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Friday, June 28, 2013

A Couple of Great Finds at Goodwill

Furnishing the apartment has gotten me into a pattern of taking a quick tour of Goodwill stores as I am about on various errands or appointments. I have to brag that in the past month I have found a couple great finds.

Vernon Kilns: Mayflower
My mother gave me her "good china" about 15 years ago as her mother gave it to her. Growing up, we knew it was a special occasion when we were asked to set the table with these beautiful dishes. The set was a nearly complete set of eight place settings. A dinner plate was the only noticeable piece missing out of the set. 

The pattern is Mayflower from Vernon Kilns, a California company who made dinnerware in the 1930's, 1940's and 1950's. They are exquisitely hand-painted in vibrant colors.

Vernon Kilns: Chintz
I found several pieces at the Goodwill in Hopkins, MN as I was looking for glass baking dishes. I thought WOW wouldn't it be great to use this set for more than seven people! So I picked through the stacks of dishes and found a few dinner plates, small sauce bowl, coffee cups and saucers without chips or cracks. 

Also in the stacks of dishes were a very similar pattern called Chintz. It isn't as brightly colored but in a dinner party situation would blend in quite well. By adding these to my cart I was able to bring the set up to nearly complete 12 place settings. All for $1.49 and $1.99 a piece.

International Silver
Holmes & Edwards Inlaid
Danish Princess
The next great find was at the Apple Valley, MN Goodwill store where I found the silverplate that we used with this set. Dinner forks, knives and teaspoons. I just happened to glance at the flatware bins as I walked by and couldn't believe what I saw. I had to really dig through two large tubs of flatware to find these gems. 

What I found was mostly in very good condition for silverplate of this vintage which I estimate to the late 1930's to mid 1940's. The problem some of the pieces had was that they had a chemical reaction pitting. The pitting or burn is caused by soaking silverplate and stainless steel flatware in hopes of making them easier to clean later time. Bad idea. What you get is black marks caused by the silver, stainless steel, soap and water reacting to each other and causing something like an electrical charge where the items touch each other.

I figured at $.29 a piece it would be worth the gamble to try and fix them. More about that in my next post.



Monday, June 17, 2013

Finding The Best Adhesive For Making Garden Totems

I have been making garden totems for about a year now and have tried quite a few different adhesives -- epoxies, silicone, various caulks and other miscellaneous glues. Performance of the adhesives in the harsh Wisconsin environment runs from miserable to excellent. Today I'll talk about what to look for and the best and the worst.

What to look for in an adhesive

Find a silicone based adhesive, or caulk, that fulfills the following criteria:
  • Ease of use: how easy is it to manipulate?
  • Strength of seal: does it form a good solid bond?
  • Longevity: does the bond last long term?

Best: 

Loctite All Purpose Polyseamseal

This adhesive isn't too thin or thick and comes out of the tube easy to control. It also has the fastest curing and gives a nice tight seal to the various mediums I use making the totems -- ceramic, glass, aluminum and plastic. I haven't had any problems with the joints breaking down or failing for far. This adhesive surely won't disappoint.

3006 Ultra

Another great option. The 3006 Ultra has good control coming out of the tube and gives a great seal with no breakdown of the seal over time. It takes a little longer to cure than the Loctite, but is a good choice for all mediums.

Worst

Clearly the DAP Strongstik wins this category. It comes out of the tube too thick, rather chunky, and is difficult to control so that you get a nice even seal. It sets up quickly and cures faster than any others I've tried, however, when I put several bird baths outside after the seals were completely cured the adhesive broke down, melted/disintegrated, after a rain. 

If you've tried adhesives you've found great or terrible, please add a comment below.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Critters

A pair of true stories

Our property is full of very mature trees -- maples, oaks, pine, aspen -- all 40 feet or more with their canopies at the top. Wind can take them down fairly easily so we harvest seedlings in the spring and try to repopulate the ever diminishing forest.

Recently, I found a very nice oak seedling that had a nice root system and 6 to 8 leaves and planted it in a good spot. I put a small tomato cage around it to protect from the lawn mower. It appears the cage must be a signal to the deer that something tasty resides there. Within a week, both the leaves and most of the stem were gone. . . maybe a maple would work better there.

And, earlier this spring we noticed that a pair of ground hogs had moved in under our compost pile. The compost pile is several feet from the vegetable garden and has great access to a  flower garden in the front yard where I have several nice mounds of Coneflowers and Black Eyed Susans. I truly believe these are their favorite foods. In fact, I had seen them running from the flower garden well before we found their newly built home.

What to do? We invited them to move.

It only took a few days for them to get the hint. We found the main entrance and secondary entrance to their den and blocked both with firewood. Every time they moved the logs we put them back and sometimes added more. No poisons, no shooting, no trapping, just inhospitable hosts making their lives stressful. We don't think they died in the den from the stress because we think we've seen them in another location.
for more information about ground hogs go to: http://icwdm.org/handbook/rodents/woodchucks.asp

Fences, Deer, Gardens, and Dirt

It was a long, long winter with large amounts of snow all the way into May. The last snow was a heavy icy one that took down a number large branches and at least one good size maple tree. We made mulch out of the branches and re-mulched a path but yet have had the time to cut the tree into firewood.

As for gardening, we've been very busy. In the brief time that it was sunny and reasonably warm I finally got my flower beds cleaned up and ready for the new gardening season a couple weeks ago. I pulled out several over-scale dead arborvitae that had been bothering me all winter on the berm between our house and the neighbor's, three small Alberta Spruce in the front garden that were either at death's door or already through it, and moved a couple overgrown shrubs from the rock garden along the driveway to various places in the yard. Not a bad afternoon's worth of work.

I was amazed how fast the daffodils, bleeding hearts popped up, bloomed and filled the newly cleaned garden beds. Hosta and iris are nearly full size with the early iris already blooming. I only have a few perennials that didn't survive the harsh Spring. Sad to see them go but Yay! Now I can move some plants around and maybe purchase a few new ones.

The vegetable garden is planted. We built a seven-foot fence to the vegetables safe and keep deer from eating the kiwi down to nothing every time it produced new leaves. We had been planning the fence for at least a year and even had the materials but time was never on our side until we made it a priority two weeks ago.

We used chicken wire for the lower part of the fence to keep rabbits, squirrels and ground hogs out. The 24 inch chicken wire is bent at ground level so that 6 to 8 inches of wire lay on the ground to discourage the aforementioned pests from digging under the fence. The ground level area is fastened with landscape staples. The vertical section is attached with zip ties and looped into the hooks on the side of the posts.

The upper section of the fence is a deer fence that is all but invisible until you get very close to it. There are several types of deer fence on the market. We chose the cheaper ($15 USD for 100 feet)  fine yet strong black plastic fence. We used the same deer fence at our previous house and it worked very well.

Fence posts are standard steel 6' posts to which we used zip ties to extend the height with plant stakes. The mesh-like deer fencing is also attached with zip ties. We haven't built an actual door yet - we are just looping the deer fence around  a hook or two on the fence post.


Since we made the garden area larger we also improved the composting area because it was too close to the garden and not very efficient. Now we have three distinct areas for the various phases of composting. Todd was especially proud of our reuse of non-burnable cut logs that defined the composting areas. And, with the large amounts of yard waste and cooking waste we have I am excited about finally having a better system for generating good compost.