Gourd Bee/Bug House

After replacing several last spring, I was very happy to find all of my perennials up and thriving when I took a little meander through my garden a couple weeks ago. It felt so good being in the garden again and thinking of plans for yard and garden projects.

There’s a big sand pile, with climbing rocks, in one corner of the garden. While a garden hose trickles, my grandson enjoys creating rivers, and mixing faux cement in a wheel barrow during warm summer months. And, like every other youngster, he’s very curious, and notices every bug and worm too.

Many wonderful Pinterest posts on bee and bug houses have peaked my interest lately.  I thought it would be fun to make one so we could observe what settles in and maybe learn something in the process.

I was able to rummage up everything I needed except for the bamboo, which I found in the garden center of a couple Home Improvement Stores, making the total cost of this project about $5.00.
Over the last month, I’ve been scrubbing dried gourds in preparation for a Farmer’s Market event, so I chose one of them as the structure for my first habitat abode.
My gourd measured 7 1/2″H x 6 1/2″W.  Rubber gloves provided grip while sawing off the front with a hack saw. Dried pulp and seeds were scraped from the inside. Sand the inside lightly to remove attached debris. Always wear a mask or bandanna over your mouth and nose when sanding gourds or cleaning out dried pulp and seeds. The dust and dried particles can irritate nasal passages and lungs.

Seal the outside of the gourd with Thompson’s Water Seal. Let dry. Drill five holes in the bottom of the gourd, at the lowest points, for drainage. Try to keep the holes within a 2″ pattern. Seal the inside of the gourd with a good layer of thinned interior/exterior wood glue. Let dry.

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Fold and cut a hole in a piece of heavy paper, slip over stem to make a roof pattern. I extended the roof out a bit in front so it would cover the bamboo openings.

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A few more holes may be needed for ventilation.

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I have an old piece of burnt aluminum siding that I like to go to when I need a rustic piece of metal sheeting. Cut off the approximate size needed and flatten with a car body hammer before tracing and cutting out the roof pattern. My roof measured 10 1/4″W x 6″Deep with a 2 1/8″ dia. hole.

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Small files worked well to smooth the sharp edges of the roof, but I found a large round file to smooth and shape the hole so it fit easily over the gourd. The roof has to be flat to fit over the gourd, then bent to shape. With the roof in place, lay the gourd on it’s back and trace the roof line on a piece of heavy paper. This pattern will be used to cut a small piece of wood as a brace under the roof peak when a shelf is made.

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Initially, I planned to hang the gourd with a wire, or dowel, through the stem, but I read that Mason bees preferred a stable home over one swinging in the breeze, so it will go on a barn board shelf, which I think actually adds a lot of character to the piece. My board was 5 1/2″W. The back was cut 15 1/2″ long. A 2″ dia. hole was drilled in the 5″ long shelf and it was screwed on from the back. The roof line pattern traced earlier was used to cut a small triangular brace for the metal roof. Hold the roofed gourd on the shelf to determine where to place the brace. Use finishing nails to attach brace to board. Seal shelf with Thompson’s Water Seal.

An extra set of hands came in handy for stapling the roof. Hold the gourd firmly with roof resting on the brace. Staple roof to the top of brace. Drill a hole in back of gourd and secure it to the board with a screw and fender washer.

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Adding the bamboo was a little tricky and took some time. I used a small tabletop scroll saw to cut the bamboo and drilled through any closed bamboo joints. Save all the trimmins! They’ll make cute little beads or embellishments for future projects.

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Start in the middle with a bundle of 5″ lengths wrapped with rubber bands. To make a more level surface, I cut old corn cobs lengthwise, broke them in half, and surrounded the base of the bundle.

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Mark bamboo and cut to surround the bundle. Hold in place with tape. When nearing the side, tuck in some small pine cones to fill in the curves, and maybe provide shelter for a few ladybugs. Things started to shift a bit as I added more bamboo, so I stuffed a cloth in the empty side and top to hold the bamboo in place. Pull the cloth out, a little at a time, as you fill in with bamboo. (Sorry, didn’t get a picture of this).

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Scrap bamboo pieces quickly filled in as I neared the top, go back and cut them to fit. Dried Teasel stems were inserted into gaps to keep the bamboo snug and secure. You may want to wear gloves or use tweezers when working with Teasel, they are stickery.  If bamboo pieces slide down, use small pliers to gently pull them back out flush. Trim off Teasel stems.

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I felt a little something was needed, so I made a simple bee with a couple glass beads, leaving a couple inches of wire at the bottom to wrap around a Teasel stem, before pushing it in.

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It’s ready for permanent occupancy as soon as I round up a post to attach it to and get it set in a patch of Bee Balm in my garden. Or, I could wire to one of my apple trees in the grove, Hmm?
It’s recommended that the house faces southeast for the warmth of the morning sun, be at least 4 feet above ground, and protected from wind and weather. Mud is also needed for bees to seal in their eggs. I think all the water activities in my sand pile address any mud concerns. 🙂

 

What new spring projects are you working on?  Please share ……

 

 

 

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Show Stopper Shadow Box DIY

This project actually began last November when I was looking for a storage box for the pear gourd wreath shown in my October 2015 blog post. The dried flowers were pretty fragile and I was a little leary about packing it away. That’s when I thought of a shadow box. Why not frame it as wall art?  I could make a box .. something eclectic… maybe a combination of scrapbook paper and aged mirror.

The biggest dilemma was finding a suitable box. Who knew finding a 10 x 10 x 2.5 inch box, with a lid, would be so hard?  I was even willing to buy a fancy box of chocolates, had the box been right. Sometimes, I get a bit antsy when I’m itching to do a project and can’t find just that certain thing I think I need. But, I’ve learned that a little patience goes a long way, and if I just wait, something always seems to show up.

My daughter and I were checking out the clearance aisles at Burlington Coat Factory last month. I wasn’t really shopping for anything, just entertaining my toddler granddaughter in the cart, when I saw a pile of magnetic clasped boxes on the shelf.  So unexpected, and more than PERFECT!  A clasp option would make the box easily accessible to switch out whenever you wanted.   I was reenergized, this was going to be fun!

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With the clasp at the bottom, I measured in 5/8″ from the top and bottom of the lid, and 3/4″ on each side, to cut out a frame opening. Cut nice straight lines by running a sharp utility knife along a ruler’s edge. Seal the box with gesso. Let dry.

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A 1/4″ sq. craft stick was mitered for the frame opening.

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Trace the box on a piece of foam core board, and draw an arch at the top. Lie flat, on padding or cardboard, and cut out with a utility knife. Fill in rough edges of foam board with lightweight spackling. When dry, sand lightly to smooth. Seal board with gesso. Let dry well.

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Paint the box, frame pieces, and foam board with black primer or craft paint. No need to paint where the box and foam board will be glued together. The second picture, below, may look a little strange, but the foam board will curl when painted.  I laid mine over a container, weighing each end down, past center, to dry. Once dry, I turned it over, laid it flat on my worktable, and weighed it down to flatten again. Trust me, please, it works.

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I knew I had been saving a cool, striped C.J. Banks clothing sack for a reason. After smoothing it out with a warm iron, it covered the long foam board with no seams.

Place the foam board on top of the striped paper to center the stripes, and trace it with a pencil. Hold the paper up to a bright window, face down, and retrace your line on the back of the paper. This pattern line will help keep your stripes centered when gluing. Cut your pattern out larger, away from the line about 1 1/2″. Do not cut on the traced line.

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Paper may stretch when wet. Wanting to achieve the smoothest surface possible, I glued and dried small sections at a time, using a plastic gift card and brayer to work out air bubbles.

Lay foam board face up. Beginning at the bottom, brush on a light, even coat of thinned white glue, going up about 3 or 4 inches. Turn the glued foam board over, and position it face down on the backside of the striped paper, within the retraced pattern line. Press it firmly in place, turn it back over, face up, and smooth out air bubbles. Weigh down to dry. Continue to glue until covered.

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Use a fid, or paper folding tool, to wrap paper tightly around edges before gluing. Trim away excess paper for neat corners, and cut some darts around the arch. Glue and weigh down to dry. Glue may seep at edges, as a precaution lay a sheet of wax paper over the glued area before weighing down. A piece of light weight brown paper was added for a finished look.

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Fortunately for me, my youngest daughter downsized recently, and stored a treasure trove of scrapbooking paper in my basement. I chose three patterns I felt would compliment each other and my wreath. Pieces were cut to the appropriate sizes to cover the surfaces of the box.

A little black and metallic gold craft paint was mixed together to match the papers. The mixture over the black base paint almost created an olive green tinge, an added plus!  I painted the front and back of the lid, the folds of the lid, all corners, edges, and frame pieces.

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I love the look of aged mirror. I had a few pieces I had aged, with some of the backing completely gone, and thought bits of the decorative paper would look awesome peeking through them. I cut two pieces for the outer sides and a square for the inside.

The paper pieces were glued on with a thin layer of white glue. After they were smoothed and air bubble free, I clamped the mirror pieces and spare foam board pieces over them to ensure they would dry flat and stay smooth. Glue the paper accent on the arch and weigh down to dry.

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Cut a thin piece of clear glass for the frame opening. Stand the box on it’s top and fold lid down flat. Position the glass on the inside of the lid, covering the opening. Slowly, lower the box down over the glass to make sure it fits inside the box and doesn’t hinder closing. Use small dabs of E6000 to glue the glass in place. Be careful not to use too much glue or it will seep to the front and you’ll have some cleaning to do. For cushion, and to help even out weight, lay a couple pieces of foam board across the glass before weighing with books to dry.  I squeezed small dabs of E6000 on the backside corners and edges of my mirror pieces, and clamped them on the papered sides while the glass was drying.

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Gorilla Glue was used to adhere the foam board to the back of the box. Gorilla Glue swells as it dries, be careful not to apply it too close to the edge, it will seep out and get ugly.  Apply it to the backside of the box, in a thin line, at least 1/2″ away from the edge, and a few swirls in the center. Remembering to keep the clasp at the bottom, position the box very near the bottom of the striped foam board piece, leaving about 1/16″ of the stripes showing.

Squeeze small dabs of E6000, on the backside corners and edges of the square mirror piece and glue it to the inside of the box. Weigh it all down to dry. I found a smaller box that fit in, on top of the mirror, then weighed the box down. Let dry overnight.

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I’m going to rely heavily on Gorilla Glue to hold prong hooks for hanging.  I bent the tops of the hangers out a little, before gluing, to accommodate a nail head. A sheet of wax paper was laid over the glued areas, before weighing it down to dry, so nothing got stuck and damaged the brown paper.

The frame pieces were held in place with painter’s tape. I removed them, one at a time, brushed on thinned glue, and clamped them down to dry. They shifted easily, so I waited until one was secure before moving to the next. You may have to touch up a little paint where you used painter’s tape.

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To complete the look, an old drawer pull was added to snazzy up the arch.

The wreath was laid in the box, with small dabs of E6000 in a few places on it’s backside, where it touched the mirror, and left to dry overnight.

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I’m pretty sure that shadow box making has just nudged it’s way onto my favorites list. I think the hanging element can be improved with a little more forethought, but, I am so pleased with the way this project turned out.  Although it was time consuming with all the gluing and drying, I believe it was worth it. Any time you can learn a little, have fun, and have something to show for it, is time well spent!  Don’t you agree?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Little Something For Fall!

We’ve had a couple very windy days, but, there’s no complaining about the excellent Iowa harvest weather we’ve been enjoying so far this month.

Windy conditions can play havoc on seasonal yard decorations, however.  With the exception of pumpkins and gourds, I’ve wired and tied things down, to still see them blown across the yard, or disappear all together.  So now, I opt to add a bit more seasonal flair with small wreaths inside my home.

An abundant crop of egg gourds, dried, and stored in my basement, has been on my mind a lot since summer.  I’ve been wanting to make something with them for a long time.  I got to thinking that, some of them, a few of my favorite things, and what Mother Nature had to offer, would make for some pretty fall décor.  Simple and inexpensive, just my style!

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I’ve never been able to decorate a wreath when its lying on a flat surface.  I like to hang a prepared wreath on a paper covered board, and work on it at eye level.

Gourd Wreath – Choose seven egg gourds of similar size and shape.  Soak overnight in bleach water and scrub clean.  (A small plastic basket, used for holding baby bottle rings and nipples in a dishwasher, works great for this step.  It will hold the gourds and its easy to weigh down under the water).  Dry gourds. Wax and buff with Briwax or any furniture wax. On a non-skid surface, arrange the gourds in a circle, and secure together with painter’s tape.  Gently turn them over and mark with pencil where they meet each other.  Remove the gourds from the tape, one at a time, drill holes with a Dremel and 3/32″ bit, then replace gourd on tape.  When done drilling, turn gourds face up and remove tape.

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Measure and estimate the diameter of the wire ring you will need.  Pre-shape a length of 16 gauge wire around a container of the same diameter.   Mine was about 3 1/2″.

String gourds on to the wire.  Cut off excess wire and twist ends together.  Turn over, face down, and attach a push-in hanger with Gorilla Glue.  Let dry.

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With side-cutters, cut a few long, bleached pinecones, to form flowers.  Spray pinecone pieces and False Baptisia pods with Clear Matte Sealer.  Attach the prettiest pinecone pieces with hot glue.  Embellish with pods.

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Pear Wreath – I like pears and couldn’t resist when I found smaller egg gourds that resembled their shape.  Always remember to soak and scrub the gourds.

I mixed a small amount of white and green wall paints for the palest of green color.  For a special touch, I used a small slender glass leaf I had, but, you could trim down an artificial leaf, or use no leaf.

After soaking a 6″ grapevine wreath overnight, slide two thick rubber bands around it’s center to form a more oval shape.  Let dry 24 hours. While the wreath dries, give the gourds 2 or 3 coats of paint, one side at a time, and sanding lightly between coats.  Be careful, they like to roll!

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Cut the rubber bands from the dry wreath and lay it on a wire rack, over a bowl.  Water down a small amount of dark brown craft paint and lightly brush it over the wreath.  Let dry.  Speckle the wreath, lightly, with black craft paint.  Let dry and seal with Clear Matt Spray.

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Using a Dremel, I drilled a small hole to accommodate the base of my leaf, and glued it in with a small dot of hot glue. Spackling was used to fill in around the leaf.  Once dry, it was sanded smooth and repainted.  Small indentations were drilled in the top of the gourds to hot glue apple stems in place.  Touch up paint around the stems.

After gluing the pears on the wreath, two leaves and some berries, saved from past projects, were added.  The pretty green, dried Astilbe, tucked in and around, was cut from the bush outside my backdoor.

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Egg Basket Wreath – I have a thing for collapsible wire egg baskets, they’re cute!  And, so easy to decorate!  I found a flower sprig and feather sprigs for 50% off last month … a total of $3.00, YEAH!  I cut and reconfigured my flower sprig a little, but you needn’t.  Simply arrange your sprigs the way you like them, cutting off the long stems if needed, and add a raffia bow for a quick colorful wreath!

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