Friday, May 29, 2015


This photo probably has the truest colors. The rest were shot indoors or with cloud cover. Meh.

Eric's buddy, Juan, is our most-frequent overnight guest. Who'da thunk that of our close friends, one of those that lives the furthest away ends up here the most? We think we're going on his sixth or seventh (or both, depending on how you count) and I decided there should be a commemoration of this. Just prior to Juan's last visit, I was asking Eric a question about said visit and ended up conflating "Juan" and "Montana" into "Juantana." Obviously, this word stuck. How could it not? And a tee shirt idea was born!

I used the tried and true freezer paper stencil method and instead of dye or paint, I used bleach. I had used the method to make Eric a shirt our first Christmas in Montana.*

First, I put together an online clip art map with "JUANTANA" using Photoshop**, made it the appropriate size, and printed it out on printer paper. Next, I taped the print out to an appropriately-sized piece of freezer paper, and cut out most of it with an Exacto knife (leaving the letter Ns and As).  None of these steps were photographed. Oopsie!

I chose a blue tee shirt because I know I'd seen him wear a few different pieces of blue clothing. Eric informed me that it was Dodgers' blue and a safe bet. Whew!

Next, I used a dry iron on the cotton/linen setting to adhere the shiny side of the stencil to the 100% cotton, pre-washed tee shirt. After that I finished cutting out the Ns and As with a soft touch and a sharp blade.

To keep the bleach where I wanted it, I inserted a piece of cardboard inside the shirt and wrapped the sleeves and bottom around the back.  I placed the whole thing in the bathtub (making sure the shower curtain and bathmat were well out of the way of bleach over-spray. Then I sprayed around the edges of the stencil a few times and watched closely.

That is not just bad photography, but also the action of the bleach around the stencil causing that grainy, halo-like effect.

Undiluted bleach acts fast and is corrosive, so have water at-the-ready to counteract the bleach when you get your desired effect and before it disintegrates your fabric. Remember to pull out your cardboard real quick like before dowsing. This is one reason I did it in the bathtub: to have quick and ready access to water as well as to contain the bleach. I have seen projects on black fabric where they have bleached to almost-white, so perhaps I am overly cautious.

I used the handheld shower attachment so that I could focus the water where i wanted it. I am sure you could run it under the tap or even use a pre-filled pitcher to rinse.

After it was thoroughly rinsed, I removed the stencil, inspected the (wet) result, and threw it in with a load of laundry to wash and dry.  Et voilà!

I think the end result is reminiscent of a mostly blue sky with a few fluffy white clouds which is pretty much our part of the Big Sky, so that's extra cool.

Eric says he'll love it. I hope so!

* I had kept this small spray bottle of bleach, clearly labeled, from that last project. Apparently, over time and in a container that is not airtight, chlorine bleach somehow becomes inert or at least becomes something that smells a lot like water and has a similar bleaching capacity of water, because when I sprayed it on the shirt the only things that happened were the shirt getting wet and the stencil ruined. D'oh! I rinsed the shirt thoroughly, then dried it with a load of laundry, remade the stencil, and started over with fresh bleach the next morning. I am glad I did this a couple of weeks prior to Juan's arrival!

** I am still not that comfortable with GIMP and had to bust out my old Windows machine instead of my faster, better Linux machine. If anyone has a great source for Photoshop-to-GIMP conversion chart I would LOVE to know about it!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Fog Monster: The Allergen

The other night we had a windy, rainy, stormy late afternoon. Eric saw a fog rolling in and fast.

That's right, those are dandelion puffs about as tall as the snow was deep in winter 2014. We didn't move to the forest to have a manicured landscaped, but hopefully we'll figure something out that's xeriscapic and deer resistant, i.e. native.

Turns out that the fog was actually pine pollen. Whoa. We don't remember it being quite this copious in the past, so perhaps it's an especially big year for pine pollen.  Woo.

Then a few days later: pine pollen on the hot tub cover, pine pollen on the patio furniture, pine pollen on the deck and on the cars, and pine pollen on the back door knob. I wish I knew how to capture the yellow or alter the photo to show how yellow it really is. Just know that it's sulfer-y in color and all over the place!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Every Night is Bat Night

Eric got a bat house for his birthday! Finally. Betty helped him install it, as per instructions. Loud, startling instructions that also included polite requests for a fun game of Pine Cone.

Fun fact: bats have been spotted in and around the property and house, so hopefully we'll have new tenants eating biting bugs before too long!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Make Do and Mend

We have a set of six patio chairs. They're not super special or anything, but they are decent looking, comfortable, and stack-able. The stack-ability is really important to me, because it means that they store out of the weather very easily and also store out-of-season in a minimal amount of space. It's also difficult to find sturdy, affordable patio chairs that stack unless you want molded resin chairs. Anyway, the summer before we moved four of the seats gave out and I tried to fix them with upholstery. That only lasted a few years. Then last winter, I found that I could buy new resin wicker (also called plastic wicker) online from Frank's Cane & Rush Supply! WOO!  And just in the nick of time, too, because the other two seats blew out.

After searching around their site, I decided on a style that was as wide and as thick as I could get in a color that would go well with the bronze color of the chairs and with the rounded profile. Wide so it would cover quickly, thick hoping it would last longer, and rounded for comfort.  They are sold in 1-pound rolls and my chairs took just over 1 pound per seat.

On five of the chairs, the tops of the backs have also failed. I think I will probably replace those with new resin wicker at some time in the future, but for now I decided to use the outdoor fabric I already had on hand to make simple slip covers.

I had enough uncut fabric to make 4 slipcovers. I have two pieces that were cut to make two more seats that I will make fronts with and I picked up at coordinating solid to do the backs. They just slide over and fasten with tabs and buttons on the back.

We have two rounds of guests coming at the end of May and beginning of June and will need three patio chairs per visit, so I have finished four and will work on  the other two after that fun is over.

Here they are in two stacks of two!

I realize that the slip covers "should" all have the same part of the fabric's pattern, but I wanted them to be random for the sake of informality and to enjoy the various parts of the pattern. Lucky for me, this also meant there was less waste, enabling  me to get four covers from the fabric I already had.

I think that replacing all six seats will end up costing about what one or one-and-a-quarter new chairs would cost.  So, in addition to keeping perfectly good chair frames out of the landfill and diminishing the waste and pollution associated with manufacture and shipping, we also saved some money.  Of course, that's with me working for free; it probably would have cost much more than the chairs are worth if I had to pay someone to weave them.

I have a couple other projects in mind for the deck and hope to get those done before June is done. Sadly, those projects don't include new decking or railing this year.

Stay tuned.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Springtime in The Mountains

We have what amounts to a lilac hedge on the north-ish side of the property, behind the house. It doesn't even come close to covering that whole property line, but it's quite a few lilacs nonetheless.

The lilacs are blooming up our way!  And I felt confident enough in the temperature to put a vase of them on the wood stove.

So quaint n' stuff.

Then this happened. I wasn't able to capture all the lightning, thunder, and just how dark it was, but you get the idea of how fast and hard it was raining and hailing for these parts:

The sun has been hiding since, so I ended up moving the vase to build a fire a few days later.  That's just how it goes.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Whose Poop Is This, Anyway?

Scat Scout Eric found this astonishing sample while tromping around the woods with Betty last weekend.  Wowzers!

To illustrate just how impressive this pile was he took a shot* with his ear buds cord in it for scale.  Also his hand.

We figure it was left by either bear or Bigfoot.  One of the other.

* Teehee! I accidentally typed "shat" instead of "shot" at first.  Oopsie!