Pumpkin Carving

It’s that time of year again: Halloween and pumpkin carving! We all know it’s really messy to carve pumpkins... but I think that's the fun of it and kids love to get dirty. Here's a little guidance on carving your own lovely pumpkin to give your home a ghostly glow.


Drilled pumpkins featured on MarthaStewart.com.
The first thing you need is, well, a pumpkin (I got a beautiful, organic one from Better Farm over the weekend—email info@betterfarm.org if you'd like one of theirs!) and the right tools for carving. You can get a pumpkin-carving kit or use knives you already have in your kitchen. One knife needs to be serrated and you'll definitely need a big spoon and maybe a fork to scoop out the guts of the pumpkin. You will need a toothpick or a marker to drew out your picture. And if you're going to get real adventurous, you might need a power drill. The cool thing about scooping the guts out is that you can keep the seeds and either cook them or dry them out and plant them next year (or for those of you with backyard chickens: The birds absolutely ADORE pumpkin seeds raw). Here are some tips you can do to make it safe and fun for the kids.

1. Safety first—Kids should always carve pumpkins with an adult present. Pumpkin carving can be a slippery business, so it is important to have an adult grip helping with this process. There are some great carving kits out there with safety knives for kids, like these from Pumpkin Masters.
2. Keep it simple Don't try to carve out President Obama on your first (or even 20th) pumpkin. Instead, try an easy carving pattern. The Internet is full of ideas. Google search away!
3. Accept imperfections—There will be uneven lines, bumpy circles and faces with one big eye. It's a learning process and many pumpkins will be sacrificed for the cause. 
4. Be a Picasso —Let your children paint pumpkins instead of you carving them. They'll be able to create the pumpkins of their dreams and you can all enjoy it longer than a cut-up pumpkin. 
5. Take pictures After all the time and effort you have put into this, make sure that you take plenty of pictures of your creations. 
6. Compost—Pumpkins are filled with great elements for your compost pile. Don't let all that gooey goodness go to waste!
7. Have fun!

DIY Center: Clever ideas to make your life easier at home


Clever ideas: use a walnut to heal furniture scratches

Rubbing a walnut over scratches in your furniture will disguise dings and scrapes.(From Apartment Therapy)
Originally published at The Daily Buzz

Whether trying to organize your cleaning supplies or come up with clever ideas for entertaining, the following ideas are ingenious solutions for your everyday life.

Clever ideas: WD40 for cleaning crayon off TV screens
Remove crayon masterpieces from your TV or computer screen with WD40 (also works on walls). (unplggd.com)

Clever ideas: keep a cut apple from going brown
Stop cut apples browning in your child’s lunch box by securing with a rubber band. (athomewithrealfood.blogspot.com)
Clever ideas: store bedlinen sets inside their pillowcases
Overhaul your linen cupboard – store bedlinen sets inside one of their own pillowcases and there will be no more hunting through piles for a match. (marthastewart..com )

Clever ideas: hull strawberries with a straw
Hull strawberries easily using a straw. (Amy-Newnostalgia)
Clever ideas: bowl as iPhone sound amplifier
Pump up the volume by placing your iPhone / iPod in a bowl – the concave shape amplifies the music. (realsimple.com )
Cleaver ideas: wet wipe dispenser as plastic bag storage
Re-use a wet-wipes container to store plastic bags. (savvyhousekeeping.com)

Clever ideas: velcro strip on wall to hold soft toys
Attach a Velcro strip to the wall to store soft toys. (realsimple.com)

Clever ideas:
 baby powder to remove sand from feet
Add this item to your beach bag. Baby powder gets sand off your skin easily – who knew?! (iheartnaptime.net )
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Clever ideas: gift wrap storage on cupboard ceiling
Look up! Use wire to make a space to store gift wrap rolls against the ceiling, rather than cluttering up the floor. (flickr.com)

..
Clever idea: stocking over vacuum to pick up lost items
Gotcha! Find tiny lost items like earrings by putting a stocking over the vacuum hose. ( instructables.com)

Clever idea: box lid cupcake holder
Make an instant cupcake carrier by cutting crosses into a box lid. (realsimple.com)
)... 
Clever idea: how to fold a fitted sheet
For those who can’t stand the scrunching and bunching: how to perfectly fold a fitted sheet. (stephmodo.com)


Clever idea: magnetic bobbypin storage
Forever losing your bathroom essentials? Use magnetic strips to store bobby pins (and tweezers and clippers) behind a vanity door. (sprwmn.blogspot.com)
 
Clever idea: use shower caps to hold shoes when packing
Store shoes inside shower caps inside your suitcase to stop dirty soles rubbing on your clothes. And you can find them in just about every hotel!(realsimple.com)
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Clever idea: muffin pan craft
 storage
A muffin pan becomes a craft caddy. Magnets hold the plastic cups down to make them tip-resistant. (familyfun.go.com)

Clever idea: bread tags as cable labels
Bread tags make the perfect-sized cord labels. (unplggd.com)
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Clever idea: cook cupcakes in ice cream
 cones
Bake cupcakes directly in ice-cream cones – so much more fun and easier for kids to eat. (kiboomu.com)

..
Clever idea: microwave your own popcorn in a plain paper bag
Microwave your own popcorn in a plain brown paper bag. Much healthier and cheaper than the packet stuff. (squawkfox.com)

Clever idea: use a tension rod to hang spray bottles
Brilliant space-saver: install a tension rod to hang your spray bottles. Genius!(photobucket.com)
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Clever idea: use upside-down muffic pan to make cookie bowls
Turn your muffin pan upside down, bake cookie-dough over the top and voila – you have cookie bowls for fruit or ice-cream. Click here for recipe. (wilton.com)
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Clever idea: freeze aloe vera lotion for soothing burns
Freeze Aloe Vera in ice-cube trays for soothing sunburn relief. (realsimple.com)
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Clever idea:
 gutter veggie garden
Gutter garden: Create a window-box veggie patch using guttering. (lifehacker.com.au)

Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Ushering in the Holiday Season at Better Farm

A cozy fire stoked with harvested dead trees on the property at Better Farm.
The holidays are upon us at Better Farm!

We took advantage of the absolutely beautiful, wintry day yesterday to do a walkabout on the property in search of a Christmas tree. Unfortunately for us (fortunately for the trees, we suppose), there weren't any that were the right size or shape for the library at the Farm. We did manage to find a bunch of standing dead wood, however—perfect for the woodstove:

Tyler Howe and Brian Hines harvest some fire wood.

Next step was to find a local tree farmer. Which we did, right next door to the Theresa Bowling Center.


The guy who sold us the tree was kind enough to offer us free delivery. Our Christmas tree arrived just as we were sitting down to a delicious family dinner feast to welcome in the holiday season. How's that for service?

After dinner, we decorated the tree and marveled at the nice job May did with stringing lights around the library as decoration:





Check out the tree! 

 


With all the decorations in place, it was time to stage our 2011 Better Farm Holiday card. Can't show you any previews here—just make sure you're on our mailing list if you want to see the amazingness that is photographer (and former betterArts resident) Erin Fulton's prowess.

From all of us here at Better Farm, we wish you a superfantastic holiday season. Hope to see you at the New Year's Eve party!

To get on our mailing list, e-mail info@betterfarm.org with your snail mail and e-mail address.
For great holiday gift ideas, visit www.betterfarm.org/merchandise.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

DIY Rolling Storage Bench




































From October 2011 issue of O Magazine. Thanks to Laura Caldwell for the clipping!
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Eeeeee! Five Design Ideas We Love

As we embark on colder months, it's time to plan those indoors renovations to help us ride out the winter. From clever upcycling ideas to unusual furniture creations to fresh ideas for reviving a lackluster space, here are our top picks to help you get inspired this fall.

1. The Birds' Nest
Giant Birds' Nest
Yeah, maybe we've got a soft spot for all things bird. But how can you not love this idea? The "Giant Birds' Nest for Creating New Ideas” was conceived and created by O*GE Architects as a prototype for new and inspiring socializing space, which can be seen as a morph of furniture and playground. Its powerful, yet simple concept and intriguing character needs no explanation or user manual: Ready to to be used, to be played in, and be worked in. With its 4.50 m diameter the big version can host up to 16 people at once, offering a comfortable and sensual soft space, various siting positions, configurations for informal meetings and social exchange. Up to now three different sizes have been developed and can be ordered at demand. Simply jump in and enjoy.
2.  Fresh Idea for a Headboard
Upcycled door as headboard
Saw this door on a room I stayed in at a B&B in Kingston, ON. Brilliant.

3.  Turn Your Bookshelves into Display Cases
Caught sight of these amazing bookcases at Primitive in Chicago. We now have a working idea for the Library!

4.  Headboard-Turned-Bench
This simple design is perfect for a back porch or sunroom.

5. DIY Chalkboard and Bulletin Board
With a little chalkboard paint and free space on a wall in your office, you can take an old, junked door and turn it into a great conversation (and organization) piece.

Got a great DIY idea you'd love to share? E-mail us at info@betterfarm.org.
1 Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Think Outside the Junk

The wonderful folks over at Your Daily Thread came up with a great compilation of ideas for repurposing items into fresh new products that are useful and beautiful. The ideas are so good, we're reprinting them here:

Clever reuse designs can transform old, seemingly useless items into unique pieces that add custom flair and charm. Eco-friendly and fresh, impress friends with your crafty side by trying these do-it-yourself projects. These personal creations will leave you beaming with pride and your wallet unscathed.

Written by Christi Thompson

For Home
  • Lighten up. Talk about budget-friendly! All you need are beach balls, string, and glue to light your home in style with these stunning hemp pendant lamps. 
  • From trash to treasure. Wood pallets are often found piled outside of commercial buildings. More than 150 million are thrown out annually so they’re a great material for reuse. There are dozens of ways to makeover wood pallets, but here is a favorite.
For Yard
  • Garden building blocks. Who knew stacked cinder blocks could serve as a charming little modern urban garden structure? Succulents work well if you’re a desert-dweller, and you can paint the cinder blocks to give your yard a splash of color. 
  • Eaves drop. This may take some scavenging, but if you can find them, eaves troughs can become hanging wall planters for limited space gardens.
For You
  • From top to tote. Dig those old tank tops out from the bottom of your dresser drawers and transform them into a variety of casual, cute, one-of-a kind tank top totes. 
  • Picture this. It’s a shame to let old picture and mirror frames go to waste or hide in storage. Reinvent them and hang in your kitchen or bedroom. These unique chalkboards are perfect for grocery & to-do lists or your little Picasso’s chalk masterpiece.
Images via Design*Sponge.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

For the Birds: Painter-in-residence leaves her mark on the birdhouse

Erica Hauser is in the last week of her betterArts residency at Better Farm. During her time here, in addition to creating many wonderful paintings, culinary delights, and forming close-knit relationships with the crew here, she's also been calling Better Farm's human-scale "Birdhouse" home. In the last week or so, she set about making that home a little cozier by painting the inside walls, then coming up with a sweet four-wall mural of—what else? Birds!

Feast your eyes:




 Here's what she had to say about the process:
I just painted the inside of the birdhouse. I was the first to perch here and feel honored to be able to leave my mark as a contribution to the Farm. Part of it is inspired by a bird mural I did last year, but it (and the other elements) felt right for the space, and I was able to use paint I found around. Today I'm finishing a small self-image in oil using a photo my friend took. Both aspects are outside my realm of comfort, which is why I need to do it even as it evokes some strange feelings. I used to say that the objects and places I paint express something about myself, too. There's still plenty of truth to this but it's starting to feel vaguely disingenuous, as if something inside is trying to emerge.

Big thanks to Erica for leaving us this extremely beautiful piece of art! We're excited to share it with all future visitors to Better Farm.

To learn more about Erica Hauser's work or to commission a piece, click here.

Guest Room Gets Gussied Up


This spare guest room had a bad case of the blahs, from uninspired details to drab walls to cobbed-together curtain rods. Finally getting to enjoy the afterglow of Better Farm's distinctly unglamorous first round of renovations (insulation, sheet rock and dry wall, dumpster hauls, rewiring, wood stove installation, etc.), I can at last begin the significantly more fun job of interior design.

While we've had great success with reappropriating certain items for updates around the Farm, this room was going to require a few new things—albeit with really good deals—namely:


That put us well-within budget, with the whole overhaul running us less than $250. Here are a few more before shots:


And now, drum roll please...
Curtains and black-and-white print courtesy of Laura Caldwell; paper-cutting of Better Farm grass courtesy of Mira Elwell; vases courtesy of Laura Caldwell; lights left by previous tenant and stocked with eco-friendly, energy-efficient bulbs.

Cabinet reclaimed from dumpster; nest chair left by previous tenants.
Steamer trunk courtesy of Laura Caldwell; elephant art courtesy of Bob Bowser; nest chair left by previous tenants.

For information about lodging at Better Farm, click here .

Painting Herself Into a Corner

Artist-in-residence Jennifer Crone yesterday ditched her canvases to paint a mural directly into the corner of a Better Farm bedroom.



God she's good.

For information on betterArts' residency program, click here.

New Bathroom is Green in More Ways Than One

When it became clear there would be enough people coming through Better Farm to warrant a third bathroom, imaginings began as to how we could create a state-of-the-art space with as small a carbon footprint as humanly possible. I opted to retool what used to be Skyler's room on the second floor; which meant a lot of new pipes, some extremely creative spirits on the part of the workers who would do the dirty work, and a ton of patience.

I did extensive research on how to "green" a bathroom, and came up with a few key points to pay attention to from my handy-dandy "Green Remodeling" book. Here are some options to consider when renovating an existing bathroom or putting in a new one:
  • High-performance, low-flow shower head with chlorine filter
  • Compact fluorescent bulbs
  • Lighting controls
  • Windows that open
  • Landscaping for shade
  • Greater natural daylight
  • Upgraded single pane windows
  • Water filters
  • Low-flow faucets
  • Insulated plumbing and pipes
  • Solvent-free adhesives
  • Low-flow or greywater flushing toilet
With these ideas in mind, I made a few sketches of the perceived space:

 

From there, Fred Ciliberti got to work gutting the room and laying out the pipework. Bobby Rockerman showed up for a while to help get the piping from the basement to the soon-to-be bathroom. In the meantime, I scooped up several eco-friendly components:
  • Dual-flush toilet    Kohler makes a dual-flush toilet that can save the average homeowner more than 6,000 gallons of water annually by utilizing 20% less water-per-flush than your average toilet. In addition, there are two flush buttons instead of one so you can control how much water you need to wash away waste.
  • Reclaimed claw-footed tub    The United Methodist Church in Alexandria Bay held a tag-sale fundraiser for which people in the area donated items. Among them was a claw-footed tub, in pristine shape—we were even able to use most of the original hardware, including wonderful old stainless steel faucets. All we did to update the tub was slap a fresh coat of primer and paint on the outside, soak the hardward in CLR, buff them up with some Bar Keepers Friend, and call in carpenter extraordinaire Gary Stevenson to hook it up.
  • Evolve showerhead    The Evolve showerhead utilizes ShowerStart technology, which stops water flow to a trickle when it reaches 95 degrees. When you're ready to hop in the shower, simply pull the cord next to the showerhead and the water pressure is restored. So what does it save? A whopping 2,700 gallons of water annually, all the fossil-fueled energy it requires to heat that much water, and up to $75 off our annual utility bill.
  • Reclaimed bathroom sink pedestal    Vessel sinks are all the rage in bathroom design these days, but we wanted to revisit some old-fashioned roots with this modern-day fad. Armed with a white vessel sink from Lowe's, we tracked down a pre-Civil War washing table at Liberated Sole Shoe Repair & Antique Shop in Watertown that once held—you guessed it—a wash basin. Using some minor wizardry by the wonderful Gary Scholes, the sink hooked into and through the table.
  • American Olean tiles    American Olean spearheaded a Greenworks initiative, which offers information and support on LEED-certification, eco-friendly construction, and sustainability issues as they relate to construction. And by their very nature, ceramic tiles last far longer than other surface types. Less replacing means less waste and wear and tear on the environment. 
  • Controlled lighting     There are three sets of lights in the bathroom, all utilizing high-efficiency bulbs. This way, during the day you can use no lights (east-facing window means plenty of natural sun rays), or if you're getting dolled up for a night on the town you can flip on the vanity lights above and to either side of the mirror. There's also a three-way fan in the ceiling, which has a hot air blower, regular room fan, and soft light when you just need a little glow to guide your way. 
  • Eco-friendly insulation     Nowadays there's no excuse for toxic fiberglass insulation. All insulation-related updates at Better Farm have utilized cotton insulation that's so safe you can rub your hands and face in it.
With these elements in place, Gary Scholes came in to complete the carpentry and plumbing.  Gary Stevenson finished the project off by creating a small oak stage for the tub (he found a pile of beautiful, aged oak out in our barn and planed some of it for this project—stay tuned for future uses we put the rest to!) and hooking it into the pipework Fred and Bobby laid.

Photos from the process:

And for the finished product...






Many thanks to the following people for their support and expertise:
Kristen Caldwell's generous donation
Hunter Ciliberti, demolition
Fred Ciliberti, demolition, plumbing, and carpentry
Bob Rockerman, plumbing
David Garlock, consulting
Gary Scholes & crew, plumbing, tiling, and carpentry
Laura Caldwell, vintage towel rack
Scott Mueller, fish painting
Kate Garlock, bathtub refinishing and painting
Gary Stevenson, plumbing
Chris Menne, Brian Hines, and Sarah Herold, painting and staining

Upstairs Bedroom Ditches the Blues

Once upon a time, there was a young boy who got to design his very own bedroom.
Only problem was, that little boy moved out and left Better Farm his bright blue walls. It was time for a little updating; though the room itself is in very good structural shape. That is, except for the closet:
The first thing we did was put up a wall between the closet and the room next door. Then we reinsulated, and installed a shelf and clothes rack. Many thanks to Fred Ciliberti for getting that sorted!

Next up was the room color. We went with basic white to give the room a clean jump-start. Then we brought in Clayton "Ikea" Carlson, who had a killer furniture collection that is all clean lines and airy patterns. The result? Well, you might not recognize the space...
 
Amazing what a fresh coat of eco-friendly paint can do.

Front Entranceway: From clunky to clutter-free

It's a no-brainer that your entranceway should set the tone for the rest of your house. But by its very nature, the entrance to your home is often the receptacle for things like shoes, jackets, keys, junk mail, and anything else you—or your roommates—are too lazy to put away at any given moment.

Better Farm's front hall was mismatched. Without a cohesive color palette or storage setup, it was an easy target for forgotten items.













So, we made a few simple improvements that made a big difference:
  • Giving the walls and ceiling a fresh coat of white, eco-friendly paint
  • Removing gross, musty, old carpeting from the staircase
  • Painting all the wood trim and stairs the same color
  • Creating shelving for items such as shoes
  • Initiating a landing pad for mail, e-mail list sign-ups, and guest book
  • Hanging a mail and notes organizer from the wall (found at an antique shop, it's significantly more lovely than a boring old bulletin board. Old clothespins affix notes and letters to the wire)
  • Hanging reusable shopping bags next to the front door so people on their way into town can avoid paper and plastic
Results after the jump!



















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Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Lofty Idealism

Wasted space is the cardinal sin of intentional living. In an old farmhouse with upwards of 12 people sleeping over at a time, and with any number of projects in the works on any given day, what might be a "junk drawer" in a New York City apartment becomes a "junk room" or "indefinitely unclaimed section of an entire house."

We've worked in the last year to remedy a lot of the clutter at Better Farm—first with trips to the transfer station, then with a dumpster rental, and finally with a reclamation of unused, wasted space. It's a renaissance of sorts; complete with the sweet addition of cozy sleeping lofts and nooks in places that would otherwise go totally unused and ignored. All it took was a little ingenuity, some high ceilings, and an innate desire to live in something resembling a big treehouse.

Better Farm's office and side entrance were natural choices to add sleeping accommodations, as each room boasts extremely high ceilings. Through some additional research, we discovered a crawl space next to the loft on the third floor that had, in the 1970s, been an actual bedroom (thank you Fred for putting so much work into that room so many years ago!). The entrance to said space was long-since covered up; so we decided to re-reveal the sleeping quarters by punching a hole in the upstairs hallway ceiling, and installing a ladder. Before and after photos following the jump!

Before & After:
The loft series
 
All carpentry work by Craig Rice

Side entranceway
(yellow paint selection courtesy of Mike Brown; paint job courtesy of Brian Hines)
 











The Office













Upstairs Crawlspace