Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mystery Tree

We have a small tree visible right outside our bathroom window that pops with lovely pink blossoms in early Spring.

At first I thought it was a cherry tree, but now we are thinking perhaps it might be a peach tree...

Last summer this tree grew small fuzzy little fruits that resembled very small peaches (but were still green), but then one weekend all of a sudden they were gone. Maybe an animal ate them?

All I know is--I need some help determining what species of tree this is!  Any thoughts?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Office Chair Slipcover

I began working on my home office makeover by attempting to sew a slipcover for a vintage office chair that I got for $5 at a local university surplus store. I really liked the lines of this chair, so I decided to make the slipcover so that it could easily be removed for when I want to eventually have it reupholstered.



I used some leftover fabric that I had originally purchased for window treatments- I believe the pattern is called "chippendale fretwork" or something like that.

This being my first attempt at slipcovering, I stumbled my way through this entire project. But here's basically what I did:

1. Measured and cut out my fabric for the top and bottom pieces, plus additional for the skirt.

2. Sewed together the pieces for the back of the office chair, leaving the bottom open so that I could staple it to the frame.

3. Sewed miniature piping for the seat of the chair (I had originally wanted to reupholster the seat entirely, but realized I didn't have enough fabric so instead I just made a "covering" for it). I should have used larger cording for the piping, but didn't realize this until it was too late.

4. Stitched together the piping and the fabric for the seat cover.

5. Hemed the skirt material.

6. Pinned, gathered, and stitched the skirt to the seat cover portion of the slipcover.

7. Sewed little "straps" together and stitched them on to the back of the skirt of the slipcover, allowing the back to be open but fastened at the same time around the hardware of the office chair.

8. Installed the top portion of the chair back onto its hardware and laid the slipcover onto the bottom of the chair. I decided to simply tie a knot with the "straps" on the slipcover skirt rather than doing something cute like sewing on buttons or something...(at this point I was getting very impatient).

Done! Whew.....

Next up is a refinishing treatment for my mid-century desk....

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

farmhouse love

Do you dream of an old country farmhouse? The kind with a deep porch, a tin roof, hand-blown glass windows, and surrouned by picturesque rolling hills, gardens, and fruit trees?  Well, though it may be far from perfect, I found a gem of a farmhouse just down the road from my house that I've been admiring from afar....

Isn't it sweet? Yes, it is quite dilapidated and would require a complete restoration. But I think it would be totally worth it. It looks to be a cross-gabled plan with a rear ell addition (not seen from the road). The primary wing of the house containing the small shed porch is a Triple-A I-house, very common to this region, and of which I am particularly fond. The generous window bays are original two-over-two wood sash (at least what's left of them). 

I would have loved to have peeked inside, but we stayed on the right-of-way to snap some photos.

For now, I'll just have to imagine the potential and keep on dreaming...

You probably think I'm crazy. But someday I would love to take on the challenge 
of restoring a sweet little farmhouse like this.

Monday, March 21, 2011

sewing a chicken saddle

Poor Chamomile.....

She has bald spots on her back near her rear end due to Mr. Rue's mating habits. No matter how sweet he may be, he is a BIG boy and his affections have caused some feather damage.  Well, Chamie, Mama's gonna make you a pretty little chicken saddle to wear!

Penny from Back to Basic Living helped me in determining that her missing feathers were likely due to Mr. Rue's mating habits and not feather plucking. She also directed me to one of her posts on making a chicken saddle. Thanks, Penny!

So here goes:

I basically sewed the chicken saddle according to the pattern on the Back to Basic Living blog:

My fuzzy felt material
-cut out the material (I used scrap leftover material) in an 8 1/2" x 17" piece, then fold in half and cut holes for the wings. I cut out an additional two pieces of felt-like material to make it extra thick.

-Sew the pieces together like you would making a pillow cover, right sides together with felt on either side, leaving a hole at the bottom and two small 1/2" holes at the edges of the wing holes to fit the elastic through.

- sew the two elastic pieces, about 5 1/2" long, in the small holes left near the wing holes, and then make a 1/4" seam around the entire edge of the saddle.

-Quilt the material in the center by sewing two lines down the middle of the saddle. Then add snaps to the edges of the elastic and to the tips of the wing holes.

Now I have my finished chicken saddle!

Time to put the saddle on Chamie:

This turned out to the quite a traumatic event. Bless her heart.... I think it might be a little big on her, and she was NOT having it when I first fit the saddle on her. A lot of squawking and crying and fussing. Then she hobbled around for a while, a little bit off balance because of the way her wings fit around it.  I might need to make some adjustments so that it fits her better.

 I had to pick her up a couple of more times to get the saddle situated right, which stressed her out more. Finally, I got her calmed down and she was almost asleep in my arms, but as soon as I set her down she went back to freaking out about the weird yellow thing on her back.  She pecked and pulled at it the rest of the night, and tried to wiggle out of it.

Mr. Rue was not amused.  He kept his gaze on Chamie and on me (I am sure he thoroughly believed I was hurting her) and at times even sounded his "danger" alarm noises. At one point they had both walked in their coop and I reached in to straighten out her saddle because her little wing got caught, and that's when he BIT ME. Hard. I scolded him and tried to catch him but was unsuccessful. He is usually very sweet and respectful, but intervened when he sensed one of his ladies was upset.

I'm hoping she'll adjust eventually.....

In other chicken news, Rosemary is BROODY!!!! I'm so excited I might have baby chicks for Easter! Pics to come....


Friday, March 18, 2011

New Sofa

Our new sofa was delivered this past weekend....and I am in love with it. This was one of our few major furniture purchases that was not an antique (btw, antiques are SO much more affordable than new furniture in my opinion). I always usually go for bargain, yard sale, or second-hand pieces, but we decided we should invest a bit more in a nice sofa.

We found it at Funitureland South in High Point, which, if you have not been is like the quality-wholesale-furniture-at-discount-prices motherload. It will literally take you DAYS to view everything they have. On top of their regular space, they also have a huge outlet center in a separate building. It is crazy. The sofa is Bernhardt brand, a company who has been making furniture for almost a century and a half and, even better, they are located right here in North Carolina!

I love the linen texture of the fabric

Now, I am faced with a design dilemma: in which room should it go? The living room? Or the family room/den?
It currently sits in the living room as pictured here. Shown are the green
pillows that came with it. I hope to either find or sew different
covers for them. 

This is our family room, and the sofa would actually go on the opposite wall
of this chair combo. We currently have a different sofa (the one formerly in
the living room) in the spot now. It is covered in black and cream ticking. 
I'd like for it to go in the living room because that is the more formal of the two rooms and I think it fits the feel of the room better, but my better half suggested the family room with the TV because we have an armchair/ottoman combo that it would complement really well. Plus, our new sofa comes with a special stain-resistant protection that guarantees any spills or stains to come out, otherwise they send us a brand new sofa. Additionally, I thought about perhaps turning the living room more into a study of sorts...

I would love your input or any comments that would help me make my decision!

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Home Beer-Brewing

Greetings from The Roost! This week for the "barn hop" link up I'll be covering home beer-brewing! This is actually my hubby's domain, so he'll kinda be taking over for me a bit during this post with all the technical stuff (ladies, if you ever want to surprise your sweetie with an awesome gift that he'll swoon over, just get him a home beer brewing kit, available online. But be warned: he'll become addicted and then take over your entire kitchen for a day...) He started with a premixed kit with all of the ingredients but his latest batches have been adaptations of other recipes with ingredients purchased from a local brew shop. In the future, we'd like to grow some of the ingredients ourselves! And now, onto the gory details of brewing. This particular set of photos is from recipe for an american stout.

The mash
1. The Mash: This is where the ground malted barley is steeped in hot water for an hour to extract the fermentable sugars, kind of like a brewing tea.

2. Lautering: the grain is separated from the liquid (called wort). Additional hot water is poured through the grain to extract more of the sugars.

The boil
3. The Boil: The wort is rapidly boiled for 1 hour, and the hops are added along the way. This sterilizes the wort. The heat and hops also cause proteins in the wort to coagulate, which will later help to clarify the beer.

4. The Chill: The wort is chilled quickly  to 70 degrees celcius, the perfect temperature for happy yeast and good fermentation of an ale.

5. Fermenting: The wort is poured into a 3 gallon glass fermenter along with the yeast. Carbon dioxide will bubble off until the fermentation is done, about 2 weeks. In this process the yeast converts the sugars extracted during the mash into alcohol.

6. Bottling: The beer is then transferred to sterile bottles (we reuse ours each time by sterilizing them ourselves). Additional sugar is added to cause extra fermentation after bottling, which will carbonate the beer once it is capped. The bottles are aged to 2 weeks.



The finished product

One of our good friends is a graphic designer, and he made these awesome labels for our first ever beer, "Dominicker," named for the breed of chickens we raise (pictured at right). The name of the mix is "American Dream Stout." Featured on the bottle is our very own Mr. Rue (he's famous!)

Have any of you brewed your own beer or grown your own hops?  Or do you have any good recipes for original brew mixes? My husband's next original brew is called "Bourbon Brown Ale"  and should be a crowd pleaser at Derby time! 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Mr. Rue: the chivalrous rooster...

I am so lucky to have such a sweet rooster....patiently waiting his turn for treats....usually giving his portion up to the girls....such a good little guy. Almost every time I give him a treat he will drop it for the ladies to devour. Quite the gentlemen and the charmer.

It's so cute to watch him forage for bugs and when he finds something good he'll call the girls over, standing tall and proud while the hens stuff their faces. Yet the girls still ignore and sometimes even protest his advances (even when he does his sexy dance--wish I had a video of this!). Poor thing.

If you can't view the video in blogger, you can view it on YouTube by visiting this link:

Monday, March 7, 2011

Spring Gardening Part 1: planning a native heirloom garden

Spring is in the air, the ground has warmed enough for the daffodils to bloom and tulips to sprout, which means I better get to planning my vegetable garden!  After looking through seed catalogs, I began to think how cool it would be to plant a native heirloom garden--a selection of plantings not uncommon to what our ancestors one or two hundred years ago might have grown right here in North Carolina.  There are organizations out there devoted entirely to saving specific heirloom species. Archival sources such as period letters, diaries, daybooks, and botany texts provide excellent references for discovering just what plants would have been grown historically in an area. However, this research is very time consuming, and there may be a good publication available, such as, for my region, The Gardens of Salem by Darrell Spencer.

Google Earth image of our property in 2007
Unfortunately, we are somewhat limited in what we can grow due to our heavily wooded two acre lot and poor drainage in the back yard. I would guess that our biggest hindrance is lack of sun. Because of these circumstances, we have constructed a raised bed and I hope to grow herbs and some veggies in pots or planters. We only have space for so much and certainly there are some veggies that we simply prefer over others, so we won't be planting everything that might have appeared in an heirloom period garden. We most likely will not grow melons, potatoes, beets, turnips, parsnips, gourds, cabbage, corn and unfortunately several others simply for lack of suitable gardening space.  Perhaps another year...

I couldn't wait to put my plans down on paper, so I drew up a little sketch of what we are planning to plant (for now). The sketch shows an aerial view of only about half of our backyard, but you get the general idea of where the main vegetable bed will be. The chicken coop is located on the other (west) side of the back yard.

All of the plants I chose are heirloom varieties, most of which are of Southern origin. We are ordering from Southern Exposure and Seed Exchange located near Monticello in central Virginia (we are lucky to have a quality heirloom provider close to our region!). Their site also has some great books and DVDs that I'm mentally adding to my wishlist. They even have their own blog!

Do you have any experience with heirloom plants? Did you find it rewarding to save the seeds and exchange with others in your area?

I would love any advice you could give to a newbie :)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

china cabinet find

I'm so excited about my new (old) china cabinet! We found it on Craigslist for a great deal advertised by a local shop. It dates to the mid-century, most likely 1950-1965, and I love the classic lines and symmetry of the piece. It also cleans up nicely painted white with a light distressed finish. We love to entertain friends and host family dinners, so this welcome-addition to our dining room will help meet our need for storage.

Now comes the hard part: planning what to store in it and how to arrange/display it! I have no shortage of dishes and it will certainly be a challenge deciding which of my collections makes the cut. I'm guessing I'm not the only one out there with an antique dish fetish....

Will it be my good Lenox wedding china?

my vintage brown transferware that I collect of different patterns: 
Most of my brown transferware is Johnson Brothers
"Dover Brown" pattern

my jadite collection:


crystal and family heirloom glassware:

vintage ice cream glasses:

cake stands:

and the list goes on....

I really love the way Trina from A Country Farmhouse has arranged her open shelving in her kitchen. It is simple, relaxed, and beautifully arranged yet functional at the same time. Her blog is lovely and if you get a chance you should check it out!

I'll admit, the china cabinet was not difficult to fill up. First, I decided to place our china (stored in protective polka-dot plastic bags to keep the dust out) in the two bottom drawers as well as the bottom side cabinets (see image below).

I then put some of our nice table linens and dinner napkins in the rest of the drawer space. I used a cardboard paper towel roll to wrap a table runner around to avoid any creases (see image above).

Here's how I arranged the cabinet shelving in the upper portion:

I tried to use a mix of the brown transferware, glassware, silver, and jadite. I was afraid it might look too busy at first, but I can definitely store more this way and the look is growing on me.

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