Wednesday, July 31, 2013

We almost never travel...

..... between the animals we have at home to take care of, and M's medical and psychiatric issues, traveling has just been too complicated to pull off for a long time.

But our friends and neighbors do travel, so we are often asked to pet/farm sit. Since the beginning of this summer we've "sat" for quite a menagerie... horses, alpacas, chickens, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish... and two duck eggs.

It was the first time we've been asked to "egg sit"...  Our neighbor bought over the incubator her dad had made, complete with a light for warmth, a tiny thermometer to keep track of the heat, and dowels protruding from each side of the incubator to allow her to turn the eggs (which sat on top of the dowels.. yes, it looked a little precarious at first). Our job was to keep the temperature as close to 100 as possible, opening and closing the lid to warm it up/cool it off and to turn the dowels every couple of hours during the day.

Here's the set up...


Our neighbor said it was easy, and it was, but I worried about the eggs a little (keeping the temperature steady was almost impossible!) especially since she'd already named her "babies"... Larry and Lloyd.

She showed us how she could candle them to see inside the shell, using a small, high intensity flashlight in a dark room... Larry, unfortunately, looked like nothing more than a dark blog... but we could see Lloyd moving around inside his egg, and could even make out his tiny feet moving.

After they returned from their trip, she and R candled them again and Larry still looked like a dark blob so they opened the egg and saw that he'd stopped developing very early on... R was amazed at how much the tiny duck embryo looked like the pictures she's seen of early human embryos. Larry ended up buried with a lovely, if impromptu, service. Lloyd, on the other hand, had grown and R was so excited that she could actually see his umbilical cord through the shell while they candled the egg. R can't wait until he hatches, she's his honorary aunt.

I'm glad we're asked to pet/farm sit so much... we get to experience the fun of all these different animals... and learn about them...without having to keep them forever. Seems like a win/win to me. :)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Happy Monday

Crazy Casa K

What makes me happy?

Watching the birds enjoying their bath...







Friday, July 26, 2013

the classroom grows up

As I mentioned not long ago, I've been puzzling out where to move my brother's big rolltop desk that has, for the past couple of years, been taking up valuable real estate in my living room.  (Since he lives in Ireland, and shipping would be out of this world expensive, I store some of his things here.) The plan I finally came up with was to move the rolltop desk to the classroom, to replace our regular classroom desk. We rarely do school in the classroom anyway these days (preferring the dining room for sit down work), and it was truly the only place where the desk would fit... and not block any doors, windows, etc.

Before I could move anything though, I had to totally empty both desks... the rolltop wasn't hard to empty, it wasn't full of things... but there was some gift wrap in there, and some CD's had found their way into the drawers. The classroom desk was incredible! I just kept pulling stuff out of that desk until the whole classroom and adjoining bedroom were full of piles of books, papers, file folders, and countless little odds and ends (a set of test tubes and slides for the microscope, for example).

With both desks emptied I called R for help... She and I moved the old desk out of the classroom and started moving the roll top upstairs (it had to go up two flights to get to the classroom!). The rolltop is a bear to move, and we'd moved the two base pieces up into the classroom when a horrible thought came to me... What if the top of the desk, the huge roll top (which doesn't come apart), wouldn't fit through the small doorway into the classroom?! That led to a quick, panicky trip back downstairs where we decided yes, it would fit, but only if we carried it sideways. I can tell you that was a fun trip up two flights of stairs... my arms really are not quite long enough for that kind of craziness.

I was sad at first at having to get rid of the classroom desk... I really liked that desk and thought it looked great in the classroom (plus is held a TON of stuff!). But after getting the roll top moved in and set up I'm thinking having to get rid of the old desk was a blessing in disguise. The rolltop looks amazing in the classroom... somehow it doesn't look as big and hulking as it did in the living room... and while it doesn't hold as much "stuff" that's good... because it forced me to go through everything and get rid of the things we will never use.

(As an aside, I'm selling both the old classroom desk and hutch, pictured below, and all these homeschool materials at a yard sale on August 3, any locals who would like to take a look at what we have and take their pick before the sale let me know...)


I'm thrilled with how the classroom turned out! It's like the room grew up... Just for fun, here's a progression of the room over the past 8 years:

This is how the classroom looked shortly after we moved in (2005)... still very young child oriented (note the vinyl covering the wood on the table!)


And check out that ancient computer monitor... remember how heavy those things were? (I love my little laptop!)


Here's how the classroom looked a few years later (2009?), right after we got a new desk from E (dd#1). The desk looks half empty here, but it filled up quickly! ;) (This is the desk I'm selling, if anyone's interested...)


The computer area was gone by then (moved when we redid the classroom here) so the room wasn't quite so crowded.


Drumroll please?

Here is the classroom now, with the rolltop in place...

it looks all grown up, doesn't it?


I'm keeping the chalkboard for now, but the rocker is going into the garage sale, as is all the construction paper in the upper right hand corner of the giant steps behind the desk. (Those steps cover up the part of the porch roof that was enclosed when they made this room.)

Here's the desk with the rolltop open...


The bookcase moved couple of years ago to the other side of the room...(I really need to replace that old original-to-the-house porch light!)


I really like how the top of the rolltop looks with the family pictures and all my little "chicks" scattered through. (The mama bird and chicks were a Mother's Day present one year... there are five chicks, one for each of my "chicks".)

When I took these pictures, the adjoining bedroom was still a mess of papers, files, and odds and ends, but I'm slowly getting it picked up and either throwing away or finding new homes for all the "overflow".

It is fun to change things around though... it's just too bad it's SO much work!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Thrifting Thursday (shed construction #3)

I guess it's been a while since I posted an update on the shed. It's coming along slooooooooowly, but it's coming.

The doors are up, but only halfway finished. The "base" for each door is an exterior grade fiberboard which Joe was  told would be sturdier and more water resistant than plywood (we'll see...), on that base I'll layer 1x4's (or old pallet planks) distressed, stained, and coated with a good wood protectant. It should turn out something like this: (only without the top track, we're using regular side hinges)

I trimmed out around the door with 1x4's and as soon as the plywood is up on the roof, I'll finish the corners the same way and can start painting.

The roof has been slow going, we've had a lot of windy days lately and it's hard to work up high when it's so windy. Joe's even had to redo parts of the roof he had started and the wind blew apart before he could finish!

The shed needs to be done before the first snow fall, so we have a couple of months, maybe a little more, to get it done.

I think we'll make it... :)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

pumpkin patch

I grow a little pumpkin patch every year... Pumpkins are about my most favorite thing to grow, there is little that gives you more bang for your buck than pumpkins... Plant a few seeds, give them plenty of water, and soon you are overflowing with pumpkin vines, with their tiny tendrils and huge orange/yellow flowers. And come Fall, you can turn your nose up at the $5. pumpkins the stores are offering knowing you have enough for pies, breads, jack-o-lanterns, freezing, decorating and sharing with the neighbors!

We've been lucky not to have any hail storms so far this year, so my pumpkin patch is especially pretty this summer.

I thought I'd share...

Come on in!


(My pumpkin patch is enclosed with a 5' fence... otherwise there would be no pumpkin patch, it would all be deer dessert.



An escapee...




Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Bits and pieces

Summer is zooming by at warp speed around here... the busy days just seem to fly by!

What have we been up to?

Working in the yard and gardens... Keeping everything watered when it's so hot and dry is a daily job, especially with the new sod I just laid. (Which is looking very good, by the way!) We're getting a few tomatoes, but not all the plants are doing well... it might be a small yield this year. The jalapenos are looking great, and producing well, and the green beans and lettuce have gone wild! They must like these warm dry days... and the pumpkin patch looks great. All in all a good year.. (it's so much easier to garden without the spring hail storms!)

We had the septic tank pumped yesterday... What a miserable job! I'm not sure what the people who built our house were thinking, putting the septic tank (and it's covers) in the middle of the front yard. It means every few years we have to pull up the grass and dig up the covers (for pumping) then lay the grass back down. The grass, of course, doesn't do well with being pulled up and replaced and always looks a mess for a year or so afterwards. :(

We had S over the weekend... She's doing "ok" but not great. We took her to the movie in the park Saturday night (brrr... it was SO cold) and the farmer's market Sunday morning. I think she had a good time...

After doing well for a couple of months, M's gastroparesis has been flaring up lately. He was sick most of last week, and still isn't back to "normal" (for him). His diet is still super restricted (which can sometimes be a fight) and most of the time he does pretty well. I'm not sure why he suddenly got so sick... hopefully his gut will start working better soon and he (we) can all relax a little.

The kids and I have finished the annual chopping down/pulling out of the purple thistles for this year. We ended up with 11 LARGE trash bags of thistles, countless tiny stickers in our skin, and a deep appreciate for power tools. (We finally ended up having to cut one of the patches down with a chain saw!!) As soon as the trash guys come today, the purple thistles are GONE... hallelujah!

I've finally started work on a project that has been sitting around for a year or so... fixing up a little handmade wooden kitchen for granddaughter Emmy. I found the little kitchen at a garage sale a long time ago and it's been sitting around waiting for me to spruce it up for our Miss Emmy. Yesterday I took all the hardware and doors off, wood puttied, and gave it a light sanding followed by two coats of primer. Today I'll (hopefully) finish up the painting and start shopping for new cabinet and "stove" knobs, and a new counter top.

And yes, we've been getting school done too. We are working primarily on life skills these days, with work sites and other volunteer work being a big part of our homeschool. But we are still plugging away at math, using Teaching Textbooks. Math is a subject that, if not continually reinforced, both kids tend to forget... so we are careful not to neglect math. R's also keeping up with her ukulele lessons (you'll find her playing in the park on Wednesday mornings, she and her teacher moved her lessons there for the summer) and we always have a read-aloud going.

We're in the middle of our "Comedy Movie Night" series too... We started with "Christmas Movie Nights" during the holidays last year, and it was such a hit we decided to have some other movie night series' throughout the year. What we do is pick our favorite movies, or movies we think will be favorites, of a certain genre and schedule them, one each week, on a particular evening after dinner.  The schedule is printed out and posted on the frig. Our movie nights are usually Thursdays, and we're working our way through such gems as Three Amigos (the kids laughed 'til they cried!), R.V. (an old favorite), and Open Season (one of M's picks :). I think we all look forward to movie night, it's a time to just kick back and be lazy for awhile. Comedy Movie nights will last through the end of August, then we'll take a short break and start "Scary Movie Night" sometime in September, followed by "Christmas Movie Night" again in November/December.

I guess I've rambled about this and that enough... time to get out to the barn and get our big boys fed. ;)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Happy Monday

Crazy Casa K

What makes me happy?

My mid-summer kitchen garden...

lush and green (and going to seed!)

Friday, July 19, 2013




Outside my window...

The sun is just coming up, there is a blanket of low clouds covering most of the sky, and it smells like rain.  The grass, gardens, and trees are mid-summer green, and the yard is alive with birds and a few rabbits. Thankfully the fierce wind of the past few days has stopped...

After writing this post, I went outside and feel that, in the interests of full disclosure, I should update what's "outside my window"

Outside my window... the updated version:  The sun is up, the blanket of clouds from earlier is breaking up, and  it smells like rain because I left the hose on last night. Everything is nice and green, and the yard is full of birds including a dead robin by the birdbath that I will have to dispose of before I can let the dogs out. In addition to the rabbits enjoying their breakfast (I've got plenty of lettuce in the garden...) apparently a skunk has just visited because the air outside, and inside, the house suddenly reeks of his irritability. Thankfully the wind has stopped but not before blowing one of the roof joists off the shed. ;)

I am thinking...

...about doing some furniture rearranging, and wondering what to do with a certain massive roll top desk that I'm babysitting. I want the space it's in for something else... there must be somewhere I can move it.

I am thankful...

...that all my "chicks" are healthy and safe. It's funny how you don't stop worrying about them once they reach adulthood.

In the kitchen...

M's gastroparesis has been flaring up this week and he's been pretty sick off and on so I'm having to be VERY careful about what he eats. I think I might put some chicken in the crock pot for soup tonight, he should be able to digest chicken soup.

I am creating...

I've got several projects in the works, I'm not sure what I'm going to start first. I really could use a few cold rainy days to help jump start these inside projects.

I am going...

... to mostly stay home today if I can get away with it. M gets so unsettled when we aren't going and doing, but it's been such a busy week (and the weekend will be a busy one) that we could use some time at home.

I am reading...

...another oldie I picked up at the thrift store. Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert Massie. I read and loved this book as a teenager and thought it would be fun to read it again. (And it is!)

I am hoping...

M's GI system settles down again soon so can start eating more normally (for him) and isn't so angry and irritable about food.

Around the house...

We're still working on the shed, it's coming along... but slowly... roof joists are going up now with plywood to hopefully follow this weekend. Then the roof can go on!

One of my favorite things...

A nice cup of Barry's tea to start the day.

A few plans for the rest of the week...

I'm hoping to get the last of the thistles in the gully cut down today and get some serious school done this afternoon. S is coming tomorrow for the movie in the park, and an overnight. I think we'll probably wander through the Farmer's Market on Sunday before taking her home.

A peek into my day...

... rain chimes in the early morning sun.

Visit Peggy's blog for more about The Simple Woman's Daybook

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thrifting Thursday (ARC condo re-do)

"ARC Thrift President furnishes his new home by turning to his stores"

I saw this headline in the paper the other day and thought it was so cool! Talk about putting your money where your mouth is...

Here's the beginning of the article... (you can read the rest of the article here, and see all the photos here)

"When ARC Thrift President and CEO Lloyd Lewis moved into a waterfront two-bedroom condo in a west Denver development, he naturally wanted to furnish it tastefully — with one proviso.

Everything had to come from an ARC thrift store, the budget-friendly nonprofit that helps improve the lives of people with developmental disabilities.

Plates, flatware, stemware, pots, pans, furniture, beds, linens, artwork, rugs, lamps. And it had to look elegant and masculine, not a DIY project gone wrong.

They had one month and a budget of $1,500."

An entire condo for only $1,500... Are you as curious as I was to how it turned out?

Here's one of the pictures of his new digs... nice huh?

Now go read the article, look at the rest of the pictures and be inspired! :)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Early morning visitors...

Walking out to the barn the other morning I was treated to a glimpse of some early morning (mule deer) fawn playtime.

It's not unusual to see deer here, we've seen up to 30 or so at a time in our front pasture... eating everything in sight, of course... but we have a special fondness for the fawns. They are born each year in early June, often one or two will be born in our back pasture... We love watching them grow and have a few fawn rescues under our belts (pulling them out of fences mostly). I never get tired of watching the deer, of seeing the interaction between the various animals (there seems to be a definite pecking order) and watching the does care for their babies.

So anyway, as I walked to the barn to feed the other morning I saw several does and their fawns around the dry lake part of the back pasture. As I watched the fawns left their mothers to play... bounding up and down the hills, leaping and twisting as they jumped, nudging each other with their noses (an invitation to play?) and sometimes stopping by their mother's side to try to nurse a bit before playing again. The does allow only very brief nursing sessions, a few seconds only at times, before they step away (over the head of their baby!) letting them know they are finished.

I tried to get pictures of the fawns jumping and playing... but alas... neither my camera nor my photography skills were up to the task. I just couldn't get close enough without interrupting their play...

Here are a few I took though, just for fun...



As you can see there were fawns everywhere! This photos are not just the same two fawns in different places...  there were 6-7 fawns out playing together. :)



What a treat to get to see them playing... I could stand and watch them for hours.

And when they look this cute it's hard not to forgive them for eating all my pansies the other night. So I guess I'll have to forgive them... again.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The grass is always greener

...when it's not mostly dirt.

As in the dirt that was my back yard when we bought this house. And the dirt that I've worked for 8 years (and counting) to cover with grass.

Here's a picture of part of the back yard the year we bought the house. I'm guessing it's an understatement to say it wasn't much to look at...

Over the years I've seeded, fertilized, had a sprinkler system installed, mulched, fertilized some more, seeded some more... and amazingly enough, most of the yard is now covered with lovely, soft grass.

Here's the same view this year... (yes, this house was a serious fixer-upper, more before and after pics here if you're curious)

The grass looks pretty good (if you don't look too closely at all the weeds mixed in) except for a large area right at the bottom of the back porch steps that, until yesterday, was still dirt... it refused to grow grass. I've seeded that area, and the seed grew during the summer I planted it... but didn't come back the following spring. I watered... the grass never spread there. I thought about putting stone in that spot, but I really wanted grass.

So I picked up a few rolls of sod over the weekend, and laid them yesterday morning. It was the perfect morning for sod... it had just rained and it was still cool and cloudy... perfect sod laying weather.

I dug out all the weeds and turned the dirt in the area the sod would cover, removing a LOT of dirt so the sod wouldn't stick up too high...

Then I laid the sod, stomped it down a little and cut around the sprinkler head that needs to be able to pop up. The last thing I did was give it all a good soaking...

I love how much better it looks... I hope it grows...

I really, really hope it grows.

But if it doesn't, I'll admit defeat and fill the area with stone.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Happy Monday

Crazy Casa K

What makes me happy?


hanging in a sunny window,

brightening my kitchen with their happy faces.

Friday, July 12, 2013

tomato time

We've just started getting our first tomatoes out of the garden. They are soooo good... there is nothing like fresh garden tomatoes. There hasn't been enough to can yet, we've been eating them pretty quickly...

Last night I made Granny's Tomato Lutece recipe... It's a favorite here, everyone loves it, so I thought I'd share...

Tomatoes Lutece

8 (or so) sliced tomatoes

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 tbsp sugar

1/4 c oil

2 tsp prepared mustard

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 tbsp vinegar

1 tsp tarragon

Mix dressing ingredients, pour over sliced tomatoes. Let stand one hour before serving.

Simple, quick, easy and delicious...the perfect recipe!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Thrifting Thursday (porch rocker)

I've always liked the look of a traditional wood rocker on the porch or deck, but haven't been willing to pay the money for a new one.  I'd been watching for one to show up at the thrift store but hadn't had any luck, until finally late last spring... when there was still snow on the ground here and COLD... I finally found one at the thrift store, for a good price.

It was covered with dirt, spider webs and even mouse droppings... it looked like it came right out of someone's barn... but I thought it had potential, and the price was right, so I bought it.

I was in the middle of replacing the moldings and baseboards at the time and didn't have a minute to play with it, so I just gave it a quick cleaning with Murphy's Oil Soap and parked it out on the deck.  The rocker was functional, good and sturdy, but not much to look at... the wood was soooo dried out that it looked almost gray, and you could barely see any grain in the wood at all.

So the other day, while I was painting the deck railings with wood preservative, I decided to give the rocker a little attention too.

I forgot (of course, I always do...) to take a "before" picture, but in the next couple of pictures you can see the difference in the wood before and after I used the wood preservative.

Rocker half done:


Back is done here but not the seat...


Now the seat is done too, what a difference!

Here's the wood preservative I use on all our outside wood... I've been really happy with how it makes the wood absolutely glow while at the same time protecting it from all our sun and harsh weather.



Here's the finished product...I'm so happy with how it turned out! The wood (I think it's teak) just gleams and it looks like a new chair.