Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Upcycling a Cheap Plaster Thrift Store Find for Outdoor Use

Sometimes when thrifting you find something that is almost what you want it to be.

I found this classic pinecone (or pineapple depending on who you ask) shaped plaster piece.

 It wasn't terrible at all, but it was chipped and since I wanted to use it outdoors I decided to try something new.

A concrete wash.

I don't even know if that's a thing but I loved the shape of this piece and wished it was concrete. Not wanting to lose the detail I decided to water down even more of that premixed concrete from this project...

and this project...

to give it a concrete surface. I also toyed with the idea of buying some concrete, mixing it up and filling the hollow interior, but that seemed like a lot of time and expense. Y'all know I adore a "use what you have" project. 

I used a little of the concrete and some water then added a bit of Jolie Legacy to the mix to give it a bit more age than just the plain concrete color. Why even have anything that doesn't look like it's a gazillion years old? 

After a thorough mixing, I used a brush to apply it to the pinecone in a thin coat. Remember I loved the detail and didn't want to lose it by being too liberal with the concrete.

After that was dry to the touch I used a bit of Miss Mustard Seed Boxwood with a little of the concrete mixture and made it into a really thick chunky paste. I wanted this to mimic some ancient mossy goodness in all the nooks and crannies.

This little project literally took minutes apart from drying time and covered up all the places where the plaster was chipped. I still don't know how waterproof it will be.

I'm currently debating whether to seal it with a waterproof sealer, but for now, it's on the porch.

Side note: This makes the third project I got out of one tub of the premixed concrete. I'll use the rest of it to reinforce some weak spots in the salvaged bird bath. If you pay full price anything can still be a really good deal if you use all of it. Now if I could only apply that to my refrigerator situation. 

Also, are we loving this Marie Kondo trend or what? 

XOXO Y'all! 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Let's Take a Peek Inside the Hives

Last week I did inspections of six of my eight hives, five that overwintered and one swarm I caught a couple of weeks ago. Here's a quick peek inside the hives!

After smoking the girls with a cool smoke and giving it a minute to waft throughout the hive I remove the top and inner cover. In this case, I also removed the honey super I'd put on when the honey flow started. Those flat brown circles are called "capped brood." They are baby bees waiting to emerge. In the picture above it looks spotty. That's fancy beekeeper talk for not a solid brood coverage. 

This frame of brood looked a little better. See the glistening white in some of the cells? Those are larvae. If you think your kids are wearing you out asking "what's for dinner?" these larvae eat 1300 times a day! They are fed by nurse bees, royal jelly at first and then a mixture of honey and pollen called "bee bread." At just the right time the worker bees seal the cell with the tan and porous beeswax you see in the photo. At that time the bee spins a cocoon around itself. We can't see that part because it takes place under the capping. Inside the cocoon metamorphosis takes place. At the appropriate time a fully adult bee eats through the wax covering and emerges to begin her first task in the hive, cleaning out her cell so it can be reused.

In the picture above you see a really beautiful brood pattern. This queen is doing very well. The holes in the middle of the brood pattern are where bees have already emerged.

Read about how I caught a recent swarm. 

In this picture you can see the bees building out the honeycomb in the honey super. If you look closely you can see that they've already started putting honey up.

I love it when the honeycomb is new. It is snowy white. Notice how the bees line up on the left frames to look at me and see what I'm up to.


I didn't see any of the queens on this inspection day but here's a picture of a purchased queen from last year. Notice that she's marked. When you buy queens they are marked with a different color for each year. It helps beekeepers keep track of how old their queens are.

Next time I try to remember to take my good camera to the bee yard. But it's just so easy when I'm holding a frame of bees to say "Hey Siri, activate camera."

Hope your week is buzzing along!

XOXO Y'all!

Monday, April 8, 2019

Swarm Season Round 1

It's the craziest and most unpredictable time of the year for beekeepers! You'll see bees clustered on cars, mailboxes, the doors of businesses. You'll see beekeepers in trees, on porch roofs, and on ladders. You'll even see bees on the news. Here's a pic of a swarm from a couple of years ago. The sky fills with them and you can see that here.

 Swarm is kind of a scary word to people. It's scary to beekeepers too but for different reasons. Read about how I caught my first swarm here. For a beekeeper, it means that half your bees might fly away and reduce your honey harvest for the season. On the other hand, if we can catch a swarm, it's free bees! We love free bees! 

A swarm is the natural reproduction process of a colony. It means a healthy hive and laying queen have outgrown their hive and are looking for an expansion opportunity. The swarming bees have stuffed themselves with honey before embarking on their journey. Since they have no home or brood nest to defend they are quite docile. If you see a swarm in the spring just leave it alone and it will go along in a day or two. If it's where you just can't leave it because of kids or pets call a beekeeper to come and get it. If you need a laugh you can read my post about catching my very first swarm, Queen Bee Wars: Swarming Mean Girls.

While I was relaxing with a friend on the porch last week my bees swarmed. It's an exciting thing to share with someone who has never witnessed it before. How many times do you see the birth of a super-organism? They landed on a branch hanging over the fence separating our yard from our neighbor's and I went on about my socializing confident that in a couple of hours when I was ready to catch them they'd still be there.

Silly beekeeper. 

When I was ready they were gone. I carefully looked all through the bushes and around my yard. I popped open the compost bin thinking it might seem like an inviting dark space. Nothing. Then my husband suggested we check the neighbor's yard.

Which meant knocking on the door. The absolute worst part of being a beekeeping introvert. 

Explanations ensue. I find the bees on the ground and regret my procrastination. The swarm that could have been so easily retrieved from clipping a branch and lowering into a box in less than a minute turned into a 3 hour ordeal of sweeping up and catching the bees in a box and trying to get the queen. But mostly waiting for them to get in the box...

I was successful on the second attempt and then hung around the yard waiting for the bees to all go in but as the sun was setting about a third of them didn't go inside but hung on the outside of the box.

Near dark, I picked up the entire thing, a box full of bees and thousands of hangers-on and gently placed it over the fence and into a wagon on my side of the fence. Early the next morning while it was still dark I popped (meaning I slammed the box down on top of the empty hive) the bees on the outside into a hive body and then dumped the bees inside in as well. I sealed up the front and wheeled them over to their new home.

It sounds so easy as I read it here, but there is always a big adrenaline rush when catching a swarm and then again when hiving it. 

We are now experiencing several days of rain, so they are stuck inside getting used to their new home. I was glad this queen didn't get away as she is stellar and this hive had 3 times as many bees as any of my other hives.

Now we'll wait for the next sunny day and see if any other hive is feeling swarmy.

Hope you have success this week whatever you're up to!

XOXO y'all!

Friday, March 29, 2019

How To Paint a Faux Brick Floor on Concrete

painted concrete brick

Spoiler alert: This isn't my dream brick floor in an English cottage on a sheep farm. Or a villa on my lemon farm in Italy. Whatever. Sometimes a girl has to improvise and create the home of her dreams in a mid-century colonial in Tennessee. I don't even care because this might just be my favorite project ever. I know. I know. You've heard that before, but y'all, this time I'm serious.

painted brick on concrete

I was so excited about this project that I broke the number one rule of wifedom: when your husband offers to buy you something you should let him. I turned down black and white square tile (my other floor fantasy) because I adore exhaustion, sore muscles, and scrounging around for some expired muscle relaxers in my medicine cabinet at 2 A.M.

Speaking of husbands, if you need to do this before he realizes what's up, read Guerilla Decorating: A 5 Step Guide to Decor-Revolution. 

If you missed the previous post about prepping to paint concrete, you can read it here.

I think I left out that part of the prep is definitely going to be creating a sample board to nail the color combo down. Obviously so you can then completely ignore it. 

painted brick on concrete

When I imagined doing this project I envisioned a regular size paint roller on the end of a pole where I would knock out this floor painting business before lunch. Oh, wait. I forgot who I was. I should have known I would want to paint each individual brick a different color to achieve the most realistic look possible. 

How to Paint a Faux Brick Floor:

Note: If you were painting a floor all over for a smooth finish the prep work would be much more intense. For this project, I used the imperfections to mimic actual brick. Plus I do not like intense but can completely get behind imperfect. 

1. Clean and prepare the surface. This includes using premixed concrete to fill holes created when the carpet was removed. Sand the patches smooth after they dry and sweep up any dust and dirt. I swept and then used a shop vac.

brick stencil on concrete floor

2. Lay out the stencil according to your design. For this floor, I wanted an edge of straight brick which I thought looked more authentic than a brick pattern that just disappears under a wall.

faux brick

3. Choose and mix paint colors. This depends on the color of brick you are trying to recreate. The outside of our house is red brick but I wanted a good bit of pink to tie in with the cabinets and countertops. The base color was Jolie Terra Rosa, with hints of Sage, Legacy, Palace White, and Rose Quartz.  Have y'all figured out that I'm just making everything up as I go along?

4. Hold your stencil in place with painter's tape then use a roller to apply the paint. A big one if you are normal. A tiny one if you are trying to recreate each individual vintage brick you have ever seen. Because the bare concrete is so absorbent I was able to skip the normal offloading technique which is stenciling 101 and go straight to the concrete. I painted the center of the bricks first (offloading a lot of paint) then worked toward the edges to keep paint from seeping under the stencil

faux brick on concrete

5. Distress. When the basic painting was done I flicked paint, mixed up a whitewash and spread it out in various spots to mimic extra grout, and sanded to achieve a flat clay like finish.

6. Seal with concrete sealer if desired.  I'm in a holding pattern on this part because I am so happy with how the faux brick turned out and I don't want to ruin it by adding shine. Also, I'm not sure I'm done doing things to it. I'm on the hunt for a completely flat/no shine/matte sealer for concrete. I mean let's just toss aside the idea that the point of redoing the floor at all was to seal it and make it durable.

painted brick

7. Enjoy your new floor! Because Jolie paint dries on concrete so quickly you can replace furniture and walk on it the same day. Actually, you can walk on it pretty much immediately. Remember when I painted the porch and it took days to dry? Not this time!

pink counters

Note: for all of you people I see posting on social media to ask about who has a good full body workout, look no further. 

painted brick

Even though the cottage floor project was physically challenging because I got up and down off the floor 5,728 times it turned out even better than I expected.

brick colored paint

Cost for this project:

$35.00 for the stencil (I don't remember which one I ordered and the packaging has no name, but there are several online that look like it.)

$38.00 for a quart of Jolie Terra Rosa

$12.00 for concrete patch

The other various colors of paints I had already in sample sizes. Colors mentioned above. The total was less than a hundred bucks but I did already have the necessary tools like the mini roller and sandpaper.

This project start to finish took a solid 5 days from moving the furniture out to putting the furniture back.

painted concrete

In the pro column for this project is the fact that If I get tired of this faux finish the floor is ready to put tile down. It was inexpensive and gives you a lot of visual bang for your buck. The only con was the labor. But it's like having a baby. As soon as you see it you forget all the pain involved.

I'm already imagining a brick patio...

XOXO Y'all! 

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Guest Cottage Makeover Review

Sometimes in the midst of a daunting project it helps to look back on how far you've already come. Please remember to take before pictures of your projects! Later you'll be so happy you did! I love a good hideous before pic.

If you have been reading along with me for a while then you are familiar with the amount of whining and procrastination involved in my trying to decide what to do about the floor in the kitchen and living area of the guest cottage. I just couldn't face pulling up the carpet and linoleum myself even though I did that in our entire house twenty years ago. We paid someone to do that part and I was left with an ugly concrete floor. Or as I saw it, a blank canvas.

 For full insight to my procrastinating ways Read The Concrete Floor Chronicles. 

Last year I had ordered a giant brick stencil because I have always wanted to paint a floor. Weird. I know. And plus I really do love the whimsy of a faux finish. This space where I overwinter plants and sling honey and process beeswax is the perfect place for painted and sealed concrete. This is a workspace for me, so a practical durable floor was the main goal.

Nothing about this photo says "Yes, carpet is a great idea for this space!"

In an upcoming post I'll be sharing about the floor how to and reveal but first let's look back on how far I've come with this space.

Here is the before before. You know, the before, before this before.

Read about the real beginning of this project here. 

I wish I had taken a picture of the carpet and linoleum but it looked so bad that as you can see in every picture I'm working hard not to show it. Anyway here is the before. The before after the before above and before the before in the coming reveal. That's clear, right? Anyway, at some point in the process, it looked like this!

Read about how I dealt with pink countertops: Pink Countertops Aren't just for Barbie. 

I did find this one photo with some of the carpet in it. I know it doesn't look that bad but this side of the room was the cleaner one.

This was before I painted the hutch. Read How I Gave My Hutch a Vintage Update.  As you read it notice how cleverly I avoid the carpet in every photo.

Here's a pic to give you a sense of the size of the stencil I'll be using. I've had this stencil for a year. That's how scared I was of this project. 

Here are some more photos of the floor sans carpet and linoleum.

This is the part of every project where I think "What have I done?" You can't go back and moving forward is scary. It's just part of the process! Do not be intimidated by the ugliness.

In the case of this project, I'm actually going to be using that ugliness to my benefit.

Stay tuned...