Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Roses in Bags ... Just Say No!

It's that time of year again!  Just as we are at our lowest point after enduring the cold and darkness of winter, in mid-to-late February, the Roses in Bags arrive to tempt us with their promise of summer.

At $4.57, what's the harm in picking up a few of these babies?

Almost all of these are lovely older varieties ... ones that our mothers and grandmothers grew.  Tempting, so tempting. 

The canes on these look pretty good.  Most of them are green and firm.  I see a little bit of canker and a few dead canes, but not many.  If they stay outside in the sunshine for much longer, this situation will deteriorate really quickly.

The main problem with these roses is the way they were grown and the way they were handled prior to their arrival in the store. These canes that you see have very little root in those tiny bags to support any sort of vigorous growth. In a bare root rose, root mass should AT LEAST equal the mass of the top canes ... and more roots than that are even better.

Careless handling during digging and packaging leads to mix-ups.  Way too many of these labels are meaningless, because the rose in the bag may not be the one on the label.  If this happens, there's no one to contact for a replacement.  (Don't even get me started on how they were displayed out in the open, in the sunshine, at the store.  This is a recipe for failure, and a clear disregard for the quality of their product.)

In this display, there was also a section of roses in larger pots.  Just say no to these, too.  Though the canes on these were a little bit larger than the ones in the bags, I'll bet they also have tiny, hacked off roots lurking in those pots.  The label says the pot is plantable and bio-degradable ... a great way for the packaging to conceal the truth in the pot.

Those of you who have been around here for a while know that I do this every year, trying my best to save all of you some money and some heartache.  Here's my best advice, if you have a weak moment and cannot resist the siren song of these roses ... you get what you pay for.  If you buy these expecting to have a high-quality rose garden for very little money, you will probably be disappointed.  If you want to buy one or two just to see what happens, this is a better attitude.  If you walk away shaking your head, I have done my job.

If you have any questions, I will be happy to answer them via comments or email.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Afternoon Snack

The photo below is to share with you what I did when the munchies ambushed me earlier this afternoon.

Girl Scout Trefoil cookies
with Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter (thank you, Karen!)
and Apricot preserves,
and a cup of Constant Comment tea.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Meet Ruby!

Yesterday was a long, long day, and our new dog Ruby is here!!  She and I rolled in at about 8pm, and it's almost as if she's been here forever.  When it's right, it's right ... and this looks to be a completely comfortable match for us. 

Ruby's introduction to Daniel went perfectly, and he is so happy to have another dog in the house!!  Her introduction to the cats went exactly as I anticipated.  Maggie and Alice stood their ground, and Dorothy was nowhere to be found.  Earlier this morning, Dorothy was initially skulking around the periphery ... but now she's getting a little bit more comfortable.

"It's okay, Dorothy," said Alice, in the chair, "This new dog isn't as scary as I thought it would be."

I am thrilled with the way Ruby is fitting in so far.  Granted, it's only been a little over 15 hours at this point ... but this little dog is already worming her way into our family and deep into my heart.

Welcome home, Ruby!!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Friend for Daniel

I have always known that our Daniel is not the type of dog who can be happy as an only dog.  He has been alone since Emma died in October, and I can see a change in him ... and not for the better.  Daniel needs a friend.

Though we have had greyhounds recently, I'm not married to the idea of having ONLY greyhounds.  Our first dog was a Labrador Retriever (I have to tell you about him some time.), and part of me really wanted to go Labrador again with our next dog.

Even though I have thought this out, and searched rescue organizations and breeders, fate has come knocking and it appears that I don't get a say in the choice of our next dog ... you see, I thoroughly believe that your pets find YOU when the time is right ... and a wonderful dog has decided to become part of our family.

She was a stray who obviously belonged to someone at some point, and she is probably part Labrador and part Border Collie.  A kind person sprung her from a shelter in SW Virginia and took her to a Border Collie Rescue volunteer, who is friends with my sister, and my sister realized that this dog's personality should fit into our family perfectly.  She needs a loving home where she can get individual attention and make a contribution, and Daniel needs a friend. 

In a little while, I will hit the road to Harrisonburg (about 2 hours from here, up and over the mountains) to bring our new dog home.  The rescue group named her Rosie.  Considering what I do around here, this would seem like a perfect name ... but we are changing it to Ruby.  (If you watch Nickelodeon TV, you may be familiar with "Max and Ruby", the brother and sister rabbits ... that's where the name came from.)

Here's the only photo I have of Ruby so far.  She was way too interested in my sister's dogs in the next room, and I couldn't keep her attention long enough to snap a good photo.

Trust me, you will get a LOT more photos as we all to get to know Ruby better.

I'm sure Daniel will be really glad to have a new friend.  The cats won't be so thrilled about it ... but I know they will come around eventually.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Two-Toned and Totally Distressed

This week's featured piece of furniture is a bit different than what I usually do.

Most of the time, I prefer to take tired pieces and give them a bit of an upcycled look.  This one evolved in a different direction.

I knew from the beginning that it was going to get a two-toned finish, with Annie Sloan's Olde White and Paris Grey, and a dark stained top.  What I didn't plan was distressing it as much as this.  It was the top that led me in this direction.

When I stripped the dated, speckled lacquer off this pine top, and saw how knotty and rustic the wood was, I decided that heavily distressed was how it needed to be.

Whenever I distress like this, it always seems to feel a bit strange to paint a piece and then sand about a quarter of the paint back off of it.  It's necessary, though, to get the effect I was going for ... the impression of real, live age ... where drawers are slammed, knobs are used, and corners are rubbed and kicked.

If you look carefully, you can see a faint stripe of Olde White at the bottom here, to add some interest and balance.

There's a bit of a surprise awaiting anyone who opens one of the drawers ... they are lined with plum Thomas Kinkade wallpaper, in a lovely damask pattern.

This little chest is sitting in my booth at the shop right now ... patiently waiting for its new home ... and I'm on to my next piece.  Wheee ... this is fun!

Sharing this week with:

Monday, February 20, 2012

Whew, What a Weekend!

This morning, our daughter came downstairs and asked, "Mom, have you blogged about this weekend yet?"

"No, Sweetie, not yet."

"Are you going to?"

"After breakfast, I promise."


Why was she so interested in what I had to say about this weekend, you ask? 

We spent all day Saturday at the Hampton Sports Festival, where she was participating in her first competition as a body builder ... in the bikini class.  Yes, I spent the day in the company of folks like this:

and this.  These were the winners of the men's age classes, in a pose off to determine the overall winner ... left to right, 60+, 50+, and 40+.  I was totally slack-jawed at the 60+ guy.  Wow!

"Wow, Grandmother," said Caleb.  "Those guys have big muscles!"

The festival had a lot more than just body building.  We saw boxing, mixed martial arts, gymnastics, strength competitions, cross fit, and arm wrestling.

We were so nervous when it came time for our daughter to take the stage for her portion of the competition.  There was no need to worry, though, because she looked amazing ... not that we're biased or anything, you understand.

That's her on the far left, competing against other women in the Tall class.

Guess what?  She won!!!  Her first competition, and she won!  She worked SO hard for this, with a special diet and 10 weeks of training, and all of us are really, really proud of her.

The spray-on tan is a necessary part of the process, but it sure looks odd when she isn't under the stage lights.

Sunday.  After spending all day, and into the night, on Saturday at the sports festival (which was two hours from home), it was right back on the road for me and Daniel on Sunday ... we were invited to attend the Virginia Foxtrotters Presidential Puppy Prance canine musical freestyle event, along with Kim and TJ ... thank goodness it was only about 15 minutes up the road from here.

TJ is such a happy boy!  Nineteen months cancer free ... woo hoo!!!

We saw wonderful dog dancing routines ... TJ and Daniel enjoyed meeting all the other dogs and their humans.  (Kim and I always love spending the day talking about dogs with other dog lovers.)

We hung out with Sammy the greyhound, and his human, Joyce.  A crew from ABC's 20/20 was at this event, and here is Joyce being interviewed, and Sammy doing what greyhounds do best.  (The show is scheduled to air on March 2 ... mark your calendars.)

This morning, we woke up to a sunny day and a world covered with a light coating of snow ... and no place scheduled that I HAVE to go. 

Temperatures are warming up and the snow won't be here for long ... thank goodness.

What did you do this weekend?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Changing Direction in Midstream

In late October, I found a wonderful deal on a large Hoosier cupboard (a Sellers, if we want to be perfectly correct about it) on Craig's List.  Having a Hoosier is a Bucket List item for me, so I convinced The Husband to come along ... to Waynesboro, which is an hour and a half away from here. 

The cupboard was everything I hoped it would be, though it was filthy and tired.  The deal was completed, the Hoosier loaded up, and we brought it home.

We unloaded it into the driveway, and proceeded to spend the rest of the afternoon with Simple Green cleaner and scrubbing pads and buckets of water, cleaning the filth off of it enough for us to be comfortable bringing it into the house.

"Much better, Mommy," says Alice.

I wanted so badly for this to look good in this one particular spot in our dining room, but it was not to be.  At only 72" tall, the Hoosier looked squatty and small against the 9 1/2 foot ceiling.  One day, I got a brainstorm and decided that this would be a wonderful cabinet for the sewing room (my cutting board fits perfectly on the enamel top) ... so up to the sewing room it went.  And it's been there ever since, waiting to be refurbished.

My initial plan was to match the original color of this cupboard, which is a dark greenish grey, and repaint it.  In its history, it's been grey, then white, then this awful aqua ... it's terrible if you see it in person, and I usually LOVE aqua and turquoise.

This side must have been up against a wall when the cupboard was painted green.

Yesterday, I was in the workshop and I decided to see if I could mix up a comparable grey using my Annie Sloan chalk paints.  I took equal parts of Olde White and Graphite, added a bit of Olive to green it up, and it looked pretty good.  Not perfect, but acceptable.

... and I proceeded to paint the side of the cupboard ... then I removed the upper doors and moved on to the front frame.

The color dried a little bit darker and it was not as green as I thought it would be, and the cupboard began to look a bit like a WWII era army desk.  I convinced myself that I could make it work, and I kept painting.

I removed the drawers and doors from the base, and I noticed that there was some loose paint that needed to be scraped off.  With my trusty carbide pull scraper in hand, I quickly realized that there must have been no surface preparation done before this piece was painted white, and I could easily scrape ALL the paint off ... down to the original, which was stuck on tight.

About half an hour of scraping later, I had the whole front of the base clean as a whistle.  I'm really liking this scraped, chippy, original look.

After I cleaned up my mess on the floor of the sewing room (tiny chips of paint EVERYWHERE), I took one of the doors outside to see if I could scrape it, too.  If I could, my plan to chalk paint this cupboard would be shelved in favor of scraping it down to the original finish and waxing it.

As I scraped the door, I found this ...

The original stencil was still perfectly intact!  That seals it ... there will be no chalk paint transformation for this beauty, and I will scrape off the little bit of chalk paint that I applied.

Now I just have to go to the paint store and get a new scraper blade, because the one I have is pretty dull.

This is a project that I can work on as I get the time and inclination  (which means, don't look for it to be finished any time soon).  That's okay ... with what little I have done, I can already see that I will love it. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Miniature Roses at the Grocery Store

How many of us saw these last week ... displays of perfect little potted miniature roses in tempting displays at the grocery store?

They only cost about five dollars, and we are weakened by the lack of sunshine from short winter days, so we succomb and buy one.  It's cold outside, and the roses outside are sleeping, so the idea of having roses growing and blooming on the windowsill may be more than we can resist.

Here's a fact that is not so secret ... roses, even miniature roses, are meant to be outdoor plants.  Trying to keep them inside as houseplants is a plan that is doomed to fail.

How can this be, you ask?  These little plants are so fat and happy looking.

Here is the secret to their girth ... three little rooted cuttings are in this pot.  Some vendors put four or more cuttings in their pots.

These little guys are greenhouse grown, in ideal conditions to produce concentrated growth.  Multiple cuttings per pot makes a really nice looking display in the store, but it's not geared for the long-term survival of the roses themselves.

Working in a dishpan in my kitchen sink, here's what I did with my pot of miniature roses.

I tipped the plant out of the pot, and I carefully ripped the rootball apart ... mindful to keep as much root mass as possible with each plant.

I removed some of the lower-most leaves, because they're in the way for repotting and they are probably going to die off anyway now that the plant is out of the commercial greenhouse environment, and I replant each little rose in its own pot.

As when repotting any plant, use good potting soil, water thoroughly, and allow the pots to drain.

Here they are, ready to go outside to the greenhouse with the rest of my baby roses.  (oops, they didn't drain enough and they're making a puddle.)

I keep them in the dishpan till I take them to the greenhouse.

If you don't have a greenhouse, you may be able to successfully keep your miniature roses alive inside until spring ... but only until the weather is warm enough so they won't freeze.  Dry winter indoor air creates a perfect environment for spidermites, which can build to epidemic proportions very quickly and will can actually kill your rose.  Use a humidity tray (a saucer of gravel filled with water) to help with this.  It also can help to give your roses a thorough shower with your sink sprayer once a week while they are indoors.

Don't take this as any sort of advice or encouragement about how to grow roses indoors long term.  The idea here is to do what we can to keep these little greenhouse-grown babies alive while they're inside being protected from the cold weather that they are unaccustomed to.  By next year, these babies will be grown-up garden roses and the cold shouldn't be any big deal for them.

As an experiment, two of these roses are going to my greenhouse and one is going to stay on my west-facing kitchen windowsill.  We'll follow their progress and see how well they do with these recommendations.  Any survivors will be planted in the garden come springtime.

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