Friday, February 18, 2011

Dipping My Toes Into Self-Sufficiency!

We've been hanging out at Barnes and Noble Library, er, Barnes and Noble Bookstore,  lately.

Mark and I have been pondering the hows of building a greenhouse out of salvaged windows -- something I've wanted to do for a long time.  So I went looking for books.  The greenhouse idea somehow hatched chicken coop ideas.  Which also led to books.

 I've had chickens in the past.  I love them for all their plucky stupidity and I just adore fulfilling my Little House On the Prairie fantasies by sending the girls out to get an egg when I need one! 

However, there were two problems with keeping chickens: 

1) The coop was near the neighbor's yard.  When the neighbors' sprinkler overshot their yard, the chicken coop got very wet and, subsequently, very smelly!  Then the neighbors complained about the smell (like it wasn't THEIR fault!).

2) ROOSTERS!  The main problem with chickens is roosters!  About half of those sweet little yellow chicks grow up to be horrid, evil roosters!  Roosters are bullies.  Roosters are LOUD.  Roosters know when 4 a.m. is and believe it is very important to announce this fact to the world -- LOUDLY! 

My solution was to catch the rooster and put him in a dog crate in the garage every night.  This worked pretty well except that most nights I forgot until AFTER I was in bed.  Ugh!  So most nights I was out in the chicken coop in my nightgown and barefoot chasing that stupid rooster!  It's hilarious now but I failed to see the humor at the time!   

We eventually found a new home for Rooster -- my dear friend Sarah (by the way, have a SPECTACULAR birthday tomorrow, Sarah!).  The first conversation I ever had with Sarah (on the phone, as we were planning a play date for our kindergarteners) was about how much we both love chickens.  Our kindergarteners are now almost 14!  They are still best friends.  And Sarah and I still get to play together too -- though not with chickens, at least not recently!

Sarah took Rooster (who was immediately renamed "Pooster") on a glorious weekend at their farm where he ran free and was in wonderful rooster heaven.  Two nights later a raccoon managed to pull his head out of the dog crate he slept in and his new owners awoke to the quiet of a headless rooster.  Poor Rooster!  But also a bit hilarious in the end!  Perhaps the raccoon didn't want to know when it was 4 a.m. either!

At Barnes and Noble the hunt for books on greenhouses and chicken coops led me to a new concept.  I ended up pouring over a fascinating book called The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency: The Classic Guide for Realists and Dreamers by John Seymour.  I'm not sure if I classify as a realist or a dreamer.  Probably both!  This encyclopedia of everything our forefathers knew about living off the land in a state of simple wholesomeness covers topics like gardening, animal husbandry, food storage, handcrafts, recycing, and harnessing renewable energy.  If all modern conveniences came to a screeching halt and there was no internet and no YouTube how-to videos to help us along, this book could insure our survival!

I think I'm in serious trouble!  Something in my soul, some past life trace from somewhere in the eons or some romaticized idea of the satisfactions of traditional farm life or something stirred and I'm having trouble wrestling it back into submission in the root cellar! 

Perhaps it's that part of me that thinks that if I planted a garden and had solar panels and wind tubines and chickens and a cow I wouldn't have to buy groceries or pay utility bills and, in turn, I wouldn't need money, that thing that I'm so very bad at earning and am always trying to get around having to spend!  Please remind me frequently that it would be labor-intensive to churn my own butter and weave my own cloth!

But I probably will try to build a greenhouse and plant some tomatoes and maybe get a couple of chickens -- and try to stay away from that book!  It even has instructions on how to kill chickens and rabbits and goats and cows!  Maybe if I focus on the slaughtering sections I can give myself an aversion to the rest of it too?  I will try.  And if I fail, you'll hear all about it when I get myself into projects!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Coffee Can Basket

This is one of my favorite things!  I adore it for it's vintage rusticity and it's freesourcefullness!  This basket is made of and old metal coffee can painted red and interwoven with wicker. To me, it has the same aesthetic as tramp art (if you're familiar with that).

I have been very tempted to try to recreate it but I don't relish the thought of taking tin snips to a coffee can and having to do all that cutting at the awkward angle that would be necessary.  Maybe someday I'll either work up the energy or think up a better method! 

In the meantime, I will just simply enjoy that someone put the necessary effort and creativity into this one!

And I will put it where I can look at it all the time and sit back and wish I was that clever!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Necktie Footstool

Behold a little project I finally got around to! We've had this little footstool for many years (alas, as usual, I forgot to take a "before" picture!). One day, Tessa's foot went through the woven top of it so it sat in the attic topless for a few years.

Last year I bought a whole bag of 22 neckties at a thrift store for $1.94. They were all pretty unattractive (one had Winnie the Pooh all over it!) but enmasse they can't help but capture that menswear feel. My plan was to make a round tablecloth out of the wide ends. Someday I'll get around to that! But the narrow ends were going to go to waste.

On my way down from the attic the other day I grabbed the stool. We pondered it for a while: "What can it be?" I contemplated using it as a stand for something -- but what? Mark turned it upside down and declared it a boxing ring for squirrels! That idea rejected, I went for my bag of ties and started cutting off the narrow ends. About halfway through this process, Mark came in and nearly keeled over because he thought I was cutting up HIS precious ties (no one loves his ties like Mark)!

It wove together very quickly and, I'll confess, is currently held together on the underside with safety pins! But, it's done at least for decorative purposes. One project checked off a very looooonnnnggg list of unfinished projects!

Someday I'll show you that tablecloth when I get around to it!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What I Did While I Was Snowbound

It did finally get old and I'm grateful for the thaw and the warm temperatures but I LOVE snow days!  I get to stay home.  I get to focus on me and mine.  I get to CLEAN! 

In fact, I went so laundry crazy in my newly-unearthed laundry room that I broke the washer!  

On snow days, if I so desire, I get to exercise one of my favorite freesourcefull challenges:  having to work exclusively with what's on hand.  I want X.  I have to come up with X out of only what I have in the house.

This time, what I wanted was shelves between the kitchen and the living room.  I know open spaces are good but, in my world, keeping the cats out of the living room became the priority.  The cats definitely do NOT need their own sofa!

My initial vision was of two neat, tidy tower shelves flanking some vintage windows that I had on hand from a house that was torn down.  This plan quickly blew away with the realization that I had nothing on hand that would suffice as towers.  So I took a quick prowl through the garage.

For years I have gathered old wooden fruit and vegatable crates whenever I find them for a steal ($2 or so).  They've been stacked on the fridge in the garage awaiting inspiration.  Inspiration finally came!

I stacked the crates and nailed one set of them to the wall and the other to a support board. 

Then, as I always do, I had that panic moment where I was positive this was the worst idea ever and that it just looked totally rinky dink and shabby (and not in a chic way!) but then (as it always does) it all come together and I think I like it.

My teetering towers semi-secured, I prowled around for fun stuff to put on the shelves -- stuff I WANT to look at (my mantra is: "shelves mean you get to have more cool stuff!"): Mark's milk bottles, Coca-Cola bottles, and vintage soda bottles with obscure names, little drawers, a couple of vintage Fiestaware pieces, my vintage recipe file, chalkware ship bookends, a trio of clocks, a red teapot from my friend Kathy, the toy car that Matt's father played with as a child, an old Army first aid kit box, a favorite basket made of a wicker woven together with an old coffee can, and a vintage photograph of construction workers eating lunch on a soaring beam during the construction of the Empire State Building.  There are also sign letters -- a capital "R" and a lower case "a" because, back in the 70's when CB radios were all the rage and my grandfather and I were fishing and driving buddies, my grandfather's CB "handle" was "Big R" (his name was Romayne) and mine was "Little a".

Two boxes of my mother's and grandmothers' cookbooks came out of the attic.  I've felt guilty for stashing them there.  There is so much family history in those books that they needed to be a part of our daily kitchen -- especially now that the girls to cook so much.  There are cookbook compilations from schools we've attended, family churches, junior leagues, the air force base in my home town, even a departed cousin's memorial cookbook.  There are two sets of Helen Corbett's cookbooks -- clearly my mother and grandmother respected this woman in ways I will have to discover.  Also included on these shelves is my grandmother's copy of Julia Child's cookbook "The Art of French Cooking" that I gave to Emily a couple of Christmases ago along with copies of the book and the movie "Julie and Julia" (a great concept story about a woman named Julie who set out to cook every recipe in Julia Child's cookbook in 365 days).

On the backside of the stacked crates I hung simple burlap curtains and added three globes from my collection and a vintage ice chest on top of a vintage chalk-painted sideboard.  I am quite pleased with the way all this looks from the living room.

As much as I love them, I keep catching myself feeling a bit reluctant and ashamed to present these shelves to the world.  I worry that they might look trashy and junky.  I often find myself trying to fit into a cookie cutter concept of "perfection" (whatever that is) that I think I see around me.  But then I realize, when I shake off the "shoulds" and the "perfects", that I find so much more meaning in the old and the imperfect, in those things that have character showing and stories to tell and that have survived time.  Like the rich roadmap of wrinkles on elderly hands, these items present family history, social history, and a visual journey that sleek perfection simply cannot.  I hope you concur.  If you do not, I believe you're missing out -- and you're probably reading the wrong blog!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Laundry Relics: An Historical Tour

I promise this is the last post about my laundry room! 

When I excavated the laundry heaps recently, I unearthed a lot of family history that I had forgotten was even in there and I am delighted to be reacquainted with it.  It means a lot to me to have the spirit of my foremothers in there working alongside me.  I almost feel like they keep me company during the mundane tasks of laundry.

This trio of implements from the past is a composite of grandmothers.  The iron stand belonged to my paternal grandmother (Elizabeth Carlock Sturdivant) and probably belonged to her grandmother (Georgianna Scott) as well (it says 1894 on it and my grandmother wasn't born until 1908) and definitely belonged to the aunts that raised her (Aunt Emily and Aunt Bess).  The rug beater belonged to my maternal grandmother (Gladys Bacon Baker).  The iron handle used to lift the covers on an old iron stove belonged to Matt's grandmother (Ida Burgess Harjo) (Matt is not the least bit of a saver of objects to I've glommed on to his family heirlooms to keep them safe for our girls).  I love how these three items hang together and bring together three sides of my daughters' family tree in one spot.

The larger of these irons belonged to my grandmother (Elizabeth Carlock Sturdivant) and the smaller one (on top of the books) belonged to Matt's grandmother (Ida Burgess Harjo). 

The larger of these two washboards belonged to Matt's grandmother (Ida Burgess Harjo).  It's been chewed on by rats which makes it all the better!  I found it in a shed behind her old farm house in Wolf, Oklahoma.  Matt's father was born in that farmhouse and returned to live there in his retirement years.  The smaller of the washboards, I must confess, I bought at a thrift store. 

If you look closely, on the near under the washboards, you'll see my mother's honey bottle that I use to hold stray buttons.  I also use the cork stopper as a pin cushion.  Next to that, is an old coke bottle with a shaker top that belonged to my maternal grandmother (Gladys Bacon Baker).  I remember her using it to sprinkle water onto clothes before she ironed them in the days before spray bottles.  It was eventually replaced by a repurposed windex bottle filled with water but I will always remember fondly this old-fashioned precursor to a simple spray bottle. 

I slipped my grandmother's (Elizabeth Carlock Sturdivant) vintage floral china into a little nook (upper left) where it would be safe but where I could also see it.  AND it goes with the wall color!  These pieces are not something that I would use or display in any other room, I am so happy to have a place to honor them.

The stack of violet print towels (upper left) came from my father's house.  Actually, they came WITH my father's house when he bought it because they matched the violet wallpaper in the little under-the-eaves bathroom adjoining the room where I always stayed when I went to visit him.  Once the maid's room, I loved the little room with the sloped walls at the top of the back stairs that went up from the kitchen -- TOTALLY my kind of room!  The towels take me right back there and remind me of those days.

Though not an heirloom, I LOVE keeping the iron and the ironing supplies in this reproduction metal bread box.  The metal means that I can put away a hot iron and not have to worry!  Plus, it just looks neat -- AND, the girls know what it means if someone says "Is it bigger than a bread box?"!

On the shelf above the washer and the table for folding are a glass measuring bowl, two vintage glass juicers, and a fancy glass lamp.  The bowl came from Matt's grandmother's farm.  One of the juicers belonged to my maternal grandmother (Gladys Bacon Baker).  The other I bought for $1.  The glass lamp, though it didn't belong to a grandmother, looks like it could have and probably DID belong to someone's grandmother!

I made these basket labels using one of my favorite techniques.  I color copied a favorite striped pattern from a shower curtain onto cardstock and then cut it down to make labels.  They have a paper clip glued to the backside that hooks into the wicker basket to hold them on.  The baskets I found at a place that no longer exists.  I miss it because they had tons of baskets for $5 each (and larger baskets for $10 each) so it was easy to get lots of matching baskets for very little money.

Ok, now I'm done with the laundry room!