Farm Dinners

Last year, totally serendipitously, I found a new part time job at a third-generation family farmette here in Pittsburgh. I was hired to do 8-10 hours a week of bookkeeping and invoicing, etc. While that is part of the job the bigger part has become much more than that. Farmer Tara has welcomed me as her partner-in-crime to help brood chickens, take care of the beehives, host special events (our first wedding is in October!) and produce the Summer Farm Dinner Series.

The Farm Dinners are one of the coolest things I’ve ever been part of. This season we have seventeen dinners in the series. Tara worked this past winter to secure chefs from around Pittsburgh to participate by planning menus based primarily on produce from the farm. The chefs also source meats and cheese and other items as locally as possible. We even ask that as much of the alcohol is locally produced and we’re lucky to have vodka, rum and whiskey made right here. And the beer! So many great brewers doing their thing locally.

[Side note: We just started working with Hitchhiker Brewing Co right here in my little town. There are plans in the works for them to create a special Churchview Brew with ingredients from the farm. Standby for details on that.]

One of my favorite roles in these dinners is creating the look and feel of the farm. Getting to go “yard-sale-ing” (with my dudes) for vintage dishes and linens is a great way to spend a Saturday morning. We have amassed a nice collection to set the table and various other spots around the farm but I’m always on the hunt. The farm itself is ripe with old wooden boxes, farm tools and antlers to use to create the feeling I’m going for.

The flowers for every dinner are pulled from the fields, herb garden, edges of the surrounding woods and Tara’s mom’s amazing garden. As such the arrangements change along with the season just as the menus do. It’s really cool to watch the summer unfold and slowly turn to fall and bear witness to it in such an intimate, close to the earth, way.

I’m wildly thankful to be a part of what goes on at Churchview Farm.  Check us out when you get a minute.

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For the love of honeybees

I spent half of a day last week on a mission to go buy a few thousand bees from a honey farm in Hickory, PA. I love traveling anywhere I’ve never been before  – even if it’s just a simple back roads trip to a honey farm (and maybe especially if it is so). I found the farm on Craigslist and headed out two days later to pick up a 5 Frame Nuc to add to our apiary at Churchview Farm where I work part-time.

The honey farm is a typical roadside house, shed and perma-tent thing that sells honey, herbs, plants, etc. A little underwhelming at first. Then I noticed the cow in the front yard with the dogs. A single cow, sunbathing by the front porch while the cute dogs did their own thing. My new life goal is to have a cow-in-residence. Then I notice the bee yard down over the hill by the pond and the garage filled with woodenware and wax foundation and every other bit of beekeeping equipment you could ever want to lay eyes on. Then I meet the grandpa hanging out in the shop. Then I meet the wicked charming 3-year old who named me “captain”. I was in total love with the whole place.

bee equipment

The owner (who told me the story of his family losing the farm in the depression and how he bought it back over a decade ago) had me hop in his little farm cart (which I also need STAT) and we roamed all around – sometimes picking up his daughter and her pet silkie chicken, sometimes driving the boy, always carrying a lit smoker to calm the bees when we got to the bee yard.

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After Mark selected my nuc and loaded it on the cart we went to see his honey house and he gave me some quick lessons in organic mite treatments and I was ready to go. He thanked me for making the trip to which I responded, “I never want to leave”.

Regardless – with 5-10K bees in the back of your car it’s best to hit the road and get the ladies set up in their new home pretty quickly. Less than two hours later they were settled in next to Delia I and Delia II at the Farm. It was a simple, exciting adventure that I hope to do over soon when I’m ready to have bees at home again.

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Here is Betsy tucked in next to the Delias. Welcome home, gals.

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Patchwork Tin USA

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This piece will be in my pop up shop at Lure Paper Goods on June 20, 2014.

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Our Fair Country (and a big announcement)

Our Fair Country (and a big announcement)

I’m heading to NYC for the National Stationery Show. When I return I will be throwing myself fully into making Worker Bird a real, real thing. I am excited and inspired to take this leap. There will be more of these maps and all 50 states and much more coming this year.

Onward.

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Spring Announcement

I am so thrilled to announce that Bourbon & Boots will be selling the Southern States from my Our Fair States series. I am shipping the pieces to them today and will announce shortly when they’re live on their site.

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Our Fair States: New Work

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Just a quiet little reminder that I am accepting commissions for any state or region you would like!

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The Longest Bathroom Renovation Ever

We must be able to claim this title. When – in the history of the universe – has an 8’x10′ space taken almost two years to demo and rebuild? I think never. Oh, and we’re not actually done two years in. Best not to think about that right now. We’re done enough to make it work.

IMG_0549It began after football season ended in 2012. There wasn’t much else to do on cold, Sunday afternoons so it was a perfect time to start demo.

*Please note: in any applicable instance we tried to salvage as much as possible. The tile that we could save went to a friend who collects vintage tile. The crazy wall-mounted toilet (see below) went to a man in FLORIDA whose father started a plumbing company here in Pittsburgh and he wanted to display it in his shop down there. The fixtures that we didn’t want to reuse went on Craigslist for new homes. I hate to waste ESPECIALLY cool, old stuff.*

 

IMG_0748Yum. Asbestos tile.

 

IMG_0551Here is the super great toilet that moved to Florida. The coolest part about it is that Pittsburgh went through a period where it was robbed of its final “h” (in 1891) but Pittsburghers don’t like change that’s forced upon them and lobbied  – successfully – to get its H back (in 1911). So this toilet is from the period when it didn’t have its H. So it’s oooooold.

 

 

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No “h”

 

IMG_2125This kid is becoming so pro. I joke that when he grows up he’s going to buy a new-construction condo in a hot climate to get back at us for living in a cold place and constantly renovating houses.

In the background you can see a bit of what went on here. We had a bathroom next to a huge closet that was too little to be a room and too large to remain a closet. So we took out most of the wall between the two spaces in order to reconfigure the floor plan and build an alcove for the new tub. See below for da Vinci-like rendering:

bath reno sketchBoom.

 

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Do you wonder what your walls look like under that plaster? This. That is my wonderful friend who spent a weekend with us JUST TO DEMO.

The craziest thing that happened during demo was this: do you see those charming little light fixtures on either side of the opening where the medicine cabinet used to live? Shortly after this picture was taken Steve shut off the power and disconnected the first light (I think it was the one on the left). As he pulled out the set screw that held the light to the wall a fizzing sound and natural gas smell took over the room. The light was still attached to a LIVE gas line from 76 million years ago when these homes used gas-powered lights.

Cue call to the Columbia Gas 24hr Emergency Line. Nice guy comes out and kills the line. We counted our lucky stars and got back to demo.

IMG_0929This is about when it got real sexy. This is the area under the old tub.

 

IMG_2145At this point we had everything pretty much out. We had to break up the solid concrete floor that was under most of the floor. After this was removed the wall between the bath and closet and then our contractor started putting it all back together.

 

IMG_3009I want to learn to drywall. Sometime.

 

IMG_4322This is one of my favorite parts of the new room. We salvaged all of the lathe that was behind the plaster. Steve designed this wall-o-lathe and we cut and sanded everything to create the wainscoting. It’s gorgeous.

The floor tile is 6″ slate that I love and is easy to work with and budget-friendly.

The medicine cabinet is the original one which I started to strip except I got it to this layer and loved it. Sanded, sealed and done.

The light fixtures came from an odd shop in Lititz, PA. We have a few other light fixtures from them in other parts of the house.

 

IMG_5609Here is where we are today. The sink was a Craigslist find which I had powder-coated to match a Pantone swatch. The toilet was upgraded to one that doesn’t use 84 gallons of water per flush. The “vanity” is a table that I have carted around since I lived in Charleston, SC in 1996. The antique dental molds also traveled with me from Charleston where I found them in an abandoned building. Lastly the poster is by Paul Mastriani at Lure Design.

What remains? We need to paint the trim, put window film on the little window in the tub/shower and put a threshold down in the main doorway. I’ve given us one more year to finish.

 

 

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