Archive | May, 2011

Coming Up Roses

27 May
Spring’s main event: battling the concrete jungle! Transforming a New Yorker’s only outdoor space, a dinky deck three stories up, into a vibrant oasis.
Here’s what we started with in March:
A few dead plants, grill left by the former tenants, and a mismatched iron table and chair set from the local junk store.
In an unfortunate twist of events this April, the building inspector had the landlord pull up the lovely wood floor boards and replace it with fireproof corrugated metal, leaving us even worse off:
“This just will not do!” exclaimed my poor, scalded feet. So my accomplice and I marched down to Home Depot and returned with this beauty:
Theoretically, it seems pretty tacky. And maybe it’s a little tongue-in-cheek. But when you’re coming from corrugated metal, it’s like walking into the garden of Eden. So green! So lush! So warm and inviting! I never thought I’d be endorsing artificial turf, but really. I love it.

Next step: Planters.
Nice wooden planters run pretty steep, so Jessi and I built our own, custom sized to fit our space. We built 3 boxes, each 36″ long, 8″ deep, and 10″ tall. All in all, we spent around fifty smackers on wood.
The Tools:
Measuring tape
Hand Saw
Sandpaper (coarse grain)
Nails (common, 2 1/2″)
3 – 6’x10″x3/4″ pine boards
3 – 6’x8″x3/4″ pine boards
For each box, measure and cut two 36″ x 10″, one 36″ x 8″, and two 10 3/4″ x 8″ pieces of wood. We used a couple chairs as a saw horse.
Wood expands and contracts with moisture. Chances are, the wood you bought is pretty dry, and chances are, your planters will get pretty wet in their lifetime. Something I didn’t do, but now realize I should have: make sure your wood grain is running in the same direction around all sides of your planter. Wood may swell significantly when wet, but it will hardly lengthen. If you keep your grain running the same direction, the pieces will swell together.

Sand off any rough, uneven edges. Wrap your sandpaper around a square scrap of wood to keep your surfaces flat and even as you sand.

And nail them together…
Unless you know where your wood is coming from, we’d recommend you line your planters with a high-grade plastic liner. We used contractor bags, split open. Most commercially sold wood is pressure treated with chemicals that, when wet, may risk leaching into your soil. We drilled some holes in the bottom of the box and slashed the plastic to aid drainage.
Voila! Quick and easy, inexpensive, handsome looking planters.
We filled them up with about 1 cubic foot of soil each, and planted our happy seedlings in their new homes!
By the end of just one day’s work, our sorry-looking little deck had undergone quite a transformation!
Next on my to-do list: painting and reupholstering the patio table and chairs.
Enjoy these incredible May days in whatever outdoor space you’ve got!



Workin’ Woman Blues

20 May
It’s been a long month, but alas the clouds are finally clearing and I have a few moments to spare for my dear blog.
I’ve been a very busy beaver.
I spent nine of my April days up at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) with my nose to the grindstone: cleaning, repairing, and breaking down Petah Coyne’s retrospective, Everything That Rises Must Converge. One might think that working eight consecutive ten-and-a-half hour days wouldn’t be much fun, nor a very conducive environment for creativity, but my time in North Adams was really quite wonderful.
First, it might be noted that cleaning these sculptures is extremely tedious work that really requires audially stimulating accompaniment for the retention of one’s sanity. So, after a few days, after I’d finished all the podcasts I’d had enough forethought to upload, I ended up listening through my entire collection of early blues, probably around twenty hours worth of music. After about 15 hours I thought to myself, “Look at me, I’m working like a dog, doing menial labor for long hours and little pay. I could write my own God-damned blues.”
So I did. This is what came out:
Workin’ Woman Blues
I rise, oh when the sun comes up I rise, (x2)
I work all dog-gone day and I don’t get home til late at night.
All day, all day I work my fingers to the bone, (x2)
I should make me plenty money, but I just can’t seem to make it on my own.
I tell the boss man, “I got talent like you never know,” (x2)
Still you keep me all day cleanin’ and them wages, man, they keepin’ me poor.
Hey man, I got a life and I wanna live it now, (x2)
But them bills is like a prison, I just got to make it out some how.
Every night I gots to peel my feet out from my shoes, (x2)
And I sleep like a rock, ’cause I got them hard workin’ woman blues.
And thanks to the fine nightlife offerings of North Adams, Mass, I performed it the following two nights at a couple of local open mic’s. Many thanks to the great people at Key West for recording my set.
You can find my full set from that evening on my music page.