{ Archive for the ‘projects and crafts’ Category }

Springtime gift giving

I’m kind of excited about this little surprise I’ve got ready for my sister’s birthday next week, and I thought I’d show it off as maybe you would like to do something similar. Although that pretty much means the end of the surprise. Happy Birthday, Jenni!

Step one: choose a pretty bowl or vase.  I found one with a cable-knit design, because Jenni’s an extraordinary knitter. If you’re thinking Easter, a cute flower bowl such as one of these might do nicely.

Step two: fill it with goodies! I know what you’re thinking: chocolate! But we are gardeners, and of course, we are not swayed by such mundane things as chocolate. Goodies equals seeds!

Be sure to match your seed choices with the right person. Not everyone wants to baby a finicky flower; a seasoned veteran might welcome the challenge. I’ve got a bunch of seed that’s been harvested by myself or friends which I wanted to share with my sister, but you could just as easily use packets of commercial seed. Bonus for that route: instructions included! I’m not worried about Jenni having instructions; a landscape design/arbourculture degree, her, and Google make a pretty good team.

But instructions or no, go for making things pretty. Find some cool paper (keep it lightweight for easy folding),scissors, and some ribbon, stickers, decorative tape, or twine. Fancy pens optional.

I’m recycling my paper from an old printer’s sample book and a desk calendar. If you are packaging saved seed, make sure to fold each side over a few times to keep the seeds from escaping. If you feel like getting right into it, try making decorative envelopes like these – just be sure all edges are sealed. If you’re using prepackaged, all they need is a pretty wrapper.

 

Here's one way to do it -- I folded the long sides in first.

Then tuck all your little packets of goodness into the bowl, with a couple of other little trinkets that suit the season or the recipient: pussy willows, a notebook…

Oh, all right, you might as well throw some really good chocolate in there while you’re at it. If you must.

 

Join the #UsedParty tomorrow night

I’ll admit it. I can be a bit of a pack rat. I’ll tuck items away for future projects and crafts–sometimes those items even make it into the garden. That is why tomorrow night (Wednesday, March 19), I’m looking forward to joining UsedEverywhere.com’s Twitter chat, aka #UsedParty. The theme of the chat is Upcycling for the Garden. I look forward to sharing a few ideas and hope to gain some crafty inspiration from some of the other panellists: @GatherVictoria@commoncentsmom and @YoungUrbnFarmer. If you leave a comment on UsedEverywhere.com‘s blog, I will be choosing a question to answer and that person will win a one-year subscription to Canadian Gardening magazine. Keep in mind the chat is at 6 p.m. PST, so that makes it 9 p.m. EST here in Southern Ontario. See you on Twitter! (P.S. Our Twitter handle is @CdnGardening.)

Garden project: Cocktail toppers

Wouldn’t you like to make these DIY herb ring drink toppers created by the talented staff at Terrain. Using sprigs from your windowsill herb garden, you can easily fashion these to grace your winter cocktails.

Read the rest of this entry »

Quick project: barn wood planter

I’ve been enjoying all the great ideas for winter planters, holiday flower arrangements and wreaths that have been popping up lately. When we were down in Kalispell two weeks ago, I noticed cute barn wood planters all over the antique shops, stuffed with juniper branches. Some were long and low, some tapered and carved, but they all had one thing in common: they were ridiculously overpriced. I said to Chris, “I bet we could throw one of those together in less than an hour.”

And this morning we tried. And got two done in less than an hour.

Of course, Chris is a confident woodworker, and we have loads of old fence board just laying around. But it’s still an easy project for anyone to try.

Choose wood that has aged nicely, but be sure it isn’t so aged that it is splitting. Interesting knots or grain are a bonus. For easy building, we used plain old but joints, and made the base the width of our board, and the height the same. For the end pieces, we measured the width of our board and added the thickness of each side piece. Use a coloured pencil to mark your measurements–regular pencil disappears on barn wood.

Cut your board into the lengths you want. A mitre or table saw will give you nice straight cuts, but if you're careful, a jigsaw or circular saw will work as well.

If you want handles, use a wood boring bit (or the largest drill bit you have) to make two parallel holes on the sides.

Once you have your holes, use a jigsaw to cut out the handle shape.

Use good wood glue (carpenter's glue) on each joint. This is what really holds it together.

After you glue the joints, nail them together. We used a brad nailer, but you could use chunky-headed roofing nails to add some detail.

Chris insisted on giving the edges all a quick router. It took longer to change the bit than to do everything else together, but I must admit, it really takes it up a notch.

If you intend to use live plants, you will want to be sure to build your planter to fit your container. I chose to do a dry arrangement, but 3 standard 5 inch pots (or old sour cream containers!) will fit just right when I decide to change it.

First one done! I'll add some of those stick-on felt circles from the hardware store so it doesn't scratch the table or floor.

Here’s what I did with one of mine. I did resort to using some artificial flowers; it’s protected in the porch and I don’t want to assault my junipers or dogwoods until they get a little bigger.

 

DIY holiday gift idea: Herbal tea

Well before most of my garden had called it quits for the season, I decided to dry a few herbs. I snipped bunches of sage, oregano, French tarragon and spearmint. As I was crumbling my spearmint to save for tea the other day, I though to myself: “Wouldn’t this make a cute Christmas gift?” For my birthday, my friend Brenda gave me one of those ceramic jars from Anthropologie with the chalkboard label on the front, as well as a package of these lovely little drawstring tea bags. This is the perfect packaging if you choose to share some of your herbs. Looseleaf tea bags can be found at most tea shops. I would recommend a teaspoon of dried herbs in each. Or, make it a spice jar and fill it with savoury herbs you’ve dried, like oregano or thyme.

Writing in chalk was the hardest part. I must have erased various wordings (Tara's tea, peppermint, etc.) at least 20 times. I settled on "Tea" because it was short and sweet.

Keeping retired garden hoses busy

One of my tasks for this week is draining and storing all the garden hoses. (Yes, ALL. An acre of land+no sprinkler system=lots of hoses.)

Often there’s one that I finally decide is beyond repair and needs to be put out to pasture. But what to do with these steel, plastic, and rubber aggregates? Many recyclers won’t take them, landfills hate them. The best thing I can think of is to repurpose them.

First option is to turn a leaky hose into a leakier hose: poke some more holes in it and use it as a soaker hose.

If it’s not up to that task, you can cut it into lengths for all kinds of applications:

For cutting through the tough layers of hose, I like to use an old serrated knife.

A simple guard for the blade of our bow saw.

The old rubber handles went the way of the earth long ago; now we use these for grips on the wheelbarrow. Also try slipping them over the wire handles of buckets.

Or if you’re feeling crafty:

Mark Kintzel's old hose repurposed as a doormat (click the pic for how-to)

Jill Fritz's fresh invention (click for the how-to)

And if you just can’t get enough hose-related goodness, have no fear, Pinterest is here.

Greenhouses, re-thought

My friend Jennifer sent me a link this week all about something I’d never seen before: underground greenhouses. Known as a walipini, these dugouts with plastic roofs were first built in the mountain regions of South America to allow people to grow crops almost year round. Jennifer wanted to know my opinion about building one here in Alberta.

First of all, thank you, Jen, for holding my opinion in such high esteem. Second, I really don’t know. The idea intrigues me; it’s almost like a walk-in cold frame, and you know how I love cold frames. Walipinis take it to the next level though, using the natural warmth of the earth to heat the space, not just the sun. While they would require a lot of labour to dig, and a lot of space to accommodate, the materials could be lower in cost than a traditional greenhouse set up. Also, I have many neighbours who have had ‘kit’ type greenhouses blown into Saskatchewan or smashed by hail. Digging into the earth seems like a logical way to avoid our gales.

As long as you could build a roof to withstand those winds, as well as the heavy, wet snow we can get. A really solid roof would be absolutely necessary. Could we do it?

A quick trip around the internet revealed several variations of dug greenhouses, the “earth sheltered” variety being fairly common. Everyone seems to have their own special considerations to the design, but the consensus seems quite positive that it is entirely possible, even here.

Luckily for me, Jennifer has a willing relation with a backhoe, a lot full of lawn she wants to transform, and a husband who’s thinking through the roofing questions.

I get to watch and learn.

A quick and easy bird-feeder post

When I was a kid, the bird feeder, seen from our large kitchen window provided endless entertainment. Chickadees, cardinals, blue jays, nuthatches, doves, juncoes and woodpeckers (to name a few) were all frequent visitors. A number of birdfeeders have come and gone over the years and all of them used to sit on a metal pole with the requisite squirrel guard that did absolutely nothing to deter the acrobatic squirrel population. I love this bird-feeder post (and its squirrel-proof feeder) that my father made last year. I thought I would share it to commemorate National Bird-Feeding Month, established by the National Bird-Feeding Society.

A closeup shot shows off the fancy bracket.

The instructions are quite simple. Add a post bracket to the bottom of an eight-foot-long 4×4 post (paint it first, if you wish) and pound it into the ground. My dad says you could also use sono tube and concrete post holes depending on how soft or firm your ground is. Screw on a bracket (from which you’ll hang your feeder), top with a fence post cap and voilà. An attractive bird-feeder stand.

The kind of mushrooms anyone could love

It’s been a damp spring here, and there are all sorts of mushrooms popping up in corners of our property, including right in the middle of the lawn. I know some people consider fungi sprouting in the middle of their lawns unsightly and annoying, but I consider them part of the natural balance in the ecosystem and generally let them be; eradicating toadstools isn’t near as much fun as playing fairy ring with my little girls. (No taste testing allowed–though I keep thinking I need to learn what’s what in case there are some edible ones around here.)

Even with my mushroom loving heart, I was a little surprised when Chris hauled me outside this week to show me what he’d “found” in the lawn:

 

That biggest one is a good foot tall, and for a tiny moment I thought I was in the Amazon or on Pandora. Then I remembered this was Chris, and realized I was looking at recycled salad bowls, chair legs, and driftwood. Ever the creative genius, he’d put them together over the afternoon, given them a quick coat of stain, and poked them artistically into the grass. He fooled me, I admit it.  He took in a couple of neighbours too, before they got in a little closer and noticed the grain in the wood.

I’m craving some portobellos now… but despite their inedibility, I’m quite pleased with the newest addition to my garden menagerie.

My first holiday urn

A few weeks ago as I was leaving my local nursery, I noticed all their big containers were on sale. I’ve always wanted an iron urn, so I grabbed one before they were gone. It has sat empty and lonely on my porch–until this past weekend. Saturday I went back to that same nursery and grabbed some Fraser fir boughs and magnolia leaves. Then, I took my pruners around the yard and cut some cedar boughs, red berry clusters (I have no idea what the plant is, but it’s thorny like a rosebush) and a little bit of what I think is euonymous. Then I was ready to roll.

Last year I wrote an article about the gorgeous holiday pots Jim McMillen from Landscapes in Bloom puts together for his clients each year. I used his technique of mounding soil in the pot and dampening it a little. The idea is everything will freeze in place (step-by-step instructions can be found here). I added some sticks I had kicking around in the garage in the centre. Then, starting with the Fraser fir boughs all cut to the size I wanted, I started sticking them in the dirt around the edge of the pot, keeping a clock face in mind: 12, 3, 6 and 9. Then I filled in the spaces with the cedar followed by the magnolia leaves. Once I got to the middle, I stuck some branches with red clumps of berries at the end for colour. To fill in the spaces and add some contrast, I added a little euonymous.

I’ve included a couple of photos below. I’m really happy with the results, though because my house sits on a hill, you can’t really see the red berries from the street. But those who venture up to the house can enjoy them up close!

My Christmas urn fits perfectly in a gap beside my front stoop.

Up close you can see the contrast between all the different types of branches. I think I need to turn those magnolia leaves at the front so they're not as bunchy!

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