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photo credit creative commons license mollenborg

I have posted here about my garden before although I usually write about it here.

I am really into growing my own vegetables and of course it is important to me that they are organic. I do my best to improve the soil, companion plant, crop rotate and plant flowers and other plants that attract pollinators and beneficial insects, and so far so good except for one tiny but plentiful thorn in my side – or in other words the infestation of ants my garden is suffering from.

Every garden has its ants, since they are part of the eco-system I don’t really mind them. Unfortunately, Both my neighbors feel differently about ants, and are not into gardening, organic or otherwise, so come spring, they spray their houses and yards against ants and other pests, turning our garden into the ant haven of the neighborhood.

Up until this point I have been very good about tolerating the ants, although I do swear and curse at them as I see more and more buildings being created in ant city, all of them stemming from the initial colony and popping up all over the garden.

The most annoying thing is that their colony is under the spot where I planted the cucumbers and then the beans, and I have a fleeting suspicion that the ants, although for the most part harmless to the plants host other critters and taxi them around the garden, making them responsible for all kind of side effects like cucumber mosaic and other diseases that seem to hit the plants in that bed.

Twice daily, when I go to my compost box, I find myself shaking my fist at the annoying little critters, threatening to introduce chemicals into my garden to rid myself of them, but just can’t seem to do it, which is why I set out to find and effective way to rid my garden of ants without poisoning my food.

I have heard of all sorts of things that ants don’t like, cinnamon and cloves for example, but somehow, the ants in these parts have no problem at all with either of these, and walk straight through them on their way into my house, so I didn’t even bother to try that in the garden.

The funniest remedy I came across in my research over and over again was the fact that ants don’t like cucumbers, and that cucumber peels make a good barrier, keeping ants at bay (need I remind you that the main colony in my garden is right under the spot where my cucumbers grew?)

Out of all the research I have done there are two methods I would like to try:

The first, which I will probably skip for the outside but try inside, is mixing 1 liter water, one cup sugar and one teaspoon of borax into a solution. After soaking cotton balls in the solution, place them in a closed container with holes in the lid (so the ants can enter) the ants are supposed to return to their colonies with the solution which will slowly kill them off.

The other solution that I really liked (here I go, thinking like a manic killer) is diatomic earth which to the best of my understanding is a fine dust with particles that are abrasive and damaging to the insects outer shell. In other words, the insects (in my case ants) crawl over it, injuring their little bodies, causing them to die of dehydration within 48 hours.

Cruel but perfect since the only ones to suffer from this necessary evil will be the ants.

I do intend to try both these methods, and will report on their success.

In the meantime, here are a few sources for DIY organic pest control, for house and garden:

Earth easy’s Natural Insect Pest Control http://eartheasy.com/live_natpest_control.htm

Mother Earth News Organic Pest Control: Whar Works, What Doesn’t http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/organic-pest-control-zm0z11zsto.aspx

Planet Natural Home Remedies for pest control http://www.planetnatural.com/site/xdpy/kb/natural-pest-controls.html

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borax on pad.jpg

A couple of nights ago, after a particularly hard day (’particularly’ is a mild description to the kind of hard my day was) I decided to call it a day at around 11 pm and thought that there were 3 things I could do to make the bad dissipate a bit:
1. Have stiff drink.
2. Watch TV in bed.
3. Paint my toes a bright, bright red.
Even better would be doing all three of these together, and toward that end I found my red, red nail polish, poured myself a stiff drink and started ascent to the sanctuary of my bedroom.
Unfortunately, being the type of day it was even the simple task of climbing one flight of stairs with a drink (as of yet untouched) in one hand and a small, seemingly harmless bottle of nail polish in the other was a hazardous operation, since the nail polish somehow manage to escape from my clutch took a suicidal jump to the ground, under the stairs, where upon it disintegrated into a thousand tiny pieces spaying bright red nail polish in all directions.
Of course the first thing I did was douse everything with nail polish remover, and all was well, except for the unwanted piece of modern art on the wall, that wouldn’t budge. I noticed that instead of removing the nail polish with the nail polish remover, the only thing that I was removing was the paint, so I reunited myself with my stiff drink, and went up to bed in a huff, with my toe nails as plain as can be.
My plan was to sand that portion of the wall and repaint it, since getting one layer of paint of another layer is near impossible but just to make sure I decided to search the internet to see if there was anything I was missing:

Apparently, rubbing alcohol works (I have my doubts about it working on nail polish that is already dry though), and sudsy water with borax is magic.

So I decided, about 36 hours after the stain first occurred, to try the borax and sudsy water, and I have to say, that although the results aren’t perfect, I can see a difference in the before and after,

whole stain.jpg

after.jpg

and maybe if I keep at it a little longer, it will disappear enough to make painting the wall a 5 minute cosmetic cover up job instead of a much longer one, involving several layers of paint!

So if you are a nail polish girl, make sure you keep some borax on hand!

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deck

photo credit creative commons license thisreidwrites
It seems as if Deck treating time is upon us once more.
Part of our deck is the path from the front gate to the front door and for the main part that gets sun pretty much all day long. At the end of that path is a pergola over our front door.
In the back, out of the lounge door, we also have a deck which we use for out side dinning and general frolicking and the occasional diying. That deck gets about 6-7 hours of sun a day.

Although the decks had obviously been stained previously, when I treated them last year for the first time (we had been living in the house for less than a year), I decided not to use a stain at all but to use an oil product specific for oiling and sealing decks (Teak oil).

I thought that the wood would patina nicely if I did it over and over again with the oil but I don’t think that has happened or is going to happen, and I am starting to get the feeling that I made a grave mistake by skipping the stain, especially since my deck is so very exposed to sun (or at least part of it is).
The previous owner had stained the decks, and when I treated the decks last year I decided not to sand the stained areas since I don’t have sander, and I thought that over time, with enough oil treatments, the decks would get a pretty even patina.
I was wrong there on two counts:

1. The decks especially where exposed to the sun haven’t gotten a patina at all.
2. The stain seems to be very important for protecting the wood, more than I had thought.

There is a simple test to see how well you deck is weather proof - simply spill some water on the deck and if the water balls up, it means that your deck is nicely sealed. If the water seeps into the wood then it is time to treat the deck once more.

back.jpg

As you can see - where there is still stain the deck is sealed very well.

back needing seal.jpg
On the deck that has only about 6 hours sun a day, even where the stain is gone, the deck is still partially sealed.

slowly.jpg

The water did not bead up as well but it took a lot longer to seep into the wood.

front deck.jpg
In the area of the deck which has full sun, the water is practically sucked into the wood - so I guess I need to take care of at least the front deck before the rains hit us.
After learning my lesson, I will go with a sealant that has a stain in it too, or stain the deck before I seal it.
Just to make sure I learned the right lesson, I will do the water test again at the end of next summer and see if the seal still stands.

How often do you seal your deck?

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Wooden Gate Progress

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IMG_1951.jpg

Since taking down the wooden fence last week, and making my ’slate wish list’, I have actually been making some progress. Since just behind our fence we have a little ledge then quite a drop, probably about 3 or 4 meters (9-12 feet), I couldn’t leave the back open without a fence for too long, since my kids, although warned to keep well way from the area, are kids after all, and I wasn’t willing to trust my luck to much on this particular safety issue. On Friday we went out and got some wire fence and put it up. Nothing to it, really. It probably took us just over an hour, including looking for tools and not finding the right ones, chatting to the neighbor and borrowing the correct tool for twisting the wire we used to tie the fence to the poles (large snub nose cutter) and tending to the kids and their endless questions and requests to pitch in and help. It would have probably taken us half the time without all of the above.

Since we did leave a space in the fence, as planned, for a gate I thought that the gate should be my next project, and since we don’t have a front gate either, I thought I would kill both gates at the same time and set out to make two.
I will post a tutorial at a later stage, once they are completely finished, painted and hung.

back gate in progress.jpg

The back gate looks as if it is going to work just fine. At this point in time, I have got it together and painted one side with primer, and will probably have it finished and hung in the next couple of days.
The other gate, which is larger, is another story. It is 1.15 cm tall (3.77 feet) and just a little wider. It seems to me to be to big and heavy for the wall that we have to hang it on (It is much taller than the wall) and I will have to think of how to either make it shorter (which would not be an choice I would like aesthetically) or how to divide it down the middle so that I either turn it into two gates or one gate and a permanent little wall.

big gate.jpg

IMG_1955.jpg
the is the opening I would want to put the gate in. We share these stairs with our neighbors, (Long and boring story) and I would like to put a gate in right by the wall, where our garden starts. (I took this photo looking towards the would-be gate from my front door.) Anyway, I will need to give it a little more thought.

I actually like the how the soon-to-be gate looks on its side. I am sure I could do something cool with it like this.
Hopefully, next week I will have both one gate swinging and maybe a plan for the table. (The latter is wishful thinking. I have discovered that none of the slates are the exact same length!)

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slats 2.jpg

These piles of wood used to be my back fence.
We decided to take it down because it seemed that every second day we would need to replace a screw and we always had loose or missing boards, so although the concept of a wooden fence is lovely in theory, it was too high maintenance and didn’t fit with our plans to cover it with passion fruit vines. For that, a regular wire mesh fence would be best.
It really didn’t take to long to come down. I spent an hour, maybe an hour and a half unscrewing the screws and piling up the wood.

slats 1.jpg

This plan has been in place for the past year or so, but I was always a to scared to act on it, even though I could think of 100 things to make with those wooden slates, but here are the 6 that I am very motivated to try:

1. A crate in which I can store all of the wood I don’t use, along with the other piles I have around the place, to keep them dry during winter :-)

2. Dining room table. I would need to buy the wood for the base and the legs, and find a plan online, but for me that would be a dream come true. It would have to be simple enough for me to be able to make with the very few tools at my disposal, since I am not going to invest in more tools for this project.

dinning table

I think this table is fantastic. This is exactly what I was looking for. I could go for color inside and for the plain version outside. Or vise versa! These are both from the wonderful Ana White. (she has loads of simple free plans)

simple dining table


3. Two gates. A front gate, which we don’t have and would really like, and a gate along the soon-to-be fence, since the strip and the drop behind it is ours too, and it will be nice to be able to access it.

gate

photo credit creative commons license elle brown

4. A headboard for the master bedroom (I am not sure about this one, but I have seen some beautiful pallet headboards and this wood could be perfect for this. Addicted to decorating has a whole list of tuturials for diy wooden headboards which I intend to refer to. This was my favorite headboard (for today) on her list

headboard

from simply sjostedt.

5. Outside dining table, instead of our current, plastic fold-up table. (see above for inspiration)

6. Several coat racks to be dispersed around the house for coats, school bags, towels, and yesterdays clothes and so on. I am under the illusion that this might make our life a little tidier! Brook made a beautiful one using antique door knobs as hooks. I would probably use different upcycled items as hooks (since I don’t have any antique door knobs on hand.)

pallet coat rack

What would you do with all that wood?

So... what do you think? Please leave me a comment or give me a
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