Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Reconstructed Rabbit

I had a little purple glitter in my dinner last night. Here's why:
I made this insane, glittered, purple, yard bunny
He didn't always look like that. In fact, those are totally prosthetic paws! His original paws cracked off in a bizarre snow melt incident. And he had a banged up ear, too. I'm sure anyone else would have... hey, how do you dispose of an unwanted cement garden creature? Bury it?
So I patched him up, but once he was whole again I had to find a way to make him look like he was never patched. 
And if glitter doesn't hide all the flaws, what does?
Patching his ear

patching the paws

Cement Bunny: all patched up
I did all the patching with kids' play clay that air dries, the kind you can pick up anywhere. I've used that stuff to fix all sorts of thrift store treasures that have a bite taken out of them. A tub of clay runs about $5 and it's super useful to keep around the house for all sorts of small fixes but it does tend to dry out once the tub has been opened. I gave Hazel a chunk to play with while I was working on the rabbit so that she kept her tiny fingers off my fun project and then a hush fell upon my kitchen table as two generations crafted their pants off. 

Speaking of my kitchen table? Yeah. No Pinterest set-up photo shoots here. I had that junk sitting on the table while I was working on this so it's in the photos. You're okay with that, right?

Once his paws dried a little, I pulled them off and added some craft glue inside them and stuck them back on. I don't want them falling off later on, so why not take the extra step?
Then began the mayhem:

Hazel and I gave him 3 coats of paint with foam brushes. He totally soaked up the paint in some spots. Painting is SO MUCH easier than glittering so I wanted to be sure that he was really covered. You'll never notice the glitter bald spots if there's paint there. Or at least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Paws went last, I wanted to be sure they were completely dry before painting. 

Ready for glitter!
Once he was purple, I put him into a box that would serve as a glitter catcher and went to town with Outdoor Mod Podge. I painted him everywhere with a thick coat of the stuff and sometimes moved him into a second box to reuse the glitter that was gathered on the bottom of the first box. Over and over. This is why there was glitter in my pasta last night. It really could have been worse, though. I have lots of experience glittering shit within an inch of its life. I played "Purple Rain" on a loop while doing this:

I have him in a protected area or I would have covered the glitter with another coat of Mod Podge. He looks BRILLIANT outside, the sun catches him and lights him up. He's one of my favorite garden projects, ever.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Small, Cheap and Hardy: Tiny Roses

Those tiny little rose bushes you see at the grocery this time of year--The ones that look like they'll be dead in a week? Those little effers come from Canada and TEND to be hardy as all get out. 
Planting these this year and I'll keep you updated on their awesomeness.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Kitschy Easter-Themed Front Door Containers

I went all out at the front door for Easter this year. Not my favorite holiday but my kid is almost 3 and she is OBSESSED with the whole thing. I totally enjoyed putting this together. But let me start with the BEFORE photo:

Winter pots, in April. Not such a pretty thing. I'm happy with how the big pot with greens in it held up throughout the polar vortex and all-but holy guacamole, I was DONE looking at this.

Now, here's SPRING!

I think he chair needs a pillow, no?
Here: butterfly chair from the thrift store, 3 vintage coolers and an old thermos, all thrifted, some Cynthia Rowley garden tools I found on clearance in spot with moss, leeks, pansies and old glass insulators in all the pots, most topped with sheet moss. Zombie gnome and ceramic slug with wings.
Cake cover and blue fruit dish (painted by me) thrifted. 

Let's start with the giant glittery Easter bunny- given to me by my sis's boyfriend. He had some reconstructive surgery (to be blogged about next week) and has been painted purple and thoroughly glittered. He is something TO SEE!
An old Pier 1 glass head with Easter bonnet, Hazel's first Vans, a thrifted Lamb and lil' chicks. Moldy the Gnome,
pots filled with red romaine lettuce and pansies, as well as a few glass insulators.
Thrifted "needle art" hanging on the wall is really a horizontal thing, but it'fills the void vertically!
Also--I cut a zillion branches from an overgrown Forsythia. Will they bloom? Who cares!

At the driveway. pots jammed with pansies, sheet moss and old insulators

What do you think? Too over the top?

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Mud-Life Crisis

A year ago, I quit my fancy-pants, high-end landscaping job that I totally loved... because it made me miserable. Really great things were happening to me outside of work every day, I had a badass book that had just been released, I was touring the country promoting it, we moved into my dream house*, my kid is cuter than a baby Ewok... I had no time to appreciate it because my mind was always girdled with work. And seriously, it was just landscaping. So, I quit and I've been trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up since then. I tried a few part-time jobs and they were nice, but it just didn't feel right.

It sounds indulgent, like I've been eating chocolate flourless cake and taking bubble baths and journaling for the last year. I swear, no chocolate flourless cake has been eaten in the last 365. Shockingly, it's truly been a really awkward year and I'm still drifting but, I've decided what I want to be.... A garden blogger.

Funny, right? I miss the days when I could create shit all the time and write about it and people would read it. So I'm gonna be doing just that. I've been working, silently, on 2,000 projects to show you. Seriously, I've got the goods, coming right up.

I'm also taking on a LOT of speaking gigs at every garden club I can get to. (Because now I'm pretty broke, yo.) And do some yard consulting/garden therapy, too. And more writing. I'd love to write another book but I have to sell a few thousand of the old one first. (PLEA: Buy my damn book)

Coming up week: An Easter front door display that's A LITTLE over the top

Yeah, I swear it's not THIS over the top. 
*My dream house is pretty much a falling down shack to someone else. I freaking love it but the old girl NEEDS HELP.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Photos From Succulents Workshop at the Chicago Public Library Maker Lab

I brought some cool stuff for a workshop on Monday at the Makers Lab at the Harold Washington Library. Here's what got made:
I made the two on the left- succulents in a Pyrex bowl and Glass Bake dish used as planters with aquarium gravel toppers!

Roseville pottery vase on the right, diamond shaped candy dish on the left. Succulent planters made by a workshop attendee 

I love this trio of succulent planters made by a workshop attendee 

This is pretty kick ass

The duck makes it

My photo sucks, this thing was awesome

One of my favorites from class, awesome Fire King mug filled with a  bunch of succulents under attack by tiny jets and a dinosaur

I loved this one because I love monochromatic 

Fire King sugar, milk glass vase and Glass Bake dish all filled up with succulent love!

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

The One Where I'm Going To Hell

I don't go looking for trouble, it just finds me. I was just, you know, planting some seeds with my toddler and minding my own business when things got a little out of hand and I used rosary pieces as seedling markers. I'm sure it could happen to anyone.
I guess not everyone would buy a giant bag of rosary pieces at the thrift store for $1.45. THAT is probably where I went so wrong. See? It's a huge bag. I don't know what I planned on doing with them-Enhancing a wind chime was the first thing that came to mind.

 I started planting seeds around noon, Hazel wanted to help soon after that and things started to move fast. I needed markers for my seeds that were hard plastic. Something I could write on with Sharpie. I just so happened to have this giant sack of rosary parts nearby and...

I'm sure it could happen to anyone. Right?

Monday, March 31, 2014

Game Changer: Doc Martens Rubber Boots

I just happened upon these waterproof Doc Martens boots at the Doc Martens store in Chicago the other day. I've never been to a Doc Martens store before and I'll probably never be in one again. so you know these boots are totally MY DESTINY!!!

They are totally rubber, people. You have to look super close to see that they aren't. Check out the link above. We all deserve these damn boots!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

#NotAFoodie: Coconut Oil Fried Tortilla Chips

I have this jalapeƱo artichoke dip in the fridge and nothing to dip in it. I also have a month old bag of corn tortillas (because, ya know, you make enchiladas and there's still 300 in the bag) and half a jar of old coconut oil. I didn't really know what to do with the coconut oil because I really don't ever fry things but it was super cheap at TJ's and I wanted it. Maybe I'd use it as a hair conditioner someday. Riiiiiiiiight.

Anyway, I decided to dump the oil into a pan and try frying those old tortillas up. I scraped the oil, because it's solid coming out of the fridge, into the pan and it melted instantly. I turned up the heat and it was ready to rock, right away. I fried up a few and, luckily, Hazel wandered in and asked for one. Oh good, she can try it and tell me if it sucks before I do.

She liked it.

I fried up as much as I had oil for, doing 8 at a time, then 6, then 2 at a time at the end. I didn't need a ton of oil at all.

I salted the chips and... Dan wandered in and tried them. He liked them. NO WAY did he know they were fried in coconut oil or he wouldn't have tried them.

My turn- I freaking love them. I really can't taste the coconut and they were super rad in the dip. They seem a little greasier than normal chips but in a truly awesome way. I mean, I can just skip the napkins and rub that into my hair.
coconut oil fried tortilla chips 
P.S. These chips were only good warm- a few hours old they were bizarre to say the least

Monday, March 24, 2014

My Kind of Garden Party

I'm obsessed with the idea of using these GIANT RED PARTY CUPS as planters this year. I don't see using just one, but using one here, one there... you know, how red cups get left in odd places after a party.
Just poke a drainage hole in the bottom and party, on.
What do you think?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Fall Clean-Ups Suck: Here's Why

It's the first nice day after a miserable winter, so I went out to my garden and did my fall clean up. You think I mistyped and I mean spring clean up, right? Nope. Because fall clean ups are for losers.

Madame Nature knows what the heck she's doing out there, who am I to interfere? Dead foliage and leaf cover keep things protected all winter. PLUS I like to watch my garden freeze in place and start to decay a little. I think it's 30000 billion times more interesting than watching a blank effing bed of nothing just sitting there all winter. Some people go out there and cut gorgeous things down in their prime because of a date on the calendar. That's just asshattery.

PLUS I'm lazy as hell in the fall.

Because I don't do a fall clean up, I enjoy things like a rose blooming on the first of December, finding a few more beets in the ground for Thanksgiving dinner, a bird chompin' on my Globe Thistle. Irises rebloom in late fall, if you've got good mojo. Of course there are plants I wouldn't leave in my garden all winter because they could potentially spread powdery mildew or aster yellow, but damn, I just don't grow those plants so that I don't have to sweat it.

I say, one clean up in spring, even if it's massive and takes a few days to complete, when your SOUL reallllly needs it, is the way to go. Save your fall clean up time for boot shopping and finding the right coat that covers your butt.  Fall clean ups just suck.
Who knew Sagina could be evergreen? I didn't. I think last year it just hung on by a thread and it was mostly dead come spring. 

Still tons of snow in the beds, that didn't stop me from getting on my knees and raking the beds with my fingers. I didn't want to use a rake and damage anything coming up, PLUS it was tres therapeutic to get down and dirty.
P.S. I can't believe how freaking thuggy raspberries are.

Monday, March 17, 2014

I Am In No Way Capable Of Giving Parenting Advice

I'm a good gardener and a somewhat atrocious parent.
And proud of it.
I'm not bad at the parenting itself, I just do it differently than, it would seem, almost all the other parents I run in to around here. I'm trying to raise an individual and not a little cog, right?
Well, here's what my little cog is enraptured with right now...

  • Spotify has playlists just for kids. There's one called "Once Upon A Time" that's just readings of popular fairy tales. It doesn't make my ears bleed, but I WAS worried that the reading of "Bluebeard" was too much for her. Especially later when she made a scary face when I asked her a question and answered it with "SO YOU MUST DIE!". Other than that, I've been playing it, by demand, for her for a week now and she's so quiet in the back seat I sometimes think I may have forgotten her someplace. 
  • From the Library: This Is The House That Jack Built, My Beastie Book of ABCs and Too Princessy!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

R is for Reflective Heat

So, I go all over the place giving funny gardening speeches. In one of the presentations I give, I talk about reflective heat and I try to cover what reflective heat can do, but in a quick funny way. I admit to the crowd that NOW would be a great time to go to the bathroom. Because when I get sciencey, I get tripped up.
So WHY am I gonna tackle reflective heat in my blog?
Because I have visual evidence that will help me with the point I'm trying to make. So if you could please NOT go to the bathroom for the next 120 seconds that would kinda rock. Thanks.

Ok, in my presentation I start out by talking about reflective heat as it applies to trees, you know, sun scald on trunks. My visual for the crowd is a sun scalded tree. This is caused when a dormant tree gets all heated up during the day, it thinks its spring and juices get grooving' and then night time comes and all temperatures fall to shit and the tree just can't handle that drama. I liken it to how potholes are caused, all that freeze/thaw, freeze/thaw.
No one ever laughs at that.

Then I go on and on about how our houses, hardscapes and what-have-you can soak up heat from the sun all day and continue to emit that heat long after the sun has gone down. At my house, this has caused a sensational microclimate that I can pretty much keep rosemary going all winter (unless it's THIS winter).

So, along the foundation where the snow is melting, in that corner, is the sweet spot. Between the wall, the darkish paint and the Arborvitae* I not only create a somewhat protected spot, but it's warmer there too. If I didn't already know because the plants in that spot make their appearance, literally, a month before their friends, I'd know it because the snow melts there first. That's reflective heat.

Have you gone to the bathroom yet?

So, if you wanted to use this little exercise to help you with figuring out where reflective heat comes into play on your property, look for where the snow has melted away**. Now, the snow could have melted because you have reflective heat, or it could be windy as @#%$ in that location, or it could be under something that prevented much snowfall from the get go. But in the case of these stairs, I thought it was tres interesante how the snow melt happened on one side and not the other.
That's because of how the sun hits. Oh, you have to keep in mind that the Earth revolves around the sun and that's a pretty constant thing. So this is always changing.

Ok, so you've noticed a pattern. You have areas of reflective heat. SO WHAT? Well...

  • You can use these areas as microclimates to grow things a zone out of everyone else's reach, for me that's Cardoon, unmulched Canna and Dahlias that I want to hurry up.
  • These areas may require a lot more watering, so you may want to plant tougher, more drought tolerant crap in there
  • Plants can experience that freeze/thaw, freeze/thaw in these spots, of shizzle
  • Places where the snow never melts until May? You betcher dupa that's probably a full shade area
  • You might start thinking that hardscaping is total BS and start rethinking that
You may now tinkle. 
Thank you. 

**I took these photos 2 days ago, we are now under a BRAND NEW thick blanket of snow.

*Forgive the crunchy Arborvitae. There was a trellis built way too close to it that was there for way too long.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Calling occupants of interplanetary craft

I finally hauled my cookies to the garden to see what the what is going on out there. Until this point, there was simply NOTHING to see. Now at least I see...

A Heuchera 'Green Spice' that isn't quite dead.

Honesty, it's a  stinkin' Lunaria annua.

When Dan and I were bickering about whether these were fox tracks, tiny coyote tracks or a badass cat's, Hazel piped up "They're from a GHOST!"

Friday, March 07, 2014

Angry Birds

Birds are returning to Chicagoland's frozen tundra. I can hear their songs of joy in the morning, after months of polar vortex silence, and my exact thoughts about hearing them have been "I hear you singing but I'm not sure what you're happy about. There's nothing for you to eat here. P.S. don't peck my eyes out".

I should mention upfront, I'm afraid of birds. I pretty much always was, but then I watched The Birds a million times and that sealed the deal.

I should also mention that my Dad is the crazy bird guy that makes special meals for certain birds and has a garage filled with bins of specific bird food. I think the orioles get grape jelly and someone gets mealworms. I know this because they are sitting next to the potato chips on his kitchen counter.

So I called him up and said "hey, the birds are here. Are they like, starving or what?" because there is nothing for birds to eat, anywhere, unless they figure out a White Castle drive through. My Dad basically eluded to the fact that he is personally feeding all of Chicagoland's birds. So I went to the store and bought a 10 pound bag of bird seed so that I can relieve the immense pressure a metropolitan area's bird population can put on one's Dad and also... as an offering. Don't peck my eyes out.

I don't have much in the way of bird feeders so I filled an ancient one I had in the garage and filled a tray with surplus chow. I don't mind if squirrels eat it, they have had a rough winter, too. I base this on the HUGE piles of osage orange refuse at the base of most trees in my yard- not their favorite meal but in desperation.

I hope it's enough to keep them from pecking my eyes out.