Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Entrance Courtyard of Villa del Vigneto

At last! I have found a name for my Tuscan villa-fattoria. I was reviewing some photographs of a table setting that I assembled for a dinner party last spring, and suddenly all those grapes and vines made a clamorous bid for attention. I realized that I had overlooked the obvious; the villa has a grape motif on the living room fireplace, and there's a grapevine fresco on the dining room wall. A grape arbor shades the loggia, although at present the arbor is invisible except in my mind's eye. In the natural order of things, it seemed only fitting that the Villa del Vigneto, the villa of the vineyard, should be the official name of this farmhouse-turned-country retreat. So thus it is. 

During all the days of August, I've accomplished only two things on the villa: I did some simulated "repair" work on the exterior stucco walls, and I made a stone path from the front entrance gate to the front door. This is, as a result, my briefest blogpost ever. Possibly in September, our kitchen remodeling will be Finally Finished, I'll reclaim my garage work space, and I can begin work on the second level of the villa. (If I can remember what I'm supposed to be doing!)

In one of my storage bins, I found these rectangles made from Sculpey for some abandoned project and decided that I could use them for the border stones in the courtyard pathway. I cut the rectangles into individual stones.

I experimented with several stone patterns for the pathway. You can see some of the repair work that I made on the stucco walls. The pedestals and the birdbath shown here will probably not be used in the finished courtyard.

When I knew that the border stones would work to outline the courtyard path, I applied some joint compound to make the pieces look more stone-like.

The white border stones are ready to paint with a darker finish. The cork coasters, prepared with joint compound and various paint colors, will be cut into rough squares and rectangles and used for the flat stones on the courtyard path.

The white Sculpey border stones have been painted to resemble real stones.

I practiced laying the square and rectangular flat stones so that I could get a sense of how they would fit together. It was necessary to cut some of them to fit in awkward spaces.

The border stones have been laid and glued down in my chosen pattern. I started laying the flat stones from the entrance gate forward to the front door, using Elmer's glue lavishly.

Laying and glueing more flat stones, working around the circle.

The stone path is in place.

I used a sponge brush and eye shadow to darken and age the stones.

Using a toothpick, I applied glue in some of the cracks between stones, then spread model railroad landscaping material, "coarse turf," liberally over the glue. After patting the turf down firmly, I waited for the glue to dry.

When the glue had dried, I used a soft brush to sweep up the excess "moss" from the cracks and continued sweeping carefully until just the right amount of moss remained between the stones.

Finally, I aged the stones a bit more, using different paint colors.

More model railroad landscaping material, "fine gravel," was used for the courtyard. I spread a generous layer of glue onto the courtyard, then spread the gravel evenly and pressed it down firmly.

The courtyard is finished, and I have repainted the stucco "repairs" with the same color of paint that I originally used for the exterior walls. I have a vague plan to use other paint colors on the walls and simulate more repair work until I achieve the look of aged and layered stucco. (More experimentation!) 

I placed the remaining border stones along the right edge of the loggia to outline the trunks of the grape vines that will grow there, up and over the arbor, providing a pleasant, cool shade for dining al fresco.(You can see the vines if you close your eyes tightly and VISUALIZE, VISUALIZE, VISUALIZE.)

During a long lull in Project Kitchen, and to avoid the necessity of washing EVEN ONE MORE dish in the bathroom sink or making EVEN ONE MORE micro-wave meal, we escaped for ten days to Bison Hill, our Nebraska Sandhills home, which comes with a FULLY FUNCTIONAL kitchen!

From the east deck of Bison Hill, we watched the moon rise over the Calamus Reservoir.

And the moon was just setting in the west the next morning, almost in time for sunrise.

The cattle on the ranch to the west of Bison Hill show no interest in either the moon or the sun. Their 
only interest is the green, green grass of their Sandhills home.

May all your September days be good ones - from sunrise to sunset; from moonrise to moonset.