Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Pumpkin patch fence... the first tiny bits of progress

We're making progress on the new pumpkin patch fence that I wrote about here (and also here and here, I guess I've been mentioning it a lot!).

Joe took a couple of days off last week to set the posts, and this weekend, despite the change in weather, we got the header up over the gate area.

Here's what we've gotten done so far...

The posts are all cemented in...

Here's looking at the shed through what will be the gate.

The top posts, except for the two on either side of the gate, will need to be trimmed down.  We did it that way because there will be a  horizontal header board all the way around the garden (to discourage the deer from jumping in) and we want to make sure that header ends up perfectly level.

Here's another look at the fence we are basing our design on... Our gate will also stand up about 12" taller than the rest of the fence. (The gate is just over 6' tall, the fence will be just over 5')

Just the fence post setting took both Joe's extra days off, so that's where we had to stop for a couple of days...

Over this last weekend we only had one good weather day, so I ran down to Home Depot and bought the header piece and trim for the gate opening so we could at least make a little bit of progress before the bad weather hit.


... and after adding the header over the gate area.

R put the finials on herself (after we'd pre-drilled for them) and was pretty happy with her work.

(For some reason it looks like it's leaning in this picture... but trust me, it's straight and square!)

Next up will be starting to place all the narrow horizontal pieces that form the base of the grid on the top of the fence, and will hold the pickets on the bottom half of the fence. Hopefully we can get a good start on those this weekend.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Happy Monday

Crazy Casa K

What makes me happy?

My Christmas present from grandson K (pansy seeds, a pot and soil) finally blooming....

... brightening up the whole kitchen.

They join the other pansies outside soon, but for now I like them where I can see them throughout the day...

Friday, April 25, 2014

just coasting along...

M never learned how to ride a bike growing up... I tried many times to teach him, but his balance is sooooo poor, and he was so afraid of falling, that the least little wobble on the bike triggered anxiety and his refusal to continue trying.

Bike riding would be so wonderful for him though, both physically and mentally (the freedom, the fun of taking a nice bike ride) so I've kept my eyes open for ways he might learn.

I found this video the other day....

...and this method of teaching made total sense to me. We have enough space here, and some nice little  hills, so I decided to try again to teach M to ride.

He isn't learning quite as quickly as the woman in the video, but he's learning. :)

We started on a very small incline in the front yard. He'd start at the top and coast down...

And he did is over and over and over again...

The other day we "graduated" to a longer hill in the little pasture (no soft grass there, but plenty of soft dirt!)  and he's doing great. He's coasting probably 40-50 feet down the hill. Since lack of balance is his issue, he's doing a lot of coasting... I want him to really feel the balance, and he seems to be.

Right now the bike he's using has no pedals (to get in the way while coasting) but we are going to start putting the pedals back on today and see how he does.

If he's able to learn to ride, we'll be getting new bikes (I don't have one and R's is taking a huge beating as M is learning to ride on it) and try out some of the bike trails near us!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Guess what we're doing today?

The weekend is supposed to be cold and wet, so Joe took a couple of days off so we could (hopefully) set all the posts for the new fence before the weather turns. 

We have 14 posts to set, and all but one of the holes are already drilled (we have to dig one of the holes by hand, it was too close to the existing front yard fence for the power auger) so I'm thinking we should be able to get it done.  

I might be a long, splintery day... (but totally worth it!)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

a practically perfect day...

Yesterday was one of those days I wish I could preserve somehow and replay again from time to time...

It was not an exciting day... we just stayed home... but it was nice and restful (at least mentally!).

The morning started with the guy who hauls away our manure coming out and hauling the manure and....drumroll please... pulling the last of the metal chain link fence posts out and drilling the holes for the new fence around the pumpkin patch!

The very very good news is he didn't hit any part of our septic system with the drilling... whew! The other good news is that we are ready to start setting the new fence posts.

By the time he left it was lunch time (we eat early) and so we ate and then I headed back outside and cleaned up the mess from the hole drilling (broken concrete, the old metal fence posts, etc) and started moving the landscaping timbers from what had been the west side of the pumpkin patch to a spot a few feet east of it. It will be the "curb" protecting the new fence from people bumping into it as they pull in to park. Once the fence is up on that side I'll landscape the strip between the timbers and the fence with the same cobblestone I used next to the driveway...

It took an hour and half but I got the timbers moved and another tiny piece of this project was done!

See the timbers kind of half buried along the right side of the pumpkin patch?

Now they are on the other side, and actually serving some purpose!

We did school next, and R was on top of things. She tends to be either "hot" or "cold" when it comes to academics... sometimes she learns and remembers well, other times... not so much. Yesterday she was amazing and felt so good about herself when she pretty quickly mastered a new concept in math.

Michael also got school done, but he's been having a lot of trouble lately keeping his thoughts organized... he was settled and happy though, which is huge.

We got done in time for me to make a nice dinner (rather than a quick thrown together one!) and we worked outside a little more after dinner while we waited for someone from my freecycle group to pick up the chain link fencing that had been along one side of the pumpkin patch. (Check another job off the list!)

It was getting dark by the time we came in, but I had time to read to the kids before they went to bed (our read aloud right now is "Gathering Blue" by Lois Lowry) and even managed to help Joe figure something out on his computer before I called it a day.

I just love relaxed, productive days like yesterday...

Monday, April 21, 2014

~Happy Monday~

Crazy Casa K

What makes me happy?

A jar of tulips blooming in the morning sun....

Friday, April 18, 2014

~garden notes~

At our elevation (about 6,300') it's a little early to do much gardening... we still have at least a little more snow to look forward to and the possibility of freezing temperatures. Since we've lived here we've seen snow every month except July and August... 

The average date of the last freeze for this area is about May 20th... so I don't set my tomatoes out, or plant my other warm weather seeds, before then. 

But there is still plenty I can be doing... 

We're moving ahead with the plans for the new pumpkin patch fence, and have the area all laid out and staked... Unfortunately we've had to postpone having the post holes drilled twice because of the weather. Now it looks like they will be drilled Monday and we can start setting the posts. I'm so excited to get that project moving!

I did enlarge the pumpkin patch a little, leaving enough room between the new fence and the pasture fence to drive our little lawn tractor through, but no more... so if we have to drive a car or truck around to the back of the property, we'll have to go through the pasture now. 

I enlarged it because, by the end of the summer, the pumpkins always take up that much space anyway. I usually end up patching together some combination of cattle panels and field fencing to temporarily fence off (from the deer) the pumpkin "overflow". With the garden itself being larger the pumpkins should have enough room now. I also squared it up with the little bit of fencing the runs along the front of the house, which should look a lot better... 

(the string line in this picture doesn't look straight... once we put in the stakes it wasn't needed, and it's been loosened by all the wet and snow the past couple of weeks)

Making way for the pumpkin patch fence, meant moving the iris' Joe's mom gave me a few years ago, and a peony bush that grew in what had been the outside border of the pumpkin patch, but would now be in the patch or under the fence...

I separated the iris' and moved them under the maple tree out front (still plenty of south sun)... and around the little bird feeder.

You can see the first of the sweet williams coming up too...

(Yes, I've got old sprinklers and things stored under those steps... I guess I should have moved them before I took the picture!)

The peony I moved around back into the "remembrance garden" with the other peonys...

I've been working in the kitchen garden too... 

I spread a good layer of alpaca manure on the entire garden and got it turned into the soil which was a big, stinky job! (I'm glad it's over...) The rhubarb is growing, and huge... but still a little droopy from our last snow storm.

 The chives are growing like weeds...

 ...the strawberries (in the big trough planters) are looking good...

 ...and the mint is up. (I use mint like ground cover... letting it grow around the flagstones in the remembrance garden and cutting it with the lawnmower each time I mow. I let it grow long around the edges for tea, etc.)

I've got the carrots, lettuce and some butterfly flower seeds planted, although most of the garden is still "resting"...

And finally... I've planted pansies in the trough/planter out front, and in the back window boxes. I'll fill in the window boxes with more flowers later, it's just too early in the year for anything but pansies (but I did have a yearning for a bit of color..).

The pansies in front are "caged" because the deer LOVE them so much... it's either make a cage over them or move into the front yard to keep the deer away!

Anybody else doing any early spring gardening? 

Quick update on M: We saw the orthopedist yesterday (who specializes in hips) and were referred to the UCHSC Spine Clinic... So we really don't know much more than we did last week.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Long time coming part 2 (Mom's little desk)

Last week I wrote about putting my Mom's old desk, handmade by her grandfather in the 30's, back together again. I'd had to make a few new pieces to replace parts of the desk that had been lost or were too warped to use, but I left off last week with the desk back in one piece, primed and ready to paint. 

Usually, for me, painting furniture is a super easy and fun job. I have MANY cans of paint in the basement and can usually find a color I want without a trip to the store... or I'll sometimes mix my own color from the odds and ends in my paint "stash". (Other people have yarn or fabric stashes, I hoard paint!) But this project was harder... I wanted it to be just right, to "respect" the history of that sweet little desk, and my great-grandfather who built it. 

Which meant I couldn't decide on a color... 

An antique white? Maybe more black? Another color entirely? 

While I was thinking about it I decided to give the drawer front a quick sanding... It was the only part of the desk that had not been stripped down to bare wood...  and it had glossy white paint on it that I knew would have to be roughed up a little before painting.

I was lazy and used my little power sander, and within five minutes I knew I couldn't paint the drawer front. 

The sander had revealed at least a half dozen different colors of paint...

I saw red, black, brown, tan, white, green, and yellow paint peaking out here and there from the places I'd sanded... most of the colors chosen and painted by my grandmother decades ago. 

The sanded drawer front gave me the idea for how I needed to paint the desk...

I decided to leave the drawer front just as it is and match the desk to it. This involved taking the drawer front down to Home Depot and getting a sample pot of paint matched to the green color my sanding revealed. The green seemed to be the most prominent color, and is also the color from my childhood... the color I remember the desk being "originally" (my earliest memories of it). 

I painted the entire desk with the green paint, then painted "highlights" on some of the edges with some chocolate brown paint (leftover from this project) hoping that some of it would show through and mimic the brown paint my sanding had exposed. Finally I pulled out my collection of white paints and mixed pure white with an off white I had until I matched, as closely as possible, the color of the drawer front. I painted the entire desk (except the drawer of course) with two coats of the newly mixed white paint. 

Then I started sanding... I used the little power sander again, and took off enough white paint for the green and brown to peak through here and there. 

I love the way the legs turned out... 

It's a rougher finish, more distressed, than most of my furniture paint projects... but I thought it needed to be. It wouldn't have looked right with a lovely perfect paint finish...

I finished the project by making a knob for the drawer out of a piece of scrap wood and staining it dark (to match the inside of the drawer and the tiny stained knob on the little inner drawer). 

Here it is... all finished. I love how it turned out... (Note to sibs: I was going to replace the cubbies that used to be under the shelf, but decided not to... at least for now, because it's more functional without them.)

I'm using it as a nightstand, and it feels so good to have it "part of the family" and useful again.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

our not quite spring weather (and an update)

Yesterday's snow is almost gone already... We went from having an icy wonderland outside the window in the morning, to sticky mud everywhere by afternoon, to, in the evening, the ground already starting to dry out.  We lost no branches during the storm, but the fruit trees were just starting to bud and I'm hoping the hard freeze didn't finish off my harvest (again!) this year. (We didn't get a single apple off the trees last year thanks to a late freeze...)

The pastures are greening up, Murphy and Tucker are losing their winter coats, and I've planted pansies in the little trough/planter out front...but I'm pretty sure winter isn't quite done with us yet. 

It didn't look too spring-y the other day when I took this picture of R, in snowshoes a neighbor lent her, making her way across the front yard.

I didn't intend to be cryptic when I wrote in last week's daybook about the results of M's CT scan. Unfortunately, the results of the scan are confusing to me... I can't seem to track down enough information (that I can understand!) to feel like I have a good picture of what's going on.  So I didn't post anything about the results, hoping to have a better understanding first.

They only scanned his lower back, so the CT didn't give any new information about the mild scoliosis in his upper back found on the x-ray. The results of the CT scan show something called "focal sclerosis" at his L3 and L4 vertebrae (this is instead of the spondylolysis, not in addition to it). This type of sclerosis apparently causes an abnormal hardening of the bone. I don't know what impact that hardening has on his spine, the long term prognosis, etc.. I haven't been able to find much of anything about this problem, especially in a young man, online.

I emailed his PCP on Friday asking her to clarify the results... but haven't heard back. M has an appointment Thursday with the orthopedist who did his second hip operation... hopefully I'll get more information then (and probably a referral to the UCHSC Spine Clinic). 

So that's the latest... hopefully I'll know more by the end of the week.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Happy Monday!

Crazy Casa K

What makes me happy?

Colorado weather. 

Two days ago we were sweating in the hot sun working outside...

 Yesterday it snowed all day.

I woke up this morning to the sun shining on the wind sculpted snow...

...  all the "edges" softened by the beautiful, fresh whiteness.

Friday, April 11, 2014




Outside my window... the sun is up, the sky is crystal blue without a single cloud to be seen. It's a beautiful spring day...

I am thinking... about how to stop thinking about the results (not great) of M's recent CT scan.

I am thankful... for the blessing of an ordinary day.
In the kitchen... the produce at Sprouts looked so good yesterday I planned our dinner around it. I bought a lovely fresh loaf of French bread and some spring mix, tomato, cucumber, red pepper, and a bit of smoked turkey at the deli. Dinner was sub sandwiches... think salad in bread with a little turkey! Mmmm... it was good.

I am creating... a huge mess where my pumpkin patch used to be, this is definitely a "looks worse before it looks better" kind of project!

I am going... to E's tonight to help with a homeschool group co-op class she's doing. She asked me to do this months ago, but she's sure I'm going to forget (because I have at least once or twice already!), so my showing up will probably be a surprise to her. ;)

I am hoping... I can find M's orthopedist's number and can get him in quickly for an appointment.

I am looking forward to... the snow that's forecast for Sunday. The kids and I already have a "date" for a movie and popcorn filled afternoon. We're were talking about H.G. Well's books the other day and I think we're going to watch the 1960 "The Time Machine" movie.

In the garden... the kitchen garden is turned, raked and ready to go. The rhubarb is already growing like gangbusters, some of the herbs are up and growing, and I've planted carrots and a couple different types of lettuce. I should probably get the onions in soon too...

I am pondering... what M's doctor told me yesterday about his CT scan results...it's confusing though, I need more information from her... I hope she replies to my question filled email soon.

A few plans for the rest of the week... we'll be working in the pumpkin patch today, moving paving stones from the (former) border, and getting it ready to mark for the post holes. I need to replant the iris' that had been along the pumpkin patch fence as well. They never did very well there, and they have to be moved to make way for the fence so... I've dug them up, separated them, and am replanting them elsewhere. Tomorrow will be more outside work, and Sunday we'll be snuggled inside while the cold and maybe snow rolls through.

A favorite photo...

(K and the grandkids during her recent visit...)


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

Thursday, April 10, 2014

long time coming (Mom's little desk)

I've had a furniture project hanging over my head for... oh... about 15 years now.

About a week ago, I finally started working on it. I would have started earlier, but I didn't know where to begin and didn't feel like I had the skills to do it. 

I still may not have the skills, but I just had to try... 

It's my Mom's old desk. She gave me the desk years ago... probably when I was a very small girl. (I can never remember not having it!) And she gave me a sweet story that went with it... The desk had been made for her when she was a child (during the Depression, she was born in 1925), by her Grandfather (I think?) out of old scrap wood... apple crates, etc. In the bottom of one drawer you can still see, stamped into the wood, "Grown in USA".


The desk is small with delicate hand carved legs and had a narrow shelf on the back of the desktop with little cubbies underneath. The drawer (always the coolest part!) was small, but made with secret compartments in the back where Mom, and later I, kept our tiny childhood treasures. (I can still remember my wonder when Mom first pulled out the drawer and showed me the tiny hiding places in the back!)


 When I was a child I could still see where, back when she was a little girl, my Mom had written her name on the unpainted underneath of the drawer... but it has since faded away. 

The desk has probably always been painted. My Grandmother used to like to paint furniture and Mom told stories of how her mother would paint the furniture to redecorate the house (and match her mood) sometimes bright red or shiny black to look exotic. I later found at least a half dozen different colors of paint on the drawer front... My first memory of the desk it was a light(ish) green. As an adult I painted it black and then white. 

And then, back in about 1999, I told Joe I wanted to refinish it. He stripped off the old finish but that revealed wood that was warped, poorly fitted here and there, and full of tiny holes and gouges from decades of use. He took it apart as he stripped it (I'm not sure why...), but stopped half way through the project, saying the desk too messed up to continue. I was heartbroken... I'd known the wood was warped, and had countless dents and dings, but hadn't cared... the desk was part of our family history. But this was during the hardest years with M, and there was no way I could finish the desk myself so it sat... it pieces... in the garage. 

And I felt bad every time I looked at it. 

When we moved here... it moved with us. I know Joe wondered why I kept it. 

A few weeks ago I gathered the desk pieces from the garage, brought them into the house and started pondering how to put it back together. The curved pieces that had been supporting either side of the little shelf had been lost, the cubbies were gone (they had been only heavily painted cardboard...), and the top of the shelf was seriously warped and cracked. But I just knew it was all salvageable... 

I started by gluing the desktop back together again. As I gently pulled the pieces apart a little more to get the glue into the joint I saw that it was held together with pegs... How cool is that?




 Here the top is back on the desk, and I've carefully attached the back of the cubby area (the little shelf will be on top).


 Next, I created from memory a pattern for the missing side pieces... I found a bit of scrap wood and cut the new sides out, trimmed and sanded them, then attached them to the desktop.


 In fixing the desk I used as much of the original wood as I could, so the back of the little cubby area is the old, slightly warped, wood. The side pieces are new wood though...

 After a lot of agonizing I finally decided to make a new shelf top as well. The old shelf top was incredibly warped, and had a large crack on the underneath side, and I was afraid it would just break in two when I tried to attach it to the supports. The only piece of scrap wood I had was too wide, so my neighbor (who has a table saw) ripped it to the right width for me, and I cut it to size, gave it a good sanding and attached it to the shelf supports.


(I hadn't yet sanded down the wood putty that hid the nails that hold the top in place, or primed the top in this photo.) 

By this time it was starting to look like the desk I remembered it being... I was so pleased to see it coming back "from the ashes" so to speak. It's like an old friend had suddenly reappeared... 

Then it was just a matter of painting it.... but it seems like this post is getting very long, so I think I'll save the painting and finished product until next time...   

(Very brief update:M had his CT scan yesterday... all went well but no results yet.)