a view from the laundry pile…

…it's all about perspective.

The Garage Door Project

Between the move and figuring out what to do with the 5 acres of property (and I am certainly not complaining. It’s a glorious space!), it’s been a very busy summer for us.
We’ve been working on a lot of various projects, most of which would probably bore people to tears, but a few have been pretty fun.
As you may know, we like to reuse
and recycle whenever possible. So, when I came across this at a local junk shop, the lightbulb went on in my head and I knew, exactly, what I wanted it for.
We are putting up a potting shed next to the berry patch. My original idea was to put up a half wall with old hanging windows above it. After spending a lot of time looking, and realizing that old windows are getting really hard to find, I found this garage door piece and, I believe, it works even better! (And that’s not just something I’m saying because I couldn’t find windows…).
This is a mixed media piece that’s visible from both sides. I painted the tree branch to look like stained glass (many tutorials on this out there) and added acrylic pieces for the flowers. Then I coated it with a clear polyurethane since it was going to be outside.
To hang it, we left the original metal connector pieces (at the top) and added three more to the other side (otherwise it won’t hang straight).
And that’s it! A custom piece of artwork for our new (still in progress) potting shed!

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Before & after.

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“Strawberry Rocks”

I’ve found, now that I have no television, no Wi-Fi, and limited internet access, two things happen 1). I get frustrated, a lot, over not being able to connect to the rest of the world and 2). I find new things to do besides tv and the internet, like go outside…

Fred and I have been reading books (the real ones, like with paper and binding and stuff! Ha! I joke – we’re both avid readers) and taking advantage of the internet access that we do have to learn more about gardening, like propagation, maintenance, and pest control.

Yes, pest control. Besides the deer, we’re finding the birds are going to be a challenge to keep out of the food we have growing.

Enter “strawberry rocks.” The theory behind this is that you place the painted rocks by your strawberry plants (once they’re grown and just before the berries start to turn), all around the outside, like the rocks are growing there, and the birds will come and pick at them. Apparently the birds are either suppose to think the berries are “bad” or they think all the berries there are rocks and will leave them alone.

I already had paint and we’re certainly not at a loss for rocks, here at the property, so why not try it? I have no idea how smart birds really are but this is one way to find out, right?

Steps to painting “strawberry rocks” (this is pretty straight forward, and I’m still learning, myself, but will share the tips I’ve come up with so far):

1). What you’ll need; berry-shaped rocks (washed and dried), acrylic paint (red, white, brown, green), sealer (your choice of spray or brush-on. Just make sure it’s for outdoor use), 2 small paint brushes (one a liner or similar), & toothpicks.

2). Paint the rocks with a single coat of white. This will do two things; first it will make the red brighter and, secondly, you will need to do fewer coats of red (the first rocks I did, without first doing white, took 7 coats of red paint…oy).

3). Once the one layer of white has dried, paint them a nice cheery red (2-3 coats should do it, letting each one dry in between).

4). Paint on the green leaves (the “cap”). Don’t go too far down with them – maybe 1/5th of the way – and don’t make them so small you can’t see them from the side, either. Highlight them with other shades of green if you have it (or mix some white with green to get another shade).

5). Paint the “seeds.” (This can be a little tricky. Too many and it looks like a mutant watermelon. Too few and it doesn’t look like a berry). First, with the brown paint, paint little “pockets” for the seeds (basically, tiny vertical hash marks). When those are done and dried, using the end of the toothpick, make little white seeds for the pockets, one per pocket.

6). When the paint is dry, give them a few coats of sealer (allowing each coat to dry).

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Now to wait for our strawberry plants to get bigger…

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Birdhouse Fence

Over the last few years we’ve been growing and propagating plants with the intention of selling some (to fund our garden habit) and keeping some to plant at the property.

Now that we’re on the property, we can start really making it our own.

We wanted a bit of privacy from the people driving down the road past our place so we thought the plants would be a great barrier. However, the thing we didn’t think about was that the plants are only about 2′ high right now and won’t really hide much.

So, we came up with a new plan — a small fence. We looked at many ideas to build, and those we could purchase, but decided to do something uniquely “us,” so off to the dump we went…er, that didn’t come out right, but you get the idea…

This birdhouse fence is what we came up with in the end. $5 worth of beat up old planks and boards, cut to look like various, old fence pieces,  screwed together with cross pieces on the back.  We added a couple of smaller wood pieces to make the three “birdhouse-looking roofs,” used bolts for perches, and heavy fabric cut-out pieces screwed on for the “holes/openings.”

All that’s left is to hang one of the recycled bird feeders that we made on a shepherds hook that Fred made from a salvaged piece of rebar and we are good to go!

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We realize this won’t last forever but it should last until the plants have had a chance to grow – and we think it turned out really cute!

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“Heeeeere’s Reaper!”

Fred really is the perfect husband. Okay, maybe not for everyone but, for me, he sure is. I don’t know how many hair-brained ideas I’ve come up with and, even though I get an occasional “have you hit your head?” or eye roll, he’s never said “no” to any of them. The latest one, that I casually mentioned over breakfast a couple of weeks ago, was “I want to build this” and showed him a picture of my 8′ Grim Reaper. His response (ladies prepare to be totally  jealous of me) was “I’m off on Thursday so we can go get the stuff for it then.” What a guy, right?

I got the idea from the Grim Hallow website (thank you!) and adapted it to suit a limited budget and supplies already on hand. So, while Fred was making a frame from leftover 2×2’s, I constructed the “hands” out of wire coat hangers, paper towels, and duct tape. I started with a general shape, using the bent coat hangers (I used 1-1/2 hangers per hand) for the “bones.” I taped on wadded up paper towels to give the palms and knuckles some shape, then covered the rest of the hands with duct tape.

grim 8 hands

When the frame was done, I used pieces of chicken wire to get rid of the “square” look of  the wood. I used a staple gun to hold the chicken wire in place then just covered the whole thing in duct tape. )You could certainly skip the tape but I wanted to see where I needed to add more “bulk” so, for me, it was the right thing to do).

grim 7 tape over wire

grim 4

Originally, I was going to use paper mache with glue, water, & paper towels (I like paper towels better than newspapers — it’s easier to shape and mold) but I found that we had some leftover “casting” material from another project (yes, the stuff you use on broken limbs. What? Like no one else has this in their arts and crafts box?) so I used that instead, plus it dries much quicker. The head is a carveable foam pumpkin head measuring about 17″ high (though they come in different sizes and are available at many craft stores). I attached a piece of foam (the top of another styrofoam mannequin head) to the top of the “neck” with duct tape to steady the head (works well!).  

grim 2 cast with head

Once the casting was good and dry, I painted it. I started with a flat black then added some greens and browns. At one point it was a bit too “camo” for me so I added some more black. However, I didn’t realize that the new can of paint I grabbed was shiny black. Fortunately, I really liked the look so I left it.  I then clear coated the whole thing to help keep some of the Pac NW rain off while he was lingering in the garden…oh, I mean “spooky cemetery.”

grim 1 painted(Yes, that’s “little Frank” holding down the plastic tarp…ha ha!).

grim 10 by garage

 

Once he was painted, I carved the head, added a little black paint for “effect” and he was ready to go. Now it’s Fred’s turn to be wonderful again and get everything lit up! I’ll make sure to post night shots…

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Is it Halloween yet?

I really love Halloween. The cooler weather, fun costumes, carving pumpkins (and eating the baked seeds!), decorating the house and yard…

Every year, for Halloween (and Christmas), Fred and I decorate the front porch and yard. We live on one of the more traveled streets in town so, I believe, it’s as much fun for people to look at as it is for us to do.  We try to pick a different theme each year and have come up with, what I think are, pretty cool designs over the years. This year we’re doing more a “traditional” Halloween with a creepy cemetery in the garden (I’ll do another blog on that when it’s done) and a witch on the front porch. 

I’m in charge of “creating” the witch and, rather than just buying a mask, I wanted to see if I could make her from scratch. I mean, really, if she turned out ugly, would that be a problem?  

w6I started with a plain, foam mannequin head, a roll of paper towels, and duct tape to mold the final shape. I then used equal parts white glue and warm water, along with smaller pieces of paper towel, as a mache, to add more detail (like wrinkles and warts) and then larger strips to smooth out the rougher spots and cover the duct tape (the ends tend to peel up after a while — especially with the cheaper stuff, which is what I mostly use for art projects).

w5Once that dried I gave it a coat of flesh-colored paint — mostly to see how the facial features were going to look and make any adjustments before adding the next layers of paint. I had to smooth out a few edges, add a couple more wrinkles here and there, and build up the cheekbones a bit more.

w4I happened to have a pair of eyeballs (doesn’t everyone have them lying around?) but my original design only called for one. I glued it in place then used some more mache to secure it. When it was dry, for the skin color, I started with black then dry-brushed on some gray and light green for highlights. For the finer details, like nostrils and lip lines, I used a smaller brush.

w3Then it got some hair (I still have designated it as a “he” or “she” – only because I don’t want to stereotype…). I was going to use a wig but decided to use quilt batting, instead. I liked the fluffy, yet gnarly, look of it and it’s actually pretty perfect for my witch.

Tw2he frame for the “body” is just PVC pipe with a cross-piece in the center (think of an “+” — arms come out the side, head on top, torso/legs is the long piece on the bottom) and added padding (old dog towels) to give it some shape. Fred then secured it to a 2 x 2 board so it would be free-standing.

At 6′ tall, it’s actually pretty impressive and, once Fred lights it (in his “spare” time, he has a light & grip service – lots of fun toys) it’ll look even better. Now on to the 8′ Creeper for the garden… 

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Yard & Garden Art Sale Sneak Peek

Fred and I have been making various yard and garden “art” for our own home, for years now, with most of it being “experimental.” After being asked, by several people now, where they could get some of the items they’ve seen around our place, we decided to make some things to sell. Though some of the ideas are not “new” (it’s just a wild guess here that more than one person has come up with the idea of making a bench or bird feeder…), we’ve managed to put our own “twist” on them, such as design and artwork, to make it our own. We’re quite proud of what we’ve come up with so far. And, the best part? Most of this is done with scrap wood & re/upcycled pieces!

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(Starting upper left, circling right; a bird house & birdie banner, bird feeder, large planter pot, small planter pots, one of the 3 upcycled wood benches that Fred made that I hand painted & sealed)

In addition to the items here, I’ve also done a few more recycled wood signs, box planters, bird houses, other not yet finished yard art and plants that we nurtured and grew ourselves! I think this will be fun!

(All the artwork is my own but I will share how I did the large cream/brown planter pot (middle right photo)…mostly because this will, more than likely, be the only one I ever do of this. I got the “brilliant” idea to glue lace (yes, actual lace) onto a pot then paint it to give it a “dimensional” look. Had I known it would take SIX coats of paint to finish this, I never would’ve started. However, I think it really turned out pretty and perhaps, if you try it yourself, you’ll come up with a better way to do this!).

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When it rains…

It’s amazing how life can go from “zero to 60” in such a short amount of time. Just when I thought my days were already packed, I received 3 new projects to work on — which is also the reason why I’ve not been posting very much lately (and you’ve missed me terribly, I’m sure…).

The first is artwork for a friend of mine who’s developing a cool software application. I’m quite excited about it and will be doing a special post about this, when it’s released, to give it a “formal” introduction!

The second is another friend of mine who has a business, here in town, and wants me to come up with a “display” to feature some of my photo cards! I was so flattered when she asked me. I think I have all the parts and pieces I need and am just waiting on the printer to send the cards I’ve chosen for her shop.

The third project is making some things to sell at a garden and yard art sale this June. I’ve had more fun coming up with different ideas — and the best part is that Fred is doing it with me! With the few days off he’s had, recently, he’s been happily “playing” in his shop to create some wonderful yard art (nothing is finished so he won’t let me take photos, yet!). 

Of course it wouldn’t be like me not to paint so I decided to do some garden-themed signs (I love painting signs). Here’s what I’ve come up with, so far…

Garden Signs

I like the way they’re coming out and I’m using up some of my nice, old wood “collection” (aka “saved from the burn pile”), to boot. Painting flowers has never been my strong suit so this has been a good challenge for me. I’ve been teaching myself a few new techniques and, although Donna Dewberry has nothing to worry about, just yet, I think I’ll get better with time and practice.

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Grumpy Old Men

I remember being in the second grade, during “art period,” and our assignment was to draw a self-portrait using a mirror. I think that was the first time I ever really looked at any face. Mine wasn’t symmetrical or perfect, in any way, but it was nice and made me, me. Since then I’ve been addicted to drawing and painting faces.

Looking for something on the web, I came across a photo of an old man and noticed he had the most interesting features. I knew I wanted to paint him and thought this would be perfect for my continuing “block art project” (painting on recycled wood pieces rescued from the burn pile). 

Doing the initial drawing, I had this idea to “characaturize” (is that even a word?) him, and had the most fun doing it (and the dogs were quite entertained by all my giggling). I love the way it turned out — so I decided to do a few more. Meet, Artie, Giovanni, and Miles. They’re the first in my “Grumpy Old Men” series for my online shop (www.lbd.etsy.com).

All

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Changeable “Frosted” Glass Vases

This is one of the most creative ideas I’ve seen in a while. Not only is it versatile, it’s inexpensive and easy: “Frosted” Glass Vases. By painting on this special mixture (below), you can achieve a lovely “frosted glass” effect – that you can change as needed. You are always ready for any occasion – and it’ll always match! 

pv1You’ll need:

  • A clear, glass Vase (or as many as you want to paint) – the cheaper the better and thrift store finds are great for this!
  • A Paint Brush – I used one that was appx. 1/2″ across. I think this was a good size.
  • Water-based Glue – I used the white school glue.
  • Acrylic Paints – the idea I originally saw used food coloring but I didn’t have any so used what I had on hand.
  • Small Container(s) – one per color.

1. Clean and dry the vase(s).

2. Mix about 1 tsp. of glue with paint — the amount of paint you use will be up to you. If you want it more “opaque” (see-through), use less paint (the glue will dry clear). If you want more of a solid color, use more paint (you probably won’t  need more than 1/2 tsp. per vase).

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3. Dip your brush in the glue/paint mixture and, using long strokes, top to bottom, apply the mixture. You may need to go over some of the areas more than once but let each coat dry in between.

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4. Let dry completely and that’s it. When you’re ready to change your color, simply wash it off with hot water and dish soap!

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Mini art

If you know me, at all, you know I’m always looking for new painting projects (ie: give me something to paint on and I’ll try it…at least once). When I saw these mini canvases (and easels!), while dragging Fred through a craft store, I just had to try them.

I’ve done three, so far and, aside from realizing how frustrating it is to have 50-year old eyes and big fingers working with little paint brushes, it’s been a lot of fun.

I was quite excited when I sold the poppies (and have another order for 2 more!).  I love when people appreciate my artwork – whether it be just telling me they like a piece or actually buying it, both are a huge compliment for me.

The poppies and lighthouse I did from my own photographs. The octopus was, I believe, either from a stock photo or a Nat Geo photo. I think I’ll dig through my photos to see what I’m going to paint next…

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