You know what a bummer it is when you find something you really like only to discover you really don't want to spend that much money on it? That sort of sums up my search for lights in the basement, which, as you may recall, we are trying to do on a tight budget. At one point during my search for lights, which was all over the place as I couldn't decide what kind of "feel" I wanted down there, I found a simple but sharp industrial style light that I kept coming back to. At $130 plus shipping, it would have been in the budget had I only needed one, but it was a no-go when I needed three.

At some point during the process of falling in love with this light, I posted a picture of it on Instagram, to which my friend Eric from Gardenfork replied, "You know you can make that, right?" So I watched Eric's video on making an industrial pendant light and set to work sourcing the parts.

My Instagram post showing the $130 inspiration light that I recreated for $60. 

I had a sneaking suspicion that it probably wasn't that hard to make some light fixtures, but my concern was knowing what parts I needed. And since I would have to order most of them online, I didn't want to end up in a situation where I'd order things I didn't need or fail to order something important. Eric's video helped with that part and then I went to the Gardenfork Facebook discussion group (a group hosted by Eric for discussing DIY projects, gardening stuff, and tons more), posted the list of the parts I was planning to buy and asked someone who had a clue to check my list to make sure I had everything. Eric was nice enough to reply and I had to swap out one item, but from there it was off to the races. In the end, I was able to recreate the inspiration light for less than half the price!

The parts you need to make this light, clockwise from the left: Metal shade, brass shade fitter/clamp, nut, electrical wire, ceiling canopy, porcelain socket, threaded nipple. 

Here are the parts I ordered (links take you to where I ordered them from but there are lots of places to order these things from):

You can absolutely pick up the wire at at the hardware store but I threw it in the cart as long as I was ordering.

Other parts:
  • Threaded hollow nipple. We reused the ones from the old lights but we could have purchased them for 38 cents. 
  • A nut that fits that nipple (purchased locally)
  • A canopy "kit" if necessary. This includes the metal piece that stretches across the hole in the ceiling where the electrical comes out (maybe this is called a junction box, but the fact that I made these lights with no concept of what these parts are called ought to reassure you that you can do this) and bolts to screw into. Again, we were able to reuse the old parts from the previous fixtures. 
Onto the assembly. This is the part where I should warn you that electricity is dangerous, etc. but you already know that and, frankly, I made it through this alive so you probably will too. (I'm kidding. You will.*)
This is the bottom of the socket where the light bulb screws in. The only thing you need to worry about on this end is loosening the screws to allow the cap of the 

Start by unscrewing the cap from the socket. There are a bunch of screws in there so make sure to only unscrew the ones holding the cap on. 

Then use a wire strippers to take off about 1/4-inch of the plastic covering from the end of the hot (black) and neutral (white) wires and about a half-inch off the ground (green) wire.

Next, you have to attach the hot and neutral wires. Start by twisting the exposed ends of the wire and bending it into a 90-degree angle (just to make it easier to fit in the space. When you look in the socket, there will be a screw on either side of the green screw. Each is backed by a small plate, one in silver, one in brass. Attach light to light and dark to dark, so the black wire goes to the screw on with the brass plate and the white wire goes to the screw with the silver plate (it's hard to see in these photos but when you have the socket in front of you it's obvious). Unscrew the screw a few turns, slip the exposed wire under it and tighten. When you think it's snug, give it a little tug to make sure it's really in there. Do this for both wires.

Next, wrap the green ground wire around the green screw in the same fashion. This screw is larger, so you can make a hook with the wire and sort of wrap it around the screw before tightening.

Thread the nipple into the cap of the socket, tighten the set screw on the cap and feed your wires through it, working the cap down.

This next bit takes a little doing because there are a lot of wires to jam in that tiny socket, but work them down as best you can, then tighten the screws that hold the cap on firmly. 

When it's on it should look like this:

Now take a deep breath because you've done the hard bit. Next you want to feed the wires through the canopy and push the nipple through the hole (there will be no snickering, thank you very much).

Use a nut to secure the canopy tight to the socket.

Then attach the shade holder to the shade. It just slips on and you tighten the screws. Slide the socket in the top and tighten the top clamp screw to secure it. We actually did this after we wired the lights to the ceiling as it was easier to attach everything without the shade on. 

 Then wire it to the existing electrical box like you would any other light. Mount the canopy onto the metal holder on the junction box to secure the light to the ceiling.

And that's it ... a light that, as far as I can tell, is identical to one you can buy, except mine cost $60 and the inspiration light was $130.

Here's the inspiration:

 And here's mine:

* But if you don't, don't blame me.


It is a gorgeous day in Wisconsin. The sun is shining, the high temperature may break a record and I have completely mixed feelings about that. Don't get me wrong, I love an easy winter. But I love it during winter. There are consequences though. Last year I had Japanese beetles in my garden for the first time ever, probably caused by a mild winter and spring. Plants can handle a pretty wide range of temperature fluctuations, but extended periods of weather in the 50s in mid-February in what is supposed to be zone 5 can cause problems. And I worry about the broader implications that go beyond my garden.

As part of the basement project, we've been paring down our STUFF. I recently sold a set of dining chairs that I loved very much but needed some work that I've not had the time to get to for years. We have big dinners a couple times a year so we need chairs, but these were huge and unwieldy to store. I'm on the hunt for comfortable folding or stackable chairs at a good price to replace the set we just sold, so if time allows I'm going to head to the Restoration Hardware outlet where everything is an additional 40% off this weekend and see if they have something that might fit the bill. I was thinking about these cafe-type chairs, but only if they can be stacked.

Loi's Tudor house is for sale. What a dream this house would be if you wanted a place that was completely finished and ready to just move in and live.

Erin at Floret is running a series on garden planning this week. She approaches it from the flower farm perspective but her method can certainly be scaled back to apply to home gardeners. Her first book is coming out in a couple weeks and I'll be doing a review of it, so stay tuned.

I wouldn't say there's much that's earth-shattering in this list of ways to design a beautiful edible garden, but those oak wine barrels are phenomenal.

The latest Anthropologie catalog was shot at the Gianetti's Patina Farm. It's crazy because I saw the catalog and the setting was vaguely familiar but I didn't recognize their house at all with such different furnishings in it. I gotta say ... I like the "real" way better.

And lastly, I had intended to get this how-to post up this week but ran short on time so next week. But I still have to give you a preview because ....


Can you tell I'm just a little proud of myself? Tutorial on the way, I promise. Also, that's the new basement wall and ceiling color in that photo too. Just a tad better than raspberry and baby blue, right? Remember how that looked?

Eek ... it's so bad, especially with the pink floors! All we've really done down there so far is paint and do the lights and it's already about 98% better.

If you're craving the sun, be sure to follow me on Instagram as there is certain to be a beach photo or two popping up there next week. I'm headed south for a quick jolt of Vitamin D and a little break from the daily grind. I'm more than a little excited.  Have a great weekend!


So this is in my fridge. In case you can't tell what that is, it's a 5.5-pound bag of slightly moldy-looking sawdust. Makes it all clear, right?

That's a bag of mushroom spawn in my fridge, complete with the directions on top of it because if I don't keep them in there I'm sure to lose them.

It's actually a bag of wine cap mushroom (Stropharia) spawn mixed with sawdust that I picked up over the weekend at the Wisconsin Garden Expo. A few weeks ago, on a dark winter weekend, I somewhat randomly decided that I'm going to grow mushrooms this year.

My interest in mushrooms actually started last spring when I was chatting with garden blogger friend Kenny Point from Veggie Gardening Tips as we passed the time waiting for our flights at the airport. Kenny loves to grow things just for the challenge of growing something different (he also got me hooked on growing culinary ginger and turmeric) and told me that I was crazy not to give mushroom growing a try because, he said, some varieties are dead simple to grow.

Later that spring I went to a talk on growing mushrooms, but that one was centered mostly on using inoculated wood plugs to "seed" logs and seemed to require a fair amount of waiting, something we all know I'm no good at (see name of blog), but I kept remembering that there was a variety Kenny told me was very simple to try. I recalled that a few weekends ago and decided I would officially give wine caps a try.

Here's why I picked that variety:

  1. They can be grown in wood chips or straw.
  2. If I plant them in spring I should have mushrooms by August.
  3. The mushrooms are unique looking so even I should be able to identify them and not kill myself.
That last one sounds like a joke, but it's not. We have a pretty wooded lot and there are lots of mushrooms around. Some, I'm sure, are edible, but there are plenty that are absolutely not. I'm no mycologist, so I don't play around with taste testing things that might make me die. But wine caps are beautiful mushrooms with a lovely merlot-colored cap and gray gills that don't even look remotely like anything I've seen growing here. So I should be able to recognize them and be safe eating them.

Field and Forest photo

I bought the spawn—enough to cover a 50-square-foot bed—from Field and Forest Products, a mushroom supplier in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, and found the staff to be just full of knowledge and more than happy to share. 

I'm still researching the more specific aspects of creating my wine cap bed, but I know where it's going to go: Behind the three big virburnums at the back of the garden in the back/side garden that help block our neighbor's house. That area gets filtered light in the morning and late in the day and does a great job growing creeping Charlie, which the folks at Field and Forest said is a good indication that the mushrooms will do well there. I'll lay down a three-inch bed of well moistened hardwood chips, spread the sawdust/spawn mixture over them and top it with wet straw. Then all I have to do is keep the bed moist but not wet this summer. 

So this will be my big gardening experiment for the summer. Of course I'll take you along on the journey. And don't worry ... I'll do all the taste testing. 


Although it was a major topic in fall, I've not said much about the circle garden lately. To catch you up to speed here's the deal with the circle garden, which is not at all a circle, but "oval garden" is not the least bit catchy. When we bought our house it was a derelict vegetable garden that was mostly weeds with a few random shrubs thrown in. I dug it up, put in a poorly designed garden and as my love for it waned, it got worse each year. It lacked focus and was trying too hard to be all things in a very small garden. 

It was a visit from my garden blog friend Linda from Each Little World that spurred me to action. She mentioned that she noticed that at the time she visited (early July) there were many shades of green in my garden, but not a lot of other colors. And she was right. So I worked to come up with a way to really have a blow out of color that was still structured. 

The oval garden is a departure from the rest of my garden. Now redesigned with straight paths in an X pattern, it is far more formal in a structural sense than any other place in the garden. It is divided from other gardens by floating in the lawn near the front door, but it can't feel like a foreign place.

So the goal in designing this garden was to be a departure from the rest of the yard while not looking out of place. That's a tall order. And the only way to do that was by having a combination of informal plants in the confines of a formal design. Like all gardens, I fully expect this garden to be a work in progress and I think this first year will be largely experimental. I'm sure there will be things that work better than others. Perhaps the whole concept will be a flop. But hopefully it will be a riotous entry to the yard.

Four paths (created laboriously by me in fall) lead to a center circle and create four sections. Each section will have a small boxwood ball in the center and have three segments that radiate out from it. Each segment will be planted with a single plant. Deciding what should go in each segment was a bit like a Sudoku puzzle. I wanted each section to have a seasonal flowering aspect (such as a flowering perennial or shrub), a foliage element for texture and a flowering annual that should bloom all summer. I wanted a combination of warm and cool colors and I wanted some serious play on texture. And each segment had to play well with the segment next to it and across from it to balance the garden. Complicating the matter is the fact that although this is a smaller garden—about 30 feet long—because of the large trees that line our driveway, part of it is part sun to part shade and the other part is full sun.

There is a budget for this project. Not a specific budget, but I can't run out and buy all new plants just for this. So some of the plants need to be divisions from elsewhere in the garden or grown from seed to make it reasonable. 

So here's what I came up with. What you don't see in the diagram is the chive hedge, saved from the previous design of this garden. Each segment will be "outlined" in chives. Although there is no repetition in the plants save for the uniting ties of the boxwood balls and the chive hedges, I'm hoping repetition will come in the form of texture and color rather than actual plants. 

Moving clockwise, starting at 12 o'clock, here's what will be in each segment:

  • 'Bobo' hydrangea: I've been hoping to work this diminutive hydrangea into my garden for a few years and I think this is the perfect opportunity. Its fluffy flowers will contrast well with the rest of the plants plants for this segment.
  • Hakenochloa 'All Gold': This is certainly one of my favorite plants and I'm happy that it likes my yard. When I redesigned the back/side yard a few years ago I used 'All Gold' divisions from another garden there. Now those division have grown enough that I can divide them to fill this bit for free.
  • New Guinea Impatiens 'Orange'
  • Dahlia 'HS Flame': I'm a sucker for dahlias with dark foliage and I love the simplicity of a single flower. I chose this one to balance out the pinks from the bottom of the garden. It's also a short dahlia so I shouldn't have to worry about staking it.
  • Lady's mantle (Alchemilla mollis): This is probably my No. 1 go-to plant in my garden because it so good both as a foliage plant and as a long-bloomer with chartreuse flowers. It also divides easily so I'll have no problem finding plants for this section.
  • Verbena bonareinsis 'Meteor Shower': I grew this for the first time last year and I'm head over heels in love with it. It grown much shorter than your usual verbena—more like 2 feet instead of 4 or 5 feet—and blooms absolutely nonstop. 

  • 'The Alnwick Rose': Ordered from David Austin roses.
  • Rhubarb: I relocated two rhubarb plants from the old garden and I hope to get several more crowns from my grandmother's garden. I love it for its huge leaves but obviously also for eating. It will take a bit to establish this section so I don't anticipate this part looking great this year.
  • A white annual: I've shown a low-growing nicotiana here, but I may use a Profusion zinnia or something else. 

  • Dahlia 'Serkan': This is another low grower so I hope to not have to stake it. I love the waterlily-type dahlias and I think the relatively simple form of this flower will contrast well with the multi-petaled rose in the segment next to it.
  • Egyptian walking onion: I think this plant is one of the most interesting forms there is. I dug out and potted up several of them from the garden last fall and I'm hoping they'll overwinter well. This is a rather experimental choice, but if it works, I think it could be stunning.
  • Signet marigold 'Lemon Gem': This is one of my must-have flowers that I grow from seed. It blooms like crazy, smells delicious and has the most lovely small textured leaves and flowers. The flowers are edible as well.

Other plants that will play a role in the garden are the two clematis in the center circle—'Venosa Violacea', planted last year and 'Avant Garde', which I randomly ordered Sunday morning after seeing a photo of it. Around the outside of the inner circle, I'm envisioning a ring of lime thyme, which is a lovely groundcover that looks better than it tastes, in my experience. And then I'd need a more upright but still low annual inside of that to hide the ankles of the clematis. Of course, the chives (upper right corner) are a factor and I think I'll probably go with 'Green Gem' boxwood for the centers of each section.