Friday, April 19, 2013

A Little Bit Off Topic. . .

This entry has nothing to do with gardening, but I wanted to show you how I made these awesome bowls using old vinyl records.  Now, you can buy small party bowls that are made to look like 45s, but I wanted bigger--and cheaper--bowls.  And this was such a fun little project, I just had to share it.

Those who were at the surprise 40th birthday party I threw for my husband last summer will probably remember these.  They were a big hit sitting on the table with the party favors and napkins in them.  Yes, it was a disco party, and so we gave out disco ball keychains to all the guests.  (Bubbles were for the kids.)

So I started with some old 33s my dad gave me.
I heated the oven to the lowest temperature possible--175 for mine.  Then I grabbed my old pizza sheet and a metal bowl.  I was lucky enough to have a metal bowl--thank you Grandmom & Grandpop Behrmann--but an oven-safe glass bowl should work just as well.  (I'm thinking of a Pampered Chef batter bowl to be specific.  I know they are oven-safe, and the classic size should be about the right.)

I turned the bowl upside-down, and placed it on the pizza (or cookie) sheet.
In order to make sure my records came out symmetrical, I marked the center of the bowl with a pencil.  (Pencil is always easy to remove.)  
If you closely, you can see an "L" shape marking the center.
I lined up this mark with the hole in the record, then carefully slid the odd assortment into the oven.

Each record is different, so I can't give you a time for the process.  Thinner ones take less time than the thicker ones.  But they all do the same thing:  the vinyl will soften and droop down over the bowl, creating "wings."

This was the first result of the first attempt.
You'll notice the "wings" really more like valleys here.  (When it's still on the metal bowl, and upside-down, they are big waves.)  This look was too open for my tastes and purposes, as the valleys would allow any contents to fall out much too easily.  So, I put the record back on the bowl and reheated it.  Once it was soft again, I used pot holders and pinched the "wings" together.  This made the vinyl slid up off of the bowl a bit, but it closed the finished product much better.
Pinched "wings."

Here I have to point out that this was the only record out of five that formed three "wings" instead of four.  If there is a way to ensure the number of "wings," I didn't find it.  All of my record bowls formed naturally.  This one, with only three, created some issues with the roundness of the finished bowl, and I found I had to help shape it whereas the bowls with four "wings" stayed smooth and round upon pinching the "wings" closed.
You can see the ripples where this bowl lost it's roundness.

This was great fun to do, and I hope you have as much fun as I did if you decide to give it a go for your next party.

Thanks for sticking around though my divergent post.  Until next time!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

And it Begins. . .

I can't believe it's been a month since my last post.  Guess it just shows how busy it's been with Spring bringing in the warmer weather.  Last weekend we made a family event of cleaning up the tree debris in the yard, piling it up along the driveway for disposal at the dump.  And before you judge us for taking lawn "trash" to the landfill, you should know that our landfill has an area for biodegradable refuse.  You can even get compost from there.

And speaking of compost, mine is doing quite well.  It was a bit dry on the top layer, but I keep a 5-gallon bucket next to it to collect rain water for just this purpose.  The bucket also has wood ash in it, which is good for adding trace elements.  (Here is a good article about the use of wood ash in gardens.) So, I dumped the rain water and stirred the compost to reveal a rich, dark fertilizer that literally moved with red worms (and some other creepy-crawlies).  I can't wait to spread it on the garden and till it into the soil.  

I "pruned" and re-routed my wild raspberry bushes.  My pruning involved cutting a lot of the plants out, especially the ones that were reaching far too far into the rest of the garden and creating awkward, and even hazardous, picking situations.  Hopefully, with the unruly vines removed, the others, which I attempted to intertwine will be easier to control.  They really need to be moved, but until my husband gets the soil situated around the garage, I can do nothing.  

I had planted some broccoli seeds to start inside, but I failed miserably.  While the seeds started, and indeed grew a bit, the fickle Maryland weather prevented me from putting them outside for some real sun and rain.  Actually, I think the wind may have killed more than a few the one day.  Obviously, I'm more of a direct-sower.  I was just going to go buy some broccoli plants instead, but I have yet to find any.

On the plus side, my peas are doing wonderful.  I planted them in a pot this year, and I planted them much earlier than last year.  However, when I dug the seeds out of the wooden box I had them stored in, the envelope was wet.  All of the seed envelopes in the box were wet.  Apparently my bottle of Enz-rot fell over and leaked all over everything.  This product is an all natural concentrate of water and calcium chloride.  Still, I worried that it may have affected the seeds, so I called Gardens Alive! to check on the safety of this situation.  All clear!  The seeds are safe to grow and eat.

I planted four peas just to see if they would indeed grow.  Success!  I now have four strong, healthy pea plants growing under a 2-liter bottle and a Ball quart jar.  Since they were doing so well, I planted six more in the pot.  I figure I can wrap them all up one trellis that way.  I'll probably have my wonderful husband build me one.  (Unless he starts taking too long, which has been known to happen.  After all, I am still waiting for my promised raised beds for my herbs and strawberries.)
Ball Jar Greenhouses for Peas
(. . . And One Soda Bottle)
This little "experiment" taught me that the glass Ball jars work much better as greenhouses than the plastic soda bottle.  I think the glass traps the heat better than the plastic. 
First 4 Pea Plants
I love the plant on the far right in the above picture.  This little guy sprouted from the pea after it had worked its way above the soil.  I'm not sure why it did that, but I suspect it had to do with me pushing the jar down over it.  But the point is that I got to watch that little plant push roots into the nourishing soil and reach stems and leaves for the warm light above.

As for the herbs, I finally cut last season's dead stalks to allow the new shoots better access to the sun.  The mints are doing very well.  As is the cat nip and bee balm.  In fact, the bee balm is doing so well, I had to look online for pictures to make sure that what is growing is assuredly bee balm and not weeds.  Last year, when I first got these two plants, they were little sticks that grew into bigger, stalky plants.  Now they are small, but vigorous, bushes in tiny pots.  I need to get them in the ground!

Cat Nip
Bee Balm!

And then there is the German chamomile.  At no time in my research on this particular herb did I read that it grows like a weed.  Boy oh boy, does it grow like a weed.  There is German chamomile in almost every one of my pots!  One of my oregano pots has a few tiny oregano sprouts, but otherwise is flourishing with tiny German chamomile sprouts.  Well, it was before I stooped down and started yanking them out.  The herb is also in one of the pots I used for lettuce last year.
 Aside from growing where it shouldn't be, the chamomile is getting a good start in its own pot as well.
It's hard to see, and I had to disrupt a large portion of the soil to remove a thatch of grass, but there are tiny green dots covering the surface.  Crazy me, I'm contemplating sprinkling some more seeds over the portion where the grass was.  But, I have learned a lesson here.  This herb was to be planted in my still-nonexisitant raised bed.  One good thing about having to wait for the bed is the knowledge gained about the prolific tendencies of said herb.  While it may get a larger home than it currently has, it will stay in a pot so as to avoid its hostile takeover of any raised beds it may have gone into.

I plan on planting my lettuce soon, but first I need to pick another type of cut-and-coe-again.  I wasn't thrilled with the mesclun last year.  It was a bit bitter and not very yummy.  However, before I can plant lettuce at all I need to regain control of the pots.
My little Bug has taken them over, using his gardening tools to bury his bulldozer in one container using the dirt from the other.  (Last year the green tub was my unsuccessful attempt at growing dandelions.  This spring they grew quite willingly since I decided to forego that venture.)

Until next time. . .  Happy tilling and sowing!