Dollar Tree still has dozens of hair ties. You can also substitute rubber bands. I can sew, but with everything I am doing in the garden I’d rather not. This is a great tip for making a stand-in mask during the Covid-19 crisis. You can use a bandana or fabric if you have a stash on hand. Even a shirt, cut into a square, a sheet, or a pillowcase…any type of covering is better than nothing…and remember…wash after just one use to get rid of germs.
The weather has warmed up. The birds are beginning to nest. It’s time to create a few birdhouses out of the gourds I’ve been drying throughout the winter.
I bought two large varieties in late Autumn, and grew the small one myself. They hung from my porch rafters through the colder months and grew some interesting molds on their surfaces. After brushing them with a light bleach solution, and leaving them in the sun for a few hours, I began my crafting.
I cut a small hole with a craft knife, pushing it in carefully at tiny intervals. Removing the seeds was easier than I had anticipated. I used a paint paddle, swished inside a few times, and all the seeds and fluff fell out. Two holes at the top were easy to drill for the hanging wire. I also drilled several small holes in the bottoms to allow any collected rain to drain out. To stop larger birds and squirrels from raiding the nests, I used my glue gun and glued a border of pennies around the opening. I like the way the copper sets off the color of the gourds.
I placed one birdhouse on a tripod of sticks near my back window, two are hanging on thin twigs. I am hoping the close proximity of the house, and the thinness of the twigs will keep squirrels from tampering with the houses. I’ll update later in the season.
This post is part of Skywatch.
I’ve been enjoying my roses and decided to dry several this week to keep for projects. Pinterest has many dried rose ideas: wreaths, wall-hangings, napkin rings, potpourri, are just a few of the many crafts. I’m hoping to try out a few ‘pins’ in the cooler months when I am longing for fresh flowers.
I’ve been using my dehydrator to dry the roses. The dehydrator has five trays stacked above a heating unit. I space the roses out on the trays so that they have plenty of air flow. The lowest setting works great and doesn’t seem to cause much browning.
One trick I’ve learned is to also dry a few rosebuds and leaves for a natural look when arranging.
I switch the trays around bottom to top, and so on, every twenty minutes. This gives all the levels a chance to dry in the higher heat of the bottom.
When the flowers seem dry, but before they begin to brown on the edges, I put them on a metal tray and lay it on the floor of my car with closed windows. I tent newspaper over the top if the sun is shining through the windows.
The last step is to give the roses a few weeks of open-air storage. To do this I cut away the bottom of brown paper shopping bags, pinch the corners so they stay open, and lay the flowers inside. I place these bags on a mesh drying rack hanging in a closet and keep the doors shut for darkness. I am going to purchase some floral fixative at a hobby/craft store to keep the petals secure in a few weeks. (I think hairspray works too.) When winter days and nights get long it will be fun to pull out these flowers and get creative.
I also dry many herbs in the same way. On the rack with the roses is catnip. dried chive blossoms, and lemon balm.
Since one of my goals for the blog is to be honest when a project fails me I must tell you about the crash of my tin can contraption. The cans are still in perfect condition, but the wire hanging apparatus has crashed. It held up great…through rain, strong wind, but it could not hold up to me grabbing it in mid-fall to save myself from hitting the ground. I did end up on the ground, the tin can hanger hit the ground too. Happily, I am fine, and the cans are all fine. Only one plant was jostled out of it’s can and it was easily replanted. The wire apparatus broke into several pieces. I could have fixed it, but anticipating another disaster, hung my colorful cans on the fenceposts surrounding my garden. I really like them here! We can see them from the back window and my husband also said he thought they looked good around the garden. Live and learn! Don’t try to save yourself when you fall by grabbing something even remotely rickety.
While I was near the garden with my camera I thought it a good time to update my winter-sown lettuce progress. It’s growing so fast I’m going to have to start filling bags to give away. It’s delicious and tastes great mixed with organic romaine hearts from the grocer.
PS: If you’re wondering how I fell the truth is I have no idea. One minute I was picking flowers from the cans to press, the next I was on my way down.
I’m grateful for the requests I’ve had for a part three of this project to show how the tin can rack was put together. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I kept my eyes open for wiry baskets for weeks when I visited thrift stores. I found a set in the local Goodwill for $3.99.
I used a Shepherd’s hook for my hanging apparatus and placed it near the corner of the porch where I intended to display the cans. This was a providential choice explained later in the post.
Painting the cans was easy. Rain also created a ‘happy accident’ while they dried.’
“We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.” Bob Ross
The moisture, on paint not yet set, rippled the finish, and gave the cans a crackled appearance without the purchase of an expensive crackle medium.
Leather strips, purchased long ago in a large bag of scraps, were the best choice for hanging the cans. I threaded them through the side holes and knotted the ends. Leather is durable and withstands tearing on the sharp edges of the can as they pass through.
My hardest problem to solve was how to hang the cans on the rack. Threading the leather strips around the weave of the baskets was an option, but if a plant dies, I want to be able to remove the can, re-pot with another, and attach to the rack again. S-hooks would work, but are expensive; I searched for an alternative. I found this in a 12-pack of wire shower hooks. These were inexpensive, easy to use, and matched well when sprayed with a coat of matte black spray paint. I needed 2 packs of these.
A few baskets seemed wobbly at their junctures, so I strengthened them with long plastic strip ties and cut the extra length away once attached.
I ran into a problem once I had the cans planted; the weight of all eighteen was too heavy for the Shepherd’s hook and the structure began to lean forward. NO! An oversized eye screw was needed to stabilize the contraption. This is where my location proved providential. I attached the eye screw into the wooden porch railing and secured the Shepherd’s hook with two plastic strip ties.
Out of necessity I will check each plant daily. The growing area is small and will dry out quickly. Updates will be posted later in the season. This strange tower of wire baskets and cans is certainly worthy of being entered into Kammie’s Oddball Challenge.
After the holes are punched in the tin cans it’s time to begin painting with acrylic paint. There will be residue from glue on the can, this can be removed with a heat gun and rag. I didn’t bother since I knew the cans would only be used for one season.
It took three coats of paint to get the look I wanted. Even before I had finished painting all the cans in pastel rainbow shades, rust had begun to work its way through the first layers. No bother…it adds a bit of shabby chic to the look of the project. I was very careful of the sharp edges inside the cans, but even being aware didn’t stop me from getting three small cuts on my fingers from the razor-sharp edges. I should have put a piece of masking tape over the holes in the sides as this is where I cut myself every time while painting.
The look of the cans is even better than I had hoped. The rack I wired together from thrift store inbox trays is perfect and holds eighteen cans. Stringing leather strips through the side holes gives me a strong hanger for the weight of the cans. I’m happy with my project and pleased it gives me more room to grow flowers specifically designated for flower pressing.
I make a lot of spaghetti sauce to use and freeze. Each time I stir up a batch of sauce I clean and store the 29-ounce cans the crushed tomatoes come in. Ofttimes, when I upcycle the cans in projects I will need to add holes of some kind to them.
The easiest way I have found to do this is to fill the can with water and freeze it first. This gives me a solid mass to punch into, but is also easily removed. (Melted in this case.) The one drawback is the flat bottom of the can becomes curved by the pressure of the freezing water, lowering the level of the water several centimeters. The bottom is easily flattened back out with a hammer.
I am making a flower rack out of upcycled cans and some wire baskets I found at the local thrift store. I will need to punch at least four drainage holes in the bottom of each can, and also two side holes for a leather hanging strap.
A common Philips screwdriver is perfect for punching the holes.
The bottom of the can is easy to puncture, the sides a little trickier because the round can is inclined to roll. I find grass the easiest grounding surface. Punching holes into the can with the screwdriver assures the sharp edges stay inside the can.
When I’m finished with the hole-punching I turn the cans upside down and let the ice melt and drain. Part II of my project will be posted tomorrow.
December’s Scrub Pine Christmas tree is still a resident plant in my home. Replanted in a bigger pot and placed in a sunny area, the pine, which was bristly and dried out when I first transplanted it is thriving in its improved conditions. The needles are not so sharp to the touch, and there is new growth on many of the tips.
The Christmas Tree Pine is now a Valentine’s Day Tree. I didn’t buy a thing to dress it up. Double-sided paper cut into heart shapes, hole-punched, and hung with Christmas ornament hooks were a perfect match for the tree’s sparse appearance.
The color combination is pink with touches of orange/coral, a perfect combination for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge. Look closely and you can see I’ve used old beads and pearls as ornaments, cut away from necklaces I no longer wear. I hung these by threading them onto Christmas tree hooks. I’ve found these hooks have many uses in house and garden when I need a small piece of wire.
Five years ago I blogged these instructions for paper stars. I’m sharing the steps again because I’m amazed at how durable the stars have been in storage over the years. I will use these stars again on trees or the mantel. The stronger your paper the better your stars will hold up.
I had so much fun making paper stars at Christmastime. The stars can be used for any holiday…New Year’s, The Fourth of July, Easter, etc. They also could be created to hang from an indoor porch or ceiling for permanent decorations. Crafted out of glow in the dark paper, they would be a terrific non-electric night light for a child’s room.
I’ve included a link to the blog where I found perfect directions for this project. Paper Star Directions.
My paper stars were created out of pages from an old out of date Atlas. I love the colors and shadings of the maps, and also thought it appropriate that stars commemorating Christ Jesus’ birth included countries from all over the world. I also used pages from favorite childhood classic books to create smaller stars for my tiny Christmas tree.
Since these pages did not have any color to them, I gently watercolored them with pastel versions of primary colors.
I’ll give a quick description of the steps I followed to make the stars, but the directions are condensed. For isntructions with more detail visit the link I provided at the beginning of the post.
To start I cut the maps into four inch squares. For the smaller book page stars I cut two inch squares. Because the Atlas pages were heavier, smaller stars and squares would not have been easy to fold and glue.
The next step involves folding four times, twice on the diagonal, twice straight across the middle. Along the middle line on each side, snip a cut about 3/4 of an inch for the 4 inch star. For the smaller star you will make a smaller snip. Trial and error is the best way to judge how long to make the snip.
At this point you are going to turn the paper over on itself and glue the edge of the star point together. Hot glue made it quick and easy for me, but I have tough fingertips and am not too bothered by the heat. You want to use a glue that will grab hold quickly so you don’t have to hold the star tip too long.
Glue four points from each square, then glue another square into four points. After gluing the middle of the star will have a raised dimension. Glue two of these stars together, string a piece of clear thread through the top, knot and hang.
Here is my star created from a page of one of my favorite books, Anne of Green Gables. I also used Mod-Podge on these and my atlas stars to add a coating of glittery crystal.
I use books I find at local thrift stores and yard sales for projects such as these. You could also photocopy pages of books you love, or copy old letters and photographs with a scanner or photocopier to use. Photographic stars would be great for a party with the person of honor’s image on stars hanging from the ceiling or light fixture. Have fun making your stars. I had a great time making mine. They are easy and inexpensive and are sure to please.
I was surprised when the smaller and weaker of the two caterpillars was the first to complete his metamorphosis into a chrysalis. He didn’t attach himself to any of the twigs or plants, but instead transformed on the soil. Today I noticed the larger caterpillar, who has been very still for days, had spun a web and seems to be beginning his metamorphosis too.
Can you see the thin thread of web anchoring the caterpillar in place? I’m leaving a place holder below for a photo of the second chrysalis, probably complete by tomorrow morning. Check back for the posted photo.
I removed the photo place holder I originally posted. The caterpillar is very still, yet has not formed a chrysalis. As the days pass I am losing hope that he will begin metamorphosis. Something seems to have gone awry.
Once again, I’m reblogging a terrific seasonal project. I used the same technique a few year’s later to create a Valentine’s Day heart with my grand-daughters. The project and shape can be adapted to any holiday.
This beautiful Christmas tree was easy and inexpensive to create. All three of my grandsons loved putting it together. The only supplies we needed were bought at the dollar store. We purchased one piece of black foamboard and two packets of glittery stars. We had freezer paper on hand for the template, but old newspaper would work just as well.
First we scattered the stickers and took a good look at them. We noticed the stars could be used as they were, or to double the amount we had to use, the insides could be punched out and used as separate stickers. Whoo-Hoo…fun…let’s begin!
Before the boys were ready to start I cut a piece of freezer paper into a tree shape by folding it in half and cutting away half a tree. When opened, the sides matched and when placed on the foamboard waxy side down, the paper clung to the surface just a bit. To help keep the freezer paper from shifting we weighted the corners down with what was handy…salt and pepper shakers. The littlest grandson thought the salt was part of the project and promptly salted the foamboard.
All three of the boys ages 2 1/2 through 8 years enjoyed the project. It was completed within fifteen minutes and was instantly gorgeous and bright. The only problem we had was some of the paper backing on the stickers stuck a bit for the younger boys.
When the tree was complete and we had oooh’d and aaah’d over how beautiful it was, I used my glue gun to place a string for hanging about a third of the way down from the top. The foamboard is very light and will hang on even the smallest nail.
Happy Christmas Crafting to You!
The Christmas Tree That Ran Away was a favorite album of my sister and me. Why do I mention this song? Because the words and tune ring through my head whenever I decorate a scrub pine and turn it into a sweet Christmas tree. Here’s the Youtube song, if it sounds dated, it is; the album is from the 1960’s.
I had forgotten how cute a scrub pine can be when decorated with simple ornaments. This one is loaded down with some turned-wood decorations I found for pennies at a thrift store. Planted in a pot and placed on the kitchen table, it reminds me that things that are ‘found’ are sometimes what become favorites during the Christmas season.
We dug this little scrub pine up along the railroad tracks. Plants that grow in the rocks that border the track are by necessity resilient. Most foliage succumbs to the lack of dirt and good soil, which is what the railroad wants…encroaching plants and trees would be a hindrance to the train’s smooth travel. When Christmas is over I’ll find an out of the way spot amid the ivy where a fir tree that can grow in rocky soil will survive.
Comminatory is the challenge word today for ‘Your Daily Word Prompt.’ I enjoy expanding my vocabulary, and this was a new word for me: comminatory-threatening, punitive, or vengeful. We have certainly had a change to comminatory weather here in southern New Jersey. Frost, frozen bird baths, ice-sheathed grass blades, are what we wake to in the early morning hours. Today I noticed every garden flower that was lingering is now brown and drooping lifelessly.
I knew a freeze was coming, and took a bit of time on Saturday to walk around the yard and take a few photos of the last flowers of Autumn. I noticed the dill was still green and on closer inspection was astonished to see two black swallowtail caterpillars on its foliage. Since I had good luck a year ago raising caterpillars on dill plants on the porch I decided I should try and save these poor critters from the hard freeze. Unfortunately, my ambitions were forgotten until the evening hours. Resolved not to be put off by my forgetfulness, I went out in the dark and found one caterpillar, the other eluded me.
I placed him in a vase and covered the opening with a knee-high stocking. These make great barriers and are easy to slip over the top of a jar or vase. The soft nylon will not harm the insect.
The caterpillar became lively overnight and the next day my grandsons helped me create a habitat for him. We dug up any dill plants still growing, a parsley plant, and added branching sticks for him to form a chrysalis upon. I know from past experience, while eating and growing, the caterpillar will not leave the food source. When he’s ready to form a chrysalis he might wander, but its fairly easy to find him if he is contained in one area.
We decided it was worth a second look in the garden for the second caterpillar, and after a little searching found him motionless in the garden soil. My grandson said he thought he saw him twitch a bit so we carefully brushed him into a small container and took him indoors. Within an hour or two the caterpillar that appeared lifeless began to move and this morning had joined the other on the dill.
Black swallowtails in their chrysalis have no problem overwintering. A small caterpillar, caught in a hard freeze, isn’t likely to survive to form a chrysalis without a food source. Updates will follow on our winter visitors.
I’ve blogged for years and some of the projects I’ve had fun making and sharing get lost in the archives. Here’s a rerun of reruns!
I came across this terrific display of Jack-O-Lanterns a few years ago and it will remain imprinted on my mind as one of the most creative Halloween decorations I’ve ever seen. If I ever have the time, money and help of many hands perhaps I will try to duplicate it.
I love Jack O’ Lanterns. This big pumpkin devouring a smaller pumpkin was fun to carve and display.
Several years ago after seeing an idea on how to make Oyster Jack O’ Lantern ornaments on Pinterest, I created several. They have held up for years and today I will be decorating my Norfolk Island Pine tree with these adorable pumpkins.
These playful glasses were certainly a hit with my grandchildren and trick-or-treaters who came to our door.
My experience and the link to Martha Stewart’s directions for the glasses can be found at Martha’s Halloween Glasses
Finally, although I didn’t make this snarky sign based on the Wizard of Oz, I love the quote. I only wish I could keep a straight face long enough to use it when someone “bugs” me, but I know I would dissolve into laughter before I could get out two words. Enjoy the season, and remember, “I have flying monkeys, don’t make me use them.” Teeheehee!
Autumn arrives today in New Jersey at 9:54 P.M.
Yesterday, I searched my gardens for a perfect botanical representative of the fall season. I chose this beautiful hydrangea blossom, still bluish in color, but changing over to maroons and greens.
If left on the bush, winter winds, rain and snow will knock some flower bunches to the ground. The flesh of the petals will wear away and leave in its place a gorgeous lace-like everlasting. I enjoy finding these skeletonized flowers in odd places when winter ends. They make good pressed flowers and can be used in bouquets too.
If you don’t trust nature to do the work for you, cut a few of the flower bunches and place them beneath the bush, held in place within the spines of the lowest-lying stems. Come Springtime, you just might find a few perfect skeletonized flowers to use in your crafts and art.
Youtube can be addictive. There is so much information it is mind-boggling. Recently I became entranced by acrylic pouring videos and using an easy and budget-friendly method created amazing paintings with my grandsons on a Sunday afternoon. We used a votive candle cup to pour over, but I’ve included an even easier Youtube video that shows how to pour paint into and out of a measuring cup. I think I will try this technique next.
I bought inexpensive acrylics at 3 for $1.00 at A.C. Moore. I had Elmer’s glue on hand and plenty of leftover squirt bottles from a tie-dying project. The canvas size is 12 x 12, purchased in bulk at 7 for $10.00 by using a 50% off coupon. Buying materials when they were on sale kept the cost of creating seven canvases under $20.00.
Pre-mixing your liquids/paints is key for a successful painting. I pre-mixed 16 ounces of 1/2 glue and 1/2 water in a leftover ricotta container and stirred well until combined. I poured my acrylic paints into the squirt bottles, added an equal amount of the glue/water mixture, and shook well. Another helpful tip is to elevate the canvas by pushpins on the bottom. This allows the paint to flow off the edges. Cover all surfaces and wear old clothes, or do as we did and cover yourself with a large trash bag. Protective gloves are a MUST…unless, of course, you want rainbow colors under your fingernails for weeks.
Before we started we covered the blank canvas with a layer of the glue/water mix and squeegeed it around with a piece of cardboard until the surface was covered. Begin to pour your acrylics onto the canvas. We poured over a votive candle cup. It worked great. Grooves on the outer surface are key to creating the interesting design.
Pour the paint on top color by color. Keep adding color in varying amounts.
Add paint until the design is about an inch or two from the edges. Remove the votive cup (THIS CAN BE SLIPPERY) and let the paint run into the center before you begin to tilt.
This is me, Nanny, watching my grandsons have FUN!
The younger grandsons, ages 9 and 6, have smaller hands and so we worked as partners to tilt the canvas and allow the paint to run to the edges. Tip: It’s difficult for smaller hands to keep thumbs out of the way.
The twelve-year-old grandson has bigger hands than I do and was able to tilt his canvas on his own.
The thickness of the paint creates a 2 – 3 day drying time. I can’t wait until later in the week when I will have fun again creating a pour in PINKS with my grand-daughters. Happy Painting!
(There are so many techniques and products you can use for creating acrylic pours. I had a great time researching techniques and watching instructional videos on Youtube.)
A natural trellis for a very unruly jasmine plant was my first driftwood project. I don’t know if I should title the activity a project, it was more of a planting. These taller lengths are the trunks of small trees with gnarly roots still attached. Because branches don’t have the same appeal to beachcombers as the smaller pieces, they tend to become very aged and gnarled, beautifully bleached by sun and salt.
I used four pieces and inserted them in the potting soil root end up. The longest branch was placed in the center, the three shorter branches support the center piece tripod fashion. The gnarly roots were pliable and easy to maneuver around the center branch for even better stability. I like the natural look this trellis creates. Now I need to work on replacing the plastic pot with an ascetically compatible container.
Goose wall-hanging created with driftwood and acrylic paints.
I love driftwood. I live near oceans and bays and enjoy beachcombing for driftwood, shells and sea glass. This year has been a boom year for driftwood. I’ve collected quite an array, and can’t wait to craft a few new projects.
Untreated driftwood must be cleaned and disinfected; the pieces can harbor germs and bacteria. Before I handle it too much or begin to create, I soak it in a solution of weak bleach. A few pieces are near three feet in length. Finding a way to fully immerse each piece is a bit of a quandary. I eventually soak the pieces in an under-the-bed plastic storage container. Once emptied, this gives me about four feet of soaking space…perfect!
After rinsing, I spread each piece on outdoor tables for additional drying and whitening. A few pieces still have a bit of grayish, sandy debris in the crevasses. I’ll brush this out with an old toothbrush and soap in the next few days.
I’m excited about all the beautiful projects I can create with this gift from the sea. The designs and texture created by natural weathering would be next to impossible to duplicate. Through the coming weeks I’ll post a few photos of some of the projects I create.
Creating my butterfly feeder was quick, easy and inexpensive. I had much of what I needed on hand. A dollar store windchime with four attachments where the chimes hung was the perfect piece of mechanics for hanging a shallow container filled with Gatorade or boiled sugar water. (4 parts water to 1 part sugar)
No instructions needed, use what you have on hand. The secret lies in the wire and plastic container: a plastic dish scrubber. The butterfly can land on this and use his long proboscis to dine on the nectar. I created holes in the plastic dish with a hot ice pick.
When I added the wire for hanging I let the end curl upward. These make the perfect spear for rotting/old fruit. I was going to use a strawberry, but remembered they are heavily sprayed with insecticide. It is better to use fruit that is within a peel unless it is organic.
One thing I have in abundance is ivy. My backyard has a dry area of ground beneath the pine trees and the only thing that will grow there is ivy…so ivy it is. Good thing I like ivy. Each year, two or three times during spring, summer and autumn, I must pull the ivy climbing the tree trunks away from the bark. This year I found a good use for the long strands.
I saved the cuttings and used the longer pieces to create a living hanging basket. I wove the ivy through the wire mesh of the basket, tucking the ends to the inside.
I cut the bottom off of two brown paper bags and lined the basket with them, carefully trimming away the excess paper level with the top of the basket.
A few petunias finished off the project. I gave it all a good watering and hung the basket from a hook beneath the crabapple tree.
The cooler weather and frequent misting with the hose has kept the ivy alive. I’m hoping the roots will eventually pierce the paper bag and the ivy will begin to grow again. I’ll update in a month or two.