Saturday, May 21, 2011

Friday, May 20, 2011

Step 2 Bird Bath Project: The Top

I've spent a number of days pondering and researching the best way to construct the "bath" part of my bird bath.  The column was a no-brainer, since I've got the two planters.  But there are a number of options for constructing the top.

The simplest is to get a terra cotta saucer--the type you put under a potted plant--seal and mosaic it.  Heck, you don't even have to mosaic it.  You can plop it on the top of the base and be done.  That is intriguing, but not exactly the style I want.

I wanted to construct something out of concrete instead, and even with that decision made, there are choices. 

The two most common methods of constructing a bird bath from concrete is to either use a mold, or sand cast the top.  I've searched the internet for bird bath molds and really wasn't crazy about the style of them.  They can also be very pricey, even though you can make dozens of bird baths out of them.  I tossed that idea pretty quickly.  As for sand casting...that has never been a method of concrete construction that intrigues me.  It seems the sand would be a big mess--you've got to get it good and wet, yet more work than I need.  You construct it upside down, so you never really know what's going on underneath until it's too late.  And for this method, I'd need to get my hands on flexible fiberglass mesh as my reinforcement.  I wasn't able to find any fiberglass mesh in a roll that costs under $60.  I also saw some articles that state some types of fiberglass mesh break down against the acidity of concrete. Too big a hassle.

That left me with two other options:  Making an armature, or making my own mold.

These were the options I pondered for a while.  My first choice had been to make my own armature.  My only problem with that is I want perfection in the shape.  I'd like to have a clean edge that I could tile.  And getting hardware cloth or diamond lath to sit perfectly flat is a challenge, especially given the size I'm trying to deal with.  I could do it for sure, but I couldn't get over the idea that there had to be an easier way.

Then I found it:  On a website called

No, it's not the terra cotta saucer I mentioned above.  This is made out of plastic and it comes in sizes all the way from 4" up to 20".  I bought two of them, one in a 20" round and another in a 16" round.  Here's the plan:

Fill the 20" round with about 1/2" (or less) of concrete, adding a disc of hardware cloth for my reinforcement.  Place the 16" saucer in the center, weighted down with a brick or sand or rocks or something.  Fill the space around the outside of the 16" saucer with another 1/2" of concrete to form a "bowl".

In theory, this should give me a 20" top with a flat 4" rim around it.  That 4" edge will be the outside (blue and white) pattern below.  In the middle of that will be a 16" bowl 1/2" deep to make the inner circle.

It seems really easy.  I don't know if it will be.  The saucers were cheap.  They cost less than the shipping.  I'm also gambling that they are as perfectly smooth as they're shown in the picture.  AND I can reuse them as stepping stone molds or more bird bath tops if the need be.  Like Alton Brown says on Good Eats:  Multi-taskers are good.  Pouring the concrete in a mold should give me that perfect edge I'm looking for that would be difficult with armature or sand casting.

So, that's my plan.  I am now in wait mode as I wait for the tiles and forms to come in the mail.  In the meantime, I'm making butterflies on rebar posts.  Maybe I'll post some pictures of those this weekend!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Bird Bath Project

I have two of these:

I bought them years ago to use as planters. They never worked well as planters because the dirt dried out too fast, so they've been sitting empty for years while I tried to figure out what else to do with them.

Behold, the bird bath.

My newly landscaped side yard needs some accoutraments, so I'm starting a project to use one of these planters as a base for a bird bath. All I have to do is fashion a top for it. Obviously, this will involve concrete and tiles, and so far, I've been in the design phase.

Since the base is Roman in design, I searched the internet for Roman patterns and came up with this:

I'm thinking about copying the thing tile for tile.  It's quite convenient that it is a photo of a mosaic and I suppose as long as I don't try to sell my bird bath, I can't get sued for plagerism.  I'm even sticking fairly close to the color scheme as I want to coordinate my colors with the base as much as possible.

Anyway, I think this will be cool.  Here is the view of the bird bath from the kitchen window, so the pattern on the top will be appreciated on a daily basis.  

I only need this rain to stop so I can get my hardware cloth out and start constructing a shallow dish.

Stay tuned!

A Rainy Spring Garden Update

People might not like the cool rain we're getting this May, but my cabbage plants are giddy!

My broccoli is also hanging in there very nicely.  I harvested the main heads over the last few weeks, and now side shoots are popping up in droves.  I think I said it in a recent post, but I'll say it again:  Of the three broccoli varieties I tried, I think Arcadia is my keeper.  I like the way the heads form in clusters, and they don't seem to want to separate and flower as quickly as the Gypsy.

And I've got loads of peas still producing.  Of the three varieties of peas I bought, I think these Feisty are the winners.  This one pea chute is giving me dozens of peas, which is the best production I've gotten from peas to date.  I still have peas left to plant from all three varieties, and I'll see what I get this fall, but Feisty might be my keeper pea.

In short, though, I think it was a good move to get a spring crop of cool-season veggies in before summer hits.  We never seem to get really hot weather until well after May, so why not? 

And, though we've been getting some cooler wet weather, even my warm season veggies don't seem to mind.  These anaheim chiles are taking off!

I've even got baby tomatoes on my Big Beef and Juliet plants.

My regular bells are doing wonderfully.  They're flowering and flourishing even with the low temps.  Granted, I don't think the warm season veggies will take kindly to too much of this, but the forecast is for lots of sunshine coming up, so I think I'll be okay.

I had a chive plant left over from last year that I moved over to this spot that will house perennial herbs.  It started to bloom, so instead of trying to stop the flowers (don't know what that does to the edible chives themselves) I let it go.  So pretty!

And speaking of flowers, the first Passion Flower has opened on a vine that is about to explode!!  Passion flowers are supposed to bring butterflies.  I hope so! 

Monday, May 16, 2011

More Progress on Mr. Sea

He's coming along much faster than I'd expected.  I thought the mosaic was going to take forever, but it's really moving along quickly.   What's hard is the uneven surface.  An unnoticeable bump on the concrete surface becomes huge when you're trying to get a nice uniform finish on the mosaic.  And that's a real pain because uneven tiles make for sloppy looking mosaic. 

Something to keep in mind when I make my next one, try covering the piece with a smooth slurry.  That might help.