Tag Archives: garden

Soft and Broken

I woke up this morning to the weirdest sounds. Muffled and light, soft and broken and released in little batches.

Ok, it’s a bird.


Sure enough, Phoebus, my little red god of light and singing, has found his voice and is in practice mode. I detect a bit of cardinal in his song, too. (that cardinal likes my yard and is always nearby, belting his songs out. I love cardinals, so it’s good). I had put out a large sock feeder for the finches last weekend, hoping their noise would also entice Phoebus a little (canaries are actually finches. Who knew?). He’s young and I’m not sure if they need to be taught. We play some YouTube videos here and there for him.


It seems I’m not allowed to post video. Hmm. I swear I have in the past…. Anyway, meet Phoebus! Five months old now. I found him at a bird fair back in April. A red and black bird. Come on, I couldn’t pass him over. I wanted to name him Nightmare, but the boys vetoed me. The actual Nightmare does not sing and would not have been amused with my sense of humor. It only struck me as more hysterical. Oh well.

It’s been a hot week, but it rained much of yesterday, thankfully. I glanced out my patio door and found that my delphiniums had begun to bloom! I first saw these last year, I think. (It was not a gardening year, though. It was a painting year. Still haven’t finished.)

I saw them again early this year, but could not bring myself to pay $25 per gallon plant. Geeze, with as many as I want, that’s like a mortgage payment in flowers. But I found some hidden in a new nursery, $10 a gallon. Score! I didn’t know why I was so drawn to them at first. The blue-purple of the flowers were just amazing and striking. I looked them up and discovered they are my birth month’s flower. Huh. How about that?


There’s two more waiting to be planted…but there was a forest of ferns to clear out! It’s taken a whole lot longer than I originally planned. My back has decided to do some funky-scary spasming where I go completely numb and partially paralyzed to my toes. Yea, this year has not started out very well, and six months out, hasn’t yet improved. But we’re working on it. Dr just wants me drugged without trying to figure out the whys.

Anyway, it suddenly hit me that I’m a mother of boys. And while this is in the realm of things I wouldn’t have asked them to do, I realized I had to. Accepting that you’re no longer physically able to do something you could have done easily last year is a really difficult thing to come to terms with. Anyway, they’re teenagers. Physical labor and outdoor chores are good for them. They need some muscle and character development.

They got those three large patches of ferns cleared in two days!

I’m a mother of boys. That was a pat on the back moment.

So the humming bird garden got started. The hummingbirds aren’t acknowledging my effort and continue to prefer the feeder. Oh well.

How My Garden’s Grown

Yay! One project done! (Though anything relating to a garden is never done, I’m learning!) Somewhere last week, while searching for more ways to use my garden, I came across this quote by Theodore Roosevelt:

“Do what you can, with what you have, with where you are.”

Of course, I can’t find where I found it.  It fits, and at a time when I need it most. I haven’t liked where I’ve been in a long time, and despite the issues with the current location, I decided, Screw it. No more excuses. I can do what I want, learn what I want, now. Regardless if I am renting, if nothing can be permanent. And I can stay well within the boundaries of a lease agreement, and not cause any damage.

And, I did!

Last time: The Before:


And, The After!


Thrift store chairs before:

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(Those footrests were originally white, by the way. White didn’t match. I spray painted them a soft yellow.)

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(The remaining chairs are teal, paprika red, and purple)

Look at the brussel sprouts by the green chair!

But now for the rest: the garden….all in containers.


My tea garden, hanging on the back fence, has grown really well. Actually, way better than I ever anticipated.  I had serious doubts as to any sort of success, honestly. I hadn’t a clue how they’d grow, and the whole process has been pretty magical. Yesterday, I had to transplant my chamomile out of its hanging basket (top teal one, which had been the smallest, puniest thing) as it had outgrown it (pretty noticeable in the picture). So badly, in fact, that there wasn’t a whole lot of dirt left in there. The roots had grown through the weedcloth and through all the filler packing peanuts as well! Ooops.

There’s apple mint, mint (also really puny and- now that I know better- pretty sickly when I bought it. Not sickly now!), varigated lemon balm, stevia (where Truvia comes from) and bee balm (used to make Oswego tea, which was used as a tea replacement during the Boston Tea Party! Can’t wait till these flower).

With all the cuttings, I had to start looking further than just my own books for how to use them. I found this awesome blog, The Nerdy Farm Wife. If you are growing herbs and want to know all the many things you can do with them, go check out her site. Not only herbs, but edible flowers. Did you know roses are edible? Or that you can make wine from dandelions? Or jelly from sunflower petals? Or your own cough drops?!

I am now waiting pretty impatiently for my roses to start blooming! And just bought myself a sunflower 🙂 (to which Booger #2 replied that he thought I had too many plants. What!?)

You decide:


Catnip. Did you know it’s a good digesive aid for people as a tea, and also acts like chamomile, calming and helping you sleep. The flowers are amazing. Super tiny! But on close up, they look like miniature orchids. Sideways, they look like birds with their tails spread out. Flowers go in the tea as well!


Green peppers and the only surviving scottish moss!


Strawberries. And a pretty yellow flower whose name I can’t think of…..Hoped it would help attract all the butterflies I see everywhere.


Black beans! I am so excited about these! Today, I found a purple flower on one.


Parsley, dill, cilantro. And lemon thyme on the floor. The square planter in the back has cauliflower and carrots.


Catnip in the cauldron, tomato, and a thornless raspberry bush in the pink! And yarrow. Coincidentally, this is where I wanted the yarrow to go. I bought it for the small red flowers on tall stalks (I don’t like little flowers), then by the time I got home, I began thinking I’d read about it in one of the herb books. Looked it up, and yes, it’s an herb. Leaves are good for bug bites! Further, it’s known as a nursing plant, and placing it near diseased and poor doing plants somehow improves those plants.

Well, this is my sick ward. The only plants that have issues are the ones I bought from actual nurseries. Mostly, I bought from Walmart and home improvement stores.  Catnip came with bugs. I snipped off every leaf that showed signs and thought I’d killed the plants. They looked really sad and horrible. Transplanted them into the cauldron, not expecting much. Today, you can’t see any dirt! They’ve exploded.

I naively bought the tomato way too early, Mother’s Day, and the temperature had not stabilized. It’s been having issues. Yesterday, I pruned out a lot of the branches (which had turned yellow with a drastic temperature drop), hoping to also give it some better air circulation so I’d actually get some fruit before they rot. It’s very sad!

Raspberry was great when I bought it, then quickly began to have problems. Leaves brown and die, fruits doesn’t last long. Learning that the newcomer was a nursing plant helped solidify my decision to place it right here, where it would be needed most!


Remember, my must-have water feature?


Lavendar. Could not have a garden without it. It’s not as popular now as it used to be. Medieval times, it was used a lot. I love the flavor. It is strong, and different, but oh so yummy. Got a cupcake with lavendar frosting once. OH. YUM. My mom, not a fan. But starbucks puts it in their earl grey latte (which is where my taste for it began, oddly).

I propped a lot of the planters on these plastic crates my mom had lying around in her garage. It added height, contrast, color, and, because of the grating, I stuck some solar lights in the corners! (You can spot one beside the lavendar).

Which leads to the garden at dark. There are lightning bugs aplenty in my new ‘hood. Because Chicago has been spraying for West Nile Virus to kill the mosquitoes, lightning bugs have dissappeared. I googled to find out why they were no longer as prevelant as when I was younger, and that’s the logical cause quite a few people had also posted on. Pretty sure city officials won’t care.

But I do. And over here, they’re helping out by giving me some ambience at night (but lightning bugs are like fairies: They don’t like their pictures taken).

Solar bird lights from Ikea, as seen from inside the house:


And from the garden itself:


(a little off-kilter. Moved one away from the chamomile, then moved the chamomile, but never realigned the birds)


Finally, no place of mine is complete without a dragon.

Enjoy your summer, stop making excuses, and get started on those projects!


What’s a Little Water?

Part Three of after!

Here’s my before:


The concrete area is pretty well taken care of. However, there’s that area under the tree (Cherry blossom? Embarrasingly, I haven’t devoted any time to looking it up for ID).

I threw a bunch of things in the spot under it; you can’t see it well but it’s squared off with pavers and has an attempt at weedcloth and gravel. Neither are working well anymore so it gets overgrown with weeds. This planter was on reserve for something else when I realized it didn’t have any drainage holes, which would make it water tight……Hmm…..


Because, you know, I don’t


have enough


water features


in my house

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at ALL.


Not like it hasn’t rained excessively this season, either.

Really doesn’t matter. I have to have a water feature outside. Since I can’t put in a pond, this will do nicely. This is also my only area of orn-lawnaments. Have to have the Gryphon, there’s an aligator (another must), a Victorian gazing ball, ceramic toad house, and my garden man face.

Ta-dah! My ‘better birdbath’.


How did I turn the planter into a bird bath? Really very simple. I already had the pump from a previous pond. The outlet for this is about 50 feet away, on the opposite end of the house. I have a heavy-duty outdoor extension cord and bought a watertight connection cover for where the two cords join.

I had also bought some egg crate for the turtle/frog tanks (upcoming project). Since my brain froze on that one, I cut into the eggcrate (warning, when you go into the home improvement store asking for ‘eggcrate’- and you’re a woman- you will instantly be regarded as idiotic. No, it’s not for chickens…..Egg crate is the white plastic grid they cover flourescent lights with. Had issues when shopping for a heat gun and vice, too! Then again, when I went to the bookstore asking for the novel ‘Poison Study’, the clerk got very embarrased and whispered: We don’t sell those types of books here. )

I had some PVC pipe for the tanks’ projects, and an amazing PVC pipe cutter. So much nicer than using a hand saw! The crate cuts very easy with just small wire snips.


Before cutting the legs, I measured out where I wanted the water surface to be, how deep I wanted the water (I wanted the birds to get drenched if they wanted. Watching a bird take a bath is pretty hysterical. They go all out with glee), and how deep a layer of stones I wanted.

*Do not let your potential birdbath fill with water before you’re ready for it. It’s been raining like crazy here since the snow melted. When I finally went to put the bath together, there was several inches of rain water- and two drowned fledglings. Watch toddlers and small children as well. This is why I went for a shallow pool in a deep container.*

With some aquarium glue (safe, made for water submersion, non-toxic for animals) I glued the legs onto the plastic. It doesn’t stick very securely- I am gluing a hollow tube onto an open air grid. I think if I had used PVC caps on the ends, it might have glued tighter. As it is, it glued enough.


I spaced the legs to fit over the pump, which is in a large filter box. After it set like this enough, I flipped it over and globbed on more glue over the top. It doesn’t need to lay smooth, and will be covered so it does not need to be pretty.


I cut in a trap door to get to the flow valves, should I need to make adjustments. The trap door was cut from another piece of egg crate to fit over the hole, and cable tied loosely in place so that it opens when I need, but won’t wash away.

I topped it with weed cloth and white stones (stones are all around the garage, so they were free). I like the stones because they’re rough, so they’ll give traction and something for little feet to cling to.Because they’re white, they may be easier to see vs. black, which would have been my better option, cosmetically.

Voila! A birdbath!


I read that birds are attracted to the noise, and the motion keeps mosquitoes from laying their eggs, which is why I didn’t just fill a pan. I also had the majority of the items on-hand. I have caught some sparrows checking it out, getting closer and closer, and one began drinking. But I was standing right there at the time and the dog was being a nut, running around like she was a greyhound, but not stopping when she came charging at me. Scared the bird away.

Next post is the finale: tea garden, herbs, flowers, and refinished chairs!

Here Starts the After!

You remember my before?

Here starts the after!

I bought a red outdoor carpet at Target. Because it’s red. Surely you have book-clubbed up regarding Red Moonglow on Snow, and realize the importance of the color? I knew you had! 🙂 I found the off-set umbrella at Aldi. Yes, Aldi. For the majority of my life, I had a bad impression about the place. (they don’t use bags, it’s a little odd). However, I get some good food and steals like this there: $60! Everywhere else had them for no less that $200!


 (Suni, the dog, up there in the corner, beside the trash that Comcast left. Bastards.)

Carpet, shade: I set to work on my chairs. I don’t know what the last people were thinking with the maybe-once blue?, or green?, and white-ish checkered fabric they had on these chairs:


There is an amazing sun motif in the iron work, and they chose that?

I knew exactly what fabric I wanted to replace it with: black background with red, teal, purple, and green accents. Maybe some yellow (I’m not a fan of yellow in general, but there is a sun that needs some homage paid). I also wanted something celestial, and circular. Took me a couple years and several stores to finally find something.

I debated on buying new batting and decided to wait and see what I uncovered, in case something was salvageable.

I think I lucked out big time. Underneath the ugly fabric was ugly orange leather. However, it’s pretty thick leather, and as much as I never use leather in anything (vegetarian here), I saw its points. One, it’s already there. Two, it’s waterproof. Therefore, it’s protecting the batting and wood underneath. If I leave it, I don’t need to replace the batting, or find another similar cover.


That was before, this is after!


No sunbursts, but it had the circular pattern and the colors I wanted, and with just a hint of yellow. Super proud of myself when I saw the new seats!

Onto the chairs themselves!


Spray paint. Mmmm. 🙂 I have never spray painted before, but I get into my painting moods and go pretty nuts. This could be fun or something of a disaster. I did mention lots of color, remember? My original thinking was to keep it all black. Be traditional. But traditional is pretty boring. I don’t have any flowers to bring me color, so the chairs will need to take on that job. Plus, it’s paint. If I don’t like it, I can paint over it. Time to experiment!





Oh, that Ikea furniture plastic saved me yet again! First, the greenhouse, now my chairs.


They didn’t require a lot of pre-painting work. I washed them, then used a wire brush to get out some rust. Aside from that, the old paint remained in good condition.

I couldn’t believe the difference in just the new black over the armchairs. Hadn’t relaized just how bad the original paint job looked. Surprisingly, the green covered the easiest, while the red needed two cans of paint. I know many people who only decorate with white, admitting that they are afraid of color. It’s paint. You can paint over it. Painting these chairs somewhat obnoxiously was terrifying, amazing, and liberating. It was an immediate ‘Oh my god, what am I doing- Oh. My god. Look what I did!’ Now I understand graffitti artists. (The artists, not the taggers). Why do I understand graffiti artists? What did I do after finishing these?

Yep, bought a metal cart at a fleamarket for $15 that needs more in-depth refinishing. And spray painting. If this rain ever stops, I might actually get to work on it. It is July, isn’t it?

Which is also partly why I don’t have a picture of the completed, put together chairs. It keeps raining. The seats are stacked on my back porch to keep them somewhat dry. Screws have not made it out of the tool chest. Also, because it’ll be part of my final reveal. There is a plan in place, you know.

In any case, rest assured, no slimy snails were harmed in the re-making of these chairs:


Well, That Was Before……




So, this is the back of my rental house:


This space became my project this year. Oh, how I miss projects! I was at a home improvement store gathering tools and prices for another project, and the guy helping me complained how they never end. No, the problem is when they do, and you’ve got nothing that needs to be rehabbed or fixed or improved. That’s when it’s bad.

I haven’t had a real live project in a really long time!

The above is the forerunner of a really long, awesome yard. But again, I’m renting. I would love a garden. I’ve waited a long time to test my greenthumb-edness. Yet whatever I do needs to be mobile and temporary. However, this space cannot stay looking like…..a rental.

Found lots of great ideas on how to construct some seating (Pinterest, my new best friend). The best one called for cinderblocks. But, those are really heavy. Won’t fit into the ‘mobile’ category. Before I went to buy some chairs and benches, I called my mother, who wondered why I wasn’t just using my cast iron chairs. Well, they were meant for a dining room set makeover……

Well, huh.


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As you can see, I’ve been carting these things around the country for the last four years.  Well, longer, actually. Six, I think. The pictures above were when I toyed with the idea of selling them. Thankfully I talked myself out of that. They were an amazing find at a thrift store, but I’ve been a little lost as to how to redo them. The table is missing its glass, which is not as cheap as I thought it’d be to replace. Therefore, they’ve been sitting around unusable and fairly dull.

Remember the whole blueprint brain comment I made in the greenhouse post? Suddenly, I knew exactly how these chairs needed to look, and it involved spray paint and color. Lots of color.  (Mmm, I love painting. And color 🙂 I bought some outdoor upholstery fabric a couple years ago, but the chairs were stuck in storage so I couldn’t redo them.

Oh, wait till you see them now! I was sitting outside today, staring at the ‘after’, and am pretty proud of myself. It involves a tea garden, a fountain, vegetables, and the greenhouse (click to read the post about my DIY scrap greenhouse).

This is going to be a short series, so stay tuned as I post the ‘afters’!