Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mr. GreenBarn

 We finally have our little barn that was almost-too-far-gone looking spiffy and green! After replacing the entire sill plate and lower half of sheeting we had the guy who painted our house install salvaged double doors and a new top layer of sheeting all the way around. He then painted the metal roof and the siding.

Here's Mr. GreenBarn with Jennifer:

 Here's Mr. GreenBarn as seen from our young oarchard:

 Here's Mr. GreenBarn with our sunny-yellow house in the background:

 Here's Mr. Greenbarn with our garden in the foreground:

 Here's Mr. Greenbarn with some sunny yard-art out front:

We certainly do not regret saving Mr. GreenBarn from MisterDumpster!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Top Garden Blog Nominee

Some kind soul nominated our blog as a Top Garden Blog!  Thank you! We are amongst 51 nominees so if you would like to vote for us please visit here and click on The Common Milkweed.  You must do this by April 30th at 5 p.m. EST. 

Here's the low down on eCollegeFinders Top Garden Blogs:

"We’re celebrating Arbor Day, Earth Day, and National Garden Month by recognizing bloggers who are devoted to giving back to the Earth. The blogs chosen as nominees for the Top Garden Blogs Award are rich with tips and tricks for gardeners of various skill levels. We hope you will find this collection of blogs helpful in the garden, whether you’re planting your first seed or already possess the greenest of thumbs."

Here's our 2011 Vegetable!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

2012 Gardening, plus Yard Art!

The weather is incredibly moderate this spring so we are spending almost all of our time outdoors.  We are working to create a natural leaf litter bed with native plants (including spring ephemerals) under our sugar maples, but most folks don't get it and walk right through the area.  What to do?  Well, if you are crafty Steve - you think of things we already have, including that large stack of boards salvaged off an old shed.  Then you rip the boards in half on your table saw and fit them into place by bending them around stakes.

The demarcation border passed with flying colors when our painting guy walked around the bed and not through!  

In the vegetable garden, the peas are coming up nicely, along with some self-seeded cilantro.

Chives and horseradish are growing, growing, growing.

Cilantro overwintered under the hoops is now feeding us versus the tired cilantro in the coldframe.

New lettuce is sprouting too!  The rain today will make all these plants very, very happy.

We are so far ahead in the garden compared to last year. Remember the construction of the garden fence?  The cutting of the planting beds?  The creation of the garden gates?  Whew - all that time and energy and then we still had to plant!  There are only three beds lefts to weed this spring and then all is ready to plant -  by mid-April too!

The extra time gave Steve a moment to create some sunny yard art after salvaging some old farm implements and old posts. 

Happy, happy!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Bluebirds Benefit from Cascading Good Fortune, Part 2

In Bluebirds Benefit from Cascading Good Fortune, Part 1, we made bird house predator guards. Here, we will illustrate, in a general way,  how easy it is to make the boxes and install the whole works.

 Good projects usually start with a thorough review of existing examples and plans:

A tidy shop and good work surface are a must (our shop is small and simple but allows us to do all that we need):

The ability to use basic power tools....

...and hand tools is something that everyone should gain (and it's not that difficult):

 Now for installation! After checking various websites on appropriate bluebird box spacing and other criteria we installed steel T-posts (called such because they look like the letter T when cut in cross section). We then held up a box to get the position of the predator guard (directly under the box) and....

 ...using the wires we'd already had in place, simply twisted them up like a bread bag twist-tie (using vice-grip pliers):

Last-minute design change: we had to install some spacer blocks to allow proper fit of the box to the T-posts:

 Final installation and inspection of the boxes was exciting!

We installed 4 boxes in this field and 2 on the other end of the property. Add to that the 2 we installed last year and we have a total of 8 bluebird boxes - that outta do it, as they say!  

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bluebirds Benefit from Cascading Good Fortune, Part 1

Our good fortune in having a neighbor who is also a expert painter has cascaded over into other parts of our lives: namely - our passion for creating hospitable spaces for nature. In other words, because we are getting incredible help on our house, we now have more time to help critters.

Our most recent project has been building bluebird houses and associated predator guards. This post covers how we made the latter.

You can buy predator guards (extremely expensive, if you buy good quality) or make them out of PVC pipe (but this material photo-degrades, gets brittle and then can crack and shatter). We therefore decided to use heating duct, which is pretty inexpensive, readily available and will out-last most other materials (plus it will weather nicely).

So, here's how to do it.

 Take a short section of steel duct...

....snap it together in the customary way...

...pop-on an end cap...

....using pop-rivets, permanently attach end cap to duct...

....using a jigsaw with a metal-cutting blade, cut a hole in the top so that the fencepost this will be installed on can extend through....

....drill holes to accommodate wire (which will hold predator guard to fencepost)...

...snake the wire through the holes...

...repeat process until you end up with as many as you need! Part 2 will be making the bluebird boxes!