Monday, March 21, 2016

How to not to cut glass…
or A very labor intensive way to break glass

This month one of my projects was to try to turn some wine bottles into a cloche.  It is pronounced kloSH, with a long o.  A cloche is a bell shaped transparent container that is used to cover plants to protect them from frost and cold nights.  Usually made of glass, they can also be made of plastic such as ones made from a milk jugs with the bottom cut out.  I happen to think the glass ones are beautiful but do not want to pay the big bucks for one.  So enter my attempt at glass cutting.

I did do my homework, Pinterest pins were examined, YouTube videos watched and several home improvement sites’ articles were read.  I chose the following method as the most sensible for my situation and desired outcome.  I wanted to cut the bottom of my jars off.

Collection of jars and two practice jars

First you need to mark the glass with a file.  This creates a weak spot in the glass which is supposed to crack when stressed.   I used my knife sharpener set at an angle to make an even line.

Whetstone braced with a wooden dowel, beads and poster putty

I put a pot of water on to boil to heat up my jars after marking them
and had a bowl of cool water ready.

Next I ground my practice jar against the file to make my line.  It did not mark as evenly as I had hoped.  I tried again with the wine bottle.

Practice jar with sloppy score lines

After holding the practice jar in the boiling water to heat it up, I dunked it in the cool water.  Nothing happened so I tried again but this time it made a crack around the base that had nothing to do with the line I had scored.  Ok, so it probably broke at the place where the heat difference was greatest.

Nope, not what I’m after at all, it didn’t even break all the way apart.

Attempt number two was with the wine bottle.  After heating it up, I ran it under cold water from the tap.  It immediately broke apart.

Closer but not quite… the break line still didn’t seem to have anything to do with my scored line.

Alright, so maybe the score line wasn’t deep enough.  I dismantled my angled whet stone to grind the line a bit harder into the glass and eyeballed the line.  Since my other practice bottle was way too thick and I didn’t think it would work at all, I next tried on of the wine jugs.  I had two so if one messed up, I would still have one.  Also, my in-laws save me their bottles so I can get more.

The heavily scored eyeballed line, not too bad and pretty straight.

The process just cracked the jar but did not break off the bottom.

The hot to cold created a crack that radiated around the bottom part of the jar but did not break it fully or all the way around.  It again was nowhere near my scored line.

I then thought maybe the glass near the bottom is too thick and I have to make sure the cold water hits directly on the scored line.  So I drew a line with a sharpie and scored it again.  Hot water to cold water directly on the scored line brought about the sound of cracking glass which is quite ominous actually.  One is usually trying very hard to NOT break glass things.

NOPE, NOPE, NOPE!  I got pieces and it did not crack anywhere near my scored line.  Humph!

So, I found several ways that break glass quite well, just not the way I WANT it to break.  Back to the drawing board or rather Google to find another way.  To quote Mr. Thomas Edison, “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”  I still have two jugs left and will beg some more to try again another day.

So after that disappointing news, I think I need some cheerful Spring pictures to go along with the first day of Spring!  It was lovely today with highs in the low 40’s and sunshine along with lots of crocus sightings both in my yard and in neighbors’ yards as we drove to volleyball today.

I did successfully complete a project deliberately chosen to force me to learn how to use my Cricut machine this past week that helped me finish my spring decorating.  After I cleared off the kitchen table of snowflakes, runner and table cloth, T mentioned that he liked seeing the bare wood of the table.  So I created a small runner of paper to go under the clear plastic cover to decorate the table but also keep the bare wood visible.

I taped 3 sheets of 12 x 12 scrapbook paper together for the base and used 2 sheets of metallic blue for the butterflies.  I made 3 “spring” cut outs of yellow paper, one which was used on the runner and the other two as decorations elsewhere.  I misjudged the depth of the blade and had to cut out one sheet of butterflies by hand with an exacto knife as the cut was not deep enough.  The second run was perfect.  I glued them all down randomly on the paper base and there you go, a table runner for spring.

Spring paper table runner in my favorite colors: blue, purple and yellow.

My dad, upon seeing my pinecone branch this past winter commented
that I needed to put a cardinal on it.  I will have to find one before next winter.
In the meantime, I think this makes it look quite springy.

Well, my how to wasn’t quite as successful as desired but not every endeavor will be triumphant the first time… or maybe even the fifthteenth time but to not try is a greater failure.  I am a perfectionist who is often scared to try new stuff because to fail is “THE WORST THING THAT COULD HAPPEN”.  I am learning that real failure is not trying at all, rather than a moment of not succeeding.  While I could wish that I had learned this oh so important lesson so much sooner than I have, I can’t regret the past, but instead, be happy that trying and failing is not fatal and to just enjoy the process.  It makes the journey so much more enjoyable.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Hunting for Spring

March often teases us with spring… gives us a couple of beautiful warm 50 degree days and then laughingly throws snow at us the next day.  This past week was beautiful with sun and several days of 15 degrees higher than average temperatures.  Pictures of crocuses and snowdrops in my friend’s gardens showed up on FB while my yard, which is a bit closer to the lake or just a lot farther north than my friend’s homes, had not been that blessed yet.  This can make me envious and disgruntled if I don’t remember to look for the blessings in the waiting.

So for my picture blog this month I will share my outdoor adventure yesterday with my best friend and a camera in hand.  Anything can be an adventure if you see with a heart of wonder.

FINALLY!!  I have crocuses in my front circle bed!

T and I have taken advantage of the warm enough that you don’t have to wear mittens weather to go Frisbee golfing at the park near our house on his lunch break several times this past week.  While neither of us is great at the game (he is better than I), we do enjoy being out in the sunshine and the long walk.

The wind-up….
Throwing through the trees
T made this shot at hole 8.  NICE!
T took the camera away from me for a while because I was taking too many pictures of him. I have decided this is my favorite Frisbee for no other reason than I like the color blue. 

I have been avoiding getting my picture taken this winter because I am not happy with my weight.  Granted, I do have four layers on, one being a big bulky sweatshirt under the green fleece, but I do not feel healthy and strong right now.  That is not good no matter what weight I am at. Therefore, I think more walks are definitely on the agenda for me.  T does not like taking boring walks but we have found a great compromise in Frisbee golf.  It is a walk, often hiking through woods (when you aren’t that great at throwing a Frisbee in the desired direction you end up in the woods off the path a lot) with a bit of competiveness thrown in.  Perfect.

T says I have great form and thinks my spinning like a top after I throw is hilarious.
Ahem, we will not talk about the accuracy of my throws.
This is a game that T is definitely better at than me.
Lovely day, nice walk, not much spring in evidence yet at Winstrom Park Frisbee golf course.
Progress!  The water isn’t frozen anymore!  This is part of the Black River, Lake Macatawa water ways around our township.  I do not know the name of this creek.  Google did not help.
My house… yes that is a snow pile in the front.
Messy garden bed scheduled for rehabilitation later this spring...
however very little signs of green.
The largest daffodil I found in my yard so far…
it is on a south facing slope and is an early variety.
In full disclosure it is only about 4 inches tall.
The very brown and dreary back yard…  
HOPE!!  This is one of the 5 beds of bulbs I planted last fall.  I see GREEN!
My kale over wintered in bed 8 and my scarlet poppy is showing signs of life.
Bulbs: Hyacinth, crocus, daffodils and tulips are showing
A bit of extra sunshine

So it seems my garden is a bit slow compared to my friends.  I will just have to be joyful over my beautiful yellow crocuses that are blooming outside.  Inside, I have taken down all the winter decorations and replaced them with spring.  Last year, I admitted that a late season snow fall was probably my fault because I still had my snowflakes up and a garden flag proclaiming “Let it snow!” still displayed.  This year I will not be the offender.  I asked T what he thought of my decorating and he said “It looks cheery”.  Then he added, “You know it is supposed to snow again next week right?”  Sigh… well, it won’t be my fault!

I keep my seasons separated in labeled tubs.  Everything gets picked up and packed away neatly this way.  It is also a small attempt at keeping limits on my… ah… collecting.
There is no hoarding happening here… move along now.
New bookcase display.  For lack of a mantle, this is my seasonal display spot.
Close up of the big lantern
My corner table display.  The philodendron is from a cutting from my mom’s plant which was given to her in an arrangement upon the death of my littlest brother twenty seven years ago.
My white orchid in its new spot, silver snowflake replaced by a silver butterfly.
Regardless of impending snowstorms and waiting impatiently for flowers,
I am blessed to call this place home.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Switch: From to For

Last Friday I was honored to work with other Master Gardeners and volunteers to teach over 600 children about trees at the Grand Rapids Home and Garden Show.  Six different schools bussed children to The DeVoss Place over a three hour period where they attended a presentation on trees, had a scavenger hunt and planted a birch tree seed.  I was a docent for one of the eight tree stations on the scavenger hunt.

Brochure from The Grand Rapids Home and Garden Show

I was the best tree ever, the cacao tree.  Correctly pronounced, this sounds like kacow, but is commonly called coco.  This is the tree from which chocolate is made.  Best tree ever right? When the kids came to our spot, my partner and I gave a very short speech about the cacao tree and showed some pictures.  Kathie, my partner had printed out some small pictures of a tree, its blossoms and beans.  I had drawn a cacao pod and together we were able to show the kids what one looks like.  Some of the groups of kids were a bit flighty so we were happy to simply get them to write down the answer on their paper and tell us their favorite kind of chocolate.  Other groups were a lot of fun because they were really interested and we were able to teach them a bit more.

My quick drawing of a cacao pod used as a prop.

I visited a cacao farm in Costa Rica a couple of winters ago and was able to share what the trees and pods look like, how they are harvested and what the fruit tastes like as well.  Cacao trees are understory trees which means that they grow only to about 30 feet and are happiest in the shade of other taller trees.

This is an organic cacao orchard T and I visited in Costa Rica… pretty much jungle with cacao trees planted in it.  There are actually several cacao trees in this picture with fruit on them.

The seeds drying after being fermented.

Chocolate “shots”  This cold drink was a spicy chocolate drink that was similar to the native people’s recipe.

After we were done working with the children, I was able to stay and go to the Home and Garden show for free.  There were over 400 exhibitors, large garden installations, a marketplace, artwork and free classes and workshops to attend.  I had a blast talking to different people, catching up with some of them since the last time I had seen them at the show as well as meeting new people.  I wasn’t that interested in the products or collecting trinkets as I was in looking at the gardens and plants and asking questions.  Lots of questions.

Ironically, I think the best lesson I learned that day was not at a garden class but at the Home Stage where Peter Walsh gave a presentation entitled, “Getting Organized: How to Conquer Your Stuff and Find Happiness.”  A half hour talk is a pretty short amount of time to deliver such a big concept but he did it.  I have read many of his books, watched the show Clean Sweep on the computer, and have a healthy dose of respect for this gentleman.  I would say that I am a fan and I appreciate his approach to encouraging people to thrive, not just exist or barely survive with their possessions.

Peter Walsh photo from google

He started out making everyone laugh and get comfortable with the idea that we all needed help, that’s why we were there right?  And then he found a guy who was dragged there by his wife and handed him a $5 bill to go buy a beer after the talk so he would have something to look forward to.  Everyone cracked up and off we went on an exploration of the status of our homes, how people generally declutter, the types of clutter we hold onto and the general frustration of dealing with STUFF.

He then explained that most people focus on the question, “What do I want FOR my room?” This is a stuff based question and leads you down the path of confusion, arguments, living in the past with memory clutter or living in the future with what if I might need it clutter.  He said we need to switch the question to, “What do I want FROM my room?”  This switches the focus to the character of the room you want to develop rather than a specific object in the room.

He said to imagine that you are standing outside your bedroom with your spouse and asked to describe how we wanted that space to feel, what we wanted from the room.  Collected answers from the audience included warm, beautiful, safe, sexy, peaceful and calm.  He said to now step inside of the room and look at the first thing you see which he suggested might be a computer, desk and all the paraphernalia that goes with it.  “Does that computer help you achieve the goal of a peaceful, calm sexy bedroom?”  Obviously we all shake our heads no and he continued on to look at the other things in the room the same way.

The computer isn’t bad, it is just an object, a thing, a potentially useful and necessary thing but if it hinders your life in some way, it is an obstacle that needs to be removed, either from the bedroom to another space or completely from the home.   This whole mind shift removes the battle over stuff which is usually a negative experience and turns it into a positive movement towards defining how your surroundings help you engage with your path towards life.

This concept goes far beyond having two pairs of tennis shoes or five.  It has the possibility to change my perspective on how I do life.  How I organize my home to how I design a garden.  Instead of what flowers or hardscape or fancy pots do we want here, the question is what do I want from this space, how do I want the garden to nurture me.  Choices then become ones of positive change rather than ones of guilt over thoughtless purchases or measuring up to someone else’s standard.

One step further brings the question to what do I want from my life?  Do my choices of how I spend my time, what I put in my mouth, the things I place before my eyes, the thoughts I allow to percolate in my mind and my decisions of what to focus on adhere to my answer?  These are challenging thoughts from a decluttering seminar.

My second favorite class was one given by a horticulturist who works at Frederick Meijer Gardens.  Her title was, “Planting Meijer Gardens’ Containers: Season by Season, Year by Year.”  She took us through the five different container changes made through the year with tips on how to reuse your plants while changing up the look, how to edit and add, the use of greens and dried material and a bit about plant care and pots.  The biggest revelation to me though was the insider tip on how the containers always seem perfect and why that may not be as easily accomplished in my yard.  Beyond the grooming tasks of deadheading and pruning, she introduced the concept of replacement:  as in replacing a past peak blooming plant with a newer, fresher, in full bloom version of the same plant every two to three weeks.  Often a container’s grouping will be scheduled to stay for several months before switching to the next season; however, for example, the bulb plants may not last that long in full glorious bloom.  They simply switch them out with other forced bulbs in bloom obtained from a local nursery to continue the display.  Lightbulb moment.  My desire to have containers that look like the botanical gardens examples is only feasible if I have a staff and greenhouse out back supporting my habit.  Well, duh that is probably obvious to everyone else, but it is good to understand why.

One of my mixed succulent plantings beautified by dew

Learning this technique was actually very freeing for me because I had just listened to Mr. Walsh’s class on determining what I want from my space.  Do I want that level of work, now that I really understand how they accomplish it?  No, not where I am right now, doing what I do.  I don’t need to replicate their excellence in my yard to be a “good” gardener.  I can copy that which makes me happy and I can reasonably replicate but there is no demand to have two months of glorious blooms in order to succeed.

I really enjoyed my day.  I met some great and interesting people who encouraged and taught me something new, hopefully encouraged a few myself, personally spoke to about 400 kids about this amazing world God has created, got to represent the best tree ever, and came home with ONLY two plants.  A free spruce seedling that a local nursery was giving away and two Nerine bowenii [Cape Flowers] bulbs that I purchased.  Ok, fine THREE plants but I was good…

Baby spruce tree

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

February Review

Time moves so quickly… we are back to goals again and the end of month two.  We have had interesting weather lately with thoughts of spring bookended by snowstorms.  We are back to below freezing temperatures and winter weather advisories to start out our month of March.   Here is a pictorial history of our pendulum weather swings in February.

February 15th we have a foot of snow accumulated on the ground.

Two days later we have sunshine and melting snow.

A week later our snow piles are almost gone but winter returns.  2/24  1 pm

I took pictures of our yard during the snowstorm that came February 24 through the 25th.  It was beautiful to watch, but I was glad that I had gotten all the errands completed and gone grocery shopping the day before.

2/24 2:14 pm

2/24 3:54 pm

2/24 5:46 pm

The wind was driving the heavy wet snow from the North so the south side of trees were bare but the north side were white.

2/24 7:43 pm   The snow that was blown onto this north facing window melted and made it difficult to take a picture through the water beaded window.
The temperature was at or just above freezing the entire storm.

The next day we had beautiful sunshine and 6+ inches of heavy wet snow.  2/25

White!  Snow makes everything look clean.  2/25

The snow was so heavy and dense that it stuck to everything.   2/25

Aannd back to snow melting away.  This was taken 2/28.  

Looking out the window today (March 1), the snow is falling again, temperatures are dropping, and schools are closed.  The 50 degree weather of last week is a memory…

Well, onto our goals, which may not be as interesting as snow falling, but as the topic of this week’s blog post, I should now address.  Last month’s goals were to make a seed order and to paint the newly appointed War Room and library.  One I finished, the other is still in a pile.

Cheerful bright yellow walls instead of dingy white.

The walls’ many holes were spackled, taped and painted a bright cheerful yellow.  The library was culled, moved and reorganized onto the shelves.  My butterfly stamp collection now hangs in this room.  We hope to hang encouraging victorious battle oriented pictures in here too.  Putting on the Armor of God, verses on prayer and some cool military vehicles per T’s request will be added.  It is definitely not finished yet but it is useable while we accessorize it.

My piano lives here now and just outside of the picture to the right,
we have a corkboard with prayer requests that we lift up when we pray.

Our other goal, the one where I get presents during the month of February, wasn’t fully completed.  T and I sat down with lots of catalogues and our list of what seed we currently own and over a couple of sessions of a few hours each, we whittled it down to three catalogues and three pages of seeds.  I have to go through the herbs and flowers yet before we make our final tally and put in our orders.  I hope to get presents for my birthday month!

So next month’s goals?  Presents.  Turn 40 gracefully.  Gulp.  Be thankful that I am privileged to have lived for 40 years so far… that is amazing isn’t it?  So much time and yet it doesn’t feel like I have really done 40 years’ worth of stuff.  Perhaps that should be an ongoing goal…. Make every moment count.

Oh, and keep painting.  We are now onto the guest room which is cleared out and ready for its makeover.

Guest room ready for prep work. There are a LOT of holes in these walls.
The people before us stapled everything to the walls.

I think I am going to do a light blue above the wood.  No I will not paint the wood…
my father the wood craftsman would be sad if I did.

Other goals for this month?  Well, I need to get my flower and herb seeds organized and ready to start.  While we aren’t planting in our “food beds”, I will be adding flowers to the other beds and potting up containers.  I also want to add beneficial perennials to the beds around the raised beds and the terraces.  I am going to experiment with glass cutting too.  Hopefully that will show up in the how to blog later this month.  Also I am going to be a cacao tree at the Grand Rapids Home and Garden show for 600 + elementary school kids who are learning about different trees.  They will have a scavenger hunt of which I am one of the stations they will find to learn about a cacao tree.  My final goal is to go to Fredrick Meijer Gardens for the annual Butterflies Are Blooming event for my birthday.  Someone always ends up going with me; we’ll see who it is this year.  

Lots to look forward to and lots to be thankful for…  it is good to be alive.