Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Dear friends,

Since I posted the cover of my new novella, things have changed a bit. I did a re-design ('cause I can!) and came up with something different. Since the whole point of the story is about natural dyeing with plants (and not just indigo), I decided to use one of my favorite photos on the front. Yes, those of you who have my little herb cookbooklet will notice it's the same photo, only Photoshopped to change the colors. :-)

I'm happy to be able to "meld" or merge my two interests, finally! This new novella features Kendra Louise Harper, a Texas folklorist who studies the lore and legends of Texas, including the use of dye plants! My "Aunt Jewel" character, featured in several of my "Nameless, Texas" short stories (available individually on Amazon), is an avid (obsessed) gardener with a vintage house and huge old-fashioned garden. Sound familiar? :-)

Kendra has an interesting array of quirky friends who are into things like bookselling, quiltmaking and other fiber arts,  theatre, etc.

The book will be out mid-August, and I'll post the purchase link here then.

Until then,

Keep on diggin' and plantin'!

bobbi c.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

New garden/fiber mystery coming in August--DYE, DYEING, DEAD

Dear friends,

Here is where I mix my "real" life and my professional life. The reason I haven't posted many pics of the house/garden recently is that I've been busy finishing the (hopefully) final version of my new novella---DYE, DYEING, DEAD.

This is actually a story I started eons ago and put aside for other projects. It's morphed into something similar, yet different, over the years. The main protagonist, Kendra Louise Harper, who is also featured in some of my other "Nameless, Texas" short stories, is a folklorist who researches and writes about Texas lore, legends and folklore.

In this story, she's helping her Aunt Jewel with an indigo dyeing workshop. In the past, I've designed and grown natural plant dye gardens, gave many how-to workshops and wrote several non-fiction books on the subject---Colors from Nature (published by Storey but now OOP) and Nature's Dyepot (published by Fiberworks Publications in Austin but now also OOP) under the name Bobbi A. McRae.

Once I decided that Kendra would be a folklorist (or she decided LOL), who lives with her Aunt Jewel, an avid gardener who gives garden workshops, it made sense to me to start off with this story.

Projected publication date is August, and I'll announce when it's available. It will be an e-book and perhaps even a paperbook.

Until then, happy trails!

bobbi c.

Monday, May 26, 2014

New use for vintage tub, progress on house and other bits-n-bobs

Dear friends,

After pondering The Great Tub Project, going back and forth on the whole "sell it" or "give it away" or "recycle it" or USE it, I found that it's much easier to USE it.  Who knew it would be so hard to sell a vintage Kohler 1930 tub?  Anyway, once I decided to keep it, the next issue was where to put it and how to support it.

The tub is in really good shape, very little rust, no rust holes, so I didn't want it to just sit on the ground.  I want this sucker to last a while.   After looking into several ideas, finding a welder to make a wrought iron stand (it could possibly stretch or rust out before the tub does), making a galvanized pipe stand (which I loved but would be a lot of labor for ME), I decided to use what I had laying around and make it work---cement pavers with cement blocks.

Using a series of cut-off PVC pipes, boards and a lot of muscles, Rudy (mostly) and I finally got it into place. It was actually a bit easier than I thought it would be. Yes, it's VERY heavy--cast iron covered with porcelain, ya know.

Rudy used his heavy-duty drill and a lot of manpower to drill a series of drainage holes in the bottom.  The original drain is also there at the left-hand end, to provide additional drainage.  I'll put a little screen over it to keep the snails out.  Hopefully.

Another issue I had was -- where to put the thing.  After a lot of pondering, I decided to put it in an under-used corner of the garden, right beside the back/side entrance gate.  That's where most folks show up, anyway.  It's behind bushes, so doesn't look like a dumping ground from the street and we can see it from the patio.  The plan is to sand it a bit, put a color wash on it (not sure what color yet although I do have some other blue planters in the garden here and there) then put a series of plants in galvanized buckets around the front edge to help hide the blocks.

My next job will involve the painting, filling it up with something in the bottom so it doesn't take as much soil, getting the soil, deciding on what to plant (the FUN part), and actually doing it.  I know it will be a combo of herbs, maybe a tomato or pepper plant or two, and some trailing, dangling things to spill over the edges.  And some decorative doo-dads.  Now that it's in place, though, I can take my time with the rest.  Although, I'm very ANXIOUS to get 'er done.  You know how that is, I'm sure.

As for the rest of the house, well, ahem.  We are still working on the ancient plumbing, and I believe this is the last Big Thing we'll have to do where that's concerned.


Yes, my side yard is a shambles now.  But our wonderful superman plumber, Wayne Ging, was very careful not to take out any of the trees or bushes.  We only had to dig up one small lantana and move it.  Now I have to decide what to do with this area. Before the weeds and such see all that bare dirt.

There's an equally bare area in the back yard that was dug by hand by Wayne's assistant (bless you, Rick)!

 AND for those of you who have been chomping at the bit to know what I did with the front porch, here ya are.  Cheap, easy, and effective.  I might add a few hanging-thingies on the walls there, but for now, I'm calling it DONE. WHAT extra front door? :-)

 And wasn't that sweet of the salvia to start blooming just for the photos?

Oh, and for the plumbing geeks here, here's our new faucet, made of freeze-free PEX flexible pipe, insulated (stake to come). No longer will I have to go through the winter without garden water! It seems silly to be jazzed about faucets, but once you haul a 100-foot hose around for three years from ONE faucet, you appreciate having them here and there.  We added three new ones.  Woohoo, luxury!  LOL

 Next up---painting the north side of the house.

Happy trails!

bobbi c.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

In honor of Earth Day---our "recycled" house!

 Just a few in progress photos.  Other than a bit of touch-up and cleaning, the front is DONE!

On this one, you can really see the BEFORE and AFTER
Unfortunately, the white downspout (to be painted) and the strange green rosebush hide the awning from the front.  Time to give that rose a trim!

Awning before.  They just don't make them this well anymore!
Time to let Husband rest for a few days. :-)   Onward to the south side!

Happy trails,

bobbi c.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Getting there! More in-progress photos of painted cottage . . .

Just wanted to post a few more "in progress" photos of the house and garden.  Husband just finished up painting the front of the house (YAY!) although I don't have all the photos  yet because the scaffolding, etc. is still up and I need to wait til it's down.

We also had another huge repair to do---crumbling City of Taylor sewer lines have to be replaced and we had to pay the city to install a tap into their main line---something they should have required homeowners to do when they completely re-did the streets back in 2006, but didn't. Now anytime these old pipes have to be re-routed (and most of them will have to be sooner or later), they'll have to dig up the street-AGAIN.  Sigh.

When I write my book on how to buy an old house (and what NOT to do), there will be extensive issues about old plumbing in it---believe me! :-)

So, here they are, working hard at it:

Bright and early, at 7 am

The very efficient City of Taylor crew--got the job done fast

Now, house pics!

Almost finished---still needs more green on the window sashes and the front screen door re-do

LOVE that little attic window!
 It never occurred to me that Victorian houses are painted the way they are to show off every little bit of architectural detail.  So when I read that, I decided to do the same thing with this 1930s jewel.  In the original photos, you barely even notice the little attic window.  Using the two colors on it, and the third (brown) color for the brackets, really shows it off.

And while Husband was hard at work finishing up the front, I was in the back working on a "little" project---scraping and sanding the old paint from the original wooden awning that will go over the left-most windows on the front.

That's a lot of scraping and sanding!

More pics, added later:

Here's the amazing custom light fixture my sister and brother-in-law made for us.  LOVE it there over the front porch!

And here are a few pics from the garden, taken right before the April cold front and wind storm/hail came through:

Coral honeysuckle, hummingbird magnet grows on a re-purposed clothesline pole.  Wrought iron from the old greenhouse shed decorates one side of it.

Perennial onions are blooming, and are always a delight to bees, butterflies and people!

And the back porch garden. . .

And just for grins, another look at the BEFORE:

Happy trails from Texas!  Come on, spring!

bobbi c.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Love that yellow!

Spring has sprung here at the cottage and Husband Rudy has been as busy as the Easter bunny!

I must say I'm having a very hard time concentrating on my current novel work-in-progress, the handful of short stories I'm trying to finish up for a new collection hopefully coming out in the fall, and my own garden.

I think the house is breathing a sigh of relief, too. :-)  It's been white since who-knows-when.

Here's the BEFORE photo.  1950s aluminum siding, chalky, flaking paint, two front doors, one leading into the bedroom.  UGH.

Yesterday, three years later.  Primed and ready for color!

More later!

Happy trails,

bobbi c.

Friday, March 28, 2014

One step forward, two steps back. . .

Or maybe that should be TEN steps back.  Although the front of the house is ready for primer and Husband has done magic with hiding where the former second front door used to be (YAY!), other things have slowed down.

It's the amazing disappearing front door!
Since I last wrote, we've had a "spot of bother" as my Brit friends say.  First, during my garden shed re-do, I somehow managed to rip some of my organs and/or perhaps set some kidney stones loose.  The doctors are indecisive.  They suggested aspirin and rest. Riiiiight. 

I'm not sure HOW it happened, but if I had to guess, I'd say it had something to do with the behemoth clawfoot tub, antique wood doors that weigh 50-lbs. each, and my mule-headedness about not bothering Husband when trying to move them around. Yep, that could do it.

Gee, that thing can't be THAT heavy, can it?  I'll just give it a shove and get it outside!
So that project is temporarily on hold while my innards heal.  Hopefully.  Stay tuned, because there's more. . .

 I walked into the shed last week and the STANK  knocked me over.  We've had issues out there before with the ancient plumbing and the fact that some unnamed agent sold the place as a two-bathroom dwelling with nothing more than an toilet and a big hole in the floor out in the cottage.  The problem with cement slabs is that you have no clue what's under them. Surprise, surprise! as Gome would say. 

So.  Long story short.  Crumbling clay pipes.  Sewage from the Big House that flows downhill.  Underneath the cottage.  $1,000 to tap into the city sewer at the street.  Many bijillions of dollars more to get the pipes from the house to the street.

Not to mention the Likely Demolishment of the Garden.

So, maybe it's time to re-assess what I was going to do this spring, and concentrate on plants in pots out back where I KNOW they won't be digging.  Or I hope they don't be digging.  Maybe I'll get more writing done?  I'm a "glass-half-full-of-tequila" kinda gal.

But, if I EVER again speak the words "I want a house nobody else wants," just shoot me, 'K?

Happy trails from Texas!

bobbi c.