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Easy DIY Rehab on a FREE Vintage Glider Set

Gliders_DIY7

By Lisa Brunette

I'm of the opinion that few of the things manufactured since, oh, let's say 1975, are of sturdy, high-quality construction. You know what I'm taking about, right? A major reason we love antiques is because truly, they don't make 'em like this anymore. Take the above glider chair as an example. The structure is heavy-duty steel, and the slats are real wood, each one fastened with a steel bolt. It's called a "glider" because it gives you a smooth, rocking-chair motion as the seat glides forward and back.

I picked up a set of 3 for 100 percent FREE more than a year ago. Here's what they looked like when I got 'em, with the addition of some new bolts where several were missing or too-far-gone to be salvaged.

Gliders_Before

As you can see, they were pretty weathered and beat up, but I saw good bones, and if I were willing to put in the effort, something I just can't buy new these days. I don't honestly know if these gliders were made in the 50s, 60s, or even early 70s, as I haven't been able to find a perfect match with provenance noted in my online research. If you have an idea, please tell me in the comments below. I'm dying to find out. But suffice to say, they've been around a while, and as far as outdoor furniture goes, I think they've stood the test of not just time but the elements as well.

Now I could have cut new wooden slats to replace these, as they are definitely warped. I thought about it, and my brother tried to convince me to do it. But I'm not that handy with a saw, possess few woodworking tools, and didn't like the idea of scrapping the wood, from an economic and eco standpoint. Besides, the warped curves give it a bit of charm, and the weathered patina, in my view, add to the whole look.

So, the wood would have to be part of the rehab process. I wanted the chairs to be as eco-friendly as possible - not just out of obligation to be kind to the environment but because I planned to spend a good amount of time sitting in these chairs, and as someone with autoimmune sensitivities, I have to think about the chemicals in my world more than the average person. That led me to tung oil for the wooden slats.

Gliders_DIY3

Ah... tung oil. Where have you been all my life? It's obtained from the pressed seed of the tung tree and is a safe, fume-free alternative to the prevailing wood sealant available in most hardware stores, a noxious substance containing petroleum distillates. Please note that many products for sale are labeled "tung oil" or "Dutch oil," and they might even contain some actual oil from the seed of the tung tree, but they are NOT pure tung oil. If there's one thing I've learned over 30+ years of trying not to come in contact with things that make me sick, it's to ALWAYS READ THE LABELS. What you see in the photo above is pure tung oil. What you're likely to find in your box hardware store shelves is, frankly, a lot of GICK: toxic chemicals and extracted byproducts from the petroleum industry. I couldn't actually find pure tung oil in these stores and ended up purchasing it online from Woodcraft. This is not a sponsored endorsement; we don't take any commissions for the products we mention so that you're assured to get an unbiased take. But this stuff is liquid gold, trust me.

Gliders_DIY1

I heavily sanded the wooden slats first, and then wiped any remaining sawdust with a dry cloth. Then it was time to apply the tung oil. Pure tung oil feels amazing to use - it glides on easily and smells pleasant, and a little bit goes a long way. I finished 3 chairs using that 1-gallon jug above, and I still have more than half a gallon left! It was a hot day, and I didn't like sweating inside plastic gloves, so I worked barehanded, and it was fine. In fact, the oil moisturized my hands, for a bonus benefit, and washed off with no problem. Tung oil hardens as it dries, giving the wood a deep, wet look, and the result is a protective sheen. I rehabbed the first chair, the orange one you see in the photo at the top of this post, all by my lonesome, handling the whole process in the space of two afternoons. Here you can see the slats drying in the sun behind the chair frame. Oo, look at how the green patina pops out! Look at that deepened woodgrain!

Gliders_DIY2

Now that I've soapboxed on the topic of eco-friendly wood preservation techniques, lemme get to the issue of the chair frame. I researched around and could not find an alternative to spray paint for metal surfaces. I feel like an eco-failure in this regard, and maybe I've missed something. If you know of a better substance than your standard can of gicky spray paint, please enlighten me in the comments below. 

I had a leftover can of pumpkin spice hue from another project, and I thought that would look cool on the chair, so there you go. My Cinderella chair turned into a pumpkin coach, all set for the ball.

I don't mind telling you I had a bit of a bad time, though, on that first chair. I'd made the mistake of replacing a few rusted-out screws in the glider mechanism. At first I felt like a genius, as this fixed a wobble and brought the frame into better alignment. HOWEVER, the wooden slats had warped to that wobble shape, and I had a devil of a time getting them back onto the chair frame after I'd "fixed" it. Lesson learned. For the other two chairs, I decided not to mess with imperfection. I also had Anthony to help, and he was only too happy to take on spray-paint duty so I could concentrate on wood restoration. For these, I opted to go aqua, of course. Do you not know about my obsession with aqua?!

Gliders_DIY4

The process went faster with a second pair of hands. We finished the other two chairs in one day, with enough time left to admire them in the setting sun.

Gliders_DIY6

If you come across a trio of these beauties, or even a duet or solo, I recommend snapping 'em up. Now restored, I'm sure we'll get many more years out of them. Here's the process in a nutshell.

Step-by-Step DIY Glider Re-Do

  1. Remove wooden slats from chair frame. You can do this by hand, most likely - ours were screwed on with bolts and washers. We just unscrewed the washers in the back, and lifted the slats off. Keep the bolts and washers in a bucket for later. Replace any rusty or broken bolts/washers with new ones.
  2. Wipe the metal frame, making sure it's clean and dry. Spray paint the frame, keeping the can moving to avoid drips and globs. We wore a mask and gloves for this.
  3. At the same time or while you're waiting for the frame to dry, you can sand the wooden slats. Note you'll want to place the slats on your sanding surface IN THE SAME ORDER THEY APPEAR ON THE CHAIR. This is to make sure the wood gets placed back in the same spot. Otherwise you'll have trouble re-bolting the slats to the frame. I used a heavy-duty sanding sponge, and I went through two of them on all of the slats, but you can use sheets of sandpaper instead. Wipe the slats clean.
  4. Check to see if the frame needs another coat. You might also need to paint the frame in two stages, propping it at different angles to get the undersides of the frame tubes.
  5. Pour tung oil on a clean, dry cloth and spread it onto the wooden slats. Coat until the oil penetrates all surfaces of the wood. I really put in some elbow grease here, rubbing to make sure the oil got into every crack. Let the oil dry on the wood.
  6. Bolt the slats back onto the frame. The wooden slats don't have to be 100 percent dry; in fact, the oil will continue to dry and harden as time goes on.
  7. Dispose of the oil rags properly, following the instructions on the tung oil container and your local guidelines/ordinances.

Now... the stunning before and after comparison!

Gliders_DIY5

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Hügelkultur - More Than Just a Pretty Word

 


Hügelkultur - More Than Just a Pretty Word

IMG_1248

By Anthony Valterra

Ah, the Germans, a lovely people with a lovely language. For example, did you know the German word for daisy is "gänseblümchen?" It just rolls off the tongue. The Germans created a method of gardening in which they cultivated plants on top of a constructed mound made up of logs buried in the earth. They call it hügelkultur - literally mound or hill culture. The theory is that as the logs decay, they provide nutrients to the plants growing on top of them. In addition, the mound shape provides a sort of natural rain drainage. Plants on the top that need less water get less, and those nearer the bottom get more water. You can also use the hill shape to vary sunlight. Plants on the sunny side get more light; plants on the opposite side a bit less. Finally, the hill itself is supposed to provide a bit more growing space. Imagine the mound as half of a sphere. If the mound was not there, you would be planting in a circle with an area based on the diameter of the sphere. But with the mound, you have a planting area half the surface of the whole sphere. Assuming a mound with a 10-ft. diameter, you are roughly doubling your growing space (if I did the math correctly).

Above is our first try at hügelkulture, as it stands today. We decided to make it an herb mound. It could just as well support other plants, but an herb mound is a common choice. As you can see, we did all right. We have good growth from the sage in the foreground, the marjoram at the top, and the grey santolina to the right of the marjoram. There are also a couple of young oregano plants tucked between the sage and marjoram. Not shown: the reddening lepiota mushrooms, which grew prolifically all over the yard including on the mound - delicious! More about them in this post here. Herbs that did not make it on the mound (this year) were all sown as seeds, a tough go for non-native perennials, especially here in the beginning before the logs beneath the earth had a chance to decay.

How do you make one of these mounds? I'm sure you are thinking it requires elaborate planning, detailed construction, and a great number of resource inputs. Or maybe you're looking at it and thinking, "It's a hill; how tough can it be?"

Herb mound hugel

If you have read about my squash tunnel here, and its tragic demise here, then you know I am a big believer in scavenging for resources. Fortunately, we live in the Midwest, where the same storms that brought down the squash tunnel regularly bring down trees in the neighborhood. And when workers are cutting up those trees, they are usually very happy to have you help them out by hauling off some of the debris. That's how we got the logs for the base of our hügelkulture.

Herb mound hugel 2

We took some of the logs and arranged them in a circle with the diameter we wanted for the mound.

Herb mound hugel 3

Then we buried them and placed more logs on top. Repeat this process until you have a mound - easy peasy!

IMG_1248

Once we had the mound shape, we covered it in cardboard, a layer of mulch, and planted herb starts.  As I said, they did pretty well. But in theory each year that goes by, they should do better and better. The buried logs will decay and provide nutrients to the planted herbs. The first year the logs barely had time to start the decay process so the herbs were more or less relying on the soil covering. After this winter, the logs should be breaking down nicely, and I hope we will see a much more robust hügelkultur herb mound next spring and summer.

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Free Food from Your Yard: Mushrooms!

Reddening lepiota

By Lisa Brunette

One of the benefits of removing the turf grass in our entire backyard - which constitutes the majority of the 1/4-acre plot - is that we have a lovely carpet of native violets growing over most of it. I've raved about viola sororia previously on the blog, and the best part is that the violets arrived of their own volition, free of charge. With them, came edible mushrooms.

Pictured above is Lepiota americana, AKA 'reddening lepiota.' This gilled cap mushroom seems to be a natural companion to the violets, as all spring and summer, we found them growing in clusters nestled under and amidst the violet leaves.

We'd first noticed reddening lepiota last year, but we didn't know they were edible and thought better than to try eating them without more information. I included them in this Q&A with wildlife biologist/author Ellen King Rice - you can see how the cluster dwarfs Anthony's hand in a photo about half-way down. That convo with Ellen was a great start in getting the info we needed, as it put me in the mindset to purchase a Missouri-specific wild mushroom ID guide, to which I gave two thumb's up in a followup post. This is it in case you want to rush right over to the MDC Store and buy one right now.

Mushroom ID guide

And you should, if you live in Missouri or plan to visit and do a little foraging while you're here. If you're one of our readers from the East or West Coasts, you're better off with a regional specific guide for your area. 

Note we don't receive anything in exchange for this endorsement of this MDC publication. All of our props, kudos, and reviews are 100 percent objective, with no sponsorships or payments made in exchange for sharing our opinion. You're welcome!

So now we know with complete certainty that the mushroom pictured above is a) Lepiota americana and b) safe to eat. We've dined on them all spring and summer, and THEY ARE DELICIOUS. Let me tell you, there's nothing that makes you feel like you've got this whole survival thing down better than foraging in your own backyard. But we didn't go about this cavalierly. Let me walk you through the rather robust process.

Step 1: Try an ID App

Early on, I posted some photos of the mushroom in question to iNaturalist and got a positive ID for Reddening lepiota. I love iNaturalist and use it pretty much weekly to ID flora and fauna (177 observations, and counting!). It's also our main tool for the Shutterbee study. But I didn't stop at iNaturalist. That would have been dangerous, as the app has limitations and can give you a false result.

Step 2: Consult a Guide Book

Next, I went to the guide book to see what it could tell me about reddening lepiota. According to author Maxine Stone, it's edible, but she recommended exercising some caution, as it can easily be confused with a lookalike known as green-spored lepiota, which is poisonous.

Whoa, right? Nature doesn't mess around. Two mushrooms, similar in appearance, growing in the same part of the world, one is safe (and tasty), but the other is poisonous - not enough to kill you, but it will make you super sick. Stone points out two areas of differentiation between them: 1) Reddening lepiota bruises red and 2) it leaves a white spore print. Which brings me to step 3.

Step 3: Take a Spore Print

I know this sounds all science-y, something only botanists should do, but taking a spore print turns out to be easy like a summer breeze. All you do is separate the cap from the stem and turn the cap gills-down onto a piece of paper or other surface the spores can 'print.' Then you wait for the spores to drop - this can take anywhere from a few hours to 24. Since reddening lepiota prints white, Stone recommends black construction paper. Luckily, we have a black cutting board that works perfectly.

Spore print

Isn't that amazing? Some people turn mushroom spore prints into art, and you can see why. 

Step 4: Ask an Expert

The print supports with clearly white spores that the mushroom is likely Lepiota americana. At this point, I had 3 sources: iNaturalist, the Missouri's Wild Mushrooms guide, and the spore print. But since eating mushrooms from the wild, or in this case, the wild out your back door, carries a certain amount of inherent risk, Stone recommends reaching out to an expert, too, for an ID confirmation. So I did what she suggested and found our local mycological society, which brought me to an expert... named Maxine Stone, the author of the guide.

She was really lovely, responding right away, with a 'likely' confirmation on my reddening lepiota ID, with the caveat that she couldn't make a 100 percent positive ID in person due to the coronavirus lockdown. But at this point, Anthony and I felt we'd covered the bases pretty well.

Step 5: Try a Small Sample

We ate just one or two bites at first, waiting 24 hours to see if we suffered any ill effects; there were none, so after that it was mushroom on the menu.

Funny thing: Stone's book lists edibility on a four-point scale, with "choice" being highest. Lepiota americana is noted as two stars, or "good." This was our first foray into eating anything other than grocery store mushrooms, and we thought we'd died and gone to heaven. The taste is unlike anything we've had before, with a meaty, musky richness that explodes on your tongue. We can't wait to get our hands on one of those 'choice' mushrooms...

We simply sauté them in butter in a cast iron skillet. They redden similarly to portobello mushrooms (another ID confirmation) but have more flavor, in our opinion.

Sauteed mushrooms

So there you have it: Free food from the yard, as a result of getting rid of our lawn. These just didn't appear when we had nothing but grass.

Please note that you should follow all five steps above and exercise extreme caution if you attempt to eat mushrooms found anywhere outside. We continue to take spore prints of EVERY HARVEST on that black cutting board, just to make sure we don't inadvertently pick up a poisonous green-spored mushroom instead. We can gather a crop in the morning and have spore prints by lunchtime.

Mushroom haul

Best of luck with your own foraging forays, whether out your back door or in the wild. Be safe, be smart, and stay curious, my peoples!

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We might be a little obsessed with this topic. Look! It's a whole category.