How about this weather, Midwest? It’s been gorgeous, although the drought has put a damper on things a bit (fortunately it gave us a nice big storm today). Our garden has been soaking up the summer sun and giving us outrageous amounts of zucchini, a few handfuls of edamame, a nice crop of watermelon radishes, countless herbs, and around 20 not-yet-ripe-but-starting-to-look-delicious tomatoes.

Top row: massive zucchini plants, mystery squash vine, vinca, catnip; middle row: Japanese eggplant , bell pepper, Chioggia beet seedling, Abe Lincoln tomato; bottom row: a baby zucchini, basil/sage, petunias.

Between the garden’s generous production and our Bounty Box subscription (a local grocer, the Root Cellar, provides us with a big box of local and seasonal produce every week), we haven’t needed much else in the way of veggies. Particularly in the salad green department, as the Bounty Box is never, ever short on those. (Salad has actually become something of a running joke in our house, because we have greens stuffed into every possible crevice of our fridge.)

Since we haven’t needed to grow our own greens, our salad box has been sitting empty since winter.

Last year, in an effort to make the most of our limited space, we built this box on our screened-in porch. It’s a simple affair, just an 18×24″ rectangle built from 2x8s, deck screws, and plywood for the bottom (with ample drainage holes). We marked it into a grid with string, filled it with good soil, and planted arugula, chard, spinach, and mizuna (all greens that wouldn’t need to be pollinated and so wouldn’t suffer from the lack of insects inside the screen).

We left it alone until Memorial Day weekend, not sure what to plant in it (neither of us could stomach the thought of even more greens). As I sat outside drinking a mojito and contemplating it, our cat, Mitzy, wandered out onto the porch. She’s a strictly indoor cat who has come to love the porch; we love that she can’t wander off and get into trouble. During the summer she’s known to spend her entire day out here, talking to the neighborhood animals and sunning herself, and as I watched her settle herself onto the scratchy Astroturf I had an idea. I would build her an outdoor cat lounge, complete with bed, cat-friendly plants, and a little path to enjoy them.

I broke out an old quart of white paint we had lying around from the desk construction project and, after cleaning it thoroughly, tossed two coats on the wood:

I stuck pieces of kraft paper left over from our Christmas wrapping under the edges so it wouldn’t stain the hideous green outdoor carpet I’d love to remove. It was already looking nicer; I wondered why we didn’t take the time to paint it last year. Then, I ran off to Jo-Ann while it dried, and procured a yard of really cute outdoor canvas on sale for 50% off, making it only $10. Score! My only criteria were that it came in a cute pattern, and that it either contained or coordinated with Astroturf green (part of my neverending quest to make the awful green look intentional).

I happened to have a piece of wood in just the right size left over from a recent project, as well as some high-density foam and Dacron, so I whipped out the staple gun and went to town. Please ignore my really dirty TOMS in the corner:

The holes in the wood and divots in the foam are so that I can tuft it later. There are a zillion upholstery tutorials out there, and the technique is similar to my dining room chairs, so I won’t go into a ton of detail here. But it didn’t take long at all (and would’ve been a ten-minute process had my staple gun not jammed up twice).

Here’s the part where I get excited and forget to take pictures of the installation process, but it was really simple. I cut a little 3″ project board to the same length as the right edge of the bed, then attached it to the bottom with small L-brackets. This was so I wouldn’t have to fill in the space under the bed with potting soil (good dirt is surprisingly expensive!). Then I just used larger L-brackets to support the weight of bed and cat. It sounds complicated, but took five minutes with a power drill.

After that, I took a quick jaunt to my local Ace Hardware and snagged some plants, also 50% off for memorial day. I got two tall grasses for her to peek out from behind (she likes to pretend she’s “wild”); two good-sized catnip plants, for obvious reasons; a big fuzzy lamb’s ear, which she likes to rub her face on; and a mint plant, so I can continue to make mojitos and have great ideas. With the sale, I managed to score all those for just $15. I also picked up five tumbled, smooth-cornered pavers for 75 cents each, bringing the total cost of this project to a whopping $29.50. Are you ready for the finished product?

Not too shabby, eh? We love that it perks up the somewhat neglected outdoor space and makes it look cared-for and intentional. And Mitz…well, see for yourself.

This is a cat who, upon discovering that I’ve bought or made her something, promptly ignores it until I give it away. So you can imagine how floored I was to see that she loves it. Her new morning routine is to howl until I let her outside and fill up her bowl with cold water; then I have to chase her inside after dinner at night. She spends every waking moment out there, and literally only comes in to eat and use the litterbox. She loves to peek out of the grasses and rub on the other plants; I love that my elderly little friend no longer has to rest her achy bones on the hard, scratchy ground.

Everything looks better in a montage. This is the sort of project I love: easy, inexpensive, fast, comes together just as I had hoped, and the rewards heavily outweigh the effort expended.

You might have noticed the telltale wheel poking into the corner of an earlier photo. What was that wheel attached to, you might ask?

Meet Liza! I’ve always, always wanted a retro Schwinn cruiser bike, and now I’ve achieved that dream. It took me a little while to save up, but she’ll save me a lot of gas money in the long run, since I can ride her to the grocery store and to the post office to ship my packages. To facilitate those purposes, I wasted no time in building a pretty porter crate to attach to her back.

I even put my name on it in gold leaf, because I’m a narcissist. I foresee many miles of adventures together. But I digress. What have you been up to this summer? Any projects for your furry friends?