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Archive for April, 2020

In 2012, I planted a bunch of small, very sad haskap plants. More were added in 2015 to make a fairly large patch along our driveway. They had gone into terrible soil that really wasn’t improved at all and while they grew, it was slowly. In the years since, we’ve had a small amount of fruit come in but I’ve felt that a chunk of their value was that they are very early in flowering and provide an important food source for the emerging bumblebee queens on our property. The bumblebees aren’t doing well generally so I’m glad to have anything that helps keep the ones we have happy and fed.bb2

In 2018, we got a couple of yards of good manure compost and used it to fertilize a bunch of our flower and fruit beds. The haskap were among them for the first time. (yes, I know I should have done it before then) It made a huge difference and many of them put on close to a foot of growth that year! The flowers set on the second year wood so the combination of a good dose of fertilizer and a spectacular 2018 weather season meant that 2019 had the best flower and fruit set on them we had ever seen.

The fruit are very early, often starting to turn colour in early June. In the years before, we had been picking them shortly after they changed colour and we had found them too tart for much fresh eating, but quite decent in baking. We had also noticed a geometric increase in the number of cedar waxwings that would show up to eat them. Scouts would show up and then larger and larger flocks would arrive and clean us out.cw1

Over the winter of 2018, I had found out that we’d been picking too early, and the berries really need to hang on the bushes for around 2 weeks after changing colour to really ripen! With such a heavy fruit set, and knowing how the birds will strip the bushes, I decided to try netting them for the first time. We had a couple of bird-safe ones and I covered the section of older plants, since they had the bulk of the berries. It worked really well and I was able to let the berries get bigger and more tasty than we had ever managed before. I could uncover each bush I wanted to pick and then leave the rest protected until I had time to harvest. We got around 16-20 pounds and several disgruntled cedar waxwing scouts who were clearly unimpressed with being denied our berry crop!

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The jewellery supply stash has all sorts of interesting bits and bobs and one of the things was a, truthfully, slightly tacky, necklace that was made up of snakes and skulls. I’d had it for quite a while, and had used a couple of the skull links, but the snakes just hadn’t jelled with anything. That was before I’d seen “Good Omens”!

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I had been able to cut a few more pairs of shell wings and the silver snake components were perfect for the black, Crowley, side of a necklace. A silver key, with a silver feather balance it on the white, Aziraphale, side. One of the little skulls hangs between them and I made an apple drop from some red and green glass beads. While I stayed with silver toned chain for the whole thing, each side has a different style.

I loved the splash of colour from the little apple and used them in quite a few of this group.

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I’ve loved the few men’s plaid shirts that I’ve altered to fit my plus-sized self, and could always use more as tops during the colder months, so here is another that didn’t become a dress!

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The base shirt was pretty plain, so it got hit with a bleach ombre. In this case, it reacted strongly to the bleach so the fade is not very gradual and there isn’t much of a different colour showing up on the bleach edge.

The pale cream tones of the faded sections tied nicely to some of the Stratford Festival scraps that had a soft linen look with a matching blue. For simplicity, the sleeves were cut off at the elbows and strips of the scraps were attached as cuffs. The upper arms and top of the shirt were a good fit, so the side seams were only opened to below the arms and large, long triangles added in to widen the bottom.

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The only other thing was that the buttons were replaced with slightly more interesting black and cream ones. That’s it! a simple few alters and it was ready to go.

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I love to use buttons in my works and I did a blog post where I talked a bit about how to use them as decorative accents on a ray-gun. In this post, I wanted to show that they can be handy under a paint job too.

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I made a pair of “mermaid Steampunk” guns. The bases were lower quality water guns. I liked their shapes but the detail level wasn’t very high. Real shells were used for most of the surface detailing but I also wanted to keep a bit of a mechanical aspect to them as well. There were random bumps, without details, that I cut off. To fill the spots, a number of buttons in similar sizes were put over the cut-off openings before I painted the base finish for the whole gun. Doing it before the base painting meant that the original colour of the button didn’t matter, just it’s shape. Lots of vintage buttons have very dated or overly bright colours that would make them unsuitable if seen, but they still have great texture and shape. They also tend to be fairly easy and cheap to find so you get a lot of detail for very little cost and effort.

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The increased quality of detail that the buttons provide is a small aspect of the whole look, but I think it really helps to make the whole piece look like it was made to higher standard than it actually was. Also, more texture better shows off aging washes and painting over base colours.

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Some of the stuffie mutants are riffs on a theme that I’ll come back to several times but some are total one-time-only things. Sometimes that’s because I just had an idea that I wanted to try and once it’s done, I don’t need to come back or sometimes, it’s just because the salvaged parts worked out that ONE time, and they probably never will again.

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This guy was a case of getting lucky with the supplies and dye batches. I had made a large spider bear out a pair of the big Beanie Bears and, as usual, all that was left of the second bear was his head. Luckily, I also had one of the small, regular sized version of the same bear on hand AND the dye batches were close enough that I was able to give him a big head and have it look seamless!

Not something I ever expect to happen again since these “Pooh” bears have a supersoft fur that dramatically shows the slightest wear so they are pretty rare to find in usable condition.

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My first altered jacket was a “Firefly” themed leather bomber. I wasn’t sure how well the altering and distressing techniques I was planning to use would work, and if the finished jacket would still be wearable, so it seemed safer to start with a smaller trial and I used a vintage men’s small/medium. The slimmer fit limited who could wear it. I had planned to use it as an example for custom work but it did find a home. It’s new owner was a cosplayer and was also kind enough to let me take some shots of him in it too! (the rest of the outfit is his, except for my raygun) Model: Jack Sabbath.

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A while ago, I decided I wanted to combine a number of different techniques, as well as trying some new ones, and attempted to alter a leather jacket. I like to both have a general concept for any new type of project and it helps if there is a specific item to lead the way. In this case, it was a set of official, embroidered patches that were copies of the ones on the flight suit of Wash, the spaceship pilot in the series “Firefly”. The set was perfect for someone who wanted to do a totally accurate cosplay copy of the flight suit but I knew I would never use them that way. Rather than just keep them as a collectible, I wanted to use them to make a real, wearable leather jacket, into something that could be used for regular wear, but still would work as part of a costume.

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The concept was that it would be the jacket of someone who went through some of the same pilot training as Wash, but had gone their own way. They had worked for the Blue Sun corp at some point, and this was possibly a company issued coat that they had altered, so it had their logo on the back and left breast. The show had a limited run, and a great range of costume options that I felt pretty free to make things up since there was so much that was never shown. Rank insignia was done using metal scraps and silk ribbons. Instead of an official style patch, the Browncoat logo was painted on the left arm. “Energy weapon” damage was added by carefully burning cuts in the leather and then patching it with scraps and in some cases, metal wire. A bullet hole was added and the whole thing was then distressed and dirtied up.

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I’ve seen a number of post-apocalyptic jacket distressors who will do things like drag coats behind cars and run over them, which is one way to go, I suppose. I’ve found that careful use of various roughness’s of sandpaper and acetone do the same job. Then some layers of “dirt” and “dust” are applied and sealed to finish the “I was a rebel solider on a desert moon and survived” look.

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I was really happy with the finished look, but as always, it was a learning experience which I carried over to later jackets!

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Last year, at the beginning of June, “Good Omens” was released on Amazon Prime. I’ve loved the book since the early 90’s and tried not get my hopes up too high about a tv adaption butI was thrilled to have been too pessimistic since it was fantastic!

Falling in love with a show very often gives me a creative burst and this was no exception. It took a bit for the making urge to clarify itself. One aspect is that I’m working on my first direct character cosplays for myself. (I’ll have pics and discussions of those as things get farther along)

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The other group that came out was a collection of shell “wing” necklaces. I wanted to represent both characters and how they join together. To do it, I handcut wing shapes from empty shells I’d found and then stained the mother-of-pearl inside of one black while keeping the other in it’s natural pale tones. The first one I did, had a small heart from the stash, joins the wings and then I hung a little skull and a mother-of-pearl banner below and etched the banner with “Our Own Side” and rubbed some paint into the cuts so it shows. The wings are held in an open position by the placement of the chain attachment points. As often happens with me, the first is the one I consider mine so I’m keeping it!

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I’m a few years in now on with growing the hardy kiwi and wanted to share some more of what I’ve learned. (this is my first post about them)

The biggest issue so far has been that bunnies really like the taste of them. I didn’t have trouble for the first couple of years but have been hit hard most winters since then. One has been killed and another 3 have been eaten back enough that they are basically the same size they were when I got them.

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While the rabbits prefer first year wood, if they get hungry enough they will strip even older wood and a couple of the bigger ones had chunks taken off their trunk tops. Luckily, all seem to have recovered. This past winter, I put out some rough guards made from leftover pots. (the growth patterns are such that tree guards won’t fit) These helped a bit. Going forward, I plan to make chicken wire tubes for them all this fall.

The damage and slowed growth has been frustrating but on the good side, they are incredibly easy to propagate. They are very vigorous and I’ve been training them to only have 1 or 2 main trunks, (easier to protect) so I prune off quite a bit of softwood every year. After some basic testing, I’ve found that you can get pretty much any section to root. I just trim the lengths so there is at least one leaf and then dip the end in some rooting hormone powder, (possibly not needed but I think it helps) and then put them in a small cell with potting soil. I tried over 60 pieces this way last year and had about 50% root and survive the winter! They got no special care, just regular watering. The males are still a bit more delicate, but you don’t need as many. The ratio of survivors is 4f:1m. I’ve also come across discussions where people have grafted male branches to female plants so they get pollination without a full male taking space. I haven’t graduated to grafting yet, but it might get attempted down the road.

The important thing about this is that if you have at least one of each gender, you can pretty much make as many plants as you want in a couple of years!

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We have enough plants that I’m going to put them along our second run of fence this year. I just have to wait and confirm if the ferns we have are the edible ones or not since that will determine if/where they get transplanted to clear the space.

Production is still pretty low, but I do only have 4 females that are big enough to fruit right now. What we’ve gotten is delicious but has been around a pound per plant. In the cooler years, like 2019, they also were late ripening. Frost was predicted while most were still hard so I had to pick it all a bit under-ripe. We were glad to see that they ripen up just fine on the counter so we still got to eat them at peak!

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There are tons of vintage and salvaged parts you can use to mod weapons as well as in other altered art projects. One of my favourites are buttons. While using them is pretty common in vintage/antique collages, they don’t have to be limited to those. While a standard, flat 2 or 4 hole is always clearly a button, there are so many styles that can give you other effects. The ones I like using the most are all sorts of the dome or shanked styles. (although I usually cut off the shanks before using the tops) They can have great details that give a pop of texture, and real metal finish, to a gun. In other cases, they get painted over. When I’m modding a gun, I’ll often end up cutting off areas or parts that don’t go with the finished design I want. While it’s possible to use various sculpting compounds to create covers for these spots, it’s often much faster and easier to use a button.

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In this example, I used buttons in 3 different ways on the same gun. One pair of textured metal buttons were added as accents to the sides. The circular spots originally had the logo of the base plastic gun. While I was able to mostly remove it, the centre was still rough and read as strangely empty due to the raised edges. A pair of buttons solved both problems and their authentic aged, metal finish helps sell the gilded and painted “metals” on the rest of it.

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The bottom of the grip had had a pair of small, uninteresting domes on either side and they were cut off. I covered the holes with a couple of flashing fibre-optic buttons in black and grey. Finally, the back end of the top had a small open slot, where you used to be able to load the plastic disks it fired. This was both blocked and decorated by a very modern looking button in silver and matte black.

You never know where you’ll need a little bit of fill so I just stash all the interesting buttons that cross my path!

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