Category Archives: Projects

Whether it’s painting, pottery, crocheting, or restoration, I am always getting my hands dirty. This is where you can get your DIY fix.

Spring Update

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Spring has sprung here in rural West Tennessee. The worst winter in about a decade has finally released its frosty grip on this red clay soil. What was brown and dead is now green and thriving again. There could be no better metaphor for my life as of late.

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Yes, I have come back to Tennessee and, while I can’t say that I am happy about the circumstances regarding my return, I am more than happy to be home. The frosty grip has been lifted and I am thriving again even if only in very small ways.

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The garden has been planted. The seeds have been sewn. The red clay soil has been worked and nutrients have been added to improve its quality. In a few seasons, if the hard work continues, it will be something to be reckoned with. There is so much promise and hope for the future.

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There are other projects in the works for the fairly near future. Two tables like the one I designed and helped to build in Florida (pictured below) will be built to suit the needs of my ever-growing extended family. Much furniture that came from my grandmothers house will receive new life. There will, of course, be pictures and details in the coming days.

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Yes, there is much promise and hope for the future. I could not be more thankful for the wonderful family that I have been blessed with. I am also eternally grateful to the incredible friends that I made in Florida. Both parties encouraged me to do whatever I needed to do to achieve my dreams. I am proud to say that, while I am still a bit flighty with the desire to go and experience other things, my heart remains firmly rooted in this red clay soil.

Until next time,
Claire

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BMO: A Cake Walk

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He-Man’s birthday is coming up (yay!) and to celebrate we are going to his hometown of Tampa.  As you may or may not know, He-Man and his twin, who we shall call Nam-Eh, have quite a thing for Adventure Time.  You could imagine my surprise when I found the link to this cake floating around on Pinterest.  “It’s perfect!” I thought.  While in Tampa, we will be having a little get together for the reciprocals and I have been charged with making the cake, among other things.  At first, I was all gung-ho about trying this out, but now I’m getting a little nervous.  I have a basic plan of action, though, if anyone would like to look it over for flaws.  After all, everything works well in theory.

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First of all, I will not be making tie-dye rainbow layers.  I will have six layers of cake in solid colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.  Between the layers and under the fondant, He-Man has requested that the icing be chocolate, since we “have to” have white cake to add food coloring to.  Next, I will cover the stack of cake in a layer of fondant, which scares the bajeezus out of me.  I don’t have a good working relationship with fondant.  I hate it and it hates me back.  I will start with a large blob of white fondant, reserve about 1/10th of it, and color the rest with this lovely teal.  The reserved bit will be colored a softer teal, black, yellow, green, and red respectively.  These little pieces will be attached to the outer layer of fondant with royal icing.  Legs and hands will be formed out of the remaining, darker teal.

It’s all good in theory, right?  I do have a few questions that I would like to ask to anyone who has the least bit of baking experience.

1) Do you think that I should use wooden dowels to help stabilize the cake?  The idea has crossed my mind but I can’t say for sure whether or not it will be necessary until I get the cake into the air.  It shouldn’t be more than about 8”-10” tall, but the icing between the layers might cause it to be slippery.

2) What is your recipe for fondant?  There are possibilities all over Pinterest but I want something tried-and-true that I can’t mess up.  If you have a favorite method for making fondant, please don’t keep it a secret from me!

3) Should I keep it in the refrigerator?  I want to make it the night before so that if anything goes wrong last-minute, I will have the time to fix it before the party.  The question is, will putting it in the refrigerator for 18-24hrs cause the fondant to dry out and crack?

If you can help me out, please do!  The trip is still a ways away and I will have pictures of the finished product up as soon as I have something to show but I am a planner.  Please help me get my game plan together now so that I can save myself some scrambling and anxiety later.

Thanks in advance,
Claire

2014 Garden Wishlist

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This crazy, tentative list is my basic plan for how to tackle the garden this year.  It is much better than last year’s plan because of the simple fact that there was no plan last year.  At all.  I went to the greenhouse, picked out some things that looked nice, and stuck them in the ground.  This year, however, there will be order!  Or at least as much order as you can ever expect from me.  Below is a list of plants and a number.  This number either refers to a) the number of that type of plant I wish to have or b) the number of containers I wish to have filled with them.  Keep in mind before you judge me that the goal here is to begin self-sufficiency over the next year.  While it might sound like a lot for a backyard garden, it should, ideally, provide for three people for 365 days.

Tomatoes – 15a
Corn – 100a
Straight-neck yellow squash – 8a
Okra – 20a
Green beans – 20a
Zucchini – 4a
Potatoes – 10b
Onions – 10b
Garlic – 5b
Bell peppers – 6a
Pumpkins – 4b
Watermelon – 4b
Blueberries – 2a
Strawberries – 2 bundles, as they are sold
Pinto beans – 20a
Asparagus – 10a
Peppermint – 1b
Spearmint – 1b
Spinach – 10a
Cucumber – 2a
Basil – 1a
Chives – 1a
Dill – 1a
Oregano – 1a
Parsley – 1a
Thyme – 1a
Aloe – 1a

As you can see, there is a lot of work to be done before I even begin to plant.  I would like to think that I can handle this vast and lengthy list of plants with only my minimal experience and yet-to-have-purchased almanac to guide me.  This list is not really going to be part of the ledger I hope to keep of garden production.  Some things may not make it into fruition and other things may be added to the list later on.  Rest assured, photographic evidence of this mammoth undertaking will arise as soon as I have something to show for myself.  Truth be told, I will be proud of myself if I even get to do half of this stuff, as it will still be an improvement over last year’s garden.  If anyone out there has any suggestions regarding any of the aforementioned plants, I am all ears!

Until then,
Claire

New Hope for the Spring

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I have been setting goals today, y’all!  It’s pretty much just a list of smaller goals and how to achieve them with the long-term goal being self-sufficiency.  I’m not sure how long it will take to be fully self-sufficient, but I know it doesn’t happen over night.  Or even over a year.  This year, the idea is to test the waters and see just how much food we can produce and store for our little patchwork family and whether or not it is really more cost-effective.  Since gardening seems to be something that we just do in these parts, I can hardly see us stopping in the near future.  I can see, however, that we have a lot to learn.  The following is a list of things that I hope to accomplish before the end of March or so as spring begins to fade into summer.

1) Finish cleaning out the barn.  We have two rather large barns on the property that are full of junk.  We have had about three marathon cleaning runs on the Back Barn but it’s so dusty that after an hour or two we have to call it quits.  The space could be incredibly useful to us, we just have to take the time to make it that way.

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2) Plant a herb garden.  I have the desire to cultivate my own herbs in pots that can be moved around based on their individual needs and brought inside to enjoy year-round.  This should only be a small undertaking, but I’m not ruling anything out.

3) Finish the compost bin and start composting.  We have some of the basic construction already underway, but I broke the hammer.  Actually, “broke” is the wrong word considering that I managed to bend it.  Yes.  With the gracious help of He-Man’s dad, this project should be done and the composting underway in no time flat.  *fingers crossed*

4) Till the garden and make it bigger.  Last year’s garden was a decent size, but I am ready to go bigger.  We have crazy amounts of dwarf okra seed that I saved from last year’s harvest that I want to take advantage of and I have compiled something called the 2014 Garden Wishlist that, in another post, will show just how ambitious I’m getting.

5) Get the early crops in the ground to start the garden off with its best foot forward.  Last year there was no crop rotation.  Everything got planted at the same time and if it grew, it grew but this year I know better.  Early greens as well as potatoes, onions, and garlic (which will all be done in containers for easy harvest) will go in first.

6) Buy an almanac and actually read it.  I have always wanted and almanac but never actually took the time to buy one so if my assessments in #5 are a little off, I’ll figure it out sooner or later.

(photo courtesy Wikipedia)

7) Buy and learn to use a home canner.  This is also something that I have wanted for a while but never actually got around to buying.  I realize that not everything can be canned but I already know how to dry things and use the freezer so we won’t go there.  This is all about putting back some of what we produce to see how much is left over (if any) by this time next year, with the goal being to have a surplus and eventually a stockpile.

8) Keep a ledger of how much was spent on and produced in the garden.  Not only will this help me to decide whether or not this is a cost-effective way to spend 3/4 of the year, but also how many plants we need for the next year in order to attain self-sufficiency.

Eventually, perhaps many years into the future, I want nothing more than to never have to go to the supermarket again.  I want to be able to produce all of my meat, cheese, milk, and vegetables right here.  Is that so crazy?  That’s not to say that everybody should do the same, I just think that it is the lifestyle that I would like to pursue.  AND, in case you’re wondering what you can get me for my birthday this spring, I will be accepting solar panels, daffodil and iris bulbs, goats, and bee-keeping equipment. 🙂

Until next time, my dears,
Claire

Day at the Pumpkin Patch

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Hello readers!

I would like to introduce you to someone very special to me.

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I call him He-Man.  He’s pretty great.  I mean, how many twenty-something men would take a crazy girl like me to a pumpkin patch? 🙂

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We are blessed to live in an area with our very own pumpkin patch.  It’s really quite amazing.  Many families bring their children out to take fall pictures for Christmas cards and whatnot.  He-Man thinks I like places like this because I’m still so childlike.  You can come to your own conclusions 😛

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Now I need suggestions for what I should do with my pumpkins.  Do any of you have a favorite pattern or should I just go ham on it with a knife?  He-Man seems to have a plan for his pumpkin, though he won’t let me in on it just yet.  He’s much like me in not wanting to ruin a big reveal.  I’ll add pictures of what we end up with as soon as we have it done.

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Peace, love, and pumpkins!
Claire

 

 

 

The Chair. (Dun, dun, DUNNN!)

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Several weeks ago I was climbing around the rafters and crawling beneath the clutter in one of the barns when I saw it.  “But how do I get to it?” I wondered.  After much shuffling of junk and risking life and limb during a precariously perched battle with a dive-bombing wasp (which turned out to be a dirt dobber), I had it.

It was so sad to be a child’s chair that I decided that I HAD to give it new life.  I brought the chair up to the front porch and began to scrape off the layers upon layers of sun-baked farm dust.

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The finish was finished and the outlook seemed bleak, but I could see the potential.  I have a general idea of how I will be refinishing it, but I can’t spoil the big reveal.  I have only made some progress, because until now I was doing all the sanding by hand, but I did rub some oil on what I did get done just to get a general idea of the natural color of the wood and I must say, it is STUNNING!

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So there’s your hint – I love the natural wood and I plan on accenting it rather than covering it.  This will not be your standard, cut-and-dry refinishing job.  This chair is going to make someone very happy when I am through with it!  Now that I have access to a palm-sized sander, I hope to have pictures up of the finished product in the coming weeks.

Anyone else done any refurbishing lately?