betterArts Presents OUTDOOR Vino & Van Gogh Paint 'n' Sip Series In July And August

Continuing with the success of betterArts' winter and spring installments of guided Vino & Van Gogh paint 'n' sip series, the organization is offering two very special summer classes that will be held outside at Better Farm.

JULY 7, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Bring a picnic blanket or towel to our first-ever OUTDOORS paint 'n' sip event, held outside in paddocks where horses and alpacas roam! Enjoy a guided painting workshop from beginning to end, bottomless wine and finger foods. All materials provided! Cost: $30. Register here.

AUGUST 11, 6-8 p.m.

This event is open to parents as well as their children! As always, we will be offering bottomless beverages and endless finger foods to delight parents and children alike! This event will also be held outdoors at Better Farm. All supplies provided! Cost: $30 adults, $15 children under 16. Register here.

 

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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.

betterArts Presents 'Vino & Van Gogh' Adult Painting Class April 14

betterArts presents the next installment in its adult paint 'n' sip series, "Vino & Van Gogh", from 7-9 p.m. Thursday, April 14, at Better Farm.

This class will feature a Vincent Van Gogh theme playing on an image of a tree with swirls, texture and movement. Instructor Maria VanPelt (LaFargeville Central School) will guide students from start to completion using acrylics on canvas.

As always, all materials will be provided and students will be able to enjoy bottomless wine and finger foods.

Cost for this class is $30. To sign up, CLICK HERE.

This class will be held in the betterArts Art Barn at Better Farm, 31060 Cottage Hill Road, Redwood, NY, 13679. For further information, email info@betterarts.org or call (315) 482-2536.

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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.

betterArts Presents: Vino and Van Gogh

betterArts Presents: Vino and Van Gogh

betterArts presents an art and wine event at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14, at Better Farm in Redwood.

Attendees 21 and older will receive guided instruction to create a painting from start to finish while enjoying bottomless glasses of wine. Easels, paints, brushes, canvases, finger foods and wine will be provided by betterArts. Students are also welcome to bring any of their own art supplies.

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Paying it Forward

From left Rebekah Kosier, Jacob Firman, and Nicole Caldwell work in a neighbor's garden.
An integral part of Better Farm's Sustainability Education Program is community service work. These activities serve dual functions: to pay manpower forward and to teach students new skills that can be applied to future projects (and paid forward in future community service activities). Our belief is that a successful, sustainable community utilizes bartering, volunteerism, and the sharing of specialized skills to propel neighborhoods forward. This has been proven time and time again at Better Farm; where the volunteerism of our neighbors is largely responsible for how far the "better" project has come in four short years.

Here are the service projects we all took part in last week.

Home Repair and Revitalization
We helped a neighbor scrape old exterior paint on his house to prepare for a fresh coat. Several of the people working on this project hadn't done a scraping project before, so this was a new skill for some of us. Understanding the basics of scraping, powerwashing, and painting will allow you to take care of your own home throughout your life; and will save you thousands (yes, thousands) every time you DIY your paint jobs. Keep in mind that when figuring out paint costs, the paint only accounts for between 15 and 25 percent of total costs (the rest is labor). We'll be back at this property later this week to finish the scraping and start the painting... stay tuned!

Garden Work
Working in other people's gardens and seeing how they do things allows our students to gain a broader perspective on options for their own gardens when they go back home. We talk a lot about different versions of permaculture gardens, basic components of growing organically, options for getting rid of weeds, and more, but nothing trumps hands-on experience. For that, last Friday we visited a garden a few towns away to mound dirt into hills for pumpkins, stretch black plastic over rows, and get some peppers and tomatoes in the ground.
The garden we worked on functions similarly to the gardens at Better Farm, except we use cardboard as our weed barrier while this tract uses black plastic. After raking the dirt into rows, the plastic is stretched over the entire space. Holes are cut along the raised rows to make room for seedlings, and composted dirt is added directly to those plants throughout the season for additional nourishment. This allows a gardener to focus organic fertilizers on the plants themselves without worrying about tilling nutrients into a larger area. The plastic works as a perfect weed barrier and lasts several years; while cardboard has to be replaced throughout the summer as it continuously decomposes.



Educational Outreach
Lyme Central School in Chaumont hosted a "Backyard Science Day" that we stopped in at to talk to kids about building their own solar ovens. We also got to take a look at that school's brand-new hoop house and compost set up (stay tuned for more information on that). Click here to read all about the solar oven and to download the plans for yourself.

Know of someone in the North Country who could use a hand? Want help making your garden "better"? Get in touch! We can be reached at info@betterfarm.org or (315) 482-2536.
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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.

New Hues

The farm's deck gets a spring makeover.
Never underestimate the difference a coat of paint can make! A facelift on our outbuildings has breathed new life into an outdated milkhouse, plywood chicken coops, and worn-out wraparound deck.

Any exterior, wood surfaces are at the constant mercy of wind, rain, sun, mildew and insects; but when they're protected by a layer of the right kind of paint, they can resist the damaging effects of all these forces. We were already noticing damage to the chicken coops, which were swelling and chipping with every bit of inclement weather.

The wraparound deck was stained several years ago and needed a touch-up; the tool shed hadn't been touched in ages; and the chicken coops, though new construction, were in desperate need of a good coat of paint.

We used a semi-solid stain for the deck and classic, red barn paint for the outbuildings. Here are a couple before shots of the tool shed and coops:

... and a couple "action shots":


... and the finished product!


Many thanks to volunteers Holly Boname, Adam McBath, Jackson Pittman, and Aaron Youngs for all their hard work!
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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.

Mural-Building

Decades ago, a guy who went by the nickname "Poppy" painted a small mural of Pan on a wall of Better Farm's dining alcove. Poppy—or possibly someone else—then nailed a homemade frame onto the wall over the painting.

In Greek mythology, Pan is the god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, nature, of mountain wilds, hunting and rustic music, and companion of the nymphs. And since sometime in the 1970s or 1980s, he's been keeping a trained on eye all the goings-on at Better Farm.

I've long wanted to invite visiting artists to add their own mini-murals to the wall, but got so caught up in large-scale projects (like a mural in a bedroom upstairs, another one in the birdhouse, and an almost-lifelike wooden family portrait-turned-roadside attraction), the last four years haven't seen any add-ons to the Wall of Pan in the kitchen. 'Til now, of course.

Last month's intern Zoya Kaufmann has a big-time passion for art and, well, bugs. So when she was invited to make a small mural of her choosing alongside Pan, she couldn't resist. Inspiration drew on her insect intrigue, combined with an inclination to paint something mimicking the mood of the Pan portrait.

Zoya explained, the Pan mural is presenting viewers with an unusual vantage point of something we rarely pause to look at (or even begin to imagine). Running with this idea, she painted another such creature (albeit literal, not mythic): the western conifer seed bug.

The western conifer seed bug, Leptoglossus occidentalis, is a species of true bug (Heteroptera) in the family Coreidae. It was originally native to the warm-temperate western USA (California, Oregon and Nevada) but has in recent times expanded its range and become an invasive species in parts of Europe. This species is sometimes colloquially called "the leaf-footed bug", and is sometimes mistakenly identified as a stink bug due to the unpleasant aroma it emits when disturbed. In its native range the western conifer seed bug feeds on the sap of developing conifer cones throughout its life, and its sap-sucking causes the developing seeds to wither and misdevelop. Here's a photo of what a western conifer seed bug looks like:

And here's Zoya's painting from beginning to end, bringing this unusual sight directly into the foreground for your viewing pleasure:

 

For more information about Better Farm's sustainability program, click here.

DIY Wainscot Paneling

With a recent renovation project that added a bathroom and reinvented another, a doorway in the kitchen was moved. That left a wall only half-covered with tongue and groove wainscot panels:
Using discarded tongue and groove from the bathroom project and some other pieces we refined to make our top and bottom edges, we were able to create our own custom wainscot panels for free.

Here's a simple step-by-step guide if you'd like to give this a go—it's a great way to dress up any room.

Wainscot Paneling

Materials
  • Basic hand tools
  • Circular saw
  • Jigsaw
  • Pneumatic finish nail gun to complete this project
  • Table saw
Step-By-Step Instructions
1. Allow your wood to acclimate. Stack the wood in your room about a week before you start installing it so it has time to adjust to the humidity level in your home.

2. Prep your space. We removed the existing panels so that all our boards would be uniform. Protect tile, wood and vinyl floors with two layers of heavy paper or cardboard taped down. Cover carpeted floors with canvas dropcloths.
 3. Install the baseboard. A radial arm saw or sliding miter saw works best for cutting baseboard, but you can make perfect cuts with a circular saw, too. Install a sharp blade and clamp a square to the board as a saw guide. A giant speed square also makes a great saw guide. For a great-looking job, arrange the boards for the best color and grain match before you make the final cuts, especially on boards that must be spliced to cover a long wall. If your floors are unusually wavy or out of level, trim the bottom of the boards to fit the contour of the floor. They don't have to fit perfectly. Base shoe molding will cover gaps up to 3/8 in. Arrange baseboard around the room so the grain pattern and color of adjoining pieces match as closely as possible. Rough-cut the boards a few inches longer than needed. Then cut the boards to exact length and nail them to each stud with two 2-1/2 in. nails.
4. Glue and nail the paneling. Figure out approximately how many full-length tongue-and-groove boards you'll need and cut them to your desired height. Don't assume the boards have a perfectly square mill-cut end. First trim one end square, then cut it to length. Use a level to make sure the first board is plumb before you glue and nail it. You may have to plane a bit from the top or bottom of the groove side to fit a board against out-of-plumb door or window trim. Apply glue to the back of each piece of wood, then drive nails into the drywall hold the boards firmly until the glue dries. If you run across a board that's bowed or crooked, save it for a spot where there's a stud mark so you can bend it straight and nail it to solid wood. In this situation, or at corners or other tight spots, it's OK to nail through the face of the board. Fill the nail holes with matching putty after the first coat of finish. Don't worry if the tops of the boards don't line up perfectly; you'll cover them later with the cap and shelf. Add new pieces of wainscot by pushing the grooved edge onto the tongue of piece already applied.



5. Notch around any electrical outlets. Notch the boards to fit around electrical boxes. Don't forget to make a small notch for the outlet screws—it's hard to do after the paneling is in place. The electrical code requires that electrical boxes be flush with wood paneling. You could move the boxes out, but this would be a big job. Instead, buy box extensions, available at hardware stores and home centers, and install them before you reinstall the switches and receptacles.
6. Space boards for an even corner fit. Measure from the corner to the edge of the board, excluding the tongue, to determine the width of the last board. Measure every 12 inches along the corner and mark these dimensions on the final board. Connect the marks to create a cutting line.
7. Install your wainscot chair rail. The Wainscot chair rail is applied by nailing on 16” centers. Nail into studs whenever possible for strength.

 8. Prime and paint. Remember to tape off your lines!


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

Introducing betterArts Resident Kristie Hayes Beaulieu

"Decked Out", 2011, part of Kristie's x-ray art series
Kristie Hayes Beaulieu is a high school art teacher and professional visual artist visiting us for two weeks from Syracuse, N.Y. through the betterArts residency program. Her work has been featured in more than a dozen group and solo exhibitions in galleries as far away as Detroit, and her recent "x-ray art series" has been featured on the cover of Academic Medicine and the American Society of Radiologic Technologists' medical publication.

"I love meeting new people," Kristie told us, "I love new opportunities... I like the fact that betterArts offers a communal setting. I love the outdoors and my husband and I agreed that this might be a great mix for me at my first residency. I am an artist driven to thrive... I hope to bring ideas to the table, work with others, and to have time away from my home to develop my work without distraction."

Here's her work space out in the Art Barn:




And a few photos of Kristie's creative process:





Since her arrival last Sunday, Kristie has already completed four pieces! She's also made her mark at Better Farm, lending an immeasurable hand with gardening, chicken, and homesteading duties, cooking yummy meals for the house, her frisbee prowess, and—most importantly—her friendship.

To see more work or to contact the artist, visit www.kristiehayes.com. For more information about betterArts and its residency program, click here.
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.

Revive Your Floor Without Emptying Your Pockets

Better Farm's library floor, foreground, was badly beat up, weathered, dented, and lifeless. Patching knotholes and applying fresh paint, background, gave the floor a new lease on life for less then $75.
Flooring can be an intimidating project to take on. Nice, durable wood may cost you an arm and a leg (as will many eco-friendly alternatives), laminate flooring leaves much to be desired, and a carpet to cover a badly abused, old wood ground is bound to get stained—but more importantly, carpets trap and hold all kinds of bacteria, dirt, allergens, pollens, dust mites, chemicals, and other contaminants.

We've researched all of the above extensively. And while there's certainly a time and place for luxurious and new wood flooring (natural hardwoods are often worth their price tags, as they'll last forever), bamboo flooring, cement floors, recycled laminate flooring, and even carpet, for our needs and budget we found a nice alternative to all of that other stuff.


First, let's go over the issue at hand: Better Farm's library floor. Here are some pictures of the floor back in 2009:
Duct tape used to cover knot holes had all but worn out.
The famous Sadie dog hangs out amidst a floor covered in duct tape, chipped paint, and loose ends.
The ramp's color is totally worn out.
Here's another shot of the ramp, close-up, that I took last week:

The first thing I did was figure out how to patch those knot holes. This wasn't an easy investigation, as most DIY sites were trying to tell me to use a jigsaw to cut circular pieces of wood to fit the holes—a feat I wasn't sure I was going to be able to accomplish in a safe or timely manner. 

Instead, I picked up some metal screen lath (the mesh or metal patch people use to fix drywall holes) and a quart of Bondo. When we ran out of the screen lath, I cut circles out of plastic recyclables and used those. Here's how we patched:
  1. First we took the duct tape off the knothole, sanded away the old adhesive, and thoroughly swept and mopped the floor.
  2. Then we mixed the Bondo solution together to form the super-strong hole-filler.
  3. With an unfolded paper clip (string or anything else you can think of would also work) attached at one end to the screen (already cut to cover the bottom of the hole), we pushed the screen through the knothole, then pulled up on the paper clip so the screen became flush against the bottom of the hole.
  4. Holding the clip  and screen taut against the bottom of the knothole, we applied the bondo then held the clip in place for several minutes while the adhesive began to take hold:
The Bondo begins to harden. Note the top of the straightened paper clip poking out. That piece came off easily with sandpaper.
Then we sanded the whole thing down, washed the floor again, and painted.



Still rustic farmhouse chic, the floor is one cohesive color without holes. We'll be able to touch the paint up as we need to. And the best part? This whole project cost less than $75—a teeny tiny fraction of what a new floor, or new carpeting, would cost. Here's the price breakdown:
  • Two gallons of paint: $50
  • A bag of four rollers: $6
  • Bondo: $6
  • Screen sheath: $6 (or cut your own with found materials for free)
  • Package of sandpaper: $5
Got a great DIY design tip? E-mail it to us at info@betterfarm.org. Many thanks to intern Maylisa Daniels for heading this project!
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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.

Macsherry Library Art Show Features Our Work!

We told you last week about Macsherry Library's Ninth Annual Heart of Winter Art Show & Chocolate Festival, the reception for which was held from 1:30 to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Macsherry Library Community Gallery in Alexandria Bay, N.Y.

Among the featured work was my above nighttime photograph, and this piece by our own Maylisa Daniels:

These pieces, as well as all the other paintings, drawings, poems, and three-dimensional pieces, will be on display through Saturday, Feb. 18. Be sure to stop in and take a look—and don't be shy about buying a few pieces to take home with you!

The Saturday afternoon reception was packed—with people, with art, with chocolate, and with younger children working diligently on making their own Valentines Day cards. Here are photos from the event:




We can't wait to team up with Macsherry Library again from 1-5 p.m. May 12 for their Garden Day! That event will offer free seeds, catalogs, information, and master gardeners for guidance—and reps from Better Farm and betterArts working with kids on planting seeds, painting some faces, and bridging the gap between cultivation and creativity in order, literally, to cultivate creativity. Stay tuned for details!


Many thanks to Sue-Ryn Burns for putting this event together! Macsherry Library is located at 112 Walton St. in Alexandria Bay, N.Y.

Divine Design: The wonderful world of white

I grew up begrudging my mother for keeping so many walls in our home white. I thought it was too plain, too boring, too conservative. I pushed for color, then pushed harder; painting several murals across the walls of my own bedroom, collaging over my door, covering every inch of wall with something, anything.

I am still a huge fan of color, of organized chaos, of walls and walls of books, of knick knacks and pieces of art and yes, of course I am still a fan of murals. Better Farm's got no shortage of color and personality and works of art and little keepsakes, each of which tells a story.

But the key is organized chaos; controlled color; disciplined design. And so as I plan the overhaul of two of our bathrooms at the farm, I'm struck by the many ways white (and its sneaky counterpart, off-white and cream) can be truly wonderful when done in a deliberate, decadent kind of way. Behold: The Wonderful World of Whites.


In living rooms:

In bathrooms:


In bedrooms:

Got a great, green design idea you'd love to share? Send it to us at info@betterfarm.org. For a great eco-friendly paint resource, click here.
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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.

Former Artist-in-Residence Revisits the Better Farm Canvas

Former betterArts resident Erica Hauser stopped by the farm last week for a visit. Never one to let a blank space go to waste (she did, after all, paint the interior walls of the Birdhouse during her June stay here), it wasn't long before she'd grabbed a bunch of leftover cans of paint and set to work.

Noting that Lizzi Musoke's new rainwater catchment system abutted Erica's former beloved birdhouse bedroom, Erica set right to work giving the rain barrel a beautiful facelift:



The next day she caught me upstairs, where I was touching up some trim on doorways. Asking if she could help, I directed her downstairs to a blank patch of wall over the front entranceway...
 It was less than an hour later that her newest creation was completed:


Many thanks to Erica for donating her time and resources to beautifying Better Farm for all who visit here. To learn more about Erica Hauser's betterArts residency, click here. To commission a painting by Erica or see more of her portfolio, visit her website.

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.