The Dead Zone

Our courtyard has an area I call “The Dead Zone”.  It is a large area were nothing has grown since the building did tuck pointing 2 1/2 years ago.

Another problem with this area is inconstant watering.  So I am planning on getting some soak hoses with a timer, luckily, the current house is just around that right corner!  I have some plans for this area that I hope to complete this spring. I think added some planter boxes can add some height and interest to this spot.  My husband needed a visual ot make my palns more clear, so I created this in paintbrush on my Mac (sorry, it is not very good, I am no graphic designer!)

I also need to update the path on the side, I am hoping to get some thicker stones…maybe read to go with the bricks of the building. 🙂

I need to look into some more shade friendly plants, but I  planning on using periwinkle as ground cover for some large brown areas..

The area used to be filled with ivy, which looked great, but it keeps climbing the building and causing damage.  But periwinkle not only does not climb, but has some nice flowers all spring and summer long!!


I know I have not picked up my knitting needles in some time…today is so nice outside.  There were cardinals, robins and starlings everywhere! I took a ton of flower pictures!Happy St. Paddy’s Day!!!!!!

Beautification Commitee

We live in a condo in a building that was converted to condos in the ’90s.  It used to be a very old factory so it has some great exposed brick walls and high ceilings with think beams.  Last year we started a beautification committee to try to get some of the community areas looking a little better.   We have a very shady courtyard in front of the building and a rooftop deck with a grill.  The roof only had one old plastic picnic table that was starting to bow and a grill and some plastic chairs that you would have to bungee to the railing so the wind would not move them around.  Last year, my husband and I focused on the roof top.  We build some slated benches, an planter bench.




All of the plans for these benches are from the book

Big Book of Home How-To (Better Homes & Gardens (Paperback))Big Book of Home How-To (Better Homes & Gardens by Better Homes and Gardens






We added a picnic table and recycled the old picnic table. We took the old picnic table apart and replaced the plastic with wood.  We repainted the metal and stained all the wood.  I love the result.

Here is the before for the rooftop last year

and the after:



In the courtyard, I tried planting some free plants I was able to get and bought some 50% off bulbs.  He bulbs were on sale, because it was the end of the season and most of these bulbs did not come up.  We also have a big problem with too much shade in the courtyard.

We added some bird houses and bird feeders and a  bird bath as well. I put some old yarn in a suet holder for the birds.







I think the birds are appreciating it!


We also had one member find this great sculpture.  I think it looks great.



We tried adding a path, but the stones are very thin, and it seems to have sunken.

We bought some large planters and filled them with some bight flowers for the summer.  This winter, we but some evergreens in there so there was still some color for the winter.

Today was such a beautiful day (60’s and sunny!!!!!), we bought some flower seeds and painters plastic.  I am hoping this woks so we can save some money on plants for this year. We planted the seeds in the pots on the roof and covered it with the plastic and some painters tape to create a little green house.  We see what happens!


This year, we need to do some replanting in the pot on the roof and in the courtyard.  I also would like to find some more shade appropriate plants.  I am also planning on adding a soak hose a with a  water timer for the largest area of the courtyard.  The hose would not have to cross the sidewalk here. and this area is looking really bad because we did some tuck pointing that killed everything.  We know refer to this area as “the dead zone”.  I am really hoping I an fix this.  I will have to post more when I have more definite plans for this year.

Project Yarnway – Back to the drawing board

I loved my original idea for my Project Yarnway – Night at the Opera challenge, but when I started working with the beads and thread, it was not coming out they way I wanted.  The beads are really a pain to work with and I was planning on using a lot.  So I am making some serious revisions to the design. Sorry, I had a red pen, but this should be black!

I found a purse form (YEAH!)

and got some shiny silver fabric and different yarn that has some shimmer to it.  My new plan is to cover the plastic purse for both sides with the fabric and knit the same shape in an eyelet diamond stitch with some beads included.


The stitch should look like this in black with some beads included.

I love the large beads I got and I am hoping I can sew these one over the closure.  Still have to figure that part out.

I hope this new design works better!

The Island

Last June, I got married.  One month later, we bought a small island in the Rock River in Illinois.  We both love camping, boating, fishing and the outdoors so this little property seemed like a perfect fit for us. And it is so nice to get out of the city on the weekends.  This island is only a 2-2.5 hour drive from home.  The island is long and skinny, but has 7.5 acres.  🙂  Tom wants to name the island Elizabeth Anne Island (after me) which is fitting.  The island next door is Margret Fuller Island.

The south end of the island overlooks the dam.  What a great view.

The north end of the island is shallow and you can walk across to another island that is owned by the state.  There is also a fallen tree and a  beaver dam between the two islands.

Here is the secret back entrance to the beaver’s house.


The island has lots of trees, but only silver maple and black walnut.

Most of the trees have holes in them….I love that.  I want to add little doors!


And a lot of the island is just mud or stinging needles where ever there is shade ….that plant seems to thrive on the island  😦  Those plants are MEAN…you brush against them and you are suddenly So itchy!!!

The west side of the island gets a little more sun, so there there was a lot of plants and bushes (and stinging needles) that were over 4 feet tall.  So I cut a path so you can now walk the whole island.

The island has been left to nature for about 40 years from what we were told, so the trees are huge and there is a lot of garbage and sticks that have washed up onto the island over the years.

There was a shed of some kind on the island once, the remains of it were still there. A tree fell on it!

The island does have some raccoons, we have seen the tracks.  They seem to be digging up some clams. to eat and they leave the shells laying around.


An island does pose certain challenges. There is not power or bathroom (yet).  We also know that there must have been power of some mind on the island once, because there are two old refrigerators still on the island near the shed remains.  We were also told the island floods every spring, so building any cabin is also a problem.  But we have so many ideas for this place.

So last year, we built a dock using these plans



and a picnic table from a kit

and we started clearing some of the old garbage and sticks and planted some grass that can survive in deep shade. We are really hoping the grass may take over a little an push out some of the stinging needles.  At least on the area we tent in!  We also added a solar power motion detection light by the dock.  It comes on as soon as you walk out on to the dock at night.

This year we are planting some different types of trees an adding some shade friendly plants like hostas.  For construction, we want to  build an outhouse, an outdoor shower and either a yurt or a tree house.


I think we are leaning toward the tree house so it would be up high and out of the flood plain. Tom found some building plans for little houses/cabins that are made out of pallets.  The site shows these can be completed in a few days!  So far I think this is our favorite of all the cabin ideas.  Build a platform in the trees like any tree house, then use pallets to build the tree house up quickly.



Here are some more great pictures from the island form last year.