Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Thoughts for Today

I've had on my mind recently the affect that living away from town has had on me.  Although we now have a commute, I get up early everyday, and we are nowhere near any bar or public transport, I think that moving into this house has already begun to produce positive results.

I've not really lazed about on weekends nor have I been able to slow down.  I'm still calmer, more patient at work (which is a big one if you know what I do), and more energized to get things done even if I'm tired.  My new-found youth I attribute to having a home.  Finishing something around the house or in the yard is equivalent to finishing a crafty project.  It's a tangible result that I can see and show.  Perhaps it's the knowledge that we are staying put for at least a few years or maybe it's just being away from the bulk of society after work.  In truth, you never know what life throws at you but this concept at least makes me happy.

Our house is slowly coming together and I hope to have many more guests in the future!  For now we continue to make our plans and find a way to make them work.  It's a little bit about time, a little bit about money, and lot of dreaming.  That's it for today!


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Deck is Finished!

I spent all of last week staining our back deck which is 140 square feet and included many spindles.  It's also about 10 feet off the ground.  We decided to use a clear protectant from Lowe's - Olympic Maximum.  It costs about $33 a gallon which is similar to the better Olympic paints.  The steps to staining a deck are quite simple and in retrospect I did it by myself and wasn't really overwhelmed.  Just make sure you give yourself plenty of time.

Before picture of the deck.
Step 1:  Choose a Stain.  Pick a week with no rain in the forecast.
Originally we went for a Toner stain which contains not only a protectant but a bit of color as well.  Toner stain also gives you an extra year of coverage (4 years instead of 3).  We chose the "Cedar Naturalwood" color but it appeared a bit too red for my tastes.  I would strongly recommend testing the stain in an inconspicuous area before you begin your project.  Had I just jumped in I would have been seriously disappointed.  

Step 2:  Clean Your Deck.
If your deck has any darker areas or mildew it's better if you clean it first.  Ours wasn't too bad but it felt wrong to skip this step.  We used a Lowe's brand deck cleaner which didn't require any scrubbing.  Just slap it on with a mop or sponge or something and in 5-10 minutes you have a beautifully clean deck!  We used an old magic eraser mop.  It dissolved a bit and couldn't reach every nook and cranny but it saved us money on buying a sprayer - which you could also use (apparently).

Step 3:  Let Your Clean Deck Dry for 12, 24, or more hours...
Our deck was dry pretty quickly and despite the Lowe's Lady's advice, who said you had to wait 3 days, I started staining on Monday having cleaned on Saturday.  

Step 4:  Begin Staining.
I started with our railings, the one's with all the spindles.  What a pain!  I used a brush which gave me more control but due to the height of the deck I had to reach over to stain the back of the spindles... my back was not happy.  Because I used a clear protectant it was possible to do smaller sections without getting a striped effect or spots.  I would imagine if you had any color you would have to have a more seamless application - so a sprayer might come in handy.

Step 5:  Give the stain 12-24 hours to soak in and settle.  Enjoy!
I was racing against the downpour that was forecasted for today so I actually finished up on Sunday.  Already the water is beading!  I am very happy with the results and can't wait to show it off.

Not too much color!  All finished!

Honza's favorite Yoga pose:  Downward Dog.  He's such a natural!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Autumn is Upon Us!

Living in the country is something that I have daydreamed about for awhile but actually doing it was still very abstract until we bought our house.  It is only in the past few weeks that I have really absorbed what it means to be removed from city-life.  Friday "lazy" nights are now reduced to "oh, I can't be bothered to drive all that way for take-out", so we just eat at home, and because things "need doin" I am on the go pretty much every weekend now.  Although I spent a large part of my life in a city and loved it, I think at heart I'm actually a country girl.  I've been so relaxed each weekend, forgetting about the stresses of work and the annoyance of TV.  Today I actually sat on the front porch, admired the beautiful blue sky and drank lemonade.  We opened the windows and enjoyed fresh air.  Out here I am close enough to enjoy city-life when I want, but I'm also closer to nature and the calm that nature brings.

This weekend was particularly uplifting and productive as we had two neighbors contribute to Chez Reece.  One neighbor offered to mow some grass on his way up to check his mail.  Not twenty minutes later he was cruising down the road on his riding mower.  A couple of hours later the whole front yard had been mowed and trimmed up with the weedeater.  I helped by pulling up weeds and unwanted grass while Al re-planted some herbs that were wasting away in the used coffee cans.  Please note:  Chock-ful of Nuts is a great coffee, but the cans do not make good containers for gardening.  The metal rusts on the inside and out and will kill your plants.  Thank goodness sage and thyme are hearty herbs!  Whilst out in the yard two of our other neighbors stopped by and left us with an amazing flower arrangement.  This after they had already supplied us with a bag of fresh shitake mushrooms and a jar of honey at the Saturday market - all products from their farm.  We will definitely be writing more on these neighbors as they are a wonderful resource and just really great people!

Since the weather report is looking good for the next 8 days, we began the first step in staining the back deck.  We moved everything to the front porch or garage and began using the bleach-like cleaner. This Olympic cleaner was applied with a used mop, a great idea from Al, and went to work right away on our mildew-stained deck.  Mind, the sponge on the mop dissolved a bit but I don't think it'll make a difference.  In a couple of days we will be able to begin applying the actual stain.  We've chosen Olympic Maximum toner in "Cedar Naturaltone".  It looks a bit dark to me, but Al really likes it so we might be stuck with it.

This is a photo before cleaning.  The brush broom didn't work as planned but the tub was perfect for dipping the mop into.  It took the whole container of cleaning solution to clean our 140 square foot deck.

These Mache seeds are meant to be planted in September or October and will be ready to harvest in January through March.  As Mache is one of my favorite greens I'm really excited about these!  We need to get a cold frame built and ready to go soon - but I'll leave that for another post.

These two pots contain Blue Flax seeds.  Blue Flax is a perennial that grows mostly green the first season and then blooms beautiful purplish-blue flowers in the second and subsequent seasons.  I hope to get these little seeds going then transplant them to our yard in the spring.

This grow light set-up was given to my classroom for a project last spring.  The children each planted flower seeds and were able to watch them grow.  Since we aren't using it at school right now, I thought I'd bring it home and put it to work.  The set-up uses a wood frame for the base and four "slats" of cut moulding which are screwed into the base.  Four clamps hold two slats on the vertical slats which are connected to the base.  I used some old yarn to hold the lights in place and each light is plugged into a power strip which will make it easy to turn on and off.  It is also possible to raise and lower the lights as needed by adjusting the slats and clamps.  I am hopeful that we've done something right.  There is a lot of trial and error in gardening - what a boost it would be to have some successful plants on our first try!

All in all, it's been a wonderful weekend and I've enjoyed being outside.

And here's little Honza because he is so cute!