Monday, February 29, 2016

Baby Roses in the Basement

One corner of my basement workshop is set up as a place to nurture my fall rose cuttings and to hold over any resulting plants till it's safe for them to live outside in the spring.  It feels wonderful to work with green, growing things in winter, while the world outside is brown and dormant.  It's the main way that this gardener survives the downtime of winter.

My light set-up is simple ... a chrome-plated shelf rack from Costco, and each shelf is fitted with a cheap four-foot two-bulb fluorescent light fixture.  One bulb is cool spectrum, one bulb is warm spectrum.  This is not as efficient as the expensive grow lights, but it does the job that I need.

This year's crop of roses is very special to me.  They are some of the rare ones from my garden, along with plants from the collection at Monticello's Tufton Farm.  A few of these babies are destined to be traded with rose friends.  Most of them will be sent to rose nurseries, for use as stock plants ... with the goal of making them available in commerce in the future.  This is the best way I know to preserve these roses, and to do what I can to insure their continued survival.

In addition to the roses, I also have some baby fig plants.  These came from cuttings that I took last October at an abandoned service station in Louisa County, Virginia.  (I love figs almost as much as I love roses.)

There's a Magnolia seedling in there, too, that I found growing underneath one of my roses last fall.

In the next week or so, I will package up the Florida-bound plants and ship them to their new home at Rose Petals Nursery.  The rest of them will stay safely in the basement till the end of March.  That's when I plan to transplant them into six-inch pots and begin to transition them to their life outdoors in the garden.

"Preserving history one rose at a time" 

(This is the motto at Rose Petals, and it perfectly expresses exactly how I feel about what I do!)

Click HERE to go to my propagation photo tutorial.  It's really, really easy!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Two Master Bedroom Projects, Using Things I Already Had

Part of my ongoing quest to downsize and declutter involves sifting through the hoard of things that are stored in my sewing room.  I cannot overstate the horror that exists in that room (and, no, I'm not going to show it to you.  Don't even ask.)  Fabric, craft supplies, half-finished projects, notions, hardware, yarn ... you get the idea.

One of the things I discovered in the stash was a 9-foot by 12-foot canvas drop cloth.  That turned out to be the exact right amount of fabric to make a new bed skirt for our king-sized bed.

No fancy styling here ... our comforter was straight of the dryer, and I decided that wrinkles are real life.

Here is what it looked like before ... a sweet, two-tiered, ruffly, 1990s edition bed skirt ... that was too short because it was measured and made for our previous house when our bed sat on wall-to-wall carpet instead of wood floor.

This isn't your usual type of bed skirt.  Years ago, our bed was one of those soft-side water beds ... unbelievably heavy and impossible to simply lift up to remove/change/wash the bed skirt, so I designed an alternative.  The foundation portion of the bed skirt stays in place between the mattress and the box spring, and the skirt part is attached to it with snap tape!  It's a simple matter to unsnap the skirt, wash, dry, and iron it, and snap it back into place.

The skirt is made in three pieces, one for each side of the bed.  A king-sized bed is 78-inches wide and 80-inches long.  With the drop cloth cut into quarters lengthwise, and one of the strips cut into thirds and pieced onto the other strips, this allowed for three pieces of fabric that were almost exactly twice the measurement of each side of the bed.  Perfect proportion and no waste!

21-1/4 inches from the floor to the top of the snap tape.

Separate pieces for each side, to split the corners and allow for the bed posts.

I recycled the snap tape from the original skirt onto the new skirt.  The new skirt has pleats instead of gathers ... more to my current taste, and WAY easier to do.

It took a few hours, but none of the construction was too taxing.  Three LONG rectangles, hemmed on all sides, measure and fold the pleats, with snap tape applied to the top edge.  I installed each panel as I finished it, to feed my need to see progress.

By the end of the afternoon, it was finished ... and what a difference!!  (The remains of old bed skirt could still be useful to someone who wants a LOT of white polished cotton fabric, so I folded it and dropped it into to Donate Box.)

The second Master Bedroom project was a set of drapes.  I bought a package of turquoise velvet drapery panels at Ikea years ago, because I loved the color and I figured that I would hold onto them to use the fabric for something one day. 

I have wanted some sort of curtains for our bedroom for a long time, but we had a not-so-small issue to overcome.  Our bedroom has two windows, one on each outside wall.  The best place in the room for our bed is in front of one of the windows.  We need that window for light (otherwise the room would be like a cave).  What type of window treatments would work for both of these windows?

North window, behind the bed.

West window.

Bedroom floor plan.  With all the doors and windows in this room, the only logical place for the bed IS in front of the north window.

Earlier this week, while I was working in the sewing room and came across that package of velvet drapes, I had a brainstorm ... would it look right if I totally ignore the window behind the bed and make drapes only for the west window?  I decided to give it a go.

Grommet-top drapes aren't my style ... so I cut off the grommets, added a strip of white canvas lining to finish the top of the panel and to form a rod pocket.  (The panels weren't long enough to allow me to fold over the top to make the rod pocket, that's why I had to add the extra fabric.  It's hidden, so no one knows it there but me.)

It only took a few minutes and four screws to install the curtain rod (which I also had on hand).

The chair?  I moved that up here over Christmas, when we had to clear out the living room for the ceiling demolition.  It's a little tight there in that corner, but I like how it looks and it gives us a place to sit to put on socks and stuff.  The pillow was a bargain buy at a barn sale last month.  The last name on it is the same as one of my ancestors, so you know I had to bring it home.

There you have it ... two sewing projects, using only materials that I already had.  Total additional cost, $2.49 for a spool of thread.  

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A Post Full of Random Photos

The purpose of this post is for me to do something with some photos that have been hanging around in my Blog file for a few weeks.  Let's use this as an opportunity to catch up on some stuff.

#1.  I took this photo on the afternoon after we spent the day digging out from our blizzard, which I told you about in THIS post.  I intended to capture a normal scene, and to show how relaxed and happy Maggie was ... then I noticed my husband's socks.  He absolutely IS my Superman.

#2.  I recently had a meeting with the folks at Hollywood Cemetery.  After we finished, I drove through the cemetery to check on a few things.  When I saw this little angel with her Santa hat, I had to stop and take her picture.

#3.  I have had my '66 Mustang since 2002.  In all this time, it has had a radio but no speakers.  As a present to myself, I ordered after-market kick panels with speakers in them.  I also ordered a new dashboard speaker, which I will install when the weather is warmer.  Now that the little Pony has music, it's going to be good to have something besides the voices in my head to listen to while I'm driving.

#4.  I showed you my Amaryllis sprouts in THIS post from December.  Those little sprouts grew tall and strong, and I had beautiful red flowers on my kitchen windowsill for weeks.

I also have an Iron Cross Begonia, an Orchid, and a pot of Lycoris Aurea.

#5.  I'm still working hard to declutter, downsize, and organize around here.  In 2015, we donated 374 useful items to charity, just over one item per day, and threw out lord-only-knows-how-many useless things.  My goal for 2016 is to double this number and to donate TWO items per day this year.  So far, with five trips to the charity shop as of today, day #48, 199 items are out of the house and on their way to new homes.  All of this effort really makes a difference in how this place looks and functions.

#6.  Part of my winter routine is to avoid the cold and spend time sewing.  I have a few projects in the works ... I will show them to you later.  For now, I want you to see the sweet critter who keeps me company while I sew.

Alice loves her fluffy bed, on the windowsill by the radiator, with a tree full of birds to watch outside the window.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

For Love of Roses

I ordered two new roses yesterday from For Love of Roses, a nursery in Tennessee.

One is 'Candy Cane', a rare climbing miniature rose that I used to have.  It died, because I didn't make a spot for it in the garden and I left it in its too-small pot for too long.  My fault, and I've been disappointed in myself for being so neglectful.

The other one is 'Dorothy Rose' ... which happens to be our Dorothy's full name, though there is no connection between our cat and this rose.

I have lusted after 'Dorothy Rose' for a while, but it has not been in commerce until now.  A rose friend in California sent cuttings to me once, but none of them rooted for me.  

For Love of Roses is a nursery that fills a desperate need in the rose world, specializing in Miniature, Miniflora, and Single-flowered roses.  Many of these roses are not available anywhere else.  They truly do this for the LOVE of roses.  I am happy do what I can to send to attention their way, and to order their roses for my garden.  (My new roses will ship on April 20.  I will be holding my breath till then.  I'm SO excited!!)

Monday, February 8, 2016

All I Wanted to Do Was Put Up Some Shelves ...

Old house people will be familiar with the theme of this story ... it's rare for a project in an old house to progress on schedule or as planned.  

Around here, dealing with stashes of materials for various projects is a real problem.  For example, I have siding from the Shack stacked on the floor of my workshop, parts of the trim for our stairs piled in a corner, and baseboard and casing molding from our living room leaned into a corner in the garage.

A few weeks ago, I saw THIS post over at Follow Your Heart Woodworking.  Julie built a genius lumber rack for her workshop.  I planned to use this idea to get my own materials off the floor and organized on narrow shelves on the wall of our basement hallway.  All I had to do was locate the wall's framing, screw a piece of slat-board to the wall (like I did in the garage in THIS post from 2009), slip in a few shelf brackets (which I have on hand), sort my materials onto the new shelves, then stand back and admire the results.  You have probably already guessed that this is NOT what happened.

The basement wall in question has two layers of drywall on it, which are attached to furring strips applied over a coating of gypsum plaster, which was applied over the original lime-washed brick ... I know this because of other basement walls that we have worked on.  Drywall Layer #2, the outer-most layer, was only secured with glue and a few screws.  I figured that I should remove it to have better access and a more secure attachment to the furring strips that were behind Drywall Layer #1.  As I was pulling off chunks of Layer #2, I realized that Layer #1 was poorly secured, too.  Dang it!!

This is as close as I can get to a Before photo.  The green that you see is the lower-most layer of drywall.  The upper-most layer is somewhere under that pile of stuff on the floor.

Turns out that there was very little left of the furring strips that were intended to secure Layer #1 to the wall, and the gypsum plaster at the bottom of the wall behind all of this had completely separated from the underlying brick.

Bottom portion of one of the furring strips.

Two more furring strips, totally decayed.  The black that you see is creosote, which was supposed to help the wood resist moisture.

Gypsum plaster is good for a lot of things, but applying it in damp environments is a total no-no.  Lime plaster would have been a better choice.  (This old house of ours is made entirely of soft brick, which is known to soak up water like a sponge.  This causes a condition called "rising damp".  Any water around or underneath the house is absorbed, transferred up the walls by capillary action, then dissipates as vapor.)  The former owners of our house who finished the basement early in the 20th century and used the gypsum plaster on the walls were probably not aware that they should be concerned with this.  (For the record, we have never had any standing water in this basement, neither did the family that owned the place before us.  I don't know about the experience of any other owners.)

See how the gypsum plaster has totally separated from the brick.

The gypsum plaster slumped and cracked, and fell away.

As the water vapor exits the bricks, it carries minerals from the plaster and mortar with it, leaving behind crystals called efflorescence.

How about some really scary electrical stuff?  (Not to worry, we recognized this a long time ago and disconnected it.)

Look at the rust on that electrical box!

The next photo shows drywall layers and furring strips are down ... next step was removing the loose gypsum plaster, with a hammer and 5-in-1 tool ... then the big job of cleaning up my mess (which I did not photograph).

About three hours after the project started, I was left with this ... a mostly-bare brick wall, and no shelves.

We like the look of the original brick, and leaving it exposed to allow for unrestricted flow of vapor is healthier for the house.  The other side of the basement hallway and most of our game room is already like this.  Eventually, we plan to remove the rest of the drywall and plaster, to expose the brick throughout the entire basement and return it to more of its original appearance.

Game room wall.

Game room wall.

Basement stairs.

After all of this effort, I scrapped the idea of making this into a materials storage wall.  The plan was going to be a temporary solution anyway, so now I will brainstorm and come up with another idea to organize my materials and supplies.  

What's the Take Away lesson in this story?  Covering up a problem (with multiple cover-ups, in this case) won't make it go away.

Postscript ... When I went upstairs after I finished all the banging and hammering, this was the scene in the family room.

It's good to know that Ruby and Winnie weren't bothered by all the noise.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Be the Change

This meme floated across my Facebook feed the other day, and I saved it to share it here because I identify with it so completely.

It sounds so simple, and it is.  All it takes is a minor adjustment in attitude to bring so much reward ... smile, look on the bright side, be thankful, greet strangers, let a car or two ahead of you in traffic.  There may be days when positive things are harder to find, but it's worth your effort to look for whatever slight glimmer of something in the chaos to be thankful for.

"We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses."
-Abraham Lincoln

I choose to rejoice.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Planting Roses in the Cleared Section of the Rose Field

When you last saw the Rose Field, I had cleared the weeds from one of the reworked planting areas.  (To see the post where I showed you this part of the story, click HERE)  A week and a half ago, a few days before our recent blizzard, I had a day of favorable weather and time in my schedule.  I used that day to finish the cleared area and to get some roses planted in there.

The roses in question are all once-bloomers, all of which have been kept in small pots for WAY too long.  I only have positive IDs on three of them, having bought them from nurseries as named varieties ... they are:  'Malton', 'Capitaine Basroger', and 'Crimson Globe'.  (Highlighted rose names in this post are links to more information about that rose on its Help Me Find page.)

'Malton', as photographed in Hollywood Cemetery.

Seven of the roses are Found Roses, unknown varieties that I either bought or raised from cuttings.  

"Warrenton Shailer's Provence" (from cuttings taken in a cemetery in Warrenton, Virginia)
"Maureen's Rose" (from cuttings given to me by a nursery customer.  It's probably a form of 'Banshee')
"Teresa's Rose" (another rose grown from cuttings given to me by a former nursery customer)
"Nathalie's High Hills" (Hybrid China)
"Dr. Peck's 12th Avenue Smoothie" (Hybrid China, from the historic Sacramento City Cemetery)
"Millbrook Gallica" (discovered at a historic estate in Virginia)
"Jeanette's Striped Rose" (grown from cuttings given to me by a friend)

That bud is so typical of 'Banshee'

The remaining three roses are ones that had identities at one time, but each of them now has a faded tag or no tag at all.  I have kept them separate from the rest of my potted roses, so I can watch them and try to do what I can to figure out what they are.  (I have photos of two of the three.)

The prep and planting process was very straight forward.  It didn't take long to lay landscape fabric on the cleared 11-foot by 28-foot area and secure it with ground staples. 

Next, I laid out the roses ... hoping like crazy that six-foot centers is enough space for each of them. I'm a bit nervous about what the unknown ones are going to do as they grow.  

I used the rim of a large pot as a template for the holes in the landscape fabric ...

... dug holes, then planted the roses.  Right now, it looks like a weird garden of sticks spaced WAY too far apart.  

These roses are very cold-hardy, and they should be perfectly fine being planted in January.  They're better in the ground like this than if they were still living in their pots.  For now, they will continue to sleep for the rest of the winter ... and I look forward watching them, now that they can finally spread their roots and grow into mature plants.

(This is the first of a series of posts to tie up some loose ends, finish a story or two, and catch everyone up on the stuff that's been going on this winter.)
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