Getting the Green House Ready

As I promised last week I’m sharing a little update on the progress we’ve made in getting the green house ready for the season.  But before we get to the progress, let’s take a look at how things looked when we started.  Since the Hubs finished the structure as fall arrived last year we used the space for storage of all my pots and planters, along with some of the patio furniture and accessories.  We’ll call it organized chaos.

Luna decided to join me in the greenhouse as I started clearing it out.  She seemed to appreciate the warm cozy temps inside and made herself quite comfortable.

While Luna took in the warmth I harvested the dried blooms from the lavender I’d stashed away in the fall.  It was a decent little harvest, which I used to give the chicken’s nesting boxes a bit of freshness.

After that I made Luna move off the table so I could drag it out to the deck.  When I returned she had found a new favorite spot in one of the planter boxes.  I let her be as I sorted and dug out everything else to make room for the new set-up.

We purchased large plastic totes to serve as our planters in the greenhouse.  I filled the bottoms of each with plastic containers from our recycle bin – plus a few from the coffee shop at work – to help fill some of the space to reduce the amount of soil I had to use and provide space at the bottom of the containers where moisture could settle and then be wicked back up.  There are no drainage holes in the bottoms of the totes as that would become quite messy on the floor of the green house so I’ll have to water carefully.

And here’s where things are now.  We’ve got four totes down each side which sit on plant dollies so they can be moved easily, allowing me to work on the plants from all sides – a feature that might come in handy during harvest.  On the left side I brought in the two rusty bed frames I’d used as trellises in the wheel bed last season.  They worked well for the peas in the wheel bed, but this time one will be for green beans and the other will support cucumbers.  The tote in the back corner will be for dill and the one in the front corner will be for peppers.  The Hubs plans to secure them to the wall just to be on the safe side.  This side of the green house will also get vertical strawberry planters in each corner to maximize the space.

The right side has a shelf where the Hubs will be setting up a hyponic system for the buckets you see there.  Those will hold 4 varieties of tomatoes and a squash.  Below them will be yellow and red onions, asparagus and peas, which will get a smaller DIY trellis to climb.

In the back I added a large galvanized trash can under the window to hold extra dirt and the Hubs installed a wire shelf above it to serve as a potting bench.  That way when I’m preparing pots for the deck and porch if I spill it can fall right back into the dirt bin.  Plus the way he installed it I can lift it up against the window if I want it out of the way for any reason.  The ledge created by the wall framing was the perfect spot to store all my garden decor over the winter.  Once the yard finishes thawing out I’ll be moving those items out to their ‘summer homes’ and that space can hold any extra pots awaiting occupants.  My hand tools will be kept in the small tub you see on the shelf, which will be filled with sand to keep everything sharp – an idea I found on Pinterest of course.

It’s still getting pretty cold overnight so I haven’t put any plants out in the green house just yet, but I have purchased the first round of veggies and a couple of flowers which are pretty happy in the laundry room sink and on the kitchen counter for now.  I’ll be going to the big annual season kick-off sale at my favorite nursery this weekend to buy the rest of my stock and will test out a DIY trick I learned on the local garden club page to heat the green house up a bit at night to make sure it’s ready for planting.

I’ve also got a few things planned for just outside the green house, including moving the gutters I used last year for strawberries and potato towers, but I’ll share those once we get things set up a bit more.  It’s going to be a lot of work but if it all goes well we’ll have a great crop of fresh food because of it!  I’m so excited to see what works and what we can improve for next year.  If you have ideas, tips or suggestions on what might be an improvement please share them below and I’ll try to test them out this year.

Top 10 Wedding Photography Tips

With wedding season upon us and many in planning mode for late summer and fall events, I thought it might be helpful to share some of the best tips I’ve acquired as a wedding photographer.  I’ll be sharing these tips with my nephew and his fiance as I prepare to photograph their nuptials near D.C. this fall!

1. Make photography a priority!
Of course a photographer would say that, but it’s not a sales gimmick – it’s because photographs are one of the few elements of your wedding that you will continue to enjoy and share years later. Those images are how you will remember all the little moments of your big day so make sure you have someone you trust to capture those memories.  Your venue and attire are the other two things that should be considered carefully as they will be in all of your images too.

2. Do your research when choosing a photographer and other wedding vendors.
Each photographer has their own unique style and pricing. Find one that fits your vision and BUDGET!  The same is true for other wedding vendors – DJ’s, florists, cake makers and even wedding planners – which leads me to my next tip…

3. Don’t wing it. Have a plan and someone designated to help you make it happen.
Prepare a schedule and have someone in charge – either a wedding planner or friend/family member – who will not only keep everyone on schedule, but handle any problems that arise.  Your photographer and other vendors are there to provide the service you’ve contracted from them, not make decisions on how things will run because that’s up to what you want.  However, most wedding vendors are usually happy to offer suggestions if you want expert advice on particular aspects of your planning.

4. There will be hiccups to your plan. Be flexible when they happen.
If something doesn’t go as planned and it can’t be fixed, just smile and roll with it because no one but you and your planner will know that’s not how you intended it to be. By not making a big deal of it no one else will even notice the issue, instead all they will remember how enjoyable your wedding was and how happy you looked.

5. Think about how what you’ve planned will photograph.
Will the sun make you squinty in all your pictures or the will the wind blow your veil like a sail?   Will your photographer have a clear shot of you at the altar?  Will where you stand during the ceremony look awkward? These are things to consider and discuss with your vendors ahead of time so everything is the best it can be and you’re not stressed.

6. Schedule some alone time for portraits of just the two of you.
It’s tough to be romantic in front of a crowd. Give yourselves at least a few minutes alone with your photographer.  You’ll be much more relaxed and it will show in your photos, plus you’ll be glad to have a few minutes alone with your beloved after all the hectic activities!

7. Communicate with your photographer so they are ready to capture the special details you have planned.
This allows your photographer to be positioned in the best spot to capture each of those details, rather than trying to catch it as they realize it’s happening.

8. Minimize family/friends competing with the photographer.
Most photographers are used to friends and family also wanting to snag a shot, but it’s distracting for those being photographed and it can eat up precious time in your schedule if it’s allowed too much. Plus no one wants a shot where half of the group is looking at one camera and the others are looking at another.

9. If you’re uncomfortable, it will show in your expressions.
Choosing garments and shoes that fit your style and comfort level will ensure that you’re not fussing with pinching wardrobe items or forcing a smile through a blister. And you’ll be in a much better mood at the end of the night too!

10. Get comfortable with your photographer ahead of time.
Having someone show up on one of the most stressful days of your life and point a camera at you to document every little expression will only make you self-conscious. I offer my wedding clients a free engagement session so they can meet me well in advance and get a sense of how I work so they know what to expect.  This makes them much more comfortable in front of the lens on their wedding day and allows me to blend in with their friends and family to catch those candid moments they would otherwise miss because they are too aware of being photographed.

These tips also translate to other events you might be planning – graduations, family reunions, etc. so they’re good to keep handy! 🙂  For more tips on things to consider as you prepare to work with your photographer visit my photography website.

Big Plans for the Coop!

Hi there!  It’s been a busy couple of weeks around the DBDT household.  I had to travel around the state last week for my day job and have been playing catch up ever since.  Luckily the weather is finally turning warmer and the snow is melting, so the Hubs and I have been working on cleaning out the greenhouse and getting it set up for it’s first season!  I’ll share an update on that project soon.  The other big project on my radar at the moment is the chicken coop.

The Hubs added the roof to the chicken yard in the fall, which was a great improvement over the thin netting we had originally.  The new metal paneling has held up well over the winter.   Because it’s open panels allow the snow to fall through we had to shovel out their yard a couple of times during the snowy season and now that things are melting it’s getting pretty soggy in there.  Unfortunately there’s not much drainage in this spot so I’m planning to till up the ground and add in some gravel or sand to help with that for future seasons.

Last summer I added the cinder blocks along the edge of the yard as planters.  The canvas curtains I made to keep the cluckers from demolishing the plants didn’t work as well as I hoped, so I’ve tossed them and will be getting some clear acrylic panels that can slide into the space between the blocks and the metal fence panels.

That will keep the sight lines open for both the chickens and the dogs, but they can be easily removed when I want to give the cluckers access to the greens I’ll be growing in the blocks for them.  I gave up on having flowers here and late last season planted grass seed in the blocks along the side of the yard instead.  I’ll plant lavender and mint along the front blocks since those are more protected by the hen house wall.  Hopefully those aromas will help keep things smelling fresh on this side of the yard and provide herbs to freshen their bedding too.

I’d like to make some kind of hanging pocket planters for each of the posts down the side of the yard where I could have some trailing flowers.  The cluckers won’t be able to get to the plants that high up and it would help make things a little prettier.  I’m also thinking about making some kind of hanging planter for the wall at the back of the run since it’s a big open space there.

Of course the big to-do with the chicken yard is installing a gravel walkway from the deck steps to the coop and then over to the gate on the side of the house.  I’ve got lawn edging that we picked up last year that should be enough to do this distance, but I’ll have to wait for the ground to dry out so we can get the wheelbarrows of gravel back here.

Another functional improvement is to level out the area in front of the run’s door and add pavers in that corner to help with the mud that develops there.  Luckily I have pavers I picked up last season to get that project started as soon as the ground allows.

I also plan to do a few simple updates like adding a tire under the hen house with sand for the cluckers to use for dirt baths.  That should keep them from making holes in their yard for that purpose.  I’ll add a few stumps in the yard and some branches across the back corner for them to roost on and have a spot to get up a bit higher and see the surrounding area.  I’d like to dress up the storage cabinet and side of the hen house a bit with some trim to give it a more finished farmhouse style look and am considering adding metal to the cabinet roof so it matches the run and helps the cabinet last a bit longer.  And if I get time to get really fancy this might be the season I get a sign made for the coop!

I considered adding a compost area in the yard so the ladies can help break down the materials, but I can’t seem to find a plan that works in the space we have so I’m currently planning to have a compost tumbler behind the green house instead so it’s convenient to dump kitchen scraps the chickens won’t eat and their coop bedding.

I’m hoping to start some of these tasks this weekend if the weather continues to cooperate so stay tuned for an update post!

DIY Product Packaging

As a small business owner, I’m always looking for ways to give my customers a great end product without added expense to my bottom line.  I know many other small business owners have a similar need so I thought I’d share update I recently made to my packaging.

I’ve always provided my photography customers with digital images rather than prints.  When I first started out the media of choice was CDs, so I found a free template online and altered it to fit my needs so I could print covers for the jewel cases I put the CDs in.  My customers really liked this packaging and it was fairly low cost for me, especially when I shopped sales or used coupons for the CDs and cases since I could print the cover on my home printer.

Soon CD’s gave way to USBs as the preferred media.  I would have loved to order custom USBs with my logo on them, but that would have required me to raise my rates to cover the huge expense.  Since I like to work with DIY clients who need an affordable photography option that didn’t fit my business model.  So instead, I came up with a simple option using materials I already had on hand – a bulk lot of kraft favor bags and Thank You stickers.

Using items I already had meant this new option was free for me (except the cost of the USB), but I knew my stash of materials would eventually run out and I wanted to have my brand represented like I did with the CD covers.  So I picked up some circular labels and designed a “Thank You” message with my logo that I can still print at home.

My customers who have received the new packaging have all really liked it.  The pack of labels only cost me $10 and will provide about 100 labels so with the kraft bags I bought in bulk, it only cost me about $0.25/packaging.

I originally purchased the bulk lot of kraft bags in three patterns a few years ago on one of the daily bargain sites I follow.  I’ve used some for other projects before this so my inventory is limited but should still last a while.  In the meantime, I’m on the hunt for another bulk offer so I can replenish my inventory.

I’m pretty proud of the end result as it shows off my new branding and keeps cost down so I can continue to offer the rates my customers need.  I’d love to hear what you think of my low-cost DIY packaging option, so leave me a comment below!

From Lantern to Vase

The best thing about thrifting is that you often find pieces that can be reworked into something new.  Usually that involves a coat of paint or major altering of the original item, but every once in a while you stumble upon a super simple upcycle that requires barely any effort.  That’s exactly what happened with my new vase.  The mason jar style and the green tint to the glass are what caught my eye at the thrift store.  But it had a different purpose when I first saw it.

It was a lantern for a small votive candle!  I didn’t originally intend for it to be used as a vase but when the Hubs brought home flowers and I needed another large container for a second bouquet this new treasure was on the counter and the idea was sparked.  I simply pulled out the votive holder rack, filled it with water and plopped in the flowers.  That has to be the quickest upcycle ever – literally 30 seconds flat!

I kept the votive holder rack in case I ever want to use it that way again, but I see many more days as a vase with summer bouquets in it’s future! 🙂

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Checking Out Magnolia Home Locally!

I recently learned that Joanna Gaines’ furniture line was available through a local furniture retailer who usually specializes in quality Amish furniture called Treeforms Furniture Gallery.  I stopped by their showroom to check out what they had during my lunch break the other day and had to share the great ways they styled the pieces.

Although they had several of the Magnolia Home accessories with the furniture I was disappointed to learn that they weren’t selling those pieces and only had them as display props.  But the sales lady did tell me that they could order anything available on the Magnolia Home online shop and it would possibly be less expensive because they got a dealer price break and shipping is already included.  The Hubs wasn’t quite as excited by that news as I was… I can’t imagine why! 😉

We’re not really in need of any new furniture so this was just a browsing trip anyway but it was fun to see the Fixer Upper style in person.  Including a few pieces from recent reveals, like this school desk and framed bed.

I really liked the combination of modern and rustic in this tall dresser, which looked like multiple small drawers but was really 4 large drawers.

The Magnolia line was just a portion of their showroom so I browsed a few of the other areas too.  I loved this rustic bookcase, which was no surprise since I’ve had pinned for sometime now.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be replacing the ladder shelf next to the craft cabinet with something like this in the near-ish future, albeit with a much less expensive and custom sized DIY version!

I also really liked this metal firewood rack.  It too was fairly pricey and I think it’s a bit tall for use at our fire pit, which is the only place we burn wood thanks to a gas fireplace indoors.  I’m thinking I might recreate something similar with PVC pipe painted to look like metal or copper and place it on cinder blocks so it’s raised off the ground.

They had some really adorable Easter accessories out.  I considered getting a few of the little bunnies for my spring decorations but there were no price tags which meant they were also just showroom accessories.

It’s a shame because I think they could really have some good additional income if they had a small inventory of the accessories!  Especially ones this cute!

One accessory that was for sale was this large metal tiered basket.  I’ve had similar pieces and always used them for organizing or decorating up high so seeing it as a centerpiece was definitely a new idea.  It might be something fun to try as the holidays approach later this year.

The driftwood boats also caught my eye.  I’ve got a whole board of driftwood ideas pinned for one day when I have extra time to make something out of my stash of driftwood collected when we go riding in the summer.

My favorite display item was this unique hanging terrarium chandelier. It was the perfect balance of rustic and modern.  Several of the hanging pieces here were for sale, but I’m usually not great with small pots as they require daily attention rather than the weekly watering my plants usually get.

It was a fun little diversion from a stressful day at work even though I didn’t come home with anything new.  Sometimes it’s just good to go someplace new and look for ideas. And now that I know they can order in Fixer Upper decor I’ll be browsing the Magnolia Online Shop for new ideas soon too! 🙂

Flipping the Door

We recently made a very simple change in our master bedroom that had way more impact than we ever imagined.  We’ve wanted to flip the direction our bedroom door swings since we saw the model of our floor plan.  In fact, it was one of the two changes we requested of the builder, but by the time we noticed it hadn’t been done how we asked it was too late to change it before the final inspection because it would cover the light switches if we did.  So we lived with it for the past 3+ years.

It drove us nuts to have to come in and move the door to get to the closet every time we came home or pulled the hampers to do laundry.  It’s such a minor, trivial thing but it was an every day thing which made it seem even more annoying.  The Hubs decided he’d had enough and did some research online to figure out what he needed to do to swap the direction of the door.

He used a template he picked up at Lowes to chisel away the spots where the hinges would attach, starting with an outline of the spot and then creating slices he could work out little by little.

Soon he had three indented spots ready for hinges.  He also had to change up the hinge locations on the door itself so he took the door off and chiseled those areas too.  I was working on another project while he was doing this and occasionally held the door steady while he chiseled, so I don’t have any pictures of that step.  Once he had the new hinge locations prepped and swapped over the hardware we went from this….

…to this!  Look how much more open it makes the space feel!  Now the door swings back flush against the wall, leaving nothing blocking the entrance to the closet – just how we always wanted it.  We left the light switches right were they were because we rarely used them thanks to the remote for our overhead fan/light combo.  We also have switches for the overhead fixture by the bathroom door so we can always use that instead.  The Hubs relocated the holder for our light/fan remote to the open side of the door so we have easy access to that if we want to turn the light off as we leave or on as we enter.

Luna wasn’t too impressed with the change because behind the door was one of her favorite hiding spots, but she’ll just have to be upset because we love it.

We still need to paint over the old hinge locations to make them blend in, but it’s not a huge priority since you barely notice it.  We plan to leave the old indents on the off chance that SHOULD we ever sell this house the next buyer has the option to change it back – if they were crazy and wanted their life to be more difficult that is!

So there you have it.  One very simple change made the room feel twice as big – and pissed off the cat until she realized she can just hide in the closet instead. 🙂

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