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Merry Garden, 2014

September 11, 2014   //  Posted in: Backyard, Gardening   //  By: Emily   //  2 responses

I never anticipated how hard it would be to garden and landscape in our yard; when we found the house, I was excited to have more property and space to cultivate, but it hadn’t occurred to me how aggressive the deer would be until they devoured hostas awaiting transplant that were sitting in pots literally inside our open garage door. There’s an overwhelming landscaping theme in the neighborhood: pachysandra and myrtle, but very little of anything else due to 1) lots of shade and 2) wildlife.

Everyone has their tried and true deer repellant method (soaps, chilis, hanging vials of scent, dog fur, human hair, boxwoods, all of it), and I’ll get around to trying some of them out over the years, but coming straight from my neighbors, tall fencing’s where it’s at, so it felt most obvious that I should just start there.

Last year’s garden worked fine – it was a trio of three square beds wrapped in a plastic deer netting, and we only grew tomatoes and attempted to protect berries, so it wasn’t a huge undertaking nor was it a lot to tempt the deer. At the end of the season, a big tree took out our gardens, which gave us a reason to rethink and rebuild. As you can see, in a very technical way, I used our ragged out gardening stakes to map out a circle in the desired area, which almost entirely consumes the area I dug up for last year’s 3 garden beds. Fallen tree looks on, everything but the trunk is cleared at this point, but Pete just bought a new chainsaw, so I think we’ll be able to clear out the rest of it pretty easily.

Mapping out a round garden bed for our home.

I made the circular garden a diameter of about 20′, using a straight edge shovel to first cut the outer edge, and then a rototiller to chomp on the grass and weeds in the entire center of the circle. Our soil is unbelievably soft and sandy, which makes rototilling straight through pretty easy and fast… in most cases though, you’ll want to remove the grass with a shovel before firing up the tiller.

Creating a round garden bed using a rototiller.

I pulled the bigger chunks of weeds out of the way once they were loosened by the tiller, but I honestly didn’t give this part of the process too much time or energy. Reason being, is that once I decided I was going to make a bigger garden, I was determined to learn from previous experience and splurge on weed blocking fabric to keep the garden neat, clean, and weed-free (there are lots of products out there, but I went mid-grade, 6-foot wide quality from The Home Depot for about $30). The plants you see poking through are the berries that were saved from the fallen tree and then eaten to stubbies by the deer, now protected and given a chance to be revived in our fenced in area.

Tacking weed blocking fabric onto our garden.

The round bed is our second attempt at garden in this yard, but we intentionally kept it pretty simple and only semi-permanent this year (used existing posts that jam into the ground, even though they’re a variety of heights), because we’re still experimenting with the size, and making sure the garden gets enough sunlight to be productive.

48" metal fence enclosure in our garden.

I had been looking for a great 8′ fence to no avail, which seems insanely high and excessive, but is what most of the neighboring homes have installed. The deer have been known to leap over “tiny” 48-inchers, but I don’t think they ever made it into ours, probably because there’s still plenty of other vegetation for them to eat this time of year. (Not to mention that any time we prune any tree there’s a 48-hour-all-deer-alert feast on our downed branches… we keep them plenty busy.)

Mid-way through the season, I began to think rabbits or other animals might be squeezing through the fencing, so I did go back around with the leftover plastic mesh from last year, zip tying it to the lower 18″ of the fence to create a second barrier to prevent entry.

I kind of think it’ll get bigger and bigger each year, once we get this down pat. In the future, I’d love to drop in some sunken posts and perhaps a real fence and gate, but for this year, my only investment was the weed block and 48″ metal fence.

I didn’t start anything from seed myself this year; 5 tomato plants were delivered by my parents, pumpkins from Pete’s parents, and I picked up 6 pickling cucumbers, 6 butternut squash, 6 acorn squash, 2 sunflowers from Rochester’s Public Market Flower Days in an attempt to try a few new things. You might be wondering if there’s actually enough space for that many plants in a 20′ circle, and no, it should probably have been a bit bigger to space them out more. I’m sure they all smothered each other a bit, which resulted in less production.

We’ve harvested and pickled all of the cucumbers, are about to harvest the sunflower seeds, have around 2 dozen butternut and acorn squash still on the vines that should last us into the winter months, assorted tomatoes (plum, cherry, currant, fourth of July, and something yellow), and a single, modest pumpkin that is just beginning to turn orange.

The single pumpkin in our garden.

The gardening experience, especially with the weed block fabric, has been incredibly low-maintenance this year. We’ve had enough rain to avoid daily watering, cleared overhead branches nearby the garden to allow it a little extra sunlight, and now that we’re in full-on harvest mode, I’m going to attempt to can some tomatoes/sauces for the first year ever. (Favorite recipes for pizza sauce appreciated).

Art Attack #2

September 09, 2014   //  Posted in: Art Attack   //  By: Emily   //  Leave a comment

A growing, permanent art collection is something that I’ve been aspiring to acquire over the last year. It is exceptionally slow going, but that’s OK. Step 1: Identify what you love. Originals, new artists, pieces that really resonate and promise to contribute to a feeling of home. Step 2: Afford and frame (ca-ching). Keep it small until you can go big. Step 3: Dare to tap a new hole in your freshly patched and painted wall so that you can hang the masterpiece. Step 4: Be thrilled with yourself, and then go about trying to make the rest of your house look just as cool. Pants draped on chairs, uncool.

St. Monci's Training Mission, Rochester, NY

St. Monci produced a series of framed Training Missions this summer that I gravitated to quickly; as an abstract artist in Rochester, NY and muralist for Wall\Therapy, if you like modern art, you’ll want to keep an eye out on this guy. Continue to check out his online store, and find your own special piece of happy.

St. Monci Training Mission, Rochester, NY

Honestly, This Is Tillary

August 14, 2014   //  Posted in: Decor, Living Room   //  By: Emily   //  3 responses

After living with the West Elm Tillary sectional for about 10 months and receiving countless emails that politely inquired about how the couch has been holding up to our lifestyle, I’ve finally gathered my thoughts into one concise place. If you missed the first post I wrote on this product, check it out here.

Before I get into anything that presents negativity, I have to say, I still do like this couch for our house. With its deep seat and low height, its size is perfect for our large living room and I know that I would have a challenging time finding something comparable with those qualities. We really love that the back supports are so low that they are just below our windowsill so when we push the couch up to the window, we’re not blocking line of sight, and the depth of the seat mirrors our deep fireplace hearth, a stone sill which spans one whole wall of our room and engulfs about 45 sq. ft.. Feels pretty Feng Shui, if I were to be pretending that I was an expert in Feng Shui (totally not).

West Elm's Tillary Sectional Sofa in our house. A real review. Check it out.

On to other points. The fact that the back rests are loose (not at all connected to the bases) is a bit of a pain in the ass when it comes to working on the couch for extended periods, or snuggling up with pillows and a blanket to watch a movie. The smaller/straight back supports do slide (the corner piece, considerably less so because it’s larger and heavier), and we usually end up pulling the supports “towards us” so they are positioned more on top of the seat, rather than teetering on the edge like in this next photo. Because they’re weighted, when they tip off, they’re loud, like, “Did one of the kids just bust open their head?” loud. And also, if you’re relying on them when they crash, you crash too.

It’s because of the backs that I usually tell people that it’s a couch that’s better for entertaining, when people might be more inclined to be sitting with their feet on the ground and their tush at the edge of the seat with a glass of wine balanced in hand. It’s also the same stance I sit in when I’m folding laundry, so sometimes, less wine, more housekeeping. You can sit cross-legged on it pretty easily though too, because it’s a firm seat, and deep.

West Elm's Tillary Sectional has moveable back supports. Check out my review.

The other thing about the backs though, the thing that I really like, is that we can position them however we want. So, we’ve tried dozens of configurations, and you can really change the look of the couch by moving (or removing) certain back rests. Our daughter will rearrange them to suit too, and because they have a nice flat top, they make for a nice play surface, not that “playability” is a major selling point for you, I suppose. And sometimes we move them right onto the floor for when we’re playing games spread out, or just reclining… I find that easier than propping myself up with 6 throw pillows.

West Elm’s photo that I’m showing here, demonstrates another way we like to position the cushions, on the short end of the seat to create a sort of chaise styling.

Hello, pretty West Elm Tillary Sectional.

We bought the Tillary in a Heather Gray color; zero complaints on the quality of the fabric itself. No signs of wear, no pilling, no discoloration. When I sit on it for a long time, sometimes when I get up it looks like the fabric has stretched to be a little loose/wavy, but so far it has always retracted back to its original smoothness… I do wonder when its elasticity will wear out.

Since Day 1, we haven’t been thrilled at the seams and puckering all around. Sometimes we can smooth them down a bit, but for the most part, the couch always looks like this. It’s just aesthetic and I assume that guests are more focused on giant drifts of dog fur in the corners of the living room, but for a couch in the $2,000 range, I would not expect this. IKEA, maybe, but not West Elm.

West Elm's Tillary Sectional Sofa in our house. Check out my review.

We’ve been taking advantage of the fact that the bases move about so easily (none of them are connected together, and we added little low-pile carpet pieces to the undersides of the feet so they can slide easily on our hardwood floors). Sometimes the sections are pushed together like a square when Julia wants to have a sleepover on the couch. Sometimes, it’s arranged into a long, straight line against the back wall when there are 15 kids lined up watching a movie projected wall. For awhile, we had the two long sections separated and parallel to one another, just to see how that would work (good, except that it limited seating space when we wanted to watch TV).

So, right now we actually reduced the size of our sectional so that it’s just the two long bases forming an L. We shifted the square base that was previously the corner “hinge” over to the other side of the living room as a place to sit amongst baby central. Honestly, it’s only been like this for about a week and it’s fine for now, especially since the back support can’t shift when it’s against the stone wall, but we’re looking to get a smaller love seat for this space eventually. (Psst, that round rug is the West Elm Bordered Round Jute Rug in Horseradish that was 30% off recently, and I love it, but we’re still figuring out where it’s going to go in our house.)

The square piece of our Tillary Sectional is separated from the rest of the sofa.

Again, if you missed the first review I posted on this product, check it out here. And if you have any additional questions, please feel free to drop me a note at

The West Elm Tillary Sectional Sofa in our modern home - An honest review!