Sunday, June 28, 2015

screen porch algebra

A few years ago now, Jonathan came upon a set of porch furniture rather unexpectedly.  One that would fit perfectly on our screen porch, was the perfect price (almost free) and was, of course, in perfectly awful shape.  The frames were solid, but the cushions were dirty, worn, and tearing in places.  I had hopes for the fact that they had zippered slip covers, that I might be able to remove them, wash and repair them and then put them back on.

The set sat on the porch for a season and we did our best to ignore the state of the cushions.  The next season I decided I needed to do something and I tried to remove the slipcovers and quickly discovered that they fell apart and disintegrated when I attempted to pull them off.

And beneath them, I discovered the original fabric of the cushions, now a lilac purple that I am sure was quite elegant and dainty at one point.  But no longer.

And so, we ignored them for another season.  And then, in the deep mid winter last year, I got serious.  Because that's how we Mainers survive winters.  We dream of sitting on screen porches on beautifully slipcovered cushions.  I ordered some outdoor fabric online with a fabulous coupon in colors and a print that we liked.  And I waited.  The fabric arrived eventually, and when I pulled back its packaging, Jonathan and I both laughed. Because ordering fabric online is a bit tricky, it turns out.  If you do not pay attention to the scale of the images and the size of the pattern.  I thought we had selected a small print that would be easy to make work and line up when the cushions were placed next to each other and between the back chair cushion and the seat cushion.  But no.  I had selected a pattern with a large medallion, about 18 inches in diameter that repeated every 4 feet.

And so, that budget friendly but baffling roll of fabric sat in the corner of our bedroom next to the sewing machine for months. I stared at it each night and pondered, shivering beneath my heap of covers, through the rest of the winter.

Last week, I had had enough.  It was raining and I could not really be outside weeding the garden.

I was going to tackle that surprisingly oversized pattern.  And I got to work.

I worked for three days straight on the cushions, using my high school algebra, multiple cardboard cut outs, an odd assortment of drafting tools and embroidery floss, and pins of all kinds.

I googled how to make corners.

And so. Here it is. Obviously not perfect.  But I got it done.  And the screen porch has finally gotten its well needed transformation.

I may need to take a nap out there today.  I joked with Nicholas and a friend who passed by and smirked as I toiled on the project that I was going to use the extra fabric (I mentioned how difficult it is to order fabric online) to sew matching outfits for all of us, and all of our friends.  Von Trapp style. In fact, I have a number of projects and adventures that are calling to me in the coming weeks.  And so, I am going to take a break from this writing space and return to it in August. Refreshed.  Having enjoyed that screen porch I dreamed about all winter.

And likely with a few stories to tell about my time away as well. Enjoy your July!

Friday, June 26, 2015

garden out

And now, the sequel to my garden in post the other day.  This is what came next after finally emptying all of the seedling flats and seeds and preparing and composting and weeding all the beds in the garden.  Then I got to work on the beds that are outside the garden.

I know.  Sequels can be disappointing.  Especially if they are about weeds.  In my garden.  But I spent so much time on this project that I feel the need to share it.  Please know that writing this hurts me as much as it hurts you to read it.  Because with all the weeding and shovel hopping to remove well rooted undesirables and hauling of incredibly heavy cartloads of weeds down the hill to the brush pile?  I hurt.  And my hands are gnarly and sore and blistered and torn up by the experience.



I moved on to the garden by the patio. A mint gardener's paradise.

Mint, dead scrub, and grass removed, I put the kids to work with seeds.

And as soon as we had covered the seed and I had thrown in the rest of our seedlings, Millie found her place in the garden as well.

I have chosen to look the other way about the seedlings she trampled.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

a walk with Millie

Sweet Millie.  Our very naughty pocket sized labrador.  She is a challenge to walk.  A leash brings out her inner wild dog.  But she is good natured, enthusiastic, quiet (mostly), follow your nose kind of company.  And with a bit of reminding and a good - actually, amazing - collar that dissuades the tugging, she is usually willing to sit while you take a picture of a blossom.  If you do it quickly.  Especially if there is something deliciously gross to smell nearby.

But honestly, walking with Millie is more about accepting following your nose, going where it looks interesting, smells strongly, and where there is likely a forbidden secret swim at the end of a path.  

 It is, in fact, a perfect way to take a walk.  To catch a scent.  And follow it.  Albeit at a very quick pace. And find that unpredictable path.

Friday, June 19, 2015

garden in

I have been slow to get everything into the garden this year. This should come as no surprise to me, because I am slow every year.  But I think, officially, I have everything in now.  There will likely be plants tucked here and there and reseedings will occur as it becomes clear that something went wrong in certain beds.  But in general, all of the seeds and seedlings we started are now in.

Okay, there may be a few flats of flower seedlings left to tuck here and there.

I have two favorite additions to the space this year.  This first, requested for several years by Elliott, is his own space, separate from the vegetable garden. And? He wanted it to be fenced.  We worked on that and finally completed it late one evening, and all three kids and I were so excited by the results that we seeded and composted and prettied up that space before dark that night.  We all can't wait to see what happens in there in the next month or so.  It is mostly flowers from seed with a few plants from the heritage garden down the road purchased from their plant sale.

My second favorite addition is the beds of assorted flowers that I put in the original garden this year.  We shall see how they do, how I am able to differentiate between weeds and flower seedlings, but I am pretty excited for their potential visual impact, for their supply of flowers for small hands to snip, and for what they will offer our bees for forage.

Our bird houses on the fence posts are full and chattering again, and I remain so happy that the houses are at eye level for an 8 year old to peek into and spot the strained necks and open mouths of the tweeting baby birds inside.  And the garden is a flutter of activity as the parents scavenge for food to fill those hungry mouths.

And, four years into being here now, some of the plants we planted when we first arrived here have become reliable returns each summer.

I have finally given up on trying to be very fancy with flower pots and window boxes and am being creative with the plants that I tuck into them.  Last year I ended up putting the thyme I thinned from the hearty herb beds (it's so hard for me to thin things) into the window boxes. And the boxes were fragrant and green and hearty for the whole season, not to mention alive with bees well into the fall with their small blossoms.  This year I tucked some nasturtium seedlings in there as well, nasturtium having survived and even flourished in their neglect and infrequent watering in our flower pots up near the house last year.  

There is plenty, so much, too much, left to do out there.  I continue to battle the wild mint and burdock here that just keeps returning and taking over any bed I look away from.  But now that I have everything in that needs to be? I can focus on taking out what shouldn't be.