Friday, May 5, 2017

Praying Mantis Egg Cases Part 1

Today I took the praying mantis egg cases out of the fridge so I could set them on their journey to hatching.  The photo below shows the three pods in a paper bag.  
The dark string like objects coming out of the pods are thin wire that was threaded through the pods for easy attachment to a limb.  Pods should be attached to a limb in a protected area and between 1 or 2 feet off of the ground.
Each pod can contain between 50 and 400 praying mantis.  That means I could have anywhere between 150 to 1200 praying mantis' eating bugs in my yard.  I hope this means that my roses will be aphid free this summer.  Praying mantis' are carnivores with a big appetite.

The cost for the three pods was around 15 bucks.  Which is both safer and less expensive that buying a commercial rose bug killer product.  We are trying very hard not to use any pesticides or Round Up in and around the house.  

But sometimes we have found it impossible and we must use a pesticide or Round Up.  When we do use pesticides it is with a light touch and confined to just the affected area.  We found a carpenter ant infestation in the rotted wood of the garden shed during it's remodel.  After spraying the area we waited one day to make sure the ants were dead before we removed the rotted wood.  I swept up the dead ants and burned both the rotted wood and dead ants.  That was three years ago and we haven't seen another ant. 

Hatching may take up to 8 weeks of warm weather before we will see anything.  I will make sure to check every couple of days to see it anything has happened.  But I don't expect anything right away because the weather has dipped back down into the 40's.

There is still time to get some praying mantis egg cases for your yard.  You can find sellers and stores that sell egg cases (pods) on eBay.

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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Mason Bee House Part 4

We finally had a weather forecast of 5 warm days in a row without rain, so I grabbed the Mason bee cocoons out of the fridge and a rubber band and headed out to the garden shed.
 Each box of cocoons has both sexes of Mason bees.  The female cocoons are larger in size than the male cocoons.   
 I removed the end flaps off of one end of the box.  Then I placed the box under the bee house and secured with the rubber band.  Placing the box under the house will protect it from rain if it should rain before they hatch.  The reason for attaching the cocoons to the house is that it will imprint on the bees where they need to return to make next years cocoons.
 Two things to notice in the photo below.  First notice how there are less cocoons in the box after just one day.  Second thing to notice is the tan spots on the bee house.  The lady who taught the class mentioned that we may see this on the bee house after they hatch.  She said it is Mason bee semen.  I can't remember why this is because I guess I was too busy thinking....WHAAAT?!!!!!
After 5 days... all the cocoons have hatched except two AND there are MORE tan spots.
I wanted to learn more about Mason bees so I checked out the Internet and found some vintage books about various bees and wasps written by a Frenchman named J H Fabre, in the late 1800's.  These books were then translated to English in 1914 by Alexander Teixeira De Mattos.
I found 4 books but there are more in the series.  The ones I purchased are The Mason Bees, The Mason -Wasps, The Hunting Wasps, and Bramble Bees and Others.
Two of the books have book plates in them with the name Giulio Marchetti.  I think I need book plates for my books.  I kind of like the simple design of this one.

I wonder if Guilio Marchetti raised bees and if he did, where?  Italy perhaps. Or was he Italian by birth and immigrated to the US. The plot thickens.

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Monday, April 10, 2017

Mason Bee House Part 3

Yesterday we hung the Mason bee house on the back of the garden shed.  This area gets morning and early afternoon sun plus it is sheltered from storms coming from the west and wind from the north.  In the class she told us not to attach it to trees and to place it around 42 inches from the ground.  We placed it higher because of the plantings under the window.
OOPS!! I need to fix that storm window screen.

The bee cocoons are still chillin in the fridge.  I don't want to wake them up until there are blooms available for them to snack on.

I also have praying mantis pods in my fridge.  They too, will wait until a little later in the spring before they make their appearance.  Last summer I saw a praying mantis on the deck so I know that we have some are out there in the yard.

The temperatures yesterday and today were in the 70's.  Love the temps but it's raining AGAIN.  The cats have been loving the warm temps.  They have been busy rolling around on the deck and hiding in the fallen willow limb.
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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Mason Bee House Part 2

I'm really excited about the Mason bees.  I  know that they do not produce honey but they help with pollination and are fairly maintenance free.  Maintenance free is something I really like.

You can read about the Mason Bee House Part 1 HERE.

The first thing that I did when I arrived home with my newly assembled Mason bee house was I disassembled it.  Yup I took it back apart so I could glue it together.  I used wood glue and then reassembled it.  Then I used a damp cloth to wipe down all the areas where glue squished out.  I then let both the glue and wood dry completely

Next I applied two coats of exterior primer and one coat of the same exterior paint that I use on my house.  The paint is Behr exterior in a satin finish in the color Anonymous.  I want the Mason bee house to blend in and not stand out.  
I couldn't find a photo of the painted bee house but did find this weird crooked photo of my purple/blue fingernails and old ripped sweatshirt.  How lovely.

Today we put out our kinetic spinners.  We have three but my fave is the large tulip spinner I bought last year while shopping with my sister.  We love it but it has a design flaw.  The shaft is too light weight for such a heavy top AND then add the spinning and it goes all wonky and bends.  The photo below is an 'after photo'.  See how straight it is now.
The shaft is made of two pieces and is thin walled tubing.  As the kinectic spinner spins it would bend where the two pieces connect.  We decided today that we needed to add a one piece tube over the two piece shaft to add stability to the kinetic spinner.  

R found a piece of old copper pipe that he salvaged from a past demo.  The ID (inside diameter) was the same size as the OD (outside diameter) of the spinner and added rigidity to the original shaft of the spinner. We just removed the tulip part and slid the copper pipe over the two pieces of thin walled tube. Then placed the tulip part back on the original shaft.  I will spray paint the copper pipe with black paint so you will not be able to detect that it is even there. 

Best part is that this was a $0.00 cost fix.  Downside was the piece came from the scrap pile and I had to hear "this is why I do not throw anything out" ALL DAY LONG.  Yes R we know you NEVER throw out anything....LOL

The kinetic spinner came from a company called Evergreen Enterprises.  I painted mine black to match the other iron/metal objects in and around my house.  Here is the post I wrote about the kinetic spinner and the flag bracket from the same company.

Next up.....Part 3.....hanging the Mason bee house.

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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Mason Bee House Part 1

Today I stopped by my local wild bird supple store, J.J. Cardinal's Wild Bird and Nature Store, to buy a replacement tube for my 36 inch finch feeder and walked out with a mason bee house that I assembled myself.
The class was full but there was a last minute cancellation so I was finally in the right place at the right time.
The house was all pre cut and pre drilled.  Assembly was pretty straight forward.  The tubes and liners were supplied along with enough liners for next year.  Also included were two strips of bee attractant, a bag of mud, and a small box of mason bee cocoons to populate my new mason bee house.  These cocoons are currently chill laxing in my fridge.
Cocoon Photo courtesy of

Why mason bees?

They are excellent pollinators, they are indigenous to our area, they are easy to raise, they are docile like honeybees, and why not?

Mason bees are strictly pollinators and do not produce honey.  But don't let this deter you from installing a mason bee house.  Honeybees are important but their population numbers are currently down and if you have fruit trees like I do, but have very little fruit production, you may need help in the area of pollination.  Last year I had plenty of blooms, no late frost, but very few fruit.  So pollination was the problem.

The genus species name of the blue orchard mason bee is  Osmia lignaria.  Mason bees lays their eggs in holes or tubes and then seal them with mud....hence the mason part of their common name.

Part 2 will cover hanging the bee house and placing of the cocoons.  Stay tuned.

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Friday, March 31, 2017

We might need to start building an Ark

At this time of year it is always better to have rain than snow but come on now, this is day three of rain.  I'm not talking about sprinkles or on/off rain but constant steady rain.  All the ACE fetilizer/weed killer has dissolved and the grass is already dark green which is good.

We have been busy with spring clean up.  There were two 12 inch in diameter, box elder trees that needed to be cut down.  A lot people do not like box elder trees but we don't mind them.  The reason we had to remove them was two fold.  First there was something going on with them and the top of each tree would die back and then regrow the next year.  Since we knew that they would not last we purchased sugar maples last fall when they were on sale and planted three of them along the drive way.

R and I cut down one tree last week and have already cut it up and burned the branches and cubed up the trunk for our wood pile.  Once the tree was cut down we noticed the beginning of rot in the very center of the trunk.  That actually made of feel better about cutting it down.

Yesterday R dropped the other tree when it was just sprinkling.  It is so much easier to deal with the tree remains when there are no leaves on the branches.  This tree also had some slight rot in the center of the trunk.

Later on in the spring or summer we will rent a stump grinder and deal with all of the stumps in the yard. It's not difficult just noisy and monotonous.  If you rent late Friday afternoon around 5pm you can get it all weekend if you return by 9am on Monday and they only charge you for one day.
We have been to two Flint Firebirds playoff games.  Exciting games but I will be surprised if they win on Friday night's away game. They are without their leading scorer and the team that they are playing is one of the best in the league.  But we are still very happy that in only their second year they were able to make it to the playoffs.
The SOO Greyhound's head coach (Sault Saint Marie....Sault is pronounced in Michigan it is just call The SOO) had on polka dotted socks.  Very snazzy.

I was at the local wild bird supply store this last week to buy Baltimore Oriole food.  I want to have it on hand so when they show up they can eat.  The lady at the store told me that based on their sightings, they should be here in two weeks.  Based on last year's bird count, they used two bottles of the grape jelly formulated just for birds and did not eat even one orange so I won't bother with that this year.  Also we tried our best to count and we think we had about 10 pairs which was double what we had the year before.

This year we are going to try to build up the blue bird population and try to lure in the crows/ravens.  I know it sound weird but we have quite the group of crows/ravens and I have read how smart they are and if you feed them they will leave behind gifts like stones or shiny bits.  I actually know someone who's grandmother had pet crows/ravens.  Several years ago I purchased a wood platform feeder with a mesh bottom so we need to set that up for them.  I know they love the small fruit that falls off of my fruit trees so I will probably feed them fruit at fruit and then go from there.
We brought out the new large black ceramic pot that I purchased at Ollie's Bargain Center a couple of weeks ago.  I purchased bunny rabbit pot feet off of eBay to keep the pot up off the porch.  Plus they are so dang cute I just couldn't resist.  Looks like I need to readjust the pot and the feet.

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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Spring Fertilizing, New Door Mats, New Hosta Bed Prep

Ahhhh.....spring.  We have had some very mild weather lately but unfortunately when the weather is mild it is also raining.  But not today.  It actually got to 72 degrees but by mid afternoon it was starting to cloud up and the temps started to drop with the rain starting later in the evening.  But first we were able to get a few things done.

While R used the broadcast spreader to put down a spring blend (30-0-4) fertilizer/weed killer from Ace I was busy elsewhere in the yard.  Ace is running a sale on their house brand fertilizer and we purchased the 15,000 sq ft bag for $43.99.  Since we have an Ace card we received an instant savings of $6.00 each off of two bags (limit of 2). We needed 5 bags.  We have used this brand for several years and have been very satisfied with it's performance.  In the fall, we use their fall blend and we don't fertilize anymore than those two times.

A decade ago, I had Tru Green fertilize my lawn 5 times a year.  It was needless and wasteful.  I like a nice, weed free, green lawn but I am more mindful of runoff now so as long as my lawn is mostly weed free and green, I am happy.

Last week my sister and I got together for some shopping at a discount store called Ollie's Bargain Outlet.  We were in search of outdoor pots.  My sister recently remodeled the exterior of their house and was in search of black pots similar to the ones I purchased last year at Ollie's.  I bought another huge black pot for the front porch and she purchased two tall slim black pots for each side of the exterior door of her attached kennel.  I need to go and take some photos of her house.  It is very clever how they attached the kennel to the garage side of the house.  It matches their house and can be used by a new owner as an office, hair salon, or even a man cave.

I also purchased two door mats made of rubber.  Oh my gosh, they were so heavy and very difficult to get into the cart.  They are on the large size but I purchased two in the hope that together they would work in front of the patio door.  Each mat measures 24X48 inches.  I was really flying by the seat of my pants because I didn't have any measurements of the step with me.  The mats were only $9.99 each and I knew I could use them elsewhere if they didn't work in front of the patio door.  The photo below shows one mat.
Here is what the two mats together look like in front of the patio door.  Perfect.  They will look better once that nasty door is removed and the vintage doors installed.  It's almost warm enough to rip it out without losing all the heat in the house.
 I have been very good about not buying anymore hostas. At last count I had over 200 varieties and multiples of most of them.  My beds were full and there wasn't any place for new ones except miniatures. I purchased several hostas last year and the year before but that was it.  So I am kind of giddy about the thought of more hosta buying for my new hosta bed in the side yard.
We have also started the dismantling of the swimming pool.  Currently we are removing the slate so we can use it when we repair the sidewalks.  Next we will remove the concrete coping around the edge and remove the two ladders.  The bottom was already jack hammered when we purchased the house.  This pool is old and very deep.  The walls are made of red brick with cement troweled onto the bricks.  It should crumble very easily once the apron around the edge is jack hammered.

You can see where we have been burning branches and twigs in the corner of the pool.   The deep pool protects the fire from the wind and allows us to burn on days where the breeze might make it a no go elsewhere.  

We have had a lot of very windy weather as of late.  I see tarps on a lot of people's roofs.  We were very pleased that the shallow roof over the kitchen, where we removed the rubber roof and installed asphalt shingles, held up perfectly.  We feel that adding the 4th nail and removing the cellophane strip, which allowed the shingles to stick to the shingle below it really helped, especially since the bottom edge of the shingles were exposed to oncoming winds of up to 65 mph.
 The last restoration window for the game room has arrived but they are going to wait to deliver it until we reframe the existing window opening to fit the new window.  I think once this rain pattern blows through, we will remove the window and reframe it.  I will be so happy to see that last rotted and inappropriate style window gone. 

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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Spring Clean Up but it's Winter

We have been experiencing unseasonably mild weather and decided to make the most of it before it snows, again.

I kept busy by raking out the flower beds and picking up twigs and broken branches that litter the lawn after any windy weather.  R then came along and picked up the piles of leaves and branches.  He has also been working on a big dead stump that is close to the back of the house.

This large tree was cut down right after we purchased the home.  because it had branches leaning on the power line and large dead branches over the house.  The tree was already half dead so the stump never resprouted and slowly started rotting away.  
Last year we hacked at it a couple of times and broke off large pieces.  This past weekend, R dug the dirt out from around the stump and then started using an axe to break it apart.  Then he started a fire with the broken off pieces and over the next two days we burned the stump down below ground level.

We also moved the two large planters with the Alberta spruces, from the back side of the deck to the large step we built last summer.  I need to give those shrubs some love this next summer because they have been neglected the last two years.  I originally purchased them for 2 bucks a piece and they were in 1/2 gallon containers. Oh my have they grown.
They have some bare spots and I think I will plant some petunias around the bottom of the spruces to fill in the area around the bottom.  The planters are from Mayne and can be bought at both Home Depot and Lowes.  We also have a Mayne mailbox post and love it, too.
This is one of the two doors that will replace that ugly slider.  Both doors have been stripped and sanded once.  I will sand once more before they are installed and painted.

I'm not sure yet what kind of door handles and lock sets that I will buy.  I know they will be black like all the vintage door handles on the rest of the doors.  We will make another two sets of faux hand hammered door straps like the ones we made for the garden  shed.
There has been very little snow this winter.  Go figure.  We purchased a newer truck and plow and as soon as we drove away the snow melted and the temps rose.....LOL  So the plow has set there, ready to plow.  

Notice the large tree behind the truck/plow.  It is starting to bud out.  That's not good because if we have a severe dip in temps the buds will be damaged.
It's that time of the year and I recently received my quarterly check from Ebates.  It was larger than usual because I did all my Christmas shopping online and used the Ebates option whenever possible.
My total rebate so far is over $630.00.  Not too bad for basically just going to Ebates and clicking on the store name and then buying as usual.

We are currently under a thunderstorm watch and there is a possibility of 2-5 inches of snow depending on if the warm front stays to the south.  R may get to use that plow after all.

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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Michigan Mitten Maps

One of the perks of living in Michigan is that you always have a Michigan map close at hand.  LOL

Last week while I was walking around the Flint Farmer's Market I found a vendor selling these cute mittens with the map of Michigan on them.  One hand has the lower peninsula and the other hand has the upper peninsula or as we here in Michigan call it "the U.P.".
 I've always been a mitten gal and prefer them over gloves. 

The mittens also came instructions on how to wear them and how to make the map.
My preferred way is to have the map on the palm side.  It's a personal preference thing.
We purchased the oak board to build another base for the antique grandfather clock that we recently acquired.  We also picked up four felt covered adjustable pads for the bottom of the base.  The felt will protect the wood floors and the adjust-ability will help us keep the clock level.  I read that it is important that the clock is level if you want it to run properly.  And a grandfather clock that doesn't run turns into a clothes rack and we already have one of's called a treadmill.

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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Antique Gustav Becker Grandfather Clock

We decided to drop in for lunch at the Flint Farmer's Market this past Thursday.  There is a restaurant there called Steady Eddie's and we always try to eat there when we visit the market.  I had a tasty ham sandwich with avocado, sprouts, and onions on sour dough bread.
The market was quite busy for a cold winter mid week day.  When they decided to move the market from the original location there were a lot of people disappointed with that decision but I can honestly say that the new location remedied the parking problem and the limited space for vendors.  We love the new market.
News flash..... Roger bought a t shirt.  He has taken that 'been there, done that, bought the t shirt' to heart.
  After we left the market we drove over to one of our favorite antique shops, Carriage Town Antiques.  We were immediately drawn to this grandfather clock. 
 It is a Gustav Becker and has recently been serviced.  It is solid oak with a great dark patina but in some areas it looks like someone tried to remove the patina.  Also when they moved the clock to the antique shop the base was damaged and a portion broke off.  This would be an easy fix except the movers didn't leave the broken piece behind.  Looks like it broke off with the grain which usually happens when a piece is dragged on the floor.  The repair will require the entire right side base piece
 The clock face, weights, and pendulum look like they are silver or silver plated.  The grandfather clock is stunning and we have decided to go back tomorrow and purchase it.
 Upstairs they two long rows of glass shades and glass pieces for vintage lighting.
On our way out the door we spotted this solid marble fireplace surround.  This is so beautiful and would look fantastic in our living room.  We have three fireplaces but the original living room fireplace surround was replaced before we purchased the house.  The current one is OK but this would be perfect so I asked "how much?" 10 grand.  Insert sad face here.  

We recently ordered the last window for the game room and it should be here around mid February.  The installation will be done by us and we will need to wait until the weather breaks. It takes us two days to do an install and it is a little too cold outside to try and keep out the cold temps with a tarp.

R's torn bicep is feeling a little better but he still needs to keep from doing anything heavy.   We have really been lucky with the snow this year.  We had just one heavy snowfall of about 5 inches and all the rest have been 1 or 2 inches.  Daytime temps have been in the 30's which helps to melt the snow and keep the total accumulation down to a couple of inches on the ground.  Fingers crossed that it stays that way for the next month or so. 

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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Choosing Fabric for the Outdoor Furniture

Sorry for the prolonged absence but we really haven't accomplished much during the last month.  First there was the holidays and then R tore a bicep muscle so we have been taking a break.  Some bloggers store up projects for when there is a dry spell but I blog in real time so that it doesn't appear that we were able to re shingle the entire house in two days.  That would be great, but it is not realistic.  But for the sake of transparency, we have slowing been re stacking our lumber pile and arguing over why we should or should not throw away those pieces of 6 inch long 2X10's.  Heaven help me if for some reason this summer we need a very short piece of 2X10 lumber. 

Last fall I repainted the vintage Woodard wrought iron furniture that we will use on the deck.  This furniture has all the original cushions, which are in great condition, but the fabric is not something that coordinates with the house or the deck  accessories.  The furniture also came from several different sets so the cushions don't match either.
The first task is to decide on which fabric to chose.  
Two years ago I requested the catalog from fabric vendor, Sailrite.  They also have a website.  So between the catalog and website I was able to view 1,000's of fabric choices without leaving my chair.  I don't believe that there is a brick and mortar store in my area that has this many choices.  AND I surely can't look at that many choices, all at once, without getting a massive headache. 

My husband likes to be involved in making design decisions but he does not like the pre decision making process.  I have found that it is best to narrow the choices down to a handful and then say "I like this one best" and he usually agrees. But there is always that one rare odd occasion where he really does not like something. 

When choosing fabric for outside furniture make sure you choose those that are labeled for outdoor use.  The outdoor fabric I chose is not waterproof so I will need to use furniture covers which is fine with me. 1. I would rather sit on a cloth cushion than a water proof vinyl that tends to be hot and tends to sticks to your skin.  That type of fabric is usually label for marine use such as a boat or jet ski. 2. I do not like hauling in cushions every night AND you know the one time you forgot to bring them it, it will rain.  Been there and done that.
So that is why I ordered samples of my favorite outdoor fabric choices.  Most samples were $1.00 but I had a few that were 2 bucks.  I ordered the samples from the Sailrite website and they arrived in the mail a week later..

I am so glad that I ordered samples because right away I saw that some of my choices were totally wrong.  Like the fabric examples below.
I like both of these bold prints for accent pillows but I found the one on the right is slightly muted and looked out of place against our final choices.
I picked out these two options for possible cushion fabric but immediately thought the option on the left looked too much like the flocked wallpaper patterns that my mother used on the walls in the 70's and 80's.  
I also picked out a handful of solid color fabrics for possible use on accent pillows, piping, and the edge on the box cushions.  Right away I could tell that the black fabric at the very bottom had texture that made it read as a pattern and not solid black.  I also immediately realized that the solid grey fabric choices clashed with the grey of the cedar shingles.
One side of the cushion will be a traditional wide stripe that will work great with a traditional Cape Cod home.  Right away I ruled out those with tan in the pattern.  Also one fabric, although an outdoor fabric, was too limp and would probably not make a good cushion fabric.

I also needed to take into consideration the deck accessories when choosing the fabric.   
 There is the umbrella stand that R picked out of someone's trash.  I did a quick refresh with a coat of satin black spray paint.
 Then there are also ALL the flower pots and containers that I purchased on sale at the end of the summer.  Not shown are several green pots with a basket weave pattern that I HAD to have despite R saying "MORE pots?"  Hey...they were 50% off.

What did I choose?
One side of the cushion will be the wide stripe, the solid black for the piping and edge of the box cushions, and for the other side of the cushion, a bold pattern that is still traditional.
 For the accent pillows I chose a solid green to go with the flower pots, a smaller pattern in black and white fabric, and the large bold pattern that has black swirls that look remotely like the swirls on the umbrella stand. 
 Sailrite also included a coupon for future purchases, which will come in handy when I purchase the fabric.  Gotta love those coupon codes.

I will make the accent pillows but I do not have time to do the cushions so I will take them to a local upholsterer to do that portion of the redo. 

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