Saturday, May 28, 2011

Pitcher full o' weeds

My latest antique find was a weathered ironstone pitcher with an aged patina and crazing in the glaze. I've badly been wanting to dress this piece up with some pretty flowers, but, unfortunately, we don't grow many flowers! And there aren't many good places around us for pretty farm fresh flowers either....

So, I decided to be resourceful and go tromping through our woods to collect weeds and such to add to some lavender we have growing as part of our herb garden. Several tick scares later (you don't want to know how many ticks I've found on me just in the last few weeks), I found the variety of wild plants I was looking for to go with our lavender buds. Turns out we have lots of unique plant life growing right under our noses!  

I am a total amateur at designing floral arrangements, but I did my best at arranging them to create a simple and pleasing pitcher of greenery.  I know I don't have the proportions right....oh well, practice makes perfect, right? A special thank-you goes out to Camille of The Vintique Object for her floral arranging tips!  Now I have a no-cost herb and wild plant arrangement that is a nice change from the usual. 

Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend! May we remember and honor all those in the military who have and currently are serving our country. 

Linking to:

Monday, May 23, 2011

Canning Strawberries

About three weeks ago while my mother-in-law was visiting, we went strawberry picking and she taught me how to make strawberry jam! I had never canned before but always wanted to preserve my summer harvests, so I was delighted to learn!

We had so much fun watching the beautiful berries simmer and turn a deep red color. To keep things simple, we used the recipe on the back of the Sure Gel box (this calls for a lot of sugar- I'd like to find another recipe doesn't use quite as much).

After the berries were ready and the jars all sterilized, the actual canning process went rather quickly. Here's how beautiful the jam turned out:

The jam is delicious. I've been savoring the jar I opened and giving away some as gifts. The jars are stunning and I can't wait to fill my pantry with all kinds of colorful preserves. I especially am looking forward to preserving my vegetables this summer! Do you like to make preserves? If so, do you have any tips you'd be willing to share with a newbie? 

Linking to:

Friday, May 20, 2011

7 potentially harmful "improvements" to avoid when renovating a historic property

Are you planning a remodel your historic home? Think again when contemplating any of the below actions. They could potentially take away from the historic integrity and character of your home. Furthermore, implementing some of these changes may disqualify you from receiving preservation tax credits, whether they be local, state or federal. I'll do another post introducing preservation tax credits, but for now, reconsider doing any of the following:

1. Replacing original windows
Original windows are one of your home's most important character-defining features. Replacing them destroys the integrity of the historic property and deprives the home of its charm and history. I always prefer the look of original windows as opposed to newer aluminium or vinyl replacements. If replacement is absolutely necessary and there is no option for restoration, replace in-kind with windows of the same material, profile, sash configuration and size.  

2. Incompatible additions
If adding onto your home, make sure that the addition does not detract from or overwhelm the original portion of the house. It should be compatible in style, materials, scale and massing but not so identical that it cannot be distinguished from the original main block.

The addition on the right of this former mill village house is incompatible;
it detracts from the original portion of the mill house which runs the length
of the porch. Rather, the addition should have been constructed onto the rear
of the house. This house is also covered in vinyl siding.
This mill house is located in the same community as the one above, but
retains most of its original materials and character-defining features. A
compatible rear ell addition is constructed onto the back. Notice the difference?

3. Enclosing or screening porches that were originally built to be open
It is tempting to screen-in porches, especially when living in the South, but enclosing porches and screening them obscures the original appearance.

4. Covering original exterior materials in vinyl or synthetic siding
The charm of your home will definitely be impacted if you cover the original clapboards or wood siding with vinyl. Vinyl siding also off-gases and will only last around 20-30 years. Instead, you should seek to preserve the original wood, repair where you can and replace the boards in-kind that are rotted out. Make sure to have a good professional paint job in order to protect exterior siding from the elements.

5. Changing the fenestration patterns of the building to where the original is no longer evident
This means changing the patterns, sizes, and configurations of bays on your home's elevations. This alters the original style, feel and look of the house, impacting its integrity.  

6. Replacing original light fixtures (if the old ones are still in good working order and safe)
This is a personal pet peeve of mine. I love original light fixtures as long as they remain safe to use and the wiring is up to date. Many were fabricated out of copper, wrought iron, steel coated porcelain enamel or other metal that outlasts many modern fixtures. 

7. Adding architectural features or making interior/exterior changes that are not appropriate for the style and age of your home. For example, adding exterior gingerbread trim or decorative Victorian brackets to a modest bungalow or stained-glass windows to a country farmhouse. These features are out of place and out of character with the style of the home and, furthermore, they can present a false sense of history, leading future generations that live in the house to believe the feature had always been there.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Spring Garden Update

Our heirloom vegetable garden is coming along! The lettuce is looking great and the spinach is sprouting. Our peas and beans look very healthy; they have sprouted and grown significantly all in the past week!

this photo was taken a few days ago- the beans have grown
much taller than this now!

Southern Peas

Today we planted various kinds of peppers, collard greens, squash, carrots, and heirloom tomatoes. I'll admit the thing I am most looking forward to are the tomatoes. We planted brandywine red/pink, brandywine yellow, cherokee purple, pineapple, and big rainbow varieties. A tall, "fence-like" support will allow the tomatoes to grow without using cages.

recently planted peppers

We would like to plant more of everything if we can somehow prepare another bed. Otherwise, we will just reseed the beds we have after the first harvest. I have yet to plant the pumpkins and I'd love to be able to find space for onions and potatoes. There's always next year!

I also want to thank everyone for their kind words and sympathies regarding Mr. Rue and Chamomile. I will miss them very much. If you've had chickens, you understand how difficult it can be not to get attached to your birds. Have a wonderful week!

Linking to:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

tragedy in the chicken coop

I knew something was wrong when I didn't hear Mr. Rue crowing this morning. When I finally got up and went outside, the door to their coop had been unlatched and was standing wide open, with Mr. Rue and Chamomile gone.

Then I saw the feather trail...which led me to Mr. Rue's body where his head had been completely torn off and was missing. Chamomile was nowhere to be found. Either the predator had taken Chamie and Mr. Rue had tried to defend her the whole way to the edge of the woods, (and, as a result sacrificed his life for it) or, the predator killed both of them intentionally early on and dragged Mr. Rue's body to the edge of the woods, only eating the head. Rosemary and her chicks, thankfully, are okay.

I am devastated. Poor Mr. Rue was the sweetest rooster and very kind to his girls. He was a fierce and loyal protector and provider for them. I will miss him dearly.

Instead of showing you the graphic photos I took from this morning, I thought I'd share with you some happy memories of Mr. Rue:

a younger Mr. Rue, leading his girls

an adolescent Mr. Rue, getting some cuddle time

Mr. Rue was always very alert; in this picture his tail
feathers hadn't fully grown in yet

Mr. Rue proudly showing off how he balances on the porch railing

Friday, May 13, 2011

chair caning 101

Do you have damaged antique caned chairs that are in need of repair? This post will teach you how to cane an antique chair from scratch. Be forewarned, this is a long post.
The first thing you need to re-cane a chair is, of course, cane. There are plenty of sources for this raw material, ranging from your local woodworking shop to online sources. I use for both the cane and the wooden pegs you will need to hold it in place while you work. It is important to match the original cane width, so make sure to measure the old stuff before you throw it away. There are two types of cane you will need: the 

Once the cane is pliable, take out one strand and identify which end to start from. You can do this by pulling the cane through pinched fingers. In one direction you will feel bumps protruding and in the other direction it will feel smoother. Make sure you are always weaving so you are pulling in the smooth direction, otherwise, the cane may catch and break. Start by inserting the end of the cane in a hole directly next to the back corner hole along either side rail so that a few inches of the cane protrudes from the bottom of the hole, then use a peg to hold in place. Weave so the shinier, curved side of the cane is always up. String the cane to the opposite hole on the other side rail, pulling the cane tight and put another peg in to hold it in place. String the cane up through the adjacent hole towards the middle of the side rail and repeat the process, moving the second peg as you go to hold the cane tight. Once you get to the end of the strand of cane, pull tight and keep the second peg in place.
Use additional strands as necessary until you have the first layer of cane completed. Next, repeat the process along the front and back rails so that the second layer of cane is underneath the first.

The next layer of cane should again go side to side in the same manner as the first layer but underneath both layer 1 and layer 2. The cane for this layer should be set adjacent to layer 1 as seen in the picture, so layer 1 and layer 3 end up side-by-side.

Since a lot of pegs are being used to hold cane in place, now is a good time to tie off the ends and free up some pegs. To do this, flip the chair, rewet the cane ends and loops on the underside of the chair, and then using the tip of the awl, gently lift a loop adjacent to an end and slip the end underneath.

The final layer will go the same direction as layer 2, but will be woven within layers 1 and 3. To do this, starting at the front rail, weave the cane under layer 3 and over layer 1, making sure the cane is side-by-side with layer 2. As you weave, make sure to rewet all of the already-woven cane with a soaked washcloth so that it remains pliable. Once you are finished, tie off the cane ends and using some caning pegs or the shaft of the awl and a hammer, gently tap the cane into place so that it forms a tight, even grid.

The next step are the diagonals, which, require the most forethought. It is easiest to start the diagonals at the opposite back corner holes and weave both diagonals at the same time. One diagonal will go under layers 1 and 3 (side-to-side strands) and over layers 2 and 4 (front to back strands), while the other diagonal will do the opposite. If you are weaving correctly, the diagonal strands should be on opposite layers where they intersect.

Once the diagonals are finished, tie off the ends and breathe a sigh of relief because the hard part is over. The last step will involve both chair cane and binder cane (soak some of both). Cut four pieces of binder into lengths that are long enough to stretch the length of 1 rail plus about 2 inches. Insert one binder strand into a corner hole so that the cane just reaches the bottom of the hole and lay it across the other holes along the rail. Using chair cane, weave up through the hole adjacent to the corner hole and underneath the binder cane, leaving a short tail of cane. Wrap the can around the binder and insert back into the same hole, pulling tight to loop the binder into place. Take the chair cane up through the next hole, repeating the process until you reach the opposite corner hole where you will insert the free end of the binder cane. Repeat this along the other 3 rails.

Tie off any loose ends, and, using scissors, cut the excess cane. Now you have a beautifully-caned chair for a fraction of the cost that a pro would charge.

This post was written by my multi-talented husband, BJ. Not only is he a chemist, handyman, musician, gardener, floor-mopper, glass blower, beer brewer and excellent cook, but he canes antique chairs too!

Linking to:

regular natural seat cane and binding cane, which is thicker and will be used to hide the holes around the perimeter (be sure and measure both). You will also need caning pegs and a caning awl (or a scratch awl), both of which can be found on Rockler. Once you’ve gathered the materials, soak the chair cane in hot water for at least 20 minutes to make it pliable enough to work with.  While it’s soaking, cut the old cane out of the old chair with some strong scissors and needle nose pliers, making sure all holes are clear. If you find yourself needing to re-cane an older chair that cannot accept prewoven cane, it might seem like your only option is to shell out big bucks to have a pro do it.  Chair caning is easier than it looks and you can do 4-6 chairs for the price of one on your own. However, it does take some attention to detail and patience, so plan on spending a few stretches of 3-4 hours to complete your first. With practice, you should be able to complete a chair in 5 hours or less. This tutorial is for the conventional weave of natural cane on a chair with curved side rails, but instructions for other weaves, chair types, and rush weaving can be found in The Caner’s Handbook by Bruck Miller and Jim Widess, which most consider the Caner’s Bible.

Monday, May 9, 2011

2011 Run for the Roses

And they're off!! Animal Kingdom shocked the world as he crossed the finish to win the 137th Kentucky Derby. It was a beautiful day for racing and good eats with around forty people attending our Derby party! The party was great fun, but I'll admit I am totally exhausted...

Of course I never take as many photos as I had hoped to! We used our Buffalo Trace half a bourbon barrel to hold ice with bottled drinks and I completely forgot to snap a pic. Oh well. Here are some highlights from the afternoon:

"Louisville Shortbread" horseshoe cookie favors
a spread of Kentucky specialties and Derby fare
(in addition to burgoo we had cooking on the stove)

Derby Pies and desserts on the dining room mantel
Bourbon Balls
mint for the juleps

playing with the chicks
vintage decanter and Derby glasses
me and my friend, Heather

If you haven't been keeping up with this Derby series and would like to see more, check out the first three posts: Talk Derby to Me!, Derby Preparation and Menu, and Derby Party Sneak Peak.

Hope you had a Happy Derby Day!