Monday, October 28, 2013

Nailing The Landing

 (That's a reference to gymnastics, not to having acquired a nail gun - that toy ...err, tool is still on the wish list)

I blame not having a garage for piles of tools and project supplies dotted strategically ie near the latest project site throughout the house. Especially at risk for such unsightly if handy pile-ups are corners with no actual regular use.
Like our upstair's landing.
Especially since it has that sweet little cantilevered balcony feature. It opens up the hallway between the bedrooms, provides great air flow and light but it's not big enough for ...well, anything useful really. It really makes me wonder how it was used originally seeing that our elders never really wasted space on nothing.

Anyways, our little balcony had become a) a spot for one of our cats' litter-boxes and b) supplies and tools. None of which make your heart beat faster when you lay your eyes on it first thing in the morning.

I knew I wanted to hide the litter-box, and I had seen various modified dressers, benches, and other pieces of furniture turned into litter-box-cozies but up until now I'd never found anything that would work for our little spot.

So we'd been living with -this- for quite a while. Until this past weekend when I had that feeling that I simply -had- to check in at my favorite thrift store. My secret spider senses were tingling, and then I discovered THIS:

A trunk! A square-ish trunk that was deep enough but not too deep to hide a litter-box! It was sturdy and in pretty decent shape, and would work just fine with our overall vintage, Renovation Hardware- knock off style.
SOLD! (for $7.95)

Once home I gave it a quick scrub before cutting out the opening. I'd seen some use kitty doors (our cats never liked these) and other ways to hide the entrance but I left ours plain - it'll take some convincing to get the kitties to use the new box to begin with, I didn't feel like adding challenges like door mechanisms or curtains. Maybe later ...once the novelty wears off.

Yes, I gave the cut-out ears. If you search for 'hidden litterboxes' on you will find a whole variety of options including the stylized cat noggin and a full kitty silhouette (for an under-sink cabinet - too sweet!).

The I decided to refresh the finish of the trunk with a quick coat of dark brown paint I had on hand. I also rubbed some black paint to 'age' the whole shebang, and then let it dry!

While the litterbox-trunk was drying, I decided to paint the part of baseboard on the balcony. It was already primed but had remained hidden behind the pile-up for the past couple of ...uhm, weeks, and you know how it goes: out of sight, out of mind, and there is never enough time to begin with.

Two coats of white paint later, I got to check this baby off of my list! Yay! Golden opportunities, people, golden opportunities!

Because the trunk features nifty brass corners on -all- corners I added felt strips to the bottom of the trunk to protect the finish of our hardwood floors. 

Two down, six more to go.

Here we go. The trunk lid pops open and conveniently stays open thanks to those lock-type hinges which will come in handy for cleaning and changing litter. The box fits perfectly into the trunk with space around it. I'm thinking of adding a hook to the inside to hang the little plastic scooper to keep everything nicely contained.

And here we go, the beautiful, beautiful "After"! I added a plant (Look, Mom, all grown up! Plants! Inside the house!) and found a large wall clock to dress up the empty wall, and we are officially IN LOVE with our cantilever balcony landing!

Yes, I still need to finish stripping and painting the railing but this is starting to come together beautifully and it beginning to look like a real home rather than a perpetual construction site.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


It's been a hot and rainy summer here in North-East Florida, and for somebody who keeps their bees in a topbar hive that means it's been a long 'hands-off' couple of months for us. You are not supposed to open up your hive when it's raining or threatening to rain (the ladies do not take to kindly when you take off the roof of their home and things getting wet) and when it's too hot, the comb gets so soft it might break off and wreak havoc on your colony.

Since a small piece of comb had broken off during our last inspection at the end of July, we'd been extra careful not to pick a day when it was too hot. Or raining. Getting free time to align with those other two turned into a feat of epic proportions but finally, last week the stars aligned and we got some quality time with our girls!

Our girls had been keeping busy over the summer despite many days spent on the porch (bearding, because it was so hot and humid) and we found partial comb attached to almost all topbars. Then we spied something  really interesting and called up Little Man who'd been doing homework. In his undies.

Little Man had gotten stung once this summer (he accidentally stepped on a bee in the grass) and while he's gotten over the sting quickly (and with no allergic reaction to talk of), we had been a bit worried how this would affect his relationship with our fuzzy bugs and his eagerness to work with them. Well, as you can see, nothing really changed. He just threw over his beekeeper's jacket and that was it. That's all. Undies and a beekeeper's jacket. 
It's also a testament to the mellow temper of our bees.

And this crazy comb construction was what we'd wanted to show Little Man. Clearly they had taken decorating cues from the collapsed comb in July and added willy-nilly globs of comb at the bottom of the hive, underneath perfectly fine drawn comb suspended from the bar above this mess.

All of that had to come out or we'd maneuver ourselves into a tight corner before spring encouraging the ladies to keep on building crazy crosscomb until we could no longer open the hive without destroying comb and harming bees, worker and - worse - the queen in the process.

There. All cleaned up. This is a picture of a lovely brood comb (with capped brood at the bottom) and heavy with capped honey stores at the top. 

We didn't harvest, really, our hive being a first year hive but we did keep the cut-off bits and bops of comb for ourselves. Some of them had capped honey (and a few small pieces of uncapped honey), and we eagerly carried it off.

Yes, we did. We crushed up a piece of comb and dipped croissants right into the honey puddle. HEAVEN! 

Then we went to process the remaining comb. First we squooshed everything into a pot and mashed it up. It smelled deliciously of honey and bees wax, even if it didn't look pretty. Then all that was left to do was to strain the honey and wax 'soup' through a fine mesh and bottle it!

Lovely, isn't it? And it's so delicious! It tastes different than 'regular' honey from the store, fruity, almost citrus-y - it really makes you wonder which flowers they visited.

What's left after draining the honey is a sticky mess of crushed comb. Since it was still coated with a light layer of honey we returned it to our bees so they could lick it clean. No drop went to waste! The crushed comb is not pretty look at even if it smells great. While honey comb is a beautiful light color, older brood comb is dark with dust and leftover pieces of cocoon.

In order to clean the wax you need to render it, melting it and running it through a filter. Since the weather had turned iffy so that a solar wax melter wouldn't work, I decided to volunteer the crock pot. There, in a bit of water, I placed a glass bowl filled with some more water on which the wax would float, topping it off with a piece of cloth to use as a filter.

Yeaaaah, so not pretty, but it smells heavenly. The wax melts, seeps through the cloth and leaves dirt and other contaminants behind.

Golden wax floating on water. It's amazing to see how well the cloth filter actually works, and that the wax indeed melts right through it.

And at the end, we had a few small jars of honey, about a pound of glorious, sweet golden bees wax and a chunk of honey on the comb to show for this year's foray into beekeeping. There won't be anymore this year. What's left in the hive and whatever else the girls are bringing in right now is theirs alone to hopefully ensure their survival throughout the winter. It's been an amazing adventure so far, and it's already impossible to imagine life without our bees so stay tuned - there will be more posts about beekeeping here at our Little Old House.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Shelf That! (part I)

Remember when I talked about how clutter accumulates in an area that just 'doesn't work'? Almost two years ago I showed you the mess that was our front porch, how its set-up just didn't work for us and how it caused us to give it the red-headed step-child treatment until we switched it up? You can refresh your memory here (and I'm happy to announce it's been mess-free since then!)

Little Man's room is experiencing a similar problem. Granted, he's a kid and as such a crazy mess is part of the territory but something isn't quite working or not working well enough. What especially caught my attention were all the little LEGO creations and knick-knacks cluttered on top of his low shelves. Maybe some display shelving is what is needed?

Don't let the picture fool you - it's never that tidy these days.Anyways, since shelves are easy to create and inexpensive I decided it's worth a shot. I was thinking two shelves on either side of the window would work well.

I managed to run off to the home improvement store to grab a few shelf brackets, a can of Kermit green spray paint and two 8 foot long pre-primed MDF boards I hadcut into 4 foot lengths at the store. 

I wanted the look of floating shelves without the hassle of figuring out how to attach them or having to build floating shelves so I faked it by spray-painting the shelf brackets a happy bright Kermit the Frog green to blend into the wall color in Little Man's room.

Quick light sanding to roughen up the metal surface and light even coats of paint did the trick!

We now have green shelf brackets! Stay tuned for part II tomorrow.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Famous Last Words

I know I promised posting would pick up at our Little Old House and here we are, a scant 4 weeks later and what has happened?
Not one bit.

You see, over the summer Little Man turned into a raving mad Baseball nut. After a grand time at Baseball camp he just HAD to join Little League for more Baseball goodness. Sure, I said. It'll be fun, I said, especially when the husband found a team that would have practice on days that a) did not interfere with Karate lessons and b) was scheduled for night where the husband could drive Little Man.

I kind of like Baseball. I'm not crazy about it but it's such an American experience for me, the little German ex-pat, that endears the whole sport to me. I still don't get the finer details of the game and oftentimes find myself yearning for a bit more ...ahem, action on the field but overall, I'm okay with Baseball.

Well, until we started Little League.

First the practice days were changed. They now conflict with Karate so that's on hold right now and they happen to be on nights where - fun, fun - the husband cannot drive Little Man.

I've been sentenced to 1.5hrs of time-out on the bleachers twice a week plus a whopping one hour round trip between field and home because somebody ran a ship into the bridge we usually use. Unless there is a game which means I'm stuck on the bleachers even longer while slowly building up rage that games go until 9pm on a school night.

Yeah, not a happy camper right now.

Anyways, it's been eating into what little time I have during the week to get things done aside from the usual, regular maintenance type of activities, some of which have to wait until the weekends now, which means there is less time for DIY projects on those two days as well.

It's a vicious cycle, I'm telling you, and I'm not happy.
Good thing it's the shorter fall season.
I'd give Dexter a run for his money if it lasted any longer ...