Recycled Can Planters for Earth Day

I actually made these several weeks ago, I just have not gotten around to posting them.  I hadn't planned on sharing them this weekend until a kind reader pointed out that it was earth day this weekend.  Since this project has a nice green feel to it, I thought I'd share a few photos.  I know this isn't an entirely orginal concept.  In fact, I have pinned several variations of this idea on Pinterest.  Here is a really cool project using plastic bottles.  I wish I could tell you that mine is all about sustainable eco friendly gardening, but really I just want my fence to look pretty.  I've already hung a painted picture and a sheet metal flower on it, now I wanted some actual plants.   Here is what I ended up with . . .


These are pretty simple.  I just collected cans, in both large and small sizes.  I may have also harassed friends to give me their cans too. Once I collected my cans, I cleaned them all and painted them.  Now, if you were planning on keeping these for years or were worried about rust, you might want to prime them.   Since I just used mine for some annual plants, I just decided to keep it quick and easy by skipping the primer.  Henry helped me paint them and we kept the style simple.   You can get as fussy as you want. In fact, I am sure with some time and intentionality, you could make some really creative planters.  I just tossed some paint on them.  I actually raided out a stash of leftover paint (my planters match my bathroom, kitchen and dinning room).  I didn't seal them, but since we used a high grade wall paint they are holding up great.  They've been on the fence about a month.  Once they are all painted, it is time to get drilling.


I put three small holes in the bottom of each can for drainage and then one small hole on side about half inch from the top of the can.  I don't measure anything.  I then hung them on the fence with 's' hooks.  You can see the hooks and my drill holes in the photo above (and my grass that needs mowed).  Trust me, go with the 's' hooks.  The hooks I bought ran me about a buck a peice.  After hanging up the first few, I deiced to try some zip ties to save some money (okay, I'm cheap).  They just didn't look as good and you can't move the planters around (which, I have done several times).   In fact, at first I had these on my back fence and they just weren't getting enough sun.   I think when I moved them to the side fence, the plants gave a sigh of relief.


I actually used them to hang around my fence art.  I decided to 86 the morning glories.  Funny story, Jason kept cutting them down with the weed eater.  So, I informed him that I was going to start doing the trimming.  Using a trimmer is much harder than it seems.  Way harder.  I mangled lots of my plants.  I'm giving Jason a permanent trimming pass.  I have rethought some of the plant placement and I've decided he can keep trimming.  I don't want anything to do with it.


The other planters are around my sheet metal flower.  I plan on adding a few more, these are really cheap, it just takes a little time to collect the cans.


Since we are talking about the yard, here are a few shots of the layout.  This is a major work in progress and . . . we still have a lot of work to do.  But, you can get an idea of where we are going.


The stone pathway is more practical  than aesthetic.  Our yard gets really muddy when it rains and it occasionally floods.  The stone sets allow us to access the barn without wading through the mud.  And, best of all, they were free!!  Some friends were moving and gave them to us.  We are all about doing things cheaply and will take handouts willingly.  The same friends gave us all the brick I used to build the beds.  And, because I usally make Jason do the hard work, I would like to mention that I laid out all the stone and bricks by myself.


And, here is the view looking at our deck.   This space needs a lot of work.  We put our deck in when I was pregnant with Alex.  We really need furniture for the deck and to fill in the landscaping.  We are thinking of enclosing the botton with lattice because we are currently using the space under the deck as storage and it looks ugly.  See my pallet?  I have got all kinds of ideas for it!  And yes, as you can see in the bottom left of the picture below, Henry was mulching the stepping stones.


For fun, here is what the space looked like in October of 2010.


I wish I had some before pictures of the rest of the yard.  But, I think you can get an idea what it looked like based on the photo above.  It wasn't pretty.  We aren't done, but we have made some progress.

Just for fun, I thought I would leave you with a photo of our eclectic old planter that we got from Goodwill.  I saw it and loved it.  I picked it up and turned around to show Jason. I was slightly worried that he would think it was awful.  He took one look at it and said "I love it. Let's get it."  Glad we are on the same page these days.



Rocking Chair Refinish, take two

Here is our second chair (see the first here) that we did for Chair-ries Jubilee.  It is my favorite.





Before I show a few detail shots, I want to talk a minute about paint . . . and I have a confession.  First the confession.  I just do the fun work.  I get to come up with the color and style for a piece (project), and then I make nicely ask Jason to sand it, repair it, prime it and paint it.  I take a little time to paint the design on the chair (fun part again!).  Then Jason's seals it.  So, when I say something is a team effort, what I really mean is that I get Jason to do the heavy lifting while I dream up ideas.  Anyways, now that I have fessed ups I wanted to talk about paint.  A year or so ago, we invested in a pneumatic paint sprayer.  Yeah, I totally didn't know what that was.  When I asked Jason to elaborate, he said "it basically allows you to turn any kind of paint into spray paint."  Oh he said the magic words!  Any artsy/crafty folks know that spray paint is the most fabulous thing ever.  Easy, quick and no brush strokes.  And so, on that very day, Jason bought one and we have never looked back.  You can find pneumatic sprayers at just about any hardware store (we recommend Ace Hardware of course).  It does hook up to an air compressor, so you kind of have to have one of those first.  Which, luckily we did have.  If you think you might refinish furniture much at all, it is totally worth the investment.  Way easier (after you get the hang of it) than painting with a brush or a roller and it looks 1000 times better.   Now, on to the close ups . . . .

This pattern was inspired by this older Dwell Studio pattern.  Oh, and I totally put a bird on it.





The color in his bottom photo is more true to the actual color of the chair.  I know it looks a little yellow in some of the photos.  Also, I wanted to show you this pillow that I made to go with it.  This fabric was my starting point for the chair.  I don't know why, but I have an irrational love of this pattern.

All in all, we had a ton of fun working on these chairs.  And, thanks to some awesome friends, Jason and I will actually get to dress up and go to the auction.  Please note these days, dressing up involves putting on anything that doesn't have sticky toddler hand prints on it.  I promise to snap a photo (got to have a record of the fact that I put on makeup).   Now, I've got a birthday party to plan.  Alex is turing one in a couple of weeks (can you believe it has been a year!?!).  By planning of course, I really just mean having an excuse to waste an hour on pinterest.  Better go get busy.


Sheet Metal Flower

Okay, remember when I mentioned coming up with a use for the circular gage Jason made when we was working on the fire pit?  No,? Let me remind you.  It looked like this . . . .


When he finished with it, I told him to hold on to it and that I was going to do something with it.  It is three wood sticks held together with a long screw and a wing nut.  Here is it out of the fire pit and on my old picnic table.


A fews day after we built the fire pit, we were hanging out in the yard and I was brain storming up ideas for the stick circle.  Henry said it looked like a flower, so I thought that was a good direction to take it.  But I couldn't come up with what to make the petals out of.  So, I decided to ask my handy Ace helpful husband.  I told him I wanted something like aluminum foil to make petals out of.  It needed to be strong but not so strong that it couldn't be cut.  He thought for a second and said "sheet metal?" My first questions was "is it cheap?"  Yes, it was.  My second question "can I cut it with sissors?"  Yes, I could.  And you probably guessed what my third question was .  . .  "can you go get me some?"

In case you didn't know, sheet metal is freaking awesome.  It was so much fun to work with.  Why haven't I played with it before?  The first thing I did was cut out some petals and slap on some paint.


It was all very unpercise work.  I just eye-balled my petals and then started slinging paint.  Once I got all the paint applied, I stapled those bad boys to the stick.  And, more weird garden art was born.


I know this might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I just love it.  It is very quirky and colorful. It was also crazy inexpenisive to make.   My favorite part is that in addition to providing the idea of making it a flower, Henry's little hands were the base of some of the petal designs.


Can you see the loose outline of a toddler hand print?  Henry has been obsessed with having me trace his hands.   As soon as he spotted the paint brush be came over, slapped his hand on the petal (thank goodness the paint was dry) and said "mommy, draw my hand."  I hesitated for a moment and then I thought, why not?  So I traced his hand and then he watched intently has I made bigger and bigger  versions of his hand, sweeping out to the ends of the petals.  It was a sweet moment.

As for the flower itself, I intentionally scratched the paint up a bit on the petal to let some of the metal show through.  Once it was all done, I sealed it with three coats of Krylon Crystal Clear (Acrylic).  I love that stuff.


Hopefully, the flower will serve a practical purpose. I am hoping the shinny metal will keep the birdies away from my Blueberry Bushes.  I know right now they aren't much to look at, but they should get huge.   The small green plant in the middle is a citronella plant.   And look what is on my little lovelies . . .


Holy freaking blueberry!!!! I wasn't expecting anything this year.  Party!

I asked Henry if I needed to make any other sheet metal objects to hang on the fence and he told me he wanted an ant.  Yeah, an ant.   Not so sure about that one.   I think that I might just stick to the flower.


Rocking chair refinish, take one

I really believe that being involved, even if in a small level, in your community is important.  I think that the idea of giving back is more than just a cheesy sentiment. There is something to be said for being a contributing part of the place you call home.  In my pervious life, before I became a stay at home mom, I was lucky enough to work for our local Habitat for Humanity Affiliate.  Of course, when you work in fundraising and volunteer coordination, it is pretty easy to feel like a connected part of the community.  For four years I didn't have to think much about how to feel invested in my community, in fact, I got paid to do it.  When I made the choice to be a stay at home mom, I knew I still wanted to feel engaged but it was just a matter of how.  Of course, Alex came and I've pretty much spent the last year as an island unto myself.   Forget community involvement, most days this year I have just been happy to brush my teeth.  But things are starting to settle in and I've been thinking about how to go about being an active participant in my little town again.  It just so happened that an opportunity sort of fell in our laps.   Jason's work, Ace Hardware of Cleveland, was asked to submit a refinished piece of furniture for a local fundraiser that benefits art education.   It was a no brainer, we jumped at the chance.  The fundraiser, Chair-ries Jubilee, is an auction that takes place annually.  Each year they ask different artist to submit furniture pieces designed around a theme.  This year was AnTweaks Roadshow.  The idea was taking an old chair and tweaking it.  Since, we can't do anything simple, we ended up working on two pieces.  We are gluttons for punishment.  We are in the home stretch now and I am tickeled to have photos of the first rocker.





This was totally a team effort, besides the fact that this chair was ugly, it was also falling apart.  Jason screwed and glued to get this bad boy stable again.  He also had to cut and plane the slats for the back of the chair.  Then, we had to get them to bend to get them in place.  Do you know how to bend wood? I didn't.  He put the slat in a pot of boiling water for several minutes.  The steam and heat gave the board just enough give for him to be able to pop them in place.  Thank you google.  You really can find the answers to anything online.

Side note:  This is also a little before and after our yard that I've been rambling posting about.  The two pictures are taken in the same place.  You can see our flower beds that I have built.  Hooray for playing in the dirt!

As for the chair itself, here are some close ups.


I was singing Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zreos as I painted this.  I thought this chair belonged on someone's deck. It has a very "homey like" feel for me.


See how shiney?  Jason has polycoated the fool out of this chair.  Did you know that commerical furniture has a crap ton of layers of polycoat on it?  That is why DIY refinishined peices aren't alway as durable.  We've learned this the hard way.  Coat baby coat.  This is the hardest part for me, because it is the most boring.  All the fun stuff has been done.  You have to seal, sand and repeat. Over and over again. I might try to talk Jason into quitting with every new application. But the end result is some durable furniture, so he presses on.  There were two more coats of poly put on the chair after this picture was taken.

All in all, I am pretty happy with it.  I am more of a plain jane kind of gal when it comes to my furniture.  I probably would have skipped the design work, but painting on the chairs is kind of what everyone does for the fundraiser.  This little puppy will go up for auction on Friday (if you are local, you can get tickets at the Red Ribbon).  And, being completely honest, I am terrified that no one will bid on it.  Wouldn't that be awful?  I think I am going to pretend that I didn't make it, that way I can bid on it if no one else does.  Tomorrow I'll post the second chair. It is my favorite.   In the mean time, I will leave you with this photo which shows a hint of how gross we look when we are in the middle of a project.


We were debating how on earth I was going to get a decent picture because the chair was so stinking shiny.   I know my pants don't look as bad as Jason's, but I totally had on a gross old shirt, no makeup and stringy hair.  Just keeping it real folks.


New Fire Pit and Backyard Camping

Update:  A year later and the fire pit is going strong.  Hands down one of the best and most used outside projects to date. Please, please make one of these.  You'll love it!

Behold, fire . . . .


I can't find a good picture of our old fire pit.  It was basically a hole in the ground with a few bricks around it.  A toddler death trap.  My safety conscious sister has been freaking out about it since Henry was born.  If I had a buck for every time she told me I needed to fill it in, well I would have had enough money to pay for the new one.  The thing is, I loved my fire pit.  We used it ALL THE TIME.  It is effortlessly entraining.  Come on over and we'll light a fire.  We spent countless evenings around the fire pit hanging out with friends.  And, now that the kids are getting older, they love bon fires too.  It was actually the first project we finished at the house.  When I say we, I mean Jason. While he was digging the foundations for the barn I informed him that I was going to dig a fire pit.  Of course, the ground was too hard.  So I had him stop and help me with the digging.  And then, I couldn't get the bricks to stay.  So he helped me glue them.  Basically, he did it.   We still joke about it all the time.  Every time I start a big project Jason always chimes in "is this going to be like the fire pit again?"  I loved the story behind it, it was a funny memory of the early days of our marriage.  Then last year, when there wasn't a fire in it, one of our friends kids sorta . . . fell in it. Yeah, not so great.  He was fine, but still it sorta drove home the point that is was dangerous.  We then decided that we would replace it.  But, you know how it is.  You get busy and another year passed.  Fast forward to last week.  We were having some friends over for a bon fire. The day before they came over, I asked jason if he could work on the fire pit.  It was starting to erode and the bricks were all falling in.  We have a low lying yard so the fire pit would act like a ditch and fill with water.  That is right, we had a two foot deep hole in our yard that is often filled with water in addition to an old cast iron fire place gate.   It was a baby death trap.  Well, my little suggestion turned into totally redoing the fire pit.  Yep, still going to be a running joke in our household.


We (okay me) decided to fill in the exsisting pit with gravel, to help with drainage.  And, I sweetly asked Jason if we could move it a little.  Just a nudge.  Which, he did, with only a mild amount of grumbling.   When it came to building it, I told him I had seen a pin on pinterest where they built a fire pit out of retaining wall stone.  So he picked up a bunch of them, even though he told me he wasn't sure it would work.  He made a handy little circle guide seen above, which I later turned into more fence art (will post soon). And then set about the process of stacking the stones.  He kept saying "Jaime, this won't work these stones aren't meant to go in a circle." And I kept saying "but I saw it on pinterest."  Another hour later of not getting the stones to stack up he came in and started searching the internet to find out what he was doing wrong.  I popped up and suggested I show him the pin.  I showed him this post.  As soon as he saw it he looked at me and much more calmly than he had a right to be and said "jaime, those aren't retaining wall stones like ours."  Ooops.  To the untrained eye, they looked the same to me.  The stones in the post were made to be circular. At this point, it was 8:30 at night.  Our friends were coming over tomorrow for a fire and we had nothing but a big fat mess in the yard.  After some more thinking, jason got an idea.  He got a chisle and knocked the lip off all the stones (see them in the photo above?).  I wish I had a picture but it was too dark.  It is my hope that if someone is attempt to build a fire pit out of retaining wall stones they will find this site and know it is possible.  Maybe not ideal, but possible.  This is what the inside of our pit looks like, can you see where Jason chiseled the edges?


You can build a fire pit with retaining wall stones, it just takes a little extra work.  Because, as Jason pointed out several times, retaining wall stones weren't meant to go in a circle (unless you cut some of them down to size).  Sorry for my irresponsible pinterest browsing.


But, in the end, it turned out totally awesome.  And way SAFER!  I still think retaining wall stones are a great fire pit option, they are much cheaper than the stones that are made for fire pits.  All in all, this cost us around $75, that is including the several bags of gravel it took to fill in the existing pit.   We did talk to someone with a simular pit that said over time a couple of their blocks have cracked from the heat.  Because of this, we didn't glue the stones together.  This way, if one breaks we can replace it. These stones average about $2.50 a peice.  Oh see that dirt?  That is from moving it over, we are going to seed it but I am pretty sure the clover will take it over soon enough. Our whole yard is clover but I don't really care. We have a lot of shade and green clover is better than brown dirt.

In order to celebrate out new firepit (thanks again Jason) we decided to try our hand at some backyard camping in the ghetto.  We don't really live in a neighborhood were people camp in their yards (we do have an awesome fence though).  I think the neighbors have decided we are insane (but at least we aren't drug dealers!). I love to camp but we've been a little chicken to try it with our boys.  So we borrowed a tent from our friends (thanks Cassie! - we need to upgrade to a family tent) and set about roasting hot dogs and marshmallows.


Here is a shot of the yard from the deck.  It is kind of a mess. I thought about picking up the toys that Henry has all over the yard but what is the fun in that.  Kids mean messes.  Speaking of kids.  Henry loved the tent.  We only made it to midnight.  The kids started getting fussy.  And Jason swears he saw a skunk through the tent window. Of course Henry pitched a holy fit when we got inside.  But, we told him he could play in the tent first thing in the morning and we let him sleep in our bed (which isn't the norm).


And, first thing in the morning we headed outside.  We drank our coffee and played. It was nice.  All the fun parts of camping while still getting to use your own bathroom.  I still think we need to wait a few more months (maybe years) before the real deal.  But, we sure did have fun camping in the ghetto.


PS.  I would like to add, this still was a lot of work.  It is one of those things that is a little overwhelming but it is also the kind of thing that I think is totally worth it.  Not even for the kids, as much as for us.  Yes, setting a tent up in the yard is a bit silly but I wouldn't trade the delighted look in Henry's eyes.  Or Alex's little grin and he played peekaboo with henry with the tent flap.  For me, I think being a good parent sometimes means making a little extra work for yourself.  It would have been easier to just stay inside but then we wouldn't have had the fun of reading "Where the wild things are" with a flash light in the tent.  Twenty years from now I won't remember the nights we did the norm, I will remember the night we taught Henry how to roast a hot dog and being curled up in the tent with Jason while we were being stalked by a sunk.   Sometimes a good memory is worth the hassle.


Chain Link Fence Art

This post could have also been titled "My Desperate Attempts to Hide my Ugly Fence."  Chain link fences are just plain ugly.  Unfortunately, a wood privacy fence just wasn't in out backyard renovation budget.   The very first major home improvement project we did to our house was building a storage barn and putting in a fence.  Actually, my first few post on this blog was about that barn.  We were (and are) pretty proud of that sucker.   We had wanted to put up a wooden privacy fence, but opted for chain link because of money.  And, since we were are in the ghetto we wanted security so we made that bad boy 6 foot tall.  Which, keeps kids in and people out.  Side note:  installing a chain link fence yourself is A LOT OF WORK.  Jason and his dad spent hours working on it.  Functionally, the fence is awesome but visually it kind of makes out backyard have a prison yard feel.  Since it's installation I've been trying to cover it up.  I have some jasmine and some ivy but you know that stuff takes time.  While I am waiting around I thought it might be fun to hang some stuff on the fence. Since I am going for the weird colorfull garden full of gnomes and mushrooms, I thought some fence art was in order.   The first place I wanted to add a little visually internest was at the base of my stairs.  It is the uglestly view of my fence and everyone looks at it because it is the main access to my yard.  While I was thinking up what to paint, I decided I would make this my creative color challenge for March (yes, I know it is April first).  Tranquil blue just seemed right for the yard.


I love working in a limited color pallet.  At first I thought I would make something vivid and colorful but I thought the idea of hanging wood on our fence was weird enough without making it really loud.   The blues are peaceful.


My boards aren't lined up perfect, but I kind of like that way (and I am too lazy to fix it). Right now I have it hung with zip ties.  I told Jason I wanted something cheap and not permanate.  They fit the bill, but they aren't really that pretty.  Speaking of pretty, this looks really ugly from our neighbor's side.  Jason asked if I was concerned, nope I am not.   You see 6 feet down they store their trash cans and lean them against our fence. TRASH CANS.  So, since I have to look at their smelly trash they can suffer through some old boards.   I do have morning glories that grow on this fence in the summer, but I am going to attempt to keep them cut back and let them grow around the painting.  We will see how that goes, morning glories grow so stinking fast.  In my mind it looks so lovely framed with bright blue and purple morning glories.


I did have a lot of fun distressing the painting.  I used some dark stain over the finished painting.   It was fun and really messy.  The board themselves already had a lot of character to them.  I stole them from Jason's stash. He uses these to sit things on while he spray paints.  We've been painting a lot these days.


He got this cute little mini-saw and I got all excited because I was going to cut them myself.  But this board was a little big for this little fella and after struggling for a while I gave up and asked Jason to cut them.  He is still protective of his miter saw.  I made him cut them at random lengths and I think it almost killed him.  He kept saying "you don't want me to measure?  Are you sure?"  Yep, all different lengths.   In the end, I am really happy with it.  Weird?  Yes.  But, it provides some visual interest and privacy.   Oh and don't worry, I am planning on hanging even more weird stuff on my fence.

PS.  I also did this painting, I did sneak a little orange in it which is why I don't really think is can count for the challenge.  But, I was thinking of the color blue when I did it.



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