out they will all fall into one of the categories or subcategories.

  • House and Home: This topic will be all about our house and home, surprise. I’m incredibly crafty with titles. This section will include renovations (still broken out by room), decor, organization, and D.I.Y decor/woodworking specifically for the house.
  • Homesteading: This section will include homestead specific posts (I’m on a roll) including but not limited to gardening, the farm, future animal plans, anything to do with the barn and garage, making of home cleaning products and anything I else I deem homesteady.  There are a few sub-headers to this section called “Simply Living” where I’ll post things like homemade laundry detergent, etc., “The Dooryard” which are things we do around our yard and the surrounding land and “The Farm” specifically where I’ll post about the beef cattle farm. Down the line this may include our chickens and Christmas tree farm if we decide to go that route.
  • Kitchen Mischief: This section isn’t changing. Here you’ll find the good old “Kitchen Mischief” recipes both sweet and savory, preservation and of course the now and again favorite “How to Be Classy Like Me” posts. This section admittedly won’t be posted in as much as the other ones, at least until this summer when preserving picks up.
  • Chatterbox Cafe: We all know that a good portion of the posts on here don’t really have specifically to do with either the house or homesteading, rather than just being my thoughts on items, or posts like this one. Head on over to the Chatterbox Cafe to read these types of posts. BYO Eggs and Bacon.
  • Free Designs: Technically this could fall under “House and Home” but I really wanted people to be able to find all of these things simply and easily. This category includes all of the fun free digital designs I make for you guys.

Categories {“Topics”}. Are you looking for a specific category of posts, and not necessarily something as broad as in the navigation? No problem. Take a look on the bottom right hand side of the page and you’ll see a list of all categories. Yep, there’s now a category called “dogs”. You can skip everything else and just read about the adventures in Winnie and Primrose.

In addition to the above changes, I’ll be adding in some new segments and taking away others.

  • Farm Updates: This new segment will be a once every month or two to update about the beef cattle farm up the street and will fall under the “Homesteading -> The Farm” sub-header. Mostly, this will be pictures of cows, let’s face it. Later on this may include our chickens we plan on getting, the Christmas tree farm we might plant, etc. There are a lot of ideas out there so we’ll see what happens. One step at a time.
  • Etsy Reviews: This segment will be going away. I simply don’t have time to commit to browsing Etsy regularly to show off an awesome seller on a regular basis as was my plan. If I can’t do it right, I’d rather not do it. You can still find all the old Etsy reviews under the topics sidebar.

So that’s about it! 2013 updates. Here’s to a fun new year.

xo,

Heather

Fab Freebie: Modern Garden 2013 Calendar {And Also Oh My God You Guys Are Amazing}

You know when Taylor Swift gets super excited she does that face all the time? The one that looks like this?

photo from http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/surprise-face
photo from http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/surprise-face

Yeah, that’s how I pretty much looked/felt when I not only had a reader tell me she’s been following my posts forever but also when I looked at my Google Analytics and realized that I broke the under 10,000 page view per month. This last month is at 12,000+ so far and I’m totally floored – especially because I haven’t been writing as much. I don’t know who all of you are, but you’re amazing and fantastic and I love you to pieces.

To show you that love, I’m sharing the modern, fun, garden inspired 2013 calendar I designed for myself, for free. Free is pretty much one of my favorite words ever, and I love sharing things I design so here you go! I made this calendar simply because I couldn’t find one I liked so I got creative and made one. When in doubt – create.

This calendar can be printed either 8 1/2 by 11 or as a full on desk pad calendar. You know, those huge ones – though you’d probably have to have it printed at a Staples or Kinkos or something. To be clear, I didn’t design the images in the top left corner. They are from a purchased set from Shutterstock, though I did change the colors quite a bit. I’m going to admit it, Novemeber is my favorite picture/color scheme. Simply put, I love seagreen and I love potatoes. BOOM. November for the win.

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If you want to see the whole shebang (if by shebang you are referring to the calendar and not a hot cabana man), you can download the calendar in it’s entirely below!

Modern Garden 2013 Calendar

Thank you guys again SO MUCH for being amazing and wonderful and encouraging me. Even when I realize my shirt is on backwards, moments after I receive the materials to prep for the Masters Degree entrance test. Yep. It happened.

xo,

Heather