Monday, August 31, 2015

Tips to save money on Professional Landscaping!

We built this house over 20 years ago.
We also landscaped around this house 20 years ago.

The gardens have changed through the years....

but the basic river rock around the foundation of the house has stayed the same.

These photos are about 15 years old.
The river rock is still pretty "clean".

Over the years, the rocks have "collected" lots of composted matter that is just perfect for "growing stuff"....and not necessarily "Stuff" that we want.

My adage of letting things "bloom where they are planted" had gotten out of hand

It was TIME to do something!
The more Mr. S and I talked.....the less appealing it was to think about dealing with the rocks ourselves.

We decided to (GASP) hire professional landscapers!

We knew that this would be a project that would cost some considerable dollars!
We were okay with that.....but we still wanted to stay within a budget.

Let me share some things that we did to save money and get more value from the time the PROS were working.

DO take the time to have a lengthy consultation with your landscaper.  We walked the whole yard and talked about the areas most in need of work.  "Tim the Landscaper" had some great ideas for saving money.   

DO be very up front about your willingness to do some of the prep work ourselves.

DO be willing to utilize and move existing plants in the yard.

DO carefully review of the quote.  "Tim the Landscaper" included all of our dreams in a comprehensive list with prices.  This let us pick and choose what we wanted to tackle ourselves, what we wanted to pay for now, and what we would put off until next year.

I really think the time we took to really talk and communicate our wishes saved us money in the long run.  We also knew that the landscapers knew exactly what we wanted and were willing to pay for.

I am sorry to say that I DID NOT take photos of the week long process.....
but here are the results with how we incorporated the EXPERT PROS and our own "Sweat Equity".

This is a photo of the front a few years ago.

"We" (meaning Mr. S!)  Hooked the truck to the old overgrown Barberry bushes and pulled them out.

There were also some shrubs in the rocks behind the Peony bed on the side of the yard.  I was embarrassed by how "ratty" they looked....and now they are GONE!

We also tried to transplant my beautiful Dahlias from this area....ALAS.....not so successful.  I guess I shouldn't complain when I see this lovely clean slate.

We aren't sure what planting we want for under the window.  So for now, we just moved these tall planters and the rose bush in for temporary fill.

There was a "mess" of overgrown Hosta, Pachysandra and volunteer violets in this part of the front path.

All of this got pulled out by us ahead of time.

After the rocks were moved and the mulch put down we planted a much edited version of the garden.

DO let the pros do the hard stuff!  It was a sunny 90 degree day when the three strong young men did the backbreaking job of removing all of the rocks. Can you just imagine how long this would have taken US to do!
DO think of ways to save work for the landscapers.  We had them dump the old rocks in our woods on the side to save the cost of hauling them off-site.

The round garden pavers had "sunk" through the years.  These were raised up for a nice sharp look.

The slate walk way is a real "gift" for me!  I don't have to tip toe over rocks to get to the hose and water anymore.  I often garden in my this might be one of my favorite upgrades!

With the shabby shrubbery ( don't you love that alliteration?) removed, the landscapers brought in larger river rock to go down the side of the house.

This was a suggestion from Tim the Landscaper.  If we had used mulch here, it would have washed down the slope.  The bigger rock was just dumped over the old stuff which also saved money.

Now for the back yard garden!
Yikes....this area was getting completely "out of control"!
I had been meaning to redo this for a couple of years and now was the time!
Once again....we did the prep work of digging up all of the plants we wanted to save to put back or move to other gardens.

It was pretty messy under the deck for a few weeks.

Doing this ourselves was another money saver.
DO let the pros use their tools.
DO use "what you have"!
You probably don't notice all the big rocks in the "before" garden.  Over the years they got lost under all the plants.  Using muscle and skill, they moved these rocks out to use in another place.  BIG money saver that would have been virtually impossible to DIY!

Once the rocks and plants were gone, the landscapers came in with round up to kill the weeds.
Then they added 5 inches black dirt and rototilled the whole thing!
You know you are a gardener when a big expanse of new black dirt is more exciting than new clothes!

We DIYed the replanting of some of the things we took out.  Most of this garden will wait for next Spring to become a fresh new cutting garden.  YIPPEE!

I walked through all the existing gardens to point out the many big rocks/boulders that were hiding among the plants.

These found "treasures" became new defining borders between the river rock and newly mulched areas.

The rocks will slow down water run off when it rains.

That way the mulch won't wash down the slope.

Using existing boulders saved us lots of money.

We also used the existing square concrete pavers for the walkway.

The landscapers used their muscle and expertise to lift and place them in a new path to the compost bin.

This just might be my favorite part of the whole project!

Now I can safely carry the big loads of composting material down a clean path instead of sliding down slippery river rock!

The placement of mulch throughout this area is a nice clean look for all the Hosta we have waiting to replant.

 DO  listen to the expert when they have a good idea!

Tim the Landscaper drew up this plan for the side of our yard in the front.

This area is challenged by the intrusive roots from all the trees between our lot and the next door neighbors.

The grass never grew....
Plants never thrived!

The suggestion was to minimize the amount of grass.....dig out and replace several inches of dirt with new black dirt and sod!

We thought that a narrow strip of lawn might look odd....but Tim was so right!

The front edge of this garden now has a planting of native prairie grasses that will thrive in the poor soil.....and...hide some of the messy planting until we can get in and re do it!

The edge of the driveway got three rows of pavers to make that end of the driveway easier for backing out!  Mr. S. is really happy about this element.  I think it just looks so nice and finished!

DO be patient.  If you are going to do some of the work yourselves, you will not see a perfect landscape when the trucks pull away!  It is going to take the rest of the season to pick away at "perfection"!

Doing our landscaping this way saved us a LOT of money!
Doing our landscaping this way saved us even more frustration because we weren't trying to do the "heavy lifting" ourselves!

I can't say too much about how wonderful the landscapers were.  They came on time....worked super hard when they were here....and did a super job!

Now....with the money we saved....maybe I should head to the nursery to buy some new plants! 

Have A Wonderful Day
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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Book Bargains From Good Will

The words "Back to School" are very different for me now that I am retired!
I am NOT trying to get a thousand projects done before school starts!
I am NOT going to meetings that seem to steal precious minutes from the last precious days!
If I used to feel the pressure of "Back To School"....
Can you just imagine how kids feel?
Here is a bit of advice for you parents out there! 
Give your kids a bit of space to enjoy their last precious days!
Instead of asking them to do their Summer Reading.....Read TO THEM!
A collection of great picture books is an important "furnishing" for any house!
This burlap covered box sits in the lower level family room next to the old school desk.
It is filled with lots of great books......almost ALL from Good Will.
I never, never, ever go to Good Will without checking out the children's book aisle.

These classics are in super nice condition and cost less than three dollars each.
I stick to buying the picture book read-a-louds.
BUT.....there are always lots of the series books that kids love
AND...lots of non-fiction titles about any number of things!
Wouldn't it be fun to take your kiddos on a "field trip" to Good Will...JUST for books?
For less than $ could all find some books that will fill those last precious days with relaxation. So take my advice...for what it is worth....and DROP EVERYTHING and READ!

Here are a few other posts about the importance of reading!
Have A Wonderful Day!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Add A Frame to a Canvas Print

This is a photo that the Sweetwater Son took when he was in Singapore.

We really enjoyed this spot when we were there last October.

The "ship" is actually a Casino!

The two glass structures are the Gardens By the Bay.  These huge "terrarium" like buildings house the Flower Dome and the Cloud Dome.

He and the soon to be Sweetwater daughter in law had the photo printed on canvas as my birthday gift.  You can imagine that I was anxious to find a good place to hang it.


 This is a picture that was hanging in the family room.

A few weeks ago I rematted it and when I did..... the glass cracked.

It cracked when after I put it in the frame.
I kept putting off replacing the glass because that would mean that I had to touch the broken glass!!!!

I have such a phobia about broken glass.  I don't know why.  I don't have any history of an accident involving glass breaking.
BUT....just the thought of touching a broken edge of glass makes me almost sick to my stomach!
I did some research and found out that there is actually a name for this fear. 

Nelophobia (also known as hyelophobia or hyalophobia) is the fear of glass. The fear is caused by the fragile nature and possibility that the glass will break and cause injury. 
WHATEVER it is called....I have it!
Back to the topic at hand....Adding a Frame to a Canvas Print....
I decided that this frame would be a great way to showcase the canvas print!
I was very brave and took the cracked glass out of the frame....gritting my teeth the whole time.

I taped the jagged edge so that when it went in the trash it wasn't a safety hazard for the trash men.

Too funny.....the frame was a long ago Goodwill purchase and the foam core board backing the artwork is a promotional image for some kind of real estate group!

Not to worry....the foam core was the perfect solution for this project.

I had some nice plain natural colored canvas in the fabric stash!

The canvas got wrapped around the foam core and secured with painters tape.  Not pretty or elegant....but it is never going to be seen by anyone!

The bone folder helped to smooth the bumps out.

It took some time to pull and stretch the canvas tight.

The canvas print has stretchers that are about 1/2 inch deep.

This makes it easy to hang on these 3 push pins.

That is also the beauty of using foam core for the inset....the pins just stick right in!

The Canvas print "hangs" in the center of the canvas wrap foam core.

It was necessary to add some double sided mounting tape to each corner to further secure the canvas to the backing.

I love the way this makes the lovely print the right size to be a focal point on this large wall.

Have A Wonderful Day!

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Monday, August 10, 2015

Sweetwater Road Trip!

It has been almost two weeks since my last post....but that is because we have been traveling!  I know it is probably silly, but I hate posting when we are away to announce to the world that nobody is home at Sweetwater.

We took a road trip to attend a family reunion in Montana!

In addition to visiting and catching up with some pretty wonderful relatives.....

We got a chance to see where the Buffalo (I learned the correct term is really BISON) roam!

We got to see where the deer and the antelope play!

And....the Big Horns too!

We had lots of time to see that the sky was not cloudy all day!

We stopped at untold number of little shops with lots of fun "touristy" items.  But thrifty me just couldn't spend all that money on a t-shirt that I probably will never wear.


I collected these pieces of driftwood and rocks to create this sort of sculptural display. 

It is good to be home!

The cat hair is can only imagine how much those kitties shed in 9 days!

The gardens have SOME of the weeds some places it was hard to find the flowers!

We are starting a major landscaping project tomorrow....with actual PROS if you can believe it!  Stay tuned to my chronicle of how we are working to do this with some "thrifty" touches.

Have A Wonderful Day!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Burlap Pocket Bulletin Board

I bought this burlap coffee sack at a little coffee shop a few months ago.

It was only $5.00.

I had no idea what I would do with it.....but the graphic look of the stencil was too cool to pass up.

I decided to update the message center in the kitchen with a pocket bulletin board.

The pockets on a board like this are a great way to have things right at hand without cluttering up your workspace or poking holes in photos or invitations.

Making the board is really simple.
Anyone who can use an iron and a glue gun can make one.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Patio Cushion Update with Easy Sewing Instructions

I posted about these cushions for the patio chairs when I made them 2 years ago.

I noticed last week how much the elements have taken a toll on them.


And to tell you the truth....I am kinda "over" the Greek Key design.

It was time for a refreshed look for these babies!

When I shop at the fabric store, there are always wonderful fabrics that "call" to me.  I see things that I just know will be perfect for some project.

This is a perfect example of that!

 Last Summer I found this fabric on the $5 a yard shelf.  I bought 2 yards.

 I fell in love with the gray background and soft orange floral.

Two yards of fabric is a nice is almost always enough for most projects.  And.....$10 always seems like a reasonable expense.

In the case of the new covers for the was exactly the right amount.

Since the old cushion covers were made with the "pillow sham" technique, it was a simple matter of slipping them off and taking those nasties to the garbage can.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Use Your Printer to Create Custom Pillows

In this post I really will show you how to use your ink jet printer to make custom pillows. I will show you how to use muslin or canvas to make your own sheets of fabric to print on.  BUT....first I need to inject a public service announcement about the wonderfulness that can be found at your public library!
This is yet another reason to love your public library.

Did you know that you can check out digital versions of many popular magazines from your library?


Just hop on your library website and do a search for Zinio.  If your library supports Zinio then you can browse the collection of magazines just like magic.....a few seconds later you can read them on your phone, ipad or computer.  Follow this link to find out the specifics!

I used Zinio to check out the latest issue of Martha Stewart Living. ( can read the newest issues of magazines)
I read an article, "Picture This", about using digital photographs in interesting ways.

 Oh, that is another cool thing about reading an can take screen shots of the stuff you want to save!

 The ideas in the article were an inspiration for a couple of pillows I wanted to make.

I knew there were some different specialty printer papers in the cupboard.....hmmm....actually I have a LOT of different papers...

some for t-shirts
some plastic decal sheets
some post-it paper

then....aha....some canvas print "paper"!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

How to Hand Tie A Daisy Bouquet

There really is something so cheerful about any kind of Daisy!

Making a hand tied bouquet of flowers is a great thing to know how to do.  But before I show the way to do this....let me tell you some "stuff" about one of my favorite flower.

The origin of the word Daisy is the Anglo Saxon “daes eage” which literally mean “day’s eye”. It was called this because daisies open at dawn as the day just starts to begin.

The "ditch daisies" or English Daisies grow in great abundance in the Sweetwater gardens. I guess you could call them weeds....but they look so wonderful in the early Summer garden.

How fun to have flowers that the little ones can pick without getting scolded....even though we always have to remind them....."Please don't EAT the daisies!"

The picture on the left is the Mom of the little guy on the right!

 When these "weeds" are done blooming, I rip the whole plants out.  Not to fear, they reseed themselves and there will be new plants in the place of the old ones next year.

Now the "nicer" Shasta Daisies are starting to bloom.  I really recommend this kind of daisy for any garden.  Once they are established, they are easy to propagate and move to various sunny spots in your garden.

These Daisies make wonderful cut flowers for the house.

Cutting them often has the added benefit of keeping the plants blooming longer.  If you cut the flower at a juncture of the leaves, a new flower will grow from there.

I like to use these strong stemmed beauties in mixed arrangements, but also like the look of a simple hand tied bouquet standing in a simple glass vase.

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