Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Feather Bonanza

Most days David and I go for a three mile exercise walk through the woods. During the cooler spring and fall days we substitute that for a session of cleaning the woods. We pile our pick up truck high with dead fall and bring it down back to an immense brush pile we've been building for years.  We love the neat woods and it helps with the exercise program.

This week, as I was directing David in backing up the old pick up, I noticed some feathers on the ground. I then realized there were a whole lot more than a few. Apparently there had been a recent kill on the edge of our brush pile and all that remained was a scattering of feathers. Not sure if I ever mentioned it before but as we walk, I collect feathers (and seed pods, and pine cones, and sticks, and stones, and birds' nests and robin egg shells and......). We gathered all the feathers and I used some for a tiny arrangement.

I can't identify most birds from found feathers but these had a few very distinctive patterns including the  black spot on brown and the white tipped with black swoop. Anyone know what bird this was?

The feathers were a perfect addition to the drilled stone vase given to me last Christmas from my sister and brother-in-law. At first the feathers were too tiny and just slid into the hole but then I considered using brown rice as a filler.

A perfect solution to holding the feathers in place! Like the vase? I love it. Check out the collection available in Maine granite from the Portland Museum Store.

When I find a feather I always collect it. I don't find them often, and rarely in a quantity like this. For years I have stuck every feather into a pitcher I have (now two) which create a year round, never need to water, arrangement.

I have a lot of turkey feathers! And a few other interesting ones a well. But the point is, I always have a collection for when a need a feather or two for a project  - like my birds' nests ladder from a few weeks back.

Previous Posts of Interest:
© 2013 Ashbee Design, Marji Roy


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Monday, April 22, 2013

Naturalizing Daffodils

I hate planting daffodil bulbs in October. There is no immediate reward for the work. But oh, when April comes it makes me so happy.

Our hillside is glowing yellow with beautiful flowers. I love naturalized daffodils for a variety of reasons including.....

  • The deer don't eat them.
  • They come back year after year.
  • They grow where I can get nothing else to grow.
  • Even a lady with brown thumb (me) can make them grow.
  • They love a wooded site.

I try to buy a bag of bulbs every fall and add them to the collection.

Today, the hillside below our house is a sea of yellow, with a little white mixed in.

I have planted bulbs in all kinds of nooks and crannies.

They even come up in places I haven't planted them!

Naturalizing daffodils is the process of planting them willy nilly, not in a planned and orderly fashion.

I like mine in the woods but it can also be done in a grass lawn.  Here are some naturalizing steps:

  1. Choose an area to plant Scatter a couple dozen bulbs, allowing them to fall haphazardly to create random look.  Separate those that fall too close together so they have space to multiply.
  2. With a sharp spade at an angle (slice into the earth.
  3. Loosen the soil with your spade, and work a small handful of boneameal or balanced granular fertilizer or bulb-booster into the soil al few inches below where the base of the bulbs will rest when they’re planted.  Bulbs are planted at a depth of two or three times their height – usually 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) for daffodils.
  4. Plant the bulbs, pointed end up.  Replace the earth, tamp it in place and water well.  Repeat the process with the remaining bulbs.
  5. After they bloom in the spring: Remove the flowers as they fade, but allow the leaves to yellow before mowing.  The foliage feeds next year’s bloom.

Happy Spring everyone!

© 2013 Ashbee Design, Marji Roy


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Friday, April 19, 2013

A Year of Ladders

I am approaching the one year anniversary of my branch ladder. This simple structure has provided me a base for a year of creativity. Here I have pulled together here the entire series as an inspirational resource. I especially like the concept of seasonal decor that is individual and changing yet based on the common structure. My base was a handcrafted rustic ladder.

It all started last April, 2012....

Building the Ladder - April 29th, 2012
I went into the woods and, from a patch of saplings that needed thinning, I cut down two similar sized tiny trees and constructed a simple, screwed together, tapered ladder proportioned to fit in the corner of the front portico.

April - Begonia Ladder
The first arrangement incorporated metal pails from IKEA and begonia plants from the garden store. I had dreams of the begonias getting larger and filling the space with yellow. They caught a fungus and started rotting away. I tried potted gerber daisies with similar results.

June - Daisy Ladder
In June, I switched to wild flowers picked and arranged in the buckets. These roadside daisies lasted longer than any of the potted plants! And the price was right.

July-August - Queen Anne's Lace and Ferns Ladder
Mid-summer was a switch to ferns and Queen Anne's Lace. This arrangement livened the corner up nicely. 

September - Handcrafted Wood Slice Flowers Ladder
September came and the wildflowers were all things I am allergic to. Instead, I made rustic wooden flowers from slices of wood. I loved the unusual variations.

October - November - Pumpkin Ladder
Mid October I switched for the season and combined pumpkins, gourds and swamp grasses again using the IKEA pails. The local swamp grass was wimpy this year so I should have searched farther a field for my resources. But the orange looked great in the corner.

December- January - Christmas Ladder
Mixed greens including white pine, hemlock and Mountain Laurel were combined with pine cones, winter berry and bittersweet berries. I needed to added red plaid bows for color because all the dark green got lost in the corner. At Christmas, I wrapped tiny lights in amongst the greens for a welcoming sight next to the door.

February - Handcrafted Twig Hearts 
I harvested some supple twigs from along the road side and using twine, bent them into hearts which I decorated with the leftover bittersweet berries from the Christmas ladder. The hearts were beautiful but lost in the corner, until the snow came and dusted them white.

March- Forsythia Ladder
The cold lingered and, in a craving for spring color, I combined real Mountain Laurel greenery with silk forsythia to bring a little sunshine into the corner and remind us that even though it is still snowing, spring is just around the corner.

April - Birds' Nest Ladder
I have been collecting birds' nests with this project in mind, although I only found four. A fifth one is needed. I used bittersweet vines wrapped around the ladder to create perches for the nests and places to position pussy willows. Into the nests I put salt dough eggs and tiny feathers.  This arrangement is more delicate and it is the individual motifs that make for better photographs.

That is my year's worth of ladder designs. I have more I want to try. I think a patriotic theme with weathered wood stars would work well for Memorial Day, and certainly a Halloween alternative to pumpkins could include spiders, bats and webs. Although maybe I'll switch out the ladder and work with a mobile concept instead. So many ideas! 

Here are links to al the various individual posts for the above ladders. Some have detailed tutorials, others are just more photos.

© 2013 Ashbee Design, Marji Roy


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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bird's Nest Ladder for the Entry

All most a year ago I built a ladder out of small sapling trees that had been thinned out of our woods (tutorial here). That ladder has been the basic support for many different displays in our entry way throughout the year. The ladder form is so often used in decor and for good reason. So much can be accomplished with it. This morning I disassembled my Forsythia ladder and constructed the Bird's Nest Ladder for April. What better theme is there for springtime than nests with tiny eggs, waiting to hatch?

This idea began last year when I started collecting bird's nests. For a project like this you have to plan ahead because abandoned bird's nests are a treasure, not rare but not in every tree either. They are also fragile and must be acquired with care. Some just disintegrate in your hands.

I knew I wanted to perch a nest in alternating corners of ladder, holding them in place with bittersweet vines twining up the ladder poles. Yesterday, I went to a local bittersweet patch at the end of a rural road armed with my clippers. I worked for a while to free a collection of bittersweet vines. I love them because they twist and curl in random ways.  Each branch has character.

However they grow amongst the prickers so they are a challenge to collect. I wore long pants, a long sleeved shirt and gloves. Back home,  I assembled a variety of things I tought might work in this display. In addition to the nests and vines, I got my pussy willows and feather collection. 

And then I started assembly. Here is my original ladder as I start to wind vines around the frame.

My goal was to create nooks of vines that would support the nests. And then I balance the nests in the web of vines. Below is a robin's nest harvested from the top of the light on David's studio.

At this point I took a break to make some eggs. It was clear the nests needed eggs. I didn't have any and figured I could make and bake a batch quicker than buying anything. The DIY way! I made a batch of salt dough clay using an online recipe - 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup salt, 1 Tbs veg. oil, water until it forms a ball.

Once I had the desired consistency, I kneaded it to blend well and then formed eggs in a variety of sizes.

These I baked in my toaster oven at 250ºf for 1 hour. They hardened up nicely.

By then I was done adding vines, nests and pussy willows to the ladder. I put a few tiny, wispy feathers in each nest along with a few of the cream colored eggs.

Thinking it could use more pussy willows but I haven't found any. Every April I hunt the roadsides looking for a wild pussy willow bush.

Today I am going to spend some time creating a post with an overview of a year of ladders.  Check back to see the overview. Update: Just uploaded a post covering the entire year of ladders here. Worth a visit.

Here is a link to the tutorial on making the basic ladder. 

Have you ever developed something that you used all year, changing it with the seasons? If so, share in the comments.

© 2013 Ashbee Design, Marji Roy


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Friday, April 12, 2013

Nocturnal Visitors

I have blogged often about my handmade sapling ladder that is the base for my entry decor. In fact, each new season I shared a different idea. Here is the spring awakening concept. Yesterday I had five buckets of Mountain Laurel greens and forsythia blooms. This morning I had chaos on our front stoop.

Some critter had quite a party during the night! Made us smile and wonder this morning. Oh, the joys of country living.

It is pouring rain today ( a lovely April shower) so I  won't be dealing with this.

For those of you just joining my blog, here are links to a few of the other ways I have decorated this ladder over the past year.

Valentines Ladder

Christmas Ladder

Christmas Ladder with Lights:

Pumpkin Ladder

Daisy Ladder for June

A Ladder of Branches • DIY - This is tutorial for making the ladder.

This project inspired me to continue exploring ladders in décor. I collected them ll into a theme page with links to many, many different ways to use ladders in decor