CALS turf sculpture morphs into cow (kind of)

sod cowBack in 2006, Cornell undergrad Danielle Hodgins created quite a stir at graduation by creating a larger-than-life cow sod sculpture outside of the animal science building. [Images | Cornell Chronicle article | .mov]

This year, Danielle graduated. But she had one more sod sculpture project in her before matriculation: She spelled out CALS (College of Agriculture and Life Sciences) on the ag quad, the center of many graduation-related events.

cals sod sculpture

It’s not easy keeping sod green when it’s installed on a wooden skeleton. As alumni weekend approached — two weeks after graduation — the call was made. It was time to pull the sculpture down before the alumni arrived on campus. It was just a little too brown.

But Danielle had another idea, probably inspired by her formative years growing up on a dairy farm. A little sports turf paint and she transformed the sculpture into a surreal Holstein theme.

cals sod sculpture

I’ll blog about the mural she painted in our hall someday soon.

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The secret to great leaf casts

marc's leaf cast
Castor bean leaf cast.

First I read an uninspiring article in the May/June Fine Gardening (Leaves that last forever).

Then there was Susan’s rant over at Garden Rant (“Quick and easy” concrete leaf castings? You’re kidding, right?) where she wrote: “I’ve produced more than a fool’s share of castings that break, and an even larger number that just look like crap.”

Well let me let you in on a little secret: Vinyl patio patch. You can find it wherever fine construction supplies are sold.

Yes, straight concrete is not strong enough to make delicate leaf casts. But the additives in patio patch make it easier to work with thin and are not nearly so prone to breaking after they are fully cured. If you get the mix at the correct consistency, you don’t get the oozing over the edges that Susan complains about. And what little does ooze over is not difficult to file off.

The patio patch tip came to me from my sister-in-laws boyfriend Marc. (Did I mention his wooden bowls and sculptures make great gifts, and you can order online?) He picked up the technique at an art show where he got to know a woman who makes these for a living. No way would she try to use straight concrete for such a project.

marc's leaf cast

Granted, Marc’s pieces here show his knack for working in three dimensions. My attempts aren’t nearly as good. (Sorry, no pictures handy. Look for a very serviceable bird bath in the yard now from an elephant ear leaf cast in pictures later this summer.) But they beat the heck out of any I’ve tried to do with straight concrete.

Here’s Marc’s elephant ear leaf cast:

marc's leaf cast

marc's leaf cast

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