Good Bye to Pokeberry Hill...


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Inexpensive Large Containers for the Garden and Felted Wool Dolls..

I'm working on a little gift project. I'm making two little felted wool dolls for my Mom in Law's Birthday. She has an older sister in a nursing home way up in Northern Wisconsin and news lately is that she is fading. Mom in Law and I talked some about her recently and about the years when they were young. They are quite a distance apart in age, 16 or 17 years. They grew up in a small town in Northern Wisconsin and are of Norwegian descent.

I thought it would be a nice birthday gift to make a pair of "Sosteren" two norwegian sister dolls. The older one is at least 16 because she already has her "bunad". The bunad is a traditional festival costume and they are lovely skirts with blouses and vests and are heavily embroidered. A bunad is only for older girls. The little sister will be wearing a short skirt and tights. I wish I had time to make these dolls with all the lovely embroidery that would be on the real costumes-but honestly it would not work for a small doll anyhow, so I will leave them simple. In any case they are sisters, a big grown sister and a little one, in their finest dress.

Every project I work on with wool I learn more and gain more sill and get more ideas! It is a wonderful medium, I'm enjoying it very much. I just cannot make all I think of fast enough however, it is hard to even finish one thing before beginning a new thing.

I have learned a little bit about how to fix my photos so they will fit in etsy--but when I took photos of some work I realized I needed to work on the wool felting more, and I had to learn a way to 'fix' the felt so it would not get fuzzy in time. Now I work with bits of tissue paper sometimes covering finished parts of my projects to prevent stray wool from getting in the wrong places. I just cut small pieces of tissue and loosely wrap it over finished parts and hold it in place with tape.

I'm using a steam iron to make some things crisper, and I'm experimenting with 'hair spray/fixafive' recipes to find the right way to keep my items from getting fuzz on them. The fuzz shows up in photos and I see that I must work on getting my pieces right and learning all I can before I start to sell things. When needle felting you use different needles. I have some that are finer. I use the regular needle first, then the fine one--which are also easier to break!. This helps get things nicely felted so they aren't so fuzzy, but any handling can create stray bits of wool fuzz, so I found out you can use hairspray or a mix of 1 part white glue and 2 parts water to preserve the felting so it won't do that. My own hairspray didn't work well, its not very strong.

Another thing I have learned is that you can make a stiff 'pellon' base for felting if you want to felt into the pellon and then press with a steam iron you can have a stiff 'felt fabric'. This is how I did the bunad skirt for my older sister. There are lots of things to learn about felting.

Other than the felting I'm working on my yard and garden. We are having a short burst of lovely weather here. Yesterday and today sunshine and warm! The overnight temperatures are still cold, so that is keeping the garden behind. I have two cold frames full of seedlings in waiting now and I've begun to plant tomato and pepper seeds for the light stand in the house. Next week is time for my onions and potatoes to go out--though some put them out earlier in this area, I think the cool nights really make it silly to bother this year. My peas have not broke ground yet, but I think there is a stirring under ground, maybe today?

I've been painting a few 6 gallon plastic buckets at a time and filling them with a nice mix of peat, mini-wood chips, compost and soil. The painting process works very well. I rough up the white food grade buckets with a bit of sand paper, then I take them outside and spray them lightly with shellac. I do this all over the outside of the buckets and just inside the rims about a 5 inches. I don't bother with the bottoms. Shellac will help make the paint stick to the plastic. It works on metal as well. I find that a spray can of shellac will do quite a few projects and is less pricey than shellac based primers that you hand paint on, also easier.

I take a drill and put several holes for drainage in the bucket bottoms, 5 or 6 usually, about the diameter of a pencil. These buckets have a bit of a lip around the bottom so the underside is not touching the ground and they can drain freely from bottom holes. If they were completely flat I would drill my holes on the lower part of the sides.

After the shellac has dried for 30 minutes or so, I take a big paintbrush and brush on some good exterior black paint. The one I chose was Valspar Severe Weather Exterior Paint in 'dark kettle black'. It takes a good 24 hours for it to dry enough to fill and put outside. The buckets look just like my big black nursery pots that I 'gleaned' from the curb in our old neighborhood on trash day. They are huge and must have held big saplings.

These containers are easy to move around, I keep them light and cut the expense of filling them by adding a layer at the bottom of crushed soda cans or plastic pop bottles followed by a thick layer of autumn leaves, (mainly oak in our yard). That goes in before the mix I made of peat, compost, soil and small wood chips. It provides drainage and keeps the buckets easy to move.

I plant the containers sort of like 'square foot gardens' except that they are round and each is bigger than a square foot. From a short distance you cannot tell they were painted, they truly look like big nursery pots. Not 'pretty' but they will do for growing vegetables and will be very easy to tend, much better than our awful ground and I don't have to bend down so much either. I even use a garden table to fill and plant them on so it is all an arthritis friendly process too. I can't wait to see them all full of beautiful big plants instead of just potting mix.

Another little tip. Our house had lots of old plastic blinds on the windows. UGLY! They were here for the building process to keep it cooler in here with the sun. I cut some up and bleached them and cut the blinds into plant markers. Using a grease or oil pencil to write on them I have plant markers that will hold up to weather and look just fine.

Another thing that has kept me busy here is working on my diet. I have to cut my sodium and cholesterol more dramatically. UGH! I must tell you, I am a woman who grew up loving Wisconsin butter and salt. This isn't working out with my personal genetic makeup and looks like my heart risk factors are increasing again. I've been doing OK with it. I've discovered some projects I enjoy. Mrs. Dash is wonderful stuff for instance. Smart Balance also has a lightly salted spread that isn't all that bad for a 'margarine'. (I can't believe I'm eating margarine! it almost seems evil)

One thing I like to keep on hand is a soup base product, well I haven't found a good substitute for that in low enough sodium that I can buy at my local store. I do have a tiny jar of bullion cubes but that's not going to work out. I have a pot of stock on the stove this morning. I'm making a sodium free broth in it. I'll have to make ahead and freeze some things using that as a base so I can grab them quickly for lunches and dinners. I don't think Hubby and son are ready to embrace my diet yet, so some things I just have to make separate for myself. I'm also getting lots of use from Hubby's George Foreman Grill.

I'm waiting for an appointment to have an echo stress test soon to see what my valves are doing and such like. I've had some mild angina type pressure. I'm glad I'll be having that test. I will feel good to know that its 'safe' to exercise more vigorously--or if not--I'll be glad to find out before something goes wrong, so hopefully there will be a remedy.

I've also had to cut down on my coffee! The doctor says 8 ounces, well- I'm making that a goal. Right now I'm having about a cup and a half to 2 cups and no caffeine the rest of the day. She also says I must not stress about things, and must take something to calm my nerves if needed. Stress is a heart risk factor, she says its just as bad for me as smoking--well I don't smoke--but I didn't know it was that important.

The good thing about a big garden is making your own canned or dehydrated tomato products. I'm planning to purchase a good dehydrator in the near future, before we get any big harvests. This way I can make them without sodium and add seasoning that is good for me.

Speaking of big gardens, Hubby enlarged my garden area Sunday. He got out his old Stihl chainsaw and did some 'tree killing' as we call it. He removed a great deal of 'scruffy trees' all around the garden area to let in more light. We left the huge old oaks that grow straight up and don't really shade that much. He needs to get a new chain for his old saw so he can clean up the mess, but already I see that my potential growing area is now four or five times bigger. Things will grow much better this way. I do still have a cluster of shade trees behind the shed so I can sit and cool off between garden chores. I keep some chairs and a table there and have been planting flowers and shade loving things around to make it pretty. He seriously loved the gardens I've had at the last few places and want MORE of the fresh veggies. Especially tomatoes and peppers. He wants me to do it in containers so its easy to tend and he will help with the garden and the cooking, sez he..

I'm glad its finally warming up, but now we don't have much time before the heat comes, and the wedding. We need to do some major work outside. This week, Hubby is up in Fargo and the boys and I are preparing for some of that outside stuff we'll be doing soon. One thing they are doing is dismantling some of the quirky cement block walls that the former owner began and didn't finish in front of the house. We intend to do some terracing on our hill with those blocks, make them 'disappear' but also hold back erosion and form beds for planting the hillside and create a better parking area. We also intend to build a deck that will go all around the first floor of the house. First we must push some earth around and dismantle the 2 decks that are existing as they were put in very poorly. The boys and I are getting those areas all free of clutter and ready to be worked on. I'm also working on cleaning up an area behind the shed and organizing my garden pot collection, possibly build a couple more cold frames--but that will wait until next week.

We need to have deliveries of gravel and topsoil and to rent a machine to push things where they should be. All these things cost money and require a stretch of warm weather. Building decks and putting up siding is the same--money, money, money. None of this will be done in a month, but I am hoping some of it will be done over the next several months.

We had a few extra 'surprise' big tax bills the past few months and the last one I hope to pay this week. Now I hear its likely North Carolina isn't going to be able to send folks refunds this year-at least not on time. HA! I'm paying them a big chunk and if I am late, I will get a huge fine--so I won't be. Will they be fined? Of course not. Will they be careful not to spend every cent they get and run out of money again? Probably not. Frustrating. I'm glad we are in South Carolina now, Its not a rich place, but its friendly and warm and far less expensive tax wise.

Anyhow if we ever get to use any of our money we'll get the rest of this stuff done. God-willing.

Well time to enjoy that 1 cup of coffee and my low fat, low sodium breakfast so I can get back to work on my Sostern dollls before it warms up enough to work outside.

Have a Pokeberry Day!


  1. Well, you are doing much better than I at taking care of yourself, Mary. I have constant stress, no money, eat crap all day and at least 3 cups of coffee a day...and high fat, high sodium. I will die before you...guaranted! If I do die, I have instructed my dtr. to let the blog peeps know!!! LOL

  2. Uff Da Julie! If I were doing as well as I just wrote--I wouldn't HAVE to be doing all that. :( There's nothing like a little scary feelin' in the chest to make you learn to like Mrs. Dash. LOL

  3. I had a cardiac scare during turkey hunting season last spring. All winter sitting on my rear eating bacon and such, then running up and down mountains. It does make you examine your diet and exercise.

  4. You do know, don't you, that you can can without salt. It's not "required" to preserve the food in a pressure canner. Now some sugar is required to can fruits, but there are some tested recipes out there that are lower in sugar.
    Just so you know.

    When I went in for a kidney infection, I had a Nurse Practitioner who did a bunch of blood work on me. Everything was "normal" EXCEPT my thyroid test. So she put me on a low does of Snythroid. WOW, what a difference! I feel SO much better and my "fibro" seems to have disappeared.

    Hope they work out what's going on with you and that you can get to feeling better too.

  5. Me too, Darlene. I did know that-- I'm planning to do my tomatoes sodium free this summer. Hubby has agreed to that being a best idea.

    As for thyroid--I've had it checked in the past-but If there's nothing new on my stress echo next week I'll have it checked again. There are some thyroid things in my family I understand.

    I'm actually feeling OK most of the time lately-- just have these little chest 'things' pressure but not bad--but it just happens kind of randomly-even if I feel just fine otherwise. I also have alot of fatigue but that has been 'normal' for me for many many years. I do most of what I need to in the morning so I can sit at night. Lately though there's a day a week or so when I just am 'dead' tired. This week it was Saturday. Actually weekends seem prone--I think cuz I have a habit if overworking on Fridays--trying to get things done and make the house nice for the weekend.