Friday, August 18, 2017

Back Porch Makeover

I painted our concrete screened in porch floor about 15 years ago. I should probably point out that I did a pretty bad job. My husband was out of town and I was trying to do it start to finish while he was away, you know just to avoid the "What's wrong with the way it is now?" question that men like to ask when they think something will be inconvenient. There were heavy things I couldn't move alone, the downside to guerrilla decorating. The faux rug seemed like a good idea at the time...

 After all this time it was looking pretty rough. Here's a tip, if you have a metal cabinet outdoors place it on something! 

 But also in all fairness, I'm just impatient. When I am so close to putting things back and seeing how the finished project is going to turn out it's hard for me to restrain myself for hours, let alone days. When you are doing a project like painting a floor that you are going to want to stand up to wear and tear over time, self control is your best friend.

I'm literally so impatient I could not stop myself to take pictures during the process, so what we have here is before and after only. 

The first step in this process is a trip to your hardware store and a discussion with the person in the paint department. I would have chosen the wrong paint if I hadn't done this. My porch had been painted previously and was chipped and peeling in a few places. Those details helped him recommend the right paint for the job. Even the type of paint I had used previously was important.
And measure your space before so you have the right amount of paint. I assumed it would take two gallons but the paint expert assured me it was a one gallon job. He was right and saved me having to return an unopened can later.  If it's right off the shelf make sure to have them shake it up for you.

After returning home with your paint thoroughly clean the surface. I removed everything from the porch and scraped all the loose or chipped paint. I swept it thoroughly with a good broom. After that I used the shop vac to vacuum any remaining dirt from the entire surface.

Cut in around the edges. Since you are painting a floor and not a wall, doing it in reverse isn't an option. You are going to have to stand somewhere.

Screw a mop or broom handle on to your roller for this project! 

At this point I was so giddy about spilling the paint on the floor I didn't stop to take pictures. This is one project where you can forego the paint pan and just pour the paint on the floor. Paint as you would a wall. Don't forget painting yourself in a corner is a cliche for a reason. You want to start in the far corner away from the door and paint yourself out of the room.

Now comes the hard part...waiting. The paint will be dry to walk on in 24 hours. It will be inconvenient. For us it meant having one of the dogs break loose and run down the street while we were going around the house to avoid walking on the wet porch.

After you have waited your entire day to walk on it you are going to start imaging where you want the furniture to go.


This is the biggest lesson I learned this time around. There is a big difference between dry and cured. Dry means the surface is dry to the touch and not tacky. Cured means the paint has hardened all the way through and when you press it with your fingernail, it won't leave an indention. Depending on the paint, surface, and environmental conditions, this process can take up to 30 days.

That's right. Thirty days.

Because of this choosing when you are going to do this project is of the upmost importance. I would never have dreamed I could do this in August in Memphis because of the oppressive humidity. But I saw in the forecast that we were having a week of unseasonably low temps in the mid 80s and dryer air. So I pounced on my opportunity! Here's how it turned out!

In the background of this picture you can kind of see all the stuff that was on the porch piled up on the patio. Obviously I couldn't leave the stuff out there for a month waiting for the paint to cure. So I googled what to do and everyone said to wait as long as possible to put furniture back.  In the meantime I noticed how bad the walls looked and painted them a stark clean white.

 If you just can't wait you should place the furniture on wax or parchment paper folded up to protect the paint while it cures. I painted the porch on Saturday and put my furniture back on Wednesday.

 For my husband's weights and the deck box where we store unopened bags of dog food I used a cheap beach mat from Lowe's that I had on hand. It also helped define the area.

This is an old cedar chest without a lid where we keep firewood in the winter. Right now I'm using it as a catch all. But look at that gorgeous floor!

I was finally ready to get to the fun part!

Arranging furniture...

Adding plants and accessories...

Every plant gets a waterproof container underneath!

You have to have someplace to place your coffee...

Finally, a fun piece of art for the wall finishes off the space.

All that's needed now is a book and a glass of lemonade. Happy porch sitting, y'all!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

10 Things to Do When Planning Your Pollinator Garden

bee on flower

Usually around this time of year in the garden I start thinking about what I wish I had done back in the spring. This is a great time to look around the yard and garden and begin making a plan for next year. Here in the south it allows you to take advantage of beautiful upcoming fall days to get the laying out and soil prep done. 

Did you know digging in the soil can make you happier? 

 In a previous post I recommended planting a pollinator garden as another way to help our buzzing friends. If that's how you choose to be part of the solution you may be wondering what to plant that would most benefit the bees in your area. Here are some tips to help you get started once you have decided to make part of your yard, garden, or balcony a friendlier space for bees. Read about a day in a bee's life.


What to Plant

1. Plant colorful showy flowers. Bees are attracted to flowers with bright colors, particularly those in the blue violet range of the color wheel, along with white and yellow. They don't see red but plant those if you like for the butterflies and hummingbirds. Good examples are bee balm and Russian sage

2. Plant flowers that have one large blossom so that the hefty bumblebee can land on it securely. Think of sunflowers, zinnias, rudbekia. And plants that have tiny flowers for small bees. I like lamb's ear and salvia.

3. Plant plants that have hollow stems. Many varieties of native bees are solitary and nest in holes in the ground or in hollow stems of plants. All of the brambly canes like raspberry and blackberry are wonderful choices along with many types of ornamental grasses. 

4. Plant types of flowers in big patches. This helps increase the bees' foraging efficiency. 

5. Use low maintenance plants. The less we disturb a pollinator garden the better. This is not the place for plants that need deadheading and pruning. My favorites are bee balm, coreopsis, and many types of herbs like oregano. 

6. Plant for consistent bloom. As soon as bees emerge in the spring they need nectar. After the big blooming season of spring and early there can be a dearth of flowering plants. Add things that bloom in late summer and early fall. Where I live narcissus, forsythia, and apples bloom very early. My absolute favorite for late summer to early fall are garlic chives which have white blossoms and do a wonderful job of providing nectar in that late summer dearth. 

7. Plant flowers that have single blossoms. Many of the big showy double blossomed hybrids cultivated for enjoyment in the garden have little or no nectar for bees.

alaskan dandelion

Other tips

8. Garden, don't landscape. Don't mulch or use weed barrier everywhere. 70 % of native bees nest underground. 

9. Don't use chemicals. Even if you end up with a few weeds it's okay, they are bee friendly. Bees actually suffer when weeds are completely eradicated.

10. Leave stalks standing overwinter. For those bees that like to nest in hollow stemmed plants it's important to leave them a place to hibernate and nest next spring. 

With the loss of native habitat to bees happening all over the world it is more important than ever to garden with them in mind. Planting one or all of these plants is a great way to help them in their time of need whether you are doing it in a spacious backyard or in a container on your apartment balcony, every pollinator friendly plant matters now.

Now when those garden catalogs start showing up next January you'll know what to do! 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Rescuing Trash: How I Saved This Darling Easel from the Landfill

A couple of years ago I saw a cute easel on sale at Marshall's for around 40 bucks. I almost bought it, but I couldn't get over the price tag. Then sure enough about a month later I was driving around the corner from my house and saw this. 

This is why  you need to take the long way around your neighborhood on trash day and be ready with your flashers!

Seriously, whoever threw this out had no imagination.

It was in pretty good shape but needed some attention. One side was a chalk board and the other side was this dry erase board and what I guessed was a tray for supplies that had seen better days. Have you priced these? I recently saw this at my neighborhood Hobby Lobby. 

Someone there is obviously on crack. 

Remember when I posted about things I keep on hand for projects? Since I had chalk board paint, sandpaper and stain, this project cost me nothing but a little work. The previous owner had marked it all up with markers so I dismantled the whole thing and started with sanding the wooden pieces and dry erase board. 

The tray I removed so I could work on it. 

 I had some contact paper I'd found at my local thrift store for less than a dollar. I covered the bottom with craft paper first and then attached the contact paper to pretty it up. 

I gave both pieces of board fresh coats of Valspar Chalkboard Paint, letting it dry completely between coats. 

Then I put the whole thing back together and easy peasy and cheap, a beautiful chalk board easel for welcoming signs at parties or honey sales. Oh yeah, and it was free. 

Free is my favorite price. Well, free plus a little elbow grease. Happy trash picking, y'all!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

How To Create Your Own Reusable Food Wrap

how to make reusable food wrap

I make and sell these so I know you are going to think I'm crazy for giving away this simple how-to.

But more than anything I want you to live your best and most creative life. My first priority is always to help you do that. So if you want to give this a try, here's how:

What you need: 

Propolis (optional)
Cookie sheet
Aluminum foil
Pinking sheers

Caution: Use the lowest temperature setting on your oven when you do this project and don't use anything you don't mind ruining. Beeswax and propolis are super tenacious when it comes to clean up. It's best just to designate things for this project. 

The Process:

Start by grating your beeswax.

making beeswax food wrap

Cut your fabric to the desired size. My pinking sheers aren't too sharp after doing this a few times so I make my initial size cuts with regular scissors and then after the beeswax cools I trim the edges with my pinking sheers.

making food wrap with beeswax

Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil or use a disposable aluminum pan. That you are going to recycle, of course! That's why I love you. 

Lay the fabric on the cookie sheet and then grate your beeswax/propolis over the top.

making home made food wrap

Place in an oven on a setting below 200* and wait for wax to melt. This should take about 10 minutes but this whole process involves a lot of trial and error.

making beeswax food wrap

Remove and immediately brush the melted wax over the fabric. Hurry! It will start to harden the second you take it out of the oven! However fast you think you need to go, speed it up. 

I should probably tell you, that brush won't be able to be used for paint ever again. Like ever. 


What's propolis, you ask? 

Propolis is a sort of glue that the bees make out of tree resin. They use it inside the hive to glue everything together, to control the micro-climate inside, prevent diseases, and reduce vibration. When I was researching this process a lot of people said that the plain beeswax wasn't quite right and I noticed that lots of people said adding propolis improved the wrap.

Since I harvest a good bit of propolis along with my beeswax it was easy for me to incorporate it. I haven't ever bought it so don't have a brand of propolis to recommend to you. But here are some options. 

honeycomb and propolis

Beeswax and propolis are both antimicrobial, antifungal, and antibacterial making them the perfect substances to put next to your food. Now you can reduce the use of those nasty chemical laden plastic wraps you've been using.

beeswax food wrap

Rinse your beeswax wrap with cold water and gently wipe clean. You should be able to reuse it for several months before needing to replace it.

When it's used up its ability to seal toss it in the fireplace or firepit for a quick and easy firestarter or wrap a pinecone with it to really get things going. Yeah, I know. It's the same beeswax we were trying not to catch on fire before. Timing is everything. 

And look at you! First recycling then having zero waste! You are winning at life. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

How to Enjoy Honeycomb

honeycomb with berries

If the only honey you have ever had is from a bear-shaped jar at the grocery--you poor thing!-- then honey in its natural state (in the comb) might intimidate you a bit. You are going to be a big fan.

Trust me.


When people ask about how to use honey that has the comb in it, my first response is just to tell them to eat it out of the jar. Other than that one of my favorite things is a crisp tart apple and a piece of sharp cheese. The sharper the better. All that tangy and sharp cuts the sweet and makes it even more enjoyable. 

But better yet, get yourself some hives so you can eat it right off the frame. That is actually my most favorite way. Is Honey Vegan? Read about it here.

So far this week we've had it on yogurt. And oatmeal. Okay, and spoons. Here's the recipe for my Tipsy Honeybee Cocktail.

honey cocktails

While I think of filtered honey as a sweetener to add to something else, like tea or cocktails, I appreciate honeycomb as real food. A delicacy that is amazing paired with other things I like to eat. The wax isn't noticeable this way the way it would be if bits of it are floating on top of your afternoon chai. There really isn't any wrong way to enjoy honey except using if for cooking. All beekeepers and honey lovers frown upon that because heat destroys some of the magical natural properties of the honey and wax.

If I want to use a natural sweetener that will be cooked I use maple syrup instead of honey. I'm just not a Stevia fan. Raw honey contains enzymes that allow it to break down in your system over time instead of spiking your blood sugar and then crashing like processed sugar. Some of  these are destroyed when the honey is heated. 

Read this if you want to nerd out over the technical information about honey.

While honey is chemically sugar and should be treated as such if you are eliminating all sugar from your diet, it has some beneficial properties. It is these enzymes, probiotics, and antioxidants that I'm trying to preserve as a beekeeper by treating it gently. Raw honey contains not only enzymes from the bees but also the enzymes from nectar they collected. 

That's right. Eating honey means you are eating like a god.

Everyone always wants to know if you can eat the wax. The answer is yes. It's easiest to consume along with food but you can also chew it until it loses it's flavor and then spit it out like gum. This was a common and fun thing for kids to enjoy before chewing gum became popular. I cannot tell you how the faces of older people light up when asked about honeycomb. I love hearing stories that start with "Oh, my uncle had some hives..."

honey on frame

Now if you are ready to look for some honey with comb in it you are going to want to find a local beekeeper to buy from. It's fun to try honeys from all over the world but if you want it for allergy relief, remember, you need it to contain pollen from your area to be effective. If you don't know any beeks then check out at your farmer's market.  There is a whole sweet dimension to honey you have been missing. 

Are you a fan of honeycomb? What's your favorite way to eat it?  

Saturday, July 22, 2017

How to Create a Home Made Solar Melter with Stuff You Already Have

If you are a beekeeper you are going to have a lot of wax as a byproduct of your honey production. Maybe you are even more excited about the wax than the honey. There are just so many fun and useful things to do with this amazing resource but first you have to get it into a usable form. That means we have to melt and purify it.

Here are the things you'll need to replicate my process.

Cooler. Any kind and you aren't changing it so it will still be usable after this.
Aluminum foil.
Brick or chunk of concrete.
Shingle. Not actually necessary but they get really hot and speed up the process.
Bowl or other container. Plan on designating one bowl for this as beeswax is almost permanent.
Cheesecloth or fabric. (I'm showing you both in this post)
Old window or other large piece of glass. A storm window is ideal.
A hot sunny day. 

Line the cooler with aluminum foil. Place the brick in the bottom and arrange the shingle where you think it will absorb the most heat.

Put a little water in the bowl to allow the beeswax to be removed later in a single piece. Cover the bowl with cheesecloth or fabric and secure it around the edges. You can tie it, use a rubber band, but I have found these office clips to be the perfect thing for this. Pile your honeycomb on top. Lay the glass over the cooler and let the sun do its job.

It's very interesting to see what you come out with. Sometimes there are impurities and you need a second melting. I haven't had to do that though. The system is providing me with beautiful clean beeswax. There are some beautiful color variations. You can see how much melting has taken place after one hour.

This is a great thing to do with kids to teach a fun science lesson about solar power and heat.

Caution! Do not be fooled into thinking that this wax and water will not be hot. They will be HOT. You do not want to spill melted beeswax on your skin. The bowl has been so hot the last few times I did this that I had to use pot holders. BE CAREFUL.

When it cools, remove the fabric with all the old comb and impurities in it.

Check out your beautiful clean beeswax floating on top of the water.

Once you gather all your needed supplies you can set this up in like one minute. I literally am doing it every single day right now because I had so much beeswax stored in my fridge all spring and summer.


I needed to process it to make room and this does a pretty small batch at a time.

This is perfect if you have a backyard beehive or two. I have seven and this process can still handle all of it but it helps that I have a whole refrigerator that I can fill with all my frames and wax to protect it from wax moths while I'm waiting to do this.

What is your preferred way to process your beeswax?

Next time I'm going to share how to make the reusable food wraps that I made using this wax!