Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Christmas Project Part Two or How not to paint a Union Jack

The continuing story of Meredith's Christmas present......

My original idea was to paint the union jack on the wood first, and then put stain over the whole thing to sort of mute the flag down a bit.  Forgot all about that, as I was excited I'd actually found some walnut stain, and merrily went on my way and stained the top.  Oh well.  I wanted to have part of the stained wood top showing, so decided to just paint the stripes, and the stained wood would be the blue part of the flag.

As you may have noticed in the previous post, there are very specific measurements to drawing the Union Jack correctly, and I wanted it to be like the real thing.  The lid was 18" wide, but 54" long.  I based my measurements on that 18" width, and just extended the horizontal and diagonal stripes until they ran over the edge of the top.  I thought I had found an easier way to do all the taping compared to some pictures I had seen.  First I would tape all the outer edges of the white, and I started to fill them in.  Then I thought, why paint it all in, just paint the part that needs to be white.  I was painting with a dry brush, which means you barely dip it in the paint and then brush most of the paint off onto a cloth or paper, and then paint your actual piece.  The paint goes on very thin, almost like a stain, and allowed the wood grain to show through.
And then suddenly I realized I had forgotten the diagonal white stripes. Frick.


 I taped those off, and got a wet cloth and rubbed away some of the sharp edge left were the diagonal stripes meet the horizontal and vertical ones.


I wanted the white to look like it was painted all at the same time.  I wasn't totally successful with that.


So then I taped off for the red stripes, and realized that I hadn't painted some of the white parts wide enough.


 I started to put the red on with a dry brush also, and of course the white underneath some parts of it made the red look pink.  Back to the wet cloth.  Rubbed off the red paint I had put on, and then rubbed even harder to take off all the white paint that was in the red areas.  Painted the red in, and then had to go back and retape three of the diagonal stripes and fill in the white I missed.See the white paint missing in the top two and bottom right diagonals?


After it was all dry, I gave the top a quick sand.  Then I decided that the stain didn't look as dark as I liked, so I taped off all the stained areas and gave them another dose of stain.  Hmm, just thought now that I could have stained over the paint as well at that point, as per my original plan. Didn't think of it at the time.  In the process, I had the can of stain on the floor, well on the rug, and proceeded to kick the can of stain over.  So then I had to get out the paint thinner and try get the stain out of the rug.  The house smelled of paint thinner.  Good grief, how NOT to paint a Union Jack. I was sure that Meredith would smell it when she came home, and ask about it. (She didn't). 
 The chest was in the family room, which really does not get used by Meredith, but is where my computer is, and the modem and the D-link.  The only reason she would probably go down there was if the Wi-Fi was acting up.  Sure enough, that happened, and the there she was, sprawled in the computer chair with her feet up on the chest, waiting for the internet to start back up.  I had covered the chest up with an old shower curtain, and it was in the same spot where there had been another piece of wood furniture waiting to be worked on, which I had removed and put in the garage.  Sort of that hiding in plain sight sort of idea I guess.  She obviously didn't notice the difference in height from the switched out piece.

I could only work on the chest while she was at work, so I was rapidly running out of time.  I had some gray paint, added a bit of blue to it, added some plaster of paris to make some homemade chalk paint, and painted the bottom.  It turned out bluer than I had wanted.
Here it is with the first coat of paint on, and I think it is before I put the second coat of stain on the top.  The lighting is bad and the chest wasn't quite that blue, but still bluer than I liked. 


Those fake cupboards and drawers were perfect spots for appliqueing some maps of England.  The previous month, when my favourite thrift store had it's half price sale, I had sat down in the book section and gone through all the atlases and bought the one that had the most maps of England in it (for $1).   Of course I realized after that some of those maps are on the back of a page I wanted to use.  I had a couple of different options, but did want to include the map that showed Harrogate, in North Yorkshire, where I was born.  Luckily the pages were just wide enough to fill in the space.  In a big box of road maps, I had found one from southern England, and it was just wide enough for the two 'drawers' in the middle.  Since I had nothing wide enough for the top two 'drawers', I left them looking like drawers, and cleaned up the original handles and put everything together for a dry fitting.

I took everything off the front, mixed more grey paint in and did a second coat that came out more the colour I wanted.  The top got a coat of Antique Paste Varnish ($2.50 from Habitat for Humanity), and the maps and handles were put back on temporarily.  That is how it was presented to Meredith on Christmas morning.  We are not an overly demonstrative family, but I think she liked it:)  In the next couple of days I got a few more coats on the top.  I got the maps glued down and got several protective coats over them.  The paint was lightly distressed to help the details pop, and then was waxed and buffed to give it a subtle sheen.

The pictures aren't the best.  I didn't want to ask anyone to help me lug the beast outside.  The weather wasn't great anyway.  I had very limited room and a lot of junk useful stuff in the background that I wanted to crop out.





And look, there is a sea serpent in the ocean East Northeast of The Wash. Yep, I managed to get at least one of Nelson's hairs embedded in the clear finish.


Maybe not everyone's cup of tea (make that English Breakfast!) but I loved doing it and am pleased with the transformation:)

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Christmas Project- Part 1

I'm terrible with Christmas presents.  Just am not good at coming up with something to give a person.  Some years back when the kids turned into adults, we put a $50 limit on Christmas gifts.  Over the years, I've made some presents.  Coming to mind at the moment is a horse blanket I made for Meredith one year when she had a horse in 4H.  Another year we made a hockey net for David out of PVC pipe and some heavy fishing net we had bought at a garage sale.  Usually the homemade gifts involve me rushing to finish them off, late on Christmas Eve.  Not sure how it went with the horse blanket, but I do remember Larry and I, late at night both working hard at lacing that netting around the frame for the hockey net.


This year I had an idea for something homemade.  As you may know, I've dabbled a little bit into the furniture painting world. I read all the blogs....some things I like, some I don't.  I am a lover of real wood, but I've been fascinated at how you can give something a whole new look with paint. Over the year I've accumulated a pile of stuff that I want to play around with.  And I do mean a pile.  It was covered in a tarp, which keeps blowing off, and since it is quite close, in the barn/shop, to where Larry feeds Pride, there is no way Larry has been able to miss it.  Sometimes I can 'hide' things in plain sight, and it probably would have been okay if the tarp had stayed in place.  Larry would have just assumed it was some of David's automotive collection underneath it.  I think.

So back to my idea.  Meredith will be moving to her own place in the coming year. (There, it's down in writing, therefore it WILL happen).  She is interested in all things British.  She spent a few days in London at the end of a Contiki  Europe tour in 2011.  She spent a rushed week there last year as part of the great landrover hunt.  She has a trip around the British Isles planned for 2015.  She, along with me, has admired some of the furniture makeovers that included Union Jacks painted on them.

The Union Jack, with construction lines

My original plan was to find a trunk or chest that could function as a coffee table and storage, and 're-do it' for Meredith.  I would paint a Union Jack on the top.  I did find one on Craigslist, but they were asking $100.  I felt that was a reasonable price for what it was, but it was double my price limit. I waited to see if they would lower the price a bit, and then I would offer $50 with fingers crossed.  That wasn't meant to be.  I hummed and hawed way too long and it sold.  Then I came across a cedar lined chest for free.  It had some damage from puppy teeth, but I jumped on that ad right away.  I was the lucky one, I thought.  So we head to Langley one dark rainy night, about 20 minutes away.  The chest was much smaller than I had thought.  I had seen a picture, but hadn't thought to ask for measurements, and I guess I had just imagined it the size I wanted it to be.  But, we were there, it was free, so I took it anyway.  After much looking it over and realizing it is just a very cheap copy, put together from a kit, with major damage to the particle board trim, I'm going to send it off to the thift store.  Someone will be happy to have it to store something in. Back to more hours perusing Craigslist.

There were quite a few trunks or chests that were for sale.  Most were too much money.  Some were in my price range, but were too far to go, or I just couldn't make it work out.  Then one popped up for $25.  I was lucky and saw the ad almost right after it was posted, so contacted the seller right away, and we made arrangements to go and pick it up.  About 35 minutes away this time.  When we got there, the chest was much taller than I thought, not suitable for a coffee table, and really too high for a bench to sit on.  But it did have some features on the front that got me interested in applying another technique.  It was made by Huppe, a Canadian company out of Quebec, and was about 40 years old.  It was built like a tank, was in great shape, and since we were there and it was only $25, I took it anyway:)

Looks like a dresser but it isn't.  Just the lid opens. I had already started sanding the top here.


All nicely cedar lined though.  That little shelf lifts out.


So there it sat, in the garage, for weeks.  There was no room in there to work on it.  Eventually we had to clean out the garage to fit the market trailer in.  The market trailer is a small utility trailer that we take to the farmer's markets each week.  In it we keep the tents, tables, racks, stands, the jam left over from the weekend, the sewing.  Everything except anything new that I am taking the next weekend.  It's a life saver, as it means when we get home after a market, we don't have to unload all that stuff from the truck, and then reload the next weekend.  Since we continued to go to farmer's markets right through until the middle of December, and we had a below freezing spell of weather, I had to get the trailer inside so that I didn't have to worry about the jam freezing.  After the last market, it took me a few days before the trailer was unloaded for the winter, and now empty, it was taken back outside to be stored until the next season.  The chest had been under a blanket and had been a horizontal surface to hold Pride's bags of feed and the five buckets used to make his mashes each day.  That was moved  and now I had room to start sanding it.  The top was sanded down to bare wood and the rest was sanded just to roughen up the finish.

I knew I had some walnut stain.....somewhere.  Couldn't find it.  Did find this really old tin of walnut stain, so old I didn't even think it was usable.  I was so excited to find something the colour I actually wanted, that I forgot that I was going to paint first.

To be continued......

Thursday, December 26, 2013

We Had A Merry Christmas

We survived.  We had a good time.  Everything all worked out in the end.  We got our family Christmas photo taken with us still speaking to each other, and all the animals in one piece.  At the time though, I was positive that Pride trampled on Luna after we were all done.  Larry was walking towards Pride with his blanket held open and up in front of him, ready to put it over Pride's head.  Luna was right behind Pride as usual. Pride freaked and I was sure he trampled on Luna's legs.  Instantly visions of sugar plums dollar signs and visits to the emergency vet flashed through my head.  I screamed at Luna and looked away (which is what I automatically seem to do with I see a disaster unfolding that I can't do anything to stop).  Either the ground was soft enough or Pride actually missed her, but Luna seemed to survive unscathed.

I had suggested that we use the tractor as a prop in our picture, but then Gruff, David's land rover was suggested instead.  That was a much better idea.  The land rover that David, accompanied by Meredith (who couldn't pass up a good excuse to go to England) bought and had shipped back from England in the summer of 2012.  It took nearly a year go get it here, deal with all the paper work and regulations, work on it and get it inspected three times, before it was finally legal to be driven in B.C.

As you can see, the snow of last week is gone, was gone by Monday I think.  There might be one small blob left at the bottom of the driveway that was the snow lady.  We are back to our typical Christmas weather.



In the afternoon David brought my mum over from her care home.  She stayed for dinner, and asked that we take a family photo.  Not the best, but she was happy enough with it, and I printed it out and stuck it in a frame and she took it back with her.


I didn't get much done in the way of Christmas baking, but thankfully others seemed to fill in for me.  I did make some Christmas decorations though.


They are made out of old paperbacks and in this case, brass candle sticks were used as a base.  These were a gift, but I also made some for us.  You can see some of them on the shelf in the background.  I made a couple of very small ones as this year's Christmas ornaments for M and D.  Here's a link to making the trees.  http://anextraordinaryday.net/how-to-make-folded-paperback-book-christmas-trees-a-tutorial/

On Christmas Eve we received a last minute invitation for dinner.  I hesitated for a moment, as there were a lot of things I needed to do that evening, but then realized nothing was more important than spending time with friends, and I would be foolish to turn down a wonderful meal cooked by someone other than me:)  And the extra bonus....

I got to snuggle with these!  Three week old lab puppies that are destined to become guide or autism dogs.



I was told I would be checked for stowaway puppies on my way out.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Snow Day, Snow Dogs, Snow Lady

We had a dump of snow today.  A good four inches when it was all said and done.  One of those relatively rare times here when a moist system and a cold system collide.  A one day event this time.  The snow turned to a damp drizzle by late afternoon, but tomorrow is supposed to be dry, so the kids who are now on Christmas vacation will have one good day for playing in the white stuff before the rain shows up and turns it into slush.  If we are lucky it might just last until Christmas Day.  Our chances of a white Christmas are about 10%.  The last one we had was in 2008, which just so happened to be the winter that we drove to Seattle just before Christmas and adopted Luna.


But Jake is the real snow dog.  


After our walk through the bush this morning he decided to stay outside for a while


He wandered out into the hayfield and scrounged around and dined on something, probably frozen horse manure.


Then he came back and stood at the top of the driveway for a while, in his 'watching for coyotes' spot.  He stares out over the chicken field, to the big field next door.


Pride wandered around, and then just stood out in the snow.  You wonder why he doesn't go and stand in one of his sheds.


This is kale.  It has survived the cold spell early in the month.  All those marks on the stems are where leaves once were.  Leaves I've picked off to sell at the farmer's markets.  If you are a customer and are reading this, you might have eaten some of those leaves.  In the Spring fresh tender leaves will sprout from those leaf nodes.  Kale at it's finest!


This little bird was scratching on the top of the manure pile.  We get this mixture of fine wood chips, manure, and hay bits from the farm across the road.  This bird was at the fresh end, where the pile is still warm and melting much of the snow on it.


In the afternoon the temperature had warmed up and the snow was perfect for rolling into snow balls.  Even us old fogies can have fun with the snow:)


I had to take the mandatory dog photo of course!


And here she is with the Christmas lights this evening.  I've decided that her arms need adjusting.  They should be coming out of her shoulders, not halfway down her torso.  I'm interested to see if she survives the night.  Not because she might melt, but because she is right next to the road, under the street light, hard to miss.  She might be just a bit too tempting for a certain type passing by.


It was fun to see all the neighbours smiling at her as they headed out to do their Christmas shopping this afternoon:)

Monday, December 16, 2013

It's Starting to Feel a bit like Christmas

Winter came early this year.  At the beginning of December we got some cold weather, below freezing both day and night.  The kind of stuff we sometimes get in January.   The kind of weather that would be positively mild for some, but unusually cold for us.  It's all relative you know, and makes me feel rather wimpy when I think about it, but I'll pass on experiencing that bitterly cold stuff.  Generally our cold weather comes with a freezing wind, bringing the arctic weather from the interior of the province.  It's the wind that gets to you. Once the wind stops it feels positively balmy.

The animals seemed to handle it alright.  Pride was all bundled up in his blankets.  A cosy quilted one given to me by a friend and his waterproof rain sheet on top of it.  When it was the coldest, we added fleecy shipping boots to keep his lower legs warm.  He's an old man, he deserves all the coddling he can get.  He will be 32 next March.  He enjoys a few apples a day.


Pride has a couple of three sided shelters that he can stand in.  He prefers to be able to chose whether to be in or out.  He knows where to stand in the field to catch the most heat from the sun, and the least wind.


Sometimes gravity takes over and he has a snooze.


The chickens too found the sheltered spots to be protected from the wind, and soaked up some vitamin D.  We put a heat lamp in the south coop, which is the coldest one.


As the weather started to change, we did get a bit of snow, about an inch.  It`s all gone now, melted by the rain, but it did make it feel a bit more festive while it was here.


We`ve managed to get a bit of Christmas decorating done.  The odd thing placed here and there.  A centerfold in Home and Garden magazine we are not.


The Thanksgiving centerpiece has been seasonally updated.


About a week ago we dragged a fresh cut tree home  I dragged the fake tree out from the storage area at the end of the dining room.  That was a struggle and a half, let me tell you.  Two others spent quite some time trying to figure out why parts of the strings of lights would not come on.  They had no luck.  I made supper while others decorated it a few days later.  Last night a section of lights seemed much brighter, and then all of a sudden they went out too.  Before the tree is returned to it`s storage spot in January, we might take all of the lights off.  The box said there are 800:(  We always joke each year that we need lots of ornaments to cover up some of the lights, at times it just seemed too bright.  Now there are a few dark spots.  I always think it looks it`s best when the rest of the lights in the room have been turned out.  When every one else has gone to bed and it`s all quiet and it`s just me and a few sleeping animals.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Hoping for Chicken Dinner

This is what I saw, looking out of the kitchen window early Saturday morning.  It's about a hundred feet from the house.  I was sort of peeking around the edge of the window (the blurry dark strip on the right), as I didn't want it to see me.  I wanted to see where it actually had the nerve to go.  It is in what we call the alleyway. Map   It's a long fenced section that the coyotes would normally avoid, because they would feel a bit trapped.  Obviously not this one, and maybe others too, as we'll get to shortly.  This coyote was not healthy looking at all.   Larry went down stairs to get his coat and boots on, and by the speed he was doing that, Jake and Luna knew something was up.  The coyote turned to it's left through the gate into the hayfield, which would be at the bottom right corner of the picture.


Here it is heading down the field along the fence line between the hayfield and the chicken field. That reddish blur right below the coyote is a chicken.  Sorry for the bad photo, the light was bad, the coyote was moving, I was excited, I was out on the deck barefoot and in my nightie.


So then I shouted to Larry let the dogs out.  They shot out, straight into the hayfield, Larry hot on their heels.  The coyote ran up the hayfield.  When they run, they look like they are expending no energy at all, and easily keep ahead of our dogs.  It made a quick right turn right where Luna is, and shot behind that blackberry pile.  Larry walked around later and looked at the other side of the fence.  The ground slopes away there, is soft, and it was easy for the coyote to squeeze under the fence.  I was telling the story to someone later, and they reminded me that if our dogs had got the coyote trapped in the corner, they may have got badly bitten.  True, although I had figured it would have gone over the fence in desperation.  I didn't want them running straight up the alley way after it, as they would have been long gone and Larry would have had no hope of keeping up with them.  I wanted to give the coyote a reminder that it can't just waltz in and help itself to our chickens whenever it feels like it.


We had suffered no coyote (or other predator) losses with these chickens until November.  That is quite amazing actually.  We went to Oliver for 5 days, and came back to find a hole dug under the fence from the neighbours, and about 6 hens missing.  The interesting thing was that they had also attempted to dig under from our hay field, but weren't successful.  We wondered if that coyote Saturday morning was heading down to work some more on that hole.

We've heard lots of coyotes howling close by just lately.  A very eery sound.  When we were gone, Meredith said they were so loud one night they sounded like they were on the back deck of the house.  She got brave enough to go out with a flashlight, and saw eyes glinting back at her from the other side of our property line fence.  They were probably cheering on their friends who were working on the hole.