Call it nesting. Call it pent up frustration at not sewing for myself. Call it spring fever. Whatever it is, I have been in a baby sewing frenzy over the last week. The projects are just so fun. You need so little fabric, they are quick, and I don’t obsess over perfection. Anything with a high chance of getting pooped or vomited on, and a wearing span of 3 months just lowers the bar a lot.
1) He’s All Boy Baby Cap from This Mama Makes Stuff:
Not quite as manly as the original plaid version, but nothing says “summer” and “total gentleman” like mint seersucker.
2) Big Butt Baby Pants from Made by Rae
These are the most addictive sew so far. Really fast and cute. Doesn’t a baby need 20 pairs of pants? I made them both out of linen scraps I had on hand.
The best part about these is the extra panel to provide more room for cloth diapering fluff butt. Bonus: the baby will blend in with our pillows when he wears the green pair.
I’ve read lots of great things about wool covers (aka “soakers”) over cloth diapers, especially at night. You can make them short (like underwear) or long (like pants). I made these out of felted sweaters from the Goodwill. I would totally wear the purple pants in heartbeat – cashmere.
Not to get too deep into my diaper bag thoughts, but I can’t have my main purse be my diaper bag. I use my purse to carry notebooks and food to work, and I want our diaper bag to be something Mr. B or my mom can take. If I am required to transfer my wallet, phone, and keys out of one bag, then I usually end up without at least one of them later. I saw lots of comments about diaper clutches – a smaller bag that can hold a few diapers and wipes. This one is an all-in-one changing pad and clutch that I can put in my purse when we just go out to run short errands, or that can be easily added to the diaper bag (or not, depending on my brain capacity). The pockets are smaller than I expected – I can carefully cram 2 prefolds into one pocket, and a small dry bag, cover, and wipes into the other. I used iron on vinyl for the inside of the cover. Amazing! Instantly make any fabric waterproof and wipeable.
Everyone puts furniture on their floor plan, right? When we were designing the house, I knew that I wanted a big, sturdy island in kitchen, so I planned to make sure there was enough room for the thing. It needed to be big enough that you didn’t need to worry about pushing something off the other side (3 x 4′), have a solid top, and be just the right height to knead bread on. Mr. B also wanted something we could use to process an animal on. Some friends recently built an island so close to what I was imagining that I announced my personal plan to build the thing. The thought of me, wood, his tools, and my past wood working projects was enough to get Mr. B on-board, and we turned this project out in about a week (with help from Mr. B’s dad).
We’ve been using a flimsy folding table that you couldn’t get clean, and I was so sick of looking at it. I knew that the island was a good idea though – that little table had already become a center focus of the kitchen. We put groceries on it, drop the mail there, pull things out of the fridge and drop them on it, served drinks and appetizers there. This new island is going to do its job so much better. Mr. B’s brother, Mr. T, helped us move it into place last night and we instantly started using it. The top is maple rubbed with mineral oil, and the base is fir. Ain’t she a beaut?
We need to do something to the top though. I applied the recommended 6 coats of mineral oil, and the wood really did drink it up. But when Mr. B wiped it down with a sponge, a huge rough spot raised on one side. Even letting more oil sit on top overnight didn’t fix it. I know that it is counter, and it is going to get dinged and knife marked and stained, but it is hard to accept that wiping it with a sponge is going to rough up the surface. We’re going to try raising the grain with water, sanding it again, and then applying more oil over several days. Fingers crossed that I can go back to rubbing my face on it by Sunday.
Mr. B and his dad started heroically installing steps up to our house over the weekend. Our house sits on a pile of super mud – super dark, super sticky, super everywhere. Walking from the bottom of the hill to the top is enough to coat your entire shoe in a huge wad of mud that you then leave everywhere. I’ve resorted to carrying “town shoes” down to my car just to avoid the embarrassment of leaving a trail of mud (fresh and dried) in every building I enter. Since the house is also on a slope, walking up the hill can be a little dangerous in the winter as well, and it just doesn’t have that “Welcome” feeling you want.
We’re using some of the short logs left over from the old cabin. I love having these logs around! Mr. B and his dad cut in holes for each log to sit in, then laid weed mat under the entire “stair case”. We’re using pea gravel to fill it all in. Even halfway done, it already feels so much nicer, and our shoes are staying cleaner (we’re getting lots of rain right now).
Things are only a problem if they bother you. While this sounds like the kind of thing Mr. B would say to me when the cat pees in the tub again, I think it is actually from one of those baby training books. How did I become a person reading baby books? Anyway, I was thinking yesterday when I was throwing grass seed around like a wood nymph. It’s been a few weeks since Shorty finished the excavation, and I had the best intentions to do things like pick up all the random wood, find our grass seeder, and weed whip the existing grass. Then it started raining, and I decided it was better to just put seeds out there then wait and watch all the weeds grow back. I threw grass seeds around with abandon, including on top of wood and in a puddle, but at least it is out there. So what if our future lawn is full of wood, and there are so many random divots you will never be able to use a lawn mower. It’s only a problem if it bothers me. At least this way there might be grass and not mud, and that can only be a good thing.
In other news:
1) It is supposed to rain all weekend, so I might go randomly toss our cover crop on the ground.
2) Mr. B is building a kitchen island that is strong enough to butcher a pig on.
3) Mr. B’s parents are in town for the weekend.
Finally, a satisfying home dec sewing project. Pillows! We got a passel of throw pillows when we bought this couch, but they never turned up post-move. I liked the pattern in our old house, but I don’t think it would have worked with our new living room colors anyway. The fabric is from the Timber and Leaf collection (I got it on fabric.com). I’m sure I broke some sewing rule by using quilting weight cotton for home dec, but I just love this fabric! Don’t call the sewing police, but I’m going to break the big sewing rule and use the third fabric to make a skirt at some point in my non-pregnant future.
The covers are envelope style – an overlap in the back gives access to the pillow. I made two with continuous lengths of fabric (long rectangles), and two with the fronts and backs cut separately and sewn together into a square. I prefer the one piece over the three piece cases. They used less fabric and the corners look nicer.
The magnificent Shorty came out this weekend to finish the shaping around our house. It looks so much better now! Before the land was really randomly chopped up. We had ditches, piles of building supplies, lot of grass and weeds – just yuck. Having Shorty come out was motivation to finally clean up all of the building supplies, including plastering tools! I’m feeling a little overwhelmed now that we’re faced with all of this bare dirt. I’ve been planning the landscaping since we first drew up the house plans (!), but the reality is making me unsure of my ideas.
We park at the bottom of this hill, so we’re going to put in stairs that run from the parking area up to the porch. At some point we are also going to build a front porch and stop using this as tool storage. I’m planning a foundation planting along the wall. Maybe hydrangeas, coneflower and mock orange? Most of this area is getting seeded with a native grass mix. I’m also considering putting in a flowering tree (crabapple?) off to the top right on top of that little hill.
We’re making a patio area with pea gravel along this side, probably about 12 feet wide. That will take up mot of the bench (the flat part), and I’d like to do some kind of flowering border along the edge. I started blanket flower, black eyed Susan, and milkweed in the greenhouse for a fast growing, reliable, and somewhat native mix. Does it seem like just flowers is too little? Maybe the border needs shrubs or grasses? The hill slope is getting seeded with native grass mix as well. This area is pretty long (about 70 feet) and accessed from the great room, so it is going to be our main outdoor area with a table, a fire ring, the grill, some chairs. Maybe one day a more permanent outdoor oven? The stuff of dreams. I originally was going to put medium-sized trees at either end, but Mr. B wants the option to be able to drive up to the house (no tree on the east end), and my favorite view is down the valley (no trees on the west end). Any ideas on another way to sort of bookend the space?
Sorry for the weird picture – this side is weirdly difficult to take a picture. It is another bench (flat area) that slopes down to meet the rest of the property. We’re going to put in a smaller gravel patio area on this side that eventually will be covered. Most of our weather comes from the west, so a covered patio will protect the plaster and give us the option to sit outside when it rains or provide some shade. We’re also going to fence in an area running from the house out into the field so Tempe can go in and out of the house when we’re not here. I’d like to use that fenced area as our official backyard – a lawn, flower beds, clothes line. I always hated lawns when we had them, but it is so nice to have some mowed and watered grass to sit or play on. I’ll be happy even if this just becomes a fenced dog yard with tall grass (how redneck). We live about half an hour outside of town, and there are a lot of days when it is hard to balance being in town with having a dog that needs to be let out of the house. In my dreams, this area is a huge flower garden though, with all of those flowers I wanted to grow but couldn’t justify buying. There is also at least one hammock. The biggest challenge with this side of the house is the road (just behind me in the picture). I’d really like to increase the privacy with plantings and growing stuff on the future fence.
I have a feeling that the 2013 gardening year isn’t going to be as productive for us as I imagined when I was buying all those seeds. We’re getting a bit of a slow start, mostly due to our busy schedules, weather, and some other delays. My starts are a lot smaller and/or weirdly unhealthy looking, which makes me question how well they’ll do in the field. At the same time though, I think we’re going to get some of the kinks worked out compared to last year, and resolving those issues is important to long term gardening success.
Our biggest issue last year was lack of time (understatement of the year right there). No wait, our biggest problem was total grass invasion. Or was it a serious problem watering? Whatever the root cause was, the garden looked pretty neglected and overrun by mid-summer, but not a lot of what was out there was actually crops. Grass ate a lot of my beds (I never did find the strawberries again), and the areas we plowed but didn’t use were grass and other weeds. By the end of the season I just walked away from the whole thing. We were plastering, moles were invading, and there was hardly any produce. The tools were still where I dropped them.
This year we’re trying a new garden prep strategy. I didn’t realize what a huge leap there would be between a small garden you can work entirely by hand and a garden this size that you really need bigger implements to tend. Last year we plowed the field (to turn under grass), tilled the field (smooth out the soil), and then I went through each bed and rototilled and raked them again to try and get out more grass roots. We didn’t use our tractor efficiently and we didn’t get out the weeds.
Our soil is clay and grass roots, which makes any soil preparation difficult. This year, Mr. B plowed up parts of the field just to break the soil. He couldn’t plow the entire field because the clumps of grass roots/clay clogged the plow too much. Next, we used a disc to break up the soil that he had just plowed (picture above). We borrowed the disc from a neighbor down the road and it is a real beast:
Then we repeated the process again, only this time we were able to plow and disc the entire field.
Finally, we used a spring tooth harrow/cultivator to pull some of the grass roots up to the surface.
Spring tooth harrows are the preferred implement to get rid of grass in your fields. Our farmer friend is trying to get rid of quack grass on his property, and he suggested using the harrow every week if possible. Each pass pulls more roots up to the surface where they wither and die. Insert maniacle laughter here. You can’t water the area at the same time though, so we will probably harrow once or twice more this spring. We’re also going to use a tiller to incorporate compost into the beds next week, and that will chop up some of the grass roots. Hopefully in future springs the whole process can be streamlined, maybe just to harrow-disc (since we don’t own and can’t afford a tiller). I’d like to try using pigs to turn over the garden and fertilize the in the fall as well.
We decided to plow up about twice as much space as we currently need with the plan to improve the soil using cover crops. In the future this area could be an expanded garden, we could use it to grow crops for livestock, or we could let parts of the garden rest every year. Last year this area turned into a weed field, but I’d really like to (a) prevent weed growth, and (b) start to lighten up our clay soil. You can lighten clay with compost, but that route is expensive, especially if you aren’t going to be using the field. This year I made up a cover crop mix at our local feed supply store out of oats, red clover, and field peas. These should add nitrogen to the field, suppress weeds, and eventually add organic matter. I’m still not really sure how you are supposed to manage cover crops, but at the very least they should help suppress the weeds and make our neighbor’s bees happy.