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Garden Trug
 Picking the fruits and vegetables in my garden is one of my happiest chores. And being prepared with a good carrier makes sure that I can get everything to the house in one trip. I'm sure you've had the experience of heading to the garden to get a tomato or two and oh, boy, some cukes are ready for picking, and a pepper, and a hand full of beans. Suddenly, you can't manage with just 2 hands- you need a trug!
The first time I heard the word "trug" was in England where I picked up this little cutie some 45 years ago. The carrier pictured above is hand-made with split branches for trim and obviously, it has stood the test of time. It's suggested use was for berry picking because the slightly sloping sides would help prevent the berries from being squashed. Gathering baskets, gathering aprons, harvest baskets, hods and trugs are all used for harvesting!

I like this gathering basket design because with a garden hose you can wash the vegetables before bringing them into the house. Inspiration for the "veggie hod"  pictured above was from Runner Duck Resources. The Runner Duck has a good (and simpler)  tutorial on how to build these, but I modified it somewhat- my directions are below.
You will need:
1" x 6" Cedar, 3' long. Cedar is an excellent choice- its natural properties lend weather (water) resistance.
1/4" wire mesh cut 15.5" square- cut so there are no sharp pointies sticking out
8 Galvanized #10 screws 1.5" long
9/16" staples and staple gun
Apple tree branch or other hard wood approx. 20-21" long, 3/4" diameter 

(The cedar board is actually 3/4" thick, 5.5" wide.)
From the board, cut two ends 8". Use a quart paint can on the side and bottom to mark a curve and cut to resemble the photo.
Notch the tops 1" down and 3/4" across.

From the remaining board, rip 2 pieces 1.5" for the handle holders and 2 pieces 1" for the rails.  Cut the 1.5" pieces 12" long and round one of the ends on both pieces. Cut the rails 16".
Dry fit the rail into the notch on the end. Make an adjustment to the notch if necessary.

Pre drill holes for #10 screws where indicated on photo above.


On the rounded side of the handle holders, make 3/4" holes 3/4" from the end. If you're using a wood spade bit, cut halfway in, until the point of the bit protrudes through the other side. Work on the other side, using the hole to guide the spade and finish the cut. If you go straight through, the back side will be splintered and unsightly.
Sand all the pieces. Depending on the quality, cedar can be very stringy (in difference to splintery).  

The wire mesh will have a natural roll to it because of how it is packaged and sold. The rolled sides attach to the ends. The straight sides attach to the rails.
Center the straight side of the mesh on the 3/4" side of the rail. This should give about 1/4" space at the ends of the rails. Staple to attach the mesh to the rail. Hammer your staples down to secure them to the rail.
 Repeat with the other rail on the other side of the mesh. When complete, both rails will lie under the mesh. Bend the rail up to gently fold the mesh along the rail.

Screw the rails to the carrier in the notches as in the photo. When all 4 sides are screwed, put 2 staples on the underside of the ends to hold the sides about 1/4"  out from the edge of the mesh to stabilize the shape.


Screw one handle holder to the end of the trug- 4" at bottom center.
Prepare your branch handle. You can scrape the bark off using a utility knife or leave it barked and rustic. A utility knife can whittle the ends to fit in the 3/4" holes you have cut out. I find it's easier to fit the handle before attaching the 2nd handle holder. Once the handle fits, attach the 2nd handle holder. Hammer a smail finishing nail through ONE end of the handle holder into the handle. This stabilizes the handle but still allows for shrinkage of the handle as it dries. I usually like to leave the handle sticking out the ends by an inch or two.

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Garden Topiaries

It's a perfect day to share an easy DIY project that was totally free for me. When I cleaned out the garage, among the many things I found which had been totally forgotten, were 3 tomato cages and 3 finials. Two of the finials had been cut from the tops of fence posts which had rotted at the ground. They were in rough shape, but very rustic.

The third was an old curtain rod end- equally rough. When I put them on the table, I thought "hmmmm, 3 and 3, maybe they belong together".

After sanding the finials, I drilled holes into the bottom of the finials with a drill bit that matched the thickness of the tomato cage wire. The hole had to be at a slight angle toward top center so the ends of the tomato cage slipped in nicely.

When I was sure the angle of the hole was right, I squirted silicone into the holes, attached the finials again, and let them dry overnight. The silicone acts as a weather proof glue.

I spray painted them a brilliant turquoise color and planted them in the garden with wire clothes hangers bent to make stakes to keep them in the ground. 


 Thunbergia  looks like a miniature black-eyed Susan and I had started seeds for another planting and thought they would be a perfect climber for these garden topiaries. What do you think?

It's always extremely fun to make something from found objects!


PS- Home Depot carries wood finials in the fencing department, used to cap off fence posts. They were under $4.00 each in 6/2018

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Drying Rack for Flowers and Herbs


 I've planted A LOT of flowers which are grown specifically to be dried. I contemplated how I was going to have the space for them and decided on this 7' tall drying rack I made from apple tree branches.

I only had a small corner of my living room for this project. Certain flowers come on all at once so I had to be able to get a lot drying at one time.
The tree branches were cut about 6 months before I began the project, giving them time to shrink a bit and for the bark to loosen. It was easy with a utility knife to scrape the bark from most of the branches.

I decided on a tri-pod arrangement and first laid a "ladder" of branches on the floor, using thinner branches as the rungs. At first I tied the cross branches to the longer ones, but even with a good twine, I was not able to make a secure connection. When I lifted the "ladder" up, it tilted showing all the cross pieces were willing to rack. So I laid it on the floor again, removed all the twine ties and used a power nailer with brads to secure the cross branches.

Once the first ladder was sturdy, I worked on the piece while it was upright in the position I wanted and attached cross branches to the "back leg". Then I connected more branches to create the third side. In several places, I double nailed a branch to prevent racking.

I left the ends of the cross branches wider than my "ladder legs" for additional hanging space. I love the way it looks in the room- rustic and artistic-  and it does offer the drying space I wanted. I also think it would be perfect, in smaller scale, for drying herbs and décor on a buffet.

The flower bunches are tied with rubber bands and hung from hooks I fashioned from large paper clips. I opened the paper clips, straightened out the larger hook and wrapped it around the handle of a foam paint brush which seems to work out for my size cross branches. The small hook is slipped onto the rubber band, the large hook goes onto one of the branches.

Yarrow was the first crop to be harvested this year. When dried, it holds its color so beautifully and is a great addition to dried bouquets and herb wreathes.

Other flowers for drying- statice, ammobium, straw flowers and celosia are all planted and just starting to bloom. I had a wealth of lavender from 3 year old plants which had been started from seeds.


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                                               Garden Benches


One of the things I thought was lacking in my garden last year was a bench to sit on when I wanted to take a break from weeding of just to sit on while admiring the plants.  As a winter project, crafting a bench (or two!) was first on my list.

While I made the designs of the benches different, construction was the same. The size can be adjusted to any length you need. The green bench is 48", the aqua is 35", dictated by the scrap wood I had in my stash.

I started with a piece of 1x10 cut to 35" (since my photos were done while I was making the aqua bench, I'll be referencing those dimensions, but you can make yours any length) and 2 pieces 1x6, cut to the same length. I made a cardboard template for the design on the side rail, traced it with pencil and used a skill saw to cut out the pattern. (The scalloped edge was made by marking a line 2.5" up from the bottom of the rails, dividing the width into 6" sections and using a bowl to mark the scallops.)

The legs are 1x10 pine, cut 18" for the height of the bench. The design for the legs was made by modifying the side rail template, tracing onto both pieces and cutting with the skill saw. I carefully sanded all the patterned edges, the outside edges of the side rails and the ends of the seat.

I used a Kreg jig to put the pieces of the bench together. If you don't have a Kreg, the bench can be nailed or screwed. Using the Kreg, I drilled 4 pocket holes on the edges of the underside of the seat, starting about 1.5" from the ends and approximating an equal distance between for the other 2 holes. Two pocket holes on the inside tops of each leg were also set in about 1.5" from the side edges.

Working upside down on a flat surface, the pieces were screwed together with the tops of the rail sides on the flat surface, widening the seat by 1.5". If you use a Kreg and your drill is big, you may have trouble getting the screws in at the proper angle on the second rail because the box created by the 1st rail being attached to the seat restricts the width of the area. I had a short screwdriver with a head that matches the Kreg screws so I hand-tightened the 2 inner screws on the second rail. The ends were reachable from the sides. 

The placement of the legs should be no more than 6" from the ends of the seat or the bench may tip if someone sits on the end. I measured 4.5" from each seat edge, made a mark and screwed the legs in at my mark. You should take into account the pattern you have cut on your side rails and place your legs so they look deliberate with your pattern.The legs will NOT be sturdy enough to prevent racking without face nailing the rails to the legs so don't try it out just yet!. 


Use an L-square to pencil mark the legs perpendicular with the seat. Face nail twice into each side to hold the legs in place and create the triangle necessary to prevent racking.

Now you have a cute little bench- easy to move around for extra seating or to decorate your garden or porch! Because I used #2 pine, there were a lot of knots. Before I primed and painted it, I applied 2 coats of BIN shellac base stain blocker to prevent the knots from bleeding through. From there, a coat of primer and a coat of paint will finish it off.

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Lavender Wands 

Making the Most of Lavender Season 


One of my most favorite herbs is lavender. It's easy to grow and my current "mama" of the garden is over 10 years old and still produces a fortune in blooms. Bees love it and it's one of the most showy plants in my garden during bloom time.

But the story today is about lavender wands, a perfect way to save the precious blooms to fragrance your wardrobe, sock drawers or bathrooms.

This little DIY project takes about 45 minutes, minimal equipment and is a great gift for a special friend or loved one. Lavender wands will last for years- in fact in the photo, the more brown-stemmed wand is over 5 years, the next about 3 years and the greenish stemmed wand is 2 years old. All still give off a beautiful fragrance when gently hand squeezed.

To begin, you'll need an odd number of stems for the weave to work out. I choose 19 which is enough to encapsulate the buds and still be able to make a nice weave at the bottom of the wand when the stems are pressed together. The lavender must be harvested and made into wands immediately- if the stems dry out, they will break while working on it and you won't have enough stems to make the weave.

 As you can see in the photo, the lavender stems are cut long when the buds are just starting to open, at the height of fragrance. You'll also need 1/8th to 1/4 inch ribbon and a heavy thread- like quilting thread.

Some of your stems may have  (what I call ) bracts where the stem produces smaller branches of flowers, or leaves. These should be taken off so the stems are clean.

Bunch the stems with the flowers finishing together on the stem end. Run the ribbon through the center of the stems with about 12" of ribbon sticking out from the flower end. Tie the stems together (and the ribbon) with the quilting thread tightly, but not so tight as to crush or break the stems. The stems are fragile.

With great care not to break the stems, fold them over the lavender buds and try to arrange them evenly around the flowers.
Begin weaving over and under each stem with the ribbon that is still attached to the spool. It's important to keep the ribbon flat- with no twists- to produce the prettiest wand. After a few go-arounds, you'll develop a finesse which makes it easier.

It's tricky to start. Sometimes I really think I need a third hand to hold it together while starting the weave!  The stems that you've gone under are still free to move and as I go around they sometimes get pushed in the wrong place creating a mis-weave which I don't notice until I've gone around again.

Like this- DON'T DO THIS! It's easy to back-track to where the mistake began and re-weave it. Often the stems will get caught in the flowers and it's easy to loose track of one which starts the mis-weave.

I've straightened out my mess and now I can weave round and round until I get to the end of the flowers. Pull the weaving ribbon taut as you go so the flowers are snug within the weaving. As the wand dries, it will shrink a bit so you want to be as tight as possible.

As you get closer to the ends of the flowers, the weave will be very tight around the stems. Wrap the weaving ribbon several times around the stems to finish. Using the other ribbon end, tie them into a bow and cut the weaving ribbon off.

I usually trim the stems evenly to finish. The wands should air dry for a few days, then I wrap them in tissue paper before giving as a gift. Lavender wands- so sweet!


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The Hot Frame ~ My Mini-Greenhouse Build


My eagerness for spring is prompted by my love of growing things so I feel like a part of my emotional life has been on hold, waiting for winter to pass. I wanted a green house- so badly- but from past experience I know a greenhouse needs daily attention. Once spring (finally) arrives, I'll be half the time at home and half the time at the farm until the planting, berry patch tending and "spring chores" are done. I can't be in two places at once- though I would like to.
So a greenhouse was out of the question without help. If I built a greenhouse at the farm, my BFF (best farm friend) Paula offered to tend to it in my stead- but that's asking a lot AND it's colder up there, longer. The water is not even turned on at the farm, and cannot be until it stops freezing at night.
If I built it here in NJ, my sweet Rick offered to tend to it anytime I was at the farm doing the spring set up. In years past, the weather in NJ has provided a two-to-three week head start to planting in difference to the farm. So I was leaning toward a set-up in NJ.

I live in a retirement community with regulations, one of which is that no structures can be built in the yards- so a greenhouse was out. BUT, I have a back patio (pictured above) that gets southern light most of the day which was a perfect  location to build a modified greenhouse- more than a cold frame, less than a hothouse- so I call it a Hot Frame. I designed it to be ergonomically easy on my back, with heat and vents, close to my hose for watering- and of course it had to be budget friendly.

My sketch of the Hot Frame is crude- but this is the idea I worked off of. The size of a hot frame, if you choose to build one, can be anything that fits into your space that gets 6-7 hours of sunshine a day. 
My considerations were:
1) the size of my patio area
2) that I would be storing this at the farm to reuse each year so it had to de-construct minimally- front, back and roof could be left intact-  and fit into my car to transport it  Only the plastic and a few pieces of lathe would have to be replaced each year.
3) light weight, so I used 5/4 x 3.5 spruce as my framing material, figuring a snow load was only a remote possibility at this time of year. 
4) economical so the spruce was purchased in 12' lengths and cut in half to 6' pieces for parts of the build to minimize waste 
5)  was large enough that the smallest readily-available electric heater would not over heat the space 
6) the roof could be opened to load it with growing flats and vent to cool when (if?) the sun comes out.
7) a 2-piece digital thermometer was necessary to monitor temperatures inside the Hot Frame from inside my house.
8) An omission on the sketch is that  1" x 2" rails were added to the inside front and back, 16" from the floor that would later be used to support lathe to make a bench for the growing plants.

I made 2  6' long boxes and screwed them together to form one 12' x 40" Hot Frame.

Some tips to consider:
Use 6 mil plastic to wrap the frame (I wrapped it as one long 12' frame). A roll of 10' x 25' clear (which is not clear, actually) plastic was just enough to cover. Do not attach the roof to the base until both parts  are covered and leave the plastic loose on what will be the hinge side of the roof. Cut the plastic 8-10" wider and longer than your frame so on the top of the frame, it can be rolled to the inside and stapled and have a 4" "skirt" at the bottom. Tap staples with a hammer to make sure they are well set.

 Placing the roof over the frame, match it at the back and check that it is  square to the top of the frame. Screw 2 hinges to attach the roof to the frame. Once the hinges are attached, finish stapling the roof plastic which is stapled to the frame giving a water proof seam between the frame and the roof.

Use lathe (which is so thin now it can be attached with 3/4" staples) to hold the plastic onto the frame. The plastic will rip from the staples from wind blowing if it is not secured on the roof and anywhere you've added staples to the framing.  Use lathe around the bottom perimeter to secure the plastic to the frame ( see the roof and "skirt"  in the main picture)

It's imperative to have (2) folding supports - one on each back corner- to attach the roof to the sides otherwise a gust of wind will rip the roof off (I used 4 because my roof was done in 2 sections). Just FYI, these do come right and left facing (ask me how I learned this tip  LOL)

Gusts of wind can also open the Hot Frame so I used hooks and eyes at the corners to hold the roof down.


I made a door to access the heater without having to open the top. I added a horizontal piece of framing between 2 of the front uprights and cut an opening into the plastic at bottom of the frame, wrapping the cut plastic onto the framing pieces and stapling. I was concerned that rain water run off might get into the heater space, so I stapled an outer piece of plastic to the top of the front frame cut about 3" wider than my opening and about 4" longer than the height.  I secured it with a piece of framing material, as shown above.

6) Inside the little door, the small fan forced heater (safety features and adjustable thermostat- Pelonis HF 1003 from Lowe's) sits on 3 tiles to keep it dry from any water penetration and level. An outdoor extension cord connects to the heater cord.


The cord plugs are water protected in a plastic Glad food storage box which was cut to make room for the cords to fit snuggly into the box.

THE HEATER, CORDS AND TILES WILL BE TAKEN OUT OF THE HOT FRAME WHENEVER THE PLANTS ARE WATERED.  I admit this is not the ideal solution, but the heater will probably be used for just  2-3 weeks so, for me, to have a place to grow plants, this inconvenience is worth it.


Sticky Velcro was added to each side of the little door hatch- on the plastic of the flap and the plastic covering the frame so it is well sealed when closed.

Install the sensor of a  two piece thermometer at the corner farthest from the heater- this will be your coldest spot. The thermometer I used is a wireless Acu-Rite Weather Thermometer (Lowe's). The digital read out is kept in the house and the 2nd piece is a sensor which hangs in the Hot Frame. From a distance of up to 165', you'll know the temperature inside the Hot Frame and can adjust the temperature if necessary. I love the tech!

I ran a very make-shift center support for the potting benches with left over wood 16" high to match the side rails which were added to the inside front and back frames. Lathe strips span the width of the Hot Frame and become a plant table  (some still need to be set in place). It's not necessary to nail or staple the lathe for the plant table.

You can see the digital sensor mounted in the Hot Frame. Before adding plants, I ran the heater for a night and worked out a a few inconsistencies of the heat- there will be a 5-7 degree difference in the floor and ceiling of the Hot Frame. I felt confident enough today to load up some of the seedlings I've started and I'm looking forward to a fun and wonderful growing season.
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I'm kind of leading a double life- maintaining my home garden and creating a farm in Eldred NY. Because I have big plans for Eldred with raised bed vegeatble planters and some flowers to take to Farmers' Market, I started a lot of seeds in late winter. The statice seed packet said germination would be 20 days so I was very surprised to see upstarts after only 3 days being planted. They grew beautifully and were ready well before planting time in Eldred (which is about 3 weeks later than my home in Toms River NJ). I decided to create a space at home to plant and cultivate them.

After seeing more than 30 deer pass by my back yard, I knew I had to get serious about protecting my summer plants. The deer population has been steadily growing and every year more and more of my garden gets eatten.

I prepared the flower bed at the edge of my patio for the statice seedlings. Statice is an annual flower which can be dried for using in dried flower arrangements. This is a multi-colored seed selection so I'm looking forward to having cobalt blue, yellow, white and coral flowers to dry.



I planted my plants.



At Lowe's I purchased 5  26" plastic stakes and put them around the garden. They have clips on them to attach a wire fence.



I bought a 50' roll of rabbit fencing,  cut it to length and put it on the stakes using the clips to hold it in place.



I cut another piece of fence to use as the top and rested it on the patio ledge and twister tied it to the top of the fence- the twister ties become the hinges.



To maintain the garden, I can flip the top of the cage over and weed with a long handled hoe. For harvest, I'll need to pull some of the stakes out to reach the flowers. The total cost for this project was $35.00 (2017)  for my 20' row. This year, I'm excited to grow my flowers, but someone else may want a vegetable garden and it would work for that too. As you see, the flowers survived the deer!



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Birdseed Birdhouse



I'm always looking for projects to make with children especially if it can promote good citizenship. Nothing like combining an afternoon of fun with a great message! In this case,  compassion for wild life is the message and kids of all ages enjoy coming together to make this project.


The supplies needed are:

A pre-built,  unfinished wood bird house from the craft store. The simplier the better. Costs range from

$5 - 8.00.


An assortment of bird seed- either individually packaged by variety or a mix is okay.

Dried raisins and dried cranberries

A jar of peanut butter per bird house

Knives for spreading the peanut butter

A large paper plate

Heavy string.


Before you begin the project, drill 2 holes in the roof so a string can be added later to use as a hanger.



Work with the birdhouse sitting on a paper plate. Once the birdhouse is slathered with peanut butter, this will get messy! It will be easier to turn the plate to work on the sides and back than to turn the birdhouse.


Using the knife, spread peanut butter on one wall of the birdhouse, about 1/4" thick.


There are several ways to apply the birdseed to the birdhouse. You can "rain it down" or hold a side almost flat and sprinkle birdseed on the peanut butter, then pat it in so the peanut butter holds it. Or you could put bird seed in an aluminum lasgna pan and press the birdhouse into the seed. However you decide, the idea is to cover the birdhouse with seeds.


Repeat on the other walls. Doing one side at a time makes it easier to handle the birdhouse without getting messy with peanut butter.


Then do the roof- be sure to leave the drilled holes open and clear so string can be put through later.


Use raisins and dried cranberries to outline roof lines, opening holes and faux windows for special effects.


When the birdhouse is covered with seed, run the string though the pre-drilled holes to create a hanger. Some folks like to use the string to hold sprigs of evergreen or shafts of wheat for a little decoration. Birds will eat the wheat seeds too!


The finished birdhouse can be hung on a branch or on a shepard's hook in the yard. The peanut butter will freeze, but birds can peck through it and enjoy seeds all season long.



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