Saturday, June 30, 2007

the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I've come to decide that many things in life are good, some are bad and few are downright ugly. There are, however, several other things that would fall into what I call a "vanilla" category. You know, not great, certainly not horrible, but "acceptable". During my many years of working outside the home I often supervised and/or "managed" people. (Odd term, don't you think? How do you actually "manage" another person? Supervise, perhaps, oversee projects, perhaps. But "manage" people? I think not. But that's another blog. 'Waaaay down the line. Nothing that I see that needs to be addressed more than I've already addressed it at this time.) Although I do not see myself as any kind of perfectionist I have also come to dislike the term, "That will do" (or "that'll do") at the end of a chore. For example, if someone reporting to me would supposedly finish a task and comment, "That will do..." I knew it wasn't their best work. It was something they put together thinking it simply would appease me or whomever requested the project. And, when I reviewed the work, generally discovered that it was barely good enough for the vanilla category. I'll give you an example of one of my own "that'll do" projects. The first time Iever made a birdhouse from a gourd is a great choice. Oh, yes, I had seen the instructional shows on TV, read the instructions on the internet, etc. Seemed simple enough. Until the gourd that I had so carefully nourished and grown and plucked and dried (hey, look, mine took less time to dry than everyone says!) was ready to become a birdhouse. I washed it. (Such pretty colors when wet!) Bleached it a little. Was it REALLY necessary to sand it? Nah. Why wouldn't paint stick to it without sanding or priming? Let's skip this unnecessary step. I drilled the hole, probably a bit too large, and painted it with a funny face of a lady apparently yelling for or about something. The big hole made for a perfect mouth. How very cute. Now to hang it. I didn't have anything hanging in the pear tree nearest to my large garden. Plus, my neighbor lady who thinks I have the greatest creative talents ever can clearly see it from her yard and she will surely ooh and ahh over it. Well, that was about three years ago. My neighbor thought it was just the cutest thing ever. Then the rains came. Then the searing southern heat. Then cold blasts of winter. By spring the cute lady's face looked like she had contracted a severe case of leprosy. The paint was not only peeling, it was totally flaking off in chunks. I'll leave it alone; it might not be as cute, but it will still make a great birdhouse. Wanna see what it looks like now?

Go ahead and laugh, I can take it. All the paint is obviously off, another hole has rotted or worked its way though the gourd and the little holes in the bottom that I so carefully drilled for drainage have pretty much joined force and become one larger opening.

My gourd birdhouse was transformed from a "that'll do", or vanilla project, into not only "the ugly" but also "the bad". And I do mean bad in a bad way. Lesson learned: Just because you think you've finished a project doesn't mean you've completed it.

Now, let me show you something that only has to fit into the "Good" category.

Made from 70 year-old barnwood, it's a 6' birdhouse with ten decks, almost 70 units that can easily be opened for cleaning.

No, I can't even BEGIN to claim anything to do with the construction of this! A talented gentleman known as "John from Cranbrook" posted this on one of HGTV's message boards. Now, is this thing awesome or what?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Okay, I admit there's much more to (my) life than gardening

Yes, I'm actually an extremely busy person even when I'm not playing in the dirt. I did previously mention that my husband and I have a small antiques business. We not only buy them but we fix them (no broken or off-track drawers in our shops). If the finishes are less than satisfactory, we'll refinish them or sometimes paint them. Expect to see repurposed items as well as new handmade items made to look old. You'll oftentimes find us combing yard sales and estate auctions. Okay, yes, and doing some curbside shopping on trash days. We'll be either in a white GMC pickup truck or a maroon colored van. Chances are, my husband will be shamelessly looking through the treasures that someone else didn't know how to fix. He would never just pick up junk. (That's his story and believe me, he's sticking to it.) Oh, and I'll be the one slumped in the passenger seat, barely peeking over the door acting as his "lookout" and hoping that nobody recognizes our vehicle. (This chair to the left was really old and broken down before I refinished it. You can see the "before" pix here: Saturday night we went to what I can only refer to as the Auction from Hell. We were trying to help out his sister (long story that is reserved for another time) by taking yet another truckload of her stuff (as I said, long story...) to sell. Let me try to give you a visual here. Picture a large old wood building in the middle of a muddy parking lot with occasional small remnants of gravelled areas. The sign was old, the word "Auction" was first misspelled and then corrected with a coat of brighter white paint and darker letters. We were told that the auction would begin at 7:30 PM and that each dealer (each person with items to sell) would pull a number that would indicate the sequence of our lots. Twenty minutes would be given for each dealer's items and, if time allowed, the sequence would start over after the last dealer's twenty minutes were up. Okay, sounded fair to us. That is, until the auctioneer called for the dealers to come forward and pull a number. And half the crowd went forward. We were number 13, two from the bottom. Little kids panned through the crowd selling "grab bags" for $1.00 each. People kept coming in, curiously looking at my hubby, stepson and myself sitting protectively in our front row seats. I wondered why so many the dirty denim-clad people had put Coca-Cola in the Mountain Dew bottles they were carrying. Then I realized that wasn't Coke, that they were using the bottles to spit their tobacco into. And the men were even worse. I leaned toward my husband and asked him if he felt the same as myself, as though we were trapped in never before scene of the movie, Deliverance. But I digress. Long story short, certain "dealers" stretched their twenty minutes into thirty and holding. Number 13 was called shortly after midnight. A collector Mitchell fishing rod and reel went for just under $10. That was the big sale of the night. An antique National cash register sold for $2. The bulk of the other items went into boxes that sold for $1.00 each. I snatched a box of olde McCoy cannisters before the auction personnel grabbed it for the auction block declaring to my husband, "There's no way I'm letting this sell for $1.00!!!" (It's now repacked and ready to go into one of our shops) And here's my sales pitch: If you're in East Tennessee and are looking for a great value in McCoy cannisters, go to Elizabethton and check out ROBIN'S NEST and the SHOP AROUND THE CORNER. Here's a peek at some of the things in the Shop Around the Corner:

Monday, June 18, 2007

...and, so Life continues!

A couple things I forgot to mention in my first post: 1) The grapevines were volunteers, planted (presumably) by one of the many birds that I enjoy and that enjoy our property and 2) If you want to see more of my gardens, just click here:
I love adding items of interest to my garden. It's sometimes a difficult balance for me, as I don't want them to appear crowded with things other than plants and flowers. I'm also a crafter and a folk artist, so it is easy for me to sometimes get carried away with what I consider to be architectural points of interest. As a result, I make many items that oftentimes end up as gifts for friends or that I sell in my husband and my antiques business. (Oh yeah, I think I forgot to previously mention our antiques)
Anyway, here's a garden chair that I recently made from an old chair that I picked up during one of my curbside shopping expeditions.
These are so simple to make! In case you're interested, here's how you do it: Start with a wood chair frame and remove the seat. Add wire by stapling or nailing it to the seat frame. Paint or decorate the chair as desired. Fasten a durable cloth fabric (I use burlap) to hide the wire. Add a potted plant and cover the pot with moss. This will help hide the pot and hold moisture for the plant.
Well, I can happily report we've had a couple heavy rains lately but I would still consider East Tennessee to be in drought conditions. I can still dig down about six inches and the soil is dry; however, I am seeing more color from newly opened buds on our hillside and will of course post pictures. These beautiful white blooms are from one of my yucca plants. I love their tall spikes and how they stand so high and proud. Did you know the root of the yucca was (and still is) used by American Indians for bathing? They refer to it as "soap root". It is sliced into sections and is excellent for cleansing your skin and hair.
I discovered this while living in Northern California. My son, Brad, was a young boy at the time. Even as a child, he was quite resourceful at finding ways to earn money. He was about nine years old when he starting hunting free growing yuccas, digging out the root and selling it to Lisa (Winter Woman) Railsback, a Navajo-Apache artisan who owned and ran a shop in Auburn, California. She referred to it as an early American shop and filled it with wonderful artifacts, antiques and art by herself and other Indians. She is a soft spoken woman with straight black hair that, when braided, still hangs below her hips. I was blessed to have her as a friend and disappointed that, when my husband and I visited the area two years ago, found that her shop was no longer at its location in Olde Towne Auburn.
If, by the way, you are interested in North American Indian cultures, you might want to check out her book, Cooking with Spirit.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Un-lazy Days of Spring and my Country Cottage Garden

Several people have been asking me what I've been doing lately and why they haven't heard from me. I've told them I've been pulling weeds and working on my flower gardens. They look at me like, "Okay, and what have you been doing the other 23 hours of your day?" Maybe these pix will help. Our yard is just under an acre, much of which is my flower gardens. My largest garden is a little over 400 square feet. This is what I call the "main" entrance. Two days ago I decided to add a little paved pathway, thus the bricks. I started working on the pathway late yesterday afternoon. Then the rains came! (We really needed the rain, by the way!) Yes, I know the door is crooked. That's the nice thing about a cottage garden. Nothing is truly a mistake. :-) This pic below was taken from inside the garden, just on the other side of the entrance. The mailbox holds small garden tools, gloves, tissues, etc. The dark rectangle next to it is a duplex birdhouse. It's shaded by the sagging overhead trellis (yes, there was a time that it was actually straight). House wrens didn't take long to move in - less than 48 hours after it was hung! Here are some more shots inside the large garden: white dianthus Several snapdragons for added spots of color! My favorite color - yellow! Annual volunteers always surprise me. Behind the little bench is my makeshift grape arbor. Looks like we'll have grapes this year! The trellis directly behind the bench will soon be filled with sweet peas. I picked up an old baby crib at an auction. It was missing pieces but I decided the short ends would make a cute partial fence and the longer sides would serve as great handrails for this hillside (did you notice all this is on a hill?) garden. A white basket of red hot lantana is hanging from the "fence". Notice all the large paver type blocks? I'm enlarging a little seating area in my shade garden. You'll see it later. The pic to the left was taken from the back of the garden looking inward. Some of the plants you are seeing include Oriental poppies, lillies, irises, gladiolas, large hibiscus, and a lot of zinnia seedlings. My husband found a large broken fountain while dumpster diving last year. Bless his heart, he lugged the heavy thing home and this year I decided the large bottom would make a dandy community bird bath. River rocks added to the water will help prevent our feathered friends from drowning. Other pieces of the fountain are being used throughout our property. In the distance is an old bird cage added for visual interest. Behind it is a large concrete garden angel overlooking day lillies and iris that my mother-in-law gave me about a year before she died. They are heirloom plants that came from her mother's garden. Finally, a rickety old bed was made into what is now a rickety old bench. It will later be reenforced and straightened. This garden is usually much more green and colorful but a late frost killed many buds (including most of our apple and peach crops) and water from a hose just is no substitute for good nutritious spring rains. Below is proof that I truly have been pulling weeds! (Why do they flourish while the plants we want to survive are stiff and brown??) This pile is about three feet deep and five feet wide. It represents only a fraction of what I've done so far this year; much has already been picked up by the trash collector as a burn ban is in existence for our county. Okay, so much for the large garden. I have several smaller gardens scattered throughout the property. The photograph shows a corner of our rear patio garden. Look closely and you'll see a sleeping cherub being serenaded by a harp playing angel. If you want to see more pix of the large garden and of the smaller gardens, click here: