Monday, August 26, 2013

Building a low-profile media center with trolley wheels and reclaimed wide plank pine top

It's been a busy month, and I haven't posted as much as usual, because the weekends have been fine and full of work. We are now working on six, count 'em, SIX house projects at once (not counting gardening)! This post describes the only finished one (well, nearly) -- a media cart that Capel designed and built for our living room. 

As you can see, the cart is narrow and low, to fit neatly in the corner. It's long enough to fit the TV and a laptop next to it for streaming, with the cable box and speakers on a shelf below. It has a convenient, hidden tray in back to keep the cords neatly out of sight. And the top is made of reclaimed wide plank pine we took up when we renovated the bathroom. So it has a special connection to the house, as well.

It's a beautiful, useful piece and took Capel only a few weekends to build. It's described below in detail with lots of photos. 

Meanwhile I have been working on much less sexy work: painting and painting and painting endless screen frames ...

Oh, wait, two more!

But enough about that. Here is the design and build of the cart.

The idea started because we now watch so much TV streamed from our laptop. But our old 60's style TV table had no room for the laptop, which routinely sat on the floor. Very awkward for working with. I'd had my eye on some beautiful media carts/entertainment centers at places like Pottery Barn, built with old trolley wheels and in various farmhouse-type styles made of heavy wood. They're not cheap, though, and when I showed Capel my idea, he said, 'Oh, I can build that.' Turns out, he could.

We started by hunting for wheels. Then I had the idea of using the wide plank pine flooring we'd taken up from the bathroom for the top. And that started the ball rolling, in terms of design. He fooled around with several options, and we settled on the one you see above. Here are the final two drawings:

After we'd decided on a design, Capel spent some time at a couple of lumber places to find wood to match the pine. He came up with cherry, which here you see together with the pine, which has aged to a beautiful patina. We finished a tiny bit of the cherry with a test finish of tung oil, which brings out the cherry color much more clearly, and makes it even closer in finish to our pine. But I still haven't tested a finish on the leftover pine, so that is yet to come ...

We decided to use the back of the pine (the side that was laid down on the joists), rather than the face that had been up, because in the 100 years or so that it was essentially serving as the subfloor for the bath, after having spent nearly 100 years as a bedroom floor, it got pretty beat up and is a dingy grey color. The backside, on the other hand, is an amazingly beautiful natural aged reddish brown, pretty much exactly like the floor of our living room, where the finished piece will live. Capel glued two of the tongue and groove pieces together to form a plank wide enough for the top. We fitted it together so that the paler marks of the joists match up -- to us that is more aesthetically pleasing.

I am not going to sand it, because it would destroy the patina and color, so I'll just brush it with a steel brush lightly and probably apply some sort of tung oil or beeswax finish. I've done some initial research online, but still have testing to do on the leftover pieces.

In any case, once that was sorted out, and the wheels were ordered, Capel started putting the base together. Here are the main pieces, cut and assembled:

He used pocket holes on the inside of the frame, to make the joins. Pocket holes are a quick, easy way to create solid joins, and because of the design, the pocket holes are completely hidden from view and didn't even need to be filled. Here you see them being made. There are lots of detailed instructions for using this method on YouTube.

And here is the basic box of the base assembled, with an inner frame on the bottom to accommodate two wider planks of the same cherry to make a lower shelf. The notches in the top of the back top rail are for cords, and just back of that will be a little "tray" made of the same cherry wood, large enough to hold a power stick and all the leftover power cords and cables.

And here is a shot that shows the lower shelf laid in. The lower shelf is for the cable box, speakers, etc.

And, here it is fully assembled and in place this morning. Here's a side shot, showing the wheels and how the tray works, in the back. Also, you can see it was designed to sit just below the windowsill, and narrow enough for us to move around easily.

A shot of the tray, with the power stick and cords in it.

The wheels ... we were thrilled to see that it really does roll, effortlessly!

And, the top, every bit as beautiful as we imagined it.

And, in situ, again. 

I still have to finish it with some sort of oil, but I want to do some tests first and we couldn't wait to bring it up and start using it, the minute it was all together! 

This turned out better than we both imagined.  One thing I really like about the design is the way the faces of the cherry on the front and side really minimize all the equipment loaded into the bottom shelf. It's there and easily accessible. The sound is great. But you really just see the cart, not all the unsightly electronics equipment.

So there you have it. Capel's media cart.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Design for a full sun flower/herb bed, fall 2013

Part Deux - Pugsley Corner Garden Design.

So, I just posted the design for the garden on the Pugsley Garden from this spring. Yesterday and today, I have been working on an update of the design, to incorporate a whale of a lot of spring bulbs and other fall plantings I just ordered to fill holes and help to fix problem areas.

First, here is the updated design. It doesn't show many of the annuals, as those won't get placed until next spring. It focuses on the perennials that are not moving, and the new things I intend to plant this fall.

Below the images of the garden design are the notes I wrote myself about what I'm trying to do ...

Basic plan is to move next year's Tomatoes to another place (where?), because my Heirlooms are showing some signs of wilt, and so it is better to rotate them. Also, the Tomatoes, Dahlias and Cleomes are FAR TOO scrunched in with not enough room, light or air, so most of the Dahlias will have to go elsewhere, too. So, put in Tulips and spring bulbs there, where the Tomatoes are, and overplant with Dahlias and (fewer) Cleomes, with Marigolds to come up along the fringe and maybe Basil somewhere in there?

Then, move the rest of the Dahlias down where the Basil is now, and underplant all of that area behind the long row of Daylilies with Tulips and Daffodils. And fill in the bare spots where the Basil is now with a few more Coneflowers.

My biggest hole is behind the Peonies, where the Lilies are spread too far apart and there is a lot of bare dirt that just is a standing invitation to weeds.

Idea -- Behind Peonies -- one pink Salvia and a slew of mixed bearded Iris around the curve of the rock garden to fill in that curve. The Iris will bloom early, at the same time as the Peonies and then be a nice, pointy blue-grey foliage counterpoint to Lilies and they will spread very slowly, so put behind Peonies, and the white Siberian Iris will look like tall grass after blooming, so put behind Salvia.

More pink Hyacinth among the Peonies.

Some orange and red Tulips where Tomatoes are now, along the front of Campwoods Road where they'll be very visible to passers by, with the pale yellow Narcissis and a few white Daffodils.  And between the Daffodils and Peonies, put the Fritillaria persica, which will look great showing off their spikes of dark, dark black maroon in front of the white Daffodils.

Put the remaining orange and all pink Tulips in clumps behind and above the long row of Daylilies, in clumps, not a row, and then white Daffodils and peach Narcissis in clumps between the Daylilies, to naturalize.

Also put the other three purple Salvia between Daylilies, but on the Pugsley street side, as they can bear the salt.

Finally, put the tiny Katharine Hodgkin Irises in the rock garden.

And the Eryngium (Sea Holly) between the Daylilies too, on the street side. They're highly salt tolerant.

And finally, finally, red Allium and the hair Allium all in among the Coneflowers and Russian Sage, because all of that will be pretty bare in the spring.

Finally, finally, finally, tuck in fall crocus where there will be August bare spots and same with the Lycoris squamigera. Added thought on that: Lycoris back of the Russian Sage, where the foliage can come up in the spring, then be covered by the Russian Sage as it dies back, and then when the Lycoris blooms come up naked in the fall, they can come up through the Russian Sage and bloom pink above the Sage.

Note: The white Siberian Iris want moist soil all summer? Put wherever I'm going to water consistently (that's near the Dahlias). But also note their foliage will stay green and upright (these are tall and huge flowers) and so put where I want foliage. And note further that it is said they will form a dense clump that weeds -- or Lilies -- cannot break through. So can't put in the middle of the Lilies.

Design for a full sun flower/vegetable bed, spring 2013

I have been meaning to write this post for ages. Last spring of 2012, the spring after I moved into Pugsley, I ordered 15 daylilies online. I dug a new garden for them by the garage, but it proved to be too shady and they didn't do well. This spring, I knew I needed to move the daylilies into full sun. I also wanted tomatoes, which require loads of sun. And I had an unsightly corner of the yard, where people have been driving on it because there is no curb.

And, final requirement for this new bed, I wanted a place where I could put other flowers I love that require huge amounts of sun: Russian Sage, Black Eyed Susans, Coneflower, etc. I spent all winter thinking about where I could put such a monstrosity.

Finally, I realized I could solve all my problems at once by putting in a full sun flower and vegetable garden right on the front corner of the lawn. It's a bit out of the ordinary -- tomatoes on the front lawn. But it has turned out so much better than I could have ever imagined, and routinely, random people--total strangers--stop their cars when  I'm out in the garden to say how much they enjoy it too.

I've written about this garden a lot this summer, but I never finished drawing up the final design. This morning I finished it -- because I just ordered a bunch of bulbs to put in for next spring, and I needed to draw a design for the planting when they arrive. So, after some delay, here is the spring 2013 design ...

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Update on the patio: crabgrass and thyme

My sister is here for a visit, and I've gotten behind all around. I've been wanting to post these photos of the patio crabgrass and thyme, which are now already out of date. But to bring you up to speed, the crabgrass and I are about even this summer. He is not winning. But neither am I. I make onslaughts. He keeps up a steady pace. It is a classic case of the tortoise and the hare. Well, but crabgrass is like a tortoise-hare monstrosity, ... and I am a human, last time I checked anyway. It's really not fair.

To catch up, my last full post is here. A brief post from July outlining the additional new varieties of thyme and other stuff I put in this summer is here.

So, these photos are actually from a few weeks ago. The crabgrass had gotten tall in places, especially under the bench. Here's a photo of most of the patio. I am afraid that this photo was taken AFTER I'd done most of the weeding!

Close up under the bench, before:

Even in the most shady corner, crabgrass, oh so happy:

So I weeded all that by hand ...

I spent a couple of weekends out on the patio (not whole days), maybe 4 days, 2-3 hours at a stretch. And I got about half of the patio weeded. Here:


Here, by the patio pots:

But there is a vast stretch on the left-hand side that I didn't get to. It's a bit of a wild west out there:

I'm trying to keep ahead of the weeds in the vicinity of all my little thyme envoys. So here is the wooly thyme. It's grown quite a bit.

Here is some elfin thyme that I planted last August. It grows very slowly, but keeps to the space between the bricks.

Here are two more bits of elfin thyme:

Here is the first little fleet of mint thyme that I put in last summer ...

Here is what that same grouping looked like a year ago ...

Here is some pink chintz thyme I just put in. It is growing very rapidly ...

Here's another thyme. I actually can't recall which one this is:

And last, the Corsican Mint (not a thyme variety), which likes damp and slightly shady spots. It's doing better than I thought it would, especially considering that late June and early July were deathly hot and dry. I watered it a few times, but not more than once a week, and it seems happy ...

But alas, I haven't gotten any weeding done since late July, and the patio is once again totally out of control ... still more to come.