August Gardening Update

August 19, 2011   //  Posted in: Backyard, Gardening   //  By: Emily   //  8 responses

When my Dad gave me my annual batch of his homegrown tomato seedlings (and then so kindly planted them for me one weekend while he house-and-dog sat), it was made very clear that not only was I obligated to care for them, nurture them, and harvest them, but I was also charged with providing regular updates on their growth and health, god-forbid the precious grand-baby tomatoes hit a rough patch.

My parents don’t live nearby, after all. They were relying heavily on the occasional photo and visit to make sure I was holding up my end of the bargain. So, here you have it: Evidence of my green thumb.

Garden progress.

The extreme heat in late June and July did wonders for them. I watered daily, since it rarely rained, and they flourished. Despite having gone into the ground a month later than usual and not having the same incentive to grow vertically as in previous years (I still haven’t gotten around to installing a trellis, but it’s not too late yet), they’ve rocked out and appear to be on par with most other gardeners in the area. The cherry tomatoes stand easily foot above my head.

Cherry tomato rock stars.

Remember what they looked like in June?

Tomatoes, June.

Here they are today! (Also, not a bad before and after of the garage wall, which I painted not too long ago. There are some hot peppers and lime basil tucked in there too, all of which latched onto the earth and began to flourish wonderfully, but are mostly covered by the tomatoes.)

Tomatoes, August.

Miscellaneous interjection: You know that Cody likes being in the spotlight. He’s usually garbling in Dog-ese, like I pointed out in a photo of him howling a few weeks ago when I brought this big plant home.

No surprise, he photo-bombed my tomato shoot and I snapped his super-cute pre-howl nose wrinkle that’s his sure tell of emotion:

The very hard to photograph, infamous, nose wrinkle.And on to the expected howl.It’s a quiet howl, by the way. More like a moody, chatty grumble. I’m fairly sure the neighbors aren’t bothered by it. He’s not the loud dog of the neighborhood.

Anyways, where was I? Wednesday marked the first harvest. A nice plum variety, they would have been delish on my salad for dinner if they hadn’t had some strange infection on the bottom. What causes this? They weren’t resting on the ground or anything.

Tomato butt rot.

I’ve been referring to it kindly as “tomato butt rot”.

Tomato butt rot.I’m reasonably confident that this is an isolated incident. Hopefully the whole plant isn’t infested.

On the other side of the yard, other veggies are also thriving. In June, I dropped a few seeds in a cleared garden bed to see what would happen. Cautiously, I did label each section of seed so I could see what would grow:

Mini-garden.Unfortunately, the sharpie marker washed away during the next rainstorm, so all I know is that I have scallions on one end, and pumpkins on the other. But there’s lots happening in the middle. I believe that’s a member of the squash family crawling it’s way out across the yard.

The squash family is rocking out.Despite having a few critters finding and making lunch out of my blossoms, they’re doing pretty well. (Seriously, is it yellow squash? Zucchini? Help a girl out… her labels washed-away.)

Blossoms. Soon to be loaded with veggies.Somewhere under all of those plants are peas and string beans struggling to get sunlight. I did happily eat 4 beans before photographing the last one.

Beans. Good.

The zinnias, nasturtiums, and black-eyed susans are also finally beginning to add some color to my open shelves and kitchen table. I love the yellows and orange accents, you know. You can tell, because the frames on these open shelves were painted with my favorite very inexpensive paint.

Small bouquets.

Last year, my zinnias stood as tall as me in my front yard, and bloomed into November; this year they’re in the backyard and a little squattier, but gradually increasing in flower production.

So, how does your garden grow?


Tested: How To Paint Behind A Radiator

August 18, 2011   //  Posted in: DIY, Entryway, Living Room   //  By: Emily   //  10 responses

Those pesky radiators really make it hard to do a thorough paint job.

At least, that’s what I convinced myself when I moved into my house and painted every room floor to ceiling, except for those irritating tight spots behind the radiators. You know which ones I’m talkin’ about.

Sneaky, sneaky unpainted wall.The ones no standard paint roller or brush will wedge into, without being totally obvious that you forced a large, drippy, paint-covered object in there.

Unpainted wall, peering at me every time I walk by.

Installed extremely close to the wall, cast iron radiators take quite a bit of time to drain and remove for the convenience of painting without obstacle. And if you’ve ever been patient enough to drain one, you probably already know that you need to hire a small army to help you move it. And then you and the army bond over the next two days laying on the couch watching DIY Network because you all threw your backs out or dropped it on your foot.

My experience, at least.

But I was furiously determined to come up with an easier way to paint behind the radiators. My inspiration came to me when I was painting the entryway radiator that glossy, glossy gray last month. Actually, what happened is that a piece of plastic wrap got stuck to the paint (dried paint, thankfully), and it occurred to me that if I wrapped the whole backside of the radiator with the same plastic wrap, it would probably stick well enough to serve as a handy paint barrier.

And it worked.

Plastic wrapping the radiator.I started from the bottom, coating the back of the radiator horizontally with long pieces of the wrap until the whole possibly-effected area was covered adequately, like hot dog rolls at the beach. And a messy paint job is just about as devastating as sandy rolls, so don’t act like I’m crazy.

Enclosed radiator, ready for painting.Because I’m in the process of patching the stairwell from having removed the colorful gallery, I had gone and bought a new gallon of Burnished Bronze by Behr and was raring to crack it open. I used one of the smaller 6.5″ paint rollers that’s better for fitting in small spaces (as well as usually getting a finer paint finish), and went to town.

Painted behind the radiator, successfully.

The application process went really well. And moreover, it wasn’t messy. The roller was a perfect fit into the narrow space, and while the plastic wrap got some paint on it, the radiator itself was totally guarded. The most nerve-wracking part of the whole job was whether or not the mixologist at Home Depot could match my previous can of Burnished Bronze exactly. In this, and the previous photo, the wall is still a little sticky, so you can see the variance in the wet paint spots versus the dry. The dog did not seem as unnerved. He was patiently waiting a birthday beach walk (he turned the big 0-3).

Painted behind the radiator, successfully. And bored the dog.Happily, it dried perfectly, which based on everything my Mom has bought me, that never happens.

Perfect paint match.

And I’m finally through with staring at that white paint that had been peeking out at me.

I didn’t actually Google to find this idea, just tried it out for myself. Without bothering to look now, after the fact, does anyone else have any good tips that I should know before doing the next 3 radiators in the house?


I’ve Got The Blues

August 17, 2011   //  Posted in: Sunroom   //  By: Emily   //  5 responses

Not emotionally, just in a painty way. A case of blue paint happies, if you want to classify the feelin’ I’m oozing after finishing my latest fixer-upper project.

We spent a lot of time working in the sunroom on our lappers over the weekend. It was rainy, and we had the still unscreened windows wide open to enjoy the breeze, and I stared at the ceiling a lot in thought, and it wasn’t before long that I decided I was ready to paint ceilings again. It had nothing to do with what I was working on, but seemed like a good distraction. It was so white in there.

A sunny, very white sunroom.

Ceilings are kind of a paint-in-the-ass (pun intended, although only after it was an accidental typo). Aside from painting the sunroom floor (and then stenciling on scalloped polka dots), the room has been mostly untouched. It’s a storage area for old Bombay Company tables that never really were my taste, but were purchased inexpensively several years ago and I haven’t been able to sell (even dirt cheap) on Craigslist.

I had a bit of a bee situation last summer where the buggers were making a home in the open roof and birthing themselves into the sunroom through an existing hole in the ceiling (my guess is that there was a light or fan up there once upon a time). In any case, the bees had rendered the room buzzy, and obnoxious to use. I combatted the issue in a very I-don’t-actually-want-to-admit-I-have-a-problem kind of way opting to block their entry with a piece of tin foil. Really, I should have sprayed up in there or organized an exit strategy for the beasts, but I was being passive.

A sunny, very white sunroom. With a not-so-hidden tin foil hole covering up a key bee access point.

In any case, they didn’t return this year (maybe having new siding installed sealed up a few weak points in the exterior). Or maybe they marched in another direction because one of their buddies got wedged between the foil and the ceiling in a desperate attempt to break on through (to the other side). And for anyone else who has this song by The Doors in their head for the balance of the post… you’re welcome. Dead bug alert.

See the crispy little guy who got trapped? Poor thing. He's been up there for a year.What I’m getting at, is that I decided that a flat blue paint would be a nice accent for the otherwise plain room. And come to find, I still had half a gallon of it left in the basement from when I painted the third bedroom a.k.a. my walk-in closet (which I recently pronounced as my soon-to-be my office).

The leftovers I’m referring to are Benjamin Moore’s Gossamer Blue, which is just a little darker than most blue ceilings I’ve gawked slack-jawed at. It’s also a little grayer too, which I like a lot. Enough to stand out and be noticeable, subtle enough to not compete with anything else in the space.

I cut into the top perimeter of the ceiling with an artists paintbrush rather than any painters brush that I had on hand; reason being: bead board. The stuff’s tricky, finicky, and needs a bit of TLC to make sure the paint gets in the nooks and crannies between each panel, so as you might imagine, prepping the edge took a few hours, but the first coat went on pretty effortlessly. At least on the flatter surfaces.

First coat of blue.

I used the same roller that I had bought and used when I painted the garage; a thicker nap, it is ideal for getting into the varied depths of materials like cinderblock and stucco, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to use it on the beadboard. It really did seem to help – more than any other roller would have, I’m sure, but I still knew that I’d need to do a second coat and hand paint a little more to make sure the paint was getting into each board crease properly.

Of course, at one point during the project I had to remove that horrid tin foil from the ceiling. Happy to report that the temporary seal wasn’t littered with dead bees… just a few came tumbling down. I was expecting the worst.

A second of paint coat was necessary, and the ceiling was looking much smoother and more consistently blue after it had dried.

Coat #2 of Gossamer Blue on the sunroom ceiling.Gray, or blue? Blue or gray? In different lights, it twists around on itself a little bit, probably mirroring the sky itself the same way the lake water does.

Sleek blue sunroom ceiling.

Time for other room accents. Like those curtains I was so excited about over the winter. Maybe real-not-garage sale furniture.

And a ceiling light to fix up that odd hole.