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Square pillows done. On to the rectangles.

About rectangular pillows: are they for your lower back? Or are they for your elbow when the chair’s armrest is just too, too hard? Or is it another design conspiracy of form over function? “You know, dahling, what this chair really needs is a rectangle. Squares are soo last week.” Stupid.

Well, regardless (not irregardless because that is just stupid), the patio set has two rectangular pillows, and you can’t break up a set, so they get a new fabric slap-up. With a surprise twist, as promised.

Here is the (ugly) pillow. The fabric feels like the stuff that store shopping bags are made of. Cheap.

And the surprise? Well, I had to figure our how to make the pillow covers removable (and therefor washable). Birds fly over the patio and have been known to poop on things. It’s easy to make a removing flap thingee on a square pillow. Not so with a (stupid) rectangular pillow.

So I sewed envelope flaps into the top of the pillows.

My intention was to close the flap with a button. But this would require a button hole, and I could not remember how to make the Bernina’s button holer work. (Must go in for a refresher as the instruction manual was written by people who use the word irregardless.)

In to rescue me steps Rope Work Man with a suggestion for Chinese button fasteners. Clever, clever Rope Work Man.

Rope Work Man

Looks a bit like an over-pass nightmare at first.

But then…

The round part is a lanyard knot.Here are the two together. One side done.

Here is the other–nifty!

And here is the rectangular cushion on our patio, looking spiffy.

And what is this? A table made out of a Canada Dry pop bottle crate? Another project done! (Thank you, Chris and Nelson.)

I think I need to start a new book. My elbow will be very comfortable in that chair.

Have I said how much I like our patio? (I really like our patio.) Now that I have improved the view a bit, the patio is more and more like an extra room for us. A comfy place to take a load off on the cushy chairs or couch. But don’t look at the cushions. They’re ugly.

Ok, look at the cushions. Two square, two rectangular:

Ugly, right? Well, if not ugly, boring maybe. Time for a little improvement.

I found this lovely tomato red fabric at Fabricland, and because of a sale and a flaw along the selvage, I got it for a steal. Enough for four pillows and a runner for under $10.

I didn’t want to mess with piping, but I wanted the pillows to be a bit tailored so I experimented with an alternative.

It was satisfying to spend some time reacquainting myself with my Bernina.

I’ll admit, I had no idea what the piping would turn out like. Looks like a little envelope corner.

These pillows sewed up quickly and they sure look cheery on the patio.

I made the cases removable because we slop drinks and such in this family.

I think I want to go sit in the sun and lean on this pillow.

The rectangular pillows are just about done. Little surprise coming with them.

The Good: Last year I fought a two-month battle with the currant sawfly. More specifically, I fought with its caterpillar-type larvae. This was the devastation they wrought. Who needs Agent Orange?

I didn’t really win the battle in that I didn’t get a single currant, but I did wind up with a few leaves on the two bushes in the end.

Return of the currant bush- July 2010

Because the wigglers were so destructive I had to cut the plants right back. I was pretty surprised that the bushes recovered. The darn bugs have two broods each spring, so I was watching into this July, rubbing off eggs and picking worms.

This spring I was actually able to kill adult flies. The weather was cold and this seem to slow them right down. I checked the plants twice a day for the eggs and eventually gave up rubbing off the eggs–I just pulled off the leaves.

I was much crueler with the wormies–I picked them off and fed them to the ants. (No pictures of the massacre.)

Currants set fruit on last year’s wood. There wasn’t much in the way of wood for this year, so we got a total of only 18 berries. But aren’t they beautiful?

Not sure what to do with 18 currants. Won’t make very big pie or a lot of jam. But we are optimistic for next year.

Return of the currant bush: July 2011

The Good: I often feel disappointed that the camera doesn’t capture the true colour of a plant. This pretty hydrangea serrata “Bluebird” is a sweet pink and looks great against the split leaf Japanese maple.  And I love the blue pots.

The Sluggly: Many people are calling this the summer that wasn’t. It has been grey and rainy for more than two months, though it looks like better days are ahead for our sailing trip (fingers crossed). I have been sweating about my veggy garden–the tomatoes in particular. They were purple with cold in late May and early June but were finally looking perky with healthy leaves, pretty blooms, and yes, fruit when school let out.

But too much rain…well, it’s like the damn slugs are falling from the sky. And then when they arrive they want to eat. And party with their bug friends.

So that was the end of those two tomatoes. The first two that looked like they might amount to something.  On to the kale. And during daylight, no less.

Sigh. Who’s your garden nemesis?

The Wall

I keep saying how much we like our patio. It’s one of my favourite “rooms” in this house.  If this soggy July weather would pass I would spend a lot more time out there smelling the honeysuckle, listening to the birds, and admiring the wall.

This was the wall:The Wall.

It used to be the dirt-bottomed lean-to annex of the shed, but now, following Chris’s efforts last July, it’s the wall.  Very practical and a step up from the dirt-bottomed lean-to, but a bit boring. Not an eye-sore but in need of a little something.

After a bit of research and mess-making, this is the wall now:

(If you click on that image you’ll see what I mean by rain.)

Planning and Doing

I had thought of doing this, but discovered that it would be surprisingly expensive and fussy. Who knew old window frames were worth fifty bucks? Through June I kept my eyes open for a cheaper alternative.

I lucked into some wire containers at Winners–not on sale but reasonable from my point of view. And I snapped up some not-yet-scraggly bedding plants on sale. I did buy a bag of moss which was probably stupid since we have had so much rain that moss is growing on almost every outdoor surface. I got a two-for-one deal on the potting soil and had some left over landscape fabric.

I don’t have the during pictures which is probably a good thing since the whole process was a bit like making sausage. Moss first, landscape fabric next, then soil and plants. I did it in the kitchen. Messy. Much sweeping ensued. Did you know that pill bugs like sphagnum moss? They don’t move very quickly so I was able to herd them out the door without much drama.

Done!

One of the smaller baskets:

In case you are wondering….The impatiens above are Jambalaya Pink Blush.

Tuberous begonia: Non-Stop Bright Rose

I am pretty pleased with the result. The baskets get late afternoon sun and are thriving. I am thinking that even in the winter the baskets will look nice with some holly and fir branches.

Rain or not, the view is much improved.

We like our porch. It’s a great place to sit and relax. Sadly, it also has a view of what we have called, variously, the carriage house (which sounds too snooty), the out building (too agricultural), and the out house (too scatological). It’s really a shed with a bit of ambition. It even has an annex.

The shed annex-cum-covered bus shelter really bothered Chris. If it had been on the other side of the house, he likely would not have decided to do anything about it. So, the last two-ish weeks of July (last year) were all about the shed (annex). (And yes, this post has been sitting in my drafts folder for 12 months.)

June 2010

Notice the sagging roof line and jumble of tools. Off to the right are the wheel barrow and lawn mower. More of a lean-to thing with a dirt floor that is an occasional litter box for marauding felines. Not really convenient storage for the mower or bikes as they had to be tilted together in a mechanical knot to prevent avalanches. And, except for the very nice honeysuckle drifting over the roof, not a great view from the porch as one sips a mint julep of a summer’s eve.

Here is the progress of the improvement:

Annex roof removed and honeysuckle pulled back

Annex deck

The palm nailer makes the work go quickly

Nelson did most of the roofing and Gary helped with the walls, but both were camera shy (or I have lost the pictures in a file somewhere).

Bikes waiting to be stored neatly in shed

Chris and the finished annex. Still needs door and ramp.

And it could use something to cover up the gravel and landscape fabric. And a door, and some paint. But what an improvement. Nice work, boys.

Happiness in a Can

I have always been fascinated watching hands at work. Hands doing things like kneading bread, gutting fish, or re-wiring an electrical panel. Playing a piano, performing massage, or filling out a tax return–whatever. Things I don’t do with my fat flippers. I find my keen observational skills allow me to live vicariously through others, so when I am watching people doing real work I share their sense of accomplishment. If you are reading between the lines, you have figured out that I am lazy.

It has been quite lovely to watch Scott Judson of Knockout Painting turn our blah rooms into the spaces we want to live in. It’s as if I did it myself! (No, Jan, it isn’t.) He makes painting look easy.

Scott cuts in scary good:.

And rolls scary good:

In progress shot with cool paint holder tool that I wish I had invented:

Combined with the work done on the drywall on walls and ceilings in various parts of the house, Scott’s painting has this place sparkling. Yes, paint is happiness in a can–paint really changed this house.

Because the walls made me crazy. We have deduced that the house was mudded by a one-armed blind drywaller with the DTs. I mean, really:

And more (try to keep your focus on the wall, please):

You weren’t able to, were you? Fine. But paint and plaster make things shiny-nice. See?:

I should back up. When you have no real talent in the home decor department, you rely on your creative friends. My friend Courtney is the sort of person who should run the world. Things would get done. Good, important things. Everyone would look great, eat well, and have fun all the time. In her past life, Courtney was an interior designer: she just has a knack for colour. Courtney came over with her colour fan and we spent the afternoon going from room to room saying “umm”, “hmm”, and “ahh”. She helped me settle on the colours.

Courtenay’s lovely daughter Clementine (a renowned dog whisperer) babysat the Luke and Solo while we adults made guttural sounds about the walls. Note the wall behind Clementine. What colour would you call that, exactly?

Now, describing colour is like describing ______ (something that I can’t describe–simile failure).  I tried finding colour swatches to stick on this page, but to no avail. The paint is Benjamin Moore from our favourite paint store, House of Color. So here is my best shot at colour description:

Hush AF-95  This colour is kind of a creamy beigey grey but on the warm or cool side depending on how you hold your head.

Cailente AF-290 This is a red, but not too red, more of a grey orange red, but warmish, and spicey-like.

Dill Pickle 2147-40 Not the colour of dill pickles at all. More like an avocado, but sweeter, but not limey, but not yellow.

Hmm. Apparently I do not have a future in the home decor industry. Or in the colour naming industry. Simon Cowell would sneer.

So here are the colours, such as they are, seen through my camera lens and your computer screen. And as such are nothing at all the way they appear on our walls.

Do tell about your adventures in colour. Or paint. Or drywall. Or composting. Or making things with Popsicle sticks. Whatever. I am interested.

I have been puttering around the garden, energizer bunny style (but without the drum), pruning and moving plants. Some plants needed more light, some need less. Many have (had!) crowded, twisted branches. Some needed to be rescued from the chomping ivories of the deer, others from the slurping mouth parts tiny voracious bugs.

I am quite proud of resurrecting the currant bushes. Remember this and this?  A month and half later they look much more robust:

I will take some credit. I have checked the leaves every day for the rotters that did the damage in the first place: gooseberry sawflies. These villains keep attempting a comeback. The adults lay eggs in neat little rows on the undersides of the leaves. They look like little rice grains.The initial caterpillar nymphs make pinpricks in the leaves and just start stuffing their gobs.

Then they grow into larger, fatter, more voracious caterpillar-types.

Unless I get to them first!

I discovered a sad little hydrangea hidden among the cranesbill.

It gets pretty hot next to the concrete wall so the plant was pretty well cooked. It was nearly dead, in fact. I whacked it back and moved it, and crossed my fingers.

Looks hopeful for next year.

I now have three favourite gardening tools. First, these loppers. They are satisfying to use–I feel like a short, weakling lumberjack.

We have several large holly bushes taking over acreage. They are an invasive species here and seed easily. I can pull little seedlings by hand, but established bushes take more muscle. This monster was seven feet tall so I had to take it down branch by branch, then Chris tore the trunk out. We had to jump up and down on it to loosen it from the soil.

I also love my secateurs, especially now that Chris has given them a tune up. They feel great in my hand. Again, I feel like a pro using them.

Finally, I love this rake. Chris bought it for me so I could clean up the piles of branches that were accumulating in the yard as the result of my zealous pruning. And with all the Douglas fir in the yard, it will help with the endless pine cone gathering. Note the drywall dust on the handle–it’s everywhere.

The rakings go to the trailer, which goes to the yard waste pile at the dump, which becomes compost, which we will buy back eventually, which will go to our yard.

Which leads me to the “lose some”. In a very shady spot in the garden, a pretty pink mallow was struggling for some sun. I moved it to the hot spot that the hydrangea was in…with sad results.

So I whacked it back, and we will just wait and see. Hoping for a little currant bush good luck.

Do you get the feeling that there is a garden god who monitors your level of green thumb arrogance and takes you down a notch when you get a wee bit cocky? Do you have a plant resurrection tale? Or have you battled bugs and won? Do tell! I’d love to hear your war stories.

And thanks for reading. :)

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