Saturday, April 23, 2016

Vintage Hammered Aluminum

My little greenhouse/she shed has given me hours of enjoyment.  I love everything about it, including the decorating.  Finally, I had a space for my two milk cans, the perfect plant stands for some herbs, and I loved the way they complimented my galvanized watering cans and trays.  Consequently, when I saw a vintage aluminum dish at a thrift shop, I knew it would look perfect in the greenhouse.    And thus began my obsession.

A little nostalgia anyone?  These were often called poor-man’s silver and were the serving pieces my “child of the depression” mother had at home.  Hammered aluminum was very popular in the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s, and were usually given as wedding gifts.  The pieces are cheaper and lighter than silver but never needed polishing.  The downside is they scratch and dent easily so they need to be treated with care.  They can be found in consignment or thrift shops for a few dollars, and there are a multitude of shapes, sizes and designs to suit anyone’s fancy.  The authentic collector would look for the company’s name and/or hallmark, and many times the product number and the term hand wrought or hand hammered  is indented into the piece.  I'd like to tell you that I'm a serious collector, but I'd be lying.  I just like what I like, and let's be real, it's going into the shed.

Vintage  aluminum pieces in the greenhouse

I have tried several methods of cleaning these pieces including baking soda and vinegar, cream of tartar and lemon juice, you name it.  Do NOT put them in the dishwasher, or use silver polish or silver pastes, for it will ruin the finish.   All that’s really needed is mild soap and water, but if that doesn’t do the trick, I found that Bar Keepers Friend worked fine for me.  In my search for methods to clean these vintage pieces, I’ve also come across a paste aluminum cleaner named “Mothers”, found in the auto supply stores.  The problem with this cleaner is that it leaves a film which can be unsafe if the piece is to be used with food.   Please note  when purchasing these aluminum pieces, any pitted or deteriorated finishes will  not give you the results you hope for, but they’re in the greenhouse so who cares. 

This large bowl is excellent for mixing potting soil,
the crumb catcher is ideal for scooping spilled soil,
small garden tools in the oval tray are readily accessible,
and the pea pod handled dish holds the season's plant tags.
Don't you love the pea pod handle?
Everlast Forged Aluminum Covered Bowl #1038

This flat tray was the perfect solution for this
little table with a broken glass top.
I was fixated on collecting the vintage aluminum trays for my seedlings, appreciating the attractive designs that rivaled any of the trays you buy at the garden centers.  They look so charming on the shelves.  Added bonus - they cost a fraction of store bought trays. 

Some of my treasures never made it to the shed.  This ice bucket is used to collect the kitchen scraps for the compost pile.


And this little tray is perfect for holding my kosher salt cellar, pepper mill, and the toothpicks for baking.

 During my treasure hunts, I found unique serving pieces that I thought would be perfect for my garden brunches.   I had originally bought this pie taker as a base for a miniature garden, which it still may become.  But as you can see, the casserole dish did make it into a miniature garden as has several other pieces. 

Vintage aluminum in the she shed
Yes, it's gotten out of control, but I love the hunt.  Searching for these distinctive pieces adds charm and character to my she shed, with a little bit of nostalgia.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Greenhouse/Potting Shed/She Shed




It has been two winter seasons since the greenhouse/potting shed has been completed and I thought I would share some of things I’ve learned. As always, I look forward to others ideas as well.
My husband had wanted to buy a greenhouse kit and assemble it for me years ago but I had always declined.  I didn’t want to waste space in my garden with a greenhouse, and I can't bear how oppressively hot greenhouses become in the summer.    But as I got more involved with winter gardening, I thought it was time to reconsider.  I wanted a greenhouse that was a combination potting shed and greenhouse.  I also wanted to remove the front windows during the summer and be able to plant directly in the greenhouse. You can see the beginning phase of the greenhouse on this blog “Recycling – Potting Station” page. 

I enjoy using recycled items and turning them into something sensational.  I had found an appealing greenhouse idea on Pinterest which I used as my inspiration.  My challenge was to try to build the greenhouse for under $250.  Yes, I was delusional.  I was able to get the windows at the ReStore for $5 a piece, and I did have some leftover wood from our renovation, but we had to buy considerably more than I expected.  I stopped using the costs spreadsheet when I hit $750.  At the end it probably costs just under $1000.  Just be prepared to spend more than you originally thought, but it’s worth every penny.

The first winter we had used the greenhouse, we had record snowfall here in the Northeast.  On two separate occasions, we had full week of no sun, which didn’t allow the greenhouse to warm up during the day.  I did make three terra-cotta space heaters which did increase the temperature in the greenhouse by a few degrees, but the candles last approximately four hours, so unless you get up in the middle of the night or get an electric heater, I wouldn’t expect the plants to survive.  Obviously, nothing is going to survive in those frigid temperatures. 
Terra-cotta Space Heater

 I also used floating row covers, a lightweight fabric which can be purchased in any garden center.  These covers allow 70% of light transfer, traps the sun’s heat, and increases the soil temperature a few degrees.  Even during one particular evening when the temperature dipped to 0°, the plants were fine.  I also recommend placing plastic milk containers filled with water near the plants to help retain heat during the evening.  The sun’s warmth heats the jugs during the day and releases that heat back into the greenhouse during the evening.  By experimenting, I found that milk jugs I had spray painted black were less likely to have any freezing and retained the most warmth.  Be sure to have an easily readable thermometer in your greenhouse.

Not only will you love your greenhouse, so will the little critters.  And not only will they love living in the greenhouse, they will love munching on the plants.  They ended up eating everything in the greenhouse.  I had better luck with the cloches which they did not touch.  But, you have to admit they are cute.  I plan to make some wire cover-cages and see how that works out next winter.
The bottom line is, and as much as I hate to admit it,  I should have listened to my husband and let him build me a greenhouse long ago.  It's my favorite play space.  I'm in it every day.