Too close for comfort

Baxter here, y’all. Last Monday was an exciting day. It was Victoria Day, so Matt and Julia and me were all home together. (I dunno who Victoria is. I don’t think she’s from Kentucky.)

The best part of the day was when Julia and I went for our afternoon walk. It was sunny and sniffy. We were walking across the field behind the driveshed. There was lump in the field. I always investigate the bumps, the longest grass, the tallest weeds (and usually pee on them too). I was going to check out the lump, but Julia called me back. I went. (I’m getting very good at not wearing my leash.)

I was almost beside Julia when I saw that she was looking at the lump too. I took another look, and I saw what she saw. The lump had ears, and eyes, and a nose.

I’ll show you what it looked like (sorta). Her head was low to the ground between her paws and her ears pointed straight up. (And her furs were grey and brown just like the dirt. That’s why we couldn’t see her at first.)

Baxter lying in the field

It was the doggie that Matt and Julia never let me meet: coyote!

I wasn’t going to miss my chance this time.

I heard Julia land on the dirt as she tried to tackle me, but I was speedy. The coyote was speedy too. She stayed just in front of me all the way across the field, down the hill and into the marsh. I’m not going to tell what happened in the marsh. Julia said she called me, but I didn’t hear her. I was just trying to meet coyote.

Eventually, I realized coyote didn’t want to meet me, and I remembered I’m supposed to stay close to Julia. But I couldn’t find Julia. I left the marsh, but she wasn’t in the field. I went back to the house, and the door opened when I got there. Matt and Julia were both there. Matt was holding my leash and wearing his tall boots and long pants even though it was really hot out, and he’d been wearing shorts before.

I gave them lots of smiles and wiggles, but I couldn’t help dancing too, so they saw that my legs and feets (and other parts too) had some black marsh mud on them. (Okay, there was lots of black mud.) They weren’t as happy as me. Julia grabbed my collar and gave me a couple of hard shakes. Then Matt took my collar and clipped me to my long line.

We could see the field behind the driveshed, and we saw my coyote come back. She climbed over the top of the hill and walked to the tree line. Matt went out to the field, but Julia stayed with me. She went and got the hose and washed off the mud. I usually don’t like the hose, but I was so hot from running that the water felt good. Plus I was still pretty excited.

I stayed outside for awhile to dry off, but I didn’t see the coyote anymore on Victoria Day. We’ve seen her pretty much everyday since then. But I haven’t gotten to introduce myself again.

Addition from Julia: We officially have coyotes. I was very excited a month ago when I first saw the coyote, as I hadn’t seen one on our property before. But now they (yes, we’re up to two coyotes) have become regulars, and it’s a little less exciting–Baxter’s opinion notwithstanding.

I’m a live and let live kind of woman, but I’m not sure the coyotes share my philosophy.

Their confidence and comfort grows quickly. So far they seem to be mostly curious. One followed–just followed, not stalked or hunted–Bax and I on our walk on Friday morning. When he got too close, I shouted at him, and he ran away.

Our biggest concern is Ralph. We can keep Baxter on leash, but we can’t lock Ralph up in the barn. She’s a pretty savvy girl, and she sticks very close to the barn, but the fact that a coyote was sitting on the driveway the other night–and that Ralph likes to hang out on the barn ramp in the middle of the night–isn’t a comfort. Plus, when two coyotes were cavorting in the field, her reaction was to roll on her back and ask for scratches (from us, not from the coyotes).

Ralph asking for belly scratches

Argh. I wish coyotes were vegetarians.

Making DIY dropcloth curtains – 8 lessons learned

In the last post, you saw the easy layered window treatments in the master bedroom. I promised more details on the dropcloth curtains I made.

Blackout blind, bamboo blind and drop cloth curtain window treatments

There are lots of tutorials out there on how to make dropcloth curtains. So I’m not going to write one here. Plus, I totally made these up as I went along, so a tutorial doesn’t really exist. I did want to share some of the things I learned from making my DIY curtains, though.

How to make dropcloth curtains

1. Dropcloths come with seams. I assumed that my 9 by 12 foot dropcloth would be one single piece of fabric. It wasn’t. All of my dropcloths had a seam down the middle. One had a centre seam plus an additional patch along one end.

For my two widest curtain panels, I just left the seam alone. It’s a bit thicker than I would like and a wee bit puckered, but I decided I could live with it if it was hidden in the folds of the curtains.

For the other curtains, my seam ripper and I spent some quality time pulling out the stitching.

Ripping out the seam on a dropcloth

2. Dropcloths come with holes. The canvas fabric of the dropcloths is not perfect. The rustic quality of the weave and the few strands of blue and red that were here and there are some of the elements I like best about using this fabric.

However, in a couple of spots my dropcloths went beyond rustic and veered into unraveled. So if you want to make anything out of dropcloths, check them over carefully. You don’t want to end up with a hole in the middle of your project.

3. Wash and iron before you start. Pre-washing your fabric is a basic tenant of sewing. I didn’t want my curtains shrinking (not that they’re going to be washed often) after I put the effort into making them, so I washed my fabric before I started sewing.

Dropcloth fabric is heavy duty. As a result, it wrinkles easily and the creases are really difficult to remove. I found that ironing the dropcloths when they were still damp from the washer helped to remove the worst of the wrinkles.

4. Use curtain tape. (Britt, this tip’s for you). From what I hear, making pinch pleat curtains is pretty tedious. Lots of measuring and calculating. A much easier solution is to use curtain tape. This is a kind of mesh fabric strip with channels on the back. You pair it with some special multi-pronged hooks, and it basically forms the pleats for you. I bought mine at a local fabric store.

The pleats are softer than they would be if you sewed them without the tape, but that was okay for my rustic fabric and my farm setting.

I sewed the tape along the edge of one of my dropcloths, put in the hooks and voilà, pinch pleat curtains.

Using curtain tape to make pinch pleat curtains

Using curtain tape to make pinch pleat curtains

Using curtain tape to make pinch pleat curtains

Pinch pleat dropcloth curtains

You can space your pleats as far apart or as close together as you want. I left one empty “pocket” for a space of about 6 inches between each pleat.

Pinch pleat dropcloth curtains

5. Use curtain tape to measure your curtains. Before I sewed the curtain tape onto my fabric, I formed all of my pleats until I had a strip that was as wide as I wanted my curtains to be. Then I cut the curtain tape at that length, removed the pleats and used the tape to measure the dropcloth fabric.

6. There are different types of hooks. The magic pleat-making hooks are very handy. They come in two different forms (there may be more, but I tried two). Whatever form you choose, the hooks hook onto the rings that go on your curtain rod. Option 1 has the hooks at the end, so the curtains hang a bit below the rings. Option 2 has the hooks in the middle, so the top of the curtain hangs up against the rings. This is the type of hook I ended up using.

There are also special non-pleating hooks (just plain single hooks) to hold up the ends of the curtains where there are no pleats.

7. Take your time hemming. I wanted my curtains to just brush the floor. For my first set, I hung the curtains, found the spot where they met the floor, and then I used a ruler to measure the rest of my hem from that point. The result was curtains that were the right length at one or two spots, but for the most part they scuffed, not brushed the floor.

Curtains hitting the floor

For my second set of panels and for the bed skirt that I also made out of dropcloths, I skipped the measuring tape. Instead, I used pins to mark the fabric at about 1/4 to 1/2 inch off the floor. I pinned my way across the bottom of the curtains, marking about every six inches. Then I pressed the hem using the pins as a guide. It wasn’t scientific, but it resulted in curtains that just brushed the floor.

8. You can totally do this too. Dropcloth curtains are pretty easy to make. Honestly, I found them a bit tedious. The only sewing is in straight lines. Loooooong straight lines. However, boring they may be, sewing straight lines is not difficult.

Dropcloth curtains in a navy master bedroom

Let me know if you try them yourself.

Have you ever made your own curtains? Any tips to share from your experience?

How to make simple layered window treatments

When I had the brainwave to move our bedroom across the hall, Matt didn’t understand why we couldn’t just stay in our current room. He went along with my plans, but he had one requirement: he wasn’t moving in until we had curtains.

Blackout blind, bamboo blind and drop cloth curtain window treatments

We haven’t had curtains on any windows in any room since we moved to the farm. With no neighbours, privacy is not a concern.

However, our new bedroom is on the east side of the house. There are fewer trees on that side, so more light comes in the windows. At night, the lights on the barn and the driveshed and even headlights from the cars on the far-away road shine into the room.

Plus, east equals sunrise. If we wanted to sleep past dawn on any summer morning, we needed curtains.

But I wanted more than just curtains. I stumbled over Kristine’s window treatments on the Painted Hive and thought her solution was ingenious. (So I really can’t take credit for this idea).

Kristine’s solution is a great mix of form and function.

Function starts with a basic blackout vinyl roller blind, which I mounted above the window casing.

Vinyl blackout blind hidden behind bamboo blinds and dropcloth curtains

Form comes next.

The blackout blind is hidden behind a bamboo blind. Or what looks like a bamboo blind.

In reality, it’s basically just a valance. I took one bamboo blind and chopped it to pieces. For the main window over the bed, I was able to use the full six foot wide blind, but I only wanted it to be about 16 inches long. To shorten it, I clipped the strings that hold the slats together and knotted the ends so that the blind didn’t fall apart. I’m not going to lie, tying hundreds of tiny strings into tight double knots was pretty tedious.

For the smaller side window, I needed a narrower blind. A set of strong pruning sheers and Matt’s strong hands clipped off the excess width. Then, I again cut the strings to give me a 16 inch length and tied another whole bunch of tiny knots.

Cutting a bamboo blind

To put bamboo blind in place, I installed a double curtain rod just below the crown molding. I chose the Räcka and Hugad from Ikea.

The bamboo panels just drape over the rear rod (I tied them in place) and hang over the top of the window. They hide the blackout blind and, because I hung them so high right under the crown molding, they make the windows look much taller.

Double curtain rod

The front rod supports the dropcloth curtains that I made. The curtains are completely functional, but we don’t need to use them, thanks to the blackout blind, so they’re mostly just for form. They do hide the edges of the two blinds and help to block light from sneaking around the sides of the window though.

I’ll be sharing more about some of the lessons I learned from making dropcloth curtains in my next post.

I used the trick of hanging the curtains so that they fall just outside the window casing. This really does make the window look bigger in my opinion.

Altogether, the blackout blind, bamboo valance, double curtain rod and full length dropcloth curtains make for stylish and functional layered window treatments.

Blackout blind, bamboo blind and drop cloth curtain window treatments

Plus there’s the added benefit of keeping Matt happy.

Happy husband. Stylish master bedroom. I’m all set.

What are your master bedroom must-haves? Are you a blackout blind-er or a up with the sunshine-er? What’s your window treatment style?

An evening walk along the pond trail

The nature of farm living is that it’s tough work. Last night, after a day full of hard labour, my skin was stinging from scrapes, thorn pricks and a pretty decent sunburn.

My muscles and grip strength were gone. At one point, Matt had said, “Pull!” as we were stringing the fence in the garden. And at my response–“I’ve got nothing left!”–he just laughed.

It was after 5 o’clock, and the dog still needed his afternoon walk–a daunting prospect.

But the nature of farm living is that there’s also an incredible setting, right in our backyard, so Baxter and I headed for the pond trail.

Matt cut this trail for us last year. Some of our hard work earlier earlier in the day had been  sharpening the mower blades (with help from my parents), attaching the deck to the tractor and mowing the grass.

Sharpening lawn mower blads

Attaching the mower deck to the tractor

In addition to doing the lawn, Matt did a pass over the trail, so Bax and I had a lovely space to hike.

We walked alongside the lilac hedge that leads from the house down to the water.

Lilac hedge

Purple lilac

We turned left and followed the trail along the shore towards one of our old apple trees. This tree is a showstopper this year. Absolutely covered in blossoms.

Apple tree in blossom

Apple blossoms

From there, the trail heads into the small pasture behind the barn, following the fence at the edge of the marsh.

Baxter walking along the pond trail

Baxter walking along the pond trail

It loops around past the manure pile and then up to my favourite tree.

My favourite maple tree

We took a detour by the garden to check out the new fence.

Chain link fenc stapled to a wood fence

And as I headed to house, Baxter decided he was going to stay out for awhile yet. He laid down beside the garden and gazed back down the trail and across the farm.

Baxter laying in the grass

The view is fields and forest and trees and marsh, and it’s worth any scrapes, pricks, burns, aches, hard work and exhaustion.

The payoff–this farm–is exactly where I want to be.

Getting ready for the great gardening weekend

This is it, folks. The Victoria Day long weekend. The first long weekend of “summer.” The kick off to gardening season in Canada.

And I have ambitious plans.

First on the list is mowing our jungle grass. Every spring, we’re late getting our grass cut. The first year, we’d just moved to the farm and didn’t have a tractor. The second year, the tractor wouldn’t start, thanks to a broken fuel pump. Last year, it took us a couple of weeks to get the mower deck attached to the tractor (the level ground that is required to get all of the pins to line up perfectly does not exist at the farm).

Baxter's not impressed face at our long grass

This year we’re delayed because we need to sharpen the blades. I’ve done it before, but always with my Dad and always on much smaller mowers. For the first time taking the blades off our deck, we want some help, so we’re waiting until my Dad can come to supervise.

Next on the list is giving my forsythia haircut. (Dad, can you bring your hedge trimmer when you come over, please?)

After that, I need to weed two more flower gardens–the biggest ones, of course.

And then there’s the vegetable garden.

I know this was supposed to be my one and only outdoor project for this year. Obviously I’m multi-tasking with grass and forsythia and flower beds. Just trust that those things are necessary too, okay?

I’m anxious to get started on the vegetable garden, but I’m not going to be able to do as much as I had hoped over the next three days… and not just because of the other things on my list.

The biggest vegetable garden task this weekend is going to be the fence. We have a nice weathered wood fence. It looks great, but it’s not that helpful for protecting the garden from the local wildlife. I need to add some chainlink, and I need to build a gate. ‘Cause if I leave the door wide open, it doesn’t matter how much chainlink I have on the rest of the fence.

I had hoped that that I’d be able to break up the sod too this weekend, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.

The tarps that have been spread over the garden for the past few weeks have not succeeded in killing the weeds. They’ve just turned them a bit pale.

Weeds after being covered with a tarp

Our farmer tilled our fields last weekend. I ran after the tractor one evening and asked him if it came in a smaller version–small enough to fit inside the ring. He shook his head and said, “I’d have to do that one by hand.”

As the tilling continued, I looked enviously at the tractor every time it drove past the ring.

Tilling the field

I had reserved a heavy-duty rototiller from a local equipment rental shop (because neither my Dad nor Matt’s want to sacrifice their rototillers to fulfill my garden ambitions–spoilsports), but it was surprisingly expensive to rent. Matt’s and my cheapskate sides came out, and I canceled the reservation.

I had heard a rumour that one of my cousins had a rototiller he wasn’t using. Turns out he doesn’t need it anymore, and we can have it… in a couple of weeks. So we’re waiting on our new-used (and better yet free) tiller before we tackle the sod.

Even without the rototiller, I think we have enough to keep us busy… for all three days of this weekend.

Wish us luck, would you? Hopefully I’ll survive the weekend and be back next week with an update for you.

In the meantime, let’s keep each other motivated. What’s on your weekend to-do list? Are you gardening? Or hoping to garden?

Forsythia of ’15

It’s another disappointing year for our forsythia bushes. There are just a few yellow flowers and a lot of bare branches.

Forsythia blooms for spring 2015

Forsythia blooms for spring 2015

Forsythia blooms for spring 2015

There are a lot of buds along those branches, so I think we’ll have a bumper crop of leaves. My plan is to give the forsythia a really good haircut this weekend. I hope that will help to reset it. I’m pretty sure that forsythia set their blooms fairly early, so if I prune too late, I’ll cut off next year’s blossoms… Not that I’m too optimistic about our chances of that given our experience the last two years.

I like tracking the onset of spring by comparing our forsythia every year. The timing of this year’s blooms, such as they are, are in line with two years ago:

What’s blooming at your house? Do you have any tips for encouraging forsythia blossoms?

Black thumb

I have a bit of a gardening theme for this week’s posts.

To set the scene, let’s first establish that I am not friendly to plants.

Remember that beautiful yellow pot and the ivy I was so proud of keeping alive?

Yellow pot with ivy in it on a windowsill

Yeah, it’s not so much any more. Matt’s hear-no and speak-no monkeys are wishing they could cover their eyes like see-no.

Pot of dead ivy

Upstairs, my poor aloe has realized she’s doomed and is trying to make a run for it. Harry, the other cactus, is hanging tough… for now.

Aloe falling out of its pot

And outside, where Mother Nature is available to counteract my influence, things aren’t going much better.

I had such high hopes for my pussy willow sprouts.

Pussy willow sprouts

But over the past week, they too succumbed to my black thumb.

Dead pussy willow sprouts

So all this is to say, don’t expect too much out of this week’s gardening posts.

One Room Challenge Week 6 – Master bedroom reveal

Cross the master bedroom makeover off my Home Goals 2015 list. Thanks to the One Room Challenge, this room is D-O-N-E.

Want to catch up on how we got here? Here are all of the previous posts:

It was hard for me to stay motivated in this makeover. The ORC was the push I needed to finally finish it off. I have to admit that I’m glad the room is done. Even better, I’m glad that it’s pretty… if I do say so myself.

Navy blue and white master bedroom

I think you’ll agree it’s definitely more stylish than where we started.

Master bedroom before and after

The best descriptors for this makeover are three words: simple, DIY and personal.

Simple

We kept things simple by working with what we already had.

First up was fresh paint for everything: ceiling, walls, trim, the door and even the old garage sale dresser we bought when we moved into our first house. After going round and round on paint colour, I love the deep navy blue I chose for the walls (Hale Navy by Benjamin Moore).

White dresser with aged brass hardware

Paint took care of most of the transformation, but it only went so far.

For those that have been following along, you know the finish on the sliding closet doors was in pretty rough shape. I didn’t want to replace the doors though (remember, we were working with what we had), so I tried wallpaper for the first time. With a bit of help from my parents and two rolls of beadboard wallpaper, we added a nice country touch to the bedroom.

Navy and white master bedroom

Where we didn’t go country was the lighting. Matt’s reaction when he first saw the chandelier was one word: “Liberace.”

Hello, sparkles.

Brass and crystal chandelier

Even with this light, we were still able to work with what we had (although not that awful ceiling fan, thank goodness) thanks to one of my co-workers. She invited me over to see her new (to her) house, and as we were eating dinner in the dining room she mentioned that they were going to replace the lighting. I said, “I’ll take it!” (Yes, I’m that dinner guest).

I wasn’t sure where I was going to use such a sparkly, brassy, glassy, shiny chandelier–we do live on a farm, after all–but it’s a perfect fit for this bedroom. Navy, brass, sparkle, white, wood… yes, please.

I love this view when I’m lying in bed. Also lovely is the smooth unstippled ceiling above it.

Brass and crystal chandelier

Which brings us to the DIY stage of this makeover (not that painting and lighting aren’t DIY).

DIY

Scraping the stipple ceiling was definitely the most involved DIY in this room. The other DIYs were much easier, but, given my lack of motivation throughout this makeover, tedious.

Well, not completely tedious. I knocked out a couple of hookboards really quickly. Having lots of hooks behind the door helps to corral the piles of clothes that appear so regularly in our bedroom. And if I’m being honest, these hooks are usually smothered in pyjamas and dog-walking clothes, not a pretty scarf and handbag–although Matt’s baseball cap is genuine.

Brass and white hookboards

The headboard was a difficult DIY just because I couldn’t decide what to do. Should it be upholstered? Painted? Curved? Square? It couldn’t stick up too high because it was going in front of the window. I didn’t want to spend too much money because some day post-whole house reno I hope to have a new master bedroom where I can build the wing chair style headboard of my dreams.

I finally decided on a simple wood headboard in an interesting shape. A leftover sheet of plywood and some careful cutting with my jigsaw fulfilled my vision.

After mixing a few cans of stain together, I was able to get a finish that’s a pretty close match to the nightstands from Matt’s childhood bedroom–although I had a really hard time photographing the headboard in front of the window, so I realize it’s kind of hard to tell.

I love the accents of the warm wood against the deep blue and bright white.

Navy, wood and white master bedroom

The other DIYs in this room involved a less typical power tool–my sewing machine. Although the fabric I sewed is a DIY staple–canvas drop cloths. I love the weight and the colour of these drop cloths. I used them for both the curtains and the bedskirt, and I will definitely be using them in future projects.

The window treatments will get their own post soon. They’re super simple, yet we have everything we could ever want: blackout blinds, bamboo blinds for style and full length pinch-pleated curtains–style and function

Navy and white master bedroom

Personal

The final guiding principle of this makeover–of my overall decorating philosophy–is to make it personal.

First up is the quilt on the bed. The quilt is from Walmart, but its patchwork pattern is special to me.

My grandmother was a quilter, so I’ve been exposed to this intricate handcraft my whole life. The double wedding ring pattern has been my favourite for years. I love the symbolism of having this pattern on Matt’s and my bed.

I admit, I wasn’t sure about the patterned quilt as this makeover progressed. So many rooms I see online are all about white or neutral bedding. I think that the quilt works in the room though, and it’s a lesson for me to use what I love, not what’s trendy or stylish.

Blue and white master bedroom

The other really personal element is the art that I chose.

The two pictures on either side of the bed are beautiful Audubon posters. On my side is a Great Blue Heron, an elusive bird that visits the pond occasionally. It’s always really special when I catch a glimpse of one. On Matt’s side is his favourite bird to see at the farm, the wild turkey.

Audubon prints

The final art can’t get much more personal, a family tree. I made each of my sisters a family tree like this when they got married with their wedding date in the middle circle. Now Matt and I have one of our own. (If you want one of your own, Martha–who else?–has a free template).

Fan family tree

So simple + DIY + personal. Plus six weeks (okay, a little bit more). Plus a whole lot of motivation from all of you reading along and all of the other participants in the One Room Challenge. Equals one beautiful master bedroom. Thanks so much for following along.

Visit Calling it Home to check out all of the other amazing reveals.

Picking up after the litterbugs

I’ve decided that smoking, drinking and littering should all be added to the list of deadly sins.

Saturday was the annual spring clean up in our area, so I headed out with a roll of garbage bags, two pairs of gloves and, of course, my usual sidekick.

Litter clean up

Most of the litter that we picked up was cigarette packages, paper coffee cups and beer cans. Given that most of the trash was thrown out of the windows of passing cars, I’m concerned that so much of it consisted of empty containers that formerly contained alcoholic beverages.

So perhaps to clarify, the deadly sin should be drinking and driving, not just drinking.

The annual litter clean up invariably leaves me feeling disgusted with humanity.

Not all of humanity, though. This year we had professional help from 1-800-Got-Junk. The team was driving around the concessions, picking up the bags that had been left on the roadside.

1-800-Got-Junk team

Baxter was also his usual helpful self. He appreciated the opportunity to spend as much time as he wanted wading in the ditch.

Baxter wading in the ditch

When he tired of getting muddy, he returned to sniffing and sunbathing.

Baxter

Here are a few highlights of this year’s clean up:

Various car parts–headlights, bumpers, hubcaps, a license plate. Our ditches are very deep, and apparently the stop sign across from the east field is invisible.

Car parts

SPB, I have your gloves… Well, two of them. The third odd one went in the trash.

Gloves

We made it approximately halfway around our 2km of roadside. The grand tally over three hours of clean-up was three bags of garbage, three bins of recycling, three hubcaps and three gloves. Oh, and those three new sins.

Have you done a spring clean-up at your house? What’s the weirdest trash you’ve ever come across? What sins would you add to the list if you could?