Sunday, September 24, 2017


Several days before Jim left to spend time out west with his twin brother, I coaxed him to help me carry this cupboard into the room beyond the kitchen which he calls the garage.  [Formerly the Amish washroom.]  Coaxing took the form of me getting a small rug under the cupboard [which was residing in the living room] and tugging it as far as the back door--from which spot it would necessarily have to be moved down the step if anyone wished to use the doorway.

I set about gathering my 'tools'--screwdriver to remove hardware, power sander, sanding disks and sandpaper sheets in varying grits, paint and my favorite brush.
With the paraphernalia collected and organized I found that my project had attracted too much 'help!'
 Bobby Mac and Nellie felt the need to investigate!

The cupboard is one of a pair which Jim bought for me at auction when I was setting up a sewing/crafting space in the finished basement area of our first Kentucky house.
They are imports--nothing fancy--with veneer plywood sides and back, doors and framing of hardwood.  There are removable wood edged glass shelves, and originally small lights were recessed into the inside of the tops.
I refinished one of the cabinets to place in the dining area of the Bedford stone house which we refurbished--an interim home of short duration as it turned out. There was no room for the second cabinet in that house, but it came with us to the Amish farmhouse and has sat here on one side of my piano, looking out of harmony with its painted mate on the other side.

I hadn't used the power sander since that project three years ago and find that it now judders my shoulder and wrist to a degree demanding I take frequent breaks. 
I worked at this during intervals of several days, doing the finish sanding by hand, painting the interior before applying a base coat of paint to the exterior of the cabinet.

I don't use chalk paint or milk paint. I don't care for a chippy, scabby, peeling effect on my furniture. Decades ago when I first began refinishing furniture it was possible to buy oil-based paint in rich vintage colors from several specialty suppliers.
Oil-based is no longer available, although the same colors are offered in an acrylic base. I was less than pleased with my one experiment using the reformulated paint and quite dismayed by the price.

I prefer Valspar or Clark & Kensington in satin--which has only a slight sheen.  I base-coat the pieces in a dark color--for the cabinets it was dark hunter green--a frugal use of the flat milk paint which I had rejected as a finished look.

I sand lightly before 'dry-brushing' on the top coat.
This color is 'Apple Grove' by C & K. 
Some crafters, going for a 'primitive/county' effect suggest finishing with a wax, stain or glaze.  I've not experimented with those having read reports of unhappy results. 
I completed the cupboard renovation the day of Jim's return and together we scooted it into place by the piano.
I'm not particularly clever at arranging bits and pieces for a display.  I decided that the woven check linens would be a good touch, then began thinking about various collectibles that have languished in boxes since our move.
After an hour of pottering with things in both cupboards I was over it!

Jim had stuck some of his collectibles in the earlier finished cupboard; all were in need of a good dusting. I regrouped some in what I considered to be a more pleasing assembly--but life intervened before I arranged anything on the top shelf.
Some rainy day I'll tackle that!

Have you gathered that 'Apple Grove' is a favorite color?
A quart of good paint goes a long way!
I ordered two peg racks through Amazon, finished one in two coats of green; one has a base coat of grey-white for a streaky/vintage effect. 
The shelf with heart cutout was a charity shop find several years ago--awaiting some repairs by Jim.
[I wish I could use power tools--saws, staple gun, etc.  I can't even drive a nail properly!]

One of these will likely be installed in the small guest bedroom.  I used the same paint last year to refurbish my great-grandmother's small rocking chair which now lives in that quiet space.

I'm always pleased when I can salvage or repurpose a piece.

I was in the local Goodwill when I noticed a sturdy quilt stand. I pounced on it and dragged it to the check-out without quite registering that the price was $25.  I would have liked it to be a few dollars less, but it is a sturdy oak piece.
The original finish was an orange-y stain/varnish.
I was intrigued by the peck holes in the wood, more visible once I had sanded off the old finish.
Our neighbors [who know such things] informed me that the wood had at one time been assaulted by powder post beetles.  It would be interesting to know if the wood was host to them prior to construction of the stand, or did they take up residence at a later time.
I've been assured there isn't likely to be an on-going problem, so have decided to consider this a 'character' wood.

I started sanding [power sander] out in the washroom, then decided that it would be easier to put the thing at eye level on one of Jim's work tables in the shop.

I finished the stand with 3 light coats of Valspar 'Tomcat'--a warm charcoal grey.

Not the best photo of this project--and taken before I had touched up the wooden caps that cover the screws. This was a piece of likely board discovered in my determined rootlings.  It needed only to be trimmed to size, coated in my 'go to' Valspar 'Cannonball Black'.  The hooks are brushed nickle. 

For some time I have eyed similar shelves in the pages of Country Sampler magazine.
I left the magazine invitingly open where Jim's eye would fall upon it--because, after all, a man who has constructed houses and barns, who owns a shop full of sophisticated tools, could surely build such a thing from some of the boards lying about! 
I had nearly given up hoping that the resident carpenter was going to get involved, when one morning [perhaps in exasperation, as I was rummaging in his space] he set up the planer and big table saw and in a mere few minutes had prepared several lengths of oak.
He put the shelf together to my specifications 

This photo, taken with flash, shows the detail of hooks and brackets, but isn't true to color.
I based this with 'Cannonball Black', the topcoat is C&K 'Autumn Apples' darkened with some of the black. 
I am very pleased with this shelf which is designated for the so-called 'dressing room' off the master bath. Installation awaits the whim of the master carpenter!
I'm definitely on a roll with wood and paint, hoping I can find more lengths of oak or maple to turn into shelves.

We bought this walnut desk at Peddlers Mall shortly after moving into the first Kentucky house.
I briefly coveted one of the wildly expensive fold-out sewing center cabinets--not really an option.
This sturdy vintage table served me well--until some nameless soul stood it on its top in the van we used for moving our worldly goods to the farmhouse.
The table emerged with a wicked gouge in the top. It was carried to the upstairs hall and I began determinedly to work on restoration while Jim was busy installing plumbing and electricity.  Other tasks took precedence and the table stood in the hall [the only large space yet to be renovated] until this morning when Jim upended it on the upstairs guestroom floor.
You can see that  bits on the legs and the drawer frame need to be sanded.

I hauled the drawer to the workshop and landed it on Jim's utility table.
As I have worked on this I've been intrigued to notice that the piece isn't original in all its construction. It was either fashioned from pieces of another table or desk or, more likely, at some time was repaired or repurposed by an amateur woodworker. 
I removed the vintage style drawer pulls and discovered behind them the drilled holes that likely held older  wooden knobs. The interior of the drawer appears to have ink stains and is slightly warped along the center seam as though the wood had once been wet.

The escutcheon and backing plate appear to be quite old.  Several screw and nail holes in the sides and back of the drawer suggest that these bits once served another purpose.
I didn't get upstairs to work on the desk/table before daylight [and my energy] were fading. 
I cleaned up and sanded the drawer, applied a coat of clear satin poly to the inside and side edges. 

When I've finished restoring the desk it will be placed in the kitchen alcove which seems to have become my default sewing nook. 
I have an old farmhouse cupboard to refinish and there is another quilt stand and a wall quilt hanger lurking upstairs in need of refinishing.

I suspect I would be wise to limit large projects requiring hours with the power sander--but I do love working with wood and paint;  I enjoy the satisfaction of a functional and decorative object as a visible result of my labor.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Waning Days of Summer

"There is a midsummer. There is a midwinter.  But there is no midspring or midautumn. These are the seasons of constant change. Like dawn and dusk they are periods of transition. But like night and day and day and night they merge slowly, gradually.  As Richard Jefferies once wrote, broken bits of summer can be found scattered far into the shortening days of fall. Only on calendars and in almanacs are the lines of division sharply defined." Edwin Way Teale: Autumn Across America

We came to Kentucky in the early spring of 2010, thus our 8th summer here is sliding inexorably into another autumn. Each season we have experienced has shown variables--we can't state with any surety how March should feel, whether drought or rain should usher in July, when to expect the 'killing frost' that will tip us into 'winter.'
There was rain this July and August which kept the garden growing; lawns stayed green rather than turning brown and crisp.
There were surprisingly cool evenings when Jim laughed at me for bringing along a sweater  when we headed for the porch rocking chairs at dusk.

Mornings are cool now with mist wrapping the valley, seeping up in white drifts from the creek beyond the fields. Wet grass shimmers in the early sun.  The boy cats rush out to greet the day, returning with legs and bellies soaked.  The outside cats step daintily along the concrete walk, waiting for the sun to reach the edge of the porch.

My flower gardens so arduously tended in the spring, have been inundated with weeds of every sort. Where do they come from?  Cosmos rise above the  untidiness, airy, delicate, tenacious.

This wasn't a good year for nasturtiums. They straggled limply from their pots, bloomed fitfully, went to seed.  A few tendrils have revived, offering brilliant blossoms which tempt the hummingbirds.

In mid August we drove to a local nursery hoping to buy broccoli and cabbage plants.  Most years a fall planting gives us  yields well into November or early December. The nursery owner hadn't grown any and felt sure that another local grower a few miles away hadn't opened for the fall season.
I drove to that nursery on Wednesday and learned that they had indeed been open since August 15.  The remaining plants were past prime in their tiny plastic cubes and were languishing for lack of water. They were half price.  I found two packs of broccoli, one each of red and green cabbage which I felt could be salvaged. When I brought them to the check-out counter, the young man in charge scooped them up, watered them and tucked them into plastic carrier bags.
I watered them all again that evening and by morning they looked quite promising.

We have found that small plants need protection from the enthusiastic rootling of cats.
A rickety baby crib was left here by the former owners--the spring makes a tidy planting grid.
The rails are laid down over newly seeded rows of beets and kale. 
The plants have settled well. I would have preferred setting them out two to three weeks earlier; if we have a long mild autumn we may have a harvest.

Early in August I clipped the spent blooms from the buddleia. [So much less pretentious to call it 'butterfly bush!']

The butterflies are enjoying the profusion of late blooms.

The rugosas by the steps have produced clean fresh blossoms.  The scourge of Japanese beetles has run its course for this year. 
The rugosas are dreadfully invasive--sending runners throughout the herb planting, forcing their way up against the concrete of the walk. The one nearest the steps needs to be removed, but it would be a formidable task. Jim helped me dig out the one that had grown into the porch steps, but it has taken two years of yanking out runners to be free of it. Relocated to the gravelly bank beyond the retaining wall, its thorny branches no longer pull at skin and clothing when we go down the steps.

The brilliant deep red cockscomb [celosia] is also a legacy of the former residents. I tweaked out literally hundreds of seedlings during the spring and early summer--there is a plantation of cockscomb and even now fresh seedlings erupting. 

Lavender, trimmed last month, has produced a second crop of fragrant bloom. The butterflies appreciate the sweetness; yesterday I noted a juvenile hummer swaying on a stem, before deciding that the hanging nectar feeder provided an easier meal.

Along the lane Joe Pye weed has faded into shaggy mop-heads, weighting the stalks; goldenrod is more bronze than gold; Queen Anne's lace wears brown cups of seeds.  Ironweed is still blazingly purple and wild coreopsis /tickseed billows along the roadsides.
I miss the New England asters which don't seem to thrive in Kentucky.
As summer mellows into autumn, I cherish the final weeks of color and bloom, of morning mist and afternoon warmth.