Thursday, July 12, 2018

How to Look Entirely Insane at Your Next Garden Club Meeting

Yes, Y'all. These are the lengths I will go to to avoid pulling up the carpet and linoleum (an inside job!) in the guest cottage.

After our last chicken, Fanny, passed away I just couldn't stand the thought of the chicken run laying empty and sad and growing weeds that would surely be enormous by fall. The total garden overhaul started slowly, as most things do." I wonder how this lamp would look on that table" somehow can turn into painting a room and rearranging furniture. Projects have momentum. Or maybe I just have some crazy decorating disease. Let's call it, Well if I'm Going to do That...

I just thought I'd pull up all the fencing that divided the chicken run from the yard and from the garden. So. Much. Fencing. It was just that temporary kind that comes in rolls and with stakes, you pound into the ground. I did not envision the trees that would take up residence along the fence line when I put the fence up. The massive amount of weeding I thought my backyard needed, disappeared when I pulled up the fence. So satisfying.

With the fences gone, I could see new possibilities.  It was wildy beautiful the way it was but man was I pining for more order and definition!

"I mean, for this fall, obviously," I told my husband. I sort of meant it when I said it but already I was feeling itchy for a change.

"Would you help me move the chicken coop?"  He did and in my mind, I was envisioning what could be. I stripped it down to the frame and once it was in its new location I primed it. It made me so happy even though the bottom is rotten and needs replacing. I love the idea of having a ruin in the garden. Can't wait to work on this next!

One of the things that had always really bothered me was that the trellis and makeshift gate were off center to my kitchen window and the main part of the path.

As long as we had chickens it needed to stay where it was. But now...

Moving the trellis meant digging up the Confederate Jasmine and Carolina Jessamine beside it. Along with tons of weeds. It also meant finding just the right spot for it.

It now sits at the entrance to the bee and flower part of the garden.

It only took one morning to get the job done. I felt so much better with that major annoyance solved. I cleared out the rest of the weeds over the next couple of days and dug a new path. Then I was looking at the old path.

Wouldn't it be nice if they were uniform? You know it would. I'll admit that when I look at this picture now I do think it looks cray cray. 

I tore up the old path. At this point, my garden looked like a construction site.

Did I mention my love for reclaimed brick? I've been collecting them for 30 years.

I've had a lot of people ask me how I can work in this heat and humidity. Here's the rundown: 

Get up at the crack of dawn and start working.

Work until the sun gets on this area of the garden usually about 11:00. 

Take a shower and put on clean clothes, eat, spend the next 7 hours pinning dreamy gardens on Pinterest. 

In the evening put work clothes back on and work until dark. Sometimes I wash my work clothes in between shifts because...ew.

Three words: Deep Woods Off. 

Ticks are bad this year and at the times when it's most comfortable to work there are swarms of mosquitos. 

Three more words: sunhat. sunglasses. boots. 

I was a normal person the three words would have been: GET SOME HELP.

It took me about a week to get ready to order the gravel which arrived on Tuesday and I spent the day moving into the pathways. I still have a long way to go, because of course, I have more ideas!

The gravel (crushed limestone) is from Nature's Earth Products I ordered this over the phone and they offered to deliver it right then! I wasn't ready for a driveway full of gravel but they came the next day. Fantastic customer service and I was surprised at the prices. Why get one ton when you can get two for the same delivery price? 

Here's how Phase 1 turned out! I'm super happy about it!

Also, I think I'm going to find a couple of hard-working young men to help me finish the gravel part after recognizing some physical limitations of being 53 yesterday. Yes. I am saying it will take two males half my age to replace me. I felt amazing while I was doing the work on Tuesday but the next morning I had chest pains from my Mitral Valve Prolapse which hasn't happened in several years. I'm going to admit I might have overdone it.


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The End of Our Backyard Chicken Adventure

I should probably start off by noting my husband's patience with all my schemes. Sometimes it's a lot like I Love Lucy only he isn't Cuban and I've never been on a ledge in an alien costume. Yet. He does get frightened and hold on tightly to his wallet when I stand around gazing at something too long. It's usually followed by terrifying comments like: 

Wouldn't that be a good place for a chicken coop? or Wouldn't it be fun to have bees? I'm currently envisioning a lovely blueberry hedge at one end of the garden. 

He's so lucky he can't read my mind because the things I actually want to do that he would never agree to would kill him. But trust me they are all amazing! 

The chicken project started somewhere in 2007 when I started laying the groundwork. "Look how expensive eggs are getting!"

Two years later he'd agreed to go all in on the chickens (this meant 3 baby chicks, we know our limits. Also I have read The Egg and I and seen the movie.) And of course, although all the websites stated that you could build a chicken coop out of anything, this chicken coop was going to be in my garden in a suburban backyard and I wanted a pretty chicken coop. Which a friend built to my specifications. Okay, I found him some plans on the internet. 

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As it turned out this wasn't a very practical design but it was pretty. 

By the time the first egg was laid several months later it cost us $563.00. See. I told him eggs were getting expensive. 
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I started off with 3 baby chicks in 2009. They arrived at the post office and when I got them home and opened the box I immediately fell in love. I raised them in our office and hung on their every peep. The original trio was Jane, Lizzie, and Mrs. Bennett. The chicken run was deemed The Republic of Pemberley. Over the years we had Charlotte, Lady Catherine de Bird, Kitty, Lucy, and Fanny. 

Jane, Mrs. Bennett, and Lizzy.

We were surprised at how entertaining and fun they were. We marveled at their different personalities, we treated every egg as a treasure. But we also had a lot of things go wrong and the brutal truth is that most non-country vets won't treat a chicken which means if things go badly you are on your own. To diagnose. To treat. 

Word. I'm far too squeamish to be a farm wife. 

Everyone's favorite was going behind me in spring as I turned the garden over. 

My husband and I are both far too tenderhearted to be able to put down a sick chicken. I can't count the times that we've imagined how our grandmothers would marvel that no one ever just got thrown into the stew pot when they stopped laying. So after our last experience with a sick and dying chicken, we decided to call it quits. 

But if there's one thing I'm not squeamish about, it's change. There are plenty of posts coming up about what is happening with the chicken run and coop. Meanwhile, here are a few posts and pics of the hens over the past 9 years. 

I'm not crying! You're crying! 





Mrs. Bennet

Lady Catherine de Bird

Lady Catherine de Bird, Lucy, and Fanny

Thursday, June 28, 2018

A Zero Cost Redesign in the Dining Room

I'm just giving my dining room this award-one of my all-time favorite thrifting finds! Ms. Dining Room would like to thank her producer, Me, her director, also me, and her agent who always believed in her. Guess who.

I know you are wondering what happened to my summer schedule, right? Y'all. I literally forgot what days I said I'd post during summer and had to go back and look. I do like to keep it a bit predictable so you know when to show up for all this excitement.

Okay, first--or is this second?-- some bad news. Our last chicken died and that's it. We're done. Long story for another post. In other sad news, a sweet friend is moving away. This post is going to get better, I promise. She's the kind of selfless person who is always thinking of others and asked me if I wanted some hanging glass votives. Well, you never know when you might have to throw together a wedding at the last minute so sure, I'll take some free event decor.

When I arrived at her house the garage (which she thought was a mess) looked like a well organized military operation. There were different areas designated for different people who were coming to retrieve the items she thought each person would most enjoy using.

Y'all! How nice is that? 

But she wanted to know if I was interested in some pots in the backyard and we went to check them out. Spoiler alert. If you want to give me gardeny type things. I'll take them. The bigger the better. It's because I'm super helpful. A three-ton urn or life-size statue? I'll bring my crane. 

As we were looking at the pots she pointed to two large urn panels and said, "Do you want those?"

Recycled is my favorite price. You know I mean free by "recycled", right? But in all seriousness, there probably is plenty of stuff in the world if we could just get all the stuff we don't want to the people who would love to use it. I'll admit shipping could be an issue if your Instagram pal in Iceland wants your Adirondack chairs. 

My dining room was looking a lot like Hemingway and Liberace had a baby. 

I must have been drinking whiskey the day I did all this. Remember when I thought I could be a minimalist? BWAHHAHA! Read about how I failed miserably here. 

Anyway, long story short, (too late, I know) the next day my husband went to a cookout for a friend's birthday and I knew he'd be gone for hours. I put on some dance music and rearranged everything.

What's the dance music list on my Spotify? Here's a sample: 

Justin Bieber-Despacito
Jennifer Lopez- Let's Get Loud
Fergie- Glamorous
Tik Tok- Kesha
Miley Cyrus- Party in the USA 

You get the idea. I don't enjoy music enough to be bothered with sad songs no matter what Elton says. And aren't the details of my life just enthralling? 

After I rearranged it, it looked terrible. No photo, obvs! I moved it all back and felt defeated. I sat down to look at Pinterest for inspiration. I found an article about how the French are masters at using religious icons in decorating and suddenly in my mind the whole thing came together!

 I have the above one of St. Francis and St. Clare, a cherished souvenir from a lovely day in Assisi several years ago. And the Madonna and Child below from a visit to Russia.

I  painted some French blue and Modern Masters Warm Silver on some empty frames and hung them to imitate the ornate panels on French walls. Initially, they were empty. I thought to add the icons later.  

Here's a tip: If you feel like you have too many things sitting around, find a way to hang them up!

Voila! I suddenly realized that a favorite painting had a bit of blue sky, the massive mirror in the other room was French blue, and that I had drop cloth with wispy blue paint on it. That painting frame is going to be restored as soon as I get a minute. 

Sometimes you don't need to buy anything. Aside from the panels I could have just rearranged all these things and achieved practically the same look. But those panels are the bomb diggity! Yes. cool people actually say this. 

I am so happy with how this turned out and now instead of avoiding this room. I SIT in there. On purpose! More pics? Coming right up! 

I may have just the teeniest addiction to vintage silver. And I'm not picky. 

Is there anything more romantic than a tarnished vintage champagne bucket? 

So if you were thinking you just wanted to throw out all your stuff and start over, move it all around and see what happens! Who needs a plan?