Monday, May 28, 2012

Recycled Crib Headboard

Some neighbors down the street put out a crib on the curb a few months ago as trash.  The crib side rails were damaged and probably unsafe to use as a crib, but the headboard portion was in great condition.  I brought it home, removed the old hardware, sanded it, primed it, and painted it with some leftover paint from the wall rails I had installed on my son's bedroom walls.  I attached some heavy duty picture hangers on the wall behind his queen bed, and some metal loops on the back of the freshly painted headboard, and voila, a new headboard, where before there had been a blank wall. Since I used a recycled headboard and paint I had on hand, all it cost me was about $15 for the spray primer and hardware.  Not bad for a new headboard, and less waste going to the landfill!


Monday, May 21, 2012

Transplanting Family Heirloom Roses

McQueen Family Home, Shady Valley, Tennessee, circa 1912.

"Oregon fever! The men who contracted it and came West were filled with dreams of prosperity while the women had a vision of creating civilization - homes filled with knowledge and beauty. While men packed practical provender - tools and provisions - women packed Bibles, quilts and their precious roses.

With her rose she shared water while crossing the alkali plains. In the chill Blue Mountains, curled in a common blanket, she kept her rose from freezing and finally, on that great day of arrival at her donation land claim, she would plant her rose in triumph that both had survived. Some 20 roses traveled across the Oregon Trail or around Cape Horn to be planted, watered, cherished and shared..."  (Calkins, Erica L. "Pioneer Roses Of The Oregon Trail -- Women Settlers Brought Some 20 Varieties West." The Seattle Times. February 19, 1995.  Web.  May 21, 2012.)

Harison's Roses    

Here is one variety the pioneer women brought, called "Harison's Rose."  (Thank you, Deborah Bedford,

I was inspired when I read an article similar to this one when I was trying to find out how to propogate roses.  I have heard that growing roses can be tricky, but here in the Mojave Desert, they seem to thrive in the mild winters and hot, sunny, summers.  I have two climbing roses near our front door which were a Mother's Day gift from husband and children a few years ago, and they are still one of my favorite gifts ever.  When I saw how well they grew, I added some other rose bushes to our landscape.  One of the bushes from a local nursery has a name that I can't recall, but I call them my sunset roses.  When they bloom, they start out a dark orange-pink color, and as they open, they have some yellow, light pink, and more orange.  They also smell incredible!  I will post a photo the next time they bloom.  I began wondering if there was a way to propagate another bush from this one bush, since it is so beautiful, and I came across the history of pioneer women carrying their roses across the plains as they moved out west.  I was fascinated at their determination and careful effort to bring a beautiful, living, reminder of the homes they had left behind.  Some of the rose plants they brought with them are alive to this day!  

At right are some pioneer roses covering an arbor at Lone Fir Cemetery Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon. (Thank you, Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery).

I am going to try to propagate my sunset roses, but in the meantime, this month I took a trip back to Tennessee, where my mother's family lived, and found a family treasure.  My great-grandmother, Anna Montgomery McQueen, planted roses at the front of her beautiful, 2-story white farmhouse in Shady Valley, Tennessee (see photo at the top of this page).  She also raised 10 children, including my grandmother, Elva, and my godmother, Glenna, who recently celebrated her 90th birthday.  Years ago, Aunt Glenna transplanted some of Anna's roses to the front of her house in nearby Kingsport.  I asked Aunt Glenna if I could bring some cuttings of the roses back to Las Vegas with me, and she let me dig some of them up.  
Here are my great-aunt, Glenna McQueen Trent, my mother, Audry Black Nicholson-Chao, me, and my sister, Jan Nicholson Assimos, in Kingsport, TN.  You can Anna's roses at the bottom right side of the photo. 

My mom and Jan both have careers in growing and selling beautiful plants, and they helped me locate and dig up 4 bare root cuttings.  I kept them in water for a couple of days, then in damp paper towels and plastic bags on the plane ride home.  When I got home, I immediately put them in water and visited my local plant nursery to get instructions on planting them here.  On the roots, they recommended used a rooting hormone by Green Light, available at  nurseries or online here: 

I dug holes about 4 times the width and as deep as the root ball, put in the plants, 2 per large hole, and covered them with organic potting soil.  I watered them thoroughly and have made sure they are getting plenty of water in these early stages.
I planted them in part shade, part sun.  I was afraid that since they are used to the climate in Tennessee, the intense sun here might be too much for them.  Then I said a little prayer, covered around them with the rocks we use for mulch, and am waiting for signs of life.

Right now they just look like sticks in the ground.  It's too early to tell, but I think one of them may have a tiny bud that is beginning to form!

Look for more updates soon to see if these family heirlooms survive the move to Las Vegas!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Convertible Picnic Table Benches

                                                                   Once we had the pergola up, I realized it would be great to have a picnic table to eat on under the shade it provided.  I also found some 2x4x16’ pieces of pressure-treated lumber at Home Depot on clearance for only $2 each.  I had to build something with that!

  (In days past, you wouldn’t want to eat on pressure treated lumber, because of the exposure to the chemicals they used to protect the wood.  Nowadays, as I understand it, they use a much safer treatment on the wood.)  
I did some research online and found this great picnic table HERE that also transforms into a bench.  (Thanks, Hal, at Ranch Ramblins!) I love multi-function, useful furniture!  

Our patio is not huge, about 10x20 feet, and the half next to the pergola is filled with some outdoor chairs encircling a square fire pit.  I like picnic tables, but they are heavy and take up a lot of space.  I liked the idea of being able to transform the tables into benches and moving them off to the side of the patio for more space when we didn’t need a table.

As the plan I found online used a different size of lumber, I had to tweak the design to make it work for my 2x4s.  Besides using 2x4s, I used a 2x10x8’ piece to cut out the 4 pieces that support the table top pieces/bench back.  The hardware is made up of 4 large eye bolts (they can be moved switch between table or bench position) deck screws to hold on the 2x4s, and galvanized nuts and bolts to attach the legs and support beams.

I picked a light nautical blue color to contrast with the green in the yard, and to coordinate with some of the colors in our living room just inside. 
The overall table/bench construction is solid, but at times, because it can be switched between table and bench, the table top will slant down when too much weight is put on it (i.e. when someone leans their weight on it when sitting down).  I’m sure there is a way to reinforce it so that it doesn’t move, but I haven’t tried to figure it out yet.  Let me know if you have any ideas!  We enjoy our table and eat outdoors several times a week in the spring, summer, and fall.  The whole project cost less than $50 because of the great deal I found on the lumber.