Sunday, August 28, 2011

On Being a Late Ant. And amazing Blessings

1. Upon writing my previous post, I awoke early the next morning and went straight outside. I cleared all the sticks out of my compost pile. I built a compost enclosure. I shredded up newspaper and layered it in the bottom of my enclosure. I shoveled the compost onto the paper, breaking up the big chunks and swampy spots as I went.

2. Next, I built a 4'x2' raised garden bed. It's really raised--it sits on sawhorses to make it easier to tend and to keep the bunnies out.

3. I was unable to purchase seeds at the hardware store, so I looked at the ones I had purchased for my didn't-actually-happen spring garden. I wasn't sure what they were, as Maggie had picked them out, not me. Well damn if they weren't turnips, carrots, and radishes--all suited for fall gardening. The only thing I was worried about was the carrots--as the raised bed is only 6 inches deep. Well damn again---she had selected "half long" carrots.

4. I put three bags of Miracle Gro potting mix in my box. Actually, Mr. Knitty did this part. Suckers were heavy.

5. Following my niece's birthday party, I had just enough daylight left to rope off the sections of the garden with twine and plant my seeds. I have one section each of turnips and radishes, and two of carrots.

6. I actually remembered to water it.

7. In addition, Maggie and I cleared out about 50% of our scary-weed population and planted mums (yes, actual flowers!) in the garden thingy in the back.

8. This morning, my friend Heather arrived at my house with TWO huge boxes of fingering weight yarn--brand new--right when I had been trying to figure out the money to purchase yarn for a fair isle sweater. Another knitter friend of ours had been cleaning out her stash, and sent those just for me. And some other goodies; including some merino silk (!) blend, and some groovy purple roving. I'm gonna give spinning another shot.

9. My niece, who is one, gave me a big gap tooth smile for my little table I built her. All the other guests were saying "who built the cute little table??" Little birthday girl cried when I held her, but the smile makes up for it. I'm so glad she liked it!

Friday, August 26, 2011


I'm sure you're familiar with the story of the Ant and Grasshopper, where the ant works all summer and the grasshopper plays and thinks the ant is a chump. At the end of the season, the ant has plenty of food and the grasshopper is in a panic.


Because I am always the Grasshopper. I am forever leaving things, blocking them out of my mind, thinking other people are chumps for paying attention to them and working hard, etc.

This time of year makes me sad, because other people are bringing in a lovely harvest of vegetables and enjoying their beautiful yards. I have weeds and rogue trees as tall or taller than me, sunken vegetable gardens full of clay, and weeds and crap everywhere.

I was owning it and taking control of it, looking up directions for raised planter beds and Zone 3 late-harvest plants that I can start now....and then I got another whack. So many of these things call for compost.

I have been composting for 2 years. I don't mean I've been out there turning and balancing and checking it, I mean I've been dumping shit in a pile for 2 years. Seemed easier. There are whole melons, logs, potatoes, etc in there. It's full of slime and mold and bugs. I figured underneath it would be that magical composted "black gold" but nope. Underneath is.......last year's melons, potatoes, logs, and a shitload of slimy heaven-knows-what.

Turns out when I read 6 articles on composting and decided they were all too damn much work and that I'd create my own new method....I was wrong. You actually DO need to do that turning and balancing and greens and browns and stuff in order to get compost.

This happens yearly with weeds in the yard too. I don't really go in the areas of the yard that grow a lot of weeds---if I don't see them, they're not there. And if I haven't planted anything, nothing is growing. Right? Wrong. I spent several hours yesterday hacking down trees and huge weeds and crazy shit I didn't even recognize.

It occurred to me that this may be why when I try to plant things, they don't grow, because the weeds have sucked out all the nutrients.

I've also assumed that weeds are just like plants that you plant---if you ignore them, they go away. This is apparently untrue.

I also find that gardening directions are unhelpfully vague. "Water frequently". Well, to me, watering frequently is once a week. I still am bitter over the rosemary tree I had that directed me to "water INfrequently" and died before the first scheduled every-two-weeks watering. Watering every day is more like "water constantly" or "water ceaselessly" or "water every time you brush your teeth" (I guess that would be twice a day).

The compost directions, too, said that I should dig up under the bottom of the pile occassionally. I've only been doing this for two years and I DID IN FACT dig up under the pile once. Isn't that "occassionally"?

And for a third example, the wildflower packets I bought said for "optimum" performance to till, lighten, compost the soil, and water three times a week. I figured I'd be cool with "mediocre" performance so I just threw the seeds down, soaked the hell out of them, and came back in a few weeks. Nothing grew. That is not what I call even "mediocre" performance! That's crappy performance!

So yeah, I'm bitter. Other people follow the directions and put in effort and get nice things. I laugh at those people and slack off and I do not get those nice things. And I do not learn.

KnittyMagic in the Bedroom

NO. Not what you think!

This is another post about reworking your living space with creativity instead of money.

I had been lusting (HAH) after an upholstered headboard. I slept in a hotel bed with one and thought it was so nice to have a plushy thing at the top of the bed instead of wood and an empty space between the mattress and the headboard.

Purchased, they can be extremely pricey. Like, $500. I don't know what they're charging for---the plywood? Thanks to the show Mad Men, there are a number of DIY'ers out there who are creating their own---and they're STILL spending over $100. I'm not sure why. I only spent about $30 making mine. Granted I had some materials left over from other projects, but even buying everything new it would have been WELL under $100.

I didn't know exactly what I wanted, so I waited until the idea snuck up on me. One night as I was watching X files, I was sorting through my yarn stash. The notion of a granny-square headboard struck me. I didn't want it to look TOO kitschy, so I sorted all of the pink and red yarn out of my stash and decided to keep it within one color family. This was a good choice, as it gave it a scrappy look without looking....crappy.

I paid about $18 for the boards, and a few bucks for the joining pegs. (I wanted to use real wood instead of plywood). I padded it with medium density foam left over from a window cushion project. Any spaces I had left over I filled with scraps of quilt batting and fiberfill. I then wrapped the whole thing in quilt batting and then muslin. I had both of these. I stapled the stuff down good and then created a slipcover with my granny squares on the front and a piece of upholstery fabric from IKEA on the back. My dad hung it on the wall using French cleats ($8)


I had so much fun making granny squares that I decided to make a big-ass pillow for my guest room. Color scheme in there is turquoise, so I dug out all turquoise and purple scrap yarns and made a giant pillow. I used blue upholstery fabric for the back (left over from another project). That only cost me $13 for the pillow inside.

There were a few things I was lacking in the guest room though. It's also a craft room for me and Maggie. I used to have a vintage lamp table in there, but I moved it to the living room, leaving a deficit of both lamp and table. I was on the way to Grandpa's to scavenge one when I found a pile of "free" furniture on the street. Including....a nice mid-century style end table with a giant drawer and pencil legs. I snapped it up. After a coat of paint (same stuff from the kitchen) and some vintage glass knobs (Grandpa's house) I had a completely FREE nightstand.

I took two lamps from Grandpa's house. They were nicely styled "ginger jar" shapes. Only problem was they were an ugly yellowish color. With the purchase of one can of spray paint (I had the other), I turned one into a lavender lamp for Maggie's room, and one into a blue lamp for my guest room. Only cost was the shades ($16 for both, Ikea).

And finally, I needed a couple of chairs in there. Inexpensive and comfy but preferably still awesome. Grandpa's house yielded only a couple of not-so-stylin federal style chairs with cane sides. The title of that post will be "A tale of two chairs".

That's called a teaser ;-)

KnittyMagic in the Kitchen

No, this isn't about cooking.
This is about giving my kitchen a whole new look for very little money.

My kitchen cabinets are a style and color that's charitably called "Builder Oak". They're cheap, they're neutral, and they're not something that's likely to offend anyone. They're also boring as shit and look too old-lady for my taste. (My kitchen was not created by a builder, but rather a cheap old lady).

In a perfect world, I'd have the scratch to buy new cabinets; and I'd get lovely maple ones with glass doors on the top. Alas, this is not a perfect world (I love it anyway!) and so I had to roll up my sleeves and get creative.

When we bought our house, so much was made of the "good oak" cabinets that I was a little afraid to paint them. Wasn't that sacrilege? Painting "good oak"? Once I realized they were "shitty oak" not "good oak" I timidly asked my husband (who HATES home improvement projects) "Honey, what would you think about me painting the kitchen cabinets?"

(anyone who knows me IRL is laughing at A) the idea of me being timid and B) the idea of Mr. Knitty refusing me anything I wanted).

He said "You know what would be cool? Painting them turquoise." After a brief check to make sure we hadn't accidentally swapped brains, I said "Well, that's good because I wanted to paint them turquoise, but was afraid it would look too crazy." I've been drawn to all those lovely turquoise retro kitchens in my DIY magazines.

Painting your kitchen cabinets is a lot of work. It's not hard work, but it's tedious work, because you have to wait a LONG time between coats. It's also a challenge because you're still *using* your cabinets while this process occurs, and so you end up not being able to find things (was that in the box in the living room or is it somewhere here on the floor?) and also having to pussyfoot around the cabinets while they're still curing. When doing the doors, it's best to have them off the hinges and laying flat. Which is excellent provided you don't have a cat who wants to immediately walk on them.

I was shocked at how little the cost was for this project. It's almost all labor. I purchased one gallon of primer ($24), one gallon of paint specially formulated for cabinets ($30), a few new brushes ($8) and an extra package of sand paper ($3). In the end I also ended up wanting drawer pulls for the drawers (I previously only had knobs on the doors) so that was another $30-some.

All in all, I spent just a shade over $100 on the project, and the difference in my kitchen is stunning!