Friday, July 17, 2015

When Life Gives You Lemons

I've mentioned a few times on this blog that The Papered House has a slate roof. It's beautiful and historic, and tends to be very durable. Our roof is in pretty good shape, all things considered. But every once in a while, individual slate tiles become so weathered that they chip and fall off our roof. This is most common after particularly bad ice storms; the ice thaws and slides off the roof, taking small pieces of slate with it. When the ice and slate hit the ground, there is quite a ruckus. I'll tell you, seeing pieces of your roof on the ground, a good 30 feet from where they are supposed to be, is a pretty terrible feeling. We've been checking the attic for leaks after every storm, and, so far so good. We're also planning to have a roofer perform routine annual maintenance on our roof as a preventative measure. We have a plan to keep our slate roof in good repair. But still, seeing broken pieces of roofing material on the ground is an unsettling occurrence to say the least.

Throughout the winter, I gathered those slate scraps and stacked them into a pile. For some reason, I couldn't bring myself to throw them out. I kept thinking, "Suppose we could do something with all this slate. It'd be a waste to throw it out." So I collected little pieces of slate for several months. It's similar to my hoarding of "good" boxes. I will save any cardboard box that is particularly sturdy/well-proportioned/potentially useful, with a definitive proclamation that "This is a good box. We can do something with my box. We shouldn't get rid of this box." My husband doesn't like this tendency; his response is typically, "Yes. We can do something with that box. We can recycle it."

Anyway, back to these pieces of slate. I decided to give them new life as DIY garden markers. If that's not an overly-optimistic interpretation of the saying "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade" I'm not sure what is.

Repurposing these slate scraps into garden markers was simple. I just selected pieces of slates based on size and shape. Most of these range from the size of a playing card to the size of a checkbook. That's probably an antiquated description...does anyone even use playing cards or write checks these days? Anyway, that was the size I was going for. I cleaned them with mild dish soap to remove the dirt and grime. When they were fully dry, I just labeled them using a white paint pen. A chalk pen would have worked as well, but I didn't want to worry about the chalk rinsing off the first time I watered the plants. We already had other markers for several vegetables and herbs, so we used my DIY markers to fill in the gaps.

I considered writing a tutorial on these garden markers, but decided against it for a couple of reasons. First, these markers are so simple that I don't really think a tutorial is warranted. But more importantly, it would have been the least relevant tutorial ever. Can you imagine? "Step 1: Buy an old house with a slate roof. Step 2: wait for an ice storm. Step 3: Hoard materials that most people would consider trash." Not a helpful set of instructions, at all.

So, I'm not going to presume that everyone else has easy access to a historic slate roof. But if you do, or if you've got slate scraps lying around your house for some other reason, consider putting that old slate to use. Make the best of a less-than-ideal situation. In fact, some folks have made a business of selling reclaimed, repurposed slate. I suppose you could buy slate markers if you felt so inclined, though that's not really the point of this post.

I was pleased with how this easy DIY project turned out. The garden markers were very useful in the early days after the seedlings had sprouted, when we were having trouble remembering what we had planted and where we had planted it. The markers add fun visual interest as well. In particular, I was delighted to find I could select a self-referential slate shape for the Northeast natives markers. If you use your imagination -- and don't look too closely at a map -- the Northeast natives marker is sort of shaped like the State of New Jersey. That kind of thing makes me giddy. Ironically, the natives never bloomed. Aren't they supposed to thrive here?! No matter. We're ready for next year. Our native plants will have a dedicated marker whenever they decide to sprout.
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  1. These are too cute! I love love love the way you repurposed the slate from your roof! I can't even imagine that much snow. Hope your weekend has been a happy one. I'll share this on FB later today and I'm pinning as well :) CoCo

    1. Thank you, CoCo! We had quite a snowy, icy winter this year and I'm dreading the return of the colder weather in a few months. But in the meantime, I'm going to keep enjoying my garden markers. Thanks for sharing/pinning!

  2. I love these! What a great way to reuse the slate!